Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Implications of Brazilian Disclosure: Part One

First, I want to apologize for my recent lapse in activity (is anyone still listening?). Schoolwork demanded my attention until only a few days ago, and I am now at my parents' house in suburban Ohio. Let's hope I have more time and energy for this blog during these summer days.

On 19 May 2005, A. J. Gevaerd, editor of Revista Brasileira de Ufologia (Brazilian UFO Magazine) and head of the CBU, Comissão Brasileira de Ufólogos (Brazilian Committee of UFO Researchers), sent a brief note to UFO UpDates. It begins:

Dear colleagues of the international UFO community:

This is a very short note to let you know that the Brazilian Government, through the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), will finally do its formal official UFO disclosure, tomorrow, May 20. The disclosure is the direct result of the intense pressure by UFOs: Freedom of Information Now, the campaign started by the Brazilian UFO Magazine in April 2004, and co-ordinated by me. It has been a long year of much work for us to reach this point.
It's unsurprising that no one in my university dorm, in any of my classes, or in my family eventually heard about the 20 May disclosure event in Brazil. Popular American media did not report on it, and only select independent sources (mostly UFO-related) discussed the event.

But make no mistake about it: Brazil is now among a handful of countries, including Mexico and Belgium, which has officially acknowledged the validity of the UFO phenomenon. 20 May 2005 is a historic day in global ufology.

This is part one of a three-part series on Brazilian disclosure and its implications for American ufology. Part one analyses the Brazilian Ufology Manifesto presented by the CBU to the Commander of the Brazilian Air Force. Part two examines the conditions for disclosure that prompted the Brazilian Government and Air Force to agree to disclosure. Part three determines whether such conditions can be duplicated to any degree in countries without disclosure, most notably the United States.

The Ufologist's Party: the Brazilian Ufology Manifesto

The Brazilian Ufology Manifesto was presented by six ufologists--A. J. Gevaerd (coordinator), Claudeir Covo, Marco Antonio Petit, Rafael Cury, Reginaldo de Athayde, and Fernando de Aragao Ramalho--to the Commander of the Brazilian Air Force, Air Brigadier Luis Carlos da Silva Bueno on 20 May 2005 in Brasília, the Federal Capital of Brazil. It seems to be the unifying document representing the collective efforts of Brazilian ufologists, establishing an ufological state of affairs--a "what we know" kind of declaration--recommending official policy action, and requesting files on at least three Brazilian cases. For these reasons, I have chosen to break it down, review it, and determine its potential application to American ufology.

The manifesto begins:
The Brazilian Ufological Community, represented by individual ufologists as well as by research groups, investigators, scholars, and people interested in Ufology who undersigned the document prepared for this purpose, expresses its opinion by means of this document prepared under the coordination of Revista UFO in order to address Brazilian authorities represented herein by the eminent President of Brazil and the eminent Commander of the Air Force, to present the following:
The first noteworthy element of this paragraph is the phrase "Brazilian Ufological Community", a phrase which seems (I can't say for sure) to suggest a somewhat unified collective of ufologists. I doubt any American ufologist is capable of, let alone comfortable with, arguing for an "American Ufological Community". The intra-field division and animosity prevents any such "Community" from emerging. Orthodox UFO researchers who dismiss exopolitics are one potential--albeit inconsistent still--community, while exopoliticians comprise another. Questions of government involvement, document authenticity, and research priority separate us. Do these issues not divide Brazilian ufologists, or is their community small enough that such issues can be handled collectively and appropriately without causing splinter groups?

Regardless of the size, the Brazilian Ufological Community, as the above paragraph says, includes "research groups, investigators, [and] scholars". Could we envision an American Ufological Community comprised of MUFON, CUFOS, Stanton Friedman, Richard Dolan, and Michio Kaku? Either Brazilian ufologists are simply more cooperative or they are not dealing with the same issues as American ufologists. Nevertheless, the confidence with which the undersigned researchers are able to present their manifesto is admirable and worth considering as a characteristic of their national community.

