The MoD UFO files release, the Sun & the 2008 UK UFO *Wave*
Spreadsheet Now Available Of TNA/MoD UFO Files Release (index)
Joe McGonagle (UK-UFO.org) while not only being one of the people originally responsible for petitioning the MoD to such an extent it was deemed easier to just release ALL of the files has taken it upon himself to organise a team of UK UFO researchers to catalogue the recent TNA MoD UFO files release.
It was almost impossible to have missed the furore regarding the MoD release of their "UFO files" back in May as it was all over the web, the television and the media for several weeks. The event was covered by many different authors at many different venues in many, many different countries. The relentless media coverage (especially in the UK ) was unparalleled for a UFO related story as for at least a few days in May 2008, UFOs certainly went mainstream.
I personally think the recent and dramatic increase in UK UFO sightings reports is related in most part to the recent MoD release. I also think we are still seeing the results of the media's relentless pushing of the UFO phenomenon into the limelight and subsequently onto what appears to be a wholly unprepared public. Many of whom it seems were previously and blissfully oblivious to some of our (permanent) celestial neighbours. And of course due to the current favourable climate for UFO stories it seems if any and all are published without so much as a second thought regarding the content much less the consequence.
I feel that the recent MoD release undoubtedly must be considered as a contributory factor to the recent, “2008 UK UFO Wave” as it has been called.
Have a look at the following table, it involves the majority of the online coverage that the MoD UFO file release cultivated, and I've only included the 13th May to the 17th May (with the 14th May being the official release date).
UK UFO MoD Related File Release - Mainstream Media Articles 13th May 2008
As you can see there was a staggering 50+ media reports posted on the internet in just four days, just about the MoD release!! And the links above were by no means every article posted but only the more widespread ones as they were among the first results returned when searching for information on the MoD release.
Many of the articles were accompanied by online media including quite a few audio and video reports. Most of the videos (as usual) were a disappointment with the majority of these reports usually accompanied by the inevitable X-Files theme and a smirking reporter, occasionally deviating to include excerpts from 'War Of The Worlds' and even The Carpenters classic 'Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft' but the general coverage has been the same as we've seen for years. Of course there's the odd exception that proves the rule but as ever these have been few and far between.
BBC Newsnight Report on UFO sightings - and Crop Circles
Rare interview with Doug Bower, who along with his friend Dave hoaxed many crop circles in the UK and are generally credited by the UK media with hoaxing the vast majority (if not all) of the early crop circles with wooden boards and wire eyelets attached to their caps......
BJ Booth, the owner of UFOCasebook.com has published a list of articles (as well as the actual articles themselves) at a webpage dedicated to the recent spate of UK UFO sightings. Again while these certainly represent the vast majority of the reports that have been reported via online media it still isn't every one of them.
Here are a couple of (obvious) points regarding the massive increase of UFO reports I want to make:
For the whole month of April and the first 14 days of May there are only five UFO reports listed.
On the 14th May the coverage of the MoD UFO file release began in earnest.
Then for the remaining 16 days of May there were as many reports as the previous 6 weeks combined.
Then in June there are 10 UFO reports listed (with one of the links detailing four reports).
So we can see that the amount of reports being published by the online media has doubled from the previous month since the files were released.
Then in July there's 31 UFO reports listed (with 3 of the entries totalling 14 reports when combined).
So in total there are over 40 separate UFO reports listed for July.
At the time of writing (2nd August 2008) August only has the first day covered yet there are 3 UFO reports already listed.
Just a brief appraisal of this data certainly seems to suggest that the MoD file release was a pivotal point in the increase of UFO sightings being reported and subsequently covered by the online media as well as in a a lot of cases their physical counterparts (newspapers). Of course it's not quite as simple as that but it's very probable that the MoD release influenced the increase in reports to a large extent.
I believe that the massive press coverage raised UFO awareness amongst the general public, this could have resulted in more eyes than usual turned to the skies or even just a higher level of awareness as regards the possibility of seeing something unidentified.
This results in more reports than normal being made and also when these reports would normally have been ignored they are instead picked up and published by the national media as the current climate is (albeit temporarily) more sympathetic towards the whole UFO issue. This is due solely to the current high levels of interest shown by the public, which is in turn down to the frenzied media coverage of the MoD UFO file release in the first place.
A self-perpetuating myth, such as the UFO phenomenon has always produced?
This in turn results in public awareness being raised even further as for a change quite a few of the media reports suggest there is substance to some of the sightings (as misleading as it may be). In turn more people are keeping an eye to the sky resulting in more misidentifications, more reports etc. etc. etc.
Of course it certainly doesn't help when a national UK newspaper such as the Sun take it upon themselves to single-handedly drag the entire phenomenon back into the dark ages with their ridiculous assertions, quotes from random UFO experts and basically just ethically questionable journalism. But to be honest the Suns recent gutter-press approach coupled with their sensationalistic and fanciful stories relating to UFO reports is no big surprise, in fact it's far from it as at the beginning of 2008 they published a highly suspect picture that carried Nick Pope's official ‘endorsement.'
