by Stanton T. Friedman
Foreward by Whitley Strieber
Marlowe & Company, 1996, Trade pb
4pp b&w photo insert
5 appendices, bibliography, indexed
A Book Review and General Discussion
Although focused on checking the authenticity of the MJ-12 or MAJESTIC-12 papers, which are documents leaked or hoaxed regarding a secret top-level UFO investigation committee of VIPs from the military and various fields supposedly fored under President Truman in 1947 in response to the crash and recovery of at least one flying saucer and perhaps also occupants, this book is really about research methods. It is a thorough lesson on why to withhold judgment.
In it, Dr. Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist with a long pedigree of work with top aerospace and nuclear power applications research, demonstrates how tedious, challenging, and long-term it is thoroughly to investigate and confirm a document’s provenance. Tiny details such as typewriter font or acidity of paper, the style of stamps used, and the validity of signatures each branches one’s research into a dozen other vectors. It is difficult to overstate how layered and complex such archive research can be.
To complicate matters, access to papers in archives and libraries may be hampered by poor cross-referencing, a lack of catalogue information, or simply denial. Redaction, whereby black lines block text to hide what ever the redactor chooses, often demolishes apparent success by making access next to useless.
In chasing down the MJ-12 story, Friedman patiently uses a scientific method to come at the problem from as many different angles as possible. As he confirms or rejects a detail he adds to the mosaic. Gradually a picture forms.
One approach he takes is to assess debunker claims and criticisms. He takes each one seriously and checks to see if it holds water. Almost always debunker assertions crumble at the first touch of examination. Explanations and quibbles simply do not withstand scrutiny. An example: Critics say the way a date appears on some of the documents prove it is a hoax because the use of zero in double-digit date codes did not come about until after computers.
This Friedman shows to be nonsense easily refuted by anyone who checks any hand-grab of archived military or government documents. 04/04/47 would be as common as July 4, 1947, or 4 July 1947, etc. There was, turns out, no systematic format used universally. It usually depended on an individual boss’s preferences, and most were not sufficiently OCD to care.
As for the book’s title, this is taken from an apparent security classification on some of the documents. Again, critics scoff while a check of contemporary 1940s usage indicates it’s quite feasible.
For those used to bashing Friedman as a wild-eyed true believer, this book may prove surprising: He demonstrates systematically that, while there are no smoking guns or solid reasons to invalidate these documents, there are also no solid ways, yet, to confirm them as real. They remain in a gray area.
Despite this, the preponderance of evidence, including fascinating checks of various principle VIP schedules for conflicts, indicates they may well be genuine. If so, the implications are enormous for what we thought was our history, especially in the post WW II years.
I read this book as a follow-up to the Friedman/Berliner book Crash At Corona, which examined the downed flying saucer claims we usually refer to as the Roswell Incident. Top Secret/Majic is a good addition to a serious survey of the UFO situation.
These two books followed my reading of Edward J. Ruppelt’s book Report On the Flying Saucers, one of the first and best overviews by the first officer in charge of the USAF’s Project BLUE BOOK. Turned out the book not only held up very well but was far more rational and interesting than the decades of debunker sneering would lead one to think.
The clarity and honesty of early research into UFOs was bent toward finding out what the hell they were and what was going on. Now it seems such straightforward clarity is gone, fogged by conflicting agendas from dozens of power players. Still, one can find a path through the clutter and make a rational assessment by sifting out the rational, honest investigations.
Other books recommended for those interested in the reality behind the howls of the UFO topic are Leslie Kean’s excellent overview, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record.
Another is John Alexander’s book, UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities. He is, incidentally, one of the special forces officers featured in Ron Ronson’s excellent book, Men Who Stare At Goats, made into an entertaining George Clooney movie you may have seen.
UFOs and the National Security State by Richard M. Dolan, with a forward by Jacques F. Vallee, is subtitled Chronology of a Cover-Up 1941-1973.
Above Top Secret by Timothy Good is a fat compendium of UFO reports, encounters, and investigations, and the subsequent government disavowals and denials, from across the pond in Britain and Europe, as well as around the world.
