ABC UFO Special : The Aftertaste


In the wake of the monumental ABC UFO Special, the field of Ufology attempts to collect it's breath from the proverbial "sucker punch" dealt to it from Peter Jennings and company. In the grande landscape of this long-persecuted field, this special will be remembered for some time for the infamous nature in which it was promoted, promising "the truth", and ended up doling out the usual lies to the American people. For weeks, nay months, the entire field was abuzz with talk of this special and the potential it had to shift paradigms worldwide.

As was said in the early moments after finishing the special, there is quite a bit to digest. We start with what was promised a few days back and then with more new thoughts.

Who did ABC miss interviewing, or showcasing, that they should have ?

Steven Greer / Steve Bassett : The forerunners of the "Disclosure Movement". That ABC did not delve into this turn of events in Ufology showed the special to be terribly outdated in its perspective. Proving UFOs are real is not the main priority of Ufology anymore, disclosure is. Ufology has evolved, the coverage of it has not.

Michael Salla, Nick Pope : International researchers of the worldwide scope of Ufology and government policies regarding such. The special made no mention of the worldwide nature of the UFO phenomenon, making it seem like a US only event. No mention of the mass sightings in Mexico City or the film that came out last year from the Mexican government. No Cometa Report talk. No Rendelsham Forest case. Nothing on the latest rumors of potential disclosure coming out of India and the coverage in their media. UFOs were treated as a US-only phenomenon.

Dr.John Mack : In the hours following the special, it came out that they had the final interview with Dr.John Mack before his untimely death. And they decided not to run it. That speaks volumes in and of itself. Even stranger, they used two Harvard doctors to instead, debunk abductions.

Any government person : No official word from the government outside of Jennings's canned spiel that the government is not in the UFO business or some such nonsense. A series of interviews with various Congresspersons or an "off the cuff" question to someone in the military or Executive branch would have given an air of credibility to the UFO phenomenon. Of course, this did not happen.

Countless other Ufologists : The field is huge and contains so many knowledgeable and credible people that the scant number who were featured is not concurrent with a "serious UFO investigation". There are a number of highly qualified Ufologists with varying "specializations" who would have added credibility to the Ufology side and were not featured. Linda Moulton Howe, Jim Marrs, Bruce Maccabee, Whitley Strieber, David Jacobs, William Birnes, Peter Robbins, Richard Dolan, John Greenewald, the list goes on and on.

More on the C2C Segment in the Special

Popular esoteric radio show "Coast to Coast AM" received quite a bit of publicity from the special. The ABC crew went to Art Bell's ranch in July of last year to film for approx. 2 days. While they say any publicity is good publicity, the depiction of Coast is worthy of note for both good and bad points.

Described as being broadcast from a "desert compound". Which is decidedly untrue, as the bulk of the show is broadcast from Los Angeles or St.Louis, and only the weekends broadcast from Art Bell's ranch in Pahrump, dubbed a "compound" for it's connotations of "cultism" and "militia leanings", no doubt.

Despite spending 2 days with Bell, ABC still managed to get the name of the show wrong, calling it "Coast to Coast with Art Bell" ! Thankfully, Bell managed to say the correct name ("Coast to Coast AM") in one of his interviews, but this was a glaring example of the shoddy journalism contained throughout the special. If ABC cannot get the name of what they call "the place to talk about UFOs" right, any hope of getting even a mildly well-researched special is not good.

Bell gave a great "everyman" answer to what Ufology is all about. Despite the qualms many have with the content of the show, he made for a good spokesman for the field, considering what they provided for us. He did seem eccentric, but also very intelligent.

The show played clips of two callers, both of whom were detailing UFO encounters. The small snippets played were somewhat sensational, but nothing too embarrassing.

Jennings saying "Coast to Coast became the fourth most popular program on American radio" gave the show some good credibility in getting across the vast number of people interested in investigating the UFO phenomenon.

The UFO sighting detailed by Bell and his wife was good. His story was compelling and well told.

Strangely, no mention of full-time host George Noory nor any interview from him. One would think being the main host of the show would entail being the spokesman for specials such as this and his lack of an appearance is telling of the true hierarchy of the show or that ABC wanted the more "charismatic" of two, Bell, because he fit their agenda better than the "straight laced but open minded" George Noory. This was disappointing, as Noory would have made a fine spokesman for both the show and the field of Ufology.

Comparison of Coverage by Esoteric Radio

Going into the special, the hype was on full force. Let's be honest. Both "Coast to Coast AM" and "Rense" promoted the show to their listeners. In the race to provide better coverage, the winner is certainly Rense, who produced Peter Davenport on the Tuesday prior to the special. Davenport sounded hopeful, as did Rense. Davenport also gave considerable insight into the making of the special, a primary resource which will be useful in looking back at how this all happened.

Meanwhile, Art Bell, who was prominently featured in the opening of the special, had Timothy Good on Saturday night, but only briefly discussed the show, though Bell was certainly hyping the special throughout and, if I recall correctly, claimed Ufology would "turn a page" after the special aired.

Following the special, Rense also provided stronger coverage, as he was broadcasting as the show was airing in some parts of the country and had yet to see it himself, but was running it like a "breaking story", a status it certainly deserved. He had Nancy Talbot and Brian Vike on to provide commentary on what was beaming it's way into the homes of Americans.

George Noory had Michio Kaku, who came out of the program looking very strong, as a first hour guest to talk about the special. Kaku merely reiterated his points from the special. In the fourth hour, Peter Davenport briefly made an appearance to touch upon the special, but a was more of a mixed reaction. He had high praise for the ABC team, interestingly enough.

Noory called the special "Ufology 101", being very diplomatic with regards to its quality or veracity. He even played part of the Art Bell segment.

