There was some depressing news about UFOs today. First, SyFy (formerly the SciFi Channel) has announced a new UFO-hunting TV series starring country musician Billy Ray Cyrus and his son, Trace. Together, the pair will span the country investigating conspiracy theories, aliens, and other unexplained phenomena. The show is to be called UFOs: Unbelievably Freakin' Obvious. From The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog:
"The existence of paranormal phenomena is something I've always wanted to explore further," Cyrus said. "Getting the opportunity to take this adventure with my son, who has always had a keen interest in this area, is a dream come true. I hope this series can shine a light on some of the activities we have questioned, and the mysteries that have long inspired us."
If that weren't bad enough, the author of a new book attempting to "prove" the existence of UFOs wrote an op-ed on MSNBC.com attacking skeptics for attempting to debunk her. Leslie Kean, the author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record writes that organized skeptics are attacking her out of a misguided attempted to preserve "our familiar ways of thinking." Kean's book rests on a shaky foundation: that pilots and government officials are inherently more reliable observers than other people, and that their observations of lights and objects in the sky therefore prove, in the absence of physical evidence, that alien spaceships are sailing through our atmoshpere.
Specifically, Kean felt aggrieved that MSNBC's review by James Oberg was unfair because the space expert did not disclose his membership in the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. According to Kean, those who are skeptial of UFOs cannot legitimately review her book because they are not "unbiased" on the issue--a standard that would deprive the reading public of the kind of perspective and deeper understanding of a work that is the purpose of criticism. Without reviews from those whose views differ from the author, all that remains are puff pieces and unmitigated public relations--in other words, pure advertising.
Of course, that's what Ms. Kean and others like her really want, to write books on controversial topics without being challenged, to forward improbable theories without question, and the take in vast quantities of money from audiences who might never hear or consider that these theories and books are less than they appear. Oddly, this is also the idea behind Cyrus's new show on SyFy. So, MSNBC gave Kean free advertising to make up for their alleged "bias" against UFOs, and SyFy rakes in cash peddling theories that aren't true. Everybody wins, except of course for the audience, science, and truth.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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