The first point of the manifesto states:
(1) It is widely known that the UFO Phenomenon, noticed with the constant visits of spacecraft to our planet Earth, is genuine, real, and consistent, and so is independently confirmed by civil ufologists, as well as by military authorities worldwide for more than 50 years.
As a foundational assertion, this statement will be disputed by many ufologists for its conclusion that "the UFO Phenomenon" is synonymous with "constant visits of spacecraft to our planet Earth". Arguably, no one has proven that any UFO sightings or cases in history have been material vehicles--although many argue that enough evidence exists to support this conclusion. What is indisputable about this first statement is the UFO phenomenon as "real, consistent, and independently confirmed by civil ufologists, as well as by military authorities worldwide for more than 50 years." The phenomenon is indeed "real", evidenced by the ever-growing archive of sightings.

The second point states:
(2) The Phenomenon had already had its origin sufficiently identified as far from our planetary borders. The spacecraft which so insistently visit our planet come from other civilizations, perhaps technologically more advanced than ours, and inhabit the same universe we do, although we do not know their worlds and origins.
This second assertion continues to carry the previous statement/assumption that at least some UFOs are spacecraft from beyond our planet, and that these craft are "perhaps technologically more advanced than ours". It is a common claim that ET craft would have to be more advanced than any craft currently in production by any nation on earth; how else could such beings travel from their solar system to ours? Therefore, it is plausible to state that, if some UFOs are ET-piloted vehicles, then these craft are more advanced than any known craft on earth. Nevertheless, as the above point says, these "spacecraft", if they prove to be vehicles, do "inhabit the same universe we do, although we do not know their worlds and origins." Whether this second point continues the same problematic conclusion as the first depends on which ufologist you ask. Stanton Friedman has concluded that "SOME UFOs are alien spacecraft" but Paul Kimball has not (right, Paul?).

Point three states:
(3) Such civilizations are in a clear and unquestionable process of continuous approach to Earth and to our planetary society and, by acting this way in its maneuvers and activities, in most cases do not show any hostility to us.
This third statement, following the logic of the previous two, depends on the accuracy of the notion that at least some UFOs are ET-piloted craft. If at least some UFOs are indeed ET vehicles, then it is logical to say that such beings are engaged in an "unquestionable process of continuous approach to Earth"; the history of sightings and encounters, if nothing else, proves the consistency, the "continuous approach", of the UFO phenomenon. Furthermore, if some UFOs are ET-piloted, then it stands to reason that they could, if armed, attack human society and, if the folklore is at all accurate, re-assign us a new place in the food chain. However, the vast majority of UFO cases do not include any sign of hostility or animosity.

Point four states:
(4) It is clear that visits from such non-terrestrial
civilizations to our planet are gradually increasing over the last years, according to domestic and international statistics, both in number and intensity, consisting of something which requires legitimate attention.
Despite the current focus on high-profile cases like Roswell and MJ-12, UFO sightings continue to be reported and archived. The UFO phenomenon is by no means confined to 1947. It is a testament to American ufologists' determination and stubbornness that the same cases, for the most part, are rehashed year in and year out. Perhaps we need to organize a concerted effort behind arguments like Paul Kimball's "Will Ufology's 'Deep Throat' Please Step Forward?" and "Majestic 12 - R.I.P.". Why are such posts not the subject of discussion on UFO UpDates? Why can't we collectively discuss a single topic, exhaust our avenues and resources, and then move on to the next as a well-informed "Ufological Community"? Am I too idealistic or is everyone else too stubborn? Let's engage each other and not just ourselves. If every frequent UpDates visitor agreed to work on a single topic for one month, then I believe we might know something like progress in this complex field.

Point five states:
(5) Considering all this, the establishment of an official program for acknowledgement, information, research, and public disclosure of the subject is urgent, in order to clarify to all Brazilians the undeniable and ever increasing extraterrestrial presence in our planet Earth.
The question of whether an official government-sponsored UFO research program is the best approach to the study of UFOs is a difficult one to answer. Can an ufologist trust a national government and military to assist in the fair and accurate study of UFOs? In the United States, the government has been, if nothing else, less than cooperative in working with ufologists and releasing UFO files. That does not mean a possibility for government-civilian collaboration does not exist. It only means that we should be careful, and isn't that an ufological mantra anyway? Nevertheless, in the case of Brazil, the "establishment of an official program for acknowledgement, information, research, and public disclosure" is a compelling and encouraging development, one that will have to be carefully monitored to ensure productivity and honesty.

