I try not to give any attention to Finding Bigfoot, the ridiculous Animal Planet “reality” series that has all the flaws of the reality genre in addition to its complete lack of critical thinking on the subject of Sasquatch. But this past week the show aired some “new” “Bigfoot” footage (sorry, the air quotes are mandatory), and the flawed thinking of the pseudoscience community was on full display. I couldn’t resist but comment.
First, here’s the clip from the Finding Bigfoot television episode:
According to Finding Bigfoot, this is a video taken in 1962 by a Boy Scout troop leader while on a camp-out with his troop. At the time, the footage scared the scout leader enough that he and his fellow leaders were cautious and watchful for the rest of the camping trip (though they apparently never saw anything again). The story comes from Gary Bouvier, the son of the scout leader who filmed the footage and then sat on it for half a century.
What to make of this story? Absolutely nothing. It’s an anecdote told by an old man about events that happened more than fifty years ago when he was a child. Zero credence can be given to it, as zero evidence has been given for it. He could just as easily have claimed that his mother filmed it while on a moose hunt.
As for the decision to withhold such potentially sensational footage for 50 years? I’ll let you judge that for yourself. If I were a scout leader in charge of a troop of young boys, and if I were spooked enough to keep my kids close to camp, I would like to think I’d also be responsible enough to report the incident and footage to someone at the time.
The footage itself is a classic blobsquatch. It’s a silent video of a grainy-blobby shadow-figure jumping on a couple of rocks, then stepping out of shot. Stripped of its backstory, there’s nothing in the video to suggest it’s anything but a person making their way through the snow. Only the anecdotal context gives it form as “newly discovered Bigfoot footage.”
This doesn’t stop the Bigfoot hunters from trying to fit the video into their evidence pile, even going so far as to labeling the rock-hopping behavior as something somehow Sasquatchian. The Huffington Post [not surprisingly] quotes show star Cliff Barackman thusly:
“It seems to be hopping from rock to rock. Why would it do that? Most likely to hide its footprints,” Cliff said, adding, “Bigfoots avoid leaving their footprints in places where they could be found.”
Note the confidence with which he asserts this supposed knowledge about “Bigfoots,” as if it’s a given, a proven scientific fact. Oh, sure, the ol’ Bigfoot rock hopping behavior! See it all the time! To their credit, the clip above does acknowledge that the footage could, possibly, be just a human; but then they caveat it with the old “we just don’t know!” And of course, if you don’t know … Bigfoot, obviously.
This footage is just a blip in the Bigfoot mythos, but it’s useful as a microcosm of exactly how the pseudoscientific mind works: treat anecdote as provenance; assume the evidence is genuine; shape the facts to fit the prior assumption. Great for drawing ratings, but poor for anyone interested in critical thinking or legitimate evidence-gathering.