Friday, August 12, 2011

The Roswell Festival, Part Two

When ever I give a presentation, I always try to leave time for questions because I know there will be people whose interests are different than my own. I want to give them an opportunity to seek additional information or to provide their perspective on UFOs. I have learned some interesting things with this philosophy. I have also been dragged into some really dumb discussions.

Such was the case after my first presentation at the most recent Roswell UFO Festival. I had been describing my investigations as I moved through the world of the UFO and I spent some time on Robert Willingham.

Yes, I know that all this can become tedious, but then Willingham has really annoyed me. He claimed high military rank but was unable to provide any documentation to prove that he had been an officer in the Air Force or that he had been a fighter pilot. He just didn’t know some of the things that a long serving officer would know and there was nothing to back up his claims, as I have mentioned many times in the past. (I believe that those who have served understand my irritation, those who have not don’t believe claiming rank, awards, and training you don’t have is anything important.)

After most of the people had left the room (which was surprising because it was nearly a million degrees outside and the air conditioner was working), a fellow named Cal... no, not the guy hiding out in Prague or wherever, another guy who spells his name differently... wanted to engage in a discussion about Willingham.

Except it wasn’t much of a discussion but more of a philosophical debate on the rules of evidence as practiced in American courts. Not criminal courts but civil courts where the preponderance of the evidence is sufficient to win the case.

First, he wanted to know how I knew that Willingham had not been an Air Force officer and fighter pilot. I told him that I had searched all the appropriate data bases, gone through the various archives including that in St. Louis looking for any documentation, that I had been in touch with the flight schools in San Antonio where he would have trained (and where he said he trained) through the officer registries, through the archives in Denver, and found nothing to support his claim.

He then wanted to argue semantics. What if there was documentation to support the claims?

I tried to make it clear that there was none. Had there been anything, I would have found it. I had been to all the sources that should have had something but there was nothing there. The only documents available came from Willingham and I had been unable to verify their accuracy. In fact, it seemed that some of the documents had been altered.

He wanted to know if I would change my mind if there were documents indicating that Willingham was telling the truth, but to me the question was moot. There were no supporting documents.

He wanted to argue in the world of fantasy, and I wanted to stay in the world of reality. Had there been any doubt about what I had found, if there had been any gap in the information, then speculation could enter the picture, but the information was solid. There was no wiggle room.

Then he wanted to know that if we had presented the evidence in a court and 51% of the people found that Willingham was telling the truth, would I accept this judgement?

Well, no, because it really didn’t matter what the opinions were, only what the facts were. Let us say that a debate was arranged between Willlingham supporters and me. Let us say that we each presented the facts dispassionately. And then the audience (jurors) voted on who won. If the majority believed Willingham, would I concede the point?

Well, no, because in these arenas it sometimes didn’t matter what the facts were. People’s opinions sometimes weren’t persuaded by the facts. Often they wished to believe to the exclusion of the facts... Otherwise how to explain that people still accepted the Allende Letters as something important, even after Allende himself admitted the hoax? How to explain that some still believed the alien autopsy was real even after those involved in creating it said they had created it and explained how they had done it?

The point was that as far as I was concerned, as far as the facts were concerned, Robert Willingham had not served in the Air Force at any time, had not been a fighter pilot and had not been promoted to colonel (O6) by Lyndon Johnson. I even had found the original tale told by Willingham about his UFO sighting and learned it was significantly different from that he tells today and people still believe him.

But Cal still wanted to argue semantics. Would I accept the opinions of those informed about the case? Would I look at documentation supporting Willingham? Would I do this or was my thinking so rigid that I would ignore evidence if it showed something else?

I tried to make it clear that this was not a philosophical discussion. The research had been done. I had the information and there was no sense in talking in the hypothetical. There was absolutely no evidence to support Willingham’s claims. None.

And off he went on another tangent, wanting to suppose this and propose that to prove that Willingham might have been an Air Force officer...

Now before this too becomes tedious in the extreme, let me say one other thing. Willingham does not know the things a long serving officer would know. He doesn’t know about SOIs, Forward Air Controllers, the SOP for operating in a combat environment and a hundred other things that someone who had done that would have known. This by itself suggests that he was not an Air Force officer.

