High Strangeness: UFOs and Racism

Sunday, April 29, 2018

UFOs and Racism

In an interview in the February, 1985 issue of OMNI Magazine, Dr. J. Allen Hynek had this to say about the caliber of his fellow UFO researchers:
"I do not mean it unkindly, but the UFO movement today is filled basically with amateurs. Most of the investigators are not professionals, and they are technically ill equipped and lack funds. Many are also beset by preconceived notions of what UFOs ought or ought not to be."
If he were asked that today, Hynek might add that some amateur UFOlogists are beset by horribly racist and intolerant views of their fellow humans. The recent news that Dr. Chris Cogswell, the new Director or Research for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, had resigned his post only a few months after taking the position because MUFON was harboring a racist in its camp, has made a lot of headlines, and was just written up today in Newsweek. This is not the kind of publicity that MUFON needs, but it is the publicity it deserves.
Would MUFON have approved of Mr. & Mrs. Hill?

Why do I say this? Well, let's go back to the beginning. About a year ago, John Ventre, a high-ranking MUFON officer, was called out for posting a racist rant on his Facebook page. I won't excerpt his post here because it's too foul to be repeated one more time, but in it he specifically targeted bi-racial couples with some deep hatred and disgust. I found Ventre's views repulsive in general, but I was also personally offended by Ventre's comments, because I am in a bi-racial couple.

I did not resign from MUFON because of Ventre's words, however, because I had already left MUFON months earlier. I left when I discovered that my new Wisconsin State Director had been re-opening and revising my old case files, marking every object in every sighting report as an "Orb." When I called her out on this unethical behavior, her response was that I need more training because I'm obviously too stupid to know an orb case when I see one. Then she started pressuring me to buy a book about The Orb Invasion, written by a friend of hers. I was appalled by her behavior, and even more appalled when no one at HUFON HQ could decide how to address the issue. So I quit.

A few months later, when my biography of Dr. Hynek was about to be published, I contacted MUFON Chief Jan Harzan to see about selling my book at the MUFON online store. Despite having recently resigned in disgust, I remained hopeful that my ex-state director's horrifically unscientific methods and orb fixation was an aberration, and that there were still good people at MUFON. And I still thought that my book might have a positive impact on people who wanted to learn more about the UFO phenomenon. But, as Jan and I were negotiating a deal, Ventre's views became public and Jan's public response that the people who were offended by Ventre's words were the real haters was enough for me. I told Jan that I no longer wanted to sell my book through MUFON.

Fast forward to today. Chris Cogswell, a guy who very well could have led MUFON into a meaningful revival of serious, scientific UFOlogy, is gone. And as of today, it's national news. What does MUFON have left after this debacle? Not much that I can see.

Oh, wait, MUFON still has orbs. I imagine that invasion is still going on.

A few other thoughts:

I have often observed with my wife, who is black, that people of color (POC) don't often report UFOs. Hard to say why that is, but it seems to be true. But there are exceptions. My wife's dad once had a very strange encounter that he believes involved a UFO. And one of the most intriguing cases I ever investigated for MUFON was reported by a black man. He, too, was aware that POC don't often file UFO reports. It was a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and I would have loved to have researched the hell out of it, but the sighting had taken place several years earlier, and the witness' wife would not consent to an interview; she just wanted to forget that the freaky occurrence had ever happened (Historic cases are tricky to begin with, because so much time has passed since the occurrence, but if one of two witnesses doesn't want to talk about it, you're basically left with nothing but one person's story to "investigate")

I don't like to think about what would have happened had John Ventre ever interviewed my father-in-law, or the gentleman who reported the Close Encounter of the Third Kind. I don't think those conversations would have gone well, and two fascinating reports would never have seen the light of day. Can we afford that?

Hint: No.

And then there's this: What the hell does John Ventre think of Barney & Betty Hill, the celebrated UFO abductees who happened to be a bi-racial married couple? Imagine what would have happened if Ventre, or someone like him, had been the first person to contact the Hills...
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