Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ufology - Going... Going... Gone?



A "Very Serious Ufologist" e-mailed me today, after reading my "Winning the Ufological PR Battle" column, and said I had it all wrong. "Ufology," according to the VSU, "is winning the PR battle," as evidenced, he said confidently, by those opinion polls I mentioned - polls which show that more people accept UFOs as real than do not.

However, unlike most of the people who wrote me about the column (thanks everyone - the response has been, as the kids say, "off the chain" - er, or something like that), the VSU missed the point.

Polls do nothing more than measure surface responses. Where, I asked, is the serious interest in the UFO phenomenon within the general public, and particularly among younger people?

It is virtually non-existent.

Doubt that conclusion?

Fine - take a drive to your nearest bookstore, and check the shelves.

How many "UFO" books will you find (and you'll see why I put "UFO" in quotation marks)?

I've made this point before, but I'll make it again.

Last night, I wandered over to Chapters (Canada's equivalent to Barnes & Noble), and took a look.

The results?

As Obi-wan might say, "Not good."

Here are the UFO books on the shelf (and I mean "shelf," not shelves, as you could fit them all into one shelf, with room left over for some extra Harry Potter books):

Philip J. Corso's The Day After Roswell - 2 copies
Jerry Clark's Strange Skies - 1 copy
Barry Parker's Alien Life - 1 copy
Hopkins / Rainey's Sight Unseen - 3 copies
Redfern / Robert's Strange Secrets - 1 copy
William Birnes's UFO Encyclopedia - 1 copy
Zecharia Stichin - The 12th Planet - 5 copies; The Stairway to Heaven - 5 copies; The Wars of Gods and Men - 1 copy; The Lost Realms - 2 copies; The Cosmic Code - 2 copies; The Earth Chronicles Expeditions - 1 copy

Uh oh.

Contrast this to the fact that there were twenty shelves full of books about tarot (5 shelves), astrology (5 shelves), and wicca(10 shelves), and you get the picture.

The "Science" section (notably, nowhere near the UFO / Aliens "section") had about twelve shelves full of books, many by the likes of Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan, David Grinspoon, talking about other worlds, travel to the stars, time travel (including one by British ufologist Jenny Randles), and so forth. But while some of those books, like Grinspoon's, might reference UFOs, they are not about UFOs. I imagine Seth Shostak would be pleased, however.

I asked the assistant manager why so few UFO books. She sort of rolled her eyes, and said, "they don't sell - and, besides, you can always order them on-line."

Yes, on-line - but only if you already know about them. Not on the shelves in the store, where the casual browser might be inclined to pick one up.

Why?

They don't sell.

Why?

Because, polls or no polls, UFOs aren't on the general public's radar screen.

Doubt that conclusion?

Fine - wander over to your nearest university library. In Nova Scotia, a province with more universities and colleges than you can shake a stick at, you can check the Novanet system, and in one fell swoop see everything that is available at the following libraries:

Dalhousie Univeristy (4 libraries)
Atlantic School of Theology
Mount St. Vincent University
Nova Scotia Agricultural College
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
Nova Scotia Community College (14 campuses, including Halifax's Institute of Technology)
St. Mary's University
St. Francis Xavier University
University College of Cape Breton
University of King's Colleges

In all of those libraries, serving post-secondary institutions which between them have tens of thousands of students, and are also open to the general public, how many books are there under the subject headings "UFO" or "Flying Saucer," or using the words "UFO," "Flying saucer" or "Roswell" in a title search?

Twenty-three.

