If I tell you I’m credible, I am, says incredible Bigfoot claimant

I hardly ever call attention to and criticize a particular blog post by someone I disagree with. Though some drama bloggers seem to do just that, it’s not good content and it’s often lazy. But I found an occasion to do so that I think may be illustrative of a point that has been irking me about Bigfoot research, generally.

There are few things I know for sure. For many things I rely on the history of what humans have established as knowledge about the world – our scientific knowledge. One thing I can say for sure is that people who research the paranormal – who they are, why they do it, and what their goals are – are complicated and I would not disparage anyone for spending time on something they feel is personally fulfilling. Therefore, you won’t see me making fun of people who think researching the unknown in their leisure time is worthwhile. I do it too! We should keep at it.

The range of views and approaches by researchers are wide and varied. Sticking to Bigfoot with this discussion, there are those who subscribe to the idea that it is a flesh and blood animal and there are those that believe it is a supernatural being not subject to natural laws. There is also a subset of us that Daniel Loxton characterizes as “post-cryptid” cryptozoologists. We look at the entire subject from an objective perspective including adding in what we feel are very important aspects of historical records, folklore, social sciences, evolutionary and ecological considerations, and so forth. We practice evidence-focused skepticism. It’s less speculation and more process of scientific inquiry.

I discovered an essay today by whom some consider a prominent Bigfoot researcher. Matthew Johnson posted on May 27, 2014 via his Team Squatchin USA website a piece entitled “BIGFOOT POLITICS, OPINIONS, EGOS versus REAL MEANINGFUL RESULTS!!!” [1] (capitalization and punctuation is original).

It begins: “Dearest “NEWBIES” to the realm of Bigfootdom,”

The gist of the post is: Don’t be fooled by people with a lot of talk and no results. “Talk is cheap.” Results are what matters.

I can’t argue with that in the least. But to illustrate his core message, Johnson ends up being the epitome of the straw man he creates. I don’t think he notices that what results is a sad example of the low-quality intellectualism, unprofessionalism, and lack of understanding about science and society that pervades amateur paranormal research and makes it a LOL-stock (laughing-stock).

Matthew Johnson describes himself as “one of the most credible people in the Bigfoot world.” (People write their own bios, you know.) He is a licensed psychologist and an experienced speaker in his career focus of positive parenting. In his personal bio, he brags that he is really tall and played basketball against some NBA stars. He consistently refers to himself as “Dr. J”.

None of this relates directly to Bigfoot at all. Is credibility is a distributive property? Nope. Most people we can judge as reasonably credible by default because they don’t want to be seen as liars. But everyone has trouble with observational mistakes, even trained observers. Having a doctorate outside of the field you are opining about does not give you credibility in that field. I don’t use my license in geology to boost my credibility about cryptid research! Yet, I can say something about how science works in society since I have not only academic but work experience in this field. So, I’m going to point out what is totally wrong in Johnson’s piece regarding a sound research approach.

I’ll get to the primary blunder in a moment but the first thing I’ve noticed about Johnson’s posts is the page style and characteristics that make his essays awful to look at and read.

  • Words in ALL CAPS or random capitalization of words throughout the piece.
  • Multiple colors (bold black, red, blue and green). This also appears on his site promoting parenting information.
  • Overuse of ellipses (……)
  • Poor grammar, careless and excessive punctuation
  • Repetitive points and inelegant, unsophisticated language even for a blog post (use of “LOL”, “squatch” and filler phrases like “mind you”)

All of which make the post look unpolished and amateurish – not what I would expect from an author with advanced degrees.

The heart of the post is his take on “results” in the field of Bigfootery. After saying that spoor or audio recordings are not what he is referring to, he states the following:

RATHER, when I refer to RESULTS, I’m actually talking about frequent interactions with the Bigfoot/Forest People. I’m actually talking about attempts at mutual communication between the Bigfoot researcher and the Bigfoot/Forest People. I’m actually talking about increased visuals, increased exchange of learning language, and increased CONTACT between two or more sentient beings. In other words, the intent of true Bigfoot Research is to prove that the Bigfoot/Forest People exist in order to protect them as well as their environment. How is one going to prove that they exist without ongoing and consistent CONTACT via a trusting relationship developed over time.

