Sunday, October 28, 2018

Richmond: Space Acts and Space Weapons

Part the First:

On October 2, 2001, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced HR 2977, a bill “to preserve the cooperative peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by permanently prohibiting the basing of weapons in space by the United States, and to require the President to take action to adopt and implement a world treaty banning space-based weapons.” The short title was “The Space Preservation Act.”

As is usual in the American legislative system, the bill was referred to House of Representatives committees under whose purview it seemed to fall – in this case, the Committee on Science and the Committee on Armed Services and International Relations. The bill had no co-sponsors – in other words, none of Kucinich’s colleagues had officially signaled their support for HR 2977 by listing their name alongside his on the bill. Not unusual, but a bill typically has to have co-sponsors to have a chance at passage.

The verbiage of the bill began by establishing the legitimacy of its mission by quoting the 1958 Act that created NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “It is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.” The ban specified by the bill required the removal of all US space-based weapons and termination of all research and development of space-based weapons. Further, it required that the President of the United States work toward implementation of a “world agreement” banning space-based weapons. Every three months, the President would be required to submit a report to Congress on progress being made along these lines.

However, the bill also specified it was not about the US pulling out of space altogether. Space exploration and research, development and deployment of civil, commercial or defense technologies could continue, as long as it wasn’t related to space-based weapons or systems.

What is a space-based weapon? According to HR 2977, the term encompasses a variety of mythical technologies taken straight from the land of late-night talk radio: electronic and directed energy weapons, ELF and ULF (extremely- and ultra-low frequency) beams and various psychotronic technologies aimed at “individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations.” The list of “exotic” weapons systems also includes “information weapons; chemtrails; high-altitude, ultra-low frequency weapons systems; plasma, electromagnetic, sonic or ultrasonic weapons; laser weapons systems; strategic, theater, tactical, or extraterrestrial weapons; and chemical, biological, environmental, climate or tectonic weapons.”

Conspicuously absent from this list, of course, was the mention of any possibility that a small group of people armed with box cutters and basic flight training could deliberately fly a fully fueled-up jetliner into a skyscraper. Introduced shortly after the 9/11 attacks that stunned the nation, it was not surprising that HR 2977 got no traction on the legislative agenda. What was surprising was that it got introduced in the first place. The exotic space weapons listed in the bill were familiar territory to people familiar with fringe UFO and conspiracy subcultures, but very much newcomers to the national policy conversation around space, war and weapons.

Chemtrail activist Lorie Kramer deemed the inclusion of chemtrails in HR 2977 to be a huge step forward for her cause. Circa 2002 she wrote, “By its conspicuous appearance in 2977, the term ‘chemtrails’ received a form of credibility with the official government process never seen before . . . the simple fact of their inclusion in Kucinich’s 2977 list of weapons systems was deemed a major breakthrough by tens of thousands of citizens and researchers across the country.”

HR 2977 was re-introduced in the next legislative session as HR 3616, also called the Space Preservation Act. It won nine co-sponsors, possibly because all references to “exotic” weaponry had been excised. Kramer wondered why HR 3616 was so different: “So, what happened here? Did someone have a ‘friendly chat’ with Rep. Kucinich? Did the Congressman inhale a bit too much aluminum during his morning job [sic]? . . . It remains a mystery as to how the word ‘chemtrails’ appeared in HR 2977 to begin with . . . Who actually is authoring these bills? Why such an emphasis on ‘exotic weapons’ in HR 2977 but then nothing mentioned about them in HR 3616?”

The concise answer, given by admin Mick West here, is that HR 2977 was “written by UFO enthusiasts Alfred Webre and Carol Rosin, who were trying to:
1.       Nullify a vast conspiracy by the ‘military-industrial complex’
2.       Allow the use of suppressed alien technology for free energy
3.       Avoid accidentally shooting down (or scaring away) visiting aliens.”

In the same piece West goes on to ask, “So what’s Kucinich’s involvement in this? It’s difficult to say. Kucinich is an anti-war, so perhaps that’s his motivation. He does have lot of new-age, UFO-believing friends, but he’s also running for president. When he was made aware of the nature of the ‘exotic weapons’ language in the bill, it was re-written, and when questioned about it, he said, “I’m not into that. Understand me. When I found out that was in there, I said, ‘Look, I’m not interested in going there.’”