Here they are:

On Roswell:

- Berlitz and Moore, The Roswell Incident
- Karl Pflock, Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe
- Benson Saler et al, UFO Crash at Roswell: Genesis of a Modern Myth

On UFOs or Flying Saucers in general:

Timothy Good - Above Top Secret
Don Ledger - Maritime UFO Files
Rhonda Blumberg - UFO
Susan J. Palmer - Aliens Adored: Rael's UFO Religion
Richard H. Hall - The UFO Evidence, Vol. II
Jacques Vallee - Messengers of Decption: UFO Contacts and Cults
Jacques and Janine Vallee - Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma
Martin Sable - UFO Guide, 1947 - 1967
Yurko Bondarchuk - UFO Sightings, Landings and Abductions
Arthur Bray - Science, the Public and the UFO
J. Allen Hynek - The UFO Experience
B. L. Cathie and P. N. Temm - Harmonic 695: The UFO and anti-gravity
Philip J. Klass - UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Business
Robert Sheaffer - The UFO Verdict
Donald Menzel and Ernest H. Taves - The UFO Enigma
Paul Thomas - Flying Saucers Through the Ages
C. G. Jung - Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies
Jay David - Flying Saucers Have Arrived
Desmond Leslie and George Adamski - Flying Saucers Have Landed
Edward Condon - The Condon Committee Report

That's it, folks.

The only books on that list written in the last ten years are Pflock's, Ledger's, Hall's, Saler's and Palmer's. Of those, two are sceptical, and one is about Rael - which, while very tangentially related to the UFO phenomenon, is probably not what most ufologists have in mind when they say UFO books.

Also note that a fair number of the other books are by sceptics / debunkers - Klass, Menzel, Condon and Sheaffer are all represented. Clark? Friedman? Keyhoe? Nowhere to be seen. And, while pro-UFO, Jacques Vallee will hardly give comfort to pro-ETH ufologists.

And then there's Adamski. Again, not exactly the book that most ufologists would hope some university student would pick off the shelf to learn about the UFO phenomenon.

Just for chuckles, I ran very quick title-only searches on astrology, tarot and wicca / witchcraft.

Tarot - 18 books
Astrology - 50 books
Witchcraft / Wicca - 258 books

Er... how about "astronomy," this time by subject?

1,399 books.

Get the picture yet?

See the pattern?

Is it sinking in?

Ufology isn't a page in the "book of public discourse" - it's barely a footnote.

Nobody cares, outside the very narrow confines of the ufological hard-core - and ufologists spend most of their time talking to that hard-core, not trying to figure out ways to broaden the appeal of the subject.

Sticking your head in the sand, or talking about the latest opinion poll, or blaming everyone else, is not the answer.

It is a PR problem, Mr. VSU - and it's arguably worse than it's ever been.

Rather than look about for someone to blame (hey - the government doesn't control all of these bookstores and libraries), it's time for ufology to look inward, and ask some pretty hard questions.

Do you want to grow, or do you want to slide further into irrelevance?

The clock is ticking...

Paul Kimball

38 comments:

RRRGroup said...

A cold, dose of reality, Paul.

This should provide an epiphany for the UFO community.

Will it?

RR

Paul Kimball said...

Rich:

Odds are better that Jack Nicklaus will win the British Open this year.

Still, one can always hope...

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

Maybe you're both right. While it is true that UFOs and aliens are solidly entrenched in popular culture at this point (no need for polls to see that), it may also be true that yet another book about whether or not this or that picture of this or that fuzzy blob is or is not identified, or yet another book about what did or did not happen at Roswell is, well, BORING.

More people seem to be having actual contact with other consciousnesses, but this is not accepted as "relevant" by most hard core nuts and bolts UFOlogists, since it is "subjective" and thus not available for scientific measurment and experiment. (Oops: if they've had "contact" then that means they are.... "contactees", one of the dirtiest words in ufology. Next thing you know, you'll be waving flashlights on a hilltop with Greer. I'd rather do that then spend an evening arguing about Roswell!)

Maybe its time for those who are interested in other consciousnesses, be they ET or transdimensional, to make some effort to contact those consciousnesses (anyone heard of "meditation"?), instead of just arguing ad naseum whether they exist or not. This effort may take years or decades for each person, and it may not sell books right away, but it may be far more meaningful in the long run. Otherwise, go ahead, write another book about fuzzy blobs on videos or about rumors of rumors about rumors about Roswell, but dont complain if noone buys the books except other authors. Why should they? There's a reason why the UFO books are found in the "New Age" or "Occult" sections of bookstores: the phenomena is primarily one of consciousness, and only secondarily physical. This much should be evident by now, after decades of both believers and sceptics chasing their tails futilely. Nevertheless, the "ufological community" goes on as if noone has learned anything in the last 50 years, impatiently waiting for the "smoking gun" that one great photo, the indisputable MJ12 file, etc.. its like waiting for Godot, and there seem to be many who are willing to wait forever.

