Well, perhaps this is a clue. About this time every year I get a nice brochure advertising the 'International UFO Congress and Film Festival' at a place called Laughlin, Nevada, in the middle of nowhere, or the Mohave Desert, which amounts to the same thing. This is probably one of the biggest UFO events in the world, and in the words of the organisers the speakers "will be bringing us new information, new expertise and new insights". So if someone thought this might be the place to find out just what the UFO problem is all about - and you get hotel accommodation and eight days full of presentations and movies for a dollar under $500, which sound good value to me - this might be just the place to go.
Oh dear. Well let's start with the (comparatively) sensible stuff. Malcolm Robinson, the UK's representative here, gives what looks like it will be a fairly straightforward account of three Scottish cases: Livingston, the Fife UFO Incident, and the A70 UFO. Well ... OK. But if you stick around afterwards the tone changes rapidly; you get a gent called David Serida telling us how reverse-engineering alien technology can solve global warming and the energy crisis. Maybe someone should tell Gordon Brown.
Then there's someone describing "the basis of the Third Reich's research into hyperdimension physics ... to discover a technology ... that would be capable of manipulating the fabric of space-time for free energy, field propulsion and the ultimate doomsday weapon".
Jaime Maussan from Mexico is a man who seems to have shot more video footage of UFOs than anyone alive,. and what's he got for the Laughlin fans this time: "See footage never shown before from all over the world, not just Mexico. This presentation will shock and amaze even the biggest skeptics out there!" Well I thing us big skeptics will be the judge of that, Jaime.
Robert Dean (remember him?) will be giving "a detailed analysis of the current so-called UFO/ETI situation and why our 'government' (love those scare-quotes) still refuses to reveal anything official about the ET presence on earth and throughout the solar system." I somehow doubt that the analysis will include the possibility that there is nothing to disclose.
Another name looming up from the past is Wendelle Stevens, who will be showing an interview with a US airman who was involved in six crashed UFO recoveries in the late seventies and early eighties, and tell where the craft and body bags were taken.
Michael Salla, who always seems to crop up at these events, with his exopolitics shtick while be revealing "whistleblower evidence" of the secret agreements that are in place between the government and the aliens - and systematically analyses them!
I thought there might be an outbreak of sanity when i saw Jim Marrs telling us "whatever you do, don't believe anything you hear from the government". Good advice, but he rather spoils it by then rambling on about how the United States is bout to turn into the Fourth Reich.
And this is just the stuff that actually has something to do with UFOs. We also have the usual New Age waffle about Hopi Prophesies; talking to the spirits - bring your spirit family (presumably they don't have to pay the $499 fee); accessing your exoconsciousness; preparing for impending Planetary transformations - something to do with crop circles, this one; and to top it all a guy called Ed Grimsley will tell you how you too can see laser wars between delta- and saucer-shaped craft.
But just to prove this is a real scientific conference, who do you think is there? That's right, our old friend, the seriously-bearded, serious nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman, who will be taking a break from his usual lecture circuit beat of university physics departments, Lions Clubs and cruise liners.
This is desperate stuff. Even if there was a genuine scientific problem at the heart of the UFO mystery - which I doubt - what chance does it ever have of being taken seriously when it is surrounded by this carnival of freaks and fantasists? Ultimately ufology can never be a science, because the so-called 'fringe' is actually the heart of it. Without events like the Laughlin Laugh-In ufology would be just a few puzzling incidents which no-one was really terribly bothered about.