Last night [Sunday, May 12, 1996], the Arts and Entertainment channel unveiled their current entry in the UFO information spin war. Called "Where Are All the UFOs?", it was an odd mix of straightforward reporting and debunkery, certainly not designed with the UFO enthusiast in mind. This program followed on the heals of an even less encouraging program aired on the Learning Channel a few nights ago, which seemed intent on destroying any semblance of objective UFO reality. Both programs leaned heavily on research and opinions of Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger, who has become the chief spokesperson for the notion that the human brain can and probably does produce all the elements of "alien abduction" internally, without any help from real aliens. Many abductees and UFO researchers might beg to differ, of course.
The Hollywood newspaper "Variety" ran a fair review of A&E's program on Friday, May 10, written by John P. McCarthy. That text follows.
CNI News says: Let no one suppose that the truth about UFOs will be found out without a protracted, bitter and confusing struggle. We've got a long way to go.
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - "Where Are All the UFOs?" Answer: Firmly lodged in the public imagination and perhaps even in the makeup of the human brain, but nowhere else, according to the hard evidence.
The A&E special gives a good historical overview of "flying saucer" phenomena while debunking at every turn.
The approach taken in the two-hour program is far from dry, however. Producer-director Scott Paddor hedges with a hyperbolic tone. Skepticism of the title question is undercut by sensationalized set-ups and transitions delivered by narrator Michael Dorn (Star Trek's Worf).
For example, after claiming there's little substance to reports of alien visitations, the question is begged: "Where then do these aliens come from?"
The documentary's strength is in describing how historical perspective determines such stories or sightings. They are shaped by a specific world view and reflect contemporary, local concerns. UFOs and aliens are our version of angels, goblins and leprechauns.
Orson Welles' 1939 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" was a watershed, but the term flying saucer wasn't coined until 1947, when pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen 9 skipping disks over Mt. Rainier. Perhaps the most intriguing incident occurred that same year in Roswell, N.M., where the crash of a UFO was allegedly covered up by the Air Force.
Photo analysts demonstrate that the vast majority of sightings are atmospheric anomalies or human hoaxes. [However, two photo cases -- McMinnville, Oregon (1950) and Trindade Island (1958) -- are acknowledged as impressive and unresolved - ed.]
During the '50s and throughout the Cold War, the UFO craze was fed by popular magazines, books, movies and rallies (some connected to the anti-nuclear movement).
A Canadian neuroscientist [Michael Persinger] tries to explain away abduction stories -- which tend to share a scenario and include strikingly similar descriptions of aliens -- using the brain's anatomy and electrical patterns.
One self-proclaimed abductee can hardly keep a straight face. Another describes his abductor as dressed "like a Greyhound-bus driver." [Actually, these are references to several flamboyant contactees of the 1950s, who are certainly protrayed as ridiculous. - ed]
The more recent phenomenon of "crop circles," which has spawned magazines such as "The Cerealogist," is revealed to be a hoax perpetrated by crop circle artists. Still, a sliver of credence is given to a handful of occurrences that have never been adequately explained, including one in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C.
[The program contains] an abundance of clips and interviews skillfully pieced together [and] ends on a hopeful and scientifically viable note, showing efforts to receive communications from other life forms in the universe. "Science tells us to expect distant, not close encounters."
Diehards will be unmoved, while curious and impartial viewers will have their hopes raised and dashed. UFOs say more about human nature than extraterrestrials, so "Where Are All the UFOs?" necessarily leaves the door open for belief in alien visitations. But just a crack.
Produced by Greystone Communications for A&E Networks. Executive producers, Craig Haffner, Donna Lusitana, Michael E. Katz; producer, Scott Paddor; coordinating producer, Lois Yaffee; director, Scott Paddor.
Original file name: CNI - A&E debunks UFOs 5.13
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