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Series 1: "Bigfooting" continued...

Series 1: "Bigfooting" continued... An expanded essay about the Paranormal Investigatory world.

09 September 2020

Imagine the paranormal investigatory world as a busy street. As you progress down the street, on your quest of exploration, you will encounter many side streets that look promising. You might see street signs such as “UFO avenue” or “Bigfoot Circle,” and each of these streets seem very enticing. Most of these streets are occupied by “research groups” that promise “expert” answers on their chosen research topic area of choice. The unwary traveler (i.e. every new person interested in any one of the sub-categories of the paranormal) almost always mistakenly turns onto one of the side streets and finds themselves shortly in an endless cul-de-sac. The unwary traveler joins a “research group” and like a psychic whirlpool, all creative thought and originality is quickly discouraged, forbidden, dissipated and substituted with a sort of authoritarian adherence to whatever prevailing theory or dogma is promulgated by the leadership of the “research group.” These “research groups” often have many enticements, like nice web sites, “expeditions” for the paying membership, and any number of other flashy elements which are tactically designed to promote the “research group.” All in hopes of garnering more public exposure, landing lucrative television contracts (for the leadership), and to a lesser degree, membership recruitment for more monies.

In general, these groups have one tantamount leader (“Dear Leader”), who is in control of the group and this leader is surrounded by a small group of sycophants who comprise their internal, research group social controllers. In practice, I have found that no group member can question the authority of the leadership and/or the pet theories of the group leader. The unwary paranormal researcher, on their quest to seek and uncover truth, unwittingly becomes trapped inside a cult. Some of these unfortunate fledgling researchers flail around and manage to eventually free themselves from the cult, other “noobs” fall away from seeking their own quest for answers and sadly, most “newbies” end up indoctrinated and happily blowing kisses at their group’s “dear leader.” The historical landscape of Paranormal, Bigfoot, and UFO research is littered with accounts of these types of  “research groups.”

I know, I seem kind of harsh in my description of most of these groups. In reality, most of these groups are a modern substitute for the local/church civic clubs of yore. The faithful group members have dinners together, commission tee-shirts with their research group name and a picture of Bigfoot/UFO/whatever on the tee’s front, and serve as a way for people to gather and discuss their favorite paranormal subject matter. You know, that is just fine with me and I encourage the positive interaction of people and their hobbies. My only misgiving is that some of these groups begin to believe they have all the answers and the group’s resident “dear leader” is ALWAYS correct about his/her own mere assumptions and hypotheses. They become so sure of themselves that they begin to disallow any questioning of the leadership or their groups’ prevailing theories. If a person persists in questioning, they find themselves socially isolated, harassed, and denied use of club facilities (i.e. the UFO/Bigfoot internet discussion board or uninvited from the latest “expedition”). In short, the offending member(s), for daring to think for themselves, are abused and either cowed into submission or expelled. Human history proves that the decline of any human organization into authoritarianism and dictatorship is quick and inexorable when the free exchange of thought is censored.

In general, cults display certain behaviors setting them apart from more free-thinking social organizations. These “cultic” behaviors can be enumerated and listed. Let us do a quick comparison of “cultic” paranormal/UFO/Bigfoot research group behaviors:

