Lee Speigel's delicate dance with and view of the 2012 UFO Congress

Why does this article piss me off? What is Lee Speigel’s problem that he thinks the sale of silly ET trinkets are an indication that “fringe” types and “true believers” still dominate the UFO community? Come on! I, for one, buy hilarious UFO tee-shirts without considering myself part of a cult of true believers. Or, as I would prefer to say “ET evangelicals.” But even that phrase for me, is humorous, not serious. Let’s have fun with the margins that we all, whether or not we know it, play with.

I realize that Speigel has his (paid) “position,” as a “credible” huff post reporter, to maintain. And I love his stories, including the one below, despite the sometimes strained balance he insists he needs to maintain between assertion of ET and other high strangeness and skepticism, by liberally sprinkling words like “reportedly,” “allegedly,” and “apparently” throughout his reports. And see this.

I’d like to ask, where is Speigel’s skepticism about especially his uncritical use of the word “fringe”? Isn’t that word part of the old paradigm that calls anyone who connects dots a loony, paranoid “conspiracy theorist”?

For the record, I personally saw Lee Speigel stand up at the panel discussion table, and declare that he does believe that we have been, and are being, visited by off-worlders.

UFO Congress Had Good Amount Of Skepticism, But More Is Needed

March 3, 2012
by Lee Speigel

There was a time when UFO conventions or seminars only drew the lunatic fringe audience — those who believe benevolent extraterrestrial beings are watching over us, to make sure Mankind doesn’t destroy itself through warfare and bad decisions affecting planetary climate.

At the recent 21st annual 2012 International UFO Congress near Scottsdale, Ariz., there was certainly some of that purchase-an-ET-trinket mentality.

But during my visit, I observed something else more telling: not everyone present was a UFO fanatic.

Under the well tuned guiding arm of Open Minds Production, the IUFOC was truly an international event as nearly 2000 folks from around the world attended the six-day festivities.

I’ve been to other UFO conventions that catered to the out-of-this-world element, but was impressed with several aspects of this event.

Skepticism was welcome here. There was arch skeptic Robert Sheaffer’s daily critical observations as he wandered in and out of the main speakers and vendors rooms.

In my own presentation, I urged the audience not to believe every UFO item they hear about on the news, in magazines and, especially, online.

What surprised me the most throughout the event were the many folks who came up to me to say how skeptical they are about most flying saucer stories and sought my advice on where to get better, more critical information about it — and these were people who were already believers to some extent and who wanted to share their own personal encounters.

While many of the topics addressed at the IUFOC — UFOs, cattle mutilations, alien abductions, alien implants, government conspiracies, 2012 predictions and crop circles — border on what mainstream media refers to as fringe, there were numerous moments where skepticism filled the air.

Ben Hansen’s presentation of how the media interacts with technology to add to the confusion of what’s real and what’s hoaxed was a key moment. Hansen is one of the stars of the SyFy Channel’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” and he comes at this whole UFO subject showing how technology can often get in the way of the truth.

It was refreshing to see Bryce Zabel — former chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and CNN correspondent — give his take on what may happen after the powers-that-be finally acknowledge thatsome UFOs may turn out to be ET visitors. I was very happy to share the stage with Hansen and Zabel on a panel discussing UFOs and mass media.

Whitley Strieber, author of the 1987 New York Times No. 1 non-fiction bestseller “Communion,” and his wife Anne spoke about his efforts to try and understand his close encounter with “intelligent non-humans”and their catalogue of thousands of witness accounts. To this day, Strieber approaches his story with a skeptical mind set.

If total credibility was on the plate at the IUFOC — and shouldn’t it have been? — I opted for the appearance of Chilean Air Force General (Ret.) Ricardo Bermudez, director of the Committee of Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (or CEFAA), Chile’s official UFO research organization. (At right, Bermudez and I chat about his desire to bring the UFO subject to the United Nations.)

A former fighter pilot, Bermudez now leads a group of scientists and aviation experts who are trying to get to the bottom of numerous UFO reports in Chile. Some of the recordings he played of actual sightings by pilots and air traffic controllers were riveting.

Credibility is of utmost importance when dealing with a subject like UFOs.

When I repeatedly ask people, “Who do you believe?” I’m not just referring to the news media for its often fact-less reporting. I also target those who proclaim that the space brothers and sisters are here, walking among us.

