Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Pitch on Stan Romanek

My local "alternative" news weekly, The Pitch, has a piece on self-proclaimed alien contactee Stan Romanek (of peeking alien head video infamy) in its new issue. Romanek's testimony is predictably -- and deservedly -- dismissed, and the cloying stupidity of his adherents exposed for what it is. While I typically wince when I read debunking articles (this patently awful piece by Phil Plait* comes to mind) I found The Pitch's treatment of the "true believer" UFO counterculture disquietingly accurate. If The Pitch doesn't offer a particularly complimentary portrait of ufology in Kansas City, it's because it's like this everywhere, the UFO meme a not-so-subtle stand-in for traditional religious conceits.





The prospect that UFOs are spaceships manned by extraterrestrials shouldn't be automatically dismissed; the problem is that frauds such as Romanek serve as convenient straw men for a mass media eager for simple explanations. Thus "UFO" almost always denotes "alien spaceship," rather than a merely unidentified object. (Some researchers, painfully aware of the need for greater perceived objectivity, have argued that the term needs to be replaced with something even more innocuous.)

Ultimately, those familiar with ufology's carnivalesque trappings will find The Pitch's article at least mostly astute, while those encountering the subject for the first time will simply laugh. And with the UFO lecture circuit dominated by Romanek and his ilk, I can't entirely blame them.

*Readers can find UFO researcher Kevin Randle's rebuttal to Plait's editorial here.

[Follow me on Twitter.]

46 comments:

Bruce Duensing said...

Bravo. A wonderful, much needed commentary. This morning I am once again upended with synchronicity as I just posted a variant of your view entitled "The Men Who Cried Wolf" on my own blog.

David Biedny said...

Indeed, I just happened to read the piece a few moments ago, and thought that the author did a decent job on describing the situation with Stan and his nonsensical stories. That last line from Romanek is the best - yeah, peddle BS is what he does, alright.

dB

Anonymous said...

Mac,Bruce and David,I am appauled by the constant attacks on this man, Stan Romanek. How is he different form you? You are peddling your BS all over the web, the only difference is that you, do not have proof to back up your claims. You do not have scientists saying that the evidence Romanek has is false or fake. On the other hand Stan Romanek has has scientists backing up his claims. It seems to me that people like you are of the mind set that you know the truth, and your personal opinions are more important than any one else's. If this man is a fraud, then how is he able to prove his experiences? Why are their so many witnesses to the sightings? Pull your heads out boys, do some real research, and stop spreading hateand lies all over the internet!!!!

Bruce Duensing said...

Anon,
Equating "hate and lies" with having an opinion other than your own as well as lumping me into a stereotype of "people like you" suggests that unless I believe any old tale, my opinion, according to your logic, not mine, is "important than any one else's", which is based on your advice of "pulling your (my)head out"..which sounds sounds like a fallacious, juvenile argument based on your personal assumptions of me, of course, of which you know absolutely nothing. Rather presenting a logical refutation based on Mr Romanek's merits and not me, personally, I believe what you will believe as you chose to, as undoubtedly you will, regardless of my opinion, so what is the burning issue here? You have your opinion, I have mine. Cest la Vie.

David Biedny said...

Anon,

What claims have I made? Like many others, I've seen UFOs. That's my claim, I don't have answers for sourcing, motive, technology, I have opinions and not a whole lot more. Par for what most people have, in terms of backing up their claims of having seen a UFO.

Meanwhile, you apparently have not listened to the interview we did with Romanek on The Paracast, and the fact that I uncovered his "documentarian", a one Mr. Clay Roberts, who is keeping Stan from sharing his "evidence". I've spoken to the "image analyst" who looked at the video of the blinking, faked "alien" and told me he didn't really have any opinion about the veracity of the video. I've spoken to some of the folks who were approached to look at Stan's stuff, and who declined the honor, after doing some basic due diligence on Stan and his background. He's got tall tales, unimpressive pictures and precious little else, so I'm not so sure what you're getting all worked up over. Stan has scientists looking at his material? Who are they, what have they looked at, where are their reports? Where is the full video analysis of the head in the window?

Stan's got squat. You are entitled to believe his spew, I don't buy a molecule of it.

dB

Anonymous said...

Its an interesting debate but Mac, I see you consistently shun the larger paper trail of F.O.I government documents, both in the USA and abroad, which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are dealing with "aliens" and "alien craft". Interpretations may vary slightly but the larger bulk of the data points to extraterrestrials.

We aren't talking conspiracy theories here, we're talking official documentation. Do you need links?

-Denny

Red Pill Junkie said...

Personally I think that Romanek received so much attention on the American media, for the same reason those idiots with the Bigfoot costume on a cooler did as well: the networks use those stories to cheer up things a bit and give the audience a chance to giggle; a respite amid the the bleak turmoil of bad news. Ultimately, the networks know that if they only present grim stories the audience is going to get saturated and will change the channel to HBO —and that's a big No No.

