Saturday, June 03, 2017

John Ventre, MUFON and Racism

(Blogger’s Note: Yes, I’m late to the table with this, but the information kept shifting. I wanted to be sure that I had been fair to all those involved and that I had the latest information. For example, I had Jan Harzan’s original statement several days ago, but it was only in the last couple of days that he sent me the latest information. Given that, I wanted to know Nick Redfern’s attitude now that the John Ventre episode had entered a new phase. There are still questions that haven’t been answered and I hope to get those answers soon. They will spawn a new posting when that information is finalized.)

Back many years ago, decades actually, I was looking to join one of the UFO organizations. I wrote to both NICAP and APRO. NICAP responded with a form letter and membership application. APRO responded to my questions. I joined APRO. I became a Field Investigator, corresponded with Coral Lorenzen the real power behind APRO, and eventually met her and Jim Lorenzen, visited them in Tucson, and had a very good working relationship with both of them.

I mention this by way of preamble, and now mention something Coral told me, again decades ago, and is the reason that I have avoided membership in MUFON (not to mention some of the very nasty things said about me by some of their membership and in the MUFON UFO Journal). According to Coral, back in the mid-1960s, Walt Andrus, who was an APRO member, suggested that he organize the Field Investigators in the Midwest into some sort of subordinate group to coordinate that activity. He would call it the Midwest UFO Network.

Sometime later, Andrus broke away to form his own, independent group, taking some of those APRO members with him. Coral was more than a little annoyed about that because she believed that the core of his new group was made of APRO members whose contact information had been provided by APRO.

I’ll go one step further. Back when Gerald Anderson inserted himself into the Roswell UFO crash, or rather claiming he had been over on the Plains of San Agustin with Barney Barnett, I suggested that Anderson tale might not be grounded in reality and that we (Don Schmitt and I) had caught him, Anderson, in a number of statements that weren’t true. As a single example, Anderson had produced a telephone bill suggesting that his telephone call to me had been only 26 minutes, when I had a tape of that call that ran to more than 50.

At a MUFON Symposium Walt Andrus came up to me to express his concern about what I had been saying about Anderson, saying that I was wrong and that the “truth will out.” In fact, a number of people had words to say about my suggestion that Anderson had been less than candid. Within months we learned that Anderson had forged the telephone bill to make me look bad and we’d had a friendly conversation that lasted for more than 50 minutes as I had said all along. The documentation I secured from the telephone company proved it…. And of those who had condemned me, only one had the graciousness to admit his error and apologize, Antonio Huneeus.

On the other hand, Dennis Stacy was always cordial and when there was an article coming up in the Journal that was critical of me or my work, he provided the opportunity for rebuttal. Much of that had to do with the Roswell case and the J. Bond Johnson nonsense about the photographs taken in Brigadier General Roger Ramey’s office in July 1947.

John Ventre, photo copyright
by Ventre.
So now we come to May 2017. MUFON has been in a state of flux for the last several years with a number of director’s coming and going and their support for some television programs of dubious quality. I’ll mention here, again, Jan Harzan’s comment about television and documentaries. Sort of a way of separating the lack of quality of Hangar 1 and MUFON’s claimed standards of scientific methodology.

We now read that John Ventre, the state director of both Pennsylvania and Delaware, posted a racist rant on his personal Facebook page in a “review” of a Netflix program that has nothing to do with UFOs. Although it had now been removed, I found it at for those who wish to read and see for themselves if it is racist. I will say that I don’t find the first three sentences as racist, but from there is seems to descend into that dark pit we all should attempt to avoid.

Jan Harzan soon posted an apology… okay, it was more of an attempt to support the unpopular view of Ventre and suggest those who questioned him or rejected his views were “haters.”  Harzan wrote on the MUFON website:

Any national organization striving for excellence does not want to be embroiled in its members’ personal, social media life – especially when it involves sensitive issues like politics, race and religion. This past year it’s been nearly impossible to take a public stand for a presidential candidate without a spontaneous out-pour of vicious jabs and sneers from the other side. This in many ways is a symptom of the new social media world we now live in where everyone wants to express their opinion, quickly followed by those who oppose it sending their hate posts to the world.
Who is worse, the person posting, or the haters hating? If you need further evidence of this just watch the nightly news where depending on which channel you watch people line up behind one side of an issue, or the other, and then begin yelling at each other.
It was recently brought to my attention that one of our volunteers had posted a comment on their [should be “his”] personal Facebook page that many found offensive. It is not MUFON’s place to monitor our members and volunteer’s social media sites and become the judge, jury, and executioner based on whether we agree or disagree with a personal posting. This incident did, however, bring to our attention some internal opportunities to update our process and procedures regarding the use of social media by our volunteers and staff and this is currently underway.
Finally, it is okay to disagree with others, but let’s challenge ourselves to dialogue with that person to first understand their rationale for the opinion they are stating, and then begin a discussion with them on the subject. For only through dialogue and discussion do we advance civilization. We all need to be building each other up rather than tearing each other down. There is no justice in hate, no matter what side of the fence you are on. On that we can all agree.
Harzan seemed to be saying that everyone has a right to his opinion and the First Amendment guarantees our right to say any damn thing we please. But there are consequences to the right of free speech, especially when driven by ignorance, and many of those who reacted to Ventre’s rant were not “haters” but were expressing an outrage that in 2017 someone who is a prominent member of an organization would hold such blatantly racist views.

To answer Harzan’s question, “Who is worse, the person posting, or the haters hating?” the answer is simple here. The person posting. Ventre started the “discussion” with a post that suggested violence when he wrote that the “last thing blacks want is for white males to organize…” The implication is clear here and I’m not going to spell it out.

But the real problem for MUFON and for the UFO community is the suggestion of an overall conspiracy that has been growing and a suggestion that the courts, the media, and nearly everyone else is conspiring against a single race and gender of individuals. It is suggestive of a personal rage that is misdirected and is outrageous in its conclusions.

And while MUFON has no responsibility to monitor the personal postings and social media accounts of its members, it does have a responsibility to its other members who don’t hold those views, and to the society that Harzan appeals to in his non-apology. Ventre can say what he wants, but with free speech comes certain responsibility as well That is the part that so many seem to have missed.

I did wonder why MUFON leadership didn’t immediately disavow any association with the racist attitudes expressed by Ventre. It seemed to me and a number of those I routinely communicate with that the course of action is obvious but then I learned of something called the MUFON Inner Circle. This is a group of people, according to the website, who have donated a pile of money to MUFON. “The Inner Circle status is obtained though a yearly [emphasis added] donation of $5,000. (Though there is some question of if it is a one-time donation or an on-going thing.).” Ventre is a member of that circle so it seems that Harzan’s lame comments are to protect a monetary source.

Then, on May 31, I received a reply from Harzan to the several questions I had sent him two days earlier. He wrote to the State Directors:

After discussion with MUFON Leadership it has been determined that it is in the best interest of both MUFON and Mr. Ventre that he be removed as State Director of Pennsylvania. This is effective immediately. MUFON does not condone racial discrimination in any form and has always provided equal opportunity to all regardless of race, religion, sex, age or national origin and will proudly continue to do so.
Nick Redfern. Photo copyright
by Kevin Randle
Many weren’t impressed by Harzan’s original comments and the new statement did nothing to change Nick Redfern’s position expressed days earlier. Given that Harzan had labeled him as a hater for objecting to Ventre’s rant, he severed his ties with MUFON, which is, of course, his right. MUFON will be poorer for the desertion of Nick and of others who have also objected to the rant, because many of them brought a great deal to the table. And in a suggestion, that someone at MUFON understands the firestorm, they have removed Ventre’s books from their website and seem to be severing their other ties with him. It would be nice to see Ventre removed from the Inner Circle, but I suspect the five grand will have something to do with that decision.

Ventre should have been tossed from the organization and has been, or rather removed as the state director of Pennsylvania and Delaware. He has been reduced to “Journal Subscriber” which is sort of the lowest rung in the MUFON Hierarchy.

But Ventre has also doubled down. Jason Colavito, at his web site, noted that Ventre had “returned to social media to offer an explanation of what happened. He blamed demons. These were not metaphorical demons, like when a celebrity blames person demons for an addiction. No, he meant literal demons from hell. Ventre wrote that he has become convinced that UFOs are actually demonic…” You can read Colavita’s whole post here:

The problem is that Ventre’s rant is clearly racist and should be universally condemned and his latest statements do nothing to undo the damage he has done. In the modern world that Harzan mentions, it should be understood that we don’t condemn people because of their racial identity, we don’t reject them because of gender, we don’t ignore those who are less gifted and we don’t advocate, however tangentially, violence against them. While we do have free speech that means we can say whatever we want without fear of the government dragging us away in the middle of the night, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t responsible for what we said and that others might take offense. It means that I have the right to reject your speech, that I have the right to criticize it, and I am not required to endorse or accept it and, of course, that same thing applies to you.

