AUSTRALIAN UFO HISTORY WARS: LESSONS AND APPROACHES TO THE AUSTRALIAN UFO CONTROVERSY
by Bill Chalker
The following saying is attributed to Confucius, one of the most important thinkers in Chinese history:
“Study the past if you would divine the future”
It elegantly argues that knowing and understanding history is of importance to understand the future. Equally it is of critical importance in understanding the present. This essay addresses the importance of studying the history of the UFO controversy and uses the microcosm of a recent development the Wikipedia “Australian Ufology” document the stuff of a little, but informative, Australian UFO “history war,” to discuss some of the problems in historical UFO research.
While I am not formally trained in history, I am deeply trained and informed by the disciplines of science, which values objective, documented and evidence based approaches to issues. Indeed this perspective is a critical anchor point for one of the more potent battlefields in the broader context of “the history wars.” For example, historians Ann Curthoys and John Docker explore in their book, “Is History fiction?” (2006) this very paradox - “the necessity for and difficulty of finding truth in history.” They elaborated, “There always has to be a question mark hovering over any claim to have attained an objective, let alone scientific, status for one’s findings.” More recently, the focal point in history for much of this dilemma is “postmodernism”, which avoids the need of the scientific approach to history. “Facts” become malleable, putty in the hands of the “postmodern” historian or writer.
Colin Bennett is one writer in the UFO field, approaching the drama of the history of the UFO controversy from a sometimes striking postmodernist take, in such books as “Looking for Orthon the story of George Adamski, the first flying saucer contactee, and HOW he CHANGED the WORLD” (2001) (not my emphasis B.C.), and “An American Demonology Flying Saucers over the White House Captain Edward J Ruppelt and the official UFO investigation of the United States Air Force” (2005). More traditional UFO histories can be found in the different approaches of David Jacobs’ “The UFO controversy in America” (1975), Curtis Peebles’ “Watch the Skies! A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth” (1994), and Richard Dolan’s “UFOs and the National Security State” (2000, 2002). (see my review in the Ufologist, Vol.5 No.3 2001) Science historian and astronomer Stephen Dick places the UFO controversy in the wider “20th-century Extraterrestrial Life Debate” in his book “Life on other Worlds” (1998) (which originally appeared as “The Biological Universe” (1996)).
In my approach to UFO history I have try to use methodologies, informed by scientific approaches, but mediated by cultural and other perspectives. With my book “The OZ Files the Australian UFO Story” (1996) I tried to provide a modest popular history. I would be the first to admit its incompleteness, but this was not due to intent, rather it was the result of trying to get a book through a commercial publishing process. Clearly it was just the “tip of the iceberg”, however I did my best to provide a primer of sorts that was anchored in documentation, referencing and transparency.
Some of my other contributions on Australian history are to found on the web at sites like Project 1947 and my own web site:
As many of you will know I have had this material freely available up on the web for years, to assist the course of focusing on and documenting UFO history in all its dimensions. UFO history is of considerable interest to me and thus the following admission from a professional historian helps sustain me.
“Though we have been trying to pretend it is otherwise, no qualifications are actually necessary, no training is really required to research or write history. There is nothing very special about history or mysterious about how it is done. Certainly, some training can make research more efficient and effective, but the crucial thing is the desire to know as much as can be known about some aspect of the past. Some of our best history has been written by journalists or by passionate enthusiasts,” writes Beverley Kingston, in her essay “A plea from the Peripheries for Modesty”, from “The Historian’s Conscience” edited by Stuart Macintyre (2004).
Recently with my son Kieran I attended a lecture by Middle East journalist Dr. Robert Fisk. The lecture and his book “The Great War for Civilization the conquest of the Middle East” (2005) were powerful statements of the importance of history, of recording it accurately, and using the often stark lessons of history to try to fix the problems of the present. Fisk quotes T.S. Elliot: “Respect for the culture, the pattern of life, of other people … is respect for history; and by history we set no great store.” This cynical take echoed the savage dilemmas of the Middle East problem. Fisk also saw that Albert Camus vividly conveyed the problem: “It is true that we cannot “escape History,” since we are in it up to our necks …. What if that logic of History on which so many now rely turns out to be a will o’ the wisp?”