Although I'm still willing to consider the possibility that someone decided to use this guy's claims to tarnish the attention the phenomenon gathered after the O'Hara & Stephenville incidents —you use the least credible story to remind the public that this is tinfoil hat stuff & nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Romanek is an easy mark. This article by The Pitch is just an entertainment; a simple, tawdry, human interest story about someone who is a fraud, or simply deluded, or both. The public loves this stuff. For the same reasons they watch Jerry Springer or Maury Povitch--it makes them feel superior or out of schadenfreude.

As such, it fits the cyclical news pattern of these kind of stories for journalism's August "dog days" fodder. It's just slightly less declasse media tabloidism.

I wouldn't be too concerned, as this is part and parcel of the spectrum of any controversial field replete with true believers seeking publicity, the ease with which their faux faith can be exposed, and shallow coverage of same. It's almost Darwinian on a symbolic, moral-lesson level.

BTW, the paper trail of U.S. or other government docs do not, in fact, prove "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the ufo phenomenon is necessarily extraterrestrial or alien in the sense you imply--that is merely a first-level interpretation suggested by such documentation, not proof.

Mac said...

@Denny

I would argue that the evidence indicates that the US government is convinced that the UFO phenomenon is quite real and deserving of considerable scrutiny, if for no other reason than the phenomenon's potential impact on national security. In this respect, I agree with Richard Dolan's thesis.

However, the origin of the phenomenon is not so apparent. I'm personally satisfied that the phenomenon is physically real and operates with what can only be described as intelligent intent.

As I mention in my post, the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is certainly deserving of our attention -- but do we *know* that UFOs come from other planets? I would argue that we don't -- not by a long shot. The ETH remains, frustratingly, one of several competing (yet not necessarily exclusive) interpretations.

Mac said...

@Anon.

Romanek is an easy mark. This article by The Pitch is just an entertainment; a simple, tawdry, human interest story about someone who is a fraud, or simply deluded, or both. The public loves this stuff. For the same reasons they watch Jerry Springer or Maury Povitch--it makes them feel superior or out of schadenfreude.

I agree. Which is why, while I found the Pitch article fair in its depiction of Romanek, I want to see the UFO debate (such as it is) elevated out of the media ghetto.

Hella Prime said...

The guy who wrote the Pitch article also has a piece on the Pitch blog about a KC MUFON woman and a bunch of sightings. He's much nicer to her than to Stan Romanak, it's worth a read. It might even be too nice to her.

"When I met her at July's Mysteries of the Universe Conference, which she directed, I felt belief. Not a fervent belief, or a doctrinaire one, but a strong, certain and personal belief, one much like I've seen in my grandfather, who heard a voice telling him to run down the creek just in time to save my mother from drowning, or a friend who saw his uncle in his bedroom the morning that uncle passed several states away."

Grail Knight said...

Nice work, Mac.

The Stan Romaneks of ufology have always annoyed me, for they not only smear reputable UFO researchers with the same brush, but their shenanigans drag a valid phenomenon worthy of serious study down into a muck of ridicule and cynicism that is fodder for a tabloid media and sheeple audience. Some Romaneks are plants, others are just your everyday attention whores.

Anyone who makes the simple effort of researching the UFO phenomenon can be left with no doubts that we are being visited -- we just don't know who or what they are, where (and perhaps when) they are from, and why they are here. Someone somewhere knows something, but they aren't sharing with us plebs.

Anonymous said...

There is a quote from the movie Men in Black that has always stuck with me, "1500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the Universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this plane. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."

I for one think Romanek is genuine, until we accept the possiblity of what we do not know, how can we accept what we think we do know?

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the initial comments supporting Romanek from anon, above, with the various syntax and grammar errors, including the curious spelling of "appauled," mirror very similar wording from a "Lisa" in comments appended to the original Pitch article Mac linked to, and who says she's Stan's wife. There's something very sad about all this.

slc said...

"appauled" is a mis-spelling in several of the Romanek reports. There's a couple more "fallowed" reports the Pitch guy missed, too. It's all so sad, seriously it's depressing that they do this and even more so that people believe it

Michael Cornymleone said...

Alan Scherstuhl, the reporter on the piece linked to by Mac about Romanek, has now filed a follow-up:

http://tinyurl.com/ldfrov

Excerpt:

"Romanek has posted on his Twitter feed that he will be featured on ABC's 20/20 on Tuesday, August 18."

Romanek's "Boo video" of an alleged alien he supposedly videotaped peeking in his window will be shown on the 20/20 show.

Just when you thought this story might lie fallow, it pulls you back in! Little in-joke there.

Mac said...

@Michael Cornymleone

This is a riot. Thanks for the heads-up.

JL_Frost said...

