Confirmation television special
Whitley Strieber Offers “Confirmation” of UFOs
By Kate O'Hare, Tribune Media Services
(Chicago Tribune)
Feb 1999

In 1987, Whitley Strieber published Communion, which he said was a nonfiction account of his abduction by “visitors,” intelligent nonhumans who may be aliens.
     The book became wildly successful and a genuine cultural phenomenon, causing Strieber to be labeled as everything from a prophet to a literary fraud. In conversation, Strieber comes across as neither. He portrays himself as a man with questions, questions about strange lights in the night sky, about objects being removed from people's bodies, about stories of abductions, experiments and inexplicable encounters.
     Strieber's most recent book is Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us?, which formed the inspiration for a two-hour NBC special of the same name, airing Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. (Eastern), with host Robert Davi (“Profiler”). Both the book and the special present the case for alien visitation; the special also features eyewitness accounts, photographs and video footage.
     Strieber is one of the co-executive producers and appears on-camera in the special, questioning Jesse Long, a man who claims to have been abducted repeatedly throughout his life. One could assume the goal of the special is to convince people that we are being visited by intelligent life from another planet. But that's not Strieber's stated goal.
     “I think the special, to a degree, ends up advocating for the idea that there is really something strange going on. It just inevitably did that. It's not because I personally was trying to impose my beliefs on it, but that seemed to be the way it fell together.
     “I, in my own personal world, keep very much in question the issue of what has happened, including to me, myself, because if you don't do that, if you make a decision about it too early, how can you ever learn the truth?”
     Strieber says he was also very careful to include a healthy dose of skepticism. “I wanted this to be as fair as possible. I like to think we give the skeptical community a really fair hearing. It's a hearing they don't often get. It's amazing. You see special after special after special, and those guys hardly ever get shown. Or if it's something like 'Nova,' then they do get a hearing, but it seems to go overboard in the other direction.
     “So I tried to – well, we all did – make sure that everybody had a chance to state their case.”
     Since the early 1950s, reports of strange sightings and nocturnal abductions have seeped into the popular culture, inspiring fanatic belief, fanatic disbelief, humor, fear, paranoia and optimism. From “The Day The Earth Stood Still” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The X-Files,” “Men in Black” and “Independence Day,” aliens are portrayed as enemies, friends, avatars and the butts of endless jokes.
     But beneath all this, says Strieber, are serious questions about lives permanently affected and often permanently damaged by strange experiences that seem beyond science's current ability to explain. Strieber, though, resists offering easy explanations.
     “Even if you believe me,” he says, “you can't conclude that it was alien contact, at least not if your mind is strong. If you ask me, I will tell you I don't know what happened. What I would like to be believed is that I had an unexplained experience. Not only me, but thousands of other people have had unexplained experiences.
     “Let's face it, when one guy has an unexplained experience, the world's obligation is to forget it, but when it happens to thousands of people, what I would like to see is for the whole issue to be taken out of the context of UFO researchers – essentially interested amateurs, as nice as some of them are – and into the scientific community.
     “Let's have the National Institutes of Health investigate these people, these abductees, the objects in their bodies, find out if they're OK, me included.”
     Strieber claims this refusal to offer explanations for his experiences, coupled with his insistence that the whole field of research be taken over by legitimate scientists, has alienated him from the UFO enthusiasts who once lionized him.
     “There's two takes on me,” he says. “One is, he's a literary fraud, and that's mostly what the intellectual community thinks. The other take on it is that I believe in aliens ... (and) it makes me very acceptable to certain members of the public who believe that also, and I've become a folk hero for them. Then the result of that is that when they find out what I actually believe, that it's all a big question in my mind, they get mad at me too. That's where the hostility from the UFO community comes.”
     Did they expect confirmation? “Well, they got confirmation. They got confirmation that there is a real question there, and they don't want that. They want confirmation that there's aliens there. It's a situation tailor-made to build me a good number of enemies, unfortunately.”
     Given the number of coincidences that led to the rise of intelligent life on Earth, Strieber claims he isn't even so sure that there are intelligent alien species anywhere near us. “You could probably make a very convincing case that lower-level life forms are real common, they probably are. For a planet to have microscopic creatures on it is one thing, for it to have an intelligent species on it is a whole different ball of wax. I just would be real surprised if there was another one in the galaxy.”
     So, if we're not talking about little gray men from Zeta Reticuli buzzing people in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and abducting unsuspecting citizens from their beds, then what are we talking about?
     “I think we might be talking about ourselves,” says Strieber. “If it becomes possible in the future to go back in time, knowing us, we'd do it, and knowing us, we'd leave trash behind. And what we may leave behind traveling through time are these weird memories in our past selves.”
     What would he like people to take away from the special? “That there is a real mystery here that deserves open-minded scientific attention, and that we can have an absolutely fascinating time solving it. We shouldn't be so grim about it.”
     And if they also buy Strieber's book? He chuckles. “That would be nice.” ~


Whitley Strieber Offers “Confirmation” of UFOs
by Kate O'Hare
© 1999 Chicago Tribune, Tribune Media Services, Lookahead Communications.
Reprinted under the provisions of Fair Use