I’m not a journalist. I write about stuff I find interesting.
Journalism is a profession consisting of skilled
investigators and reporters. Many are educated in its disciplines,
although its protocols are often undermined by hobbyists. I think
calling myself a journalist would devalue the work invested and dues
paid by those who earned the title through years of college and
employment. I just like to conduct research and then write about my
findings, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend some time
pursuing the pastime.
The UFO subculture blurred the lines
between journalists and what are more accurately described as UFO promoters.
It’s been happening and morphing for decades. Such promoters become enmeshed
with their subjects of interest and even seem offended at times if they are not
discussed as primary parts of the stories.
In recent years and months in (what we might generously call) ufology,
numerous self-styled journalists cropped up to assist the usual UFO promoters
in making an absolute mess of anything that may have ever held any resemblance
to objective reporting. This happens through a combination of shortcomings.
Make no mistake, the sometimes sincere yet unequipped self-styled journos are
manipulated in some instances. They lack the skills and tools they need to
navigate increasingly complex situations. This can result in folding to the
noise of the crowd and those who push them hardest. They typically have
minimal mentorship and what little they get is often low quality.
In other circumstances they’re more willingly coerced, hoovering up and
disseminating talking points they’re given by what they perceive to be movers
and shakers. Some simply don’t care about accuracy and have any number of
ulterior motives, ranging from believing ends justify means regarding their
beloved Disclosure to their quest for heightened community status that results
from “attaboys” gifted from those movers and shakers. If you’re thinking that
sounds a lot like a cult, you’re right. It should also be noted there are
actual journalists who often don’t fare a whole lot better when caught between
UFO storytellers, deadlines, and their needs to get work published. A lot of
rationalizing goes on.
I do not consider myself a journalist. I do however, respect and observe
standards recognized by the professional research community. I try my best to
remain in the framework of those standards, citing sources as applicable and
obtaining comment as I think adds value to my offerings. This has guided me
through some 12 years of blogging and two self-published nonfiction books.
For what my opinion may or may not be worth, I think the two dynamics
described below are primary reasons current UFO “journalists” are following in
the long tradition of failure forged before them. These dynamics are not new
to the genre by any means, but various aspects of technology and current day
circumstances indeed further aggravate the dysfunction. UFO reporters fail to
produce quality work when:
– They mistakenly try to be friends with the subjects of their interviews and
– Online screennames and concealed identities create an environment in which
they don’t know who they are talking to from one interaction to the next.
We will explore these two dynamics further below.
Some UFO writers and podcasters get the idea that building a following must be
contingent on being well liked. This goes hand in hand with wanting access to
inside info and juicy gossip; it only seems to stand to reason you’ll get more
news tips and eyes on your work if people like you.
Unfortunately for them, this may well be the easiest type of person to
manipulate. I often wonder if they’re aware they transitioned from reporting
to acting as someone’s mouthpiece, and if they identify a particular point in
time it happened.
Some of the manipulators are much more skilled than your average bear at
transferring their talking points into someone else’s platform. They may
approach writers and podcasters in overly friendly manners, making it
challenging to hold boundaries. They may then express disappointment and
suggest they were hurt by the way a writer framed their statements or how a
show host described their actions.
Is that gaslighting? You bet your ass it’s gaslighting. They’ll have you
apologizing for accurately quoting them if you let them.
Another tool in their bag is dumping “off the record” remarks all over your
inbox when you specifically requested comment for inclusion in a blogpost or
book. In at least some instances, this is a direct attempt to influence your
framing of a story without taking public responsibility for their statements:
They are trying to persuade you to champion a cause but do not go on record
for the simple reason they cannot prove the legitimacy of the tale they’re
selling. They want you to take the heat for it and be left babbling about how
you can’t tell anyone how you know it’s true.
To the less experienced, I recommend bringing such exchanges back to focusing
on comments to be published, and the sooner the better. You are outright being
enrolled as an emotional support person or confidant without your permission,
and in direct contradiction to the role in which you defined and presented
yourself, a writer impersonally seeking comment for publication.
It is simple manipulation. Recognize it, label it, and act accordingly.
Research and investigations should prioritize accuracy. We should seek to
support or refute a given point. It’s not personal. Keep it that way.
Online discourse, research communities, and virtually every other aspect of
internet interactions in the UFO subculture is in a state of dysfunctional
paralysis. A leading reason is we simply do not know who we’re talking to from
one interaction to the next. This virtually cripples podcast hosts who rely
heavily on social media for interacting with potential guests, as well as
researchers who make themselves available for a variety of purposes.
Let’s say Podcaster A invites you to their show to discuss your take on the
UFO research climate. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, how do you know they’re
not one of those anonymous trolls that posted an inappropriate and vulgar
photoshop of someone’s profile pic? And how sure are you they’re not one of
those people sending you unsolicited direct messages, asking you what you
think about ‘this’ or ‘that’ about one person or issue or another? And why do
people that just want to discuss this or that have to hide who they are?
If you consider yourself a researcher and you’re not willing to post your
identity at an online venue, maybe you shouldn’t be dabbling at that venue.
Maybe it’s more than you bargained for and you should give that more
consideration. What does someone honestly think yet another anonymous voice
can functionally contribute to this mess in a research capacity? If they feel
their employment, community status, or similar circumstance prohibits them
from sharing who they are, there’s a pretty good chance they shouldn’t be
mixing it up with spooks and sociopaths who congregate to UFO websites in the
Moreover, screennames and hidden identities stand in direct contradiction to
the very research process certain individuals and venues claim to pursue. In
my personal experience, I considered publishing my real name to be part of
making the decision to launch this blog in 2010. I did not see how I could
undertake the things I intended to do without offering such a show of good
faith. There are exceptions to what I have described here, but they are not
the rule, and they certainly do not apply to people operating god only knows
how many accounts to hide behind across multiple websites. We should all be
sincere enough to differentiate between the spirit of rules and their
intentional misuse and exploitation.
The bottom line is aspects of the UFO research community have largely
paralyzed themselves again, as has always been the case. The means and
technologies evolve, but self-styled reporters frequently find ways to waste
time and attention instead of presenting meaningful material. That’s no
coincidence. It’s likely in some instances by design and intentional
manipulation, often to distract you from the fact promises of forthcoming
revelations and claims of paradigm-shifting knowledge remain so utterly
unfulfilled and empty.