Cal wanted to control the conversation, but I grew weary of it. He wouldn’t listen, always proposing some new twist. He sounded like a negotiator who knew he would win if he just kept the air filled with his verbosity. But I would not concede his points, not because I was so rigid in my thinking, but because I knew the facts. He didn’t. He wanted to use speculation and I wanted to argue reality.

In the two days that followed, Cal would show up at my table and attempt to begin the conversation again. I would not allow it. It was useless. He had no intention of listening to the facts. He just wanted to argue about something and I didn’t want to.

I did learn one thing. Don’t argue with people who are uninterested in the facts. You can’t win, no matter what you have in the way of evidence. And some times they’re just interested in the argument and couldn’t care less about the facts.

9 comments:

Kandinsky said...

Is there any other field where skepticism is as sorely abused as this one? The guy preferred Willingham's accounts to be truthful and used his 'critical thinking' to question everything in opposition.

The same people still believe in the Philadelphia Experiment and the yarns of Bill Cooper and Bob Dean. They'll argue, 'Well the Navy would say that,' or that Allende was 'warned off.' After all 'it's possible.'

Bob Dean hasn't been to Nibiru on an Annunaki spaceship and the same thinking replies, 'You can't prove he didn't.'

The one that causes the loudest groan, is when a 'whistleblower' is caught lying and defended on the basis that 'they did it on purpose to hide the Truth in plain sight.'

The outright believer will tie their skepticism in knots trying to justify their faith in scoundrels and fairytales and always clutches at the least probable explanation.

They're often too smartass to know they're doing it.

cda said...

The easiest way for 'Cal' to disprove your claims about Willingham is to provide the documentation showing that Willingham was a truthful man, i.e. his military records, or something to that effect.

Otherwise we are stuck, again, on the 'absence of evidence' and 'evidence of absence' topic. You cannot find any hard evidence that W was what he claimed to be. 'Cal' claims that although you cannot find it, it might still exist (and be hidden from view), and that public opinion might favor his view.

In this instance I take your side, but the same sort of debate applies to the complete lack of hard evidence of ETs at Roswell.

In the end, as there is no 100% answer one way or the other, we have to rely on the balance of probabilities.

Even if you can prove someone is a liar (i.e. that they tell tall tales at times), 'Cal' would retort that the guy is still basically honest but inserts occasional fibs into his narrative.

Sourcerer said...

"I did learn one thing. Don’t argue with people who are uninterested in the facts. You can’t win, no matter what you have in the way of evidence. And some times they’re just interested in the argument and couldn’t care less about the facts."

Ufology (and I mean skeptics, too) is made up of sects and franchises, rather than investigators, researchers, and analysts --all exceptions stipulated to. Such people talk up their position like stocktraders. "UFO" is their shares, their money. the coin of their realm. And as any trader will tell you, facts are not important -- it is all about perception. They mean the subjective, the emotional. Both you and Brad Sparks on Ufoupdates five, six years ago laid out the situation accurately. People like Cal are the norm.

CDA "In this instance I take your side, but the same sort of debate applies to the complete lack of hard evidence of ETs at Roswell."

It really isn't possible for any skeptic to discuss Roswell without bringing in ET.

Someone with time on their hands might take Cal's rhetoric and substitute the Flight 4 myth and Roswell for Willingham and Del Rio. The will to believe in one's franchise is powerful.

Sometimes many ET skeptics and advocates believe the same thing, for example - that Mack Brazel sought a 3000$ reward. It doesn't matter to them that Mrs Proctor's statement is wrong, that Kevin called it wrong and offered a reason why, and that others have confirmed Kevin's research -- a decade ago. Many still trot it out as if it were a fact, including CDA, just a few weeks ago here. And once again the evidence against its truth was presented, and I am sure it will not adhere to the Roswell neurons in the brains of those with a will to believe. Everyone talks up their franchise without a discouraging word.

It is very tedious.

BTW, what happened to Sparks?

Regards,

Don

cda said...

Don says: "It really isn't possible for any skeptic to discuss Roswell without bringing in ET."

Oh yes it is.

Were we discussing, say, the merits of Nick Redfern's book of 5 or 6 years ago, it would be entirely possible for a skeptic to criticise the book without bringing in ETs. But it would be impossible to avoid bringing in ETs if we were discussing the merits of Kevin Randle's books.

It is likewise possible to be a Roswell 'believer' (such as Redfern) and avoid mention of ETs, but it would be very unnatural, since the core of the Roswell belief is ET. Nick is an exception.

