Four Classic Attitudes
To The UFO Abduction Phenomenon
By Budd Hopkins
In the fringe areas I’ve been discussing we can see once more the contrasting interpretations of the three groups I’ve posited. The True Believers, knowing that since UFOs don’t exist, UFO abductions can’t exist either, inevitably assume, in a basic shoot-the-victim philosophy, that anyone reporting such an experience is either a liar or is mentally disturbed. Debunker Philip Klass once said that people who reported abduction experiences were “just little nobodies trying to get on TV.” Ironically, Klass not only failed to see how accurately he had just described himself, but he also seemed completely unaware of the fact that very few abductees ever agree to appear on TV. They know that when they do go public they are often ridiculed by bitter fanatics like Klass himself.
Abduction Hoaxers Rare
As I have said in considering the uncritical UFO Enthusiasts, this group seems willing to buy into any dramatic alien account regardless of how often it has been exposed as phony. I find it amazing, for example, that the claims of Billy Meier still find a degree of traction in the face of so many examples of his having manufactured evidence while making many unbelievable, off-the-wall assertions. To some Enthusiasts, it is perhaps more thrilling to believe Meir’s claim that kindly aliens took him back in time so that he could meet and talk with Jesus and Moses and photograph shadowy dinosaurs (!) than it is to sympathize with the parents of a temporarily missing toddler who was apparently abducted, examined, and returned upside down in her crib with a scoop mark on her little thigh. Skeptical investigators have their work cut out for them in having to examine the claims and memories of each possible abductee they encounter. Though outright hoaxers are rare, over the years I’ve had to deal with many obviously mentally ill individuals, and to further complicate things, some of these emotionally disturbed people might have had genuine abduction experiences which contributed to their unfortunate condition. I virtually always decline to go further with people such as these, and routinely refer them to psychotherapists for conventional treatment.
To complete my taxonomy of group attitudes to the UFO phenomenon, I will include the fourth and by far the largest segment of the population: the “Incurious.” Essentially the position of the Incurious is one of nearly total indifference to the UFO issue. Though upon occasion some in this group may find themselves either slightly intrigued by the subject or mildly condescending of it, it is their ongoing and collective lack of interest that defines them. They are neither contemptuous True Believers, uncritical Enthusiasts, nor committed Skeptical Investigators. The temperatures of the Incurious rarely, if ever, rise when UFOs are being discussed, despite the potential seriousness of the phenomenon. I find the situation analogous to that of another extraordinarily important field of research, one in which the Incurious are also in the majority: the troubling issue of global warming. Again, many individuals from among the vast numbers of the Incurious may, from time to time, pay a bit of attention to the potentially major problem of climate change, either by making half-hearted attempts at recycling - and here I include myself - or by dismissing global warming as a myth not worth considering. Unfortunately, in our world the majority of the population seems rarely to think long-term. So, like the UFO phenomenon, global warming looms portentously over our future while most Americans, calmly focused on the here and now, are Incurious about both.
In November, 2007, a landmark event in the history of UFO research took place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. An unprecedented meeting, organized by film maker James Fox and journalist Leslie Kean, brought together fourteen important international UFO witnesses and government investigators to discuss their experiences and answer reporters’ questions at a major press conference. Among the speakers, most of whom had retired from active duty, were two generals - one from Belgium and another from Iran; two commercial airline pilots, one French and the other British, who described dramatic encounters between their aircraft and large UFOs; an official of the British Ministry of Defense charged with the investigation of UFO reports in the U.K.; the Chief of the Accidents and Investigations Division of the American FAA; officials from the Peruvian, Chilean and U.S. Air Forces; as well as scientists from the French equivalent of NASA. Within the UFO field no gathering of this scope and international importance had ever been held.
I was fortunate to attend this press conference as a guest observer, and was as thrilled by its tone of careful objectivity as I was by the statements of the individual speakers. In one incident before the conference began I had dinner with, among others, Iranian General Parviz Jafari who, in 1976, as a major in the Iranian Air Force, was ordered to intercept a large UFO over Teheran. He vividly described his frightening encounter, while at the other end of our table sat Commandante Oscar Santa Maria of the Peruvian Air Force, who as a military pilot had been ordered to shoot down a circular, metallic craft that was hovering in broad daylight over a military airfield. During dinner he and General Jafari compared notes, describing the objects they were asked to fire at and, using quick hand movements and sliding “UFO” water glasses about on the table, demonstrated both the difficult maneuvers each carried out to aim his plane at the target, and the astounding evasive acrobatics of the UFOs. Listening to the dialogue of two fighter pilots describing their nervous attempts to shoot down what both perceived at the time as disc-like enemy craft was a truly riveting experience.
However, the central point I would like to make in the context of problems with the uncritical Enthusiasts and the debunking True Believers is that this remarkably effective press conference took place with understated scientific Skepticism and caution. The panelists simply described what had they witnessed or what they had investigated and made no mention of alien beings, abductions, spaceships or extraterrestrial life. They made no outrageous claims and stayed within the parameters of their own personal encounters and their military or scientific experiences.
