Saturday, June 24, 2017

MUFON, Racism and Dodging the Questions

Although the MUFON Inner Circle is announced on MUFON’s website, and there seems to be no attempt to keep the elite organization hidden, very few of the MUFON members I queried had any idea that it existed. It currently is made up of thirteen members, which seems to be more coincidence than design, but that number does seem to have mysterious connotations for some. I don’t believe it significant, only a little bizarre.

The thirteen members, in no particular order are: Jan Harzan, Ed L’Heureux, Jennifer Stein, David MacDonald, John Schuessler, Debbie Ziegelmeyer, Clifford Clift, John Ventre, JZ Knight, Holly Baker, John Grace, Cindy DuPont and Michael Limotta.

Membership is limited to those who have an extra five grand that they can use each year to buy their place in the Inner Circle. That seems to be the only real qualification for membership. According to MUFON, “The Inner Circle status is obtained through a yearly donation of $5,000. Whether you have had a UFO sighting or are just interested in UFOs, you are welcome to join.”

The site then reports, “Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance to MUFON and are included in annual conference calls, attend private functions and cocktail parties during Symposium time, are afforded reserved seating at MUFON events, and much more!”

It is also noted, “You’ll be joining a very select group of UFO enthusiasts who stop at nothing in pursuit of knowledge about the UFO phenomenon and extraterrestrials. You’ll meet other Inner Circle members at MUFON who are kindred spirits and you’ll participate in Inner Circle-ONLY events.”

The benefits, again, according to MUFON, include access to the MUFON Director’s annual conference call and latest UFO reports, access to the MUFON Director’s live annual post symposium review, including speaker’s comments and personal insights shared with MUFON Director one on one, followed by 30-minute live Q&A session with the MUFON Director. An Inner Circle member also receives free admission to the MUFON Symposium each year of donation, special reserved seating for two in MUFON Director’s section during MUFON Symposium, along with photos with the MUFON Director and Keynote Speaker at the MUFON Symposium. There are three LIVE (emphasis on the website) “Closed Door” conference calls with the MUFON Director, soliciting “your input regarding UFO Research and Public Awareness. Director will also share unpublished current UFO cases with information generally unknown by public or Media.” And finally, it includes a lifetime membership to MUFON which includes the MUFON e-Journal.

At first glance, these perks to membership in the Inner Circle don’t seem to be worth the yearly contribution to MUFON coffers. It might be seen as more of a status thing than as a  way to make a contribution to UFO research and some of the members have a rather checkered background. The emphasis on “special reserved seating, photos with the Director and Keynote Speakers and the “Closed Door’ conference calls,” seem to smack of elitism, but then is that such a big deal?

And, at>back_up>index_058, it says, “Members of this elite group provide insight and direction to the course MUFON takes in it’s [sic] daily activities.” That is a point where this Inner Circle becomes important especially as we look at the list of those who are members of the Inner Circle really are.

John Ventre
I’ve already detailed in another post some of the trouble that John Ventre, who had bought his place in the Inner Circle, brought to MUFON as a whole. His racist rant on Facebook in May 2017, his doubling down by suggesting some sort of demonic component to the UFO phenomenon a few days later, and his overall attitude gives rise to questions about the Inner Circle and the only real qualification to join.

I have also learned that while Ventre was removed as the state director for Pennsylvania and Delaware, he has been assigned duties as the state treasurer and the conference coordinator according to Lon Strickler. I had asked Harzan during my radio interview with him if Ventre had been reduced to “journal subscriber,” but meant it more as a joke, not realizing that Harzan didn’t actually answer the question. Instead he said that anyone was allowed to join MUFON and, of course, he hadn’t been removed from the Inner Circle which seemed to me to be more problematic. That suggested that the monetary contribution to MUFON was the important aspect. But then, Ventre is not the only member who has these bizarre and racist beliefs.

J Z Knight is another of those whose membership might be questioned. She is a “New Age Leader,” who channels a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior who apparently participated in the downfall of Atlantis and who endorsed Donald Trump in the last election. (I note here that I would have mentioned if he had endorsed Hillary Clinton.) In March 2011, Knight was on stage addressing hundreds of those interested in what she had to say, which seemed to be nothing more than a drunken rant, according to Susy Buchanan of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although Knight claimed, or it is suggested the words aren’t hers but rather Ramtha, the Lemurian she channels, he (meaning Ramtha) said, “Fuck God’s chosen people [meaning the Jews]! I think they’ve earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now.”

