Responding on his website to Skeptical Inquirer ’s January/February 2009 issue, flying-saucer conspiracy theorist “Stan” Friedman sputters invective, faulty-logic, and misinformation. It must be emotionally devastating to have spent one’s life trying to prove extraterrestrials are visiting us, and to reach his mid-seventies with nothing to show for it. How he deals with me in his posting is instructive.
He begins by erroneously referring to me as “Joseph” Nickell, apparently jumping to the conclusion that my real name is a nickname. (Is it thus okay if I assume “Stan” is short for Stanley?) He mentions that I “spent a lot of time as a magician,” adding: “Not much science there. Of course the stock in trade of magicians is intentional deception with another sterling example being the Amazing Randi.” To Friedman, my background in magic is evidence that I am merely one of CSI’s “Debunkers doing their best to pull the wool over the eyes of a curious public.” Now, this hilariously fallacious logic also represents an ad hominem (personal) attack, one that has no place in evidential matters. (I mean, even if I thought Stanley was an attention-seeking crank, I would never say so.)
He doesn’t do well in dealing with the evidence, either. For instance, he responds to my statement that, in the 1947 Roswell crashed-saucer incident, an unauthorized press release resulted in the issuing information officer being reprimanded. Friedman asserts I provided “no evidence.” In fact, I gave as one of two reference citations “Berlitz and Moore 1980” (referring to the book The Roswell Incident which incorporated research by Friedman).
According to the book, officer Walter Haut—“the man responsible for the release of the so-called ‘Roswell Statement’” (p. 23)—“jumped the gun in a burst of excitement and enthusiastically issued” the release “to members of the press without first bothering to obtain the authorization of his base commander, Colonel William Blanchard” (p. 22). Roswell intelligence officer Jesse Marcel said of Haut’s issuance of the press release, “I heard he wasn’t authorized to do this, and I believe he was severely reprimanded for it, I think all the way from Washington” (p. 68). Subsequently, “Haut resigned his commission in April 1948 on learning that he was about to be transferred. (N.B. He was promoted to captain before he left the service. However, he was not promoted before he signified his willingness to resign.)” (p. 73). And so on.
Friedman’s misinformation continues; for example, he uses the phrase “As I recall” to misrepresent how I reached my conclusions regarding the phony “MJ-12” Roswell documents. Friedman ignores my document credentials , while revealing his own ineptness in the field. For example, he is oblivious of the fact that a questioned document cannot be authenticated from a photographic copy. Small wonder he continues to be duped by those amateurish forgeries. So he misleads others to believe the Roswell incident involved a crashed flying saucer, when in fact the debris was from a secret U.S. reconnaissance balloon.
Friedman has constantly implied that he is superior to some opponents because he is a “nuclear physicist,” but in fact he lacks a doctorate, worked on the frighteningly silly “nuclear aircraft” program, published few if any scientific papers in the field, and—perhaps not surprisingly—abandoned it to become a full-time UFO proponent. There he found cheap notoriety, as well as, of course, criticism for his logical, scientific, and common-sense lapses.