ABC UFO Special : The Aftertaste II


Who got featured in the special for Ufologists and Skeptics

It was claimed during the pre-show hype that ABC interviewed 150+ people for this special. A look at who made the final cut :

Pro-UFO: Art Bell, Dr.Mark Rodegheir, Jerome Clark, Dr. Michael Swords, Dr.Bruce Goldberg, Stanton Friedman, Budd Hopkins, Dr.Michio Kaku, and Peter Davenport

Anti-UFO: Dr.James McGaha, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr.Michael Shermer, Dr.Frank Drake, Dr.Jill Tarter, Dr.Seth Shostak, Karl Pflock, Dr.Susan Clancy, Dr.Richard McNally, and Dr.John Gibbons

Clearly, ABC went a little overboard on the Doctors for this special and loaded up the panel with very good "on paper" skeptics. Meanwhile, they picked a only a handful of Doctors for the Pro-UFO side, when they could have easily evened up both sides. Also, with all due respect for some of the Ufologists featured (Dr.Bruce Goldberg, Dr.Michael Swords, and Jerome Clark), they are not the cream of the crop of Ufology. Meanwhile, Stanton Friedman received a scant 20 seconds in the entire special, so even counting him as a featured Ufologist is a technicality.

Also noteworthy is that ABC featured Dr.Susan Clancy and Dr.Richard McNally to offset the singular voice of Budd Hopkins. A literal two to one argument. And, from the special's point of view, two Harvard Doctors against "an artist".

Analysis of Art Bell's reaction to the special.

Many in the Field awaited the reaction from Art Bell as the general consensus had fallen into the "nay" field in relation to the ABC special. He addressed the special at the very beginning of the program for about 5 minutes. Bell said the "average citizen ... loved it" and the listeners and Ufologists "panned" it. He said the people who panned it are "wrong".

He did call the Roswell segment a "glaring difficulty", though did not mention the slighting of Stanton Friedman. No mention of the abduction segment that his friend Whitley Strieber took such exception to.

"This was aimed at the great, unwashed, general public". Bell, obviously, fell into the "at least there was a special" camp. "It is a first step only. I mean, what do you expect, that they'd give the general public the 'Lear Test' ?"

Bell repeatedly tried to stress that the special was for the general population and not for the informed citizenry. "The ratings were good, so they'll probably do more."

He went on to gush about his portrayal and then take callers, who more often than not, praised the special.

While I can understand where Art is coming from in some sense, I simply must disagree. As outlined in the previous "Aftertaste", the ABC UFO special was a colossal miseducation of the public. The time that will be wasted by Ufology debunking this special to the "great unwashed masses" is time it cannot afford to waste. Thankfully, the special's attempts to discredit Roswell were so transparent and over-the-top that the general public is likely to have seen through them.

That said, I reserve the right to reverse my opinion on this special should a follow up edition be produced that addresses the errors in this edition, especially concerning Roswell and Stanton Friedman. Fat chance, I know, but it's worth stating for the record. I suppose an optimistic conspiracy buff would say they botched the Roswell part to lay the groundwork for a sequel, but that's wishful thinking. In truth, it will be some time until we know for certain if this special changes network coverage of Ufology, but right now it appears doubtful.

The Roswell Segment

Without a doubt, the most talked about segment coming out of the special was the Roswell segment. No other portion of the show, save for perhaps the Abduction piece, had such glaring bias. Stanton Friedman, the man who the special claims started the entire Roswell "myth", is given 20 seconds of interview time in a 9 minute piece. A handful of less qualified, less knowledgable Ufologists are given considerable more time during the piece.

Meanwhile, the special says "there was no way to prove Jesse Marcel's claims, which never stopped Stanton Friedman and his fellow Roswell promoters" and later flashes to a old clip of Friedman on a talk show when Jenning says "the promoters [Friedman pictured] were busy spinning it every way they could."

