News & Politics

The UFOlogists Are After Me!


Got a call today from James Fox, some guy who’s been making money peddling confusion about the Phoenix Lights, and who made an appearance on NBC’s recent show, “10 Close Encounters Caught on Tape.” He noticed that I’d written some fairly skeptical things about the Lights in this blog.

His claim to fame, apparently, is that he talked disgraced former Arizona Governor Fife Symington into admitting that he, too, saw the famous “vee” formation of the 1997 Phoenix Lights, and got Symington to admit that he still wonders what he saw. (Since my newspaper at the time, the Phoenix New Times, helped bump Symington from office over a bank scandal, I can imagine that the former governor didn’t get around to reading my reporting on the ‘vee’ that appeared in our paper—the vee turned out to be a high-flying formation of airplanes, as spotted by a man with a large telescope.)

Well, good for you, Mr. Fox. But our conversation was pretty farcical. Like other UFOlogists, Fox is impressed by people who thought the vee was just over their heads and traveling very slowly, mysteriously making no noise, and simply dismisses other people who perceived that it was high in the sky, and others who heard jet noise. But the telescopic observation, as well as the fact that the vee covered 200 miles, from Prescott to Tucson, in only a half hour, not only suggest it was high and moving fast, but also point out that human eyeballs—even those possessed by pilots and military men—are basically useless for judging the distance of point-sources of light in a night sky.

But Fox isn’t just an unscientific observer, he’s the worst sort of investigator, who promotes as fact garbage that even a cub reporter wouldn’t repeat.

The best part of our conversation: taking an ominous tone, Fox asked if I’d talked to people at nearby Luke AFB about the events that night (actually, I had).

“How do you explain that they went to DefCon 3 and scrambled jets that night?” Fox asked me.

Now, at that point, I wondered if this guy was for real. I mean, isn’t “DEFCON” a national defense posture, not something that an Air Force Base is going to declare because the locals are squabbling about lights in the sky? But this is one of those hoary facts that the more credulous Phoenix Lights fanatics pass around like it’s a solid fact: Luke declared Defcon 3, dude!

“Who at Luke told you that?” I asked Fox.

He explained that he’d talked to some girlfriends of some Luke guys at a party that swore it was true.


So now, you know what sort of investigative powers you’re dealing with when you buy a copy of Fox’s “Out of the Blue: The Definitive Investigation of the UFO Phenomenon.” (Narrated by Peter Coyote!)

Apparently, the point of calling me up was that Fox wanted me to come on CNN and debate him about the Phoenix Lights in some upcoming show.

What, and help him sell more videotapes? Shya right.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 22, 2008

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