Many of these true believers, who hope to buy a one-way ticket onto some Pleiades-bound spaceship, feel the need to sell books and ET jewelry, supposedly in the hope of unifying Earthlings to welcome their space brethren.

I also notice that many UFO convention visitors don’t want to be in the same room with skeptics.

Isn’t it time for the UFO community to begin to modify its view on this? Skepticism should be embraced rather than shunned or hated. Those who think that some UFOs are visitors from other worlds or dimensions need to work a little harder to get the non-believers to bend.

Unless, of course, some convention vendors of alien gifts are only in it for the money.

If more skeptics were welcomed at UFO conferences, it might elevate these events to higher newsworthy positions on television news programs.

What I would ask of the skeptics is to think twice before debunking or ridiculing UFO eyewitnesses to the point of where lives may be ruined because people dare to speak out and report UFO encounters.

At the IUFOC, I was completely overwhelmed and more than humbled when honored with the Researcher of the Year award. (I’m with Open Minds producer Jason McClellan below.)

Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Huffington Post Media Group, who trust me to bring some needed credibility to the whole UFO issue.

A Lifetime Achievement award was given to Colin Andrews, the man who coined the term “crop circle” in the mid-1980s.

The IUFOC also included a film festival awards ceremony and the first Spanish UFO panel, which drew about 300 people.

Local network news affiliates covered the IUFOC, and it would be great if future conventions could attract more media outlets. Because there’s often newsworthy information that can come out of such an event, it would be a shame to miss it because of any fringe elements that might discourage such coverage.

Some personal standouts at the convention included Clifford Clift, the departing director of the Mutual UFO Network; filmmaker Christopher Garetano, whose well-crafted “Montauk Chronicles” was a finalist at the film festival; Antonio Huneeus, who spoke on the best UFO cases from ancient times to 2012; and catching up with Paola Harris, who’s prepping for her upcoming Women’s UFO Symposium in Texas.

The excellent master of ceremonies for the event, Alejandro Rojas, used the right amount of authority and wit to keep the presentations moving along. And the entire Open Minds organization is to be commended for an amazing job behind the scenes.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank John, Angela, Maureen, Tom, Jason, Heather, Michael, Dakota, and of course, Lorraine.

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4 Responses to Lee Speigel's delicate dance with and view of the 2012 UFO Congress

  1. Lee Speigel says:

    I hate the fact that I’m repeatedly being backed into a corner to defend myself and my “words” when I didn’t even write them. And this is what I was trying to get across at the International UFO Congress.

    Your words and your criticism of me just proves my point. I wish that people would stop putting words into my mouth or keyboard.

    Case in point: you were pissed off by my Huffington Post article, and I quote you: “What is Lee Speigel’s problem that he thinks the sale of ET trinkets are an indication that ‘fringe’ types and ‘true believers’ still dominate the UFO community.”

    OK, where exactly in my story did I say that? NOWHERE. What I said was “there was a time (as in past, not present) when UFO conventions or seminars only drew the lunatic fringe audience…” I also said that at the IUFOC, there was “some of that purchase-an-ET-trinket mentality.”

    Why did you then turn it around to imply that I said the fringe types and true believers “still dominate the UFO community?”

    Did I use the word “dominate”? No, I used the word “Some” and that’s quite different from “All.”

    And then you go on to complain about my use of words like “reportedly,” “allegedly,” and “apparently.” Why do you insist that this is a “strained balance” that I use in my stories? It’s a PROPER balance.

    And yes, I stood up at the panel discussion and declared that I believe that we have been and are being visited by off-worlders.

    The difference is that I don’t include my opinion in my stories, because I’m not blogging. I write feature stories about UFO reports and my personal opinion doesn’t come into play here. Why? Because I can’t prove it. I’m searching for proof, as are many others. But until such time as that proof presents itself, my personal take on it doesn’t hold weight.

    I’ve done a variety of things over several decades that certainly show how I’ve tried to offer my own version of “UFO disclosure.” But we still haven’t seen ultimate proof of aliens among us, so, of course, I must use words like “reportedly,” “allegedly,” etc. For me, it’s the only credible way to report these stories.

