Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Code of Conduct for Ufology

I cancelled my subscription to UFO Updates last week, after several years of receiving the posts on a daily basis.

Why?

Because Updates has become more about ego gratification and personal attacks, and less about a reasoned and rational debate / discussion about the UFO phenomenon. Frankly, I had enough.

Then, just days later, this latest brouhaha erupts between the RRR Group and Alfred Lehmberg. Because RRR cc'ed me on their original question re: Mr. Lehmberg, which was sent to Errol Bruce-Knapp, Mr. Bruce-Knapp cc'ed me on his response. It can be found at http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2005/oct/m31-007.shtml.

My response, sent in an e-mail to Messrs. Lehmberg, Bruce-Knapp, and Reynolds et al, and copied to a number of List subscribers and leading ufologists, was as follows:

"Gentlemen:

I have withdrawn from Updates, prior to this current RRR - AL brouhaha. Therefore, there is no need to send me anything that is related to Updates.

What Jay did was wrong. Even in private. If I had been Errol, I would have booted him from Updates too. I have a great deal of difficulty thinking of anything worse than being linked to child porn, short of murder. So - and I don't want there to be any misunderstanding here - it was wrong.

Wrong.

WRONG.

Having said that, let me say this:

I would have booted Wendy Connors from Updates when she smeared Rich Reynolds [see: www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/good-bad-in-ufology.html]. I would have booted Mr. Lehmberg a long time ago, for his smear attacks at Alien View (to which www.virtuallystrange.net, which hosts Updates, has a direct link) and elsewhere on me and so many others. Errol, you took no action against Ms. Connors after her remarks against Reynolds, and you have done and continue to do nothing about Mr. Lehmberg. Again, that is wrong. You are employing a double standard.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the UFO phenomenon, or a reasoned and rational debate. People can disagree - even vehemently - without it getting personal. But that isn't the way it seems to go with some in ufology these days.

And it was for this reason that I left Updates (without any public fanfare), which was once a significant tool to aid in legitimate research. Not anymore. It is now a symbol of the intellectual
bankruptcy of contemporary ufology. There are good people in the "field" - I am copying this e-mail to some of the ones that I know and have corresponded with over the years, or worked with, in the hopes that maybe they'll finally stand up and say "enough," and withdraw from any list or group that allows this kind of behaviour - no matter what the source.

Frankly, to paraphrase the Joker in Batman, what ufology needs is an enema.

Here's another suggestion - ufologists agree to draw up a uniform code of conduct, with same basic general principles. Lawyers do it. We do it in the film industry. Most groups of people do it. Perhaps it's time for ufology as well. People could then sign it - as Canadian producers do, for example, with the Independent Production Agreement with ACTRA - and would be bound by it. They would agree not to participate in any list or group that did not agree to be bound by the uniform code, nor attend any conference etc., or appear on any radio or television program, that did not similarly agree. And so on.

In other words, get together and set an example.

Until then, the considerable efforts of the various people I have copied this e-mail to will continue to be largely ignored.

And that's the real shame."

This is a subject that I have addressed before at The Other Side of Truth - see "The Good & the Bad in Ufology" for example (www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/good-bad-in-ufology.html) and "Separating 'Business' from 'Personal"
(www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/07/separating-business-from-personal.html).

Until this nonsense stops - and that will require the "elder statesmen" of ufology to put aside their differences and agree to some code of conduct (does anyone think Mr. Bruce-Knapp would countenance Mr. Lehmberg's viciousness if Stan Friedman, Kevin Randle, Dick Hall, Jerry Clark, John Rimmer, Brad Sparks et al told him that they were leaving unless he did something about it), nothing will change. If they fail to do this, from hereon out they can consider themselves as far beyond the pale as people like Alfred Lehmberg and Christopher Jay have become because, by their silence, they will be allowing such behaviour to continue.

Here's a suggestion.

Adopt some of the relevant rules that govern lawyers in the Province of Nova Scotia (similar rules exist in all Canadian jurisdictions).

A good place to start would be Chapter 13 of the Nova Scotia Legal Ethics and Professional Conduct Handbook - "Duties to Other Lawyers."

"A lawyer has a duty to treat and deal with other lawyers courteously and in good faith."

Substitute "ufologist" for "lawyer."