The next paragraph reads:
Thus, considering measures publicly adopted in different moments of our History by countries like Chile, Belgium, Spain, France, Uruguay, and China, which already acknowledged the seriousness and urgency of the problem, we respectfully recommend the Command of the Air Force of the Federative Republic of Brazil, or any of its bodies, from now on, to prepare an appropriate policy to discuss this issue in the necessary environments, formats, and levels.
It is strange to me that no effort has been made by "disclosure nations" to appeal to "non-disclosure nations". If additional countries continue to publicly and officially recognize the validity of the UFO phenomenon--as I believe they will--then it is (or at least should be) a matter of time before such countries address those nations which have yet to allow disclosure. Multiple national communities pressuring one national government is more productive than the scattered efforts of civilian ufologists under that one national government. If American ufologists cannot make disclosure happen in the States, then perhaps American ufologists AND the international community can make it happen. To ignore the achievements and techniques of other countries only reflects our egocentric approach to a phenomenon which is simply too complex to allow for international competition among civilian ufologists.

The next paragraph reads:
The Brazilian Ufological Community, in the name of all undersigned participants of the aforementioned document, with full support of the worldwide ufological community, wants to voluntarily offer its knowledge, efforts, and dedication in order to make this proposal a reality so that we have the immediate acknowledgement of the UFO Phenomenon.
Noteworthy about this paragraph are the words "with full support of the worldwide ufological community". I am hesitant to share the author's optimism towards a "worldwide ufological community". Yes, American ufologists communicate with British ufologists who communicate with Brazilian ufologists, but is there a global community surrounding the global subject of UFOs? Is such unity even possible? I am not suggesting a dismissal of nationalized UFO communities; obviously those are necessary to achieve, or to help achieve, the kind of disclosure Brazil is experiencing. However, the possibility for a global response from united national communities is certainly worth investigating. For all the disagreements regarding methodology, approach, knowledge, and content, one underlying fact remains the same: UFOs exist, in one form or another, and every ufologist, whether she considers herself a conventional document researcher, an exopolitician, or a proponent of cosmic consciousness, is seeking a similar fundamental truth: the nature of UFO existence.

The next paragraph reads:
Thus, as a foundation stone in this process, which is to be the symbol of a positive action from our authorities, the Brazilian Ufological Community respectfully asks the Command of the Air Force to disclose its files concerning at least three specific episodes, which are specifically significant about the presence of unidentified flying objects in our Territory:
I'm not informed enough to discuss the three cases mentioned by the authors of the manifesto, but I will say that their deployment of "three specific episodes" is an effective technique of information-gathering without saying, we want everything now. Furthermore, it is important to note, as the authors do, the symbolic value of official disclosure and recognition. If the majority of the public needs governmental or major media acknowledgement to deem something "true", then governmental disclosure of UFO files and recognition of the phenomenon's validity serve not only to advance the scientific study of UFOs but also to help remove the cultural stigma on the phenomenon and on those who research it.

The manifesto concludes with a brief description of each case mentioned by the authors: the "Operation Prato, carried out by the I Regional Air Command (COMAR) of Bel=E9m (PA), from September to December of 1977"; the "mass ufological wave [which] occurred in May 1986 over the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo"; and the "Varginha Case, [which] happened in that city in the state of Minas Gerais on May 20th, 1996".

The final paragraph reads:
Being absolutely aware that Brazilian civil and military authorities have never neglected the situation which has been monitored with care and attention throughout last decades, and on behalf of the Brazilian National Security, we consider that the measures aforementioned are to establish the beginning of a prosperous and profitable partnership.
The question remains whether a "prosperous and profitable partnership" will emerge in the years to come, and whether such a relationship is possible in major non-disclosure countries such as the United States and England. However, what is clear is the collective efforts which were needed to start the disclosure process in Brazil. Is that kind of organization and cooperation possible among current American ufologists? Is disclosure even the goal?

