There are those who don’t seem to understand that I have nothing against MUFON and that I have great respect for the thousands of members who volunteer their time, resources, effort, education and experience to the organization. I certainly understand that when you have a full-time job, a family, and all sorts of other obligations, it is tough to find time for UFOs. I get all that.
And, I understand the First Amendment. It allows us to say any damned stupid thing we want. It just doesn’t guarantee freedom from consequence. If you post a racist rant to your Facebook page, you can expect that it will offend many, and they, operating under the same First Amendment guarantees, have the right to condemn that rant for what it is.
This is sort of the situation that exists today at the top of MUFON. Please note here that I am referring, not to the rank and file, but to specific members of the leadership of that organization who are found in the Inner Circle. The first reaction to that rant by the man at the very top, Jan Harzan, the Executive Director, was to condemn those who found the rant as offensive as “haters.” His purpose was to support a colleague, which is not necessarily a bad thing to do, but by labeling those who objected to the racist comments as haters he just poured gasoline on the fire.
Once the offensive post was noticed, then the proper action was to condemn it and not those who objected to it. It might seem that Harzan did not have the authority to unilaterally fire the offending party (though he did), but he certainly could have made that clear rather than do what he could to offend more people. Eventually, when it became evident that this was not something that could be brushed aside, Harzan removed the man, John Ventre, from his position as a State Director. I did invite Ventre on my radio program but he declined the offer.
As I was researching this first problem, I learned of MUFON’s the Inner Circle, and discovered that the main qualification for membership there was five thousand dollars handed over yearly. I did a little additional research and learned that another member of that elite group had also engaged in some rather disgusting racist rants. Harzan seemed unconcerned, telling me that if she had been a State Director, he would have fired her… but no indication that he would refund her money or remove her from this Inner Circle.
Listening to Harzan, it seemed that the Inner Circle has no influence over the activities of MUFON, so that it something of a non-issue. Harzan said that it is a donation level. Of course, according the page on the MUFON website, “Inner Circle members provide advisory guidance [emphasis added] to MUFON,” which certainly sounds like there is more to it than just handing over five grand each year. Although Harzan downplayed it, the conclusion I draw is that the Inner Circle does have influence and given that, it would seem that a review of the qualifications might be in order. Please note here that I am not suggesting that all members of the Inner Circle are a problem, only a couple of them who have expressed attitudes that don’t seem to be reflected by the mainstream of America.
Since I posted the material about this controversy, I have received a number of emails from MUFON members, some of them holding important positions. The attitude of them seems to be that Harzan has done a lot of good for MUFON and that he had brought in a great deal of money.
But I have to ask, “At what expense and is that the only important criterion?”
First, take a look at how some of that income has been raised. We are treated to Hangar 1, which can only be described as fiction with a shaky base in reality. It is similar to those movies that are labeled, “based on a true story,” which means that a name or two might be real or an event that was sort of the same took place at some point, maybe. When you check out the facts, you see that the film makers veered into the weeds early on and never got out of them. You might say that any similarity to a real event is more accident than intent.
Some of those who wrote to me privately suggested that some of the Hangar 1 episodes were very good, but I’m thinking that the general population, who is not immersed as deeply in UFOs as we are might not make that distinction. When confronted with the tale of the boy abducted to serve in an alien army for twenty years only to be returned to his bed some fifteen minutes later might conclude that all the information of that particular series is bogus. The excuse is that MUFON couldn’t control what the producers were doing, but there was nothing to separate MUFON from that tale. MUFON, according to the latest issues of the Journal (which used to be the MUFON UFO Journal) seems to still embrace the series.
In fact, it seems that they doubled down with their symposium about a Secret Space Program. Now taking the stage are two men who claim involvement in this secret program, and who have traveled through space and time. They are being given a platform from which to tell their incredible tales. The excuse? Well, we just want to let the membership decide for themselves if these stories are to be believed. Really? There isn’t a conclusion to be drawn at this point about the reality of these tales? Ten seconds after hearing about the time travel aspects, the conclusion should be obvious.
But the bottom line here is the bottom line. These sorts of sensational stories bring in people to listen to them. It’s not about revealing a secret space program, but about bringing in money. This is entertainment but certainly not science.
That’s the thing that I’ve heard most often in defense of Harzan and the MUFON leadership. He has brought in money and brought in new members like those who responded to the Hangar 1 program. MUFON is receiving more UFO reports today than it has in years past but is all that a good thing? If you are doing that at the expense of scientific research and the claims of scientific methodology, then haven’t your violated your stated mission?
If you are interested in science and serious investigation of UFOs, then how can you support a symposium program that has no basis in fact? We have these incredible tales but no evidence any of them are true and yet the reason these people are given a platform is allegedly so the membership can make up its mind about the truth. But doesn’t this also require that there be truth in what is being said rather than a story that is more science fiction that science fact? By giving them a platform, isn’t the MUFON leadership suggesting that there is some credibility to what they are saying, even if it involves time traveling men with absolutely no evidence they traveled in time. At what point should the membership just say, “No,” and then return to the original concept of scientific investigation of sightings of unusual things (not wanting to bias the argument I used generic terms but we all know what I mean)?
The other thing that I have heard and think is hilarious is that others, politicians of the past, have made similar if not worse racist comments and some of them even belonged to the KKK. But we’re talking of events more than a half century old not something that was said or done last month.
I’m not going to spend any more time on this but ask, “How does that apply in today’s world? Haven’t we all grown a great deal since then?” This sort of defense of the racist rants by members of the Inner Circle shouldn’t be tolerated not in 2017. There is enough hate out there, enough of the racism out there, that an organization devoted to UFO research must not allow it in its ranks. Yes, as I have said, there is free speech but there are also consequences for that speech and while some suggest that racism in the past was acceptable, I remind those that Earl Butz told a racist joke in 1978 that resulted in his resignation from the President Ford’s cabinet. You would have thought that we all would have learned from that, but apparently not.
I’ll make one final comment for the rank and file membership. You end up with the organization you deserve. By not speaking up, you allow the organization to deteriorate into a parody of itself. If you find listening to time travelers telling you about a secret space program that allowed them to visit distant planets, then you are in the right place. If, on the other hand, you desire a program that might resolve the riddle we all find so fascinating, then let the leadership know because, at the moment, they don’t seem to care.