In his 10 years of experience as a publicly recognized close-encounter witness, Whitley Strieber has labored to lift the veils of skepticism and denial from scientists, politicians, and reporters. He's appreciated a climate of increasing open-mindedness, noting also that any hard evidence confirming the existence of UFOs, close encounters, and alien abductions has been, to date, lacking. But times, he writes in Confirmation, have changed. "Gone are the arguments that science has nothing to work with. Behavioral science has not only the witnesses but also physical proof that something unknown has happened to at least some of them, in the form of apparent implants that have been removed from their bodies." Further, "fantastic advances" are enabling false alien-abduction stories to be weeded out the from the true ones. But it reads like a stew of bold assertions tagged onto eyewitness accounts, the "truth" of which remains largely anecdotal, and mixed in with a discussion of new theories about false-memory syndrome. Confirmation might rally the believers, but it will make the unconverted skeptical and querulous.
Whitley Strieber has never suggested that the alien presence among us is benign, and his confessions and investigations have always been unnerving. Sinister, secret, and bizarre are words he uses to describe "them." Strieber's "evidence" that there are aliens among us falls into three areas: an increase in amateur videotapes of strange objects in the sky; the massive amount of abduction testimony that is different from older accounts; and the insidious implants that have been removed from close-encounter witnesses (of which he is one). This last area is creepy, indeed, and we can be glad that science is conducting careful studies. What the implants are made of, how they function, and what their purpose might be--these questions hold the key to Strieber's mystery.
His reporting of the "facts" begins on July 11, 1991, in Mexico City during a total eclipse of the sun. A UFO was spotted and videotaped by hundreds. Exhaustively he argues against the variables--it can be, for example, neither Venus nor a star. He recounts the heated public debates and asserts that this 1991 event was not isolated, but heralded an extended period of sightings. Of course, he admits, hoaxes abounded, too.
When it comes to discussing the three videos that have actually appeared on TV depicting aliens, Strieber's extrapolations do not harden to proof. Yet he begins part 2 of Confirmation with this assertion: "The evidence that UFOs are flying around in our skies is so extensive that it is reasonable to consider that these unconventional objects are in some way real, and that many of them seem to be under intelligent control." This part of the book (it's livelier than the first part, because it's even creepier) presents testimony of actual encounters. These narratives came to him in letter form and his approach is to discern common threads among wildly diverse experiences. Rejecting psychological explanations for alleged abductions, Strieber pounces on what he thinks of as the reliable source--"the natural memories of people who have had continuous recall of their experiences from the time they happened." Now, when was the last time you trusted your memory as a reliable source? But Strieber believes without a doubt that we are receiving communication from another world. Describing the strange and chilling world of the abduction letters, he's convinced that they indicate "the working of a nonhuman mind, or of a part of the human mind so hidden that it has never before gained a voice." So is it Close Encounters or psychosis?
Unfortunately, with every extrapolation or assertion, Whitley Strieber's arguments seem more and more strained; the "proof" remains, alas, poofy, as when he compares the increasingly elaborate abduction narratives to those of crop circles--another documented but unexplained mystery--citing elaboration itself as proof of increasingly different abductions. Since the first sightings, crop circles, too, have grown far more elaborate and complex. Is it really any wonder that peoples' stories should become increasingly endowed with imaginative complexity? How is that proof? It's all creepy, to be sure, and certainly worthy of serious, sustained investigation. But do not look for proof or hard evidence in Confirmation. The promise is unfulfilled, the confirmation pending. --Hollis Giammatteo [via]