As I said, in the end it all depends on the balance of probabilities. These are subjective, as usual. The facts about Roswell are those available and published at the time, but even these are error prone. You have to decide which is the more likely to be error prone (and to what degree), the 'facts' as reported at the time, or memories told 30 to 50 years afterwards.

I much prefer the former. Kevin and others prefer the latter.

If Willingham is a liar, which he probably is, does this necessarily mean he lied about everything he ever told about his life? No it does not, but I agree with Kevin that the lack of hard evidence means he has probably told enough lies to cast severe doubts on anything he says.

But again, it boils down to a matter of probabilities.

I have never said "as if it were a fact" that Brazel was seeking the $3000 reward. It is merely a probability again, maybe only a possibility. You have to decide whether statements made 30+ years on about it are reliable. Neither Don or Kevin knows the answer to the $3000 reward question any more than I do.

Sourcerer said...

CDA "But it would be impossible to avoid bringing in ETs if we were discussing the merits of Kevin Randle's books."

That's what I mean. You aren't discussing events reported in Roswell in July 1947, but some book about Roswell, and specifically the 'ET' or 'not ET' arguments therein -- each side defending their franchise.

"I have never said "as if it were a fact" that Brazel was seeking the $3000 reward. It is merely a probability again, maybe only a possibility. You have to decide whether statements made 30+ years on about it are reliable. Neither Don or Kevin knows the answer to the $3000 reward question any more than I do."

The story did not exist for Brazel or anyone among the ranchers to have heard of it before 7/8/47, therefore it is not probable. You would sound like Cal if you attempted to rationalize your holding on to it, grasping at some possibility (say, that maybe someone in Corona who might have spoken to Mack (or the Proctors) and might have gotten a phone call from a relative in LA (or Spokane, or Chicago) who told them about the reward. it's possible, right? And why do you hold onto it against the evidence? Because it sounds like an unexceptional reason for Brazel to report his find, and you do want an unexceptional, normal reason. That's all. Just as it is for advocates to hold onto it because it was said by a witness they like a lot.

In an analysis of Roswell, it must be tossed out. It is not worth holding onto. There is no there there.


Regards,

Don

Sourcerer said...

CDA:"I have never said "as if it were a fact" that Brazel was seeking the $3000 reward."

My apologies for the mischaracterization of what you wrote awhile back here:

"He only changed his mind after hearing about flying discs during a visit to Corona. It was there that he also (so we believe, although there is nothing in print on this) learned of the $3000 reward for anyone who could lay their hands on a flying disc."

My issue is repeating this improbablity and very likely impossibility -- to never empty out the garbage -- encourages the Cals. They thrive on obscurity and contradiction, on the remote possibility, and then, from that, on the impossible.

It also deflects away from the serious implications of Bill Brazel Jr's statements about Mack's trip to Roswell, if his account is accurate, which I think it is -- at least more accurate than either Proctor's or the Daily Record's.

Regards,

Don

Ray said...

"You are entitled to your own opinion... you are not entitled to your own facts"

It seems that, nowadays, there are far too many people who think that if you vehemently believe in an opinion and are able to shout down all who dare stand opposed, the facts are rendered obsolete.

KRandle said...

CDA -

I have found no mention of the rewards in any newspapers prior to July 8... Therefore Brazel couldn't have gone to collect any of the three separate one thousand dollar offers... and one had expired before I found any thing published about it. Given that, it is unlikely that Brazel had thought in terms of these rewards.

On the other hand, both Bill Brazel and Tommy Tyree told me that Brazel was annoyed at all the debris in his field and he wanted to know who was going to clean up the mess (which, BTW suggests something other than a Mogul array).

Yes, if Cal had some documents, but none exist. I have been to all the places where Willingham, if he was telling the truth, would have left footprints. There is nothing there.

At this point it is the responsibility of those who accept Willingham, or Willingham himself to provide the evidence. If he can't prove he was an Air Force officer, then he wouldn't have been in a fighter and he wouldn't have been able to see the UFO crash as he claimed.

I await that evidence rather than being told I'm too rigid in my thinking. It is the other side who wishes to believe who hold the rigid positions.

Sourcerer said...

The most likely source about the rewards for Loretta and the other ranchers was Mack Brazel himself after he returned from his interviews in Roswell. Among the ranchers, who had a better opportunity to hear the news? This might be why she associated the reward story with Mack.

Regards,

Don