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Grey Matter



For years I have laughed as certain people have accused Ufologists of being in it for the money. However, recent happenings in Stephenville, Texas, may have changed my mind. Not about most though, just the few. There is a rumor, which seems to be true, that certain Stephenville witnesses were paid for exclusive interviews.

Maybe I am really naive since I don't do field investigations or consider myself a Ufologist, maybe this practice of paying witnesses has gone on for years, but I certainly had never heard of it.

I quote from Bill Birnes' article "The Day after Stephenville" in the latest issue of UFO Magazine --

In the face of open disclosure, however, there is always the possibility that disclosure can be bought, or witness's report can be tied up with exclusive story and photo or footage agreements that make disclosure a business rather than a news story. And that's what's been happening in Stephenville as cult-centric ufologists come to town riding on their reputations to gather up every witness and every piece of footage they can find to broadcast it on their own websites and dvds. At that point, disclosure goes private and becomes something of a business.

I can't even begin to tell you how disgusting I think that is, assuming it is true and it has been whispered about by more people than just Bill. There are already those who think that all Ufologists are in it for the money and now it suddenly makes every witnesses questionable to them also. There is a reason that legitimate news sources rarely pay for stories because it gives people an incentive to lie. Once it is known that people are being paid others likely will make up stories in hopes of getting some extra cash, especially in this economy.

That is beside the fact that any researcher who truly wanted to know the truth about what went on in Stephenville would be glad to have witnesses talk to a variety of other Ufologists who might come up with something they had missed.

Yes, even more so than the witnesses it calls into question the motives of those who are making the pay outs. What are they getting or expect to get for their money? Apparently exclusives for their websites and DVDs and although I realize the need for Ufologists to make money, paying exclusive witnesses and controlling what information is put out, withholding information except to those who pay for your DVD and so on doesn't seem like an ethical way to go about it. Do they even care about what went on in Stephenville or do they just care about the money they can make? Whatever their motivation it is going to seem like the latter to most people.

Basically I have no problem with Ufologists making money in a legitimate way and I have written about that many times, selling books, DVDs, doing lectures, interviews and so on. However, paying witnesses for exclusives does not seem legit to me, for Ufologists or any news source (except the National Enquirer and other such tabloids). We are not talking about Anna Nicole's baby daddy though, we are talking about something important to mankind (yes, assuming it is true) and that type of information should not be held for ransom or bought up by a few. How long do these gag orders stay in effect? Until the DVD has sold a certain amount? Forever?

I wouldn't mind in the least if these witnesses decided they didn't want to talk to any other Ufologists for non-monetary reasons. When you have to pay someone for that privilege it becomes obvious that given a choice with no money involved they would have rather talked to a variety of people or they are lying for money.

Doesn't Ufology have enough credibility problems without certain people turning what might have been the biggest UFO story of the decade into what many will call a hoax that was done for money and attention? Yeah, I can already hear the skeptics and debunkers sharpening their knives.

These are the questions I am left with regarding these pay-outs:

1) Is it right for a few researchers with deep pockets to gather up exclusive witnesses and control the flow of information from them?

2) Are witnesses less believable when they are paid?

3) If this continues, will most witnesses in the future expect to be paid for their stories and withhold the information if they are not?

4) Does it encourage people who saw nothing at all to make up stories?

5) If this trend continues, what will become of Ufologists that can't afford to pay witnesses?

6) If this were an ethical practice would I even have these questions?

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