Those who follow the history of UFO discourse will recognize Webre under the sobriquet of “father of exopolitics” and one of the first champions of “disclosure”. Exopolitics (our relations with aliens from outer space) and disclosure (the government finally revealing the truth about aliens from outer space and the technology they have brought to earth) are both sacred touchstones in UFO discourse. In 2001 Webre, along with UFO activist Carol Rosin, founded something called the Institute for Cooperation in Space (ICIS) in 2001. Its mission was “to educate decision-makers and the grassroots about why it is important to ban space weapons.” [rationalwiki]

If Webre and Rosin meant HR 2977 to demand some form of government disclosure of UFO and alien activity and technology, they didn’t seem very serious about it. As soon as the successor bill HR 3616 was introduced, co-author Rosin claimed that chemtrails, psychotronic and other “exotic” weaponry had only been mentioned in the first bill as an example of what MIGHT happen if the bill isn’t passed. By 2011, Webre had left ICIS to advocate full-time against HAARP, which he held to be a form of exotic weaponry and later hooked his wagon to time-traveling Canadian lawyer Andrew Basiago’s star.

Neither version of the Space Preservation Act figure in any of the periodic campaigns for disclosure that are mounted by the UFO community. If disclosure advocates were unmoved by Kucinich’s legislative efforts, chemtrailers found in them renewed hope. Chemtrail activist Lorie Kramer wrote online, “By its conspicuous appearance in 2977, the term ‘chemtrails’ received a form of credibility within the official government process never seen before.” Fellow believer Bea Bernhausen added, “Bill HR2977 brought chemtrails and mind control to the attention of thousands of people who had never heard of them before, as well as revitalizing a sagging chemtrail community.” [Italics added]

In September of 2002, Kucinich was set to visit Berkeley, California in order to speak against what the Berkeley Daily Planet described as “Star Wars, a proposal to put weapons in space.” City Council member Dona Spring put forward a resolution to support Kucinich’s Space Preservation Act, which passed. The Planet reported, “the city’s resolution to side with Kucinich’s cause is the first formal support the Congressman has received.”

Actually, after HR 3616 in 2002 with its nine co-sponsors, there was HR 3657 in 2003 with four co-sponsors and HR 2420 in 2005 which won 35 cosponsors. Kucinich clearly continued to work the bill in the normal legislative fashion and had been successful in getting support, at least among Democrats. In contrast, the Berkeley City Council’s resolution in support of a bill that had never actually passed into law was largely a symbolic measure.

The Daily Planet article quotes Spring as saying that the resolution was a model for the country because weapons in space are a bad idea, escalate the arms race and makes the nation less secure. Also, they pollute. The article goes on to quote Rosin, the original bill’s co-author, who warns that without such legislation “Every weapon you know about will be up there . . . along with many you can’t even imagine.”

In 2008, an article about gang stalking and targeted individuals was published in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times. Terms like gang stalking, mind control and targeted individuals will be somewhat familiar to most consumers of fringe discourse. They all connote an intense paranoia in which everyone in a person’s world is actively colluding in trying to control and/or harm that person. The terms emerge from fringe discourses and often invoke imaginary technologies held to be real by such discourses. Sharing Their Demons on the Web described online communities of targeted individuals – victims of gang stalking and mind control – and talked to psychiatrists about what it all meant.

Targeted individual Derrick Robinson is quoted as saying, “It was a big relief to find the community.” One online victim community had started IRL meetings; in Missouri, a state representative had agreed to call for an investigation into mind control torture. As far back as 2008, then, we see that activists around mind control issues are concerned about getting their issue onto a legislative agenda.

On the other hand, Yale psychiatry professor Ralph Hoffman warned, “The views of these belief systems are like a shark that has to be constantly fed. If you don’t feed the delusion, sooner or later it will die out or diminish on its own accord. The key thing is that it needs to be repetitively reinforced.” Assuming that targeted individuals are almost certainly people with untreated mental illness, which is my belief, enabling rather than addressing the illness can have serious consequences.

Friday, July 20, 2018


GOOD MORNING BROOKSIDE! brings you . . .

Your Daily Disturbing Moment

I was on my bike and a little late for work, so it was around 7:00 in the morning when I finally turned down Brookside Drive. If I wasn’t rushing, I probably would’ve noticed the subtle change in air moisture that happens once you start down the road running between Wildcat and San Pablo creeks – both major local waterways into the Bay. This morning, all I noticed was that Kennedy Park was once again unusually pristine.