Preponderance of evidence. Each claim automatically sets up links to other physical facts that can be checked. When enough are traced, one often finds the hoax, the flawed identification, the delusion. Not always is this the case, though.
Debunkers are fond of saying, “If we had enough information we could explain even the small percentage of UFO reports that remain unexplained.” Turns out that’s diametrically incorrect. The more detailed, precise, and authoritative a UFO report, from established, sober pilots and other experienced observers with years experience of aerial objects, the less likely it is to be explained.
Debunkers also love to say, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This assertion sounds sage and wise but it violates logic and defies physics. The plain fact is, proof is proof. Evidence is evidence. Empirical is empirical. A claim is a claim. Applying an adjective only reveals the prejudice of certain closed minds.
Isn’t the scientific evidence of gathering empirical evidence and making tentative conclusions based on it the sine qua non?
By science’s very own rationale, a preponderance of evidence suffices to allow a postulate of Probably Real, and no “extraordinary” evidence is required. What exactlly is “extraordinary” evidence? Is it miraculous? Does a god or demon appear to deliver it? Must it have Papal approval?
It is quite obviously well past time for us to ignore the skepdicks and begin thinking for ourselves.
As to physical evidence of UFOs and craft of unknown sources, there is a preponderance of it if one chooses to look. Is a craft seen by ground observers, radar, and cameras sufficiently “real” to admit it exists in a physical way? How about fragments, marks left on ground or trees or plants, scorches, traces of fuel, exotic metals, chemicals, and radioactivity? Where’d all that come from?
If you find your front door or car window smashed in, you do not instantly doubt that something real did it. You do not scoff and call for “extraordinary” evidence before you’ll believe something actually smashed your property. This underscores the absurdity of the so-called skeptic’s stance. It is a cringe of willful blindness to obvious evidence, and it is a shout-down of views that oppose what they choose to approve.
Martinets bullying is not science, nor is it even skeptical. It is ridiculous.
My diversion into disposing of mindless refusal to look at evidence or assess it fairly, which one might call the Swamp Gas approach, demonstrates how fraught with needless controversy and willful blurring the topic of UFOs has become. There really are organized people working hard to make sure you will sneer and ridicule when you hear the terms UFO or flying saucer or unknown craft. “Oh, those saucer nuts,” is one of the approved responses.
J. Allen Hynek, Astronomer and Professor of Astronomy, worked for years as a hired debunker. His job was to dismiss claims and brush away UFO sightings any way he could. Find an excuse and use it, was how he was told to operate. It was he who coined the notoriously patronizing Swamp Gas explanation, for instance. He would blame Venus when it was not visible in the sky. He did this kind of thing for years, but the evidence he kept seeing bothered him. Eventually he could no longer sustain the pretense of debunking and came out as a genuinely puzzled scientist.
That marked his advent into studying UFOs and he made signal contributions to sifting fact from obfuscation, including contributing to the classification of sightings made famous by Spielberg’s film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, a film in which he has a cameo even as Fraçoise Truffaut plays Lacome, an analogue of Jacques Vallee.
So we see that intellectual honesty can prevail. Although he is quite old now, Stanton Friedman is one of those who has sustained serious research, approaching the UFO question mostly through research in libraries, document caches, and archives. By years of careful cross-referencing, he has advanced our understanding of what is going on, even as we remain unable to make specific conclusions.
For the record, Dr. Friedman and many other serious, educated, and intelligent people have concluded that UFOs are craft of unknown origin that far exceed the performance envelopes of any human engineering and that the ETH, the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis, is the most likely explanation. They come from off planet, who or what ever they are.
Some conclude that craft and beings have been retrieved after crashes, perhaps even captured. Some further conclude there is an agreement in effect between representatives of Humanity and those of at least one, perhaps several, off-Earth species.
Some conclude there are a few of us who know the facts involved in all this.
All the rest of us can do is read the better books, think as clearly as we can, and keep watching the skies.
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