Freak Shows. There’s something irresistible about them. The strange, the bizarre, the unexpected and above all, the unexplained… curiosity we all have to see these “freaks of nature”.
Extremely popular for centuries and seeing their golden age at the second half of the 19th century, as epitomized by one PT Barnum, in recent years these “Freak Shows” have been declining for their exploitation of human and animal suffering, as science has shown the “freaks” are in fact victims of genetic mutations and diseases.
But are Freak Shows really a thing of the past? Or did they simply receive a cosmetic makeover? As I write this text one of the most searched terms in the Internet refers to one man from Java who, victim of an HPV infection, has large masses growing over his body which earned him the nickname of “Tree Man”. His drama has been documented by an international TV channel known for its science documentaries, and for all the elegance of contemporary superstring theories, the poor health condition of this man from Java manages to attract bigger popular interest. He’s not called a “freak”, at least not by the media, but his condition is exploited and the public loves it just a much as it always did. Freak Shows are still very much active, just in different packaging.
Which brings us to “Extraterrestres ante las cámaras, vol.2”, where author Luis Ruiz Noguez exposes just how the exploitation of a varied number of deformities and suffering is still practiced the old Barnum way: by calling them, not “freaks”, but “aliens”. Under this label, even in this age, everything goes. By suggesting to the public that what they are seeing is not actually human, not even terrestrial, and emphatically denying the science that showed how cruel the old “freak shows” were, quacks are able to turn our fascination with the unknown and innate curiosity into instruments to an atrocity. “Among all the photos of alleged extraterrestrials, the most vile are those that present children with several kinds of malformations”, Noguez points from the beginning.
Not everything is plain human suffering, though. Just like Barnum’s infamous Feejee Mermaid, modern day Freak Shows also feature all kinds of crude hoaxes, constructed from animals or just plain papier-maché. It’s all in the presentation, usually with some elaborate back story which only gets more complicated as the specimens are never properly analyzed. This is simply plain old Barnum’s saying that a sucker is born every minute.
Part of the excellent reference series of books recording, analyzing and explaining allegedly real extraterrestrial images, this volume is essential as it highlights that the interest in alien photos cannot be simple, uncompromised hobby. Everyone interested in the subject must do their proper homework to reasonably assess the origins and explanations for a given image, risking otherwise being the real inhuman creature in the process.
Ignorance is no excuse for calling other suffering people “freaks” or “aliens”. Proper skepticism is, perhaps much to the surprise of some, the proper, human and compassionate approach. Knowing that that famous photo is not of an alien, but of a poor suffering baby is the best we can do to pay our respects after the damage some have done.
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English translation of the preface I have written for “Extraterrestres ante las cámaras – Volumen 2” by Mexican author Luis Ruiz Noguez. The book is in Spanish, lavishly illustrated with over two-hundred images, and can be bought either in electronic or dead-tree format.
English publishers, do contact Noguez to make his reference books available to a larger audience.
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