(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|
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 http://doubtfulnews.com/mufon-under-fire-for-pa-directors-absurd-racist-rant/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 http://www.mufon.com/the-inner-circle.html, 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.