There is a phenomenon happening in ufology, specifically, podcasts are creating a new golden age. In the absence of the UFO wave’s common of past decades and emerging from the automaton internet searching and the trolls of social media, this down to earth and humanizing modality for sharing information is connecting storied and amateur ufologists alike.
The golden age of ufology. Following the wave of international UFO incidents in the mid-1960s, islands of young peers and personalities were embracing ufology across the country. Gene Steinberg, Yonah Fortner, Jim Mosely, Tim Beckley, Luscious Fairish, Jerome Clark, Don Ecker, etc. were not only tracking ufo’s and interacting with each other, but also directly interacting with, and in some cases very close to, the people and events which contributed directly to the official narrative of the day. During this golden age, networking and communication between parties associated with or interested in the UFO phenomena were far from what we think of today with Facebook, Meetup, LinkedIn, and the like. Handwritten letters and original content either contributed or self-produced, cross-pollinated through these more sincere and credible modalities than that of the weaponized anonymity of the internet and social media. These islands and their inhabitants would not only continue to see UFO activity but also witness the birth of a global phenomenon which would terraform our very culture. Science, math, medicine, government, every institution, including the religions of the world, will be influenced in some way by these new experiences; the ufo was here to stay. These once disparate islands of ufology would begin to connect and collaborate in ways which lead to the birth of an industry.
The first social network in ufology. As a young man, Lou Fairish routinely gathered newspaper clippings and distributed them to this early pioneering community. This level of commitment is rare today, and “situational awareness” in the time of snail mail must have been maddening. Formal magazine articles, such as the Interplanetary Intelligence Report by Haden Hewes, the Flying Saucer Club News Department, a column in the publication Flying Saucers by Ray Palmer, Interplanetary News Service by a young Tim Beckley, UFO Magazine ran by the Eckers, Saucerian Bulletin by Gray Barker, and at The UFO Reporter, Steinberg et. al. were producing not only new content but archives and records which contain the very lore of modern ufology. Of special note is an obscure article series called “Extraterestrailism as a Historical Doctrine” conjured by Yonah Fortner which describes the reasoning and the true introduction of the ancient alien theory which Erich von Daniken would exploit many years later. During the 1960’s James- “Rupert Murdock”-Moseley opportunistically bought out many of these “saucering” periodicals with mixed financial results for all involved. It is difficult today to image meeting the pioneering equivalent of J. Allen Hynek, Stanton Friedman, or even Major Donald Keyhoe for coffee, hanging out at conferences, or in some cases stopping by their house. Remember this is a period when Hynek and Vallee were collaborating on books together! A vanguard such as these early investigators and young devotees may never be assembled in such a way again.
Content is King. Modern ufology in the age of the internet has created a ravenous appetite for the subject matter. This is most notably observed in the amount of YouTube videos dealing with all things extraterrestrial. This is, of course, one edge of the technology sword, propagation of false information goes unchecked, and hoaxes are harder than ever to discriminate. Recently author D.W. Pasulka through her new book American Cosmic introduced me to the “In The Field” project (Facebook) which is an international collaboration of professional videographers, photographers, and computer graphic specialists who look into the digital evidence of the UFO phenomena in a mission to aid serious ufology and preserve data integrity. Pasulka describes the paradox of Scott Brown, who is both the creator and moderator of the ITF group but also an experiencer, stating “they provide a public service…they identify hoaxes” but the ability to discriminate between digitally altered data from true metadata is becoming almost impossible. Content, either real or fabricated, is in demand and technology can no longer be trusted to offer clues to the profound implications of the ufo phenomena. There simply is not enough credible content in relation to the ease of consumption and distribution modes available today.
There are just not enough of the “A” list personalities to go around. It is true; it is harder to get interviews with the personalities and researchers in the age of the ufo “CON” or conferences. Cons are planned by visionaries but unfortunately, attendance includes a divisive industry which supports these spectacles, and in the age of armchair ufologists, it would not surprise me if Lazyboy sponsored a booth and maybe even a speaker or two. At a Con, one can see frauds sitting right next to dedicated scientists. Yes, I said scientists, if one looks past the conservative to a fault mentality of uppermost tier of academia today, you will find many researchers who are trained in the arts of science, in fact statistically I posit that there are more appropriately trained participants and observers in ufology today than ever before. This population is actually growing and includes the likes of Abraham Loeb, professor and chair of astronomy, and Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral scholar, at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who together offers an extraterrestrial origin to the recently detected first known interstellar object Oumuamua, which was slingshot around our galaxy in 2018. These are the names on the true “A” list for any serious researcher.
Trolls are real. Recently I participated in a forum where a member suggested that amateur ufology was watering down the field, and in so many words conveyed a sense that ufology had somehow failed? Ironic comments in the age of the internet and streaming content, the arm-chair ufologists and the modern troll are now firmly a part of modern ufology, and may always have been in one form or another. The ufo industry is unavoidable today and has more “followers” than at any point; sure we still have no hard proof (many would disagree), but in terms of the paradigm which views man as the sole inheritors of the universe, well that has been flipped completely on its head. That’s progress in my opinion.
Podcasts and a new golden age for ufology. Hearing the human voice, actually listening to a conversation, is grounding and forms connections. The podcast process is a disruptive technology which elegantly reintroduces us to the art of debate and storytelling. The audience can also become a “stakeholder” in the narrative through the purchase of a subscription which allows access to forums and question banks both before and after the content is released. These new platforms provide access and a level of participation in the narrative at an unprecedented speed and scale. Podcasts also provide a digital record of opinions, observations, theories, and data which become a part of the personal archive of the listener. During the golden age, new content needed to be sought out by the researcher. In the age of the netcast and web syndication, content is pushed literally into our pockets.
Over the past two decades, Hollywood has been hard up for content, the usual formulas for a successful film broke down, society had changed in a way that the old guard of our imaginations was now uninformed and out of touch. At this same time, we see the refinement of CGI which was becoming literally indistinguishable from real video. The studios, treading water, looked into the well of the comic book to provide original content and access to a consumer who wanted to believe. Similar to James Moseley, the opportunistic executives would begin to consolidate the “rights’ to our imaginations. Ufology, through similar motives, continues to be exploited, and the well of content that podcasting has compiled is now well within the gaze of these same overt forces. The Podcast has brought ufology out of a rut of dogma and hijacked the narrative back from Hollywood and the blue chicken cults looking to exploit the experiences of the few who have been deeply impacted by the ufo phenomena. Podcasters have shown resourcefulness, a drive, in facing the vastness of cyberspace. Similar to the early islands of ufology these storytellers and researcher face the challenge of connecting, forging, and maintaining a network, an audience, that is literally now global. This is a reciprocating phenomenon however, once identified, ufologists, across all demographics, can easily sample and contribute to the content that is specific to their own research and interests. New content can then be distributed all around the planet, at the speed of light; how alien is that? I have only scratched the surface in terms of the possible implications of the podcast phenomena, but the measurable data has shown that ufology is experiencing a new golden age of activity.