Finding the flaws of a society is always easier in retrospect. Nowadays we are rightly shocked by the fact our ancestors took slavery and the subservient role of women for granted, the same way we pity them for believing the Earth was the center of the Cosmos or that ‘bad humors’ ruled human health.
What’s more difficult is trying to discern the things from our own society which will make our future descendants roll their eyes while thinking “how could they possibly have believed in that?” A useful exercise in trying to discern the societal flaws which will probably not withstand the test of time, is taking a hard look at the topics which are currently regarded as ‘taboo’: things which are considered ridiculous, rude, career-destroying or even immoral if it were to be discussed openly with colleagues, or totally inappropriate if brought among decent folks at a formal dinner table –imagine, for example, how your family members would have reacted 30 years ago if you had told them a lot of Catholic priests were pederasts, and that the Church was well aware of it!
But of course, there’s no better example of a ‘modern taboo’ in the XXIst century than the UFO phenomenon. Just look at the way the TED organization, which is famous for putting together conferences with some of the biggest names in the world of science, business and technology, decided to flag a recently released TEDx Columbus video showing political scientist Alexander Wendt’s talk titled “A Science of UFOs” with this warning:
NOTE FROM TED: We’ve flagged this talk, which was filmed at a TEDx event, because it appears to fall outside TEDx’s content guidelines. Claims made in this talk only represent the speaker’s personal understanding of UFOs which are not corroborated by scientific evidence. TEDx events are independently organized by volunteers.
Perhaps there’s no greater way to prove the point of Wendt’s argument regarding the cultural stigma imposed on UFOs, than to deem his opinion as ‘unscientific’. To further increase the irony is that on my Youtube’s list of suggested videos next to this one, the first choice was another TEDx talk from 2016 with best-selling author Ben Mezrich, in which he discusses the topic of his book The 37th Parallel –namely UFOs, Roswell and cattle mutilations.
If you watch this video directly on YouTube, you’ll notice TED didn’t bother to include a warning similar to the one issued to the more recent video. Why? Is it perhaps because the TED folks thought the opinion of a writer on UFOs wouldn’t have as much weight as that of a college professor like Wendt, who didn’t spend as much time as Mezner cracking jokes, but instead highlighted the seriousness of the topic by showing the Gimbal and Go-Fast Navy videos, while taking his fellow academicians to task for not daring to take a look at the UFO evidence, thus perpetuating the topic surrounding the phenomenon with their reprobable indifference?
As a matter of fact, part of me gets TED’s concerns. For example, as I clicked on the Mezner video on my computer browser, I was immediately submitted to an automatic advertisement of GAIA –whose content and claims about alien mummies are highly questionable. This is the problem we currently have in the age of algorithms specifically programmed to shove you deep into the dark recesses of the rabbit hole, whenever you show the tiniest bit of interest in controversial topics and conspiracy theories.
But that’s the problem when respectable outlets of information leave a gap which is rapidly filled by sensationalists who are only seeking to monetize their click-baits. If you edit out good information on UFOs from Wikipedia and TED, sooner or later uninformed viewers will arrive to Third Phase of Moon (please DON’T look it up) –and those disenfranchised individuals could be easily radicalized into believing any kind of nonsensical idea (QAnon anyone?).
And the worst thing is that the taboo reinforced by TED’s attitude further impedes academicians from openly discussing UFOs with their peers, leaving them with no choice but to only bring up the subject in off-the-record conversations, or while attending private symposia (with no cameras to endanger anyone’s reputation) in places like the Esalen institute; something Dr. Diana Pasulka has mentioned in the pages of her book American Cosmic and during radio interviews.
But bringing back Alexander Wendt’s talk –which was a bit too ETH-oriented for my personal taste– I found it weird how he seems to dismiss the idea of governments funding unidentified aerial phenomena research despite the US Navy’s admittance that the objects encountered by their pilots are true UFOs, given how we all learned about these videos due to a government-funded UFO research program (AATIP). I also found Wendt’s suggestion that the best next thing to a government-funded study would be a scientific non-profit organization directly crowdfunded by private citizens –is he perhaps thinking of a certain ‘academy of arts and sciences’ founded by a certain rockstar?