UFO Conjecture(s)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (and Ufology)

This Pulitzer Prize winning book [Vintage Books, NY, 1962-1963] by Richard Hofstadter tells readers that there has been a crusade against intellectuals and why.

(Although author Hofstadter takes to task former Senator Joseph McCarthy, and idol of mine because Senator McCarthy was right about communists and fellow-travelers inside the U.S. government during the Cold War – see William Buckley Jr. and Brent Bozell’s 1954 book, McCarthy and His Enemies -- I still find Mr. Hofstadter’s views to be brilliant and insightful, about anti-intellectualism in America, which can be applied to anti-intellectualism in Ufology).

Hofstadter  writes this:

“America was settled by men and women who repudiated European civilization for its oppressiveness or decadence … and who found the most striking thing on the American strand not in the rude social forms that were taking shape here but in the world of nature and savages. The escape from civilization … was perpetuated in repeated escapes from East to West, from the settled world to the frontier.” [Page 49]

One can see this attitude, today in the heavy settling out West by ufologists adorned in western gear (string ties, boots, and denim).

Alexis de Tocqueville, perhaps the greatest explicator of American society [Democracy in America, 1835], is cited by Hostadter:

“Tocqueville saw that the life of constant action and decision which was entailed by the democratic and businesslike character of American life put a premium upon rough and ready habits of mind …” [Page 50]

And the prominent British writer D.H. Lawrence said, “in one of his harsh, luminous hyperboles that the essential American soul is ‘hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.’” [Page 49]

This is the temper of most UFO writers and their devotees, I’m sorry to say.

Hofstadter blames religious evangelism for much anti-intellectualism in America, but if ufologists are religious-oriented, that hasn’t protruded in their writings or commentary, as far as I see it.

Ufologists and fellow-travelers (buffs) seem to be agnostic when it comes to placing UFOs in a religious milieu. Abductees who’ve created a religious patina to their experience have, generally, been eschewed by UFO “researchers.”

The crudity of observational comments at this blog and even more so at other blogs evidence how shallow the ufological mind is.

Placing anything with gravitas online here (or elsewhere) brings forth a silence that is palpable.

Any insertion of something devoid of crash and burn or dynamic, hyped reportage goes uncommented.

UFO mavens want bread and circus accounts.

The vapid arguing at Kevin Randle’s blog tells me (and others) that UFO hobbyists want to argue rather than seek an explanation of what a sighting means or what UFOs as a phenomenon are.

Hofstadter writes that the cult of anti-intellectualism “was not a variation … of a universal problem of modern societies, but a case of utterly unique pathology.” [Page 412]

That persons interested in UFOs seem prone to pathologies can be readily seen in their commentaries, with UFO writers and investigators showing marked symptoms of addled minds. (Need I name them?)

Intellectuals conformed, ideologically, to survive the onslaught of anti-intellectualism [Hofstadter, Chapter XV, Pages 393-432].

But intellectuals in ufology acquiesce to the mob, and descend to writing in ways (me included) that the great UFO unwashed can understand.

Bruce Deusing doesn’t acquiesce. He challenges readers of his blog and says “to hell with your stupidity, I’m not going to water down my views for you.”

But he’s a UFO loner.

Ufology and the UFO topic have suffered grievously by intellectuals abandoning their cachet of intelligence.

The UFO hoi-polloi took hold of the topic and phenomenon in the era that Hofstadter addresses, the 1950s and 1960s, when intellectualism was shunned and attacked.

We, in the UFO community, have never recovered from that.

The topic is festooned with hokeyisms and folk-tales, not real investigation or research.

Hyperbole, myth, and outright lies (or errors) prevail.

The problem is endemic to American society, and societies elsewhere as well.

So, there you have it: one of the reasons that UFOs, as an important ingredient in human society, are moribund, on life support.

