This morning I read an interesting diatribe by the pseudonymous Annoyed Librarian in the Library Journal in which he criticizes the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville, Penn. for inviting longtime UFO researcher Stan Gordon to deliver a presentation on flying saucers at the library. The presentation occurred on Saturday, and it isn’t really the kind of thing I’d comment on except that I couldn’t get over the title of Gordon’s book: Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook.
Gordon claims to have been involved in ufology since 1959, and his reputation rests on his “investigation” of the 1965 Kecksburg UFO “crash.” Although mainstream sources attributed the fireball seen December 9 of that year to a meteor or to a failed Soviet satellite, Gordon believes that a spacecraft shaped like a beehive (or a turd, frankly) crashed in Pennsylvania. The programs Nazi UFO Conspiracy (2008 on Discovery, now airing on American Heroes) and Ancient Aliens (S04E09, 2012) claimed that the craft was in fact a Nazi time machine that moved forward from WWII to 1965 before exploding. The Science Channel’s Dark Matters (2011) concurred, but thought it was more likely due to Nazi antigravity technology rather than time travel. Still: Flying space Nazis.
Gordon, of course, uncovered no actual UFO wreckage despite becoming famous for investigating the case and appearing on dozens of conspiracy-oriented TV programs, including—and this is only a partial list--Unsolved Mysteries, Inside Edition, A Current Affair, Creepy Canada, Alien Mysteries, Close Encounters, etc. He is always discussing material from his heyday in the late 1960s to the early 1970s, before the conspiracy apparently clamped down on the truth.
But what interests me is the way Gordon’s ideology has gradually transformed along with conspiracy culture in general. Beginning a nuts-and-bolts UFO investigator looking for metal fragments of physical craft, he gradually expanded his conspiracy to include government cover-ups, the paranormal, and, of course, Bigfoot. Last year he participated in the filming of two Bigfoot films, one a docudrama and the other a documentary, and he also was a key speaker at—and I didn’t know this existed—the Mothman Festival, an entire festival devoted to the “mystery” of a monster that was almost certainly an owl.
According to Gordon, Bigfoot isn’t just a hairy ape-like creature but is instead intimately connected to space aliens: “there may be more to the Bigfoot mystery than a flesh and blood explanation.” (Here is a link to an interview in which Gordon and Jeffery Pritchett explore whether Bigfoot is a space alien or, but of course, a Biblical Nephilim-giant; as I have learned the Nephilim-Watchers myth is the centerpiece of all fringe history.) The U.S. government is, naturally, deeply interested in the Bigfoot question as one way of learning more about the space aliens they’ve been trying so hard to cover up. In so doing, Gordon hits a number of the key defining traits of conspiracy culture: that “mysteries” are all connected, that the government is conspiring to suppress the truth, and that there is a discoverable hidden reality to UFOs. His website homepage currently features a computer-generated image of a green-eyed Bigfoot emerging from a flying saucer.
Of course you know this was all anticipated by the Looney Tunes, who placed Gossamer the Hair Monster in outer space and under the control of Marvin the Martian in Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24½th Century (1980), a made-for-TV cartoon. It is not one of Warner Bros. best efforts, clearly because this was the conspiracy engaging in its penchant for spilling the beans by making its Bigfoot plans known. The Hair Monster had previously been a Frankenstein-like creation of mad scientists modeled on Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff in his two classic-period appearances in Hair-Raising Hare (1946) and Water, Water Every Hare (1952).
Gordon is currently on a library tour, in fact, spreading his message of a Bigfoot-UFO-government conspiracy to audiences across Pennsylvania. This is where Annoyed Librarian took issue with the ufologist’s desire to deliver his message not just to audiences that sought out his uniquely Looney Tunes view of Bigfoot but to public library patrons under the imprimatur of the libraries. Annoyed Librarian sees this as parallel to the decay of the History networks into the aliens and conspiracy channels:
And this sort of thing is at a library why? It seems to me that when a library is hosting a speaker who wrote Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook, there’s a serious disconnect from the mission of providing reliable information.
Here’s where I am of two minds about this. Are libraries intended to curate information for the purpose of public education, or are they designed to provide access to multiple points of view even when they are wrong? My gut reaction is to say that if a local author wrote a book, then it seems like the library ought to offer a venue to talk about it, but on the other hand we all know that there are obvious limits that libraries would never cross. They won’t let a Neo-Nazi present a speech on anti-Semitism, nor would they offer racists a platform for arguing the inferiority of various races. So at some level, libraries aren’t simply offering their floor to all comers.
This is also the reason that the History and H2 claims, expressed directly to me last year, that they simply offer a platform for their talent’s various points of view ring so hollow. They aren’t public access TV, and obviously, they’d never broadcast a show denying the Holocaust, advocating the Black Supremacist movement (yes, it’s a real thing), or calling for a communist revolution, even though all of these claims have supporters. When you look at the American Heroes Channel—a poor man’s History Channel circa 2001—you see programs (just last night) about the quest to find Noah’s Ark, the spear that pierced Christ, and the hunt for the Garden of Eden—but not shows about why Hinduism is the one true faith, or the quest for Xenu’s volcano. So they are making choices of some kind—based on perceptions of the audience’s attitudes and values.
Are libraries more like TV networks, playing to popular prejudices, even when those ideas—like Bigfoot’s UFO taxi service—are scientifically unsupportable? Or are libraries curated forums designed to educate the public—and if so, who makes the decisions about what they should teach? These aren’t easy questions, especially when we realize that as far as the audience—the public—is concerned, having a speaker at the library is a de facto endorsement of the speaker, no matter how many disclaimers you issue.
So what I have learned from all of this is that the idea that Bigfoot rides in a flying saucer is not just a stupid Ancient Aliens episode but an apparently established part of conspiracy culture. Will wonders never cease?
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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