Swamp Gaslighting: Project Blue Book Smackdown with Mark O’Connell

238 – Swamp Gaslighting: Project Blue Book Smackdown with Mark O’Connell

You might say that Mark O’Connell knows a little bit about Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who was in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book. There, Hynek was charged by the military to investigate UFO reports across America and then summarily disprove them. In fact, Mark O’Connell literally wrote the book on Dr. Hynek called The Close Encounters Man.

We’ve had Mark on the show several times before and it’s always a treat. He’s written for Star Trek, has a UFO blog, and he even joined us for a remembrance of Bill Paxton, because Mark had written a script that Bill wanted to direct in the late 90s but unfortunately it never came to fruition.

So you think when the “History” Channel decided to create a show called Project Blue Book where J. Allen Hynek is the lead character, they might contact Mark because they were look for true life stories for their show. Well, the answer to that one is a big fat no. They decided to go on a little more fantastical route.

Aiden Gillen as J. Allen Hynek talking to an alien in a water tank. Hynek biographer Mark O’Connell is not amused.

We kicked off the episode by discussing the trip Allison just got back from in Woodstock, Illinois before we started the recording. She was following the trail of a Mothman sighting she read about on The Singular Fortean because it sounded somewhat like the Flatwoods Monster story that actually forms the basis of the second episode of the new show. Allison also attended the Chicago premiere where the producers and Hynek’s son were in attendance.

But Hollywood history be damned, we talk about the real stories behind the man. J. Allen Hynek basically invented how we study UFOs, how you scientifically look at each report and take a look at each piece of evidence from the weather to the planets to the phase of the moon to the position of the stars, and you eliminate all the terrestrial explanations before you move into the extra-terrestrial. We also get into:

  • The real story of how Dr. Hynek first moved from the desk to the field investigating UFO cases for the Air Force
  • The cases that converted J. Allen Hynek from a skeptic into much more open minded about the reality of strange lights in the sky
  • How Hynek became UFOlogy’s Enemy #1 by suggesting some Michigan sightings might be just “swamp gas”
  • Mark’s favorite case from his own UFO investigations as a MUFON investigator (and what’s going wrong with some of the MUFON politics and investigative methods lately.)
The real guy and Littlefinger…

Hollywood loves to say things are “based on a true story” and then proceed to make them wildly inaccurate. Here, we understand that fiction is fun, but that often the best parts of even fantastical stories (like haunted houses, UFO sightings, etc…) are the parts that keep us grounded to the Earth. By fictionalizing the story to an X-Files extent, you’re doing disrespect to the actual man.

Hynek’s investigative techniques and open mind are what made him a legend in UFOlogy. He was dealing with a lot of things that couldn’t be proven and his mission to discredit UFO sightings is what made it all the more impactiful when he found cases where he could not find an answer. It was his rigorous scientific method of investigation that made the difference, not secret government informants or Werner von Braun.

For the song this week, we were taken by the fact that sometimes the media thinks we’re too dumb to think for ourselves. There is a language and shorthand to cinema that is meant to trigger our emotions quickly and too often producers think that they can exploit our beliefs with special effects and “dramatizations”, sacrificing quality for spectacle. Well, we’d rather hear the truth about Hynek and here is Sunspot with “Disinformation Nation”.

Don’t trust your eyes
and question what you see
They’ll tell you lies
the don’t care about history
A story to bewitch
that is designed to find your switch
you’ll never see it coming
when they activate your programming

Believe
Disinformation nation
Deceive
Disinformation nation
How loud can you shout with a
a mouth inside a mouth
we’re just hardwired for manipulation
Disinformation nation.

You’ll see all things new
with a mind that’s clean
A brain tattoo
imprints and memes
A tale to push your trigger point
Finding the weakness at the joints
Looking for a crowd to whip
and you’ll jump when your sequence is tripped

Believe
Disinformation nation
Deceive
Disinformation nation
How loud can you shout with a
a mouth inside a mouth
we’re just hardwired for manipulation
Disinformation nation.

One thought on “238 – Swamp Gaslighting: Project Blue Book Smackdown with Mark O’Connell”

  1. Fun podcast.

    I love ‘Project Blue Book,’ and yeah, I know the show is predominantly dramatized/sensationalized because the whole ‘based on’, ‘inspired by’, etc. stuff is what Hollywood does nowadays. It’s like comparing “CSI” with “Forensic Files”. The reality of people reading papers, researching science and no action would be a documentary, which isn’t an hour of wild entertainment.

    Just FYI, a guy did not throw himself out a window in the second episode; a woman was shoved (we assume) out window, by the mysterious guy in the hat. 😉

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