MUFON should be reprimanded for the days of delay before making a move that everyone knows it should have made immediately. No organization will stand when one of its leaders expresses such outrageous opinions and then that organization fails to act immediately when they learn what has been posted. I don’t understand why the immediate response wasn’t to remove Ventre from his leadership roles as soon as it was discovered that he had made the comments… and since they were posted to his personal Facebook page, it was clear that he had made them. Harzan should apologize for attempting to shift the “blame” to those who responded to the Ventre and for calling them “haters,” rather than attempting to gloss over the situation.

Now the question is if Ventre remains in the Inner Circle or if MUFON will do the right thing here and refund Ventre’s donation and toss him from that as well.


Lucas Wellness Shaklee Distributor said...

Kevin, great synopsis! I left MUFON as a state director last year! I did see the troubled waters ahead. You should come on and discuss this with Ken Storch and I.

Earth Angel said...

I have met John Ventre, and although I do not necessarily agree with his post, I think it was just the bad behavior in reverse when Mr. Ventre was removed. It seems that Mr. Ventre posted this in his personal capacity, not as an officer of Mufon. Those are two different positions.

If he had posted this regarding Mufon, or even discussed this as a meeting, then he should be automatically removed. I am not a fan of what he posted, but the actions taken by Mufon are harsh.

We are loosing in America, because everytime someone expresses something, that is not exactly politically correct we are running to censor rather than discussing. It is only through discussion and open discussion that we keep our liberties free. This is as important in any field, but especially ufology.

KRandle said...

Earth Angel -

Well, I might agree with you until he doubled down with the rant about demons. As I said in the post, you can write or say anything you please, but that does not obligate me to accept what you said. And, you must be prepared to accept responsibility when others disagree with you. I will also note that Ventre self-censored when he took it down, and I provided a link to the post so that all could read what he said. It went far beyond pushing the buttons of the political correct crowd. It pushed us back to a place in our history that we should not want to revisit. It was the extreme nature of the rant that caused the problem.

So, I say, you say whatever you please about anything you please. That is your right. But if you offend in the extreme, if you revisit a time when we failed to recognize the humanity in all of us, then you must own your statements and be prepared for consequences if others find what you said offensive.

Louis Nicholson said...

Great commentary on the Ventre statement, Kevin. Does MUFON have any African-American members? If so, I wonder what they think? I am an African-American and I have had a strong interest in UFOs since I was twelve. I am now in my early 60s, retired and have seriously considered joining MUFON but given Ventre's statements and Mr. Harzan's lame non-apologetic response, I think I, and all other African-Americans, should steer clear of MUFON.

albert said...

@Earth Angel,

"..but the actions taken by Mufon are harsh...."

Harsh, indeed, and how would you describe Ventres rascist rant?

When you represent an organization, you have a personal responsibility to represent it in a good light. Your personality isn't separated into bins; it's out there in all its forms, good and bad. And it's under your control.

Racism is no longer a point of 'discussion', except among racists.


-Everyone- should steer clear of MUFON, at least for now.

. .. . .. --- ....

John Steiger said...

To Louis Nicholson and Albert -- I beg to differ. MUFON needs minority involvement now more than ever. I urge you to seek out your nearest state or local branch and become active. Improvement will come via interaction NOT shunning.

Thank you for your consideration.

Earth Angel said...

Racism is a topic for discussion, along with a world of many more topics.

Here's a perspective from ufology. Have you met or talked to an alien grey? Maybe they are racist and don't like the Nordic whites. I'm making a point.

As for anyone joining Mufon. Any and all folks should join. Everyone has something to add if their interest is in this field. I have been a member, but have not been able to attend due to work conflicts.

albert said...

I stand by my statements. I have a zero-tolerance policy regarding racism, and I don't respect anyone who doesn't. It's got nothing to do with 'political correctness', or 'discussions'. Stop dancing around the issue. Anyone who wants to defend Ventre, by all means, do it. Otherwise, shut up.

MUFON did the right thing. Kudos to them for that.

. .. . .. --- ....

jimisroom said...

As Mr. Harzan states: "Finally, it is okay to disagree with others, but let’s challenge ourselves to dialogue with that person to first understand their rationale for the opinion they are stating, and then begin a discussion with them on the subject. For only through dialogue and discussion do we advance civilization."

Dialogue and discussion and outright "projection" are two different things.

This man's rant "projected" so many racists falsehoods, and now all those who read it have the burden of proof to prove otherwise?

MUFON has the burden to explain that they do not uphold these views.

