The twenty-first century environment of ufology (I’m tempted to use the late James Moseley’s “ufoology”) is a mixed bag of computer-created images that look real, but are in fact not. Those of us who actually spend valuable time writing about these matters come close to hating the bullshitters. As some of you know, there exist trademarked apps which enable anyone to put together UFO images of startling realism. That doesn’t make it “right” to present these as authentic—hardly. Those engaged in hoaxing only harden those already dubious about the entire “phenomenon” into stances of taking none of it seriously. Is this stance fair? Of course it is. Anyone who misuses the utterly amazing technology available to us all on cell phone cameras obviously has personal failings beyond the scope of this simple blog. As much as I respect the very early work done by Gray Barker and others, I cannot fail but to think he would have thrived in our current environment. Maybe not.
I’d like to think that Gray, aware of said technology, would simply acknowledge it and move on—but he probably would embrace it and push on with the stuff he’s historically known for. A genuine waste of talent, in my opinion, and one I’m constantly subjected to simply because I live in West Virginia. Barker did some good work, starting with the Flatwoods Monster report for FATE in 1952. That didn’t last long, because he soon went into making fun of ufology (not a completely negative thing), and his available-on-line letters prove this. Were he alive now, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact him, and express both my anger and admiration. “Gray,” I’d begin, “with all the solid work you’ve done, what made you decide to fuck with those interested in serious scientific work? Were you simply bored with your West Virginia Nobody life? Angry at John Keel, and others taken more seriously?”
I’ll tell you, I’d have driven to Clarksburg with a good bottle, and gotten in his face. Why? Because no one today would, or should, put up with such nonsense from a man capable of so much more. Sure, he probably IS responsible (with John Keel, who actually gave a damn, and tracked Barker’s telephone records in a time when that was incredibly difficult) for a big hand in “creating” the Men-in-Black mythos, He deserves zero accolades for this, because only making public what already was going on in government agents sniffing out left-over Nazis and rising “Commies.” Operatives snooping around early UFO groups to make sure their stapled newsletters weren’t offering details on military bases and their operations—something these writers easily could have reported in all innocence. And, thanks to Barker, might scribble about genuine FBI visitations as “cover ups” and “threats” based on paranoiac musings of American intell spending budgets on “silencing” what were then known as Saucerers.
Gray Barker couldn’t have known the mythos he was creating, but had to have some idea. Keel and Moseley were right in saying we ought to be suspicious of anything Barker wrote after 1953 or so. He was “just having fun.” I wonder how many people’s lives were negatively affected by his “fun.” Pre-Internet, they had only mail-order and occasional book-store finds of Barker books. These were taken seriously. Why would they not? Anyone can find Barker’s letters on the Internet, and he often urged his (usually much younger) pals to shit on him in their newsletters and obscure articles to build up his “authority.”
I admit to some admiration of the works of Gray Barker, but he dropped the ball and knew it. While there’s no way to measure it, he had to have negatively affected a large number of the general public’s lives. Did he know this? I like to think he didn’t, because family members describe him as generous, hard-working, and sensitive. But he had a hand in making ufology a fool’s game. This continues on Youtube and elsewhere, to the point where nothing posted there can be trusted. Were Barker living today, he’d probably be laughing.
My point in writing this? Technology has done very little to help ufology. We cannot discern “real” UFO footage from fakes. Worse, we have drones—legal and otherwise—confusing matters. This only will get worse. We find ourselves situated in the same position as John Keel, Jacques Vallee, and other pioneers. I see this as positive, because we are left no option but to seek out witnesses of the unknown, and face them. Something no cell phone, digital device, or second-hand account can equal.