Paul Kimball said...

Dante:

Thanks for the note, but I couldn't disagree more - the UFO phenomenon is a scientific and historical question, not one of "awareness."

If you're going to engage the "New Agers," why not Christians, and Muslims, and other religions?

Where does it stop?

It is a physical problem that is within our means to solve, someday, with the proper resources and approach.

Patience is a virtue...

Paul

owendrab said...

Epiphany, Rich? C'mon--Paul has admitted he's an ideas man and is not willing to do the "heavy lifting" and you expect the "community"--whatever that means--to see the collective light? As you've just about said, the current community is useless, right?

Deliberate..... collective..... action.....

take care, brad.

Paul Kimball said...

Brad:

I never said I wouldn't do the "heavy lifting" - if you think selling and then making documentaries isn't "heavy lifting" then you, like most people in ufology, have no clue as to what it takes to make one. Add to this my own research, done in in my spare time (much to my fiance's chagrin), and my blogging, and I do lots of "heavy lifting." What I said was that someone else will have to do the "heavy lifting" on the question of waging the PR war - somebody with a higher profile - and in organizing any group / symposium.

I'm not offended, though I may sound that way. Just bemused.

Paul

owendrab said...

Paul,

Having participated in the production of multiple student films and having a film major as a roommate, I am aware of the time and energy needed to make a documentary.

I am also aware that a documentary is a single isolated commodity. Typically, an audience watches it, discusses it for a few days afterwards, and then moves on.

The same habit applies even more faithfully to blogging. Will this post you just made be forgotten in a month? You have to update with new content, after all.

Do I respect your work? Absolutely. I think your blog posts are great, and I wish UpDates discussed them.

Do I think your work is going to make the changes you or I recommend? Sadly, no.

If your blog was going to change things, then "Whither Ufology?" would have done something (remember that post?).

As it stands, frustrated discussion is all we have.

Do I hold it against you that you're repeating your methods despite the evidence that they're not making the changes you and I both know we need? No, because you know your life, you know what you like to do and what keeps you going.

And while I know you support a "new NICAP", a new conference, etc., I can't get past your unwillingness to directly act towards those goals.

You have theory, but no practice, and that's frustrating, to be honest...

I am frustrated, and hopefully I sound that way.

take care, brad.

Paul Kimball said...

Brad:

The fact that you're frustrated (and I suspect you're not the only one) is something that all ufologists should take note of, and try to do something about.

Having said that, I can offer only two things from my perspective:

1. Walk a mile in my shoes...

2. To each their own, according to their talents, abilities and interests.

UFOs are simply not the defining thing in my life, like they are for a Stan Friedman. They are an interest, one which I am concerned about more than most - but that's it.

I'm not the guy to be "the guy," if you know what I mean. But, again, I'll help out when and where I can.

As I said above, patience is key. With respect, that's something that you'll realize as you get older. I don't mean that to be patronizing - it's just a fact of life.

50 years is a drop in a HUGE bucket in the universal scheme of things.

Again, it all comes down to my fundamental difference with Rich (and others) - I don't see the need to buy a new car; I just want to fix the one we have, and fill up the tank (and perhaps drive on better roads).

Robespierre vs. Lafayyete.

Or, in an example that Rich, who values his neck (don't we all) might find more palatable...

Lenin vs. Kerensky.

See - he wins in that one (although Kerensky lived a lot longer).

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

Hi Paul-

Well, "they're" here and have been throughout recorded history. What is it you want to prove exactly?

Dante

Paul Kimball said...

Dante:

Really?

Who are "they?"

And where is your proof that "they" have been here?

Paul

owendrab said...

Paul,

I don't mean to direct all my frustration towards you. You just happened to make this post, so you get to deal with it (and thanks for doing so).

