Recently, UFO propagandist Leslie Kean had her book on the afterlife adapted as a Netflix series. Her writing partner, Ralph Blumenthal, is about to publish his long-gestating biography of alien abduction researcher John Mack, endorsing Mack’s ideas about reaching a transcendent afterlife through aliens. The pair came to renewed national attention in December 2017 when they revealed the existence of a Pentagon UFO office, a report instigated through the offices of To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, staffed by refugees from both the government office and its major contractor, wealthy UFO believer and hotelier Robert Bigelow’s flying saucer research organization. The relationship between these various data points wasn’t entirely clear until now. Today, the New York Times ran a new piece by Blumenthal rhapsodizing over Bigelow’s newest venture, an effort to prove life continues after death.
Bigelow’s wife recently died, and more recently he founded the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies to hunt for proof of life after death, offering prizes of up to $500,000 for the best evidence this November. (Apparently Kean’s book wasn’t good enough for him.) According to Blumenthal, Bigelow developed his interest in the paranormal as a coping mechanism after his son committed suicide in 1992. He tried to make contact with his son via a psychic. This fed into what Bigelow said had been his interest in flying saucers since he was two years old in 1947.
Now, it is all crashing together, a unified idea of some imaginary better dimension beyond this one where everything is wonderful and perfect. Bigelow helped promote Bob Lazar’s Area 51 claims (the two share a friendship with George Knapp in common), and he funded John Mack’s alien abduction research. He was the longtime owner of Skinwalker Ranch, where he employed Hal Puthoff (now of To the Stars) among others to help hunt poltergeists from other dimensions. Now, he plans to have Leslie Kean serve in his contest as a judge of whether proof of the afterlife is convincing. Like she knows.
The article concludes with Bigelow speculating that space aliens and disembodied spirits are two aspects of the same mystery. “If we see a shadow going through one wall and through another, we don’t know for sure if it was a discarnate human spirit or E.T.,” he said.
Then Blumenthal ends the story by relating his own experience having his glass door crack on January 4, something he wants the reader to feel could be a supernatural warning. I can’t fathom why the New York Times gives him space to blather about these issues regularly, nor why it allows him to write pieces cited entirely to Bigelow’s circle of true believers without even a feint toward neutrality or balance. The bias in the reporting plain, obvious, and embarrassing. By placing these stories in the “Style” section, it seems that the Times feels it can forgo the usual standards of science journalism, since ghosts and aliens are just fun—right up until the QAnon shaman starts using those ideas to justify insurrection, or a crazed bomber in Nashville writes about alien lizard people. It seems even the QAnon misinformation crisis can’t shake the Times of its belief that the paranormal is merely fun human interest, a cock-tease without consequence.
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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