She, or rather Ramtha, added that Mexicans “breed like rabbits,” all gay men were once Catholic priests and in a strange comment, organic farmers have questionable hygiene. I don’t know what that last means.

Buchanan noted that these remarks would have remained private except that in 2012, they were posted to the web, again according to Buchanan, by Knight’s ex-student Virginia Coverdale and a fellow named David McCarthy. This embarrassed Democratic candidates who had received some $70,000 from Knight, which also suggests that she had enough money to hand over five grand to MUFON on a yearly basis so that she can enter the Inner Circle. To their credit, the candidates returned the donations.

In the article cited above, there was a note I found interesting which was that Knight had been borne Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, New Mexico. (It seems no matter how hard I try, I can’t get away from Roswell which is the only reason I mention this.)

It is also suggested that Knight owes no apologies to any to those she might have offended during her drunken rant because she employs lapsed Catholics, former Jews, a lesbian and a Mexican-born man in her Inner Circle (but doesn’t seem to employ an organic farmer). Somehow her association with them absolves her of any charges of bigotry or racism. She also claims that the videos used as the basis for Buchanan’s article are heavily edited and that “Coverdale couldn’t keep the man she was after for more than three weeks and hated me for it.”

Much of what Buchanan had to say also has appeared on Wikipedia with a long list of sources that can be accessed for additional confirmation. There are also articles from television stations and newspapers that seem to validate the claims of the racist rants that Buchanan raised.

There are others whose backgrounds and comments aren’t quite so dramatic. David MacDonald, who is also a member of the MUFON Board of Directors as well as a member of the Inner Circle, started the Flamingo Air which was sort of a charter service but it had an added component. For a fee, a couple could hire one of the aircraft so that they might join the “Mile High Club,” and yes, it is exactly what you think it is. Is this egregious? Not really, but then, it isn’t exactly something that an organization that works in the UFO field wants its board members (and former Director) to be doing. In fact, a couple of MUFON members said that they had left the organization when they learned about this. It seems to reflect poorly on the organization, but, of course, not as poorly as some of the other activities.

Jan Harzan
But note here, while the excursions for the Mile-High Club can be seen as little more than a business profit center, MacDonald is also on the Board of Directors. This would seem to negate the claim made by a few that the Inner Circle has no influence with the daily operations of MUFON. While a single board member who is also in the Inner Circle might not hold much power, remember the Jan Harzan, who is the Executive Director and a board member is also in the Inner Circle.

Harzan, however, when questioned about this, said that the Inner Circle exerted no influence on MUFON. This was merely a profit center, what he termed as a donation level perk and that anyone, regardless of their beliefs, their opinions, or their knowledge of UFOs was free to join. All it took was the five grand and for that they received nothing of consequence and they, just as everyone else, could call the Executive Director to chat with him about UFOs. You can listen to Harzan’s interview here:

But the website said, ““Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance to MUFON and are included in annual conference calls, attend private functions…” which sounds like something more significant than just getting together to chat about UFOs. It sounds as if it is more than just someone handing over that kind of money with no expectation of privilege. You might compare it to major contributors to a political campaign or political party. Those people do expect some sort of quid pro quo for the money.

Add to that, “You’ll meet other Inner Circle members at MUFON who are kindred spirits (they might want to remove this given how some of those kindred spirits speak about others) and you’ll participate in Inner Circle-ONLY events…” We don’t know what those other Inner Circle only events might be, but I suspect it is something more than just a party at someone’s house. And, if you are meeting with Inner Circle members who are either on the Board of Directors or are the Executive Director, you have an opportunity to affect MUFON’s direction simply by having the opportunity to meet, one on one, with the Executive Director who certainly does exert influence on the direction MUFON takes.

Also suggesting something more than a donation level as Harzan repeatedly claimed, and that anyone can call the Executive Director, there are “… three LIVE (emphasis on the website) ‘Closed Door’ conference calls with the MUFON Director, soliciting ‘your input regarding UFO Research and Public Awareness.’’

So, while anyone can call the Executive Director, can everyone expect a return telephone call? And, will the Executive Director be interested in their “advisory guidance?” Claiming that the Inner Circle members exert no influence, but attempting to entice people to join by suggesting there will be influence as the Executive Director is “soliciting” their input is somewhat contradictory. If all this Inner Circle does is contribute money, then why is the Executive Director soliciting their input.

While it seems that many of those who have joined the Inner Circle have the best intentions, supporting an organization they believe to be of some benefit, shouldn’t they be troubled by the attitudes of a couple of their fellow Inner Circle members? The racist rants wouldn’t be tolerated in almost any other arena, but here, they are ignored because those holding those extreme views allegedly have no influence on the organization and have Inner Circle status solely based on the size of their wallets, at least according to Harzan.