I know you have far more responsibilities than I. I know you are doing what you can with the resources and time you have.

I'm reaching here, you know what I mean? I just had this idea of convincing EBK to shut down UpDates, Rich to shut down the Forum, and all regular ufologist-bloggers to shut down their blogs for a week. During those seven days, we would discuss these issues in a single moderated thread in which one person posts at a time.

Honestly, that's what I think it takes to get people to stop their daily self-interested routines and discuss what's at stake.

Apparently, not much.

But I take everything I do pretty seriously (as you have already figured out probably), so I think a lot is at stake.

But anyway, thank you for listening and responding. I appreciate it.

take care, brad.

Dante Rosati said...

Paul-

have you tried asking "them" who they are? The "proof" you're looking for may be within rather than without.

Dante

Paul Kimball said...

Dante:

My "them" is a "He" - and He and I have an... interesting relationship, to say the least. I keep asking Him for proof... and he always seems to lose the request form! :-)

But thanks for the Geroge Harrison reference (I am a huge Beatles fan). Just not my thing, and not the way, in my view, to pursue the study and investigation of the UFO phenomenon - or to involve the general public, which was the point of my column.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Brad:

I always listen.

Just remember - I'm on your side, mostly.

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

Paul:

The "scientific approach" has been tried for 50 years now and has not produced a single conclusive fact. Meanwhile, every man and women in the street knows that "they're" here. Maybe there is more going on than can fit in the nuts and bolt-ites' philosophy.

Dante

RRRGroup said...

Paul hits the nail on the head, once more, with this blog entry.

And he is willing to give the quidnuncs in ufology more time to prove their worth.

Commendable. Useless but commendable.

And Brad, you want to have a confab with the very people who've mucked up the whole field of ufology, because they are and have been amateurs.

These are the same people who screwed up Donald Keyhoe's efforts by not supporting NICAP monetarily or philosophically.

Take a look at the latest UFO UpDate postings: self-aggrandizing crap and useless material.

After a hiatus of nine days, something as you are proposing, no one came back to the UFO table with anything of worth. It's the same old, same old (except or Paul's PR plea maybe).

The "science" of ufology or ufo-analysis will be done and is being done, quietly by small groups of dedicated, ego-free individuals with true expertise in various disciplines that apply.

If you want tap into that coterie of individuals, come up with a working hypothesis for what UFOs are, something unique if possible, and you'll get the attention of the doers rather than those who just like to debate for debating's sake....here and elsewhere.

Rich Reynolds

RRRGroup said...

And Paul:

The better analogy would be Stalin and Trotsky.

Stalin was an apparat while Leon was a true Communist with some actual Marxist sympathies.

Stalin (like Lenin) didn't give a fig about Marxism (ufology) just the glorification of being involved in it, whereas Trotsky wanted power for the workers.

As you know, a pick-axe did him in.

RR

Paul Kimball said...

Richie, Richie, Richie...

So much anger. You must be spending too much time with Palpatine.

I do indeed like debating for the sake of debating - the time honoured role of the devil's advocate. But that's not what I'm doing here, as you imply.

If you don't like Updates, ignore it. Really - just walk away. I can't stand American (or Canadian) Idol.

Guess what?

I don't watch it.

Paul

owendrab said...

Rich,

Deal.

brad.

RRRGroup said...

Stalin was a reactionary, not a revolutionary...a thug, as was Lenin.

Kerensky was a Tory if you will.

Trotsky, on the other hand, was beholden to the Marxist cause, which isn't a bad one -- just unrealistic in a world where greed and self-aggrandizement are paramount.

(The "anger" of which you speak comes from my new double-dosed meds, just provided by the doc because my blood pressure has not gone down, but up actually, mostly your fault: those women! the debates!! the revisionist history!!!)

RR

Paul Kimball said...

Rich:

Just remember to breathe... breathe...

My "meds" have kept my BP and cholesterol under control since I was put on them four years ago (at 34 - so young).

Plus, they fill those late night hunger cravings!

Hmm... perhaps I shouldn't be taking them as food supplements, dozens at a time?