A short, narrow strip of lush grass adorned with several picnic tables, during the day Kennedy Park is usually filled with what looks like a block party. One co-worker who lived nearby said it was all drug users, which seemed possible. All I knew for sure was I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into the park. It didn’t seem like you could just go over and sit on the grass to read your book as long as the others were around. On the other hand, it did seem like they would welcome anyone willing to sit at one of the tables to chat or even share whatever was being passed around.

The thing that always struck me about the park was that it was usually decisively trashed when I passed it on my way home in the afternoon but as pristine as a Scottdale golf course by the time I went by it on my way to work the next morning. This morning was no different. The picnic tables were bare, the dirt around them free of trash, and the verdant grass shone in the early morning light.

As I approached, I saw a large, colorful “freebie” item someone had left in the middle of the otherwise empty lawn. It was one of those self-supporting swings you sit a baby or toddler in so they can bounce up and down and play with the various brightly colored toys positioned around the swing. There’s probably a name for them, and I’m positive they’re not approved of by Head Start. This one was just sitting in the middle of the park.

It was a little odd. Clearly the item was relatively new and in good condition, but if it was a giveaway, shouldn’t it have been put closer to the sidewalk and street, or at least near the picnic tables? The circular toddler training toy had been plopped down in the middle of an expanse of grass the usual park denizens rarely visited. Right where I may have lay down in the grass to read a book, in fact.

The plastic colors of the item stood out against the green grass. I was tempted to stop and photograph it, in spite of running late. The park clearly had its own culture, and this overnight relic must have its own story to tell.

Then as I wheeled by, I recognized the large, white object lying against the base of the toddler gizmo as a full jar of mayonnaise. Suddenly, I no longer wanted to know the story.

Yours truly,


This has been your daily discomfiture.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Notes on an Unexpected System Failure

I’m getting tired of that feeling you get when you realize you could have died, but didn’t. Instead, you’re standing there unharmed and everything is fine. Until you start shaking all over and crying.

We all know those moments where life changes in an instant. A death is announced, fire takes a house, a relationship is laid bare. In those cases, there is usually something concrete to point to and say, “That hurt me.” But the moment when you recognize you just avoided a catastrophic loss or messy death is harder to pin down. No harm was done, so why get upset?

To be specific, a probably fiery death in an out-of-control car being pinballed by other vehicles on Highway 4 is very far down on my list of acceptable ways to die. I just know I would not have been graceful about it. I would have been frightened, upset, and very, very angry. As it happens, I dodged that particular bullet (for now).

As it happens, I have an older car that is very easily stolen and, as it happens, I have not been able to afford the major work it needs to be safe to drive for more than short distances. I considered going car-free the last time it was stolen, but then it was returned relatively unharmed. I was caught: pour money into fixing up a car that could be stolen at any time? Get rid of it until I could save up money and locate a good used car?

I had planned for the possibility of losing the car by purchasing a bike and commuting equipment so I could always get to work no matter what happened to the car. Financing all that was a campaign in itself, since I had been living below poverty level for several years and had only just gotten a job that would allow me to pay bills and start to plan for a future again.

I opted to keep the car for the time being. I bought some devices that would make it a bit more challenging to steal and asked my mechanic to install a kill switch. A kill switch is supposed to be a toggle switch hidden somewhere; it has to be toggled on in order to start the car. My mechanic wanted to hide the switch in the glove box, but I knew from all the times my car had been broken into that the glove box is the first place they rifle, so I asked him to put it somewhere else.

When I picked up the car, I saw he had installed a large and obvious toggle switch on the driver side dash panel. At first it worked fine, apart from being large and obvious and therefore sort of useless. It was also sort of in the way of my legs when I went to get out of the driver seat, and I bumped against it several times before I learned to avoid it.

At first, I would toggle the switch off whenever I parked, but after a couple months I noticed it wouldn’t always toggle back on when I wanted to drive. At that point I had redundant security systems anyway, so I just left the switch toggled on. At some point after that, I began to have trouble starting my car at all. This wasn’t anything unusual, since I had been deferring necessary maintenance for years and was used to things going wrong. But I did notice this new problem seemed directly related to the kill switch, even when I wasn’t using it to toggle off the power system.

