The Covert Mainstream


The late researcher of UFOs, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, once wrote that, “In one’s frustration it is all too easy to seize on an explanation of the “Men from Mars” variety and to ignore the many UFO features unaccounted for… We may be inadvertently and artificially increasing the significance of the conspicuous features while the part we ignore–or that which is not reported by the untrained witness–may contain the clue to the whole subject.”

I would also argue just as well that, in addition to part of the UFO enigma that remain hidden, there might be researchers in this field that do the same.

I recently attended the 2013 International UFO Congress as a speaker, as well as a panelist for a discussion with fellow researchers Stanton Friedman and Richard Dolan, where we discussed the state of ufology in the 21st century. The Congress, arguably the largest and most well-attended UFO conference anywhere in the world, is not only a proving ground for both the budding young researcher and the decades-in ufologist alike; it is also a breeding ground for new ideas and the formation of new hypotheses, which may eventually sow the seeds of new insight toward solving this enduring mystery.

International UFO Congress - Educating the World One Person at a Time

International UFO Congress – Educating the World One Person at a Time

And yet, while there is this obvious mainstream component to the UFO research community, there is another more clandestine arm of the community that is less active before the public eye… but not all things that are “secretive” are necessarily nefarious or part of some grand dark conspiracy. In truth, it may be within the humble confines of Ufology’s “Shadow Research Community” that some of the more innovative thinkers exist, working out problems behind the scenes that many point-and-click researchers of today might overlook altogether.

No doubt, a statement of this caliber might be enough to anger many prideful UFO researchers at large (although I would argue that most serious UFO researchers will learn early on to rid themselves of any pride, lest they be crushed by the seething sensationalism in the mainstream media, and their overt approach toward the UFO community in general). But again, the notion of their being an underlying academic element that persists behind the mainstream study of UFOs–if one could ever call UFO research “mainstream” at all–is nothing new.

French Ufologist and computer scientist Jacques Vallee in his book Alien Contact by Human Deception argued that there were many private UFO researchers in academic circles–perhaps a few hundred he knew and had worked with–that studied the UFO problem intently, but without doing so publicly. Vallee referred to this as being a sort of “Invisible College” that has continued serious scientific study of UFOs, despite the fact that since the late 1960s, Edward Condon and his University of Colorado UFO Project helped determine that once and for all, the UFO mystery would forever be pseudoscientific.

Hynek and Vallee

Hynek and Vallee

Indeed, the general study of UFOs has largely been pseudoscientific, in that the largest body of serious research spanning the last several decades has been carried out by civilians, and often those with little or no academic or technical training suited for study of the phenomenon. While this has often been a point of criticism by scientists the likes of Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and many others, it also highlights yet another problem in the UFO field: the tendency for academics to push for debunking of UFO phenomenon or labeling it as pseudoscientific, while doing very little on their own accord to help further the serious scientific study of the phenomenon aside from waging an ongoing war of words.

Angela Joiner

Angela Joiner

To the credit of the academicians, it should be noted that to openly and publicly embrace the study of UFOs most often becomes equivalent to academic suicide in the Western world. There are many instances where professionals have been forced to choose between studying fringe subjects and maintaing a career by more conventional standards. Scientists such as Dean Radin, who lost his teaching position for openly discussing parapsychology, comes to mind, as well as members of the media like Angelia Joiner, who famously reported on the Stephenville, Texas UFO flap several years ago; the latter was eventually pinned into a position where she felt she had to resign as a reporter for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, in order to be able to continue following the UFO story.

Altogether, the problem here is that UFO research, by virtue of the fringe or “kooky” subject matter it has often become directly associated with, warrants blacklisting among professionals (especially scientists, university professors, etc). In my own experience, I’ve had numerous interactions with those in academia who reach out to me, often under aliases at first, to express interest not just in UFO research, but to share their own ideas and findings (albeit covertly) from an academic standpoint. The reasons these individuals would reach out to ufologists at all most often has to do, in my experience, with a hope for finding someone who will allow them to plead their case, but also that they might be able to influence or steer with their own professional observations. On both counts, this is usually a good thing, as it allows the academics to find others who won’t be so openly critical with the treatment of fringy subject matter, but the less technically skilled civilian researcher also gains insight from members of the scientific community.