But when we look in other directions, political campaigns often return money given by those with extreme views. They don’t want to be associated with people who think in the extreme and have the power to purchase a platform.

And to suggest that this is merely free speech, as Harzan did, is to overlook the real trouble here. Yes, you can say whatever you wish, but there are consequences to some of that free speech, especially when directed in an antagonistic way to a specific group. You simply can’t advocate, indirectly, violence against a group because of skin color, religious belief, ethnicity (which is different from skin color) or other less than objective criterion. I will defend your right to say whatever you wish but I will also note that you must take responsibility for that speech. You can’t dismiss a bigoted, racist point of view simply by calling it free speech.

I will add this. While I am exercising my right to free speech here, I know that I am offending some. Those who toil at the lower levels of MUFON, who believe in what is being done, will be annoyed with what I say here. I don’t mean to offend them. They are sort of caught in the crossfire. I do believe that the facts I have laid out here need to be seen and reviewed. I expect nasty comments to the blog (and for those keeping score at home, attack me personally and the comment will not see the light of day… make an argument against my conclusions here and the like, I’ll be happy to post it… free speech), but I am opening a dialogue about all this and accept the animosity as part of the deal. But you’ll notice that I’m not attacking anyone for being black, Jewish, Mexican, Asian, female or white. I am exposing what I see as a hypocrisy at the top of the MUFON food chain. Harzan even joked about it, saying that he’d remove J Z Knight as a state director, but she wasn’t one. He wasn’t concerned about the image that projected to the rest of the world, which I would have thought would have been one of the more important elements of the discussion.

What it boils down to here is this: is the Inner Circle nothing more than a donation level group, or does it actually have a larger function and influential impact as suggested by the Inner Circle information on the web site? Does it help influence the direction of MUFON or is it just a cash cow created to stroke the egos of a few people who have more dollars than sense? There is a contradiction here which suggests that the Executive Director is not overly concerned with the radical and expressed views of some of these people because they have money. He says, on the one hand, they have no influence, but the web site says they do and if they do, then the leadership owes it to the membership to address these concerns.

(I will note here that the situation seems to change day by day, but there hasn’t been the response from the leadership that you would expect… I found some of the things said by Harzan during my interview to be said more as a joke than anything else, including his seemingly tongue in cheek claim that he had sort of bought his position as Executive Director. MUFON needs real leadership and not lip service.) 


Curt Collins said...

Kevin, I was glad to hear you asking valid common-sense questions, but was very disappointed in the answers you were given. MUFON was founded on some great principles, but for whatever reason, those goals have been subverted to cater to the demands of the UFO audience.

Maybe we should start calling the present organization MUFONINO, MUFON In Name Only.

erickson said...

It appears that just because you are a 35,000 year old Lemurian, it does not mean that you know anything of value. Here is someone who led an army of 2.5 million, conquered most of the world, believes that murder is not really wrong (given reincarnation) and sated that HIV was nature's way of getting rid of homosexuality. Maybe Knight should channel someone else - Genghis Kahn might have some good advice for the new age.

But Knight would fit in with kindred spirits from my local MUFON group, who is led by someone who proclaims the scientific study of UFO's while holding conferences devoted to "all things fringe" with luminaries including Sean David Morton, Douglas Dietrich (connecting Japan's victory in WWII with Roswell), and Joanne Richards (speaking about "Captain" Mark Richards who could not attend because he is serving life without parole). I used to wonder if this was an aberration, but soon realized it was at the core of MUFON.

If MUFON is simply a retail group devoted to entertainment, then the inner circle has no real function. Ramtha could tell them how to take over the world and Ventre could organize conferences and give David Jacobs a lifetime achievement award without worrying about how it affects the organization or our understanding of the phenomenon. If MUFON wants to be something else - well I am not sure they do.

It's been 70 years since Kenneth Arnold saw something in the skies. I wonder if he realized where it was going to go from there.

Brian Bell said...

I wonder why a 35,000 year old (dead) Lemurian warrior would have any interest in UFO's, modern politics, or anti-Semitic hate speech? Sounds to me like MUFON has serious race and morality issues right at the top of the organization. I'm not surprised though given that "channeling" fictitious beings was popular when I was a member nearly 30 years ago. Hard to believe anyone takes this organization seriously.

Martin Willis Live Shows said...

Well done Kevin, thank you for tackling this.