Nevertheless, I kept on driving, fueled by a mixture of hope and reality checks. My automotive maintenance checklist at this point consisted of the following points:

·         Do I still have a car? (Visual check at curbside)
·         Will it start? (Ignition check)
·         Whatever. I have a bike.

Incidentally, it was during this time that the job I had recently accepted specifically because it was local - even though it was in a kind of dangerous and shitty location – announced I would now be required to work at a location requiring a 50-mile car commute.

Today was the day I was finally going to take the car in to the shop for the some of the big-ticket work it needed. I had been saving for months, a few hundred dollars at a time. (Weird thing about me: I’m working on paying down debt, not taking on new ones). There was the usual trouble starting the car, but I got it going and aimed it toward work. I had planned a complicated car-car-bike-bike-car commute between home, work and the shop. My bike was hanging out of the trunk and I was checking the tie-down carefully in my rearview mirror.

A short way out from home on the main drag, all my dash needles dipped, rose, then went dead. I realized my engine had turned off, as in completely off. No steering, no brakes, nothing. One level of my brain was, what happens now? That whole stream of events played out. I knew I had to get out of traffic and park along the curb in a safe place. Amazingly, there was no traffic – very unusual – and I was able to steer out of the leftmost lane of a two-lane road into a safe place at the curb. At this point, it was just momentum of the car and steering by force that got me there.

Once at the curb, I was able to start the car again. Like a goddam idiot, I then proceeded to continue driving to work. The back part of my brain was still running scenarios, though, and started to shout down my cerebral cortex, which just wanted to be at work on time. “DO YOU REALLY THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA, SUE?” I heard it yelling. “YOU ARE IGNORING A SIGNIFICANT MALFUNCTION OF YOUR CAR THAT EVEN THOSE DUDES IN THE CORTEX CAN SEE COULD EASILY BE DEADLY.”

At that point, I decided to drive directly to the shop and turned down a side street to retrace my steps in that direction. I would just have to be late to work. Gasp! The car lost power several more times as I drove slowly and carefully, and then it just wouldn’t start at all. I was able to drift to a safe parking space along a curb in front of a house. I dialed AAA and said, “I’m going to need a tow.”

A very large flatbed truck out of Alameda, some distance away from Richmond, turned up in under half an hour – well under the predicted time. The driver set about winching my car up onto his truck. I called my mechanic and told him what had happened. This was not the repair we were going to do today. This was a job he did that went bad. He said he would make it all right and he was on his way to the shop now.

It was early enough that when we arrived there no other vehicles were parked on the normally busy street in front of the shop. The driver rolled my car, still completely dead in the water, off his truck and set it along the curb. The other businesses along 23rd Street were starting to open. A homeless guy had been sleeping in a recessed shop doorway nearby and was just getting up. The marine overcast was loosening in the wind and the sun was starting to hit the pavement and buildings enough to warm the morning up.

I got my bike out of the back of the car and started to transfer stuff into the pannier so I could ride to work after delivering keys and car to my mechanic. Homeless doorway guy had started packing his stuff up at the same time. I could see that he had his packing down to a science and was moving everything to the curb in an unhurried, methodical fashion. I looked at my car. He had his things, I realized, and I had my things. We all have things. This car was my thing; I was standing where I was because of it, just like homeless guy was carefully moving his stuff around. We all have things and because we have them we have to take care of them. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have to worry about them. But as long as we have them, we have to take care of them.

Does that make any sense?

I stood there next to my car and my bicycle as the morning sun slowly warmed up the sidewalk.  Homeless guy helpfully said to me, “They usually open up around eight.” I couldn’t tell his age or ethnicity very exactly, just that his face had some beard stubble and seemed relaxed and relatively at peace. I told him I had already talked to the shop owner and thanked him for his concern.

My mechanic arrived about 15 minutes later. I basically just gave him the keys to my car and rode off to work on my bike. I told him I didn’t necessarily need the car back by the end of the day. I felt like I could use a little vacation from taking care of my thing.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Space Weapons: Preamble

During grad school, I was lucky enough at one point to find work in a professionally relevant position doing qualitative research. It was a three-year project exploring factors involved in shaping US federal alcohol policy development. The research team consisted of about a half dozen people from a variety of backgrounds. Because I was into postmodernism and the sociology of knowledge, I took on the “role of research in federal policy making” paper.

