UFO Conjectures

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Democratization of Ufology

Do you wonder why some ufologists are so cranky and mean-spirited?

Here’s a clue; a letter in The New Yorker [July 9 & 16, Page 8] from Jon Jeffryes of Madison, Wisconsin:

…archives are a symbol of information elitism – to view those documents you first have to get to [the archives], making…original documents impossible to view for vast numbers of people. Digitization democratizes that information by making it viewable to anyone who can find an open internet connection.

Mr. Jeffryes is referencing an article in the magazine about literary and manuscript archives, but his sentiments apply to ufology, and here’s how…

A few ufologists have, over the years, spent inordinate amounts of time and some monies to get to UFO archives in various venues (Washington D.C., New Mexico, London, et cetera).

The information gleaned was used to create books, to supplement convention appearances, and to create an aura of expertise that the UFO hobbyist didn’t have.

But with much of that archival material now online, and provided by such groups and individuals as Black Vault, Project 1947, NICAP, David Rudiak, Nick Pope, and others, the likes of Stanton Friedman, Kevin Randle, Jerome Clark, et alia have to be non-plussed that their steadfast work over many years has become diminished, and their once lauded expertise – because of that exclusive access to UFO materials – can now be assumed by ufology’s great unwashed masses.

With so much material online – material that was not available just a few years ago to the UFO quidnunc – everyone can now conjecturize about UFO sightings and footnote that conjecturing with actual archival material that relates.

Everyone can now be an expert, and many think they are.

But the UFO old-guard can still maintain a respectable visage, if they come out of their self-created ivory towers and allow a free-wheeling dialogue about UFO issues and information that they used to keep (and still do pretty much) to themselves.

However, this would require a softening of access (to them) and an elimination of hubris that has taken hold of these people – hubris that accumulated because they had information that the rest of us didn’t have, but do now.

UFO stardom no longer exists. The elitists in ufology have been watered down by the internet and the mechanism of blogging. Everyone’s an “expert” nowadays.

This may not be a good thing, but it surely is a lesser evil than having a few self-appointed grandees calling the shots.