In 1986 Omni editor Dick Teresi asked if I would do a short
article for an upcoming issue on censorship in science. I
responded with a manuscript I titled "Anomaly Bashing"; it was
published as "Censoring the Paranormal" in the February 1987
issue. (It was later reprinted in Ted Schultz's 1989 book The
Fringes of Reason, page 203.)
The piece dealt with debunking extremism, much of it associated
with CSICOP. In it I devoted a paragraph to the Nebraska
episode. (See Part 1 for details.)
No sooner had the issue hit the stands than I was taking calls
from Teresi and, shortly after, from Omni's attorney. Leading
CSICOPs had contacted Teresi to let him know sentiments such as
mine were unacceptable to the debunking thought police (I had
urged an end to the "hysteria" and a return to the "serious
business of dispassionate investigation," apparently just about
the last thing the debunkers wanted to hear); more important,
Klass had actually threatened to sue over my few words. Omni
asked for additional documentation beyond what I had already
provided, and that was the end of at least that much.
I had written CSICOP Chairman Paul Kurtz as long ago as December
7, 1983, to ask him what he thought of Klass' charge that
ufologists were serving Soviet ends. Enclosing a transcript of
Klass' remarks, I asked, "Does CSICOP condone these sorts of
charges? Do you ... draw a line between hard-hitting criticisms
of anomalous claims and the extravagant, even scurrilous charges
Klass has made in his communications [with the Nebraska
Kurtz's response, dated December 20, can best be characterized as
mealy-mouthed. After assuring me of his belief in free
expression, he said Klass was speaking for himself and CSICOP
members hold a range of opinions. Translation: Kurtz did not
want to get involved. Even the leveling of charges most people
would regard as McCarthy-ite could elicit no condemnation, or
even a mild demur, from the leadership, which had already
tolerated accusations from Klass and other CSICOP-affiliated
debunkers that ufologists are exploiters, irrationalists,
cultists, and so on. Perhaps, seen in this context, it is true
that Klass' ufology-is-tantamount-to-Communism spiel amounted to
no significant escalation of either vitriol or craziness.
Still, while CSICOP is immensely indulgent of even the most
lunatic attacks on paranormal and anomalous claims and claimants,
it has no tolerance whatever for criticisms of itself, as its
high-dudgeon reaction to my Omni essay had already demonstrated.
In that vein, in a June 10, 1987, note, Kurtz sniffed about my
"unrelenting attacks on CSICOP in Fate and other magazines."
I replied on July 8: "It is strange to get this [complaint] from
someone who directs an organization devoted to nothing but
'unrelenting attacks' on proponents of anomalies and the
paranormal. At least 'Fate and other magazines' -- unlike
[CSICOP's magazine] Skeptical Inquirer -- devote only a small,
even tiny, percentage of their pages to criticism of those with
whom they disagree.... I realize that CSICOP, like any
organization with political objectives, may not have the luxury
of choosing its allies as carefully as it might like. But you
can hardly protest when from time to time you are held
accountable for the antics of those whose activities you promote
and whom you seldom criticize in any meaningful way.... [I]t is
more than a trifle hypocritical for you to react with shock and
indignation when you are attacked in return. I'm reminded of
what Edward G. Robinson said in the classic gangster film Little
Caesar: 'You've been dishin' it out so long you can't take it no
Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier, one of those who had
complained to Teresi, wrote an indignant response to my Omni
article in the September 1987 issue of his magazine. What it
lacked in specifics, it made up for in sweeping proclamations,
one of them that my words about Klass were "malicious" and,
moreover, known by me "to be false." (If that were true, of
course, Klass _would_ have had a legal case.) Frazier neither
mentioned nor questioned Klass' McCarthyite slur of ufologists,
thus becoming yet another CSICOP notable to maintain a tactful
silence on the subject. Frazier did not answer my letter
challenging him on these points.
I did, however, get a letter from Mark Plummer, then CSICOP's
Executive Director, who wrote me on August 31 on another matter.
In my September 4 reply, I said, in part:
"The whole controversy about my Omni editorial centers on the
question of whether CSICOP contains individuals of extreme (i.e.,
lunatic fringe) views and whether CSICOP can fairly be criticized
for same. In that regard it is surely significant that at no
time has CSICOP publicly disassociated itself from the
pronouncements of Philip J. Klass, who holds that UFO proponents
are serving the ends of Soviet foreign policy, nor is there any
evidence that it has reprimanded him in any way. In fact, the
editor of Skeptical Inquirer has expressed outrage that anyone
would take exception to such assertions, even suggesting that
someone who did (me) could only have been acting out of malice.
