30.9.12

25 YEARS AGO: NUMBER 27, SEPTEMBER 1987

My last '25 Years Ago' piece was two months late. I won't make that mistake again so on the last day of September 2012 I'll just be able to get Magonia 27, September 1987 in at the wire.

Our main article was Martin Kottmeyer's 'Break a Leg', which examined the pattern of UFO narratives, to discover the dramatic structures which shaped them. Martin comments: "The tip-off was all the chases. Chases are staple items in our fantasy lives. It is a formula element to most action-adventure television ... the reliance on chase sequences is understandable: it is a quick, easy way of heightening tension ... In ufology it is a simple matter of observation that chases are absurdly commonplace." He gives a list of saucer chase 'mayhem' that rivals any James Bond movie sequence.

Other aspects of the UFO story mirror dramatic and literary conventions, including the roles of the witnesses and the 'ufonauts' themselves, which in most cases conform to a limited group of pre-existing dramatic persona that even preceded the UFO era.

Peter Rogerson's 'And the dogs began to howl' looked at what he called the "off-campus" history of the haunted house. He notes that in his work as a local history librarian one of the most frequent enquiries he receives is someone wishing to check the history of their house, to see who may have died there, or what stood on the land previously. These are people who feel that their house is in some way haunted as a result of an event that has intruded into their home-space from the past

The historical event has made the space in which it has happened an "inappropriate location for the mundane activities of life", and any subsequent attempts to introduce "mundane activities" will be disrupted by the echoes of the event. Peter's argument is complex, and the article repays reading in full.

Arch-sceptic Steuart Campbell occasionally graced the pages of Magonia, and in this issue he sets out his argument that UFO reports are almost entirely the result of astronomic mirages. (This article is not currently online.) While it's certainly true that many reports can be explained in this way, he goes beyond this to state "Astronomical mirages can explain so may UFO reports, especially the most intractable ones that I can claim that the UFO problem is practically solved!" He asserts that cases such as Father Gill, Travis Walton, the Hills and Socorro are all based on astronomical mirages, and continues: "A scientific hypothesis has been found which explains UFO reports..."

Of course this is nonsense. There is no 'scientific hypothesis' which explains UFO reports because UFO reports do not represent one single class of phenomena, but there seems to be a need, by believers and skeptics alike, to produce such an all-encompassing hypothesis, whether it is the ETH, mirages, or plasma phenomena (a previous favourite of Steuart Campbell, after he dropped the demonic explanation. There is, of course, no single explanation of UFO cases because 'UFO cases' do not exist except as a sociological construct.
 
And there you are, just in by the end of September - unless you're anywhere east of Central European Time of course!

9 comments:

  1. a previous favourite of Steuart Campbell, after he dropped the demonic explanation

    Blimey. Tell us more! My oldest copy of Magonia is #21, so I only remember Mr C. as a mirage fan. Was this the article where he announced that all UFOs are actually IFOs, it's just that some of them haven't been identified yet?

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    1. I was once shown, by Hilary Evans, a small pamphlet written by Stuart Campbell (he later added the 'e' to his Christian name) putting forward such an explanation. I imagine the document is now in the collection of AFU in Sweden, where Hilary's books and magazines have been donated for cataloging and preservation.

      Technically he is of course correct in stating that all UFOs are actually IFOs that haven't been identified yet, but as an argument it does not really progress us very far. J.R.

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    2. Hi, John

      Magonia 27 is noted because it contains the very first UFo article by my admired Martin S. Kottemeyer (the winner of your 1981 Xtmas Quiz). Can you tell us more about how Kottmeyer got in touch with you an ocean apart and how you convinced him to publish something (or maybe it was the other way around)?

      Yours,
      Luis R. Gonzalez (Spain)

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    3. Luis, I'm sorry that at a distance of 25 years I can't remember the circumstances of Magonia's first contact with the legendary Martin Kottmeyer. I he must have got in touch with us originally, as he had been a subscriber for many years before receiving this article. JR

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  2. With regard to the ETH as an "all-encompassing hypothesis," can you name one proponent of the ETH who claims that all reported UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin? I'm waiting.

    You seem to have found your own all-encompassing hypothesis: that all UFO cases are a sociological construct.

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    1. > name one proponent of the ETH who claims that all reported UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin

      Isn't that a bit disingenuous? ETH proponents don't explain all reports with aliens, just the unknowns. The writer understands that and the reader does too.

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  3. I know of no ETH proponent who assumes that all "unknowns" (still-unidentified flying objects) are extraterrestrial. Do you really think it's news to Stanton Friedman or Jerome Clark (both ETH proponents) that "UFO reports don't represent one single class of phenomena"? They don't deny that many UFOs may be human experimental craft, unexplained atmospheric phenomena, and so forth. They are merely convinced that many are extraterrestrial.

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    1. So I've got you to dial back the rhetoric. Good.

      > I know of no ETH proponent who assumes that all "unknowns" are extraterrestrial.

      Strictly speaking, you are correct. But wouldn't you agree ETH proponents always cite the unknowns as part of their proof of alien visitation?

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    2. "Dial back the rhetoric"? I simply made clearer what I meant. Thank you for prompting me to do that; I appreciate it.

      Yes, ETH proponents cite unknowns as part of their proof of alien visitation. But they often cite very particular unknowns (very particular cases), not just unknowns as such.

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