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Reality Uncovered member Torbjon Jensen presents a comprehensive look at the goings-on at abovetopsecret.com during the Chicago O'Hare UFO furore.
The primary reason that I became involved in this endeavor has nothing to do with how the owners of ATS treated me. Rather, it has to do with the impact ATS has on world wide media, in general. People who have never heard of ATS are affected by their content. If it were simply a matter of ATS members alone, as much as I care for them and their safety - honestly? To 'ell with 'em. They go there willingly; they know what they are doing; it's their choice.
My first real suspicion that the owners of ATS were less than ethical happened after my banning. Indeed, it was that final banning, and subsequent cold shoulder, that caused me to start thinking along those lines.
The events shortly before, during, and directly after my final banning, led to the formulation of the following scenario - a scenario which I personally find quite frightening.
I joined ATS shortly before SERPO hit the scene. Some of you lived through that, while for others it's just ancient history. Something that may not be readily apparent now is that the SERPO saga was a nice shot in the arm for ATS. They received a lot of new members, and some incredible site traffic, during that 'story'. Something that may not be remembered, or readily known, is that there was an increase of google ads on ATS during the unfolding of that story.
I believe that this was probably the first time, since ATS began, that the owners of that site started to see anything that could resemble "real money" from their website.
It was shortly after SERPO that the LLP came into being, and ATS was overhauled - including new servers, more 'bells and whistles', extra features for the membership, etc.
Time passed; life went on.
Unbeknownst to the membership, there were some 'private investors' looking to invest money into ATS. We still don't know who they are, but I've been led to believe (by the owners of ATS) that these private investors were 'friends' with the owners. This leads me to believe that the investment was not an out-of-the-blue surprise to the owners. Rather, owners and 'friends' chit-chatted, probably quite often, prior to the signing of the check.
In more recent times, the owners of ATS implied that the investors did not fork over money as a tax write-off. Rather, the investors were (and are) seeking to make a Profit from their investment.
I feel that prior to the signing of the check, during the chit chat phase between owners and investors, the investors made that point crystal clear to the owners: We'll give you the money, but we want to see a return. How can you guarantee us a return?
How do you go about 'guaranteeing' a specific number of targeted pageviews during an allotted amount of time? The most recent example of incredible page views in a short period of time, on ATS, was SERPO. Gig is, SERPO was a hoax! On top of that it was a 100%, internet generated, internet contained, hoax.
Fabricating a hoax themselves runs the risk of getting caught, and losing everything (or worse). Hiring someone to generate and perpetuate a hoax for you runs the same risks. Something else was needed.
In steps the Chicago O'Hare UFO story.
This was a real life event. SOMETHING happened in the real world, and non-internet documentation by real agencies was generated. No one could cry 100% hoax over it.
The problem (or perhaps blessing) with that story was that Nobody Cared. The story had been around for a while and nobody had really picked it up. Bill Irvine tried a few times, both in open forum, and in the private Fair Skeptics forum, to spark interest in the story, to no avail.
Nobody really Cared.
And then The Picture appeared. Magically, mysteriously, the much-needed Picture appeared on ATS, and only ATS, from a mysterious stranger, who didn't take the picture themself, but rather got it from someone else who "claims they shot this at the airport".
The person who created The Picture has never come forward.
The mysterious person who posted the picture on ATS (and only ATS) has never come forward.
The Picture itself was product branded with an "abovetopsecret.com" watermark within four hours of being posted on ATS. The practice of product branding fuzzy pictures of UFOs by ATS was unheard of then. And, from what I can see, now as well.
According to Bill Irvine, posted in private Fair Skeptics forum (Feb. 7, 2007, 6:27 PM (post id: 2935963):
"I labeled images that were sent directly to ATS that I deemed headed toward massive online attention... and they were, and now the source is preserved."
I find it interesting that within four hours of seeing yet another fuzzy picture of a UFO, that Bill Irvine 'knew' that THAT picture would be headed toward MASSIVE online attention.
On Jan. 21, 2007 4:54 PM (post id: 2893993)
Jeff Ritzmann made the following statement in the private Fair Skeptics forum:
Turning over to Cheepnis
If it's ok with him. For the next 6 months I'm going to be heavily involved in co-authoring a book, and having to do a fair amount of traveling. This was a completely unexpected turn for me, and sadly I'm not going to have alot of online time to track down or get info on cases.
