UFO Conjectures

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ufology: madness, the internet, and hating books

I (and others) have often stipulated that UFO buffs and practitioners of ufology show indications of madness (insanity).

But I  think we have to temper such a harsh criticism of UFO community members.
Michel Foucault, in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason [Vintage Book/Random House, NY, 1965/1988 Page 13 ff.] writes that “Because it symbolized a great disquiet, suddenly dawning on the horizon of European culture at the end of the Middle Ages. Madness and the madman became minor figures, in their ambiguity: menace and mockery, the dizzying unreason of the world, and the feeble ridicule of men.”

“The denunciation of madness (la folie) becomes the general form of criticism.”

“… the madman is comedy of the second degree: the deception of deception, he utters in his simpleton’s language … the truth of life to the young, the middling reality of things to the proud, to the insolent, and to liars.”

“In learned literature, too Madness or Folly was at work, at the very heart of reason and truth.”

For Foucault, odd behavior and bizarre protestations were a matter of foolishness, not a matter of mental disturbance.

Today we see real madness, as when a person shoots masses or people (as in the Orlando episode recently) or when the Nazi’s exterminated millions of Jews, et cetera.

So, ufology follows in the scheme outlined by Foucault for the beginning of how madness came about: folly not mental illness.

Then there is a rumination about the internet in the latest [6/30/16] New Yorker magazine: What it is like to like: Art and taste in the age of the internet by Louis Menand (Page 73 ff.).
Writer Menand, in a “review” of Tom Vanderbilt’s book, You May Also Like [Knopf], also touches on Virginia Hefferman’s Magic and Loss [Simon & Schuster] , writing that “The Internet is the Truman Show [a 1998 Jim Carrey film]. We’re not seeing reality, or even a simulacrum thereof. We’re seeing what the algorithms want us to see.” [Page 73]
“The Internet is the great masterpiece of civilization,” [Hefferman] says, “As an idea it rivals monotheism” And: “If it’s ever fair to say that anything has ‘changed everything,’ it’s fair to say so about the Internet.” [Page 76]

“A lot of the Internet, and especially popular Web sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, and Twitter, is just ugly.” [ibid]

“Ultimate unreadability is part of the aura of the Internet itself, the ‘postmodern sublime.’” [ibid]

Here we see, by way of Mr. Menand’s [Distinguished Professor of English, essayist and critic, author of The Metaphysical Club] insight(s) that the Internet [sic] is the place where many people go for learning and information, faulty as the internet is.

Most of the readers here, not all, resort to the internet for their discourse, rather than books (which I’ll touch on in a moment), while the UFO community, itself, is awash with information from the web rather than information from erudite books.

The internet (not capitalized nowadays per AP’s usage manual for reporters) has become the main refuge for ufologists (UFO buffs), many taking what they find there as gospel, their sop to the monotheism that Hefferman refers to.

And why is this so?
The Times Literary Supplement [for 6/3/16] has a review of William Marx’s La Haine [hatred] de la Litterature [Minuit] by Ann Jefferson [Page 5 ff.] wherein Ms. Jefferson recounts Mr. Marx’s brilliant accounting of how literature and books have been eschewed by people, famous people too: Plato charged poets with falsity, whereas Thomas Aquinas defended the “unreason of figurative language.” [Page 5]

Plato accused poets of mendacity, mostly for their failure of not applying “their lies on behalf of the state.” [ibid]

(I hope my academic buddy Bryan Sentes, a poet himself, forgives me for bringing this up.)

But Marx’s book is not about poetry, but about how the hostility toward literature has proliferated from the ancient Greeks to today. And the Hefferman arguments (above) substantiate Marx’s argument.

UFO buffs often refuse to step outside UFO lore to enlighten themselves.

I get a few recommendations of literature outside UFO lore, but much of it is related to elements that impact the UFO phenomenon (physics, astronomy, et cetera), very little of a liberal arts nature, which often provides a broader perspective that might open the door to an explanation of the UFO phenomenon.

Ufologists may not be mad, just foolish, but they are not very well-read or intellectual I’m sorry to write.

And the internet has become the milieu for supposed erudition by the UFO hoi polloi, sadly.

When Kevin Randle rightly bemoans the state of UFO research, his argument is underpinned by what the books and reviews above recount.

And I’m with him all the way.



  • To go off topic briefly, there is a virtual madness in the UK just now over this question of the EU referendum. The way some people on high are going on, this poor little country will vanish off the face of the earth if the vote goes the wrong way. Just think of that!

    But I will shut up now.

    By Blogger cda, at Thursday, June 16, 2016  

  • CDA:

    In the two books on madness I have, by Foucault, -- the other one is "Madness: The Invention of an Idea" -- Britain is heavily noted as a hotbed of foolishness and real madness, q.v. Bedlam.

    So, I'm not surprised that many are nutty about the pending EU referendum.

    (What is "the wrong way" to vote, by the way?)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, June 16, 2016  

  • RR:

    You are just being provocative! But it's my fault for daring to go off-topic. I must avoid this in future.

    By Blogger cda, at Thursday, June 16, 2016  

  • My response, Christopher, is called "operant conditioning."


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, June 16, 2016  

  • Last night while reading up on various aspects of stellar evolution I came across the evolution of white dwarfs. This led to Chandrasekhar's groundbreaking work and the formulation of the concept of Chandrasekhar Limits back in the 1930s.

    Chandra's work was met with ridicule from Arthur Eddington since Chandra was proposing the existence of black holes as fact vs that of mere theory as proposed by Einstein. Of course, this was in direct opposition Eddington's theory.


    The above book review of Arthur Miller's Empire of the Stars which covered this historic spat between Chandrasekhar and Eddington.

    "History is littered with scientific spats. Disagreement can strengthen a field of research, preventing bad ideas from emerging to the forefront. It can sharpen arguments in support of novel theories and concepts, making them even more compelling. Yet often the thrust of the discussion is distorted by personal prejudices and agendas. And when the intricacies of the social status of the participants is thrown into the mix, the intellectual merit of the different positions can be clouded."

    What can we take away from all of this? Even the highly intellectuals in the scientific community can be paralyzed with bias and personal ego (Eddington). Eddington's influence basically squashed Chandra's work which kept astrophysics stagnated for the preceding 30 years.

    The above a good example of your post's premise.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Thursday, June 16, 2016  

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