In a 05 August 2004 post to UFO UpDates, Greg Boone writes:
Perhaps we need to reach out more. I know the lines are thin and resources sometimes scarce but I think if all the media folks from Noory to Bell to Rense to Errol and so forth teamed up and put that reach out there it would really be a blockbuster of a force to be reckoned with. It'd be a new news service like no other because it's what "the people" are interested in.

Strength in numbers.
In part two, I will examine, to the best of my ability, the conditions for Brazilian disclosure which were cultivated in the months prior to 20 May 2005.

brad.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Fog of Ufology: Lessons from NICAP

In the introduction to The UFO Evidence (1964), the NICAP Board of Governors urges the following steps to be taken:

(1) The evidence in Air Force files (after deletion of legitimate security information such as data concerning the capabilities of radar) should be made freely available to any interested citizens.

(2) There should be a Congressional inquiry into the Air Force's Project Blue Book to establish, a. the amount and kind of UFO information in the files, and whether all significant non-security data has been made public; b. the scientific adequacy of the investigation (whether there has been a consistently objective, scientific study of the evidence, or whether it has been erratic and influenced negatively by high-level policy decisions, lack of funds, or other factors).
I do not mean to suggest that current ufologists should adopt the above goals (although, as I will discuss later, there are, or should be, overlapping objectives between the two eras). Rather, I want to draw attention to NICAP's methods as evidence of current ufology's ineffectual strategies and as a potential model, or at least resource, for a new UFO methodology.

The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP, is arguably the most effective UFO research organization of the 20th century. During what then-Assistant Director Richard Hall calls "The Real NICAP" era (1957-1969), NICAP provoked serious public, media, and Congressional interest in the UFO phenomenon. As Hall has already written a comprehensive history of NICAP, I will refrain from doing so here. I will instead focus on possible applications to current ufology.

In 1962, Major Donald E. Keyhoe, Director of NICAP, suggested "compiling a documentary report summarizing the strongest evidence [NICAP] had accumulated." This report would be distributed to the media, to important segments of the public, and to members of Congress. Eventually called The UFO Evidence (1964), the report did not attract so much productive attention simply because of its well-documented and convincing content--although it does stand as one of the most impressive collections of UFO sightings. The UFO Evidence was, unlike many books today, conceived with a deliberate public purpose: to attract serious attention from those societal entities most capable of benefitting--and ignoring--the UFO phenomenon. This report was not meant to sit on bookshelves or to be absorbed without consequence, without ramification, into whatever canon there was or would be of UFO literature. In fact, for all the criticism leveled at Dr. Steven Greer's Disclosure Project, he is one of the only UFO proponents actively pushing for Congressional hearings.

But should Congressional hearings be our goal? Are such discussions truly productive and beneficial? Assuming that the appropriate UFO researchers are present, the evidence is present, and respectful Congresspeople are present, then I see no problem with setting Congressional hearings as a goal.

But how are current and emerging ufologists to approach members of Congress? The UFO phenomenon seems to be of such low priority that open hearings would be quickly dismissed. This brings me to the issue of culture, and why the American public must be informed prior to approaching Congress.

The most significant cultural impediment to UFO recognition is the constant argument that UFOs have no impact on the daily lives of Americans. This is not necessarily a persuasive argument, as many facets of national and international life are considered and thought over by Americans but may not be directly felt. It then comes down to impressions and priorities, the former of which will guide the latter. If ufologists can begin to challenge the ingrained impressions and assumptions of people today, especially young people, then at least some of those people will re-align their intellectual priorities to include ufology as a viable research project.

The question of how to challenge a person's impressions can be answered by looking at NICAP's methods. It is a matter of compiling the most persuasive evidence, organizing it in a clear and accessible way, and then distributing it. At this point in ufology, distribution is the most difficult element of the process. While I understand the value in selling a large book, I also believe that grassroots approaches such as smaller do-it-yourself 'zines and publications, handed out free of charge, are necessary if we are to tap into youth populations, especially those on college campuses. Just as NICAP relied on its hugely effective Subcommittees, I can see smaller teams working at various universities across the country, all connected and communicating.

Distribution must happen on local, regional, and national levels if the cultural stigma is to be fought and removed. It is only then that Congress will respond with any degree of sincerity.

