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  • Luis Cayetano

Sludge Report #4

Having recently read Ross Coulthart's well-written and interesting (though, in my view, ultimately flawed) book In Plain Sight, I was also inspired to watch his piece (titled "Out of this world") on the Australian news show "Spotlight". I was struck by something that Coulthart said and that highlights the slippery slope that many who enter ufology become susceptible to (probably quite unconsciously): inverting the burden of proof that we expect in science. In the segment of the show where he discusses a metal sphere in the possession of famous music promoter Jim Marlin, he also mentions the similar Betz sphere (which turned out to be a ball match valve) and that the supposedly extraordinary nature of the latter sphere was "poo-pooed", while the Betz family "never got an answer". Did you spot the inversion? Instead of the Betz family being the ones with the burden of proof for their extraordinary claims, Coulthart is implying that the onus is on other people to "give an answer" to something that that Betzes couldn't themselves prove. In the event, they did receive an answer, just not one that they liked: that the sphere was a mundane industrial object. Anything that exceeds this, such as the sphere being able to follow family members around with some unknown alien energy, is left to the claimant to prove, not the naysayer to disprove. This might seem a minor point of contention, but the precedents for ignoring it are profound and even dangerous. If extraordinary claims become the default positions to which we all defer, simply owing to the say-so of a claimant, this would lead to an epistemological breakdown and crisis, with everyone given carte blanche to invent any "reality" they wanted and never having their claims called to account by the strictures of science. For a good (if snarky) critique of Out of this world, see Charlie Wiser's Three-Dollar Kit piece about it. I agree with Wiser's analysis of this sensationalist and scientifically deficient piece by Coulthart, though I can still recommend the latter's book for anyone interested in the UFO/UAP saga (if only to get a believer's take on the latest developments), albeit with the proviso that obviously I don't think he quite makes his case for the presence of ET on Earth. I may do a proper review of the book at some point, but I will say in the book's favor that it does nevertheless provide some tantalizing leads pertaining to the government/military's historical interest in things like anti-gravity (please check out this absolutely fascinating piece on The Warzone that delves into this history) and how certain important personalities in the national security apparatus appear to have indeed with Tom DeLonge, for whatever that may or may not indicate. Such pieces of the puzzle are certainly intriguing, and Coulthart does at least try to remain skeptical about the more exuberant claims tied to these items, but the book still feels to me like a version of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. The segment in Out of this world about Marlin's sphere, however, is just awkward and self-defeating. It should never have been considered worthy of inclusion in a supposedly serious TV special aimed at getting to the truth about UFOs. As my friend Bryan Sentes has noted, much of ufology is, in a very serious sense, not serious. Coulthart's suggestion that the Marlin sphere may constitute "solid, testable evidence of alien technology" would seem to fall into that category, and hints that Coulthart has crossed over from merely reporting into outright advocacy.

Out of this world. The segment discussing the Marlin and Betz spheres starts at 25:45

On the topic of inversions of the scientific method, I also encountered something like it in a recent YouTube comment section exchange (a particular sickness I unfortunately indulge all too often, against the better advice of other people). The comment section in question is under the The Invisible Night School channel's first video. Unlike Coulthart, the gentleman in question saw fit to engage in a bit of toxicity in his bid to bolster his flagging argument that the 1994 Ariel school incident in Zimbabwe points to ET:

Note how he says that "all the evidence" points to ET. He will later, in the same discussion thread, say that "we don't know what happened" at Ariel. Offered the chance to look at an alternative hypothesis (which he claims he would "love" to see), he then takes the coward's way out by intoning that he could "easily debunk" Wiser's analysis about the incident, which he of course promptly fails to do:

Obviously, "Mr Pickles", who is "certainly open to different theories", doesn't "preclude" hypotheses, and "would love to see what Mr Wiser has to say", proceeds to indulge his own apparent passion, which is to act the asshat and sore loser when he can't sustain an extreme position on the basis of evidence, but such are the responses of UFO fundamentalists when they are challenged with facts. They devolve into pettiness about how other people's names are "interesting" and how these naysayers are nobodies (as though we should somehow be aware of "Mr Picke's" contributions, whatever they might be). Hypocrisy, toxicity and juvenile delinquency run deep in the argumentative style of these "open-minded" believers, most of whom are grown men. It's truly pathetic.