Thank God the fiance has a medical plan at work!

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Rich:

P.S.

The history isn't "revisionist."

It's accurate.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Dante:

I don't know what polls you've been reading, but "every" man and woman in the street does not "know they're here."

With respect, statements like that are just ridiculous - and the kind of thing that has helped make ufology the subject of a fair bit of ridicule.

Paul

RRRGroup said...

The only sensible thing, Paul, that came out of the UFO UpDate batch today was your scourging of Salla's exopolitical movement.

The Salla effort has gone off the deep-end for sure.

I put the Oppenheimer-Einstein exopolitical paper of June 1947 online (at the Forum).

It's amazing how similar Salla's take is to Oppenheimer's (that commie sympathizer, Pinko, just as was Edward U. Condon -- see our papers on Condon at http://www.ufolab.us -- near the bottom of the listings.)

RR

RRRGroup said...

Dante is just being provocative; a bit loopy but provocative all the same.

I envy those who can say such things as "they're here" -- which was the line of an old guy in The Day the Earth Stood Still when Klaatu landed on the ballfield.

Loopy...

RR

Paul Kimball said...

Rich (and Dante):

Aww, we're all a bit loopy.

After all, I still think that "ufology" can be saved.

How loopy is that?

Good night, Gracie.

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

Paul

you yourself mention all the polls that show what the majority believe about UFOs. And that despite there being not one iota of "scientific proof". The collective seems to be way ahead of the "scientists" on this one.

The only people who ridicule the UFO phenomena are people so terrified of anything beyond CNN consensus reality that they can't help themselves.

You say "nobody cares outside of the narrow confines of the ufological hard-core". What might be more true is noone cares about scientific materialism's attemp to pin this down one way or the other- it is they that look ridiculous!

I'm sure you can imagine how silly seems the ufological hair splitting over this blob of light photo and that blob of light photo to someone who has met "them" face to face?

Remember in the movie "Poltergeist" when the team of paranormal investigators arrive at the house and talk about how amazing it was when they videoed a toy car moving a few inches over several hours, then they're taken up to the kids' room and when the door opens theres a maelstrom in there? Well thats a little like the situation with ufology. Only they refuse to even look in the room.

Dante

Gelphi said...

The answer to the question "why don't ufo books sell? or why is'nt the public interested?" Can be found in the "Hitchikers guide to the galaxy" books. That is the "someone else's problem feild"
The public by now know they exist but the thought of Alien life distubing domestic or suburban bliss is really something that is a bit too incovienient to contemplate.

In terms of the rise of Harry potter and fantasy, tarot,witchcraft, litrature(spare time recreational thought).
The UFO phenomina was originally cast in a "faith" context. As Mulder would say "I want to believe." Sheeple as a rule will prefer faith to reason. As UFO's become increasingly real the public as a whole will gain less utility contemplating them as a recreational activity.

The car needs fixing, the kids have got the flu, my essay is due on monday, the boss is on my ass about the sales figures, Oh I think I'll just go and think about the possibilty of alien life(which is really damn scary, just for fun). Or will I escape into a world especially created for my pleasure and recreation?

Aditionally power elites really don't want the public thinking about this kind of thing just at the moment. I'm sure there will be a time when it can and will be used to much greater advantage.

William said...

It's funny but I always thought of Mulder's "I want to believe" poster as an admonition to maintain one's objectivity. We all want to believe various things so this admonition isn't just for Ufologists. Whether you're a Christian trying to maintain your objectivity while studying religion from a historical perspective or a scientists pursing a particular avenue of research that may or may not lead to the results you hope to find we all have to be careful of the "will to believe".

Gelphi said...

Mulder was an advocate within his context.
I've read recently that religiosity has a genetic base. Perhaps it performs a vital survival function.
I do agree we must be careful of the "faith" gene.
As with so many things it has been used to the individuals detrement for the implied group good.

Paul Kimball said...

Again, the statement "The public knows they exist."

The public knows no such thing. Many believe that it is possible, but that's a long way from knowing.

