Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The End of "Roswellism" & The Creation of a Ufological "Third Way"
Margaret Thatcher was one of two great British Prime Ministers in the 20th century (Sir Winston Churchill was the other). Unlike Churchill, whose greatness rests with one particular achievement (victory in the Second World War), Thatcher was a truly transformational figure. Driven by a clearly defined political program that informed virtually all of her policy decisions, she changed first the Conservative Party, and then British society. This political program became known as Thatcherism, and her followers as Thatcherites. Thatcherism and the Thatcherites survived her fall from power in 1990, and continue to dominate the British Conservative party to this day, even as they languish in opposition (more about that in a moment).
Ufology has its own Thatcherism. It is embodied not in a single person, but rather a single case.
Call it “Roswellism.”
Like Thatcher’s impact on British politics and society, Roswell changed Ufology forever, both internally, and in its relationship with the mainstream. Not the actual “incident,” of course, which was ignored for three decades, but the “Case,” as studied and debated since its re-discovery by Stan Friedman in the late 1970s.
What is Roswellism? In broad strokes, it is:
1. The unequivocal acceptance of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ie. UFOs are alien spacecraft) as true;
2. The unequivocal acceptance that alien spacecraft crash landed near Roswell in 1947 (and the resulting acceptance that any other crashed flying saucer story may be true); and
3. The unequivocal acceptance that the American government has covered up the truth about 1 and 2 since 1947, in an organized “conspiracy of silence” that represents a “Cosmic Watergate."
Prior to the re-discovery of the "Roswell Incident," none of these three propositions was a “given” in ufology. For decades, no serious ufologist gave much credence to crashed flying saucer stories in the wake of the Aztec hoax in the early 1950s. The ETH was one of many competing theories as to what UFOs are – the most prominent, perhaps, but not to the extent that it defined ufology either internally, or in the public mind. Finally, while most agreed that the government had probably been less than completely forthcoming with the truth about what it knew or did not know about the UFO phenomenon, this did not mean an organized conspiracy, nor was it a defining element in the study of the UFO phenomenon.
All of that changed in the wake of Roswell.
Compare the number of books and films about the Roswell Incident in the past twenty-five years with the number of books and films about non-Roswell ufology.
Check the reaction within ufology to Nick Redfern’s latest book about Roswell, Body Snatchers in the Desert (UFO Updates is a good place to start - www.virtuallystrange.net), and then tell me that there is another single case that could provoke anywhere near the debate within ufology that Roswell still does.
Watch the ABC News special Seeing is Believing, the single most important mainstream media examination of the UFO phenomenon ever, where Roswell is the only individual case that was given an entire segment of its own.
To paraphrase the United States Air Force, "case closed."
For many ufologists, Roswell became the case that proved everything (namely the ETH) in which they had come to believe (call them “Roswellites”). For many debunkers, it became the Magic Bullet – disprove Roswell, and the things they did not accept as possible (er, namely the “ETH”), would collapse (Thatcher had Tony Benn and "the Bennites;" ufology had Phil Klass, Dr. Paul Kurtz and the "Klasskurztians").
There was no middle ground - as with British politics and Thatcherism in the 1980s and early 1990s (and to a great extent even today), for many years a person was defined within ufology by their position on Roswellism. For the public, Roswellism and ufology became inextricably linked as a result.
The middle ground – occupied by the sceptical truth seeker, interested in cases other than Roswell, uncertain of the validity of the ETH, dubious about crashed flying saucers and dark government conspiracies (someone like Brad Sparks, for example) - was marginalized.
In short, Roswell was a transformational event.
In the United Kingdom, Thatcherism was eventually defeated. This was due largely to the political genius of Tony Blair, who recognized that some of Thatcher’s policies should not be undone, and that others could not be undone. In order to win power, Labour would have to adapt – to find a “Third Way” that merged elements of Thatcherism with elements of Labour policy. This is precisely what Blair proceeded to do, with great success, pushing the “Loony Left” to the fringes, where it belonged.
The failure of the Conservatives was – and still is - their unwillingness to loosen the grip of Thatcherism and the Thatcherites. This failure to accept that some of their policies should be undone in the aftermath of their decisive defeat in the 1997 election, and that winning the center is the key to winning elections these days, has been followed by almost a decade in opposition. There has been no Conservative Tony Blair, and no Conservative “Third Way.”
Similarly, in ufology, the failure of Roswellism and the Roswellites (and the Klasskurtzians on the opposite extreme) has been their inability to moderate their position, and to change their conclusions, as new evidence has been discovered, and old evidence has been discredited. Roswellism, like Thatcherism, simply went too far. MJ-12, Bob Lazar and his fellow fraudsters (impossible to accept without an adherence to Roswellism), the collapse of key testimony such as that of Glenn Dennis, Gerald Anderson, and Frank Kaufmann, Exopolitics – each of these, in their own way, had an adverse effect on Roswellism, and further discredited its absolute positions.
What ufology needs, and has started to get in the past few years, is a “Third Way” of its own. My own version of this Ufological Third Way – which marks the end of Roswellism – is as follows:
1. Roswell is but one case. There are many others which provide more compelling evidence that the UFO phenomenon is real, and worthy of serious scientific, historical, journalistic and political attention.
2. Roswell remains unsolved, but is worthy of continued objective investigation until an explanation is finally proved.
3. The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is a very plausible explanation for the UFO phenomenon, and is worthy of serious scientific consideration, but remains unproved. Further, other possible explanations, including time travel, extra-dimensional travel, and the prospect that UFOs are terrestrial phenomena and devices of which we may or may not be aware, also deserve study and consideration.
4. The American government has not released all information it has pertaining to the UFO phenomenon; this is not proof, however, of a conspiracy of silence / Cosmic Watergate to keep the “truth” about extraterrestrial visitors / crashes from the public.
Of course, this will all seem very wishy-washy to the “True Believers” on both sides. Roswellites will call me a sell-out (to be polite), and Klasskurtzians will view this “Third Way” as Roswellism-lite. Each side will see it as a defeat of all they hold dear.
But this is the only way to find common ground for the vast majority of people who no longer accept either extremist position, and to move ufology forward as a result. Of all the major ufologists, Jerry Clark seems to be the closest to this position, at least judging by recent postings at UFO Updates.
I think he sees, as I do, that it is time to end Roswellism once and for all.
The way to do it is to recognize that the “Third Way” is the “Best Way,” and move on - together - from there.