RR

9 Comments:

  • I think Ufology is a walking dead,, closed social system that is largely self referential and can only study itself by it’s own terminology..
    It has completely marginalized and isolated itself. For what? The mind boggles at that answer. Its a nutritional-less diet soda because most are only capable of an easy read.
    It’s turned rancid and even the most curious have turned into closet skeptics.
    If there is any research or study that will place UAP in it’s proper context, it will be from outside of the various schools of UFO evangelical pursuits seeking adherents whose theories are not open to other areas of theoretical studies or pursuits..
    The second issue is the attempt to make a complex problem simple, popular and a basis for aggrandizement, entertainment, and politics. A circus of “personalities” pushing each other out of the way to climb a hill of bat shit.
    The result is incoherent nonsense. Noise, babble, gossip...a refuge for mass media raconteurs who like to hear the sound of their own voices. Its moribund.
    The question of “UFO’s” has always been formulated in one form of propaganda versus another based on a narrow range of considerations that, over time, have dried up like leftovers in the freezer because they are so limited and are so narrowly focused and are rapidly receding into the past, because it was a social movement….seeking a club..which only has an equally small amount of material that is endlessly recycled and from my own perspective has become the realm of historical archivists because it’s dead, entropic and an “empty canal”

    Is the topic worthwhile? Yes, only if other areas of research can better triangulate what it is but the majority are incapable of this as ironically they prefer the familiar, what they already know onto a subject that is incommensurable to current knowledge.
    If that ins't ironic, I don't know what is.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, December 10, 2014  

  • I simply find the circular arguments to be mind numbing. Nothing seems to be agreed upon, even the most mundane points are not subject to compromise.

    We are simply entrenched in our own belief systems whether hoisted on the shoulders of facts or myth.

    I'm running into this approach on another forum, again mind numbing and frankly a totally waste of time. Time that's lost to eternity.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Wednesday, December 10, 2014  

  • > William Buckley Jr. and Brent Bozell’s 1954 book, McCarthy and His Enemies

    The New York Times: "One may legitimately doubt their objective approach, however; the authors have consulted with Senator McCarthy, but it is not known that they have consulted with General Marshall or any of the other 'enemies' of the title... So, in sum, what have we here? We have a bald, dedicated apologia for 'McCarthyism'..."

    Sounds like the MO of a UFO book, doesn't it?

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • [A voice from Canada chimes in:]

    Rich, your topic may be too ambitious for a single blog post. Even so, it is worthy of research. It has been noted in several places that beginning in the 20th century, America has been uniquely anti-intellectual and paranoid (the subject of another excellent book by Hofstadter).

    Biblical creationism in the States is particularly crass when compared to the theistic evolutionists of the 19th century. Alien abduction went from being an awe-struck tale of scientific contact (the Hill case) to a horror show of inescapable sexual perversity (David Jacobs). And of course there's the guns: how can a nation not engulfed in civil war find a way to shoot so many civilians every year?

    As a Canadian, whose culture is closest to the American one, I am constantly astonished by what you all get up to down there. And I can't explain it, either, even though I have read many more books about your country than about my own.

    Anyway... I can recommend an excellent academic work about American paranoia and UFOs: A Culture of Conspiracy -- Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by political scientist Michael Barkun (a second edition was released in 2013).

    http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520276826

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • Thank you Terry.

    You and Paul Kimball are almost Americans, because of your incessant interests in this country.

    I'd prefer to be Canadian, a country of beauty and truly nice people.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • As for McCarthy, his accusations were apt, as the Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss affair, before the Senator's "assaults" took place, showed.

    Here is more:

    http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/15223-the-real-mccarthy-record

    And a book I also recommend:

    http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-McCarthy-Reexamining-Americas-Senator/dp/0684836254

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • [I realize you won't post this but I thought I'd drop a note the anti-intellectualism of UFO-nuts...]

    UFOlogy as practiced by the "masses" is only a different kind of religion rather than itself being an "intellectual" pursuit separated from religion. The "UFO(il)logical faithful" will swarm around any one that can give "meaning" and "excitement" and "magic" to their otherwise meaningless lives.

    The real "sharks in the water" are the people that are feeding off of their "co-religionists" either for monetary reward, ego strokes, or in quite a number of cases monetary reward.

    The serious researcher's primary goal has always been intellectual satisfaction and the expansion of human knowledge.

    On the other hand the "sharks", such as the "Roswell 'Sliders'" are all about fame, fortune, and accolades. When the firework show fades they'll all move along down the road to a new deception [or dellusion as the case may be].

    By Blogger gishzida, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • Gishzida...

    Why wouldn't I post this? It's insightful, full of truth and accurate observation.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

  • Billy Cox recently wrote a post about the low turnout for UFO symposia that feature academics rather than bomb throwers. The commentors there, of course, blame it on the MSM and media "control" by corporate powers -- nothing much about UFO fandom's lack of interest in scientific rationalism.

    http://devoid.blogs.heraldtribune.com/14973/too-good-to-be-forgotten/#comment-212653

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Thursday, December 11, 2014  

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