'Jellyfish' vid exploits rift between journalism, science
Sometimes when birds shit on my car window, depending on the size and shape of the damage, I’ll document it with a photo or two, and post it on social media. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two deposits are identical; in fact, one might make a case for avian diarrhea being as artistically valid as the celebrated brush strokes of apes and elephants.
I post the photos in tribute to the leveling effect of the sudden event, that spontaneous, and gratuitous, splash of nature’s indifference from on high that reacquaints us with the outhouse we’ve created and inhabit. And nature is always one step ahead, without regard for who or what we are, whether we drive a Lamborghini Huracan or a Renault Encore or a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In the end, the joke’s on us. Literally. Always. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
So, a couple of weeks ago, when filmmaker Jeremy Corbell released footage of the so-called “Jellyfish” UFO in a three-part series for TMZ, at first glance, I thought: birdshit on the camera lens. I’m an expert. It had that familiar, splotchy, runny quality, baked into a fine crust by time and sun.
As the video rolled on, however, it was obvious this wasn’t a smudge on the lens. The thing appeared to be gliding low above desert terrain, above rooftops and compound walls, dogs and humans below oblivious to its near presence. If this was, in fact, a UFO, it was unlike anything in the catalogue. No UFOs look aerodynamic, but this sucker had a clunky, asymmetrical, vertical architecture, like maybe a Kardashian earring. And it appeared to swivel somewhat, displaying a 3-D edge. Its shading varied, from light to dark and back again, like a blushing cuttlefish. As UFO designs go, this thing was a hot mess.
Screengrab from the Jellyfish UFO footage — the blob on the right allegedly buzzed a military command center in Iraq.
The backstory, as related on the “UFO Revolution” series, and again on Corbell’s “Weaponized” podcast with co-host George Knapp, served up even more incongruities. The video was taken in 2017, or thereabouts, over a joint U.S. military operations base in Anbar province in western Iraq. It was recorded by an Aerostat surveillance camera as it scanned the night skies in thermal mode.
The source of the leak told Corbell that camera operators alerted HQ to the approach of the intruder, and urged them to step outside with night-vision gear and check it out. But they saw nothing — the thing was apparently invisible in the NV spectrum. And there was additional video, unreleased. According to the source, after passing over the base, the object disappeared into nearby Lake Hibernia, idled underwater for 17 minutes, reemerged, and raced away at a finger snap, on a 45-degree trajectory.
The water footage, he added, is out there somewhere.
Corbell, and Knapp, held onto the video for 3½ years, getting feedback from unnamed analysts before eliminating all plausible culprits. Critics pounced when it went public on Jan. 9. The suspect list was diverse, from CGI to spyware to, well, birdshit. A popular theory was a balloon cluster, as a background flag showed the target moving with the wind.
Among the detractors was Rich Hoffman, cofounder of the nonprofit Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, arguably the most credible and accessible private UFO research outfit in the country. Former field investigator, state director, and deputy director of investigations for MUFON, Hoffman reiterated his initial public skepticism of the Jellyfish vid in an email to LiJ.
“You investigate a case against hypothesis and do your homework first before you announce your findings,” he stated. “That was true for (astronomer/researcher J. Allen) Hynek and Project Blue Book.
Defense Department — no comment
“It’s not about promoting a story. It’s about ensuring that all the facts and evidence (have) been weighed. In the case of a news story, we see some facts presented that on the outset look accurate and by which a public derives limited information and speculates to myriads of conclusions often times wrong.
“A video of a screen or monitor playing back a video is in my opinion not acceptable. In case investigations, you analyze the original. Anything can be faked . . . While I appreciate (Corbell/Knapp) pushing interest in the subject, I do not appreciate spreading things that are clearly not UFOs.”
Knapp, who has interviewed Hoffman and other SCU members on related stories, snapped back in an extended email to LiJ: “I have never heard one word from (Hoffman) about his misgivings concerning my reporting and would have hoped he might call me to say it to me before he unleashed what seemed like a snarky and unjustified attack . . . It seemed like a chicken shit thing to do and felt more like SCU doesn’t like all the attention the jellyfish and other videos and photos have generated.”
The Pentagon, which might have settled the dustup by disavowing the footage outright, went for the dodge instead.
“We do not comment on the authenticity of alleged Department of Defense material that may have been leaked. The Department of Defense takes the public interest in unidentified anomalous phenomena very seriously and,” insisted DoD spokesperson Sue Gough in a laughable response, “is committed to openness and accountability to the American people.”
The abdication of federal transparency on the UFO front guarantees a continuing schism between science and journalism. The conflicting prerogatives of Knapp and Hoffman offer a microcosm of that tension.
