Friday, January 1, 2010

musings on Coast To Coast, Paracast, and Paratopia

One New Year's resolution is to revive this blog a bit. I have another, earlier blog that is essentially a mirror for this one, and it gets lots of hits, mostly because of a post that I made concerning Mellon Thomas-Benedict, who I haven't thought much of since writing about him. And I don't think he's been on "Coast To Coast" again, either. (That post is mirrored here but gets few hits from this blog.)

I do listen occasionally to "Coast To Coast" but I'm very selective in what I listen to. While it *can* be a good source of paranormal investigation, it's important to remember that "Coast To Coast" is a money-making vehicle for the franchise that produces it (as well as the "buy gold" advertisers who support it), and so accuracy is not necessarily their goal. Like most commercial broadcast entities, the program is subliminally manipulative; it seeks to create a sense of unease and insecurity in the listener, who will then (hopefully) patronize the program's and website's advertisers, who capitalize on that insecurity. This, in my view, tarnishes much of the material that they examine.... even though a good chunk of it is undoubtedly valid and worthwhile.

As a result, I have largely turned my attention to two self-financed, shoe-string podcasts that are largely mirror images of each other: the Paracast, and Paratopia.

The hosts of both podcasts have had a falling out that, to the best of my knowledge, began with a hostile Paracast interview with Bill Birnes, who is a friend of one of the hosts of Paratopia.... but likely started a bit earlier for reasons obscure. I can't really disagree with the Paracast's treatment of Birnes. Since the publication of "The Day After Roswell," which Birnes apparently co-wrote, researchers have highlighted a number of problems with Phil Corso's story that Birnes did not really address during the episode. However, instead of moving on, it appears that the Paracast has made a number of un-called-for digs at Paratopia and continues to snipe at the competing podcast for no good reason.

In truth, listeners to both podcasts will immediately recognize that while Paratopia started out as a bit of a copycat of the Paracast, Paratopia has quickly evolved a completely different approach to the paranormal which I think is both intriguing and potentially fruitful. I think of the show now as a sort of "Whitley Strieber Lite," exploring many of the same topics that Unknown Country examines, but in a much more credible manner. Believe or disbelieve in crop circles, for example, you still could not help but be intrigued by their recent episodes on the subject. And their examination seems to be hinting at a causality to the phenomenon that other shows have completely missed. (And no, I don't think that ET is behind the crop circles.) And whereas a recent Paracast examination of EVP bogged down in a skeptical rebuttal of practically every recent example of EVP, the hosts of Paratopia take an open, "let's see what we can discover" approach to the subject. Two separate approaches; both probably valid, but Paratopia's approach is more likely to actually uncover something new.

It is this openness to discovery that causes me to recommend Paratopia to the beginning paranormal student. There's no doubt that Jeff and Jer do not follow the scientific method, but Paratopia best embodies the spirit of scientific discovery: an openness to new data, a willingness to discard theories that don't fly, and the sense of adventure that comes with learning something new.

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