I have a vivid memory of presenting the results at one of the institute’s brown-bag talks. Our team had focused on a handful of major policy efforts (for example, establishing a .08 blood alcohol level as the drunk driving threshold) and conducted dozens of interviews with stakeholders both inside and outside Washington.  The brown-bag room was lit dimly enough that I could click through my PowerPoint slides while people sitting along the table stretching between me and the screen could still see to eat their lunches.

I explained that it was clear that getting any policy initiative enacted can take decades, even under the best conditions – for example, even when the proposed policy had strong scientific support. Then I got to my most significant finding, that most of the people we talked to said research was not very important to getting a policy passed. In contrast, an evocative image, or the right “optics”, was crucial.

I remember holding the clicker in my hand and looking down the table in the dim light as I talked about my finding. I saw the woman who was the head of the institute and host of the brown-bag program drop her head into her hands at that point. Thinking she was bored, I tried to put a little more drama and animation into my voice as I finished up the talk.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that my most significant finding was also one that seemed to undermine the very reason for doing social science, let alone holding brown bags, writing grants or heading up a research institute – as well as any hope for rational policy-making in this American life. At the time, I was just excited at having a clear finding. It took me awhile to understand how more experienced social scientists might view my finding.

About a year ago, I started to look into some of the more unusual candidates and activities of my local city council in Richmond, California. A North Korea supporter who had also written a 9/11 Truther web article was being advanced as the candidate favored by the ruling progressive majority. I was interested in conspiracy theory believers and wanted to follow her career if she won the seat (she didn't). Chasing that white rabbit, I ran into the infamous incident of the Richmond City Space Weapons Ban of 2015 and ended up diving into the one place I always promised myself I would never go.

I feel bad that my research findings back then made the institute director drop her head into her hands in despair. But I’m here today to tell her, and you, it gets worse. Much worse.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

North Richmond: A Dangerous Magonia

When I ride my bicycle to work in the morning, it’s dark. The last leg of the journey is along Wildcat Creek, on a path that has intermittent overhead lighting. I depend on the fact that I know where I’m going and even enjoy passing underneath branches that occasionally blot out the light and leave things in mystery. It may be a paved public trail just a few yards away from the road, but it makes me feel as if it may lead to Magonia.

I had an extra-long lunch break and thought I'd use it to take a bike ride around the neighborhood where I work in North Richmond. There's creeks and trails and stuff like that. I like creeks and trails. The air was thick with smoke from the wildfires. The roadsides were lined with scattered garbage. Every so often there was a mound of garbage 10 or 15 feet high. Most of the trails turned out to exist only on Google Maps: they were County-owned land, but fenced off - at least to people who pay attention to fences.

Where a trail did run along a creek, it was obvious the creek beds were routinely used to dispose of more garbage. Wildcat Creek near Verde Elementary School is apparently the go-to place for illegally dumping tires (outside of West Oakland, that is). Three or four massive piles of tires stood along the public creekside trail, in plain sight of the school playground.

I suddenly realized I had grown up in paradise. I had a creek and an elementary school, but those were different.

Still in explorer mode, I looked for a way to get down to Wildcat Creek itself. Then I noticed a guy walking along the trees lining the creek. He was definitely not a birder. He wasn’t obviously homeless, but what the hell was he doing? Another guy emerged from the trees and started following him at a distance. I rode by on the path above the floodplain, clearly visible. They both disappeared back into the trees. I thought, "This is a dangerous place. I need to start thinking about bike safety in a whole new way" and didn't try to find the creek bed.

Thinking back on it, could it have been a couple of gay guys hooking up? Both of them definitely looked much better than your average guy who suddenly appears out of nowhere in North Richmond. I want to think they were gay and enjoyed a steamy, satisfying sexual encounter along the barely flowing creek as flycatchers flitted overhead snatching bugs out of the air.

I want to think that, because I’ve never NOT enjoyed riding my bike in my life until I spent half an hour riding around North Richmond. All I could see there was garbage, environmental degradation and suffering. I should never have started to read “To Place Our Deeds,” about the history of the African American community in Richmond, and then gone for a ride around North Richmond. I should never have started to learn about North Richmond and its history at all. I should never had cared. It’s tears all around.