Despite there being dozens of credible witnesses, ABC insisted that there were only 2 quasi-credible (or worthy of naming)witnesses and never bothered to mention anyone else. Most notably not Col. Corso. It, however, insisted that "a parade of new witnesses came out of the woodwork to share in the limelight."

The most ridiculous angle was how the ABC special used the government's Project Mogul explanation as the final word on Roswell, despite it coming out about 10 years ago. As if the entire field of Ufology had not managed to rebutt and explain how it was incorrect in all this time. One would think that as ABC offered no opinion from any Ufologists on the Mogul explanation for Roswell. If they had, it would have been shown to hold no water.

Ironically enough, ABC pointed out in the first hour that the US government would use seemingly innocuous explanations for UFOs when that wasn't the case. One of the explanations they point out : weather balloons.

The final word on the subject from Jennings was that those who pay the Roswell story any credence "cling to a myth."

A Tale of Two Hours : Redux

As promised, a comparison of the two hours. For total reference, observe the binnall's ABC UFO special log HERE.

It seems, from the look of both hours, that Hour 1 featured more small segments focusing on unexplainable UFO sightings, replete with numerous witnesses and animations. It also had one long segment on the origins of the UFO phenomenon. Hour 2 featured 3 long debunking segments that were about the size of two Hour 1 segments. The longest segment for the entire show was the abduction segment at about 11 minutes. The Roswell segment and the SETI segment both clocked in at 9 minutes. Peter Davenport got about 3 and a half minutes, as did Art Bell, the Phoenix Lights, and Allen Hynek. The two big UFO sightings (Mina, ND and Southern Illinois) got 6 and a half minutes and 4 and a half minutes, respectively.

The only large non-debunking oriented segment was the early days of the UFO phenomenon segment, which got 10:00. This was not a particularly strong segment and would be considered pedestrian by even a relative novice Ufologist or a member of the general public. It was also quite campy and rather boring.

No discernable point can be made by the segment legths as far as questions arising of late editing or re-shot studio scenes. A closer look and listen may be in order, but that is dependant upon finding someone with time and expertise to do that. That said, by looking at the segment lengths, one can see a more focused intent in the "debunking" segments as opposed to the quick "hit and run" style of the more pro-UFO segments.

Where Ufology Goes From Here

I've decided to rebuke going over the pre-show coverage, as it was mostly poking fun at the idea of a 2 hour special on UFOs. You know, the kind of crap you expect to hear. No point in going over it all.

The future of Ufology really deserves it own special article, but suffice it to say, Ufology needs to prove to the world that it has grown up. Sure, you and I know it has, but "Joe Six Pack" does not. Festivals, costumery, and lowest common denominator appeal do not give Ufology an ounce of respectability. And isn't that what this special was all about ? "They're finally gonna respect us !" Nope. The rug gets pulled out from under Ufology yet again.

A serious union of Ufology needs to be developed. Yes, Peter Davenport does an outstanding job and MUFON is an institution, but there is no collaborative body that seems to represent Ufology. This needs to be established.

Call a spade a spade. It's been said Ufology is its own worst enemy. This is correct. A better policing of the field would help weed out the undesirables who only seek to undermine the work of many with their sensational pablum.

Don't be so desperate for attention. Had Ufology not drooled all over itself at the prospect of being featured on prime time television for 2 hours, then it may have taken a step back and been able to determine the odds of it being bamboozled. Note that Don Schmitt said that long-time Ufologist Jaques Vallee told him not to trust ABC. Some people get it. I think now there will far less trust of the media by many in Ufology and that is probably a stance for the best.

I could go on, but there's only so much time in a day.

End Notes

It started as a 2 hour special and it ate my weekend. In all honesty, there was a lot to digest re: the ABC UFO special and most serious points were covered over the past 2 days. Great thanks again to Terry Hansen for lending his amazing perspective on the ABC UFO special in a special interview. Check it out on the main page. More coverage of the ABC UFO Special will follow when both time permits and newsworthyness predicates.

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