They need to share more of their findings, and its imperative they establish an archive of contactee data.

Eventually they will have to deal with more information on Earth history and seeding, which inherently includes the establishment and evolution of the races on this planet. This is an inevitable step of disclosure that is if a supposed "leader" of this field has such an agenda against blacks that he has to make stuff up...including that blacks are inflicting a "white genocide"...which is such a makes MUFON come across as a complete fraud and more intent on making research more difficult for us than anything else. I know that can't be the case...but the frivolous nature of the response leans that way. They can do so much more...and they're going to have to up their game.

jimisroom said...

I have to wonder with Mr. Nicholson...

Since I began having my experiences with the video captures, I've flirted with the idea of joining MUFON.

But looking around, it can be a surreal experience as a person of color in this field.

I have never seen a black MUFON speaker... Ever. I rarely see women speak. In the major UFO information outlets, it is extremely rare, if at all, to be presented with a Black contactee. You have to search on the internet...then you find many. Why do none of these people make it to the congresses and symposiums? Even when most information sources introduce ET races, its the Greys, the Reptilians, and the ones that are most human are the Tall Blonds. So there are no brown, black, blue, gold, red, orange, white with purple splotches human-like ETs out there? If you do the research...the diversity blows the mind.

But despite that, quite responsible people have in the past upheld that it was only the Tall Blonds that were human like, and they they were all here to help us. ALL of them? Which ones? From where? From Erra? From subterranean earth? From the Orion system? They are not all the same.... Just ask George Kavasallas.

I turned to the forums at first because I thought I would find sincere researchers. About 5% of the time, that's true... But there was also alot of interference, and the racist comments would appear more often than Id ever thought.

Now this very ugly rant...

I'm just saying....if others notice they don't see many black people in this field, this could be part of the reason why. It really hasn't been the most welcoming on one level. To have this guy want to paint all of us as some kind of sub-human animals is really beyond the pale.

Mr. Harzan talks about dialogue. I'd love to dialogue peacefully with the man who made this rant, and try to attain a level of understanding...but he'd have to acknowledge me as another human being first. If he can't pass kindergarten, he should be no where near first grade.

Paul Young said...

jimisroom...Now this very ugly rant...

I'm just saying....if others notice they don't see many black people in this field, this could be part of the reason why. It really hasn't been the most welcoming on one level.

If you are that interested in Ufology, I find it strange that the only time I have ever seen you post on KR's blog is on probably the only thread that concerns race and not Ufology.

KRandle said...

All -

I will note, apropos of nothing at all, that very few black people attend science fiction conventions. Given that science fiction fans are known for their inclusive nature, I have always thought that the lack of black people was that few black people were that interested in science fiction. In other words, there was no racism there, just a matter of different interests.

I have seen very few black people at UFO conventions and symposiums but thought the reason was the same. Their interests were elsewhere, though the first tale of alien abduction that received widespread publicity in the US involved a black man, Barney Hill.

I will also note that a review of the number of visits to this blog suggests that very few of those visitors leave a comment and it is only when a particular posting strikes a cord that some are moved to comment. I could point out that some people have not left comments until I wrote about Oak Island and not Ufology. I attach no particular significance to someone responding to a particular post rather than many others.

cda said...

Don't please let this get into a debate about race and racism.

Otherwise we shall get into questions like why are there so many black sprinters and so few, if any, black cyclists. There is no easy answer. (See Michael Shermer: The Borderlands of Science, chapter 4).

The reason so few visitors to this blog (or any other blog) choose to comment is chiefly laziness; plus the fact that, whilst being slightly interested in ufology, they do not have the 'expertise' to contribute something useful. These people are the sort who go to various other related blogs, maybe a dozen or more, but never pluck up the courage or desire to say anything. They may also not want to start a debate which can well turn into a slugfest.

Louis Nicholson said...

I have loved science fiction all my life but have never attended a science fiction convention and don't know of any black people who have attended. As you noted, this was certainly not because we thought the host organizations were racist. The same applies to UFO conventions. However, when I was living in Philadelphia, Pa one of my clients told me about a black man named Robert Eure (better known as Bob Eure) who was teaching a UFO class at night at Temple University. I attended his class. He also had a very small UFO organization called CIREAP, which I joined. At that time, it only had black members but was open to everyone. Bob organized the first Philadelphia UfO convention in 1994 and held a second one in 1996 (!topic/alt.cult-movies.alien/Ex-KwOlpZq0). I introduced the speakers during the event. Outside of the CIREAP membership, very few blacks attended either convention. I left the organization shortly after the second convention and have not been in contact with Bob or his organization since. I do know that in 2004 he published a UFO related book called The Mysterious Visitors.

