High Strangeness: Pure Speculation

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pure Speculation

I am thoroughly enjoying reading the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual, and not only because it gives me endless material about which to blog. A lot of the information is pretty well thought-out and presented nicely, and I am learning a lot about the MUFON Way.

Today I've been reading the section on The MUFON Investigative Process, and there's a lot to learn, especially when it comes to interviewing UFO witnesses. I thought it would be a pretty simple process: you sit down with the witness and start pounding him or her with questions. But, no. There's a real subtlety involved. It turns out it's more about the witness than it is about me.

It's about listening, and observing. It's about reading body language and asking open-ended questions and avoiding saying or doing anything that may color the witness' testimony in any way. For instance, instead of asking the witness, "Was the craft cigar-shaped or more like a blimp?" I am to ask, "What did the shape of the object resemble?" Instead of asking "What planet did it come from?" I should ask, "How many billions of miles do you think it traveled to reach the earth?" In that way, I ensure that the information I gather from the witness is untainted and devoid of speculation and sensationalism.

All well and good, but isn't sensationalism part and parcel of the whole phenomenon? Aren't we trying to blow the socks off the scientific and media establishments and make them admit that there is something pretty screwy going on here?

No, apparently, those decisions must only be made at the very highest levels of MUFON's administration. I, as a lowly field investigator, must, in my interview with the witness, assiduously avoid any controversial subject that could get us both on the front page of the paper.

Consider this, from page 56 of the Manual: "A witness report of having been handled or probed by an instrument must be approached with extreme care, and it is generally advisable to break off an initial interview at this point pending the availability of someone with a firm grounding in abduction research."

I don't like that one bit. First of all, why don't I get to be be the first one to hear the story? And leak it. Second of all, how is it going to make the witness feel when he or she leans forward and tells me in hushed tones that he or she was probed by an instrument and I slam my notebook shut and say, "Don't say another word! I have to call in someone with a firm grounding in abduction research!"? This person is just about to divulge what could be the most important information in the history of mankind, something so shocking and intimate that there may only be one chance to get it out of the witness, ever, and I'm supposed to interrupt and say, "Could you just hold that thought...?"

It gets even worse on page 60, in a section entitled "Reactions to the UFO Experience." Here I am told that some witnesses will feel that they were preselected to have an encounter with a UFO, and because of this they will ask things like, "Why me?" or "What does it mean?" or "Will it come back?"

If a witness asked me any of those questions, I would be ready with some killer answers. But, and you will not be surprised by this, I am not allowed to answer those questions. "One must politely decline to answer questions such as those... that concern the matter of underlying purpose," the Manual says. "Any response offered would be speculative, regardless of the factual information and insights gathered."

So, to review... we're trying to discover, and even prove, the underlying purpose of UFOs, but we're not allowed to answer any questions about the underlying purpose of UFOs.

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