The engine of history is a powerful force, one that we should pay great attention to. Understanding it, documenting it and learning from it are just as relevant focuses in the UFO subject, as they are in the vast potent canvas of the history of our times. Without a well informed sense of history we can be mired in the follies of our constantly echoing past. Also without that sense of history we lose the benefits of the rich legacies of what has gone before. Not all of our past is the stuff of lessons about things to be avoided. So much of it is about the extraordinary things and people that should not be forgotten. Such are the wonders of the drivers of history’s engine. The history of the UFO subject has such potent qualities and thus it should be considered and preserved in ways that ensure it is accurate and transparent.
Some may feel that the history of this controversial subject does not merit attention, but as one who has spent a lot of time considering it and recording it, I can attest that UFO history is extraordinarily rich and powerful, full of lessons and images that would serve well the current and developing players in ufology, and inform and entertain the wider community. While I personally think ufology will ultimately have a place in the canvas of the history of science, it is the domain of cultural history where the UFO controversy currently finds a solid home. Indeed historian Richard Evans in his “Prologue: What is History? Now”, for the book “What is History Now?” edited by David Cannadine (2002), while writing generically about the new emphasis on cultural history, could have been referring directly to the history of the UFO controversy: “(Traditional historians may not) have approved of the turn of historians towards the study of the irrational, the eccentric and the bizarre. (but its importance lies in) the belief that historical writing can enhance our appreciation of the human condition by bringing to life and explaining beliefs and cultures that are very different from our own, and so perhaps adding to the richness of human experience and understanding, and fostering tolerance of different cultures and belief systems in our own time.” Evans highlights, “A genuine historian will never manipulate or distort the materials which the past has left behind and which form the basis for the historian’s work.” He also referred to a problem particularly relevant to UFO history, namely, “It is apparent that the past impinges on many people and no single group has exclusive possession of it What happens when the claimants of the past are unwilling to share it” While Evans was not writing about the UFO controversy his comments are very relevant to the small stage of the Australian UFO history wars I will discuss the so called “bower bird” syndrome in ufology, where certain groups or individuals covet potentially valuable UFO data or material, lining their own “nests” or bunkers, almost rabidly preventing others from being aware of it or having access to it. For those wishing to examine the mainstream of the “history wars” question you are directed to the following (albeit only a very limited list): “Is History fiction?” by Ann Curthoys and John Docker (2006), and “The History Wars” by Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark (2003).
Before entering the “Australian UFO history war” zone, to set a more personal historical mood, I will quote from my web log: http://theozfiles.blogspot.com “The OZ Files” from September 1 2005 a piece I called ‘“The Historian”, “the Rosetta Stone” and me”’:
Recently I was “interviewed” by a reporter for Flash News about my new book “HAIR of the ALIEN”. I found the process and the resultant “news item” rather pointless. Comments from him that my book “could be the next da Vinci Code” or “it should be made into a film”, suggested to me he was either being cynical or he didn’t get out much or even read much.
Waiting for his call I was reading what some in the publishing game regard as the real McCoy - “the next da Vinci Code”! In my humble opinion that book was rather better than that simplistic label.
The book “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova is a best seller, evocatively recasting the Dracula mystique in the era of the Cold War. It has a style rather more literary and elegantly languid than Dan Brown’s offering. Kostova’s first novel evokes in the reader different reactions depending on your literary sensibilities. For me it was a great read, at times evoking moments of striking reverie, the kind one gets only in those stories that resonate with personal experiences and passions.
For example in “The Historian” (page 239) the following struck a cord with my sensibilities:
“It is a fact that we historians are interested in what is partly a reflection of ourselves, perhaps a part of ourselves we would rather not examine except through the medium of scholarship; it is also true that as we steep ourselves in our interests, they become more and more a part of us.”