That Johnson identifies his specific, unsubstantiated (to me) belief as “results” is incredible (that is, NOT credible). What kind of messed up message does this send to people interested in the Bigfoot phenomena? The majority of Bigfoot researchers have a default value that Bigfoot exists. That has not been answered to the satisfaction of the scientific community – the makers and gatekeepers of reliable knowledge. Researchers have their own personal goals, which may be to prove Bigfoot exists. For Johnston to proclaim “true Bigfoot Research” means protection of the forest people is obnoxious, egotistical, and downright kooky. From the public perspective, the question to be posed regarding Bigfoot is still, “What, if anything, are people experiencing when they say they have a Bigfoot encounter?” Formulating the question this way leaves all options wide open and includes the sub-question “Does Bigfoot exist?”

Johnson continues about producing “real meaningful” “RESULTS RESULTS RESULTS”. The obvious retort is, “Where are your results, Dr. Johnson?” Can I see them? Are they published in a respectable format available to study and build upon (like science or even most religions)? Are they reliable? Robust? Repeatable? Recordable? You say “talk is cheap” but isn’t all you have to show as results is your story from 2000? I’d say it’s your talk that is cheap.

I see no results to look at for myself. I see no evidence to support your claims for the forest people. I hear a LOT of stories. Credible? Hardly.

It’s not just Dr. J but the majority of paranormal spokespeople who play this game. Their reputations are built by their cadre of supporters who believe them and are emotionally invested in the subject. There is hardly ever any relevant or sound evidence that any interested individual can examine.

So if I may be so bold as to be one of “those” persons to dole out advice to “newbies,” I would say don’t trust people who insinuate you should trust them. There must be substance not just stories. Don’t put faith in those that say they know what is out there but have nothing but specious, sanctimonious words as their “results”. Step back and look at the big picture, the forest and all the wildlife in it. Open-mindedness means that you might be mistaken or wrong or entirely on the wrong track. But if you are too busy proselytizing instead of thinking broadly, you are doing nothing productive.

—————–

1. As of posting this page, the Team Squatchin USA page is suspended. I do not know why. Therefore, I uploaded a PDF of the post here: BIGFOOT POLITICS, OPINIONS, EGOS versus REAL MEANINGFUL RESULTS .

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idoubtit

Http://SharonAHill.com

8 thoughts on “If I tell you I’m credible, I am, says incredible Bigfoot claimant”

  1. Your basic points are sound, Sharon. But I am trying to look at this from Johnson’s believer perspective: casts, bigfoot calls, stories…they don’t add up to much and never have progressed the field toward a new stage. (Funny how all those purported Bigfoot tracks haven’t led — literally led — to the animal making the tracks! That’s a paradox, isn’t it?)

    But if all these believers are reasonably certain of the existence of the creature, and if they have so much evidence, why isn’t any of that intelligence actionable (as they say in the IC)? Bigfooters should be able to use their masses of information to devise a new and Bigfoot-specific tracking technique or data gathering method or piece of technology that leads to new kinds of information. Instead, we still get the same old type of useless data (and reality show hosts making up spurious Bigfoot facts on the fly). And yet of lot of people in the Bigfoot community seem to be totally fine with that. They are perfectly happy to study the purported “effects” of Bigfoot, but not in interacting with and studying Bigfoot itself. Simply put, Bigfoot believers seem quite content to keep Bigfoot at a distance.

    I think of this because of ufology. UFO buffs claim to have much more data than do Bigfooters; their subjects are necessarily intelligent and so are capable of communication; their subjects seem to have no technological limitations; experiencers have produced alien alphabets and maps; UFOs are seen every day. So…why aren’t UFO researchers trying to communicate and interact with the aliens? Our broadcast tech should be sufficient, and it is abundant and getting cheaper all the time. Certainly, opportunity is constant, according to those who tout the thousands of annual UFO reports. Instead, UFO researchers badmouth SETI — the establishment’s attempt to find aliens through their communications — and do not reach out to the aliens themselves. Why is that?

