High Strangeness: UFO Disinformation

Saturday, November 8, 2014

UFO Disinformation

"It's very easy to mislead people in the UFO community."

Those thuddingly obvious words were spoken by "Fire In the Sky" screenwriter and fellow "Star Trek" writer Tracy Torme in the documentary "Mirage Men." I finally watched "Mirage Men" this morning after reading about it off and on over the past year or so, and, two things struck me: one, if I am to be taken seriously as a UFO investigator, I need to start wearing 1970's-style wire-rimmed glasses; and two, really, Torme's observation could easily be the subtitle of the documentary.

See, the problem with UFO researchers saying that UFO people are easily misled is that they blithely exclude themselves from the group of people being misled, and there's an awful lot of that going on in this movie, both in front of and behind the camera.

Not that I'm knocking the film; in fact, I enjoyed it a lot, up to a point. There's an awful lot of interesting material to be found here, but when a guy who professes to be an agent of disinformation for the U.S. Government suddenly decides after decades of professional lying to "come clean" and "tell the truth," it's just another level of disinformation. And that's what the entire film is built around...

Allow me for a moment to demonstrate the value of my college degree in Cinema Studies: The film is, for the most part, beautifully shot, especially the location shots. The editing is clever and tight, the visual effects are engaging, and the soundtrack is subtle and effective. But then a lot of the interview segments were inexplicably done in poorly lit hotel rooms. I mean really dismally lit; Richard Dolan blends into the pale hotel wall behind him, while Linda Moulton Howe is backlit, leaving her face in almost complete darkness...

More interview weirdness: one of the primary interview subjects, and the de facto narrator of the film, is some guy I've never heard of. Nothing wrong with that -- there are lots of people I've never heard of -- but I found it strange and disappointing that he was identified merely as a "Former airline pilot." That's a qualification for what, exactly?
Can anyone tell me what a suit of armor is doing in a UFO movie?

Stranger still, Tracy Torme was interviewed while sitting on a gigantic red velvet throne, while Robert Emenegger was interviewed while sitting in front of a medieval suit of armor. I know it's got  to mean something, but what??

One more knock against the interviews... Am I the only person who is annoyed when someone makes an assertion by saying "It would not surprise me if..."? It's such a handy way to suggest that something is "factual" without actually committing to anything, and I noticed it going on in this film. "It would not surprise me if the CIA was mutilating cattle and sending their organs to a secret base on the moon." "It would not surprise me if aliens were living in the basement of the White House." "It would not surprise me if a whole flotilla of attacking alien saucers crashed at Roswell." You could say this is a pet peeve of mine: any statement that beings with "It would not surprise me if..." is a meaningless statement, it undermines any argument that is being made, and it should be edited out of the final cut.

Much of the film was shot at a MUFON Conference, and my absolute favorite moment of the entire movie came from an interview with one of the conference attendees. Commenting on the astonishing fact that the popularity of UFOs has not diminished for a very long time, the man said, "They don't have Leprechaun Conferences. But we keep having UFO Conferences."

Nothing misleading about that, anyway.

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