That doesn't mean an end to spirited disagreements about theories, or evidence, or even the question of the existence or non-existence of life on other planets / in other dimensions. What it does mean is an end to the petty bickering and the personal attacks on people who might hold views other than your own.

After all, one can criticize the position a person holds without criticizing the person. Educated, rational and mature adults understand that.

So, for everyone willing to conduct themselves as adults, it's time to stand up and be counted. Past sins and transgressions should be considered water under the bridge. Let everyone - Mr. Lehmberg and Mr. Jay included, if they agree - begin with a clean slate, should they accept the basic rule set out above.

Let the focus be on the issues, the cases, and the evidence, from hereon in.

Consider me the first person to step forward.

I hope I won't be the last.

Paul Kimball

21 comments:

Isaac Koi said...

Hi Paul,

Whilst I can understand your reasons, I think it is a shame that you have withdrawn from Updates. I'm not aware of any better way of sharing views and information with as many people as possible within the ufo "community". Any increase in the existing multitude of communication problems within that "community" will almost inevitably result in even more reinvention of the wheel and inefficient use of time/resources.

In relation to a code of conduct for ufology, you may be aware that some attempts have been made in the past to introduce such codes. In the UK, BUFORA's Code of Conduct is reasonably well known. BUFORA has just reorganised its website, and as part of that reorganisation appears to have deleted the Code of Conduct. However, at the moment it is cached at:
http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:r4DEh5MBJJIJ:www.bufora.org.uk/code_of_practice.htm

All the best,

Isaac

Aion said...

I have seen 18-22 year olds act far better in my philosophy classes during some very heated debates. It can be done -- by young and old alike.

What Errol did was wrong. His heavy-handed solution punished every other user of that RRRgroup email address, in addition to the intended (CJ). As long as each message is 'signed' by the author, Errol could have simply refused CJ's messages to pass through 'the filter'. His (final?) solution is not fair, nor is his obvious double standards. He's a man with power issues for certain. His judgement is lacking, and morally reprehensible.

Aion said...

I hope I won't be the last.

I sent my message to the list with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line. I didn't get any confirmation back, however. Maybe it, too, must go through the Filter.

fatrobot said...

Mr T. was right when he said he didn't have time for no jibber jabber

Paul Kimball said...

Isaac:

I sympathize. Change is always difficult to embrace (and here I speak of the mechanism for dissemination of information). But so long as Updates continues to tolerate (one might even say encourage) people like Mr. Lehmberg - who in his response to my olive branch today publicly called me, among other things, a Christo-Fascist - then it is ineffective, because many people who may have something to contribute will either leave, or stay away. Further, as I indicated, members of the ufological community who do nothing are effectively aiding and abetting this behaviour, and are demeaning both themselves and the study of the UFO phenomenon in the process.

I was unaware of the BUFORA code of conduct, which Joe McGonagle also sent me today, but I'll have a look. Thanks.

Updates is not the "Be all and end all" of the Universe. There are other methods of communicating, and there are other forums that could be founded, based on civility, decorum, and basic human decency - again, without limiting the exchange of conflicting views and ideas. Indeed, such a forum would encourage that exchange.

Paul Kimball

Paul Kimball said...

Fatrobot:

You are a wise man.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Aion:

I agree that EBK's judgment is lacking, but I reserve the term "morally reprehensible" for bigger fish and issues. At the end of the day, this isn't a matter of life and death, after all.

And you don't get a confirmation of withdrawal e-mail. You just stop receiving the posts.

As for Chris Jay, I see he has accepted a "suspension" from posting at the RRR blog. Alas, that's not enough - what is needed is an unequivocal, public apology from Mr. Jay. Sometimes you just have to admit you went too far, step up, take your medicine, and move on / let the chips fall where they may. People can respect that.

Paul

Aion said...

Paul:

I think if you look closely you will see that I said his judgement was morally reprehensible. The decision-making process he used is simply wrong. It is used by 'bigger fish', but the mechanism itself is faulty. Collective punishment is an ugly thing in all of its manifestations.

It's a slippery slope that should be attacked whenever it rears its ugly head. I wouldn't vote Errol in for public dog catcher with his sort of judgement. I have too much compassion for the dogs.

An Historian said...