Thus, while there is certainly a “trickle down effect” with regard to academics who occasionally reveal tidbits of insight to the publicly known UFO researchers, it could be argued that some of the most plausible and interesting insights into the field of ufology may exist behind the scenes, in what Vallee dubbed a so-called “Invisible College.” Today, could we ever get a serious, ongoing academic discourse on UFOs back into mainstream scientific circles… or is this even something that could ever be afforded the modern UFO research community, with an ever-growing divide that is occurring between the “believer” and “skeptic” diametric?

I actually don’t find it odd that there are some “mainstream” scientists working on the UFO mystery on their own time. After all that is what Jacques Vallee and Stanton Freidman did before devoting their studies of UFOs full-time .

The late J. Allen Hynek was a little different, he waited until he had a government pension before becoming a convert to studying UFOs on a full-time scientific basis.

Believe it or not, it is this “covert mainstream” that is fueling SETI, astroarcheology, astrobiological and advanced propulsion technology research.

Or perhaps, it’s the “science-fiction” collective consciousness?

Behind The Scenes: Ufology’s Shadow Research Community

Hat tip to the Daily Grail.

3 responses

  1. Altogether, the problem here is that UFO research, by virtue of the fringe or “kooky” subject matter it has often become directly associated with, warrants blacklisting among professionals (especially scientists, university professors, etc).

    The statement tends to suggest that this direct association with “kooky” subject matter is a blameless occurrence that may well be unimportant in comparison to what might be learned. However, the statement is also very clear that UFO research does indeed warrant such blacklisting (especially by scientists, university professors, etc). This doesn’t explain, however, let alone resolve the inability of UFO researchers and scientists to establish anything more than those sad, fringe reasons to ignore the subject. Vallee’s “Invisible College” is nothing new, and yet its collective adherents have done nothing significant with UFO studies except hide their membership in an otherwise unquestionably irrelevant group apparently dedicated to custodial efforts — much as Vallee himself has done.

    To rest one’s hope on a “shadow community” that has done nothing to warrant such hope is just another example of the wishful thinking that has inundated the field for decades. It’s more of the “magic thinking” that psychologists have often used to explain how adherents to a code already proven to be an invalidated failure will double-down on the ceremonial support and the letter of the law, enforcing within themselves the reliance on a faith that all logic would normally assume is a wasted proposition. For UFO proponent communities, however, this is common, something proven easily after a half hour screwing around on the internet. I’m sure you know this already, Dad2059, but most of the crew we’re talking about aren’t nearly as bright as you, and they’re a whole lot more inclined to believe anything that sounds even remotely alien, and the more paranoid, the better. More importantly, those normally paraded out to the public as spokesmen in the field are very notably similar. Somewhere between 1947 and now, the open-mindedness groups like MUFON and NICAP thrived on and were once so proud of has disappeared almost entirely, leaving us with a UFOlogical core with all of the credibility of a Japanese special-effects wizard in Hollywood, the paranoia of a twenty-year Scientologist, and absolutely none of the common respect for evidence that most Americans who once in their lives served jury duty are capable of discussing intelligently.
    Even otherwise intelligent men like Stanton Friedman and Brad Sparks have delivered up some of the most ridicule-worthy assesments of evidence that anybody anywhere at any time is possible of. Their attempts to second guess the Department of Defense in order to explain the various reactions of military personnel is truly worthy of contempt. They commonly accept that the USAF has engineered a conspiracy to deceive the public by covering up evidence of UFO-related events when the only thing the USAF has ever had to do in order to keep anything at all secret is to classify it. At that point, the complete protection of the materials is always assumed up to the level of the classification, and those who attempt to disclose such materials are always silenced — and it’s done legally. They don’t even have to kill someone or ruin their possibly normal lives. All they have to do, in fact, is lock the doors between them and anybody else they might want to disclose such matters to. A cover-up is unnecessary. The fact is that when any organization attempts to cover-up anything by lying or threatening people while demanding they cease their attempts to discover something new, the risk of disclosure is always increased. When they classify something, however, only a very small group determines need-to-know, making a cover-up unnecessary. More to the point, classifying something gives them the means to legally imprison those disclosing classified materials in a federal prison while limiting their access to the rest of the world, including, in many cases, their own lawyers.