Rense scored again in the follow up night's show, with the most talked about man coming out of the special, Stanton Friedman. It was an episode for the books, that's for certain, as Friedman had a variety of reactions to the special, including how he was portrayed. An interview that cannot be adequately recapped at this time, but is deserving of a listen from anyone who saw the special, as it was a fair rebuttal from someone who was slighted most egregiously.

Rense also had Don Schmitt, who gave additional insight into the making process of the special, including some insight from Jaques Valee, who told him "not to trust them [ABC]" when ABC was interviewing Schmitt. Another excellent companion to the show, as a point of view from someone who was in the special.

Rense's tone throughout was one of disgust with the special, his initial reaction saying that he was "appalled".

George Noory, meanwhile, had Coast regular Linda Moulton Howe for an hour. She discuss the UFO special for about 10 minutes at the end of the hour. Noory broke the subject open, changing his stance somewhat, saying "I was a little disappointed." Howe emotionally defended Stanton Friedman and Roswell. Howe said she was not contacted for the special. Noory also agreed that the portrayal of Friedman was "undeserved".

Any serious form of a "rebuttal" from Ufology was lacking in C2C's coverage, sadly. LMH only spoke for about 10 minutes and Davenport's call the previous night was only approx. 5 minutes. One waits with baited breath to hear the reaction from Art Bell on tonight's Coast to Coast.

Possible conclusions one can draw based on when the show aired

It's no secret that we are in the midst of the February ratings "sweeps". UFOs are generally regarded as enormously popular and, most likely, a surefire ratings hit. The decision to air the show on a Thursday night is telling in some ways. Thursday night is easily one of the hardest nights to draw a considerable audience, with the highly rated "Survivor", "CSI", and "Apprentice". Considering that three of the top rated shows on television air on the same night as the special, one must wonder what the rating would be had the special aired on a different night. An educated opinion is that it would have done considerably better and possibly won the night's ratings.

The decision to air on Thursday night was either a decision by ABC to "bury" the special on a "tough night" or an attempt to cut into their top competition to make way for their franchise shows.

Was this a watershed moment in Ufology ?

In the hype leading into the special, many in the esoteric community were billing the special as a watershed moment in Ufology. Did it live up to its billing ? That is a point that may not be discerned until some time has passed.

It certainly was not the paradigm shifting experienced that many had hoped it would be. While the first hour certainly was educating to the general public, featuring some more promising UFO cases, it was wholly miseducating for the second hour.

There does exist the possibility to use this to change the field in more promising ways. If the special is such a large scale smear as it is perceived to be by most in Ufology, then this should serve as a catalyst for change in the field. If the slighting is so severe that is irks us all to our core, then it should unite us to work harder towards getting an answer to the UFO questions and to get serious with regards to that quest. It should drive the true workers in the field of Ufology to demand to be taken seriously and to be more cautious in their drive to "get the word out".

Of the utmost importance, the field needs to disassociate itself from the "carnival" atmosphere of Roswell once and for all. Serious investigation of the crash is always needed, but parades, festivals, and people prancing about in "alien costumes" and "antennae" on their head are doing obvious harm to the field and this behavior needs to ceased. If this means moving the big annual conventions out of Roswell on the anniversary of the crash, then so be it. It will, eventually one hopes, get the message to the general population that Ufology is not about the foolishness on display once a year in New Mexico.

The field of Ufology needs to take a serious look at itself and how it was portrayed in the special. How it reacts to that portrayal will determine where the events of the past few days are looked back at as a watershed moment.

"At least they had a special"

Some have expressed the opinion, coming off of the airing of the show, that the field should be grateful that a major television network would devote 2 hours of prime time to UFOs. Many said it was a historic moment and hoped that it would lead to more coverage in the future. Some even said it served to educate the general population of the UFO phenomenon.

Here's where I take issue with that sentiment. The ABC special did serve to educate the American people to the UFO phenomenon. However, it was a colossal miseducation ! Claiming Roswell was a myth and that abductions can all be chalked up to sleep paralysis is completely incorrect information, bordering on propaganda. If this is their way of educating the American people to the UFO phenomenon, then they'd be better off being "home schooled" and doing their own research.

The attitude of "be happy with what you get" has no merit here. What we got was unfair, unbalanced, poorly researched, belittling, and, at times, mean spirited coverage of the UFO phenomenon and the field of Ufology. How can someone be grateful for that ?

A Tale of Two Hours

Considerable speculation has focused on the strange nature of how the special unfolded, with a solid and promising first hour, followed by a very negative second hour, replete with the much-discussed Roswell and abduction segments. There is even already speculation that the in-studio portions of the program were "re-shot in a hurry" and the revelation that the Roswell segment was "left out of the preview copy for journalists" lending credence to the idea that the special's tone may have been altered at some point prior to it's final airing. Jeff Rense even speculated that they were editing the special right up until this past week. Loren Coleman called it a "good cop / bad cop" special. Some have claimed that Jennings tone of voice changes so significantly that it belies the idea that the first hour was produced some time ago and the second was produced much later.

Much has been made of a "skeptic's" review of the program that has surfaced on the Jeff Rense website. The skeptic, Lee Siegel, was outraged at the special, claiming that Jennings "gravely repeats over and over again, "we are not alone," that we get "visited" by aliens on a regular basis." Did he see one of these "preview" copies of the program, that did not contain the Roswell portion and, apparently, had a more positive, pro-UFO stance ? We will not know until an enterprising Ufologist gets his hands on a copy of said "preview program".

It is worth noting that the first hour was very tight, with numerous small segments that looked very prepackaged, while the second hour contained longer "debunking" type segments. Put side by side, hour one and hour two do not seem to match up in format, tone, or editing and a further look at this is both deserving and forthcoming.

ABC UFO Special : The Aftertaste (Part II)

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