That short passage evoked in me some of the sensibilities I bring to one aspect of the UFO subject that I embrace. Namely the quest, the investigation and the research, particularly that part that has a deep and profound historical dimension. All of us who contribute to documenting the history of the UFO subject obviously feel those resonances. While you might not experience the questing, investigative and researching senses that I went through to unravel the material, some of my own historical pursuits in the UFO field can be found on my web site:
A more surprising and specific UFO resonance was evoked in me on the very next page of “The Historian”:
“Next Turgut brought out a small book bound in ancient leather. It was difficult for me not to reach for it at once, but I waited in a fever of self-control while Turgut gently open it ....”
I have to admit that directly in the wake of reading the preceding section of “The Historian”, this piece made me reflect on a personal “UFO Rosetta Stone” - something I felt a strong yearning to reach out for, but was withheld for the moment. I had written the following in 2002 the same year I had stood in deep reverie before the real Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London. For someone who loves to learn and discovery history, real and imagined, I was caught up in strong emotions - the Rosetta Stone before me and the Egyptian rooms behind me. No wonder Kostova’s book “The Historian” had such appeal to me. Read on for my take of my “UFO Rosetta stone” moment.
For me it was like touching the Rosetta Stone - an electric moment of discovery which would have wider ramifications - a bridge between mysteries that once seemed insoluble but would become clearer with further research and contemplation. Just as the Rosetta Stone provided a link between cultures (the Egyptian and the Greek) that would be the key to deciphering the mysterious Egyptian hieroglyphs and thus unravel the marvels of ancient Egypt, the document I now held was both a link and a key to discovery and revelation for a journey I had begun long ago. It provided for me a link to evidence that was now missing or only present in tantalising fragments, and it was a key to much wider and more clandestine dimensions to the mystery I was trying to unravel.
I was caught in a frustrating catch 22. Here I was during 1982, in the Russell Offices of the Department of Defence in Canberra, trying to talk Air Force Intelligence into allowing me to examine one of the few files I had not yet been cleared for. Squadron Leader Ian Frame, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) intelligence liaison officer held the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) UFO policy file. It was classified and for the moment I would not be able to read through it, however if I could nominate what I wanted to see then he would review the contents and determine if I could read particular items in the file. While I was unaware of the contents it was difficult to know what was in there?
The file - Part 1 of the RAAF DAFI UFO “policy” file series AF 554/1/30 - had earlier been explained to me as a confusion of miscellaneous material from 1953 to 1959. For me however it had the potential of unravelling the early days of official military involvement in the UFO controversy in Australia. I explained what I wanted and as Squadron Leader Frame leaf through the file in front of me I spied what looked like a lengthy table of data. I said that looked interesting and that it could be relevant to what I was after. Sqd. Ldr. Frame said he would go off to review the contents and return with a decision as to whether I could see it.
He returned with the news that I could look at that particular document. What a find it turned out to be. Folios 8A, 8B and 8C of the intelligence file were related to a classified report compiled by a scientist, O.H. Turner, which studied all the DAFI UFO cases from 1950 to 1954! As a scientist I was fascinated. Here was the first evidence of a substantial review of Australian military UFO data. In my search through their military UFO files I had come across many fascinating reports - military UFO encounters, close encounter cases and other provocative data, but here was a significant scientific study of cases whose files were now mostly missing. One of Turner’s conclusions was especially provocative:
“The evidence presented by the reports held by the R.A.A.F. tend to support the ... conclusion - namely, that certain strange aircraft have been observed to behave in a manner suggestive of an extra-terrestrial origin.”
In my new book “Hair of the Alien” I revealed a hidden dimension to Harry Turner’s later secret UFO research - a strange odyssey into the exotic and bizarre realms of UFO experience and history. Fortunately since the Rosetta moment above (1982) a lot of the missing material has been located, furthering enriching the Australian UFO story.
Now back into the shallow trenches of the “Australian UFO history wars”.
Recently, a number of us here down under have been having largely futile fun and games trying to add accurate content to an entry entitled “Australian Ufology”, which had appeared on the popular internet “free encyclopedia” site Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Ufology
Wikipedia is widely used by internet users as a reference encyclopedia. Few users ponder the accuracy and background of the entries they examine. The “Australian Ufology” document is a good example of the problems of accuracy and background involved with Wikipedia content. The document was drawn to my attention by Anthony Clarke of UFO Research (NSW) on February 4 2006. Because the piece seemed anchored in UFO history, Anthony thought I may have written it. I told him I was not aware of it but I would take a look at it.