  2. Terry, you’re asking two questions.

    1. Why don’t ufologists like SETI? Why don’t Bigfooters actually do field zoology research methods with their data?

    Because the point of these “fields” is to position oneself contra organized professional science. That’s the over-riding element to all of these activities. Interest in the symbols of science, but for a number of reasons, deriding and working around actual science.

    But then, what Sharon is describing is actually something beyond bog-standard pseudoscience, which leads us to …

    2. I know that you know ufology Terry, so I’m surprised you don’t just call the guy in Sharon’s post what he is: a Bigfoot version of a contactee and/or exopolitics “activist.” Ufology has for most of its history had three basic strands to it: the Fortean, the conspiratorial/political, and the mystical. The Fortean is the surface image, the pseudoscientist collecting “evidence” and trying to solve a “mystery.” The Conspiratorial/Political aligns these issues within a larger political style of anti-elite populist conspiracy theory. And the mystical is fairly self-explanatory, space religions and aliens as angels and demons and spirits etc.

    For most of its history, Bigfootery was primarily Fortean in nature, with an undercurrent of the mystical, and barely any political element (I wouldn’t count here the 1970s-vintage Bigfoot as symbol of nature, that never really took and didn’t really affect things beyond the most basic popular image). But what we’ve seen is, as we’ve seen in ufology, a decline in the Fortean component (much sharper in ufology), the resurgence of the mystical, and a much stronger political element (which is partly due to cross-polination with ufology and related CTs).

    In ufology, the Fortean aspect foundered on Roswell. Those who framed ufos as a mystery to be uncovered hitched their wagon to conspiracy theory in the 1980s, and by highlighting a falsifiable case in Roswell, led to their undoing. This is accompanied by the generational attrition of the first generation of ufologists. This left the contactees/abductees who have always been part of the UFO, and arguably created the UFO via theosophy and Shaver, and the CTers. They joined forces ca. 2000 with exopolitics, a brand of politically-infused contacteeism that like the guy in Sharon’s post, derides Fortean ufologists by saying “we have the answers, now we need to act.” Their ideology is all over the map, but probably the best summation of it is vaguely gnostic, that the powers that control the world (sometimes called a “breakaway civilization” that has all of these technologies and are using them to create a separate ecological and economic sphere from the rest of humans to survive the coming catastrophe) are keeping knowledge and power of the extraterrestrials from the rest of us, and the exopolitics people will expose this truth. There are a number of people who fall into this group, but Steven Greer’s flashing of lights in the sky to contact UFOs sounds exactly like the OP. The other major branch of “ufology” today is the negative reflection, a belief in demonic aliens (this drives much of the ancient aliens movement, btw) and ancient conspiracies in cahoots with them to enslave the world for dark forces.

    Bigfootery hasn’t lost its Fortean aspect the way UFOs have yet (I’d say they’re close to having their Roswell moment with DNA, though, and they’re also starting to hit that aging out period). But contacteeism and other mystical approaches that have always been in the background (go google up the Ape Canyon story, a classic that is typically edited in Bigfoot books) are coming out of the woodwork (stick structures?) now. And it is joining a ufologically but especially evangelical “fringe” religion informed conspiracy worldview with all this business of giant bones, angel DNA, deformed crania, etc..

    As I’ve been predicting for a few years now, the Fortean “fields” like cryptozoology, ufology, parapsychology, alternative archaeology, are going to largely drop their scientific symbols for more explicitly magical ones of spirituality, conspiracy theory, and synchronicity (basically chaos magick). Things are going to be somewhat like they were before WWII, before the rise of the pseudoscientific fields as distinct genres apart from cranks trying to be within science itself.

    The real question is, why is this happening? It almost certainly has a lot to do with the decreasing popular interest in science, fed in no small part by directed political anti-science. You thought the increasing prominence of creationism in cryptozoology was random chance? It’s a canary in the coal mine.

