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.

Doubt it?

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.

Doubt it?

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.

Doubt it?

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.

Paul Kimball

12 comments:

Jerry C said...

Paul,

I think we're thinking generally along the same lines. If there's a way out of the Roswell maze, Nick Redfern -- whose book arrived via UPS just afternoon -- may have provided it. I confess that's my hope, anyway. There would be some poetic justice, in any event, if both sides were both right and wrong (skeptics: no ET; proponents: yes, a genuinely extraordinary incident).

I defer further comment till I've read the book and have a clearer sense of the strength of the case. Unlike most UFO books I've read over the past decade, I don't expect this one to put me to sleep.

Paul Kimball said...

Jerry:

I've always been a big fan of poetic justice!

I'm still waiting upon delivery of my own copy (which Nick promised he would send off BEFORE he went on vacation). Given the subject and Nick's always readable style, I suspect it will be a page turner.

Paul

Kyle said...

Excellent analysis Paul -

In the words of Spock to Adam from Star Trek #75..."we reach".

Most people that believe in the UFO cover-up hinge on the Brookings Report. Plausible enough.

But a thought experiment on this yields interesting possibilities. For example...

What if the Brookings Institute had studied the the public reaction to revelations that for all the unexplained UFO sightings and abductions stories, the government had absolutely no idea what they were, or even if they represented a threat, and that even our most advanced craft were no match for the apparent abilities of the aliens' craft.

My guess is that the result would have been presumed to be the same as the alien craft premise..."mass hysteria and a breakdown in governments ability to secure the confidence of its people".

So, the result would be the same...the government studying the subject secretly but not really knowing anything, but determined not to let the public know, and to ridicule UFO stories as anything but a real UFO, since admitting UFOs are real would then lead to a question they couldn't answer, and couldn't let on they couldn't answer..."what are they???".

Governments lie and hide things to avoid being found ignorant far more often than they lie and hide things to avoid being found doing anything else.

Any government would be loathe to admit the existence of alien craft, if they have no explanation, and government loses a good bit of its reason for being if it cannot identify and defend against a potential threat.

Anyway, it would be interesting if a poll were taken back then phrased that way.

I find myself in agreement with your 3rd way tenets.

It reads sort of like John Edwards' "Two Americas" ideas. Very refreshing, very reasoned.

Again an excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Your ideas are correct, however obvious. I am not sure I understand the importance of comparing "thatcherism" to roswellism". It almost gives your article two main points which is confusing. While most of what you say is fundamentally true I think the article ends up being rather dubious as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Roswell needs to be left alone for a while, at least in the sense of forgetting about it as a UFO incident. No one seems to care that Roswell was nothing in the field of UFO studies until some 30+ years after the incident took place; in the ensuing flood of Roswell-related conspiracy theories and so-called witnesses coming out of the woodwork, a lot of other historic UFO sighting accounts have been shoved aside and neglected... many of them with a lot more merit than Roswell. Having said all that, I continue to feel that something happened at Roswell... that is, something more than a crashed Project Mogul balloon. There's a single strand of logic that supports this belief for me---something which no one seems to ever consider. I don't believe Roswell was a crashed UFO. But follow with me on the logical chain here: Let's say that the Air Force story about the Roswell incident stemming from a crashed Mogul balloon was true. Okay. So a Top-Secret Mogul balloon crashes in the desert, and Mac Brazel finds the thing, or the wreckage of it. Whole thing blows over when the weather balloon cover story is issued, and that's that, until 30 some-odd years later, when people begin talking about it again... but their memories, the Air Force would say, is faulty. Easy enough to believe. Occam's Razor. The simpler explanation is more likely to be true. There's only one problem. Mac Brazel was supposedly (I gather this is accepted to be perfectly true) grilled at length by Air Force officials, and then either cajoled, intimidated, or even threatened into silence. And this took, if I recall correctly, more than a day or two days. But WHY? If it was just Mogul ballon wreckage that Brazel found, then why not simply tell him that he found weather balloon wreckage? One might expect a modest amount of cautious grilling on the part of the Air Force. Making sure Brazel didn't have a clue as to the true nature of the balloon wreckage he'd found (i.e., Mogul) BUT... if it WAS only a Mogul balloon, then all Brazel saw was balloon wreckage. Somewhat exotic balloon wreckage, but nothing more. So why was it necessary to hold him in custody for more than a day (two days or longer?) and apparently threaten him in some fashion? If I had found that wreckage, it would have been easy to convince me it was a weather balloon, as it should have been easy to convince Brazel. What was really the difference between Mogul, and a weather balloon? Size, yes... and radar targets. Big deal. Who would have thought such a thing would be Top-Secret? It would have surely sufficed to simply tell Brazel after 5 minutes, "look, we didn't know what it was at first, but turns out it was just a weather balloon," and he would have believed them. I know I would have, if the thing I'd found looked like a big-ass balloon to begin with. BUT in fact Brazel was held for an extended period and seemingly leaned-on. Now why would it have been necessary to lean on the guy so hard if all he'd actually found was a crashed balloon? How could Brazel have known just from seeing the wreckage that it was a secret balloon? This has nagged at me for a long time. To dismiss it as over-zealousness on the part of Air Force security seems a bit much to me. Those guys were pros. They would have known a good cover story from the get-go, and they would have used it on Brazel most of all, and quickly. But instead they held him for a long time and might have threatened him. Why? What could he have seen or found that would have sparked such treatment? That's bothered me for a long and still does.