Riding home, I passed the park along San Pablo Creek where people who use drugs like to hang out and socialize. They were whooping it up, and then I realized I couldn't actually tell if they were having a good time, were fighting with each other, or just didn’t know the difference.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Oz Factor and the Freeze Response

 There are certain tropes that come up again and again in personal accounts of paranormal and/or alien encounters. A major one is that the person having the encounter has been rendered docile and/or mysteriously numbed, presumably by some advanced technology or extraordinary power wielded by the Other they are encountering.

You can find examples of this by listening to almost any Art Bell show that focuses on UFO encounters, but it was British ufologist Jenny Randles who noticed and coined a term for it: the Oz factor. Randles carries some weight as a writer and thinker on anomalous topics, so if she says she perceived a pattern in accounts of experiences, I’ll take her word for it. Although, not actually having any of her own books at hand, I’ll quote Lewis (2017) quoting Randles’ explanation of the Oz Factor: “a sort of inner tuning, as the percipient’s mind blocks out attention to all external sounds in order to note the message that is about to bombard his or her consciousness.”

Lewis goes on to say that in other writings Randles extends this into putting “forth this idea of Synchronistic Reality Mode and the ability for the human mind to take in this anomalous information in a parapsychological way and create a virtual reality telepresence experience.” I don’t really understand what that means and I don’t know if it’s a fair reflection of Randles’ own thought, but I do want to point out this: the Oz factor seems to involve a special mental mode which allows communication and contact with undefined, anomalistic Others.

People have bizarre, traumatic encounters they can’t understand and struggle to explain to others. But people also have completely mundane traumatic encounters they can’t understand and struggle to explain to others. A lot of peoples’ stories about UFOs focus on how they can’t get any one to believe in what happened or take them seriously. The same is true, though, about a lot of people’s stories about experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence. I’ve always wondered how ‘special’ the experiences of UFO experiencers are compared to normal human reactions in other extremely taxing, liminal or transgressive situations.

At this point I’d like to introduce Rory Miller, a veteran corrections officer and martial arts teacher who has written several books about the sociology and psychology of real-time violent encounters. In Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected, Miller describes something close to the Oz Factor as one of several types of freeze responses a person may experience when faced with a sudden threat. Miller calls it the hard-wired freeze response and writes, “Know that the hard-wired freeze response is triggered by fear, but it usually doesn’t feel that unpleasant, kind of warm and floaty with a sound in your ears like the ocean. People who have been so terrified they couldn’t move have described this state and decided that they weren’t really afraid so they weren’t really frozen. It just seemed like a good idea at the time not to move.” Which is pretty much exactly how the Oz Factor is described on all those Art Bell programs.

I found Miller’s books after I experienced threat-induced altered sensory functioning during a community “Force Options” training held by my local police department. After classroom time studying use of force policies, hearing real-life stories from officers and discussing events unfolding nationwide, community members had to go alone into a staged scenario with a fake weapons belt and decide how to respond to a call. For real officers in Richmond, if they fail their scenario test, they lose their job.

Before I entered the scenario, a detective prepped me by telling me exactly what would happen and what I should do. “Distance is time. Remember that! You will get tunnel vision and not be able to see. You will stop hearing anything. To break out of that, move your eyes right and left. Then you will be able to hear.” I thought to myself, “That’s bullshit. I know how my mind works under stress. I’ve never lost hearing before.”

The detective pushed the door open and I went into the scenario. All I saw were two guys fighting. I told them to stop and advanced on them. One charged me. I fumbled over the weapons on my belt – OC spray, Taser, gun, baton. By then the guy attacking had come in too close for anything other than baton which, as a student of Filipino martial arts, made me very happy. I was now in my comfort zone - except for someone kept tapping me on my shoulder and another guy was in my face repeating, “It’s over. The scenario is over!” The guy yelling in my face was my role-playing attacker, and the guy tapping on my shoulder was the detective. He had walked beside me and I hadn’t even seen him.

Afterwards, the detective debriefed me. He told me what I had failed to hear. One guy was attacking the other, yelling his intention to kill him. The guy being attacked was yelling for help. I hadn’t heard any of it, although I had heard yelling. My hearing and vision had been restricted and I would have been completely unaware of what I was missing without the post-scenario feedback I got. It was a fascinating and sobering experience.