I have long found the Ariel case, and the disproportionately powerful emotional response it provokes in believers, both troubling and distasteful for the fact that adults, who should have known better, were creepily leaning on and leading children to produce answers consistent with a preconceived otherworldly narrative. Just as troubling is when grown adults, such as our friend "Mr Pickles", continue to draw succor from the case and unctuously offer it as proof for ET visitation while ignoring its myriad severe problems and shortcomings. "Oh, so 62 children lied?", such believers will sanctimoniously whine when they're challenged about any aspect of the case (please see the comment section of Robert Sheaffer's blog post, linked below, for examples of just such tear-jerk reactions). Once again, as countless skeptics have already noted: the premise is not that the children were lying, but that they were led to confabulate and average their story by adults (namely the ufologist Cynthia Hind and the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack) with an interest in pushing the alien angle. Believers will also brandish Mack's Harvard credentials in a bid to demonstrate the pedigree of this case and how "well documented" a "fact" it is that it represents a bona fide ET contact event, when in fact the most well documented aspect of it is how shoddily the "investigators" carried out their work - a decidedly terrestrial shortcoming if ever there was once. Charlie Wiser of the aforementioned anti-bunk website Three-Dollar Kit provides a masterful breakdown of the Ariel case and how the tale grew taller in the telling. It is impossible to read Wiser's analysis and still come away with the strong sense that it "had to be aliens".

I also recommend the following 2016 article on Robert Sheaffer's "Bad UFOs" blog, as well as the French skeptic Gilles Fernandez's analysis that Sheaffer summarizes (you will need to enable Google's translation function to read Fernandez's article in English):

In Sludge Report #3, I considered some of the explicitly religious expressions within ufology of flying saucers and aliens as demons and manifestations of the devil and that these motifs are frequently expressed in YouTube comments sections about UFOs. Continuing in that vein, here are some further entries from the comment section of Joe Rogan's interview with Bob Lazar (a podcast episode that has now elicited over forty-three million views and over half a million likes), some of them espousing openly religious messages and others being slightly more down-to-earth.

It is always astonishing to encounter people who genuinely and sincerely believe that the Bible is inerrant, but such positions are nonetheless distressingly common even in the so-called advanced West, at least in the United States (a country known for its unusually high religiosity among the Western liberal democracies), even in this age of super technology where information is quite literally at everyone's fingertips:

On this website I've often criticized and drawn attention to the dangers of white supremacist ideas, but let the black supremacists also have their due, some of whom also push alien narratives, though obviously with the racial hierarchy reversed relative to that espoused by their wayward white counterparts:

I have seen whites referred to as "cave people" by a black supremacist in another context. This might be an allusion to that. Of course, contrary to the commenter's suppositions, there is no evidence whatsoever that any "race" is either divinely or extraterrestrially inspired.

Here we have an assurance that aliens and UFOs are "undoubtedly" fallen angels, despite not a shred of evidence for angels of any sort:

Oddly, this person acknowledges that he suffers from sleep paralysis, yet he doesn't draw the obvious conclusion that visions of demons are also psychologically derived. One might also question why demonically controlled UFOs would "flee" at the mere call of Christ's name. Of course, that they might do so is exactly how someone who believes UFOs are demonic could imagine that they would react - further evidence that some UFO experiences are psychologically derived events.

Sometimes people get things right, but then go completely off the rails with narratives about Jews and Freemasons, who are often the targets whenever a political demonology is being espoused. The Jesuits also often feature as convenient punching bags:

"Order out of Chaos" is a common anti-Semitic trope about how Jews control the world using a Hegelian dialectic of controlled opposition, controlled chaos and warring opposites. Absolutely anyone who does not enjoy the favor of the accuser in this scheme can be labeled as being (whether they know it or not) in cahoots with or outright members of the secret Jewish cabal. This is similar to the pathetic "How much is the government paying you?" retort so beloved among many in the conspiracy crowd when they are presented with tangible facts that run counter to their favored fable.

Now this one is a doozy. It includes Reptilians, Greys, the Galactic Federation and the New World Order:

Jeff may be reading too much Linda Moulton Howe, with her elaborate tales involving alien factions and subterranean wars. A lot of this sounds like it could also be drawn from the musings of Jason Reza Jorjani, another purveyor of Fortean mythology and dubious truth claims. The Galactic Federation is a trope that's done the rounds everywhere from outright fiction to the Contactee movement to the "recollections" of former Israeli space security chief Haim Eshed to the works of Howe to the New Age scene. In the minds of some people, the fact that this item has been widely cited must surely mean that it "has to" have a solid basis - which simply ensures that it will be further repeated and reaffirmed as a core "truth" by believers. This is actually how much, if not all, items within the ufological and paranormal universes became transmogrified as "reality".

Nazi Germany's role in the flying saucer mythos makes an appearance:

There is an element of truth to this, of course, with many pieces of advanced German hardware shipped to the United States and other countries after the war and which formed the basis for subsequent developments in space and military technology. Many of the German scientists and engineers who had worked on the pertinent programs during the war were also pressed into service for their adversaries. However, there is no real evidence that flying saucers were captured by the Allies or that this was an aeroform that the Germans were working on, let alone that anything like what Lazar describes was possessed by the Third Reich. To say that the Germans were working on something capable of using anti-matter and the warping of space-time is to get into Vril territory, which I've dealt with before.