"The clear implication is that CSICOP -- which continues to
portray Klass as a responsible spokesman and to give wide
publicity to his assorted pronouncements -- either agrees with
these views or at least considers them acceptable expressions of
Plummer wrote back on September 17 to ask for "proof" that Klass
had accused ufologists of serving Soviet ends. I provided such
proof, which included a transcript of the phone conversation that
Klass himself had given me (quoted at length in Part 1). The
response was silence -- at least on his end. I heard not from
Plummer but from Klass, to whom I learned Plummer had sent copies
of my letters.
Klass' communication, dated October 5, was titled "AN OPEN-LETTER
CHALLENGE TO JEROME CLARK." Referring to my September 4 letter,
Klass noted my observation (though adding italics to it) that he
"_holds that UFO proponents are serving the ends of Soviet
foreign policy_." He grandly offered $5000 to the Center for UFO
Studies (of which I am an officer) if -- Klass' italics again --
"you can find in any of my _published books or articles_ where I
have said that 'UFO proponents are serving the ends of Soviet
foreign policy', or words substantially equivalent." He hastily
appended this amendment: the offer "does _not_ apply to my
expression of personal opinion during a private telephone
conversation" with the Nebraska administrator.
In an open letter of my own three days later, I pointed out the
obvious: that at no time had I ever charged, indicated, implied,
or hinted that Klass had _published_ his strange equation of
ufologists with Communists; the issue all along had been his
privately uttered words to the administrator. "Amusingly," I
noted, "in making his 'challenge', Klass seeks to exclude the
very evidence that bears on the issue."
Meanwhile, in an October 13 letter to Marcello Truzzi (who
co-founded CSICOP with Kurtz but who had left the organization
long since to become one of its major critics), Klass said he
stood by the sentiments he had expressed to the administrator.
Having heard nothing from Plummer, I wrote him on November 18.
"Now that you have been fully informed of Klass' excesses, may we
expect to see an editorial in Skeptical Inquirer apologizing to
the UFO community for being subject to such scurrilous
accusations?" I asked. "May we expect to see a statement
declaring that McCarthyism (or any other form of irrational
excess) has no part in the anomaly debate? Or may we expect, as
I'm afraid I do, absolutely no reaction whatever from CSICOP?"
On November 23 Plummer replied. Having reviewed the evidence,
saw nothing "excessive" in Klass' pronouncements. It was, he
added, all my fault for "jumping to conclusions."
To this day not a single significant CSICOP figure has disavowed
Klass' charges or chastised him for making them. Instead CSICOP
has reserved all its criticism for those who, like me, have
raised the issue. Publicly CSICOP pretends to believe that my
portrayal of these events is false.
On April 26, 1990, Rick Moen of Bay Area Skeptics posted Klass'
account of the episode on a computer network used by debunkers.
Hilariously, Klass fails to note anywhere that he had equated
ufologists with Communist agents, though he does acknowledge that
he "asked if the American Nazi Party wanted to rent its
facilities for a meeting, whether the University would 'sponsor'
said meeting" -- evidently a moral dilemma he found equivalent to
sponsorship of a UFO conference.
Meanwhile, Philip J. Klass remains a CSICOP and debunking
superstar, a regular speaker at CSICOP's conferences, and a
frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer. Prometheus Books,
which Kurtz heads, continues to issue Klass titles.
A final note:
On October 28, 1991, I asked Klass, "Do you still consider
proponents of a UFO cover-up threats to the republic? Or do you
now, at last, disavow the remarks you made -- you know, the ones
so embarrassing to you that you threatened to sue the leakers --
to the University of Nebraska?"
Klass replied on November 26. After informing me, apparently as
yet another ufologist equivalent to Communists, that I could have
become one of the top writers for Pravda in the pre-peristroika
era, he denied ever alleging that ufologists constitute a threat
to the republic. In the next breath he affirmed that yes, he
stood by his remarks to the Nebraska administrator -- in which he
held that ufologists constitute a threat to the republic.
In a rational world CSICOP would have been laughed out of
existence following revelations of its bumbling and
double-dealing in the "Starbaby" scandal (as chronicled in
side-splitting detail by Dennis Rawlins in Fate, October 1981).
But in this irrational world CSICOP continues to masquerade as
the voice of reason and, as one of its leading lights would have
us believe, ufology is still tantamount to Communism.