Is the Oz Factor the same as the what Miller calls the hard-wired freeze response? Possibly. Miller is not the first to write about the psychological and physiological effects of confronting violence and dealing with the Survival Stress Response. USAF Col. John Boyd, by observing thinking and response to combat conditions, pioneered the OODA loop model, showing how physiological response happens and where thinking can get hung up. UFO writers tend to think in silos where the experiences they report on are so special that there can only be one explanation. I submit to your consideration that the Oz Factor is in fact the Freeze Factor and that traumatic encounters with the paranormal work by the same rules as do life-threatening encounters with the normal.

Which brings me to a point made by Jack Brewer in his chapter of the book Robbie Graham edited. Reframing the discourse around UFOs to make it of greater general relevance would require addressing and taking seriously the trauma that experiencers undergo. “Demonstrating a willingness to acknowledge the relevance of trauma shows commitment to accuracy, concern for witnesses, and helps create an atmosphere more conducive to authenticity and good quality of discussion.” (p. 45)

UFOs: Reframing the Debate (2017) Robbie Graham, ed.

Facing Violence: Preparing for the unexpected (2011) Rory Miller

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Crimes & Dog Whistles

Like so many others, I've been swept up in the true crime craze and immersed myself in books, podcasts and documentaries. Along with doing martial arts and the sheer fact of having survived until now, that's one of things that have made me reflect back on what I learned about crime and deviance in grad school.

My thinking has changed in significant ways since then. For instance, I'm reading Samenow's "Inside the Criminal Mind". He's a psychologist who works directly with offenders and describes their world view. At one time I would have felt his approach too essentialist, whereas now I find his observation-based conclusions valuable. (He also explicitly warns readers against putting an essentialist interpretation on his work.)

So the other day when a headline about "what criminologists get wrong and why" or somesuch popped up in my news feed, I read the article. Hoping for, I don't know, a thoughtful reappraisal of the field, some lessons learned, and possibilities for the future? I know, I know! That's not the stuff news feeds are made of.

The article started off reasonably enough and had me nodding my head at first. There was a misfire of logic here and a bit of a sweeping generalization there, but it cited academic literature, which is always good for seeming legit. It's true there's bias, fashion and fad in academia; social factors shape what counts as knowledge, which is something I've always found fascinating.

About half way through the article, though, it became clear that the author's analysis was very simple. Liberal research was biased and therefore wrong; it had largely silenced conservative research - which is unbiased and therefore right - for political reasons. So much for nuanced, thoughtful, or for that matter even informed reappraisal!

But there was more. Now that conservative voices were coming to the fore once more (Hi there, alt right!), there was hope for returning criminology to where it should have been all along in terms of theory and research. For instance, looking at factors like intelligence –

I'm going to stop right there. The mention of intelligence is classic racist dog whistle dressed up in cap and gown. A very old and tattered cap and gown in this case, because the scientific battle whether intelligence can be linked to race was settled a long time ago, and actual science has long since moved on (spoiler: race is a social construct). To mention intelligence as an important variable in studying crime is not just to highlight the fact that you're probably not conversant with the contemporary academic scene; it is to specifically reference a period in history when race, intelligence and criminality were all linked together by eugenic "science." Hence: dog whistle.

I finished the article, but came away with a distinct sense of having contracted a case of morgellons by reading it. The sad thing is that anyone who didn’t have my knowledge of that particular field might be taken in by the use of citations, miss the dog whistle and take the article as legit - while those who hear the dog whistle will see all those cool citations and think their opinions are now based in science.

There is still a valid question to explore in how the assumptions and biases of academe have shaped the field of criminology. (What I find most thought-provoking in this regard is what I see as the emerging field of the sociology of violence – which covers everything from the true crime craze to stuff like Rory Miller’s books to the course on Understanding Terrorism running on Coursera right now.) In the meantime, I like to think that persuasive arguments based on

~ Rejection of science
~ Disavowal of history of scientific discoveries up until now
~ Obvious promotion of a political agenda
~ Hope that no one will notice any of the above/counting on stupidity

are ultimately doomed to fail, and hopefully doomed to fail before they destroy the United States.

Former EPA head Christie Whitman in the NYT:
"The red team begins with his politically preferred conclusion that climate change isn’t a problem, and it will seek evidence to justify that position. That’s the opposite of how science works. True science follows the evidence. The critical tests of peer review and replication ensure that the consensus is sound. Government bases policy on those results. This applies to liberals and conservatives alike."