    1. Could not agree more with your statement about directed political anti-science and the canary in the coal mine. I really do fear for the future of our nation as crazy belief systems gain stronger influence over reasoned thought. I would, however, add that religious beliefs are also part of the deterioration. I hear more and more the words “demon,” “unholy,” “evil” and “Satan/devil” applied to crypto topics … and I don’t mean in a generic spiritual sense, but in a very specific reference to unsophisticated Christian dogma being used to explain the unknown. I often find myself wishing that if Sasquatch are real, one could be captured and studied, if for no other reason than to shove it up certain pious noses that it is not a demon, Nephilim or a member of Satan’s army being gathered for the Apocalypse.

      1. @endthemadness

        I don’t disagree with you regarding the role of religion, as you can see from my other reply below. I think the rise of Ancient Aliens and other aspects of American occulture cannot be understood without looking at the decline of value on science as mentioned below, but also the increasingly bold radical Christianity mixed with conspiracy theory that you allude to.

        Anyone trying to understand all of this stuff kind of has to understand that there are MANY radical preachers/pundits/conspiracy theorists out there who are increasingly vocal in painting an almost D&D-like magical world of demons and spiritual warriors that we all happen to inhabit. As numerous surveys and studies have hinted at or just openly demonstrated, this is part and parcel of the rise of the “tea party” or as it is increasingly being called in-movement” the “grassroots politics.” There are a lot of blogs and sites out there that cover this stuff, I’m a fan of RightWingWatch, though I often find their content through intermediaries (despite the chaos that can surround other bloggers at FTB, I find Ed Brayton’s blog a depressing but useful daily read).

  3. @Spooky

    If Johnson is merely a Bigfoot contactee, then I would read his post differently. I would read it as a rant against materialist methods, as you suggest.

    When I first looked into ufology five years ago, prominent books and serious bloggers talked of contactees as a distant embarrassment. But on the wider web, I found contactees everywhere: they never left! (I am reading Nancy Leider’s book “Zeta Talk.” It is so bad in so many ways. But my point is, the book is still in print, even though her predictions failed several years back!)

    The irony is that physical UFO evidence has been totally useless and many old-timers in the nuts and bolts crowd have retreated to an unfalsifiable anti-materialism, not unlike that of the contactees they badmouth — though without the mysticism (Jerome Clark and Michael Swords are current examples).

    I agree that most anti-science sentiment is ideological. But I find most ideologues don’t understand that science is a method, rather, they see it as just another canon of fixed beliefs competing with their own beliefs. (As Ronald Numbers pointed out, for most of the 20th century, flood “geologists” had no qualified geologists among them. No need to learn investigative method if one already has the conclusions!)

    1. Terry, very good call on Clark and Swords. Clark especially is very slippery, wanting to have his cake and eat it too in some respects (that said, I do feel like some skeptics and historians of occulture are a mirror image of this: not believing, but wanting the thrill of becoming investigators on the unreal that is almost real, I’d include myself in this). I listened to a recent Paracast interview with Loren Coleman, where he talked some about his early dalliance with Clark into the more paranormal explanation for cryptozoology. Unsurprisingly he downplayed this facet of his writing (he didn’t deny it, but he minimized it, which if you read some of his books from 30 years ago and change, without later commentary, doesn’t ring 100% accurate). But the big surprise to me was his claim that Clark was much more specifically politically conspiratorial, wanting to connect specific names of actual people to conspiracy claims, etc.. That was new to me, and I’m now more curious.

      I don’t know if the guy in Sharon’s OP is “just” a contactee, he sounds like someone sliding over to contacteeism from Fortean cryptozoology. As you know, these boundaries are not hard and fast in many cases.

      My UFO bio is a life-long outsider (not experiencer) interest, like a lot of people my age, spurred on by the 1970s media boom in occulture (In Search of… being the common rally point). I seem to have read and kept on this stuff more than I knew (in retrospect), but while I would not consider myself part of any community, I’ve been routinely keeping up on Ufology since probably the 80s, more strongly in the 1990s, and by 1996, starting to have a serious academic hobby interest in it, starting to write and lecture a little on it by 1999. So I’m no old hand, but at the same time, I’ve exposed myself to this stuff for long enough that I feel comfortable in that land.

