(Blogger's note: Ufologist Chris Rutkowski posted this at http://www.uforum.blogspot.com/ and I thought it an eloquent description of our UFO world today. I'm afraid he's all too right about this and that doesn't bode well for Disclosure or our acceptance into the mainstream world. I'm afraid that I share his view.)
I caused a bit of a stir several months ago when I called UFO case investigation a lost art. I'll go further this time: ufology looks like it's near death.
The bad news is: I'm an optimist.
I was having a conversation with Brian Savage recently, and he made the observation that the UFO phenomenon has been derailed. He was formerly with the Alberta UFO Study Group, an earlier incarnation that produced in-depth investigation reports and scoured government documents for historical Alberta cases. Brian's comment was in reference to the many popularized UFO-related developments over the past 20 years which have destroyed the legitimacy of serious UFO research.
Examples of these derailments include the alien autopsy film, Lazar's Element 115, the strawberry ice cream nonsense, Greer's telepathic vectoring of UFOs, crop circles, exopolitics, Nibiru, and the resurgence of the contactee phenomenon. These and others have served to draw public and popular attention away from serious UFO case investigations and into the realm of wild arm-waving speculation and wide-eyed fanaticism.
It's too bad; it really looked like there was something developing there, for a while.
UFO cases themselves have radically shifted characteristics. Things seemed so simple when Hynek formulated his Close Encounter classifications: CE1 was a sighting at close range; CE2 was a trace case; and CE3 involved seeing occupants. There was no CE4 or CE5, as adopted by some ufologists now, reflecting abductions and contactee incidents. Only three categories, nicely defined and delineated.
The CE2s went extinct first. Ted Philips had several thousand physical trace cases documented by the time crop circles arrived on the scene. Then - poof! No more CE2s. People stopped seeing UFOs landing and taking off; aliens stopped landing their scout craft and leaving behind scorched patches and tripod marks in fields. Instead, mysterious circles (and later, patterns) appeared, almost always without accompanying UFO sightings, and it was assumed that the aliens were using some kind of "rotating vortex" to power their ships.
Then the CE3s went AWOL. No more sightings of landed UFOs where entities were seen exiting and re-entering their crafts. Instead, abductions ballooned in number, eventually overtaking classic CE3s. Really, have you heard of a decent CE3 case recently? No bedroom visitations, no alien faces in windows, no telepathic instructions about saving the human race. Just a simple CE3 observation. No? No.
Even CE1s are mostly gone now, too. Instead, we have YouTube videos of "mysterious orbs" and "Galactic Lightships" seeming to dance all over the pace because the witness couldn't hold the video camera steady. On the other hand, we have goofballs with too much time on their hands using video toasters to create obvious hoaxed UFO videos that experienced UFO investigators can tell are not worth bothering with but go viral anyway, getting retweeted and reblogged everywhere by UFO fans.
But a well-witnessed, well-investigated CE1 case? Rarer than a straight-talking politician or oil executive. Sure, if you look at popular UFO websites that list UFO reports, there are dozens and dozens from all over the world, posted by witnesses. But follow-up to get additional details to make an evaluation, such as direction of movement, where the UFO was in the sky compared with other things, and even an accurate time? Forget it. Onsite investigation? Impossible. Referral to one of the few reliable UFO investigators who lives nearby the witness, to allow proper investigation? Can't, sorry; privacy of witnesses is guaranteed.
So what we have in ufology today is the maintaining of a high number of UFO sighting reports, but a decrease on information content of the cases. Public attention surges when UFO stories in the news go viral, but critical thinking goes out the window.
Part of this is because no one person is viewed as someone who can speak for ufology today. Following the death of Allen Hynek, no one was easily identifiable as someone to take his mantle. (Not even Philip Mantle.) Not Stan Friedman, not Jerome Clark, Mark Rodeghier, not Jenny Randles, not Kevin Randle, not Bill Birnes, not any other of the dozen or so who might (or might not) fit the bill.
(Similarly, who speaks for debunkery? After Phil Klass passed away, is it now Phil Plait? James Oberg? James Randi? Bill Nye? Even Larry King can't decide who is an authority and whom to have on as guests to debate UFOs.)
Poor MUFON and CUFOS, the few remaining doggedly determined UFO groups. They're hanging on, with declining revenue, losing staff and trying desperately to carry on with serious UFO study, when UFO fans have not the slightest interest in that.
Ufology is greatly fractured. With thousands of UFO-related web pages, everyone (and anyone) can be an expert. Anyone can tell you the "REAL Truth" about the aliens' presence on Earth and their nefarious dealings with the government and how Obama is an alien and why I've been chosen as their emissary and why alien hybrids have pale skin and why aliens will arrive in 2012 and where the underwater alien bases are in the Gulf of Mexico and why the hundreds of orbs in my photograph are mental images of aliens and not dust particles and why some UFO craft disguise themselves as airplanes and why chemtrails are not just contrails and why this blog is passing through into another dimension....