Monday, May 08, 2006

Winning the UFO PR Battle - 2006 Edition

Ufology's biggest problem, or at least one of them (there are so many to choose from these days)?

It is populated, by and large, by pro-ETHers, a group that is simply lousy at public relations.

So lousy that they make George Bush and the current administration look like a PR genius.

Rather than take an issue or event, like the Peter Jennings UFO special last year, or the release of the United Kingdom MOD report on UAP yesterday, and try to see the positive things in it, they pander to their ever-dwindling base. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - many of these guys and gals would rather be big fish in a very small pond, than little fish in a bigger pond.

Don't believe me? Then check out some of the early reactions over at UFO Updates.

Here, for example, is my friend Don Ledger, whom I normally consider quite sensible:

"The dynamic debunker trio strikes again. Here I thought theywere coming up with something serious. I should have known better. This drivel showed up in the Sunday paper, with the usual childish title, Relax, it's just gas, not a UFO. Whenever David Clarke and Andy Roberts and Joe McGonagle come rushing out, breathlessly, with the latest UK government regulations/revelations we should all know better. What a load of malarky. Why would this be kept secret? It's kept secret for some years. Why, if it's just natural phenomenon, like lightning? Then it takes an act implemented by government to force freedom of information, then it's only to be reased to debunkers in England who have coyly previewed this as "UFO" information, when it's just more of the same nonsense. And where's the science, that's been hidden from a public that would naturally be terrified by this new "natural phenomenon'that's more sinister than tornadoes and tsunamis and lightning and hurricanes? Are these scientists saying that they now believe in the oft recycled ball lightning? I now believe - what I've suspected for some time - that there is a sustained coverup of this phenomenon and that many governments have an agenda and have kept the truth from us for some 60years. This confirms it."

Hmm... that's certainly one way to try and frame the debate. However, while it may make you feel better, and it will wow the crowds at UFO conferences, it's not very productive. It won't change anything.

There is a different tack, however, that would potentially yield more results, and actually accomplish something useful. William Wise, the archivist at the Project Blue Book Archive, suggested it in a comment on an earlier post here, but it's worth printing on the main page, so hopefully more people will read it.

"As you've mentioned before, this sort of news could well be spun positively. Here's a possible headline: "British MOD Reports Existence of UFOs 'Indisputable'" or for this article in particular "More Scientists Than Ever Search for E.T."

Instead, as you also pointed out, most Ufologists will simply viciously attack the government for not coming clean with "full dislosure", whatever that may mean to them. (I suspect that for some full disclosure means the government admitting that "gosh, actually we've been as stumped as you are all these years" while for others it will mean "people of Earth bow down before your new alien overlords!")

To me, the fact that a major western government has concluded that the fact "that UAP exist is indisputable" is a major step forward toward getting science to take a closer look at the phenomena.

The plasma theory seems to be, by the report's own admission, a pretty tenuous explanation and the mental effects aspect is already being questioned by actual physicists:

We'll know more once the report is released in full but, quite frankly, I'd be quite suprised if the naturally occuring plasma notion is really anything more than a stab in the dark. Going out on a limb (whee! in Pflockese) I notice that it is often conjectured that it might be difficult or impossible for us puny humans to tell the difference between the localized manifestation of an advanced alien intelligence and some seeming force of nature itself. Strange plasmas that leave you wobbly in the head might be worth a second look with this in mind!"

Right on, Will! I agree with you one hundred per cent.

None of that means that reasoned, rational criticism of elements of the report can't be brought forward. I already know at least one serious ufologist who's working on just that. I suspect that there are others, including Don, who spelled out a few criticisms at a subsequent Updates post.

But it needs to go beyond that. Rather than just assuming that the whole report is dross, why not look for some gold, as Will suggests, and then highlight that?

Frame the story to your benefit.

It's the difference between seeing the trees and seeing the forest.

Will sees the forest. So do I. So do some others.

For everyone else, it's time to think about the big picture, and act accordingly. Set some realistic goals, and then work towards them.

Start with the MOD report.

Paul Kimball

1 comment:

The Odd Emperor said...

"To me, the fact that a major western government has concluded that the fact "that UAP exist is indisputable" is a major step forward toward getting science to take a closer look at the phenomena."

Hear hear!
When approaching any problem, be it anomalous phenomena or PR one must first acknowledge that there is a problem. For UAPs (or whatever) conventional scientific process must be applied for any of this stuff to move forward.

There is a couple of exceptions to this, one is deliberate intelligent control of an issue. (reading Skinwalker reminded me.) If some of this stuff is under intelligent control and if the agent(s) behind the phenomena desires that it be impenetrable then you will have a situation where intelligence gathering, not science will be the most effective. In fact science might be a liability. A further caveat is that this applies to human intelligence, what would happen if the agent(s) are non human? Is there any way we could comprehend even the rudiments of their intent?

--They make George Bush and the current administration look like a PR genius.

Now hold on a moment! That’s deeply DEEPLY offensive to all the Pan-Troglodytes in all the forests of Africa! You may have some apologizing to do, I hear many of them will be blogging in a year or so. ;)