Category Archives: television history

NatGeo and the UFO Debate

NatGeo ( National Geographic TV ) has put out two versions of the UFO conundrum.

First is its show “Chasing UFOs” in which it has three protagonists look into various UFO stories all over the U.S. A lot of hard-core UFO researchers hate the show, but I find it entertaining ( I hold no illusions about any scientific veracity about the series ).

Now we have NatGeo’s latest production “Secret History of UFOs” which shows the other side of the coin. The “debunking” side:

 Well-known “skeptic” Robert Sheaffer’s performance in Secret History of UFOs, the National Geographic network’s latest debunking-disguised-as-documentary, begs the question: At what point does the systematic presentation of half-truths and outright falsehoods about the UFO phenomenon cross the line from incompetent scholarship to intentional disinformation?
As I noted in my last article,given the extremely biased and propagandistic treatment of the UFO subject one consistently finds on Nat Geo, it might reasonably be argued that the network has been working behind the scenes with the CIA to debunk the phenomenon.

This is not some paranoid fantasy. Indeed, the history of the agency’s covert efforts to spin or suppress UFO-related stories, utilizing its contacts in the news and entertainment media, is now well-documented. The policy resulted from the findings of the CIA’s 1953 Robertson Panel, which explicitly recommended using the mass media to debunk UFOs in the interest of national security. Journalist Terry Hansen’s excellent, scholarly book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up,  just republished as an e-book, details the agency’s decades-long use of the television networks, among other organizations, as tools to disinform the American people about the UFO reality.
While it would be nearly impossible to prove or disprove that producers at Nat Geo are in cahoots with the spooks—barring the intrepid efforts of some journalistic sleuth who is willing to ferret out the facts—it can at least be said that those responsible for the ongoing series of UFO “documentaries” at the network are slavishly spouting the agency’s official party-line regarding the supposed non-existence of UFOs, year after year, program after pathetic program. Their reliance on Robert Sheaffer, in particular, as a purportedly objective scholar on the UFO topic, belies either their naiveté or their premeditated participation in a disinformational ruse.
Highly relevant to this discussion is my research into Sheaffer’s affiliation with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) which was previously named The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). As journalist Terry Hansen has argued in The Missing Times, the historical role of CSICOP (now CSI) strongly suggests it has been performing as an intelligence community “front organization”—pumping anti-UFO propaganda into the media without revealing its true source or motivation.
My own findings about Sheaffer’s “skeptical” group—he was a founding member of its UFO Subcommittee—relate to my 39-year investigation of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, as documented in declassified files and military witness testimony. Many years ago I discovered that two of CSICOP’s leading members had professional ties to the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program, something they seemed very shy about publicly discussing in any meaningful way.
Moreover, one of those individuals, James Oberg, once privately harassed a former U.S. Air Force officer, Lt. Robert M. Jacobs, after he openly discussed a still-classified, nukes-related UFO incident in various magazine articles the 1980s. As discussed in my bookUFOs and Nukes and online, Oberg—who had worked as a nuclear weapons researcher and security officer while in the Air Force in the early 1970s—chastised Jacobs, in a personal letter, for releasing “top secret UFO data” relating to the September 1964 Big Sur Incident. This was a very odd accusation indeed, coming from someone whose public, supposedly-skeptical stance is that UFOs don’t even exist.
(According to now-Dr. Jacobs, a UFO had been inadvertently filmed through a high-powered telescope/camera as it paced and then circled a dummy nuclear warhead during a missile test flight at Vandenberg AFB, California. Apparently, four beams of light were seen shooting from the domed-disc to the warhead in rapid succession, whereupon the warhead began tumbling, eventually falling into the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles short of its target. This amazing encounter has been confirmed as a real event by a second USAF officer, retired Major Florenze J. Mansmann, who unequivocally says that two CIA agents confiscated the Top Secret film.)
