Why We Shouldn't Disembowel MUFON Just Yet
For those who pay attention to the comings and goings of individuals within the UFO community, MUFON has lost another one of its prized members. Primarily to its own inability to do anything right regarding public relations or ethics, Chris Cogswell, its newly appointed Director of Research, has chosen to leave the organization only a few short months after taking the job. Cogswell, being a man of reason and clearly in possession of a moral backbone, has taken issue with MUFON’s inability to cut one of their top brass, John Ventre, loose.
For many on the outer rim of the UFO community, they may recognize Mr. Ventre from his multiple appearances on MUFON’s “tell-all” TV show, Hangar 1. For those who dove a little deeper into the subculture’s pool, they may recall an incident which occurred in May of 2017 when Mr. Ventre vented publicly, on Facebook, his disdain for a show called “Dear White People” and his curious, albeit incorrect, belief that “whites” invented everything.
To make matters worse, Jan Harzan, MUFON’s Executive Director, posted a response that would make any Public Relations undergrad throw up in their own mouths. The MUFON Board of Directors and their Executive Director should have totally severed ties with Mr. Ventre immediately. Unfortunately, Mr. Harzan had this to say.
The post was deleted days after it was published, but I’ve provided a screen shot courtesy of the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. (Thank you to those who provided me this link and how to retrieve it.)
I’ll never deny a person their freedom of speech. At the end of the day, Mr. Ventre does have the right to say whatever he pleases, no matter how discriminatory or ignorant. Though his behaviour is shameful, there will always individuals who are prejudiced and dimwitted. The more problematic issue is that the MUFON leadership did not remove Mr. Ventre from its organization, but rather shuffled him around a bit. While they did “fire” him from his position as State Director, citing that MUFON does not tolerate racism, he still seems to maintain a relatively comfy position in MUFON’s “inner circle.” Furthermore, according to Cogswell, Ventre was listed to speak at a MUFON conference in Pennsylvania. Currently, his name does not appear on the docket.
I also find it curious that, while many within MUFON’s ranks did leave the organization due to this issue, many did not. There could be many reasons for this; perhaps, they agree with Mr. Ventre’s racist views; or, it is that they are apathetic towards the situation and basically do not care; or, they believe that the mission of MUFON is of great importance and that Mr. Ventre’s little outburst matters little to the ‘grand scheme.’
The first two are clearly immoral, and it is clear that some within Ufology do have belief systems that are typically prejudiced or discriminatory. J. Z. Knight, the famous channeller and cult leader, who is also a member of MUFON's 'inner circle' according to Kevin Randle, has also vented her racist views in public. Steve Hudgeons, MUFON's former (yet, back now?) Director of Field Investigations has also promoted some questionable racial ideology. However, the third reason above speaks volumes to many individuals within MUFON’s ranks who believe they serve an unwavering communal good, regardless of MUFON's issues.
While some have been calling to have MUFON disbanded or boycotted, we must be cautious. For those outside of the UFO community who somehow become entangled with the UFO phenomenon, they must have a place to report their sighting and/or encounter. There are indeed many UFO groups out there who collect sightings and do investigations. The vast majority are small outfits with no real oversight or public presence. In other words, no one really knows who or what they are, and their organizations are usually in flux, chaos, and often upon the edge of collapse. MUFON, for all of its faults, still stands as the stronghold of Ufological reporting and investigation. It can muster a sizeable investigative team and uses a relatively efficient ‘Case Management System’ to collect data and send that data out to its investigators.
Is MUFON perfect? Certainly not. Does it have poor investigators or get into bed with the wrong people at times? Yes. However, we must consider the other side.
If MUFON does collapse, to whom will people turn? The small UFO groups are no better than the big ones. There is no oversight, therefore, their bias or investigative ability would be just as terrible if not worse. They are often started by individuals who have a vested interest in a specific hypothesis or theory. The vast majority are not run by experts in a relevant field, nor do they possess any legitimate training, but by enthusiasts who are simply interested in UFOs and have "read a lot of books." Do we leave witnesses to individual lone gun investigators? Again, we should be wary. As researcher Ryan Sprague told me only days ago, if you want to be a UFO investigator, “spin around three times and touch your nose.”
I am not suggesting that MUFON is better than the various other organizations, perhaps it is just “less worse.” Due to its age and size, it is more under the public microscope. When it speaks, everyone in the community will pay attention, and in turn, create discourse (as we are doing now).
Those within the UFO community who regularly debate the issues and partake in Ufological work, “those in the know,” have become entrenched in their own little world. At times, it is difficult to view the situation from the outside. Those who call for MUFON’s demise must remember that the aim of the game is to engage with those who have been engaged. Those who experience the phenomenon are essential players to the UFO game. Without the witnesses, there is nothing. Demanding that MUFON commit seppuku is perhaps short sighted.
It is foolish to think that if MUFON became defunct, some noble or perfect organization would rise in its place. It is foolish to think that smaller groups would be able to fill the giant gaps MUFON would leave. With MUFON's destruction comes the loss of UFO reports, plain and simple. Not everyone who sees a UFO is a part of the UFO community; MUFON is the only house on the block with its lights on 24/7 and able to get sightings at least categorized, if not investigated, within a short time frame.
I have little doubt the conspiratorial will object. They will make claims that MUFON is run or infiltrated by "three-letter" intelligence agencies, cabals or some evil alien race, or MUFON is some nefarious cult type organization hell bent on controlling the UFO narrative. Obviously none of these claims can be proven or substantiated. Is it possible? Sure. Is it possible that my mother is a shape-shifting unicorn? Yep. Just because it "might be possible" does not make it true. Until some evidence presents itself, then this criticism is moot.
Hate it or love it, MUFON is currently the king of the UFO data hill, at least publicly. No other organization has risen to the same size, scope or mainstream public awareness. Shutting all that down would result in tens of thousands of future UFO reports not being made. We must consider the impact of this. The loss of information concerning UFOs is perhaps the worst possible outcome.
Do we then absolve MUFON as a result of this fact? No. However, the countless MUFON volunteers and field investigators, the good ones anyway, who have dedicated significant time and energy to their work are not responsible for the sins and poor decisions of their leaders. When a samurai lost a battle due to poor strategy, his surviving foot soldiers were not expected to commit ritual suicide to regain their honour. As the officers, the leaders, the samurai bore the total responsibility of the defeat. If that defeat was dishonourable, then they had only one way to regain honour for themselves and their families.
I am not suggesting that MUFON’s Board of Directors disembowel themselves, but I am suggesting that they take responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. They are solely responsible for MUFON's current dishonour; whether it is the dishonest ‘hiding’ of Mr. Ventre and his continued role in the organization, or the loss of Mr. Cogswell as their advisor. I am not going to make some silly demand that they all resign. I am not going to start some ideological crusade. That is pointless. I do not want to "go to war with MUFON."
The current situation MUFON is in is not the fault of MUFON's members, but the fault of one racist State Director and the leadership which, for some reason, was unwilling to cut him loose and sever all ties. Perhaps it is less of a racial issue, and more of a leadership issue. Poor leaders blame others while good ones take responsibility.