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With the Mel Gibson crop circle movie ‘Signs’ arriving in the US, the publicity bonanza in the media has gone into predictable overdrive - to good and bad effect, as ANDY THOMAS reports…

Any chance that the ‘Signs’ movie might pass unnoticed in the US mass-media has been sidestepped by a huge wave of publicity about the film and the crop circle phenomenon in general, which has hit the US this week.

Given the poor responses to the preview showings of ‘Signs’ (see past Headlines) from some viewers, the film is being surprisingly well-received by many critics, though there have been some exceptions, with one writer, David Elliott of ‘The San Diego Union-Tribune’, saying “it should be called ‘Sins’ - for compounding the sins of bad filming.”

Meanwhile, William Gazecki’s forthcoming documentary film, ‘Crop Circles: Quest For Truth’, the first 45 minutes of which successfully premiered at the recent Glastonbury Symposium conference (see Barbara Waddell’s report in current Headlines), has also picked up some publicity within the same breath as ‘Signs’. Gazecki is hoping his movie will help offset any misconceptions about crop circles spinning off from the Hollywood take on things, and croppie expectations for his film are high. (Watch this space for news of its arrival.)

As for the raised profile of the phenomenon itself, perhaps incredibly to UK eyes, there are many people in the US becoming aware of crop circles for the very first time. Newspapers and websites are thus full of articles about the phenomenon, some better informed than others, while some are purely patchwork rent-a-quote rubbish. ‘Wired’ magazine had an intelligent piece in its last issue, for instance, while a number of pieces, such as ‘The Boston Globe’, have taken the angle that the renewed interest in the crop circles is nothing more than a money-making exercise by croppie conmen.

Characters like ex-believer Peter Sorensen pop up to helpfully show how to make man-made circles, while some articles go the whole hog and liberally quote the inevitable presence of CSICOP members like Joe Nickell (a man who we can comfortably guess has probably never walked in a crop circle himself) to throw doubt over the whole thing. CSICOP – the rather sinister ‘Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal’, a self-elected elite which exists purely to attack anything even remotely considered “unscientific”, has been fairly easy with crop circles in the USA over the years (with the exception of loud criticism from now deceased CSICOP member Carl Sagan a few years ago). This has been due largely to the circles’ low profile over there, but now the movie has thrown such a big light over the phenomenon, they are not wasting any time in getting their teeth into it.

The slew of television documentaries about the phenomenon has also begun, with ‘The History Channel’, NBC’s ‘Today’ programme, ‘The Learning Channel’ and many other stations besides either having already aired or about to air all manner of shows of varying quality.

Rather than outright debunking being the problem, though, the main danger of all this coverage off the back of a film that has the crop circles being made by tall green clawed aliens while families cower inside making silly tinfoil hats seems to be more one of trivialisation, as Palden Jenkins recently warned in our Feedback pages. After another month of such intensive all-out coverage, will the circles, in the US at least, simply become last month’s burnt-out fad..?

Meanwhile, in the UK, our own media are also set to give ‘Signs’ a big push, although news of the phenomenon itself will be far less of a surprise over here, and, as such, rather less fanatical coverage is expected. That said, even the likes of the ‘Financial Times’ supplement have recently given room to crop circles (managing to liberally quote me out of context in the process) because of the forthcoming movie (due here early September), so expect to see news of them popping up in even more unlikely publications in recent weeks.

However, hopes for anything too cerebral are hardly high. The ‘Daily Mail’ (and subsequently various TV bulletins) recently featured this year’s huge Stonehenge crop formation and fleshed the story out by stating that last year’s Milk Hill formation was 1500 feet across (it was nearer 800) and that the new movie will be starring Bruce Willis (it’s Mel Gibson) and will be called ‘Crop Circles: Quest For Truth’ (that’s Gazecki’s documentary; it should be ‘Signs’). From this, hope for any accuracy of reporting is currently minimal…

US readers who have seen ‘Signs’ are openly invited to share their views of it through our Feedback pages. When the movie arrives over here, we will, of course, also review it ourselves from a UK perspective…



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