After Jacobs went public with the story, another leading member of CSICOP/CSI, the late journalist Phillip Klass, engaged in what Jacobs considered to be a thinly-veiled threat by pointedly mentioning, also in a private letter, his close professional associations with two leading figures in the U.S. intelligence community, Admiral Bobby Inman and U.S. Army General Daniel Graham.
Over the years, Klass had been accused of being a government disinformation agent by various UFO proponents. In response, he had always recoiled indignantly and dismissed the charge as nonsense. Interestingly, to my knowledge, never once did Klass openly cite Inman and Graham as associates and personal character references, as he did with Jacobs, when privately pressuring the former USAF officer. Fortunately, rather than being intimidated by Klass and Oberg, Dr. Jacobs eventually released the contents of their self-incriminating letters to him.
A third leading member of Robert Sheaffer’s organization, Skeptical Inquirer magazine editor Kendrick Frazier, published two demonstrably-inaccurate articles about the Big Sur case in an apparently frantic effort by CSICOP to debunk the incident, no matter how badly the facts had to be distorted or completely misstated to achieve the ruse. My documented exposé on the group’s now-discredited, attempted sleights-of-hand may be read at my website.
Significantly, although one will have to search diligently to find information confirming this fact, Kendrick Frazier was employed for over 20 years as a Public Relations Specialist by Sandia National Laboratories—one of the key facilities involved with the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program—during the same period his “skeptical” magazine was repeatedly pooh-poohing UFOs and ridiculing those who reported them. Frazier has even ducked mentioning his longtime job as a government-paid spin doctor in his self-written biography.
So, let’s recap here: Among CSICOP/CSI’s leading members are a former USAF officer (Oberg) who publicly rejects the reality of UFOs but privately chastised another former officer who leaked information about an Air Force/CIA cover-up of one very important case; a journalist (Klass) who publicly ridiculed those who suggested a disinformational motive for his UFO debunking, but privately acknowledged his close professional associations with top-level officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; and a magazine editor (Frazier) who continues to work for a magazine ostensibly devoted to dismissing UFOs on purely scientific grounds but who simultaneously worked as a PR mouthpiece for the U.S. nuclear weapons program for two decades, a position he has avoided mentioning in published references to himself.
In short, Robert Sheaffer’s “skeptical” organization has some very suspicious links to the U.S. government which it has attempted to downplay and even hide from public scrutiny. And this is the group of “UFO experts” that Nat Geo calls upon when seeking a supposedly knowledgeable, objective authority to interview about the nature of the phenomenon, when producing its alleged “documentaries” on the subject.
Whether by design or default, the latest debunking effort by the network is possibly the worst piece of anti-UFO propaganda ever produced by them, comparable to the crudest of the former Soviet regime’s notorious and now-laughable fact-spinning exercises during the Cold War era.
For example, to hear Secret History of UFOs tell it, the reason Americans began reporting sightings of disc-shaped “flying saucers” in the late 1940s is because they had been whipped into a near-hysterical frenzy by sensational news reports in July 1947 relating to the Roswell Incident which, according to debunkers quoted on the program, was in reality the recovery of a secret military balloon-train belonging to Project Mogul, not a crashed extraterrestrial craft, as many now believe.
Dr. David Rudiak, a leading Roswell researcher, says, “Those guys are merely parroting the theory originally adopted by an Air Force counter-intelligence team at the Pentagon in 1994 to thwart U.S. Congressman Steven Schiff’s official inquiry into what happened at Roswell.” Rudiak further notes that the project’s own records confirm that the specific test flight alluded to, Flight #4 on June 4th, had been cancelled due to cloud cover, thereby discrediting the debunkers’ and the Air Force’s claims about its alleged involvement in the now-famous Roswell object debris-recovery operation.
Rudiak explains, “The Air Force also deliberately brought back the two previous flights from the dead, #2 and #3, in order to make a case for #4 being the crash object. In reality, Mogul records unambiguously show these flights were likewise canceled due to high winds and equipment failure. All three flights were therefore written out of the project summaries, as can easily be seen in one image excerpt:

