Date: Fri May 27 1994 00:00:16 Subj: Millenium or Mania UFO - MILLENNIUM OR MEDIA? 05/23/9

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Date: Fri May 27 1994 00:00:16 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: Millenium or Mania UFO ------------------------------- MILLENNIUM OR MEDIA? 05/23/94 Gannett News Service "This is a desperate time. The culture has failed, and we know it, and we are desperate to somehow survive," writes Whitley Strieber in a foreword to "The Omega Project." Strieber, author of the best-selling 1987 book "Communion," a vivid abduction account, doesn't consider his views millennial. But others certainly would. As the year 2000 looms, end-of-the-world-as-we- know-it fears seem to be intensifying - fears of global pollution, holes in the ozone layer, nuclear war, natural disasters, plagues like AIDS that don't respond to Western medicine. Nonsense, says Paul Kurtz, the skeptic. "I don't think the world is any worse than it's ever been. In some ways, it's better." More people are living longer. They have material comfort, leisure, health. It's the media, he says, who are terrifying them. Start with Betty and Barney Hill, the first publicized UFO abductees. Many of the details of their story, published in Look magazine in 1966, were similar to those in the 1953 science fiction film "Invaders from Mars." A TV movie based on their encounter, The UFO Incident, aired in 1975. The aliens, portrayed with bald, egg-shaped heads and large, black, slanting eyes, became the standard model for media extraterrestrials, wrote Philip J. Klass in his 1988 book "UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game." In 1976, the tabloid National Enquirer upped its prize for convincing evidence of aliens to $1 million. UFO abduction reports soared. "Any person with a little imagination could now become an instant celebrity by claiming a UFO abduction," declared Klass. Now UFO-ology is a mini-industry, with its own national organizations, conferences, journals, study groups, videos, CD-ROMs and 900-numbers. Add that to the gush of infotainment about the paranormal, and we have "information overload," says Kurtz. "People often are unable to decide what's true or false. If it's dramatized, they think it's true. It's all symptomatic of a breakdown in standards of critical thinking."

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