I wrote a little about this at the time and was as follows:
The following is from an online UFO report posted by "The Sun" UK newspaper at the end of last year (2007).
Nick Pope, one of Britain 's foremost UFO experts, said the photo was one of the best he had seen, Nick, formerly the official Ministry of Defence UFO analyst, said:
“If I was still there I'd be looking at this very closely. The object looks structured, symmetrical and metallic. This man has caught something very interesting indeed."
Michael Soper, of the Contact International UFO group, agreed:
“This does appear genuine. Digital photos can be doctored but everything about it appears consistent.”
To be honest, I find its strange that this image is being touted as, “One of the best” as even if you squint and tilt your head slightly it appears to show a gull, and regarding, “ The object looks structured, symmetrical and metallic ” perhaps this was a quick glance that the former MOD, “Analyst” Nick Pope cast over the image as I personally fail to see any of the features described.
Eye of the beholder?
It seems that there really is no happy medium with the tabloids, the UFO subject is either ridiculed and mocked, or blatantly dubious images are touted as absolute proof, is it any wonder that the uninformed public weigh and measure the subject and more often than not find it wanting?
Thanks to UK UFO investigator/researcher Jenny Randles for the lead and I believe Jenny also sums up the widely perceived problems regarding the MoD, also alluding to the reason why the media jump on sightings such as this (with seemingly prosaic explanations) and perhaps more importantly why prominent UFOlogists appear to pander to their whimsical and fleeting interest (when not misquoted).
"My bet is they (the MoD) will turn out to have been just as hopeless as the rest of us as at this tricky business. Indeed I suspect that you need many years of battle hardened study of the data before you see the basic issues involved and can talk yourself out of the romanticism that surrounds the evidence. Especially amidst the siren calls of the media who mostly only want to hear you say exciting stuff not find explanations.....Nobody working with the MoD had this depth of continuity to get to the point where they saw the subject in all of its complexity (and at heart, its simplicity).”
I'm sure you'll agree it's quite an insightful quote from Jenny Randles who along with myself and no doubt many others contacted the Sun newspaper to inform them of what appeared to be a glaring error of judgement in declaring the image as anything other than a bird. This apparently fell on deaf ears as no acknowledgement was received and no amendment to the original article occurred. And to further display they have no desire or need for facts before reporting on a story, the Sun published a similar image of a ‘Blurfo' within a few days of the earlier image, claiming it was shot at a similar location (perhaps hoping it was indicative of a UFO flap in the making? )
Unfortunately this never transpired (the UFO flap) but it appears they've learned their lesson as in the summer of 2008 instead of waiting for a UFO flap they've decided to just cut out the middle man (as well as verifiable facts, evidence, reality etc.) and simply create their own.
Dave Clarke & Joe McGonagle have already voiced their opinions regarding the obvious connotations of Rupert Murdoch being behind both the Sun and the [company responsible for] new X-Files movie, hinting at the possibility that the UFO reports being published are a sort of viral advertising campaign aimed at increasing awareness and consequently profits at the box office. If this is the case then I don't think it's the sole reason or the main motivation behind the recent UFO campaign initiated by the Sun. Personally I think it's little more than opportunistic profiteering, realised by knowingly exploiting public interest in what is already a much maligned and misunderstood phenomenon purely in the hope of increasing sales/readership.
BUT, having said that there may well be something in it as the Sun did run a blatant promotion via a couple of X-Files exclusive interviews as well as commemorating the 2nd X-Files film by giving away free X-Files DVD's (of earlier episodes) on consecutive days with the Sun newspaper.
As part of the coverage they included an interview with the creators of X-Files:
The Sun published the following interview with the creators of X-Files on 31 July, 2008:
SPOOKS specialists CHRIS CARTER and FRANK SPOTNITZ send shivers down spines with their mind-boggling X File cases, but it really is a case of art imitating life when it comes to our Martian mates. The co-writers, who penned the hit series and spin-off films, reckon they DO believe in aliens - even thanking the extraterrestrial beings for coming out to play before the release date of their film.
Chatting about the recent influx of UFO sightings in the UK, Chris said:
“We couldn't have timed the film better.
Thank you whoever is behind it.
Thank the aliens.”
“Maybe they're already here and have been in contact with the government for decades…..Aliens may well be here, we just don't know it or recognise it…..Scientists are now saying most of the universe is dark matter... we're surrounded by mystery .”
“I think our understanding of reality could change quite dramatically.”
Chris Carter also believes in alien abduction, saying:
“I've heard too many stories from too many credible people to be a complete sceptic. Of course I believe! I'd love to meet an alien so I could probe her mind and she would probe mine.”
When asked if he had ever had a surreal experience, he joked:
Anyway, back to this most recent collection of UFO reports covered by The Sun and to one in particular. The Sun contacted a well known UK UFOlogist asking for an opinion (read 'opinion' as ' corroboratory statement') on a recent UFO report.