      And like you, I also remember the slow realization that despite the best efforts of the UFO historians (both inside the field like Clark, but also skeptics like Peebles) to suggest a limited historical window for most contactees, they never went away. Some of them got subsumed into the abduction subphenomenon (ironically, the one with a more discrete timeline), most famously Strieber, while as you note, others continued on with the normal contacteeism (though the aliens may look more like grays, ala the Zetas).

      To respond to both Terry and endthemadness, it has now become clear to me that yes, pseudoscience itself is a focused microcosm of the larger American view of science (in Western Europe, there seems to be a much more complicated situation, due to less anti-intellectualism, less religion, and a much longer history of professional intellectual and academic institutions; in Latin America by contrast, occulture very strongly reflects the way that science is more directly tied to a racialized colonial elite in government and industry, and is distrusted by much of the populace as a result). The “wonder show” and theosophical styles of mystical pseudoscience that were much weaker if more pervasive in the late 19th and early 20th century reflected the still young and tenuous presence of professional science and scholarship in America. The growth of “discovery” pseudosciences like cryptozoology, ufology, alternative history/archaeology, and lab-based parapsychology vs. spiritualism paralleled the rise of Big Science with WWII, the Cold War, and centralized government value on and funding for science.

      Not surprisingly, the death of the New Deal and the subsequent moderate pro-federal compromise that lasted through Johnson, on both the right (embracing anti-government libertarianism and in some cases theocratic desires) and the left (switching from a labor-based working class leftism to the New Left’s emphasis on cultural issues or other topics more in tune with the urban and upper middle class) in the US, has led us to a mess of market-based “reforms” of education and science on one hand, and to open antiscience on the other. Occulture reacted accordingly, starting in the 1970s by going either populist conspiratorial or mystical (mirroring the new paths of the religious right and the new left), a process that has continued and expanded ever since.

      As much as we may not like pseudoscientists, that they are being replaced by demonologists, contactees, and crude hucksters is not something for pro-science people to celebrate. It’s a symptom of a larger issue.

  4. Thanks Sharon. I’m wondering if Bigfoot exists, can it be anything other than a supernatural manifestation of the ‘spirit of nature’? I know that previously unknown species of primate are still occasionally (rarely) discovered. The old argument, that they live in such remote locations in the world that they are still resilient to discovery can hold true, yet a family of primate species existing on almost every continent, species that have taken on a very human-like body shape but remained covered in long fur with still rather simian facial features (primate evolution has not worked like this) seems doubtful.
    It feels as if such a long time has passed since we may reasonably conclude that the corpse of a dead bigfoot must have been found.
    And as i’m sure you know, and have probably already expressed somewhere, us skeptics would just love it if such doubtless physical evidence were produced.
    I follow the facts.
    Scientific skepticism rules !
    If the repeatable and testable evidence showed that such flesh and blood creatures actually existed, we’d just love to go over the available data and learn of what such a discovery might teach us in a range of scientific fields.
    But without the good evidence, we are left with stories, folk-lore. Kelpie’s in lakes, ghosts in creaky old buildings, little people running around our gardens at night and such. These are the unsupported phantoms that still include the bigfoots, yetis, almas, orang pendeks, sasquatches, yowies and so forth.
    Yowies, the reputed Australian bigfoots, are gaining more and more sighting reports as the clock ticks. Hell, one day they may become as commonly reported, believed, exploited and described on bad television shows as the American version is.
    I’ve heard from many who, with their children, get a great laugh out of ‘Finding Bigfoot’.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spat drink all over the front room carpet, laughing and choking at that show before, but they use sciency sounding stuff and the word ‘skeptical’, it is ill-fitting and improper, especially when our children are watching it.
    I love the idea of a ‘guardian of nature’ as well. In fact many such superstitious beings imagined in history can find a comfortable place of appreciation in my heart. But this isn’t about what i’d like, not about what’s in my heart, it’s about the facts. I had to get all of that out of my system before I exploded, thanks for reading.

    All the best,
    Woody

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