In my ongoing quest, the past few weeks, to discover what I think of UFOs and the UFO-believing community, I purchased a copy of UFO Magazine (Issue #150) at my local Barnes & Noble and found something that surprised me. There are factions within the UFO community that are at each others’s rhetorical throats. Most specifically, there are the UFO researchers who regard themselves as serious, evidence-based inquirers into the truth regarding UFO phenomenon, and then there are the far-out true believers who casually talk about galactic federations and “Reptilians from the fourth density.” Here, for example, is Jeremy Vaeni, an apparently regular columnist for the magazine, sassing “exopolitics” (“exopolitics” is behind the UFO Discovery Project and organizes those regular National Press Club meetings at which pilots and ex-military people have shared their UFO sighting testimonies):
Based on the evidence, I no longer think exopolitics is a joke. I think it’s a cult. I think it is a religious movement for those who have no imagination. Steve Bassett often says he’s a left-brain-only kind of thinker. Everything has to be rational for it to compute. But exopolitics, which is the thrust of his life’s work, is not rational. . . . Could you imagine if CNN, MSNBC, FOX or any of ’em actually looked into the background of exopolitics? You think they laugh at us now?
I don’t know who Steve Bassett is, or the background of exopolitics, so I don’t know the references to which Jeremy Vaeni is alluding to. But it’s clear that Jeremy Vaeni’s attack has to do with the circularity of reasoning within exopolitics, and thus its closed nature. He tells exopoliticians:
You’re creating a parameter around the unknown and arguing from within it. As long as the arguments and discussions remain in your safe zone, you’ll suffer fools. Anything outside that phony belief system does not compute. . . . You automatically believe unverifiable military sources. You don’t trust the government or the military until an alleged whistleblower steps forward, and then you’re all over that! You automatically believe in unverifiable remote-viewer testimony. So long as it conforms to the story you want to hear, it’s gospel.
Jeremy Vaeni then lays out (effectively, I think) how a contemporary cult can be hatched:
- Seemingly credible eyewitnesses start offering bizarre testimony concerning a phenomenon, but their experiences cannot be independently verified, nor is there any physical evidence supporting the testimony
- Form a coalition of these testifiers
- “[W]rite articles and publish books citing each other’s articles and books . . .”
- “[R]oll separate bits of lore into a singular mega-story”
- “Lo and behold, a new truism is born”
And what is that truism in the case of exopolitics? Jeremy Vaeni characterizes it this way:
There’s a galactic federation waiting for the government to disclose what it knows so that we can reconcile with Maritians and join the federation. . . . And then your group decides, ‘Well, hey! Since that’s true, we’d better force the government to disclose everything it knows about this and have a policy ready to go when open contact is made.’ And you write up that policy. And you’re rational. And you’re mature. And Steven Greer contacts aliens from inside his meditation brain with strong flashlights at night. No, kids: You’re a delusional cult.
I must confess I like Jeremy Vaeni’s column far more than anything else I read in UFO Magazine. And it’s not just because he shows critical thinking. He’s also a really tart, energetic writer, and funny. And I discover that he also has a podcast that looks interesting.
As for Jeremy Vaeni’s take-down of exopolitics, I thought he brilliantly connected the dots between how weird and unverifiable eyewitness testimony can evolve into a cultic eschatological social movement. Of course, Western cultural history is not exactly unfamiliar with such a phenomenon, is it?