Brian Bell said...

MUFON should be ashamed of themselves. They couldn't even offer an appropriate statement on Ventre's racist rant? Their in it for the money, that's all, or so it seems.

I was a Delaware Chapter member back in the late 1980's. Needless to say I was highly disappointed in their meetings which had absolutely nothing to do with UFO's and everything to do with member "contactees" who blathered each meeting about what "space people" were telling them. Then there were the "UFO whisperers" and those who believed they could float their minds across the universe through hypnotic trances. Ugh.

Ventre clearly represents the mindset of many MUFON members I experienced. Is it that people who chase UFOs for a living are just crazy, or do the UFOs make them crazy?

Either way racism has no place in any organization anywhere. Ventre's excuse that "biblical demons" made him do it is also ridiculous and shouldn't be associated with Christians. An all encompassing blanket statement that Christians are white supremacists is equally false. A true follower of Christ rejects racism, while those who claim follower-ship but embrace it are simply "posers" with a different agenda.

And yes there are African-Americans and Hispanics who are interested in science fiction; you'll discover they are often young people who play console games, watch movies, and gravitate towards Comic-Con and other events.

指尖宇宙 said...

is Bigelow Aerospace currently still funding MUFON? yes or no?
are the MUFON reports also in the hand of Bigelow Aerospace too? yes or no?
what is the relationship between Bigelow Aerospace and MUFON currently? someone shed some light plz

KRandle said...

Brian -

Of course there are representatives of all races and religions who are interested in Science Fiction and UFOs... I just don't see many at the various conventions.

John Steiger said...

Mr. Bell (Brian): My experience attending Virginia MUFON meetings currently and in the recent past is unlike yours. The meetings are positive and scientifically-focused re: UFO investigation.

I do not believe your judgment of national MUFON is fair or accurate based upon your overgeneralized subjective experience.

John Ventre is not representative of all of MUFON. Neither is Jan Harzan for that matter.

While MUFON is an imperfect organization, I believe it is slouching toward the truth. Unfortunately, MUFON also tends to go off on wayward tangents as well. Sigh.

Ben Moss said...

Mufon Conferences are usually attended by an aging population, with several coming from far away in wheelchairs or other displaying aliments. Kudos for those that show up despite their health issues, they are just really interested in the topic. Back in the day, Ufology was in the news a lot, and TV had some pretty good non biased shows. Those days are long gone, and the biggest thing I notice is the lack of anyone under 40. The one conference that stood out was the one held at American University, where Tom Carey announced the so called Roswell slide would be released. The place was packed with students. The funny thing is that after, when the Q and A started, a student came up and asked the panel about Adamski, whom he appeared to believe in. He was quickly shot down and dismissed. There is a lot of work to be done in this field. The lack of science by so called researchers is growing exponentially.

Gene Steinberg said...

John Steiger: Ventre, when a State Director, was indeed a representative of MUFON. Now that he's history, there's Jan Harzan, the Executive Director. Part of his job is to represent the organization, and if he is not handling that job properly, he should be replaced with someone more suited to the position.

How is MUFON "slouching toward the truth" when it plans to devote its next public symposium to the alleged secret space program, featuring a number of questionable speakers that nobody should take seriously?

What is it doing to conduct scientific research into UFOs? I'm not talking about collecting sightings. They've been doing that since 1969, but to what end?

Gene Steinberg

John Steiger said...

Mr. Steinberg: True, PA State Director Ventre was A representative of MUFON, but not ... not representative of ALL of MUFON. There is a distinct difference, which I stated and you overlooked (conveniently?).

What should or should not happen to Jan Harzan as Executive Director of MUFON as a result of Ventre's situation is not my call. I leave that to others within MUFON to decide.

MUFON is on the right side of the ET debate: therefore I maintain that MUFON IS "slouching toward the truth." Unfortunately, the 2017 Symposium seems to be a "wayward tangent" -- as I also stated previously.

Feel free not to attend ... I'm not.

Gene Steinberg said...

So who speaks for MUFON if not a State Director of an Executive Director?

How is MUFON on the right side of the debate when they sponsor these wacky conferences with wacky people?


指尖宇宙 said...

is Bigelow Aerospace currently still funding MUFON? yes or no?
are the MUFON reports also in the hand of Bigelow Aerospace too?
what is the relationship between Bigelow Aerospace and MUFON currently?