Finals Week Ruminations #2
Ah, week ten has come again, as it always does, to Drexel. And that means that this will be the last column of my undergraduate career. I’m sure that some of you are beside yourself with joy at this news, others are weeping openly, and the vast majority probably doesn’t care, but I figured I’d take a break from my regular double-barreled, buffalo-flavored writing style. I’d like to share with you the profits of writing for the Triangle.
Over the past nine months, I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people reading my articles about how UFOs don’t exist. The majority of them have been vulgar to the point that they were obscene even by my already low standards; a tiny fraction contained advice or constructive criticism, and a tiny fraction of this tiny fraction actually agreed with me.
Two of my articles from this past term were featured on the main page of fark.com. Because of this, the Triangle’s website nearly buckled under the weight of about 50,000 visitors, straining our computers to the limit. I am embarrassed to say that I confused fark.com with slashdot.com; only after the second article was linked did I realize my folly. For those of you unaware, slashdot.com provides news and technology advice to nerds, while fark.com provides pictures of naked women and stories of accidental castration to nerds.
Fark isn’t the only website I’ve graced. The folks over at “UFO central” rense.com were kind enough to discuss me on their message boards, generating at least fifty unpleasant, grammatically poor e-mails. Think I’m joking? Here’s a sample email that I received after I wrote an article about Betty and Barney Hill, two crazy people that sparked the modern “abductee” movement:
“Your face reminds me of either of an asshole or a cunt
and you're going to be very bald by the time you're
30. I can't believe you volunarily put your picture on
the internet. Damn you're a dumb looking turd...look
like some inbred hillbilly. “
This little gem is from a gentleman claiming his name is “Causal Ocean,” and it’s far from unique. Trust me: if you’ve ever considered writing somewhere on the internet that UFOs don’t exist, you’d better be prepared for a flood of childish hate mail. Think that letter above is unpleasant? Wake up to ten of them a day for a couple of weeks. For the record, I’ve come to terms with my inevitable baldness. I plan order people like Mr. Ocean forcibly shaved, and then I will glue their hair onto my shiny head without compensating them.
Hate mail is a portion of the mail that I get. I also get emails from folks convinced that they’ve been abducted by UFOs who want me to hear their stories so that I can be enlightened. One gentleman, whom I hope to interview for a future column (more on that later) seems to have experienced missing time after seeing some crazy lights in the sky, while another claimed that 50 years ago he was visited by aliens who told him the awful truth about their reasons for being here. He wouldn’t, of course, enlighten me as to exactly why the little buggers are here, but I have his assurances “it will make [my] worst nightmares seem like Disneyland.”
I also get, although much more rarely, positive emails from people who don’t necessarily agree with me, but are above the level of mention how terribly unattractive I am. A fellow in Illinois sent me a CD containing a vast resource of notes and information about UFOs and aliens, and I will be forever in his debt for assembling so much data and passing it on. I’ve spent hours looking through it, and I’ve probably read no more than one percent of the information. In fact, I’m ashamed that I have yet to send this man a proper letter thanking him.
I’ve also swapped emails with people in such diverse places as Texas and Canada who have read my column and are actually civilized enough to engage in a constructive debate on the subject, unlike the other 99% of their uncouth compatriots. To them I tip my hat, and to the rest of UFO enthusiasts that think emailing me profanity will do me any good, I assure you: my vocabulary in such manners is much more developed than yours.
After one article, the Triangle office received letters and emails demanding that I make my affiliation with skeptic groups known. Apparently, an article I wrote was quite similar to one written by members of the Committee for the Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal (CISCOP.) Let me be absolutely frank: in no way am I affiliated with any group, anywhere. What I write, I write out of my own bitterness and hope for humankind. Further, it is my belief that my article resembled the article written by the folks as CSICOP only because we are both sane, reasonable people and, if we share other similarities, they are disproportionately well-endowed.
So if you’re thinking about joining the UFO debate, my frank advice is not to bother. Scientists, skeptics, and cynical people in general are willing to admit that we can’t explain everything; yet any attempt to explain even a fraction of UFO or paranormal encounters as something non-extraordinary is met with viciousness. UFO enthusiasts are, in my experience, an almost totally unpleasant group of people, with short tempers and foul mouths (at least where scientific reasoning is concerned.) They’re also not above picking on typos or bad grammar, though I see few of them publishing anything in a forum that isn’t a message board.
I, however, will not be deterred. I had the good fortune to be accepted to graduate school here at Drexel, which means that for the indefinite future I will still be here attempting to, if not make the internet a cleaner place, at least splatter it with articles that aren’t rubbish. We’ve a break coming, so the next issue doesn’t come out for about a month. Until then, my humble apologies to those few decent UFO buffs that still exist out there: I mean to badmouth your crude colleagues, not you. Be seeing you.
First Published in The Triangle, 3 June 2005