The current fragmentation within ufology makes it difficult to synthesize the collective goals of the field's members. Some target the U.S. federal government while others target the sightings. Some believe the MJ-12 documents are authentic while others reject them. Are there any underlying convictions or assertions to be made that accurately reflect the majority opinions among ufologists? There are at least two such assertions: [1] UFOs are worthy of serious scientific and intellectual research; and [2] the U.S. federal government and the U.S. military have not been forthcoming regarding information on UFOs. The second point does not imply a conspiracy or cover-up; it simply states that the government and military have not been entirely cooperative.

This, to me, is problematic, but I understand and respect differing opinions. Fragmentation, when organized and mobilized, can in fact be productive. But I do not think ufology has the luxury to divide itself because of personal ego or individual agenda. Not only is ufology a small field, but it is stigmatized by exaggerations and outlandish claims.

In order to clarify the basic reasons for why ufology exists, should exist, and is an important project, ufologists must gather together and prepare collective mission/position statements. For example, I believe it necessary that we make aware the news media, both independent and corporate, and scientific journals of our refusal to accept the complete decline of ufology and of our commitment to restoring public and (acknowledged) governmental interest in the UFO phenomenon. It has now become a campaign for basic awareness and recognition of not only our continued research but of our mere existence as serious investigators.

NICAP was prepared to take positions and to issue statements. It made the public, the media, and the government aware of its intentions and methods. It did not talk to itself like so many UFO researchers do today. We cannot preach to ourselves and to each other and expect to achieve long-term results.

Do we need a new organization to execute new methods? Do we need to reform an existing one, such as MUFON or CUFOS? A new organization is not necessary, nor is the deliberate reformation of an existing one. As long as all UFO researchers have access to the CUFOS archives and such, there is no need to form another organization. Furthermore, many independent researchers, including myself, prefer to work with other individuals and groups without owing allegiance to any particular body.

However, what does need to happen is an acknowledged cooperation among like-minded researchers; an open coalition that preserves individual autonomy while able to speak collectively. A staff would not exist in the typical hierarchical sense, but a researcher could expect to consistently work with the same researchers while remaining open to novice investigators (such as myself). Perhaps the UFO Blog Coalition is the start of a larger project. It has already proved effective in uniting the content of several different blogs.

I want to end with an urgent plea for purpose and resolve among today's ufologists. Just as NICAP undertook a greater public project, so must we if we are to succeed at all--and success is not necessarily uncovering the mythical truth but is only claiming legitimacy for our work outside this small circle of researchers. I suggest we begin discussing and formulating initial position statements and collections of evidence for distribution. Ufology cannot survive without an audience outside itself.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Generational Gap in Ufology

During the past year, I have spoken with several UFO researchers (Stanton Friedman, Mark Rodeghier, Richard Dolan, and Paul Kimball) about the widening generational gap in modern ufology. Nearly every speaker at the 2005 X-Conference was middle-aged or older. The same trend applies to the Aztec UFO Symposium 2005 and recent International MUFON Symposia. John Greenewald, Jr. seems to be the only consistent speaker of my emerging generation.

This is not surprising. Given the popular stigma on UFOs and the conflation of a vast conspiracy with the phenomenon, sincere public treatment has declined considerably. The result is a generation unintroduced to UFOs.

But even if sightings were treated with at least some interest and respect, young people (late teens to late twenties) have priorities far removed from lights in the sky. As Paul Kimball put it in an email to me: "There are a whole host of other things they have to worry about - dating, marks, career, not necessarily in that order - that UFOs (and often anything outside the insular world of the university) rank pretty low." Unfortunately, he's absolutely right.

This is not to say that college-age people have no serious investment in national and international issues. While I have my own views of current youth protest methods, many students participate in socio-political groups. They are not simply academic drones. If the UFO phenomenon were compelling enough, then I believe more young people would invest time and energy into it.

The problem is comprised of three interlocked parts: [1] most young people do not consider the UFO phenomenon to be a viable research project because [2] the phenomenon has been a mystery since its modern conception and has [3] arguably lost much of its scientific and intellectual appeal in the last decade or so. Who wants to pursue something that may never yield a conclusive answer?