Even assuming that to be true, try comparing ufology to religion. People who "know" God exists are usually motivated to some action, often public. Heck, whole political agendas, even parties, are based on religious belief (for good and ill). Where is the mass ufological "action?" Stephen Bassett getting 1,600 votes while running for Congress? Ha!

It just isn't there.

I've spent a fair amount of time in bars, parties, lunches, etc, listening to people talk. UFOs? Never come up. sports, religion, politics, movies, music - heard them all. No UFOs.

It just isn't on the radar, outside of a very, very small niche, many of whom have convinced themselves that they are the cat's meow, and everyone cares - and that's the problem.

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

But Paul, you keep repeating that its some kind of "problem", as if you wanted to sell something to the public, either ideologically or monetarily. There's only a relatively small number of people who are interested in model train collecting, I doubt if they consider that a problem. UFOlogy as it stands is precisely a hobby, a pasttime. Unless, of course, one has met the occupants in one way or another, in which case it becomes direct experience. There are far more people in that catagory than there are in the ufologist/hobbyist catagory.

Dante

Mac said...

I'm interested to see where stores stock my "After the Martian Apocalypse." B&N puts it under "Metaphysics" -- side by side with Tarot and astrology* -- and Borders puts it under "Speculation," side by side with same.

*It's not a "UFO book," but it certainly isn't "metaphysical" either.

Dante Rosati said...

shouldn't face on mars stuff go in the psychology section with books on Rorschach tests?

;-)

SteveClarke said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Let's face it ... there is no interest in the issue because there are no advances being made. Anyone is interested in Ufology will tell you that the books are oh so drab and redundant. Tales of abductions and sightings are all the same and very boring.

Only speculation on the nature of the phenomenon was mildly interesting ... for awhile. I'm afraid with all of the bases covered ad nauseum that it will take some major breakthroughs for any real interest in Ufology.

The most common reply when UFO's come up in a conversation? "So what if aliens or UFO's exist, doesn't affect me." So far and for the time being that is true. If some absolute proof doesn't come about within the next 25 years or so I strongly believe that the nature of this phenomenon will shift to accomodate any new paradigms that are prevelant at the time. This would really bring Vallee's beliefs to the forefront of issue I think.

Lastly, look at 95 percent of the UFO books out there. They stink. People don't want to read them, don't care about them and why should they?

What books were you hoping to find at Chapters? (Fellow Cdn. here)

UFO Bits said...

Good points, sad reality. I've noticed the same where I currently live; Eugene, Oregon. Even the 'New Age' bookstore doesn't carry UFO books per se. They'll carry things like personal accounts of communicating with ETs, that kind of thing, but few, if any, good UFO books. Personally, I question the "the books don't sell" line.

It's difficult to find UFO books anywhere, outside of on-line. Second hand bookstores don't seem to have much. Thrift stores, like Goodwills, St. Vincent de Paul's, etc. put them in odd categories. If you're lucky enough to find a UFO book, frequently it's shoved in with science fiction, fiction; I"ve found UFO books in the religious section! The University library; you can forget it. Eugene built a brand new, huge, spiffy, beautiful library recently. Their UFO selection is actually worse than it was 25 years ago!

Anonymous said...

I'm in Canada, so not to speak for other areas, but truth be told ... in the used bookstores of my area there are huge sections on UFO's. Many used bookstores have multiple copies of their UFO books. People dump this stuff off. It's a passing phase of interest for them.

That being said, the Magick and Occult sections are scant. Owners of the used bookstores that I frequent say that this stuff flies off the shelves and that they often can't keep some of these works for even a day.

This is a true wake-up call for UFO enthusiasts and researchers. Move into the Consciousness related area of UFO studies!

Those who are interested don't need to be convinced that there is something going on with more accounts of sightings. Those who believe, believe and those who don't surely have had enough access to the subject to make up their minds - through TLC documentaries and the like.

Let's take the far-out stuff that was going on with the New Age movement and UFO's and filter out the flakiness, bulk up on the consciousness end of things. That might peak the readership a bit and take Ufology into a new realm.

These views are in accordance with the comments on the Nick Redfern board as well.