"Collective punishment"? It wouldn't need to be collective if RRRGroup didn't have this weird (and IMHO rather suspicious) practice of all using the same email account. And as EBK said, Rich is free to re-subscribe under another address.

RRRGroup said...

Let me correct An Historian...

We have one e-mail address where UFO UpDates comes to. (We now have two.)

Each person affiliated with us has his or her own e-mail address thusly: rrrgroup@aol.com, rrrgroup@yahoo.com, rrrgroup@hotmail.com and so on.

Errol gets mail from me via rrrgroup@gmail.com, which I also use for communicating with the UK UFO crowd.

No one hides behind a pseudonym (such as "An Historian") and no one sends material to UFO UpDates but me, using the Juno account which receives the UpDates postings.

Your suspicions indicate a narrow paranoia, and this is one thing what makes ufology the blight it has become.

RR

Aion said...

It wouldn't need to be collective if RRRGroup didn't have this weird...

If 'weird' be the crime, then I suspect a great many of us are guilty as charged.

Errol isn't moderating anything so far as I can see. He's biased through and through. Nobody elected him anything, and the fact still remains -- he acts as a filter on the list, and could have acted in a way so as to not affect those unintended.

If you have the option of dropping a bomb on the enemy while he is near non-combatants, or sniping him -- which do you choose, and more importantly why?

I expect a moderator to moderate. Is that really so much? Errol not only takes sides, but he escalates. So perhaps it is more accurate to call him an escalator?

I did not receive notification of my removal from UFOUpdates, but I also have not received any more messages. When Errol learns a few conflict management skills, perhaps I will re-subscribe. I won't hold my breath.

An Historian said...

RR:

"Your suspicions indicate a narrow paranoia, and this is one thing what makes ufology the blight it has become."

When you fall off that high horse, just climb right back on, eh?

The only reason for my pseudonymity was because I was concerned that in disagreeing with anything RRRGroup said, that I might get smeared by you lot, and in particular by one Christopher Jay. In light of recent events, I feel that was justified. Especially since Jay did in fact try to smear me, without actually knowing who I am! "The person has a history of belligerency, is a high-school drop-out masquerading as someone with credentials they don't have." (Which was RRRGroup's reasoning for not having to try to defend its ridiculous statements about 1940s vintage aircraft in relation to the Arnold sighting, in particular a non-existent non-Navy A7.)

Any comments? Any evidence?

Paul Kimball said...

Rich / AH -

My code of conduct requires that these types of things not go on here.

Rich, lots of people use pseudonyms on the Net, and given what people like Mr. Lehmberg and Mr. Jay have done, I don't blame them, even as I don't like it.

If only everyone could feel free to step out and use their own names. Unfortunately, the activities of people like Mr. Lehmberg and Mr. Jay (and others) prevent that.

I can understand why some people still won't use the Internet. There is something to be said for actually getting to know people, face to face (or at least by phone). Like modern warfare, the Internet allows people to slam other people without any thought to the human consequences that follow.

Now, behave nicely, or I'll delete further comments.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Aion:

Errol the Escalator? Unfortunately, it seems to fit.

Alas, if one he would work to "elevate" the debate.

Then he could be... [pause for effect]...

Errol the Elevator.

Paul

An Historian said...

Aion:

Fair points. I have heard complaints about EBK's moderation policy elsewhere too. However - no, nobody elected him anything, but neither is he forcing anyone to subscribe to his list.

I suspect that one difference between Connors and RRRGroup is that (I think) Connors' distasteful outburst was rare (and IIRC came after being harshly attacked by RRRGroup herself, I think in one of those diatribes on their blog that mysteriously disappears after a few hours), whereas RRRGroup has a history of bad behaviour. Yep, you could say that it was mostly Jay who is responsble for that, not Reynolds, but that's what RRRGroup get for having their group identity.

Having said all that ... there's still Lehmberg. I have no idea why Lehmberg's content-free invective is allowed to pass by EBK. It deadens debate, for one thing. It does seem to me that a moderator should step in to enforce decorum and civility from time to time.
So maybe you are right after all!

RRRGroup said...

Sorry, Paul:

I was just trying to correct the record.

I'm actually planning on pulling the material from the RRRGroup blog and reverting to media only material.

In a newscast or newspaper, the restaurant reviewer isn't chastised by readers because the political pundit said something bad about President Bush.