– click image(s) to enlarge –

Note that the summaries instead list Flight #5 as the first ‘successful’ Mogul flight, and it is so-listed in NASA’s records and in an official Air Force history of flight. It cannot account for Roswell, nor can any other real Mogul flight, the fates of which are all well-documented. ‘Flight #4’ is a fiction created in modern times purely to debunk Roswell. How can a nonexistent balloon flight explain anything?”
In spite of this documentation, Robert Sheaffer and the other debunkers continue to assert that misplaced public interest in the supposedly-discredited reports of a recovered flying saucer resulted in thousands of ongoing UFO sighting reports, even decades later, as gullible Americans jumped on the bandwagon. In doing so, Sheaffer and company conveniently fail to mention the U.S. military’s own secret assessment of the mysterious aerial objects, undertaken not long after the Roswell Incident, as revealed in the now-declassified “Twining Memo”, which was only released to the public via the Freedom of Information Act, decades after it was written.
In the late summer of 1947, after a three-month, nationwide sighting wave, Air Intelligence at the Pentagon urgently requested a report on the “Flying Discs”, as the military called them at the time. In response, Air Force Lt. General Nathan F. Twining, Commander of the Air Materiel Command (AMC), based at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, held a conference with personnel assigned to the Air Institute of Technology, the Office of the Chief of Engineering Division, various aeronautical laboratories within the Engineering Division designated T-3, and Technical Intelligence officers. For raw data, these groups used in their evaluations interrogation reports supplied by the Pentagon, containing statements by military UFO sighting witnesses.
Summarizing the input he received from his engineering and intelligence staff, Twining sent a memorandum to Brigadier General George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division, in which he presented AMC’s initial assessment of the unexplained aerial objects. Dated September 23, 1947 and classified Secret, the key portions of the memo are as follows:

1. At the request of AC/AS-2 there is presented below the considered opinion of this command concerning the so-called “Flying Discs”… 2. It is the opinion that:

a. The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious. b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft. c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors. d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically, or remotely. e. The apparent common description of the objects is as follows:

(1) Metallic or light reflecting surface. (2) Absence of trail, except in a few instances when the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions. (3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top. (4) Several reports of well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects. (5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted. (6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots are estimated.

In other words, despite the debunkers’ bogus claims on Secret History of UFOs about the reasons underlying public interest in the supposedly non-existent Flying Saucers—allegedly the result of inaccurate news reports relating to Roswell, coupled with Cold War hysteria and a widespread fascination with the dawning Space Age—in reality, behind-the-scenes, government analysts and officials took the UFO sighting reports by both civilian and military observers absolutely seriously.

Over on Rich Reynold’s site ‘The UFO Iconoclast(s)‘ , Rich speaks about Robert Sheaffer’s “unkept” appearance and how it’s a sign of “unclear” thinking.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but I will certainly see how any such thinking affects his debate. This certainly will be interesting.

After all, this is a thinly veiled attempt by NatGeo to present both sides of the UFO issue and most importantly, make the most money for its sponsors.

ROBERT SHEAFFER’S BOGUS CLAIMS ON  NAT GEO’S “SECRET HISTORY OF UFOs”:  INCOMPETENCE OR DISINFORMATION?

Robert Sheaffer — WTF?

Argentina UFO, NASA Dials “M” for “Avatar?”

South America has its share of anomalous happenings and UFO sightings are at the top of the list.

Here is a photo of an helicopter being shadowed by an UFO.

A case study in primitive air travel?

From Prof. Ana Luisa Cid’s website: Photo of an Argentinean police chopper seemingly shadowed by an unidentified flying object. The image was captured by Santiago Molina on February 4, 2010 in the city of Cordoba.

Argentina: Police Copter and UFO

(I saw a police helicopter last night flying over my house, but no UFO. Rats!)

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Mr. Obama’s FY2011 Budget for NASA left a bad taste in the collective mouths of senators and congress-critters from the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas since it cancels the much underfunded and maligned Constellation Program (which has been touted as a welfare program for engineers in these states).

But one feature of this budget is the significant increase of the money going to unmanned science research, including programs like “Project M“:

NASA can put humanoids on the Moon in just 1000 days. They would be controlled by scientists on Earth using motion capture suits, giving them the feeling of being on the lunar surface. I’d pay to use one.

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Geology Training
Back in the Lunar exploration days, scientists had to tell astronauts what to do up there, and how to identify interesting things during the limited time they had. For Apollo 15, the first mission that carried the Lunar Rover, astronauts were trained in field work by Caltech geologist Leon Silver.

That helped them to move faster and look at the ground with a critical science eye, knowing what they were looking for. The result: Their findings and samples were a lot more valuable to scientist back on Earth, confirming theories that weren’t confirmed till then.