Unfortunately for the Sun the UFO investigator came to the conclusion that the object was very probably Jupiter. This was told to the Sun but the online story was still published and remained unaltered. Apparently the communications practically ceased after requesting a little more information so as to rule out all other possibilities. But after doing a little investigative work and managing to locate the witness, the investigator was able to conclude that the object was almost certainly Jupiter due to location, position in the sky, direction facing etc.
Again the Sun was contacted and informed of the certainty of the conclusion, in fact they were contacted several times before offering the reason that the article still remains unchanged is that The Sun was “having a little fun with their readers.”
So, not only does the Sun knowingly publish misleading and downright false information, it also appears that when offered the, “Real facts” they are simply ignored if they don't fit in with original story, and more importantly they are completely ignored if they don't fit the most profitable viewpoint.
Below is a clip that further highlights this lack of integrity that the Sun wears as a badge of honour as More4 takes a look at the recent UK UFO reports and also at the Sun newspapers role in the making of a modern myth.....
The Sun & The UK UFO Wave (Summer 2008)
"Experts are divided over how to explain the more...recent surge in sightings of unidentified flying objects in the night sky over Britain, as More4 News reports. But some allege that when it comes to UFO-mania, tabloid editors are reluctant to let the truth get in the way of a good story."
Nick Pope, the MoD's former ‘Head Of The UFO Desk' evidently has an affiliation with the Sun newspaper. As already mentioned above he proved himself gull-ible when stating what was obviously an image of a seabird was in fact a metallic structure that warranted further study.
On Saturday 05th July (2008) Manchester RadioOnline announced a surprise guest on their regular Friday night show called, “Exploring The Unexplained,” on which Joe McGonagle (UK-UFO.org) also has a regular slot. The guest was none other than Nick Pope, here's the audio of these segments along with what I posted at the time.
Manchester RadioOnline has a regular Friday night show called, “Exploring The Unexplained.” On Saturday 05th July (2008) it had a surprise guest in the shape of Nick Pope as well as Joe McGonagle owner of the UK-UFO.org website and mailing list, Joe is a regular on the show and is on every week covering the recent events regarding UFOs in the UK.
Not surprisingly Nick waxed lyrical (as he's involved with The Sun and their recent efforts) on, ‘The Sun’ newspapers attempts to turn the UFO subject not only into revenue for themselves but they are also reminding the nation why they are held in such a low regard as they continue to turn the UFO subject into a joke, and as always the joke is at at the expense of serious UFO research.
The Suns insistence in publishing mediocre UFO reports contrary to what they know to be the truth should come as no surprise to anyone, it’s just not that often that their failings are exposed and their complete disregard of any and all facts is as evident as it has been recently. Joe McGonagle highlights this with one of their recent stories when The Sun approached a well-known UK UFOlogist about one of these sightings.
“But I certainly wouldn't get too excited about the release and I feel it important to stress that there will be NO SMOKING GUN found , or even implications of such but that's not why this is such an interesting release.
I personally believe it's such an interesting release so that the general public may finally have some inkling into the inner-workings of the MOD as it relates to UFO reports and I also believe the ineptitude and ' couldn't care less ' attitude will prove to be more shocking than yet another ‘ aliens stole my dog' report (which the media take a little too much delight in reporting on).”
I'd be the first to point out that this wasn't a unique viewpoint by any means which just makes it all the more strange why the recent MoD release of its UFO files was met with such disdain by people who in reality should be (at the very least) congratulatory.
As I wrote a little earlier:
"The video reports as usual were a disappointment with the majority of these reports usually accompanied by the inevitable X-Files theme and a smirking reporter, occasionally this modus operandi has deviated to include excerpts from ‘War Of The Worlds' and even The Carpenters classic ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft' but the general coverage has been the same as we've seen for years. Of course there's the odd exception that proves the rule but as ever these have been few and far between."
Naturally this unfair media treatment was par for the course and was no great surprise, however what saddened and surprised me a great deal more was the way this release has been received by the general UFO community itself as in my humble opinion the attitudes and comments from those at the forefront of the global UFO community were/are reprehensible as they lambasted, ridiculed and generally dismissed the efforts of the small group of UK UFO researchers who were in no small part responsible for this ground-breaking and revolutionary release of UK UFO related reports from the MoD, these aspersions which were always cast from afar apparently had one thing in common and that was to attempt to diminish any significance and all subsequent worth of the entire release.
It seems that purely because the MoD release didn't directly corroborate their personal (pet) hypothesis it was consequently rendered worthless as an investigative tool and thus bereft of any value. Even worse the value of the files was never really specifically raised as instead ad hominem attacks were made against all who dared to publicly comment on them (or perhaps more tellingly it seemed intensified when directed at those whose comments garnered favourable media attention) including some of those responsible for prompting the release.
UFOlogy is about UFO reports, the people who witnessed and submitted these reports, the circumstances surrounding them and the researchers who are ultimately involved in investigating and disseminating the available information. So bearing that in mind (and in light of the dismissive behaviour of the UFO community regarding this release) then I fear that due to an increasingly fragmented UFO community that UFOlogy in general is in an even worse state than is often claimed.
“Yep son, we have met the enemy and he is us.” (Walt Kelly/Pogo 1970)