Initially when I viewed the Wikipedia site, the document gave me the distinct impression that it was a case of “the Emperor’s new clothes” a nakedly biased piece, dressed up in the digital accoutrements of the internet, with the appearance of an effort at creating a version of history. Much of it is correct, and much of it replicates information from the following sources: information that has emerged through sources such as the recent Australian Disclosure project: http://disclosure.freewebpage.org/, material that has long been widely available to UFO research and the wider community through diverse sources, such as the publication record of UFO groups and individuals, and via the records of the National Archives of Australia, many of which have become available via digital scanning on the web: http://www.nla.gov.au/ The Wikipedia “Australian Ufology” document makes considerable use of the hyperlink media tool utilising the growing harvest of UFO documents and information that are readily available via the internet. The document represents a useful “port of call” for finding out some basic information, but the story behind the Wikipedia document - “the devil in the detail” so to speak highlights problems with the nature of Wikipedia “free encylopedia” entries and this particular entry.
The Wikepedia “Australian Ufology” entry is in some measure part of a “UFO history war” which needs to be examined, given the importance of the accurate and transparent history of the UFO subject. The entry is a microcosm of the broader issues of the “history wars” being played out on the more substantial historical stage.
Wikipedia has recently come in for a lot of criticism and debate. Robert McHenry, former editor in chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica, provides an excellent insight into the Wikipedia problem with his online article “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia Blinks” (see http://www.tcsdaily.com ) He highlights that “to the ordinary user, the turmoil and uncertainty that may lurk beneath the surface of a Wikipedia article are invisible.” McHenry argues appropriately, given our experiences with the “Australian Ufology” entry, “the basic premise of the (Wikipedia) project is fatally flawed and can only be embraced as an article of faith … the project lacks a proper concern for ordinary users, those who are not in on the (Wikipedia) game.” The Wikipedia lacks the rigour of the checks and balances and traditional proofing that printed encyclopedias like Britannica and World Book receive.
The core issue here is that entries often come about because of the passions, biases and agendas of their creators. They will often use “the (Wikipedia) game” to try to maintain their particular “vision” of the entry concerned. This was the problem that “ambushed” those of us that tried to correct or add to the “Australian Ufology” entry on Wikipedia.
The many omissions and considerable unevenness in the coverage of Australian ufology, highlights that the Wikipedia “Australian Ufology” document is an inaccurate history, specifically a rather skewed history, driven by narrow agendas, which yielded a history that approximates what many Australian UFO researchers know but with some aspects few of us are familiar with, in particular the alleged history of a group that operated under a number of titles - AMPR APRV PRV to later emerge as the group now known as PRA.
If we go to the sources section of the Wikipedia entry to confirm the documentation for the claimed history it becomes clear that the particular aspect of “AMPR” to “PRA” apparently must be described in 2 documents few of us have seen, let alone had access to - namely PRA director John Auchettl’s 34 page 1985 VUFORS document “The Roots of Australian Ufology” and the 6 page Brian Boyle document “The Early Years: From Saucers to UFOs”. As Auchettl left VUFORS years ago (resurrecting the shell of PRA) it seems doubtful, on past performances, that he is likely to share this material. It would be extremely useful if he would, as they might shed light on some of these early aspects of Australian Ufology. Without this primary source material (including the “non-government meeting minutes” of 1949 that apparently led to the formation of AMPR) we are just left to the declarations within this anonymous Wikipedia document.