    If someone else wants to write about how our space brothers and sisters are here to help us into the next level of consciousness so that we can all live together in a very happy galactic neighborhood, fine, but that’s not what I write about.

    I’m trying to be credible and critical. And if my words don’t resonating with you, then there are plenty of other people who will be happy to get your attention, if non-credibility is your thing.

    I only ask that if you want to complain about my words, please quote me correctly and don’t read into my stuff what you think I’m saying vs. what I’ve clearly said.

    Lee Speigel

    • I used the word “dominate,” I didn’t say specifically that you used the word. Looking back on the article, I agree, that word was too strong. And yet, even in your comment here, you say “we still haven’t seen ultimate proof of aliens among us,” so I imagine, for you, at least on an individual level, any “true believer” is dominated by his ideology, and not skeptical enough.

      BTW: I wonder if you’ve reified “objectivity” (through balance of opposing ideas) into some kind of god? Or am I putting words in your mouth again. . . In any case, I regret that I offended you!

      Meanwhile, I do think you are in a delicate dance, given your admitted view (that we are being visited) and the dynamic between that and your reportorial need for ” ultimate proof.” Meanwhile, I really appreciate that you have been working for decades on this issue, and am very glad the Congress honored you.

  2. Lee Speigel says:

    You’re actually quite correct about my delicate dance. It’s often very frustrating, holding back my own opinion of possible alien visitations to Earth, especially after all of the interviews I’ve done and conversations with some amazing people about this subject. And I’ll never forget my own very close encounter shared in 1975 with several law enforcement officers down in Lumberton, No. Carolina, after I was sent there by astronomer J. Allen Hynek to look into UFO reports by a lot of people.

    When you see something like that very close-up (and this was one of the first examples in the U.S. of a multiple eyewitness sighting of a V-shaped object), it’s an amazing experience, and I was a little dismayed when arch skeptic Robert Sheaffer — who I admire on many levels — kind of shot me down after I told him of my North Carolina encounter when he suggested it was possibly a remote-controlled kite.

    That sort of kicked the wind right out of my sails, yet it gave me instant empathy to countless other UFO eyewitnesses.

    So, yeah, I try to maintain some sort of neutral path here, because I’m still on my own road to discovery. I was so sorry that Hynek left us before he could find the answers he was looking for. Same thing with Budd Hopkins and John Mack and all of the others who are gone. I really hope the final proof comes in my lifetime.

    I think we all deserve to know what’s going on, and, as I mentioned at the UFO Congress, I put a heavy dose of responsibility on the shoulders (assuming they have shoulders) of whatever intelligences are visiting us. They certainly know what they’re doing and what their personal agenda is, and I hate seeing people’s lives ruined because they dare to speak out about their close encounters.

    Thanks for letting me vent a little here…I don’t do it often, but you provided me with a nice platform to do it from. Peace…Lee Speigel

    • Lee,

      So glad you replied to my reply to your comment in this manner! You’d make a wonderful blogger on this subject . . . Thanks so much for letting me and my readers know your personal, albeit “anecdotal” “evidence.”

      I invite you to recall the older woman who asked Bryce Zabel (or was it you she asked, can’t remember), on the media panel, “But I want to know what you really think!” Her question/remark was plaintive, and I shared its feeling, glad that she had gone up to the microphone so that I didn’t have to. And when Zabel said that his “Dark Skies” was not an attempt to get at the truth but a “what if?” frisson of what he saw as the two best conspiracies of the time — the Kennedy assassination and UFO secrets — I imagine she shared my dismay. I had already bought that 6-DVD set, and right then I wished I hadn’t. It sits here now, still wrapped in cellophane.

      Myself, I wonder if the dichotomy known as “true believer vs. skeptic” may be an epistemological prison that only operates in this third densely material dimension that the religion of (Newtonian) scientism has deemed the only reality. Likewise, notions like “proof” and “credibility” feel like straightjackets to me, whose encounters have been multidimensional.

      BTW: I was once married to a newspaperman, and so I do know what you go through to keep your “credibility.” So glad I’ve never agreed to put myself through that narrow slit.

      I wonder when the word “credibility” entered the lexicon. Was it about the same time as that little word “spin”?

      (As a philosophy Ph.D. student, my fields were epistemology and philosophy of science.)

      Thanks again! Very much appreciated.

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