To Read Budd Hopkins' Thoughts About Susan Clancy and the Peter Jennings' Show, Click Here

 
Some Thoughts on the Peter Jennings' Show: "UFOs: Seeing is Believing"
 
 

 

On February 24, 2005 Peter Jennings Productions aired a two-hour prime time show about UFOs and abductions, “UFOs:  Seeing is Believing.”  One part of the show concentrated on UFO sightings and it was excellent.  It featured credible people seeing incredible things.  The recreations were dramatic and effective.  It was, without doubt, the best network presentation of UFO sightings ever done. 

The historical segment of the show was in the main accurate, although necessarily incomplete with a limited amount of time to do it. It egregiously left out the name of James McDonald and others and assumed that only astronomer and UFO advocate J. Allen Hynek was “carrying the ball” when Project Blue Book closed.

As the show went on, however, one could see it losing steam.  The high standards that characterized the history and sightings part were inexplicably abandoned.  Although I am not a Roswell proponent, the Roswell section was inherently unfair because it did not explicate the issues on both sides and it was mean-spirited in characterizing researcher Stanton Friedman as a self-promoter.  At the end of the show, it correctly portrayed Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center as a courageous UFO investigator, but suggested strangely that he was the only one and it ignored MUFON and the hundreds of people throughout the nation who indefatigably investigate UFO sightings.  

There are many other aspects of that awful second hour that require attention (the SETI people, etc.), but I will confine my remarks to the abduction sequence.  That part of the show displayed three segments:  Abductees telling snippets of what happens to them and how they feel about it, Budd Hopkins doing a hypnotic regression and briefly discussing the abduction phenomenon, and two Harvard psychologists explaining what was “really” happening. 

It must be understood that all debunkers commit one or more of three errors:  1, they do not know the data, 2, they ignore the data or 3, they distort the data to make it conform to their explanations.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  For television producers, the appeal to authority is irresistible, especially if the credentials seem to be the highest.  Thus, Drs. Robert McNally and Susan Clancy proclaim the abduction phenomenon to be a product of sleep paralysis and hypnosis fantasies.  Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the subject knows that this is ludicrous.  As with all debunkers, the two professors ignored the evidence or they were unaware of it.  Either way their explanations were scientifically dishonest, just ignorant, or both.  The clear implication of these explanations was that Hopkins was blind to the pitfalls of hypnosis and to the fact that all abduction events take place when the abductees are asleep.  The editing of abductees' comments to suggest that the only experiences they had were when they were sleeping supported this idea. 

The blame for these untruths rests primarily with the producers, Justin Weinstein, Jordan Kronick, and Gabrielle Tenenbaum.  They had absolute disconfirming information in their possession.  They were told directly by Budd Hopkins and by me that sleep paralysis is an untenable explanation because it does not fit the evidence.  We informed them of daytime events, events that happened with multiple abductees, events that happened at night when the person was not in bed, events that happened when a person was driving a vehicle, and so on.  In fact, the taped regression session I did at their request was an incident that occurred in the daytime while the abductee was driving.  And, we told them that a significant percentage of abductions were remembered outright without the aid of hypnosis.  Indeed Hopkins pointed out to them that in the first twenty years of our knowledge of the phenomenon, there were no cases of abductions occurring when people were asleep. 

In my own research, the sleep paralysis explanation has little statistical support.  I have catalogued 669 beginnings of abductions of the nearly 900 regression sessions I have conducted.  Of those, 277 began when the person was asleep.  But 392, or nearly 60%, happened when the person was not asleep – typically driving, walking, watching television, and so forth.  Although I did not tell them this, I made the shortfalls of the sleep paralysis explanation very clear.  

Furthermore, I discussed the strengths and weaknesses of hypnosis with the producers.  The vast majority of cases that I have investigated have memories associated with them that clearly indicate abduction activity.  The abductee tells the investigator the memories and symptoms before the investigator begins hypnosis.  Hypnosis brings out the details and the chronology and when used properly does not generate a fantasy.  I made it clear that hypnosis, when used improperly, can support “channeled” and dissociative memories that are reflective only of the person’s inner fantasies.  I know the difference and so does Budd Hopkins.  We have both worked diligently to make sure that “channeled” information along with confabulation is eliminated from substantive memories.  The point is that we understand the shortcomings of hypnosis in the area of abduction hypnosis better than most professional hypnotists in any area.  It was obvious that the two psychologists were not sophisticated enough to understand the differences. 

But even when the producers fully understood that sleep paralysis and hypnosis fantasies do not explain abductions, they decided that they could not allow even thirty seconds of time to have a direct refutation of the nonsense being intoned by the authoritative figures.  This was almost certainly a carefully thought-out choice.  They preferred to leave it at that perhaps, and I am speculating here, to enhance the verisimilitude of the sightings aspect of the show.

The question is: Why does the media act unfairly when it comes to the abduction phenomenon?  Of course the answer has much to do with the state of UFO research today, the refusal of the scientific community to engage with the subject on a realistic level, and the bizarreness of the subject.  The media’s responsibility in this situation is to be as fair as possible, even though the claims are extreme.  But fairness is not always the best policy.  For example, one would be hard put to be “fair” about Nazi activities by giving a Nazi viewpoint as “balance.”  However, one would expect that fairness would be extended to the enormous number of people around the world who are describing in exact detail the same activities that have happened to all of them.  In fact, the media has abrogated its responsibility to be investigative, fair, and accurate.  Investigative reporting has become part of the entertainment industry.  Accuracy takes a back seat to the demands of time and interest.  Putting on a good show is paramount no matter who is hurt in the process or if accuracy is sacrificed.  The object is to put on a good show, not to reveal the truth (there are, of course, many exceptions to this in other areas, but very few when it comes to abductions). 

I tell all the brave abductees who agree to go on camera that you never know how the production will turn out. It does not matter what the producers say to you.  Their promises mean nothing.  Ultimately, you throw yourself on their tender mercies and hope for the best.  Once in a while the production is good and most of the times, it is not.  Unfortunately, we do not have a great deal of choice.  The normal channels of information about the subject are cut off.  Academic journals will not publish studies suggesting that abductions are taking place.  Scientists are blindly hostile to the subject -— more so than at any other time in the UFO history.  Unstable people, self-promoters, publicity seekers, would-be cult leaders, people with New Age, religious, and spiritual agendas, and serious researchers all vie for attention in a very small arena.  Thus when the opportunity to tell the public about the seriousness of the situation comes along, it is better to take the chance and give the show the opportunity to be right once in a while.  If one does not participate and leaves the field to those characters who would increase ridicule of the subject, then the show will be wrong every time.  We’re caught in a squeeze but we have to make the best we can of it.  Nobody said it would be easy. 

Finally, the Peter Jennings production must be seen in light of something else of which I am assuming the producers were unaware. The sighting phenomenon is the abduction phenomenon.  UFOs are here to abduct people. If the show at least opens the door to the acceptance of sightings as reality, it can only help abduction researchers in the long run.  At least I hope that is the case, but perhaps my own fantasies are coming out.

David M. Jacobs

March 2, 2005

 

   
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