The AMPR APRV PRV PRA linkage described in the Wikipedia document is interesting and would be fascinating if it can be transparently documented and described. However the Wikipedia document describes some strange bed fellows for this group lineup. For example under “prominent Australian Ufology Administration” the document lists John Anderson, Brian Boyle, Gordon Deller and Jack Seers as prominent members of AFSIC, a group the document suggests was formed by AMPR. The public record (newspapers etc) however list AFSIC members as including Donald Thompson, L.T. Whitney, Ernest Lord and Malcolm Bradley, who are not listed at all by the Wikipedia piece. I personally had the pleasure to interview Malcolm Bradley in 1991 and we discussed his time with AFSIC. Deller, Anderson, Boyle & Seers were also listed by the Wikipedia author as prominent in AMPR, APRV and PRV. The latter 3 were also listed as prominent in PRA. Deller’s inclusion is intriguing to say the least in this group line-up a strange bed fellow indeed. I described his strange role as Edgar Jarrold’s & Harold Fulton’s “Man in black”, Etherean alien mediumistic “contactee” who went into trances, offering up prophecies of forthcoming disasters. (See my articles on Edgar Jarrold and Andrew Tomas “The Jarrold File”, Ufologist, Vol.4, No.1 2000, and “Andrew Tomas Australian UFO pioneer (1906 2001)” Ufologist, Vol.5 No.6 2002). Of course this represents the “devil in the detail” we seldom see in the Wikipedia entry. There is no real transparency in its anonymous authorship.
I say “anonymous” as the document’s original author used the handle “Vufors”. I contacted the well known group VUFORS (Victorian UFO Research Society) to check if my suspicions were correct, that this was not the work of the VUFORS committee. Indeed Tony Cook, the VUFORS secretary, confirmed is was not the work of their committee. One is left to ponder that the choice of the handle “Vufors” was meant to confuse and create mischief? Given the document content, style and direction it seems remarkably reminiscent of the anonymous fragmented content and style that often appeared on the demented Paul de Blog “Australasian Ufologist” blog site, which happily seems to have expired in July 2005, except for a brief gasp in late November 2005, and a typically bizarre and uninformed response to my preliminary comments on “Australian UFO history wars” online on February 14, 2006 on UFO Updates. As an apparent after thought de Blog took a swipe at my APEG biochemist team. Oddly enough within days a hostile review of my new book “Hair of the Alien” appeared on Amazon.com asking “What happened to the biochemists?” The reviewer? “Paranoid reviews” has a nickname: “praufo”! The review appeared only 7 months (!) after my book was released in the US, so its timing seems a tad odd. Given the form of the Australasian Ufologist blog appropriating Diane & Robert Frola’s “Australasian Ufologist” magazine name, it seemed underwhelmingly unsurprising to me to ponder the possibility that the VUFORS name had been appropriated as well. Here we seem to have bizarre and silly resonances with strange and predictable bed fellows and associations. Diane Harrison’s enquiries into “sub rosa” internet relationships (specifically the details of ISP addresses), suggests few or no degrees of separation between Wikipedia’s “Vufors”, “Paul de Blog”, and perhaps even PRA. The games people play!
As the “Vufors” owner of the Wikipedia “Australian History” entry was censoring efforts to correct and edit his skewed and incomplete history it is appropriate to highlight the questionable nature of the document and its apparent attempts at whiting out a lot of history and contributions, seemingly in an effort to create a biased and sometimes flawed history. Clearly many additional sources have surfaced, but some seem rooted in a lack of transparency, and seem more focused on obscuring or manipulating history in an agenda or ego based way.
The Wikipedia site claims that it allows a kind of democratic and open editing process to produce accurate entries. The “Australian Ufology” entry and its manipulated and controlled editing, through censorship, via what seems to be an anonymous entity identifying itself as “Vufors” is a poor example of the Wikipedia objective. Instead it seems to approximate the skewed and agenda based efforts that dominate anonymous blog sites.
