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.