There is an egregious lack of discrimination and thought in ufology, and I think enough is enough.

RR

Paul Kimball said...

Rich:

I agree with you on the lack of discrimination and thought, although I would probably not characterize it as egregious.

There's no problem with correcting the record, or, as I've indicated before (many times), a spirited debate. After all, one can't expect others to agree with them all of the time. Heck, historians are still debating the origins of the First World War!

The problem is in how one chooses to correct the record. One should always endeavor to do so without the personal stuff (and I haven't always been lilly white in this regard either).

It's interesting - I showed some of the ufological back and forth between certain Updaters to friends of mine, all of whom are bright, open-minded people. They just went (I paraphrase), "what took you so long to leave?" A good question. I guess I just like to reform existing structures, as opposed to tearing them down and starting again. Sometimes that may not be enough.

Sorry to see you leave the ufological field. Despite our disagreements, I think you had stuff to offer, in your own way. You'll always be welcome to stop by The Other Side of Truth and leave a comment. I figure anyone who really wants to chat with me can do the same.

Paul

Isaac Koi said...

Hi Paul,

You wrote:
"... Errol, you did nothing about Ms. Connor's remarks re: Rich, ... Again, that is wrong. You are employing a double standard."

The statement that EBK "did nothing about Ms Connor's remarks" did not accord with my recollection. I did a quick Google search to refresh my memory and found the blog entry below(coincidentally from your own blog!).

So, in addition to stating that Wendy's email "appalled" him, EBK offered his "deepest apologies". (From memory, I think he also deleted Wendy's email from the Updates archive). OK, I understand if you think he should have gone further in sanctioning Wendy. But I think saying that he "did nothing about Ms Connor's remarks" is not entirely fair or accurate.

(By the way, I'm sure Joe McGonagle and others (including myself) would welcome you on Joe's Ufologyinuk List, which discusses general issues relating to ufology as well as UK specific matters.)

Kind Regards,

Isaac


http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/ebks-apology.html

"In my post yesterday "The Good & The Bad in Ufology" I wondered why Errol Bruce-Knapp at UFO Updates would publish Wendy Connors's shameful personal attack on Rich Reynolds. Proving that he is a stand-up guy, EBK apologised today at Updates."

" 'Yesterday, while talking on the phone and doing List mail, I inadvertantly posted a submission by Wendy Connors that contained a line that, when I read it, appalled me. Distracted, I thought I'd removed it in my text editor, before forwarding it to the List. It wasn't until this morning that a response to the post alerted me to my screw-up. To Rich Reynolds, my deepest apologies - Wendy's submission was not intended by me to be publicly posted, intact. Errol Bruce-KnappMosderator - UFO UpDates' "

www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2005/jun/m04-013.shtml

"This is why EBK is part of the "good" in ufology."

"As for Connors, one can only wonder if she'll issue an unequivocal apology."

"We'll see."

"Paul Kimball"

Paul Kimball said...

Isaac:

Oh, you crazy lawyers! :-)

I suppose I should have made my point clearer - EBK did nothing about it other than offer an apology for having run it. There was no chastisement or punishment meted out to Ms. Connors, as there was with Mr. Jay. And this was for something that EBK actually posted, as opposed to something that only appeared on UFO Updates because Mr. Lehmberg specifically requested EBK to run it there.

At the time, I considered EBK's response sufficient. In the larger context, however, it is not. I was too kind the first time round (it was only one line in Connors' post that appalled him? The entire post was appalling).

EBK isn't a bad guy - but he shows bad judgment, and he plays favourites with people who don't deserve it.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Isaac:

I would add that no apology was ever forthcoming from Ms. Connors - who does good work, but undermines it with her problems in dealing with others - and EBK never required one, or took any action against her. Thanks for the corrective, however - I have altered the original post to reflect this. Just don't bill me by the hour!

As for Joe's group, is there a website I can check out?

Paul

Isaac Koi said...

Hi Paul,

You wrote "As for Joe's group, is there a website I can check out?"

Sure.

http://www.smartgroups.com/group/group.cfm?gid=292370

I think you have to go through a brief sign up process to access the messages (but you can set "group settings" to "no email - web retrieval only" if you want, so it's not much of an imposition).

No bill this time.

All the best,

Isaac