I still think this is a worthy endeavor, but I wont be able to participate like I had previously thought. I'll still check in, and if anyone needs help I'm just an email away firstname.lastname@example.org
My apologies for bowing out, it's truly unavoidable, and unexpected."
The Picture appeared in open forum on Jan. 23, 2007, 7:29 PM. (post id: 2898150)
Less than twelve hours later, the same Jeff Ritzmann who was going to be heavily involved in co-authoring a book, and doing a fair amount of traveling, began an in depth analysis of The Picture in open forum, starting on Jan 24, 2007 (post id: 2899674) and continuing for quite sometime thereafter.
Jeff Ritzmann, as talented and skilled as he is, isn't much of a 'name' though. However, he has a personal friend who IS a name in the industry, David Biedny.
Jeff and David quickly became the "be all and end all" of photo analysis, when it came to The Picture.
Any contrary opinions of the validity of The Picture were played down by the management of ATS, no matter how talented, skilled or well known the individual making the contrary opinion was. Jeff and David were IT.
ALL Jeff and David had to do to 'keep the story going' was to repeatedly state: 'we can't prove that The Picture is a fake'
That's an incredibly SAFE statement to make, even if the picture is 100% falsified. ("Oh, it IS fake? Well, what do you know, learn something knew everyday. At least we tried")
During the two weeks following the arrival of The Picture, Bill and Mark played down the opinions of other photoshop users (and at least one specialist, ATS member "photochopz"), and also came down hard on any ATS member who made comparisons between the O'Hare story and SERPO. At the same time, Jeff and David continued saying things like "we can't prove that it is a fake, here are reasons why we think it Might be genuine". While all of this was going on, the O'Hare thread on ATS grew by 68 pages, and only Bill and Mark know how many page views they received.
Shortly after this, The Above Network receives funding from private investors and becomes an LLC.
The O'Hare thread was left to die out on it's own.
Of course not. It was a real event.
Utilization of a real event to target specific page views, over a specific time frame, by manipulating the natural flow of the thread?
You tell me.
Prior to ATS involvement with the O'Hare UFO story, nobody cared about it. It was a non-event, not worth the internet or the media's time.
After ATS involvement with the O'Hare UFO story, it was a major event - discussed widely across the internet and covered by all branches of media across the globe.
Why does this disturb me?
It's a little thing I call the William Randolph Hearst scenario.
I feel that the WRH event is happening again, right before our eyes - and we're letting it.
Prior to common access to the internet, the WRH thing happened within other media outlets... the Time/Warner/HBO/ etc. conglomerate being a good example. However, in those days it happened without us really knowing, and without us having an inexpensive and effective means for communicating our concerns about it...
But not now, not today.
Bill and Mark have stated repeatedly, here at RU, that it is the ATS Membership which determines what's a story and what's not; what's worth talking about, promoting, and being aware of, and what's not.
I want assurances of that.
I want the ATS membership to have complete and total control over what they wish to discuss, and what they wish to ignore. I do not want to see statements like this from ATS CEO Bill Irvine, posted in private Fair Skeptic forum on 14-1-2007 at 03:40 PM (post id: 2878313)
"Not to influence you guys or anything but...
Someone just jumped into the O'Hare UFO thread who claims to be an eye witness.
(hint hint nudge nudge)"
Owners and Moderators of ATS should not be attempting to steer, or influence, the content generated by their membership. Especially if the purpose of such guidence is to generate revenue for themselves, with little or no concern for global consequences.
YES. Maybe raising public awareness about UFOs (or any other topic) is a 'good' thing. Maybe it isn't. The choice should be Yours.
In closing, I am NOT the only person on the face of this planet who suspects something fishy about the O'Hare story, and how it unfolded on ATS. One person who publicly expressed a great deal of concern over that story, as it was unfolding, can still be found on ATS today, in a respected position of power and authority.
So before some of you ATS folks go ripping me a new one, or start stalking my kid or something, perhaps you should chat with that person, and see what they think about all of this today.
Good night, good luck, and have a pleasant tomorrow.
twj (Torbjon Jensen)
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