Now imagine these NASA C-3POs roaming our satellite, controlled by all kind of scientists using telepresence suits down here, all looking for interesting things using high definition visors, and able to move just like they would move on planet Earth. It won’t work for Mars, but with a communication delay of only three seconds, it will work beautifully on the Moon.

The 1000-day mark is quite plausible, since the mission would be a lot simpler than a human-based one. It will also be quite cheaper than the real thing. First, you don’t have to care about life support systems, which will make spacecraft manufacturing a lot less complex. The whole system would also weight a lot less, reducing the need for the development of a huge rocket, and again reducing the costs.

What about the human factor I’m always defending? Well, we know that, sadly, we’re not going to get astronauts anywhere any time soon, so this is definitely the best alternative. It won’t be as inspiring as humans going back to the Moon or establishing a semi-permanent colony, but it could have an extremely positive effect on science.

Whoever did this at NASA should put together an actual budget as soon as possible. And while you are at it, make it possible for regular people to use one, maybe at the Johnson Space Center or some selected museums through the world. That will definitely inspire people.

Also there is an agreement between NASA and GM to build humanoid robots for tele-operation missions such as Project M.

Hmm..a way around exploring the Moon with real people? Who knows…

NASA’s Project M Puts Scientists’ Avatars On the Moon

Lost Star Trek Pilot and UFOs of the 19th Century

For all you old ‘Trekkers’ out there, a remastered version of the original Star Trek has been found and will be sold on Blue Ray disk.

As you know, if you’re a ST: TOS geek, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was the pilot version Gene Rodenberry managed to sell to NBC after they rejected the first version (“The Cage”) for being “too” progressive.

Captain’s log, Stardate 1312.4. The impossible has happened. From directly ahead, we’re picking up a recorded distress signal, the call letters of a vessel which has been missing for over two centuries. Did another Earth ship probe out of the galaxy as we intend to do? What happened to it out there? Is this some warning they’ve left behind?

In the briefing lounge, Captain James T. Kirk and Vulcan Science Officer Lieutenant Commander Spock are playing three-dimensional chess. Spock warns the captain that he’s about to checkmate him on his next move, but the captain is preoccupied with awaiting the bridge‘s update on the unexplained Earth-vessel distress signal. The captain notes that Spock plays a very “irritating game of chess”, to which Spock responds with “Irritating? Ah yes, one of your Earth emotions.” Captain Kirk makes a move that surprises Spock, and smiles, to which Spock simply turns to look at him. “Certain you don’t know what irritation is?” Kirk says wryly. As Spock begins to state that despite the fact that one of his ancestors married a Human female, Kirk interrupts him and jokingly chides him, saying it must be terrible to have bad blood like that. Just afterward then, a call comes over the comm. Lieutenant Lee Kelso informs the captain that the object is now within tractor beam range, and that it is only about a meter in diameter, too small to be a vessel. Kirk tells him to lock on to it, and the two of them head out.

SS Valiant recorder-marker

In the transporter room, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott is fine-tuning the transporter, preparing to beam the object aboard. Kirk gives the order, and Scott transports the device into the transporter room. The captain immediately recognizes it as an old-style ship recorder, one that would be ejected in the event of an emergency. Spock agrees, but states that, based on the level of damage the object seems to have sustained, something must have destroyed the ship. Montgomery Scott tries to feed the tapes into the computer, when the marker begins transmitting a signal. Captain Kirk orders red alert, and the crew go to their stations.

This “pilot” version has been broadcast before over the years in various reruns. some of the episodes of the old Trek have been digitally remastered and they look great! None of the flavor of the old special effects is taken away at all.

If you’re a true Trek-geek, this will surely interest you!

Where No Man Has Gone Before (episode)

hat tip

Jules Verne was the consumate speculative science writer of his era and his stories of airships flying about the 19th Century skies surely had folks looking up into the clouds to spot any anomalous seeming ‘balloons’.