The anonymous author (“Vufors”) characterised some efforts at adding more content to address gaps and oversights etc, as “Vandal & Commercial spam.” AUFORN director Diane Harrison tried to put in substantial content only to have it labeled in this way. The “Australian Ufology” author’s characterisations were absurd in the extreme. My own efforts at using Wikipedia’s processes of open editing to correct or add content, were all very frustrating and ultimately with varied results. Any serious researcher would be reluctant to put up with the efforts of an anonymous person imposing their own convoluted editing control. For example I tried to put my own name into the documents list of “Prominent Australian Ufology Administration”. Diane Harrison had already tried to insert my name along with a number of others only to have them deleted. My own efforts were similarly treated with all sorts of convoluted arguments put forward by the author. References were cited by the Wikipedia author, such as Robert Boyd’s US based “International Who’s Who in Ufology” from 1988. Commonsense wasn’t in great evidence. I suggested that primary source material such as the publication of my group from 1975 to 1976 was sufficient to establish my credentials as a prominent administrator of the UFOIC group during that period. Indeed I suggested rather than citing the US publication by Boyd that a more appropriate primary reference would be “Whos Who in Australian Ufology” compiled in Australia by John Prytz in 1982. I was not particularly interested in getting my name into the Wikipedia document, rather I was more interested in the process of trying to get accurate content into the document. Ultimately, while some of the material myself and others were trying to get into the Wikipedia entry was actually eventually left in place, the effort involved in trying to do so, which was punctuated by a frustrating and convoluted gauntlet, largely controlled by the anonymous “Vufors” author, I would think very few serious researchers would want to waste time on the exercise. There in lies the fundamental problem. The content of the entry was largely in the hands of people who seem obsessed with a personal agenda their vision of what Australian ufology is all about. That would be okay if it wasn’t so heavily biased and plagued with errors of fact, interpretation and invention.
Given these frustrations I would not personally bother with the convoluted process of continuing to try to correct or add to the entry. However for the record I will describe some of the problems. Maybe someone might have the patience and free time to run the gauntlet. If you do, good luck, and maybe you might want to consider some of the following issues and problems:
1. The document writer seems to get very confused with when the government UFO files were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, inconsistently indicating the following: “UFO files stayed in Victoria until 1989” (well I examined a substantial part of them between 1982 and 1984 in Canberra!), elsewhere “after 1980 the government UFO reports on files were culled & then scattered throughout Australia way from their original central point in Victoria”, and elsewhere the files in Canberra were “not (opened) until 1981.” The Wikipedia entry thus gives some very conflicting dates.
2. Under “State Collaboration fractures” the Wikipedia author uses a Australian Archives document hyperlink to show an ASIO document on Australian UFO groups, “in which AFSRS president Fred Stone describes the Victoria group & its President as “Pink””, i.e. having communist tendencies or sympathies. If one actually reads the document in question via the given hyperlink it is clear the Wikipedia author can’t read too well. The ASIO document actually refers to correspondence from Stone which instead states that the NSW group, not the Victorian group VFSRS, had “pink” tendencies. Here is the letter content reproduced in the ASIO document. (I have inserted the group initials in brackets to clarify the identifications made in the document): “We (AFSRS) have very good reasons for not altogether trusting this group (VFSRS) due to its very close association with the Sydney one (UFOIC) which has some folk in its control who have “pink” tendencies …” Well, the ASIO material seems clear enough, but it is clear the Wikipedia author got it wrong. There is a story in itself about the accuracy of ASIO’s UFO “intelligence”. Fred Stone’s criteria for “pink” tendencies in those days (1960) were probably no more than suspicions about UFO associates having socialist, labour or free thinking or pacifist tendencies. Stone himself was under surveillance for his scientology connections and his job tenure at WRE the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury. A particularly insightful examination of ASIO’s activities along these lines can be found in Fiona Capp’s book “Writers Defiled Security Surveillance of Australian Authors and Intellectuals 1920-1960” (1993).
3. The Wikipedia author misrepresents UFOIC’s history. UFOIC (UFO Investigation Centre) has been under my direction since 1975/76, but the author writes “UFOIC eventually disintegrated under Fred Phillips & Bill Moser and UFOIC lapsed into silence.” Well, I can attest to the fact that it did not, but that is a story far too detailed to be described here. The reference to Fred Phillips and Bill Moser is particularly offensive. I knew both men and wrote obituaries on each when they passed away in 1981. I asked Fred to be honorary president of UFOIC (which was renamed UFOR(NSW) from 1976 to 1991, then reverted to UFOIC name from 1991), which he graciously agreed to from 1977 until he “retired” from the subject a few years later.
4. The Wikipedia author states Edgar Jarrold departed “the Ufology scene for good”. Well, not quite. He “remerged” in the 1970s to titillate a number of researchers such as Frankh Wilks, Bill Moser and Keith Basterfield.