Lorna Hunter said...

If the Inner Circle doesn't actually give anyone the "perks" they're paying for, but it's only to gain more $$$, then isn't that false advertising on Mufon's part?

Before Mufon "members" were demoted to mere "subscribers" we attempted to petition the board of directors to hold open elections to fill board positions; to allow the members to nominate and vote on board members. That's when we were told we weren't members, but merely subscribers to the monthly magazine!

We were told, in essence, one had to be in the "Inner Circle" (although at that time we didn't know it had a name) because board members were required to be able to afford to attend 2 or more board meetings a year, and to attend the annual Symposium.

Today's Mufon is NOT what many original members hoped it would be.

Sarge said...

"I will defend your right to say whatever you wish but I will also note that you must take responsibility for that speech. You can’t dismiss a bigoted, racist point of view simply by calling it free speech."

So political correctness has trumped individual rights again. You seem to feel that one form of speech is more harmful than another. All speech can do is make someone a bit angry, and expose the speaker's ignorance. And to silence any speech opens the door to silencing all speech. In the words of the our fathers politically correct and polite speech needs no protection, it is the incorrect and less than polite that demands protection for that is the speech that calls for freedom.

KRandle said...

Sarge -

Nope. You can say whatever you please, but that does not mean I have to listen or that I have to accept what you say as the true. I have the right to respond to your speech if I disagree with it but I do not have the right to shout you down. Say what you will and I will say what I want. I am not calling for silence, simply reminding all that you cannot dismiss the ignorant or racist point of view by labeling it free speech. I am saying that calling it free speech doesn't alibi it... and if I find it offensive, then I have the right to say that. Or, in other words, we can debate a point or a concept or a theory because we both have the right to free speech.

And yes, there are some forms of free speech that are more harmful than others, but that doesn't mean I advocate shutting them down. I am saying that labeling those as only free speech does not negate the harmful or offensive nature of that speech. No matter how you label it, the things said by Ventre and Knight were offensive, and it is my right to call them such, just as it is their right to make the comments... and your right to either accept and defend them or reject and respond to them.

Louis Nicholson said...

The best thing about our right to free speech is that many times it results in us finding out just what someone or some organization is really about. What Mr. Ventre said was bad enough, but what I heard Mr. Harzan say in response to Kevin's probing and important questions was almost just as troubling. After listening to the Harzan interview, I will in no way ever support MUFON or any of its activities ever again.

RRRGroup said...

Sarge's view is so far from the standard set by the Constitutional First Amendment that I'm surprised an intelligent person would make it.


Ryan Sprague said...

Thank you for this. All valid questions that should be answered by a true leader But there isn't one, so we won't get them. But so happy you at least put them out there for a response.

lisa-d said...

This is appalling! How long has this Inner Circle been in place? Things have come a long way from the original nuts and bolts concept MUFON was founded on. Not that long ago, the leadership frowned upon any discussion of even aliens, let alone channeled Lemurian warriors and other cult-like or New Age beliefs. Geez. They barely do UFO investigations now, with the current phone call to witness procedure. The dear, departed Walt Andrus would not be pleased. I'm glad my group left Mufon 20 years ago so we wouldn't be associated with the shameful mess it has become.

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

As I told you by email, you did an excellent job of trying to get Harzan to understand how to do the right thing. It seems obvious that he didn't get it but you gave it a heroic try. Great job!

You and I agree on more and more over the years. Which must mean that one of us is slipping!

Harzan's responses (essentially there is no money too dirty to disallow entry into MUFON's golden secret circle) were so clueless as to be comical.

It is hard to imagine a worse director for a national organization (except for the previous MUFON director or the one prior to him...).

One subject that could have stood for additional scrutiny was the astounding response Harzan posted online initially to the Ventre scandal--Harzan actually blamed those who were offended by Ventre's racist tirade as somehow being "haters" for complaining.

Additionally Roger Marsh posted a strange and confusing seeming defense of Ventre (since deleted). The MUFON communication director (!) seemed to be saying that Ventre spent a lot of money so...

This seems to be a pattern among MUFON's leadership: a lack of moral fortitude and an unwillingness to do the right thing.



Life in My Opinion said...

I was the MUFON Washington State director at one time. Walt and then John was in charge. John invited me to a board meeting in Denver. We had a professor from the University of Colorado give some advice on the future of MUFON. He made sense. Jan was there and I have great admiration for Jan being a business leader which MUFON needs at this time. I have never felt demeaned nor put down by anyone at MUFON, especially Jan. The realistic point is that MUFON is open to public membership, however, everyone in public isn't reliable when it comes to "just give me the facts". MUFON needs facts, not a fabrication.