As a result, the press response was, so far as I have seen, completely favorable. No one seems to have attempted the kind of blanket dismissal one usually expects from the nay-saying True Believers. No Enthusiast has tried to embellish the presentations with lurid assertions. Press reports of the conference were printed by the media in Russia, Australia, Europe, the Americas and the Far East. CNN television did pieces on the conference, and even The New York Times displayed the Reuters News Service account on its prestigious website.
I mention the strategic success of the conference organizers’ precisely stated aims and assertions because a few months before, and also in Washington, D.C., the so-called “exopol” group I’ve described earlier held its own out-of-control but tiny press conference. Dana Millbank, the Washington Post reporter who attended their meeting, subjected the presenters to utter contempt in a newspaper article by quoting, for example, one exopol who stated that “The truth amnesty disclosure project is reportedly recommended by the participating extraterrestrials themselves. The specific extraterrestrial civilization which approximately 60 years ago entered into a top-secret CIA-human-extraterrestrial liaison program.” Evidence offered for such an earthshaking assertion? None.
Afterwards, by going directly to the political candidates’ spokesmen, Millbank had great fun with other exopol claims that various 2008 presidential hopefuls “intended to announce,” when elected, that UFOs were real. For example, when Millbank asked about Hillary Clinton’s plans for disclosure, her spokesman said, “Let me check in with the mothership.” Bill Burton, a spokesman for Barack Obama told him, “We’re more focused on lifting the government-imposed truth embargo on the war in Iraq.” According to the exopols, Bill Richardson was the “likeliest beneficiary,” because he was “as a 25 year-old an employee of a secret CIA extraterrestrial liaison program He has inside knowledge.” As one might have expected, the ridicule of Millbank’s devastating Post article threatened to spill over onto the UFO phenomenon in general, though one exopol, a Washington based UFO Enthusiast and publicist, tried to put a good face on this negative publicity by pointing out that his own name, claims and organization had actually been mentioned in a major newspaper! It was as if a tone-deaf contestant on American Idol, after being virtually laughed off the stage for his horrible performance, exulted the next day that it had been a triumph after all because he had actually sung on national TV.
Lack of Media Coverage
In the months before Fox and Kean’s carefully orchestrated National Press Club conference I was concerned that the irresponsible assertions of the exopols might have already poisoned the climate for such an important event. As it happened, I apparently overestimated their ability to damage serious UFO research because for the most part the media ignored their antics. However, the Post’s satirically inclined Dana Millbank, having savaged the exopols, attended the later international conference, probably in search of more humorous grist for his anti-UFO mill. I sat near him and watched as he stared at the floor, apparently tape-recording the distinguished conferees’ statements but rarely deigning to glance up to study their faces. He left during the Q and A period and ultimately the Washington Post, almost alone of the relevant major media, declined to publish anything about this unprecedented national event. To me, it was obvious that, unlike some of the exopols’ crackpot assertions, the conference speakers said nothing that presented an easy target for Millbank’ s brand of malicious, True Believer satire. The lack of any Washington Post coverage of this extraordinarily important national event I feel was wholly due to the previous rantings of this fringe group.
The SCICOP [Debunkers’] Mantra
In 1987 I appeared along with Carl Sagan on a Boston TV program, and in the green room before the broadcast we had a relaxed, amicable and substantive conversation about the UFO phenomenon. Inevitably, at some point Sagan repeated the SCICOP mantra:
“Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”
I reminded him that the mass of detailed UFO reports by military and civilian pilots, the many radar-visual sightings logged by the Air Force, the hundreds of similar and otherwise inexplicable ground traces remaining after UFO landings, and the many virtually identical abduction accounts by credible people - all of these collectively constitute an extraordinary phenomenon, whatever one theorizes its causes may be.
He nodded his agreement (as who couldn’t) and then I said,
“For this reason shouldn’t we be saying instead that an extraordinary phenomenon demands an extraordinary investigation? I’m not trying to prove to you that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft,” I added, “I’m merely saying that such a consistent, worldwide phenomenon as this demands a thorough investigation.”
He had nothing to reply to this simple, irrefutable proposition, although until the end of his life he declined to initiate or participate in such an investigation.
This proposition that I made to Carl Sagan two decades ago was subtly echoed in the strategy that James Fox, Leslie Kean and their fourteen high-level panelists employed at their Washington press conference. There the speakers’ eloquent presentations of powerful, firsthand experience were delivered with a tone of calm understatement and a complete absence of angry, confrontational claims. The program concluded with a formal demand that the United States, in cooperation with the ongoing official investigations of other nations, open a similar official investigation of the UFO phenomenon. A copy of this demand is currently being circulated among other members of the scientific, military and aviation communities, and so far the list of distinguished signatories includes citizens from eleven countries as well as six retired generals.
The stakes have become far too high to wait any longer. It is time now to end both the ridicule of the True Believers and the destructive hyperbole of many Enthusiasts, and to launch, in the United States, an official and truly objective investigation of the UFO phenomenon with full scientific and journalistic support. – Budd Hopkins, 2010
This article is published with the expressed permission of Budd Hopkins for publication on The Alien Jigsaw: alienjigsaw.com