5. The Wikipedia author states that at the 1965 Ballarat UFO conference “the RAAF is represented by a UFO enthusiast, no less than Air Marshal Sir George Jones.” Well, this is not correct. George Jones was there alright, but as his own man. The official RAAF representative was Mr. B.G. Roberts, a senior research scientist with the operational research office, Department of Air, Canberra, along with 2 RAAF officers who manned a hardware display. See my article “Air Marshall Sir George Jones and his UFO”, Ufologist, Vol.4. No.3 2000.
6. “Charles Brewabout” was clearly meant to be Charles Brew the witness of a striking 1963 close encounter.
There are numerous other errors and issues but it would be tedious to persist with this list. Each of these points I would happily discuss in an intelligent and professional way, but from the anonymous Wikipedia author and his clones, I expect little beyond more non-transparent “warfare”.
The “Australian Ufology” Wikipedia effort seems more like the efforts of someone trying to put into place a limited version of history. While much of it replicates the history that has already been well documented openly by others, it is its omissions, errors and distortions that should concern all who are interested in legitimate, documented and transparent history.
I have a strong interest in the documentation, preservation, and research of UFO history. As can be seen, much of that has had an Australian focus for obvious reasons. I am passionate about the open and transparent documentation of UFO history. An anonymous party that seems focused on manipulating and maintaining a skewed history for whatever agenda is disappointing in this era of extraordinary opportunities in information exchange, such as exemplified in such sites as the Sign Historical group, Project 1947, Magonia exchange, UFO Update, and the many others.
While this little “UFO history war” bears little in stature to the much larger canvases of “history wars” being played out in many countries on topics as diverse as Australian colonialism and the treatment of aborigines, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, the “rape” of Nanking, etc, the accuracy, documentation and transparency of ufology’s history is still very important to all who practice in its shadow.
Our experience here would lead us to conclude it would be a brave soul who would rely on a Wikipedia entry as their sole point of reference. Clearly one needs to apply a critical and close inspection of the reliability, background and substance of information resources that seek to inform us about UFO history. Nothing new or revolutionary there I would have to say given my perspectives which are deeply rooted in an attempt to understand and elaborate on UFO history, and to use that experience to better inform ourselves about today’s controversies and issues, and our future progress.
The battle lines of this little “UFO history war” are drawn. Should we have a local UFO history rooted in anonymous or unverifiable proclamations backed up by “war games” to defend perceived positions or “turfs”?
An example of such a proclamation is the Wikipedia author’s comment that the Australian Defence UFO files were “controlled by the Australian Army who some may say, through their control of Australian Intelligence, were the major player in investigating the UFO phenomenon in Australia,” where “some” it seems, means mainly a long and convoluted mantra that seems lost in the bunkers of “PRA obscura”. By “obscura” I suggest we can be forgiven for wondering about the strange PRA legacy of “no show”, with such things as the Kelly Cahill “Eumemmerring Creek Close Encounter” report (after more than 10 years still waiting), “The Drury Unexplained Aerial Object”, a book by John Auchettl, originally set for release in April 2002 (but still waiting), (In the meantime you might want to read my 2 part report “The Drury UFO film affair” which appeared in the Ufologist in Vol.5. No.1 & 2, 2001) etc.
Alternatively, are we to have a history that is documented in open, transparent cooperation, where issues that emerge, that seem contentious, are resolved where ever possible through dialogue and friendly and professional debate that has its firm foundations in verifiable and accessible documentation and research? I clearly am an advocate of this approach to UFO history. I hope the way of future research into Australian UFO history embraces the same approach, rather than one that seems rooted in “warfare.”
I have highlighted the book “Is History Fiction?” in this essay. It seems appropriate that we end this essay with a “science fiction” flirtation with history which Ufologist editor Robert Frola recently brought to my attention. We had a good time going through Robert’s copy of “Science Fiction Quotations” edited by Gary Westfahl (2005) to this end:
“History is a department of human delusion that interest us” Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned (1919) (Most forteans would not see Fort’s work as science fiction)
“As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day.” Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
“I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.” Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Bluebeard (1987)
Source: Ufologist Magazine Vol.10 No.1 Pgs 25-31 (photos)