The only piece of information worth your time when it comes to Romanek is on his (broken) website- The U.S. Airforce Aircraft ID Chart-

http://www.stanromanek.com/03%29%20Picture%20&%20Video%20Timeline%20Page_website/files/IMG_37.jpg

The Romanek cartel, supposedly interested in getting the truth out there, can't even maintain a web forum when tough questions arise. Instead of the answers they claim they will provide to forum discussion, they instead just wipe the database and start the forum anew, claiming technical difficulty. They must have finally given up, as the forum is no longer present when I checked.

I guess giving them your money is the only way to get the "proof" they claim to want to share. They really are in this for the best interest of humanity. It's just that, to them, humanity means their own little group.

Chris Wren said...

I don't think any theories regarding UFOs and abduction phenomena should be casually dismissed. Obviously, something is happening. I favor three hypotheses pretty much equally: they're intrusions into our reality from some neighboring reality or dimension that our primate minds are wired to interpret in a certain way, 2)They're time travelers possibly posthumanoid, and 3)They have always been here, but we're just not conceptually capable of grasping their existence as apes are incapable of grasping ours. But there are countless other explanations too. I think the least likely hypothesis is that ALL these people who've experienced these events are liars, or victims of mass hysteria.

Mac said...

@Chris

*Something* real is happening. I tend to suspect it's something aong the lines of your third option:

They have always been here, but we're just not conceptually capable of grasping their existence as apes are incapable of grasping ours.

Or we could be be dealing with disparate phenomena that we lump into the same basket.

I think the least likely hypothesis is that ALL these people who've experienced these events are liars, or victims of mass hysteria.

I agree. Which is why I find characters like Romanek so unnerving.

Anonymous said...

Stan Romanek will appear as part of an ABC Primetime show titled "Outsiders" at 10 pm tonight, Tuesday, August 18th, which covers the alien abduction phenomenon.

There will be the obligatory mainstream media debunking, courtesy of input from Dr. Susan Clancy's assumption that all alien and abduction phenomena reported are related to sleep paralysis, and via the traditional biased slant ABC reporters have consistently applied to network coverage of ufo-related stories previously.

Here is the "Boo video":

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=8349567

While I think Romanek is a fraud, perpetrating a ludicrous hoax for publicity to promote his financial interests, which now include a new book, and that it is likely the great majority of abduction reports are based in either psychological or physiological aberration (such as hypnogogic or hypnopompic conditions related to forms of sleep paralysis), I think objectively one should not so easily or comprehensively dismiss all such reports as deriving from mental or physical problems solely within the "experiencer"--there may also be external forms of triggering such perceptions from outside origins and sources, both natural and artificial, and with or without intent, objectively considering all the known facts and details of some reports involving waking encounters and multiple-witness cases.

sensible believer said...

Great post, great discussion. Saw your Tweet about the Romanek implant disappearing . . . hilarious! The Pitch guy has a crazy/sad comment from Lisa Romanek (Stan's wife) that he posted today, and she pretty much cries that people should stop asking questions and admits that their evidence is bullshit by saying "Stan and I are not doing this to prove that ETs are real, or even that UFO's are real. It is about telling Stans story, of what he has experienced, that is all."

She also spells appalled wrong just the same way another person defending her here did.

http://blogs.pitch.com/plog/2009/08/_the_romaneks_respond_plus_see_romaneks_ufo_footage_on_abc_tonight.php

Try harder, Lisa!

Mac said...

@Sensible

"Stan and I are not doing this to prove that ETs are real, or even that UFO's are real."

How interesting! Stan's the one marketing his story as "The world's most documented
Extraterrestrial Contact Story" and carrying on about "scientific documentation."

Now we're being asked to ignore all that for a moment and just believe.

And to think I actually thought it couldn't get any sleazier.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it can always get sleazier.

Take for example the ABC reporter's angle on the story--at one point she characterizes herself as a "skeptic" and those who recount their experiences as "believers."

Convenient dichotomy, that. All the "experts" were "skeptics." I actually think corporate media combines exploiting and debunking gullible, delusional, or even fraudulent individuals like Romanek are worse than the fraud Stan is promoting--ABC/Disney is not delusional, simply craven and manipulative to use such people for ratings and the almighty advertising dollar, regardless of honest, thorough journalistic standards or consequences.

Now that's what is truly sleazy.

Anonymous said...

Scherstuhl is a debunker and nothing else. Do a search on him, he writes a "humor" blog called Study in Crap where all he does is make fun of anything thats not a "mainstream" belief! His unfair and bias attacks on Stan and Lisa are a disgrace.

Stevens said...

Lay off, last anonymous. Studies in Crap is hilarious and you're a troll.
The Anonymous above you is dead on. Primetime "exposes" Romanek but they're really exploiting him for ratings in a dead news month. The Pitch did something similiar, I guess, but I actually liked that piece. Maybe if gullible people didn't support hoaxers the press wouldn't bother to expose/exploit them.

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