Gurstein, Michael on Sat, 12 Nov 2005 01:37:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> FW: [CAnet - news] Has the Internet killed the UFO phenomena?

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf
Of Bill St.Arnaud
Sent: November 10, 2005 3:40 PM
Subject: [CAnet - news] Has the Internet killed the UFO phenomena?

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[From a posting on the SETIleague. Great article on the power of the
blogsphere. Some excerpts -- BSA]

If you're looking for one of those famous, big-eyed alien abductors, try
looking on the sides of milk cartons. The UFO cultural moment in America
is long since over, having gone out with the Clintons and grunge rock in
the 90s. Ironically, the force that killed the UFO fad is the same force
that catapulted it to super-stardom: the Internet. And therein hangs a
tale about how the Internet can conceal and reveal the truth.

It's hard to remember just how large UFOs loomed in the public mind a
mere ten years ago. The X-Files was one of the hottest shows on
television; Harvard professors solemnly intoned that the alien abduction
phenomenon was a real, objective fact; and Congressmen made serious
inquiries about a downed alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico. Still
not enough? You could see the "Roswell" movie on Showtime; you could
play "Area 51" at the arcade; you could gawk at stunning pictures of
crop circles in any number of magazines; and you could watch any number
of lurid UFO specials on Fox or the Discovery Channel. And USENET! Egad!
In the days when USENET was something other than a spam swap, UFO geeks
hit "send" to exchange myths, sightings, speculations, secret documents,
lies, truths, and even occasionally facts about those strange lights in
the sky.

Yet in recent years, interest in the UFO phenomenon has withered. Oh,
the websites are still up, the odd UFO picture is still taken, and the
usual hardcore UFO advocates make the same tired arguments about the
same tired cases, but the thrill is gone. What happened? Why did the
saucers crash?

The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes. If
UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective realities,
the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting them. How long
could the vast government conspiracy last, when intrepid UFO
investigators could post their prized pictures on the Internet seconds
after taking them? How could the Men in Black shut down every website
devoted to scans of secret government UFO documents? How could marauding
alien kidnappers remain hidden in a nation with millions of webcams?

The Internet taught the public many tricks of the UFO trade. For years,
hucksters and mental cases played upon the credulity of UFO
investigators. Bad science, shabby investigation, and dubious tales from
unlikely witnesses characterized far too many UFO cases. But the rise of
the Internet taught the world to be more skeptical of unverified
information -- and careful skepticism is the bane of the UFO phenomenon.
It took UFO experts over a decade to determine that the "Majestic-12"
documents of the eighties were a hoax, rather than actual government
documents proving the reality of UFOs. Contrast that decade to the mere
days in which the blogosphere disproved the Mary Mapes Memogate
documents. Similarly, in the nineties, UFO enthusiasts were stunned when
they learned that a leading investigator of the Roswell incident had
fabricated much of his research, as well as his credentials. Today, a
Google search and a few e-mails would expose such shenanigans in

What the Internet gave, the Internet took away.


The Internet processes all truth and falsehood in just this fashion.
Wild rumors and dubious pieces of evidence are quick to circulate, but
quickly debunked. The Internet gives liars and rumor mongers a colossal
space in which to bamboozle dolts of every stripe -- but it also
provides a forum for wise men from all across the world to speak the
truth. Over the long run, the truth tends to win. This fact is lost on
critics of the blogosphere, who can only see the exaggerated claims and
gossip. These critics often fail to notice that, on the 'net, the truth
follows closely behind the lies. A great many of us accept Internet
rumors and hoaxes in exchange for fast access to the truth.


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