High Strangeness: About the "UFO Quote of the Day"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

About the "UFO Quote of the Day"

A few weeks ago, inspired by the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA, I decided to start posting a new feature on twitter that I cleverly call the "UFO Quote of the Day," aka:
I could have done a "UFO Picture of the Day" feature, but I feared it would be nothing more than picture after picture of fuzzy, blobby bright lights in the sky, and who needs more of that crap? Quotes, on the other hand, if curated properly, never get dull or repetitive.

That decision made, I set about establishing my methodology, which took about one and a half seconds. Here are my guiding principles for the selection of quotes:

  1. The UFO Quote of the Day must be something interesting that someone said about or relating to UFOs.

That's it. I don't care whether the quote comes from a believer or a skeptic, from a scientist or a pig farmer, from a human or an alien or a hybrid. I don't care whether it's phenomenally brilliant or astoundingly stupid. I don't even care if it's a bald-faced lie. If someone said it (or wrote it, or telepathically projected it) and it tickles my fancy, I'm going to use it.
Perennial UFO troublemakers Betty and Barney Hill, as featured in @UFOqod

But there are a few important points I want to make about the quotes I do choose. These all come about from recent comments and suggestions by reader Terry the Censor. Terry never fails to bring up important issues, and I love that he is such a close and careful reader, and I figure if Terry is bringing something up, then it's likely something that a lot of other thoughtful readers are wondering about, too. So, here goes...

  1. While I am drawing from material that is familiar to a lot of UFO buffs, such as the Project Blue Book archives or UFO books that we all have on our bookshelves, I am also drawing from a mountain of material that I've dug up in the process of researching my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. That means that many of my quotes will come from interviews I've done with people you may not have ever heard of, some will come from dusty university archives, or collections from small-town historical societies, or from ancient news clippings, or from the CUFOS files scattered about in basements in the Chicago area. So, while you may not recognize the quote, I can assure you that it's still a real quote. I'm never going to make shit up. There's such an immense wealth of material from which to choose, why would I ever need to?
  2. Just because I use a quote, that doesn't mean I agree with the quote, or that I'm trying to push an agenda supported by the quote. For example, when I recently quoted the polygraph operator who performed a lie-detector test on alleged UFO abductee Charlie Hickson, it was because what he had to say was really interesting, NOT because I endorse the science of polygraphy (The polygraph operator said of Hickson, "I'm not saying he saw a spaceship, but when he said he saw a spaceship, he wasn't lying" -- that's a damn good quote, no matter what you think of polygraph tests, and I got it from an interview I conducted with Joe Colingo, the attorney who got involved in the Hickson & Parker abduction event and was present when the polygraph test was conducted). The fact that there are differing opinions on the efficacy of polygraphy does not make the quote any less interesting, or illuminating, at least not to me. You are free to disagree.
  3. While I appreciate quote suggestions, I will probably not use them, at least not anytime soon. The selection of the quotes is what makes this fun for me, so why would I give that up? Now, it's always possible that at some time in the future I'll feature some of my favorite suggestions to @UFOqod, but, as I've only just gotten started with this, that probably won't be happening anytime soon. I'm having too much fun digging up quotes on my own, doggone it!

Finally, some thoughts on the accuracy of my quotes. The other day I quoted the "alien leader" from the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction case as asking Betty "Where are you on the map?" after showing her the "star map" that he/she/it used for navigation. Terry quickly pointed out that, according to the Betty Hill hypnosis transcripts in the John Fuller book, "The Interrupted Journey," the exact quote is "Where were you on the map?" I've checked, and dammit, he's right, as usual. And because Fuller's book has long been considered the definitive account of the Hill case, it's hard to defend my error.

Nonetheless, I will. There are, in fact, numerous sources that quote the alien leader as asking "Where are you on the map?" including the 2007 book "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," written by UFO stalwarts Stanton Friedman and Kathy Marden, who happens to be Betty and Barney's niece. Because of this, I don't feel that I've erred very badly, if at all. Also, when you read the hypnosis transcripts in full, it's very easy to see how Betty's recollections of the experience under hypnosis frequently changed tense, and how Dr. Simon, the hypnotist, rather arbitrarily added quotation marks to comments that could well have been Betty simply paraphrasing the leader's statements. Also, it would make very little sense for the alien leader to have asked the question in past tense in the first place, unless that's an idiosyncracy of alien syntax, but how would we know?

So... I think I have some legit wiggle room here.

But, in the end, does one word really matter? Yes and no, but mostly yes. In the world of UFOlogy, more accuracy is always better, and Terry the Censor is to be commended for always keeping that in sight. The challenge we all face is figuring out what is more accurate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make up a quote for today -- j/k!


Terry the Censor said...

Quite possibly, this is the longest statement of methodology for any Twitter account.

That's a good thing.

Also, it was a good idea to give UFOqod its own account. If you used the hashtag alone, the qod could get swamped/hijacked by others. In fact, you can now do away with the #UFOQuoteoftheDay tag and free up those precious characters.

Terry the Censor said...

> I have to go make up a quote for today

Oh, that is almost too good of an idea for Twitter!

"Truth comes in three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it appears on a DVD available for sale exclusively at my website."
- Stanton T. Schopenhauer