Anonymous said...

You fail to mention purposeful goverment disinformation ( for whatever reasons).

Both carried on by people outside the field of UFOlogy and those in the field suspected of such ( Lazar, Moore, etc).

If at times, the UFO field has looked confused, partly blame that on these folks with their own agenda.

Also blame the believe no matter what folks

Dr.H said...

Paul,
I like your third way. Roswell is not best evidence, but cannot be dismissed either.

Best evidence comes from the "landed occupant" cases, as published in The Humanoids. This book is out of print but the best chapters are online at my place, www.interstellar-travel.com --
Dr.H

Jim said...

Paul,

Excellent analogy and analysis. And, as you point out, put Roswell aside and the dominant question still remains: Why have so many people from all walks of life seen unexplained flyings objects?

Regardless of whether or not these are deep-space vehicles, future devices of time transport, extra-dimensional "shadows," or even ultimately figments of our imaginations, they represent one of the most important discoveries of our time.

In other words, even if the UFOs really aren't "there" at all, the number of reports and the subject's history alone point to something significant to our human condition.

Thanks again for the well-thought ideas,

Jim

William said...

Great post Paul. It is a shame that many of the personalities at the forefront of Ufology (at least those well placed before the broad public forum) fail to fully live up to the responsibility their position entails. Perhaps it is easy not to take this responsibility seriously when the majority of onlookers have such low expectations.

I also agree that Brad Sparks' RB47 case is pretty close to air tight in proving that UFO events are objective phenomena. As you rightly point out, however, the ETH is only one hypothesis put forth to explain the data. As the various proposed theories go it does seem to uniquely pique the imagination and certainly ranks high on the "important if true" scale.

As a software developer I'm often called on to perform project risk assessments. Generally this involves rating the likelihood of some foreseeable risk coming to pass on a scale of 1-10. In this case, a score of 1 indicates that a particular risk that is very unlikely to impact the project while a score of 10 indicates that a risk is all but certain to impact the project. Next, we rate the impact of the risk on the same scale. In this case, a score of 1 indicates the risk will have a negligible impact on the project while a score of 10 indicates the risk would have a catastrophic impact. We then prioritize the identified risks by multiplying the two factors (likelihood and impact) and sorting the results from high to low values. Risks with the highest resulting values are generally addressed first as they stand the greatest chance of sinking the project and we then work down the list from there.

The point I'm trying to make here is that when it comes to the ETH I'm not sure what value to assign to likelihood of risk but it seems clear that the impact would be close to a 10. Although I’m unsure what value to assign the likelihood that the ETH is true, it does seem that the more we learn about astronomy, biology, and physics the more likely the prospect of eventual contact with alien life becomes. This trend appears to have even led to the cautious embrace of extraterrestrial life by traditionally conservative mainstream institutions like NASA. (I should point out that in the case of the ETH it is hard to say if the impact on the “human project” would be positive, negative, or somewhere in between.)

BTW, I just ordered a copy of your Aztec crash documentary and expect good things based on your posts to UFO Updates and your blog. Also, I’m sure you’re aware but it seems your web-site (www.redstarfilm.com) is offline.

Paul Kimball said...

Will:

Just remember that the Aztec film sets out Scott Ramsey's position - not mine. I think Aztec is bunk. The film, on the other hand, works pretty well - especially considering the budget we shot it for (let's just say I didn't make a cent, for all those UFO types who think they're being exploited by filmmakers only out to make a few bucks).

Paul

Kev said...

The excuse of 'a weather ballon' was a cover-up. Even Jesse Marsel said so. Then it was project 'Mogul'. This was supposed to deetect Russian nuclear tests but Russia didn't conduct its first nuclear test until August 1949. Project 'Mogul' was scrapped by the US in 1948. Then the US claimed it was a project 'Excelsior' balloon and the 'alien' bodies were test dummies. 'Excelsior' wasn't conducted until the mid to late 1950s and the test dummies were 6 foot tall and weighed 600lb.

Mentioning Margaret Thatcher, when Georgina Bruni released her book on the Rendlesham Incident, it was titled 'You Cant Tell The People'.
This is because she once spoke to Mrs. Thatcher about the incident and was told by Thatcher, '...you can't tell the people.' Obviously, she (Thatcher)knew something about the incident.

I do agree that Roswell should be 'shelved' for a while, there is only so much evidence and it has been discussed over and over again, without any resolve, just people looking at the same evidence from different viewpoints.

Mumbley said...

UFO hall of Shame in a nutshell.

Marshall Applewhite: Deadly quack

Dr. Steven Greer: Huckster.

Billy Meier: Wannabe alien.

Dr. Edward Condon: Sayer of sooth.

P. Klass: villifier

Kal K. Korff: Stooge.

Linda Moulton Howe:crop circlette.