Continuing with Nazis and flying saucers:

The past human civilization trope is a common one in UFO comment sections, and the link to Antarctica also regularly rears its head. This ties to a (as it turns out, inaccurate) story that the US military fought a contingent of German expatriates in Antarctica after WW2 and were repelled by the superior weaponry possessed by the Nazi refugees, including flying saucers. The Nazis did in fact send an expedition to Antarctica in the 1930s, who made a territorial claim there (christened "New Swabia"), but this had nothing to do with flying saucers. Such episodes, and others involving U2 boats, circulated and mutated into tales about an elite Nazi contingent evacuating either on or with disc-shaped craft to the icy southern continent and setting up shop there, in preparation for an eventual Nazi comeback on the world stage. Some of these myths were offered up by science fiction and adventure writers cashed in on the Nazi mystique in the post-war period, and some were actively promoted as fact by neo-Nazi esotericists such as the Chilean fascist, diplomat and practitioner of kundalini yoga Miguel Serrano, who saw in the saucer the potential for Nazi restoration and Aryan redemption. Ernst Zündel, the famous Holocaust denier, also trafficked in flying saucer yarns to garner interest for his repulsive ideas among a younger generation. Many Nazis (including Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS) and later neo-Nazis, were enthusiasts for Atlantis, Hyperborea, Thule and other mythical civilizational centers, from which the Aryan race is imagined having arisen. Perhaps importantly, the commenter casts America as the villain, in which it acts as thief for "Nikola Tesla patents". Tesla's affinity with electricity is also a theme that circulates in neo-Nazi pseudohistory, as the Aryans are sometimes imagined to have been originally electrically inclined beings (given the role of Norse gods such as Thor in Völkisch mythology; these views were especially espoused in the deranged musings of Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List, who spoke of ancient "Theo-Zoa", angel-like beings from which they claim Aryans were descended before their fall and degeneration from interbreeding with "lesser" races. These writers looked forward to the day when the Theo-Zoa could be reconstituted through a careful program of eugenics and genocide, and humanity, thus properly restored to its angel-like nature, could once against tap into the atmosphere for free electricity). The commenter need not be in any way a neo-Nazi to believe in Nazi saucer-themed Antarctic expeditions and underground bases, but this does again demonstrate how tropes that originated as items of neo-Nazi paraphernalia and outright propaganda can easily seep into the wider culture and gain traction.

As religious fundamentalists are wont to do, this person sees a silver lining to the Apocalypse but also weaves it in with pop-culture and in-the-news aliens:

Aliens are seen here as props used by demonic forces to trick us. The commenter does raise the important point about why we don't detect the alien ships coming to Earth (though people who cite "fast walkers" would dispute that), and also that the supposed aliens and their craft seemingly popping in and out of existence is reminiscent of how angels and demons purportedly behave. These themes were picked up by Jacques Vallee in works such as Passport to Magonia to argue against the ET hypothesis and that "aliens" are actually interdimensional entities, while this person is arguing that they are demonic tricksters trying to distract us from Jesus. Of course, he also ends his message with the obligatory Christian fundamentalist sales pitch about eternity.

An interesting "what if:"

But what if Sean were to engage real archeology instead of Hamcock's pseudoscientific offerings? What if he also considered that Lazar might be a fraud who is not telling him about a real flying saucer (except to the extent that it is a likeness of a Billy Meier dinner plate repurposed to look like a "Plejaren" ship) but a yarn with which he's tricked millions of gullible people? There's an irony here, since Sean is at least open minded enough to consider possibilities other than ET; it's just that the item that is the subject of such considerations isn't real, and the open-mindedness doesn't seem to extend to asking whether Lazar, who lied about his MIT and CalTech credentials, might also be lying about having worked on flying saucers.

Phil Schneider is often brought up in discussions about Lazar (this comment also mixes in demons):

Notably - and I mention this because I've been reading about it in S. D. Tucker's excellent recent book The Saucer and the Swastika - The Dark Myth of Nazi UFOs - the idea of "robots" has done the rounds in neo-Nazi esotericism, with Jews and other untermenschen seen as biological abominations or even "robots" in the mere likeness of human beings. The commenter is likely not a Nazi, but, as I alluded to earlier, Nazi motifs have a funny way of seeping into the collective narrative and being cited and resurfaced by people who favor kooky interpretations of events. Ironically, in the minds of many of Lazar's believers, Schneider was assassinated by the government for his "revelations", while Lazar is simultaneously believed to have been let to live by the government because an assassination "would only confirm that what he was saying was true." In other words, the government's response to alien "revelations", whatever this response entails, is used to "prove" what becomes an unfalsifiable hypothesis that they are hiding an alien presence.

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