  1. The Leadership has absolute authoritarian control and no reasonable accountability to the membership.
  2. Questioning the leadership is not allowed. No critical thinking is tolerated, especially any thinking critical of the leadership.
  3. The leadership has an unreasonable interest in members’ finances. The group is constantly asked for monies for various and sundry reasons. The monies received by the group leadership is not accounted for to the group’s membership in any meaningful way.
  4. The leadership wants the members to ignore, ridicule or have an unreasonable fear of competing theories that challenge the core belief system of the research group. Ridicule of other theories is the most common form of social control. If this fails, social isolation will be implemented, then expulsion. If a researcher is not a member of the group, the membership is taught to socially ignore or not communicate with this person. To understand, you must adopt an “elementary school” mindset and imagine yourself on the busy “lunchtime” playground. The various cliques control certain areas of the playground and those unwilling to join them are pronounced to have a bad case of the “cooties.” Their supposed enemies become the "lunatic fringe" or "The Woo," or a similar derogatory term for expressing their derision.
  5. If a person leaves the group, they are considered a traitor or worse, a heretic and under an edict of anathema. The erring member should not be mentioned thereafter.
  6. Former group members tell stories about how they were abused or badly treated while in the group. Normally, this extends to being harassed on the internet and/or being banned from group participation, etc.
  7. The leader or leadership is always right.
  8. The group leadership has all the answers. The research group has only one socially acceptable theory about any phenomenon (e.g. UFO origin, Bigfoot origin, etc.) and any other explanation is dismissed. This accepted group theory will always be based in “science” (regardless of how ludicrous) and admitting that the resident theory could be wrong is unforgivable. Hence, the group repeats the same research behaviors over and over expecting to finally, someday, achieve a different outcome.
  9. Whenever the group goes on an “expedition,” “dear leader” always seems to achieve some type of paranormal interaction. For instance (I will use a Bigfoot research example), the group goes to an area that is supposedly very “hot” with Bigfoot activity. The leader/leadership manages to get vocal responses and “tree knocks” all night. Alone, you go back a week later and find that you cannot even get the crickets to respond to you. Concerned about your apparent failure, at the next group meeting, you question “dear leader” about this disparity and he explains, “Oh, you probably weren’t hitting the tree right with your dead branch. It takes real skill to call in them ‘Squatches, son.” Later, you notice the social climate in the “research group” has now changed and it has gotten just a few degrees colder in your direction. Likely, it is probably a bit colder because your group’s “dear leader” now wonders if you know he staged this entire event with his hooting/wood-knocking cousin, and they split the money from the expedition. Caveat Emptor, my friend.
  10. You notice in public gatherings (i.e. conventions) your group takes great pleasure in either boycotting speakers with opposing or different ideas, or in the extreme, enjoys heckling or shouting down these same speakers.
  11. Finally, you begin to feel that your freedom of opinion or expression has diminished and participating in the group has ceased to be fun and is more of a duty or chore. In short, you lost the exuberance you once possessed for the research subject matter.

Remember, I’m not opposed to having a research group. In fact, I was the founding member of the “Georgia Swamp Ape Research Center.” I think getting together with friends, camping, looking for Bigfoot, UFOs, or whatever is fun, and allows a person to build new friendships and positive relationships. It might even encourage some youngsters (and some oldsters) to put down their smartphone for a while and look around at the world. In addition, a group of cooperating people can conduct meaningful research and possibly collect significant direct evidence. However, all this positive social interaction should not come at the cost of freedom of thought or expression. If a person has an idea that you disagree with, then just agree to disagree and do not castigate someone for having their own opinion. None of us have the ultimate answer about any of this bizarre stuff. If you did have the definitive answers, you would be in an interrogation room at a black site undergoing extraordinary rendition.

As a writer, I am guilty of adding addendums and other short sections to an overall work. Some might describe these sections as tangential to the main thesis. I feel the reader is intelligent enough to see these short essays have an overarching relationship to my subject matter. To me, it is like packing some new researcher’s imaginary sack lunch and including a short note to “study hard,” “watch out,” or “remember to…” It is a way to plant a seed in the mind that may help a person along their way. In this way, I wrote this short blog post as exactly that sort of reminder or warning note. This note is for you to remember to guard your right to question authority (at any level), it is a note to prod you and make you remember your right to freely think about any subject matter you want, it is a plea for you to never compromise your intellectual freedom and/or allow yourself to be mentally enslaved by a set of dogmatic ideas. It is a reminder that it is your right, as a human being, to freely think, freely imagine, freely explore any idea that you find interesting (with the caveat that your actions bring harm to none).

In my lifetime, I have seen "cultic" behavior in both the Paranormal research world and the religious one. Therefore, I warn any person new to this kind of research to do their own research into ANY group they may be considering a membership. Be smart and do not compromise your personal convictions to belong to ANY type of social organization.

Copyright JPAkin 2020

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