Now there has been a discovery of a book of art drawn by an unknown Texan butcher named Charles A. Dellschau, who’s most curious drawings are a subject of debate:

When he died at the great age of 92 in 1923, Texas butcher Charles A. Dellschau left behind a secret and a mystery. These were a series of note books, filled with paintings of fantastic flying machines, which only came to light when his descendants had a clearout. By a process of serendipity they came to the attention of graphic designer and ufologist Peter Navarro. By decoding and translating writings in and around the pictures Navarro pieced together a tale of Dellschau’s involvement in a secret society of inventors living in gold-rush California. He created a vivid cast of over 60 characters, and a range of Heath-Robinsonish flying machine, the Aeros, with names like Aero Goosey, Aero Babymyn, Aero Honeymoon and so on. They were the work of this secret group The Sonora Aero Club, and its even more shadowy backer the NYMZA.

At the time of the discovery of these notebooks in the late 1960s there was much interest among ufologists in the mystery airships of 1896/7, and the tales of mysterious inventors which surfaced at the time. Ufologists had originally seen the airships as early flying saucers and had assumed that they came from outer space, but as they studied the airship stories in more depth and realised that many claimed contact with very terrestrial pilots, so the idea of secret inventors began to grow on some of them.

Among those who took up the Dellschau story was Jerome Clark, who made it the centrepiece of his chapter on the airship in his and Loren Coleman’s The Unidentified. Clark suggested that the mysterious NYMZA were a group of occult initiates building airships at the bidding of ‘the others’ (whether extaterrestrials or John Keel’s ultraterrestrials was never clear). By the time the book was ready for publication, Clark had repudiated this view in favour of para-depth psychological theorising, and tried, without success, to get this chapter recalled.

As shown in this book, attempts to trace the people in the Sonora Aero Club turned out to be fruitless, and Navarro himself, with obvious reluctance, accepted that the story was the work of Dellschau’s imagination. However some of the other people involved including author?/editor? Crenshaw start going deep down into crank territory, with ideas of 26 elements lighter than hydrogen (as hydrogen consists of a single proton and electron its obvious that no chemical element can be lighter, the only ‘element’ which is, is the very short lived positronium, which consists of an electron and positron orbiting each other before they mutually annihilate), and the ubiquitous Viktor Schauberger.

If this is true, it would implicate that almost all of the “airships” witnessed in the late 19th Century skies in Texas were of “earthly” origin and had nothing to do with aliens at all.

Is this misinformation like the ‘triangle UFOs’ of today?

The book of art seems to be real at least.

Maybe the guy was ‘drawing’ from Jules Verne?

The art and airships of Charles Dellschau

hat tip

The Outer Limits: The Choice (1995)

The Outer Limits (1963-1965 and 1995-2002) was a television anthology series that explored various social, psycho-social, technological and historical themes during both of its incarnations. I have posted some of its older episodes here before, but this is the first time I’m posting the later version.

The first season’s episodes seem to be some of the best and the following story puts forth the idea of how contemporary mankind react to beings who might well be our successors on the planet Earth.

Note the similarities to the later X-Men movie series, which took this very idea to the extreme.

I sincerely hope that any species that replaces us on the Earth not only be intellectually superior, but morally superior as well.

Outer Limits (1995) – The Choice (1of5)

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Outer Limits (1995) – The Choice (2of5)

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Outer Limits (1995) – The Choice (3of5)

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Outer Limits (1995) – The Choice (4of5)

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Outer Limits (1995) – The Choice (5of5)

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Watch Mr. Wizard (1951-1965), Mr. Wizard’s World (1983-1990)

Don Herbert (1917-2007) was a pioneer in the television medium after serving in World War II. His show Watch Mr. Wizard started airing on NBC in 1951 and ran for 15 years. His experiments looked a little impossible at first, but he always used a young person to assist him and they usually worked utilizing everyday household items. Herbert won a Peabody Award for the show in 1953.

Again Herbert used the same formula to educate another generation of young people during the 1980s using the nascent cable TV medium. Mr. Wizard’s World ran on cable’s Nickelodeon Network for 8 seasons and ran for another 10 with reruns. My own daughters grew up watching it, mainly with my insistence.

Video clips for both series are hard to find, but I did manage to scrape up a couple of shorts. I’ll list some links that’ll take readers to sources if they want to further research Don Herbert’s career.

I’m certain some of my readers of both generations were influenced by Herbert’s life.

 

Watch Mr. Wizard

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Mr. Wizard’s World

 

Watch Mr. Wizard, MBC Archive

Archive of American Television Interview with Don Herbert (2005)

Don Herbert biography on Wikipedia