Damn the permission slips
“When cops arrest some guy for murder, we report that for the simple reason that it is noteworthy,” wrote Knapp, a veteran investigative reporter for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. “I do not hold back on stories about murder arrests because somewhere, four years down the line, that defendant might be exonerated in a trial. Is it a terrible stain on the reputation of the police and prosecutors when someone is found not guilty of a crime? I would not dream of clearing my news report about the arrest with a group of citizen justice activists before KLAS is allowed to go on the air with the story.
“The idea that we really need to screen any videos we might have, run it past a panel of UFO muckety mucks before we ever make it public is ridiculous.”
Knapp entered the UFO scene in 1989 by airing the first-ever interview with Bob Lazar, whose claims of recovered UFO technology being reverse-engineered at Area 51 have been a source of enduring controversy. Knapp went on to retrieve hundreds of government-generated UFO documents from post-Soviet Russia, and was on the ground floor of Robert Bigelow’s Clinton-era Skinwalker Ranch investigation, which attracted formal Defense Intelligence Agency scrutiny. He also had an inside track on the Pentagon’s secret AATIP program before the New York Times posted that game-changer in 2017.
Hoffman was a serious teenaged UFO researcher in Dayton, Ohio (home to Wright-Patterson AFB and Blue Book infamy) when he made his media debut on Phil Donahue’s local talk show. A senior systems engineer analyst now in Huntsville, Ala., Hoffman and SCU conduct investigations with designs on peer-review publishing. He singled out the 2021 “Mojave triangle” incident as a case that wouldn’t have passed his own standards of evidence.
Three years ago at the Camp Wilson military base outside Twentynine Palms, California, a number of Marines witnessed, photographed and videotaped what they claimed was a massive black triangle, framed against the night sky by a chevron-shaped array of lights, for roughly 10 minutes. The incident didn’t make news until Corbell and Knapp released the images last May, and it immediately went global.
Emotions flare . . .
The mystery began losing altitude in July, however, when Black Vault researcher John Greenewald’s FOIA request to the Pentagon for original data came back with a load of documents, images and footage. It showed that flares had been deployed on the night of the UFO sighting.
“I have seen countless cases of illumination flares being misidentified,” stated Hoffman. “These lights were visible to be dropping and lasted the same time as flares. It was later shown that an exercise was being held at that time that used flares. We even see a video of the flares from below. I don’t care what witnesses say as much as other evidence. Witnesses make mistakes all the time. That’s why the stats show this for Blue Book, MUFON, and other organizations.”
To Knapp, the debunking of UFO vids is meaningless. SCU’s assessment of the famed Aguadilla video – gold-standard evidence for a true unknown traversing air and water with equal ease – continues to draw fire, he noted. “I am very surprised that Rich or any other experienced UFO folks would just take the DOD at its word that what the Marines saw (were) flares . . . The Marines who contacted us use flares pretty much every day of their training . . . They told us the one formation was not flares.
“The public’s interest in UFOs would survive nuclear winter,” Knapp continued. “I could drop a 50 megaton nuke on UFO Central and it would not make a dent. Oh dearie me, the 29 Palms video was such a terrible black mark on the reputation of UFOs that, what, did Congress cancel all inquiries and decide the whole subject is bunk? Did SCU fold up its tent and quit because it was so embarrassed by someone else’s podcast? Did the ETs and interdimensionals sneer in disgust and fly back to (where) they came, vowing never to return? What exactly is (the) terrible price to be paid for what is only perceived to be debunking? Zip. Nada. Total bullshit claim by Rich.
“Since we are talking about SCU being the arbiter of such matters, did SCU write a paper about the Mojave triangle? Do they have a written analysis that was shared with the public? Or did they just decide Sue Gough must be right? If they did their own analysis, great, let’s see it. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.”
Pentagon IG cites compliance failures
“Look,” responded Hoffman, “I have a different view as a scientist than he does as an investigative journalist. I respect his work. Always have. We differ in the manner and timing in which cases should be handled and brought forward to the public. Having seen too many cases fall apart after being announced due to lack of a proper thorough investigation, I believe we need to evaluate them to death before making public pronouncements.”
So this is where we are now, spiders in a jar, thanks ultimately to the leadership vacuum created and sustained by the Pentagon, which is sitting on libraries of classified data it will not share. In fact, according to an unclassified DoD Inspector General’s UAP status report that dropped on Wednesday, the service branches probably don’t know how to share that info with each other, or even internally.
Nearly four years into congressional directives to wring clarity from the defense bureaucracy, “The DoD,” according to the IG update, “has not issued a comprehensive UAP response plan that identifies roles, responsibilities, requirements, and coordination procedures for detecting, reporting, collecting, analyzing, and identifying UAP incidents.”
Translation: We’re all getting splashed. Personally, I think it’d be entirely fitting if the Jellyfish was a UFO that shaped itself into flying guano on a fact-finding mission to determine if we’re smart enough to figure out what an insult to our intelligence even looks like anymore.
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