BFilmFan said...

Well met sir. well met indeed. It sickens me as a fellow vet to know that this type of nonsense is happening in groups with Fortean interest. As my paternal great-grandfather used to say, "Someone needs a whoopin' and learn manners."

Patty Greer said...

Corey Goode is their new rock star speaker at the big Mufon event. Follow the money. Yep, the Shift is Hitting the Fan and the veil is almost gone!!

Ron James said...

There are many exciting things on the horizon for MUFON. A grander vision is coming into focus. From these lessons will emerge new policies and procedures.

MUFON stands poised to play a bigger role in the disclosure movement, and unite the public and shout with the loudest voice against those who oppress us by hiding information we all deserve to know. This kind of playground nonsense is part of the problem. It has been all along.

I completely support Jan Harzan. Guiding this group into its full potential is not an easy job, and there is much more opposition than with an average organization, partly because we are opposing one of the strongest clandestine forces ever deployed, the engineers of the Truth Embargo.

Everybody take a deep breath. Support Jan and support MUFON. There is much at stake and the picture is far bigger than most of you probably know.

Brian Bell said...

To Ron and Life In My Opinion:

If Harzan was as great an organizational leader as you say then he would have issued the following statement (or something like it) which sadly he didn't. Obviously MUFON remains a "pay to play" organization which is more than happy to "look the other way" as long as cash flow and revenue keeps flowing in.

It only took me a few minutes to pen this response, which clearly he didn't think was necessary:

"To our current and prospective members and the UFO community at large:

It has come to my attention that one of our leading members, Mr. John Ventre, recently posted comments on his personal Facebook page which are unbecoming of our organization. On behalf of MUFON, I would like to apologize for his remarks.

It's important to know that MUFON stands opposed to racism of any kind. As your executive director I am committed to ensuring that MUFON remains an organization which welcomes members from any ethic group, gender, nationality, religion, or sexual preference.

In accordance with this goal, I have asked Mr. Ventre to immediately resign from his various leadership positions. While Mr. Ventre has contributed greatly to MUFON over these many years, recent events also leave me no choice but to ask him to leave our organization for the betterment of our community and our mission.

With your help and continued assistance we can continue to ensure that our organization will grow in both expertise and diversity as we seek together the answers behind one our greatest mysteries, the UFO phenomena.

I hope you will support me in this decision.


Louis Nicholson said...

As a black man, I would have been very favorably impressed with this kind of response from Mr. Harzan. Instead his written and interview responses have just made matters worse in my opinion.

Lorna Hunter said...

To Ron:
There is nothing on the horizon for MUFON. They've had almost 50 years to "disclose" and haven't done it yet. Mufon is a black hole when it comes to any information. They're as bad as the govt. when they require their investigators to sign life time non-disclosure agreements!

All they care about is the money. If they wanted the truth to get out they'd have more people like Kevin Randle talk at the symposiums. But because he sticks with facts they won't even invite him to speak; instead they label him as a debunker. And because Kevin sticks with facts, and does the fact checking before speaking, he doesn't draw a crowd. Crowds of true believers (those who believe too much too easily) are needed to keep Mufon funded.

Mufon may have been started with good intentions in 1969, but its sure gone off the rails since.

Jeff Krause said...

Wow...thank you for opening my eyes here Kevin, and no, I don't hold it against you for asking some very valid questions. First of all, let me state that I believe you are 100% correct that MUFON needs new leadership. We have strayed so far from our stated mission, that it is not even recognizable in the day to day functions of the organization.

The scientific investigation of UFOs, for the betterment of all mankind. That is why I joined MUFON. Because I believe the issue of UFOs, and all connected phenomena is the most important issue mankind has ever had to face. I joined an organization that is supposed to be based on serious scientific investigation, research, and sharing the results of our findings with the public in a format that reflected the seriousness of our efforts, such as the way the MUFON Journal was before all the changes.

I could go on and list a long string of things that are wrong, and need fixing, but the bottom line is: The leadership has failed the organization the moment it abandoned the mission in favor of profit.

As State Director MUFON So CA, I have put an enormous amount of time, effort, and money, into not just my investigations, but also in the training of the Field Investigator's under me, always being mindful of maintaining our credibility, and integrity. To have it so thoroughly shattered by the actions of others is heartbreaking to say the least.

Mike Pratt said...

It's such a shame, it was started with all the right intentions