(Brian here btw, in case anyone's annoyed with this post.)
Crank magnetism refers to how people who credulously believe one wild claim, for example that climate change is a hoax, are strongly attracted to other claims as well. One of my classic favorites from years gone by was a wingnut blogger Fred Hutchison who claimed to have disproven climate change, evolution, and relativity. I'm sure there are many recent examples.
I think there's a much smaller but opposing danger to crank magnetism, which is an overwhelming disbelief in wild claims, a disbelief that's so strong that it holds even when it should start to crack. Maybe call it crank overreaction? This is possibly something I've had regarding UFOs. I'm not saying that I or we should now believe they're space aliens or something equivalently crazy, just that the evidence no longer puts them in the same category of ghosts and faith healing. There should be another category, that of "I don't know what to think."
There have been plenty of serious articles by serious publications taking UFOs seriously lately, with the New Yorker being one of the better ones showing all the old stuff still not to be taken seriously happening at the same time. This isn't the first go-around, as the article says.
My personal history is that I had a family member very into UFOs and grew up with the childlike belief of "of course they're real". Then I acquired skepticism in my teenage years and dismissed them for the next 30-plus years. Five-ten years ago I saw a round of news talking about credible reports which I didn't pay much attention to. About two years ago to present is when I really started paying attention, the key issue being credible visual witnesses combined with instrument detection.
I remember reading about liars clubs in 19th Century America and about the pranksters that started the crop circle craze more recently, and I used to think that lies plus hallucinations were enough to explain witnesses. Military pilots filing official reports saying they're seeing these things though - there are consequences to them for saying that. And instrumental detection at the same time also makes it difficult to dismiss.
There are lots of reasons to dismiss it still. My personally irrefutable one until recently had been:
1. These hypothetical aliens or whatever are far advanced compared to us.
2. If they didn't want to be seen by us, then we would never have seen them.
3. If they didn't care about being seen, then we'd see them a lot.
I still find that reasoning fairly persuasive, but the evidence of them being seen is piling up. Maybe I also shouldn't be too confident that I can understand the logic of a superior technology/intelligence, although assuming they'll let us see them vaguely but not too close is just weird.
If this were just some weird weather phenomenon with equivalent evidence, I'd say yeah good enough, must be real. UFOs or UAPs or whatever you want to call them haven't risen to the extraordinary evidence level yet, but it's not nothing. Maybe now is the time to neither dismiss nor believe.
I felt like getting this blog post out before the big government report lands in June so it's not colored by those conclusions. I expect it will be more of the same of what we've seen so far, but we'll see. In the meantime keep up the crank skepticism, but not at the level that rejects all persuasion.