    The whole whistleblowers scenario is a complete joke for a couple of reasons — particularly when said whistle-blowers are already attached to the military. Legal matters in the military never fall under the jurisidiction of civil law, so the rights civilians normally expect from their government and the Bill of Rights are never guaranteed to military personnel. They fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a legal system very different from that granted to civilians, and one that was specifically designed to protect military secrets. In addition, whistleblower laws associated with both civilian and military systems already protect whistle-blowers, as long as the information they disclose represents a threat at any level to the American public. The complicated run-around people like Stanton Friedman and Brad Sparks rely on to explain the facts they uncover has never been necessary, and are, for the most part, provably wrong as a result of being so error-prone.

    It should be pointed out that this association of “kooky” subject manner with modern UFOlogy is entirely the fault of UFO researchers. It wasn’t an accident. Anybody trying to get a grasp of the current state of UFO knowledge will be very quickly dismayed by the prospect after just a few hours study. Over more time, it becomes clear that supposed saints and martyrs of the UFO field like Hyneck and McDonald were in reality highly flawed individuals that were unable to examine the subject with any measure of objectivity, and made conclusive leaps of “logic” that labels everything encountered as the fruits of conspiracy, and blamed all of their own personality issues on the incapability of modern science to see what was plain to them, that UFO research is worth far more to the world than a footnote in psychology textbooks. It is the fault of those in the UFO field that conditions are as they stand today. It is considered to be a “kooky” subject, because those most admired in the field have made outlandish claims to explain their own inability to make any real sense of the subject.

    In addition, the point made above that “Edward Condon and his University of Colorado UFO Project helped determine that once and for all, the UFO mystery would forever be pseudoscientific” is somewhat disengenuous. The UFO mystery will “forever be pseudoscientific” because that’s the only type of evidence UFO proponents have, for the most part, been able to produce. Blaming UFOlogy’s faults on those skeptical of UFOlogy’s claims is just another case of blaming UFOlogy’s failures on those who disagree with their conclusions. The same thing is done every time a cover-up is blamed when evidence of UFOs can’t be established; it’s done every time government authored disinformation is blamed when a common hoax is discovered; it’s done every time alleged witnesses come forward to insist their comments were misinterpreted by overzealous UFO proponents desperate to find something they can rely on besides the odds of encountering more failure.

    More to the point, the reliance of UFO proponents on the “Invisible College”, freemasons, or some other currently hidden and secretive ally to miraculously prove that UFOs are real and are piloted by aliens from another star system is just another public claim that faith in such matters is more important than evidence to support them. All in all, the failure inherent to the study of UFOs must at all costs be ignored or twisted around to represent a form of reality supporting UFO claims. If this is done using the methods most likely to attract criticism, to deplete credibility, and to invite charges of either delusion or dishonesty (both of which have been repeatedly observed and discussed), than the blame for this insulting status should be properly laid at the door of those most responsible for this failure: those attempting to prove that their vision of UFOs is the only one wirth considering.

    This, far more than any other single element defining the issue, is the most responsible for the “ever-growing divide that is occurring between the ‘believer’ and ‘skeptic’”. Praying that secret efforts by remote geniuses may one day verify the outrageous claims being addressed is just more excuses. Here’s a thought: present the evidence first. Without that, any “Invisible College” may as well remain invisible.

  2. Excellent post James and one I hope receives just as excellent replies.
    When I started this blog six and a half years ago ( I started on Daily Kos ) I was new to UFO and anomalous research and I would’ve pretty much believed anything. If it was alien greys and nuts and bolts saucers, it got posted. And my older posts are still more popular reading.
    But as I learned more, I became disillusioned with UFOs as alien craft, even though I still like Stanton Friedman. I admire his stick-to-it-tiveness. That’s not to say I like Vallee’s paranormal explanations any better, they’re novel and different. But not exactly new, John Keel proposed them long before Vallee.
    If there’s an “Invisible College” however, I don’t have an issue with that, even if no new theories are espoused. My point is that perhaps new blood is being influenced by this “Invisible College” in that the very idea of finding ETI isn’t such a fringe meme in mainstream scientific culture and new methods are invented to detect them so that hard-core evidence is found and not “pseudo-scientific.”
    Meantime I’m still going to share my thoughts on the subject, because the world itself is becoming fringe on its own, without the need for grey aliens, flying saucers or government conspiracies.

  3. Well put — the world is indeed becoming fringe on its own!

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