After reading some literature by Richard Dolan and Dr. Steven Greer, I began to think that socio-political implications of the UFO phenomenon, such as budgetary waste, could be used to attract young people to the phenomenon. I thought UFOs equated to U.S. government secrecy, and that investigating one would lead to the other.

I have since stepped back and re-evaluated the phenomenon itself, and while exopolitics is interesting, it makes the still-unproved assumption that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. I would like to make that assumption too, but it would risk establishing an unstable foundation, and that only leads to unstable conclusions.

What must be done then to sustain ufology? Will there be pioneering young researchers to move in and resume the search once the major players begin to retire?

To offer an answer to my first question, I suggest ufology re-evaluate itself in relation to its long-term goals. Exopolitics and phenomena-based methods do not have to exist in stark opposition to each other. It stands to reason that if UFOs are of either extraterrestrial origin or are secret government craft, then they would be highly classified and shrouded in secrecy. While all sightings must be investigated in and of themselves, disassociated from socio-political contexts, the possibility of government secrecy must not be deliberately avoided. I suggest we first evaluate UFO sightings for what they are and then apply socio-political criteria if necessary.

In accordance with long-term goals, ufology, if it is to sustain itself, must begin to articulate its scientific, intellectual, and even social hypotheses regarding UFOs. This may seem incredibly impractical given the current division among UFO researchers, but NICAP was onto something when it released The UFO Evidence in 1964. Today, I suggest a similar effort to organize our research and present it to the public as part of a calculated effort to restore the UFO phenomenon to public legitimacy. UFO stigmatization is as much a governmental and Congressional issue as it is a cultural one.

While many books have been written since The UFO Evidence, none have carried the deliberate purpose of NICAP's work. Their firm resolution and desire lifted the book from the status of mere cultural imagining to the level of governmental, media, and public interest. I firmly believe that a targeted campaign to inform young people--and all people, for that matter--of the UFO phenomenon is necessary to sustain long-term research into the 21st century.

To answer my second question above--I certainly hope so. I have been considering the viability of a UFO panel at Northwestern University. Both Stanton Friedman and Mark Rodeghier are receptive to this idea. It is a matter of planning and execution.

There is, in fact, an urgency to modern UFO research. The possibility exists for it to die off, or at least dissolve even further, within the next few decades. We must begin now a new methodology, a new UFO discourse, dedicated to the upkeep and progress of our collective work.

In his Estimate of the Situation: 2004, Francis Ridge writes:

If this is something real, and I for one am sure that part of it is, nothing proves this is going to get released or be easy to find. It is understandable that if this is all as big as it now appears, we only have what somebody wants us to have. We might even find out that forcing it out might be a big mistake. Our desperate need to know may not be justified in this very unstable world we live in. But some of us have peeked through the keyhole and simply walking away just doesn't work. The implications for the human race are just too big. We're not alone.
Ufology is not dead. All searches of grand proportions enjoy times of great productivity and endure periods of dissatisfaction. We have acknowledged the origin of our discontent. Now we must move forward.

brad.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Preface

I have been meaning to setup a blog dedicated to my ongoing research of the UFO phenomenon. I hope this is more successful than the five or so other blogs I have attempted in the last couple years.

My name is Brad Hirn (owendrab is a pseudonym), and I am a nineteen-year-old American student attending Northwestern University in Illinois. I am a sophomore double-major in English (hopefully Fiction Writing) and Gender Studies.

I began seriously researching the UFO phenomenon about two years ago. Given the current division among UFO researchers regarding methodology and priorities, I am especially interested in developing, with other researchers, a new methodology or discourse tolerant of alternative approaches but remaining focused on the phenomenon itself. Can we really claim far-reaching socio-political implications while there is still considerable doubt regarding UFOs themselves? We can either begin with the U.S. federal government or we can begin with the phenomenon. I suggest we re-evaluate our most basic hypotheses regarding UFOs, for if the phenomenon is indeed obscured by official secrecy as many claim, then that information will be uncovered without a doubt. Skipping steps will only weaken our research.

I basically want to keep this field of study going. I refuse to let it swallow itself.

Brad Hirn

Proceeding

This is my blog concerning the UFO phenomenon.