Did Art Bell's Broadcast Influence the Heaven's Gate Suicides?

  • Thread starter Ivan Seeking
  • Start date
  • Tags
In summary, Art Bell says that the group's beliefs changed over the years, but that the number of suicide victims and the ages of those victims were misrepresented in the media. He also insists that the Heaven's Gate members were aware of the debunking of Hale-Bopp.
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
...What about the possibility that thirty-nine people ended their lives in part because of Bell's promotion of false information? Bell doubts the cult members incorporated the "companion UFO" story into their mass suicide decision. He says that in the weeks following the Courtney Brown debacle, the "entire fraud was heavily exposed" and that the revelations all occurred two months before the Rancho Santa Fe suicides. And in a further attempt to paint himself as just another innocent reporter at the mercy of his sources, Bell asserted that "the media had it totally, utterly wrong" in their initial reports of the numbers and ages of suicide victims, as if to compare his show's unsubstantiated and pretentious banter about a massive, comet-trailing alien craft to the act of gathering details during a breaking, tragic news story. Most important for Bell, though, is that the Heaven's Gate members appeared to have been aware of the Hale-Bopp UFO debunking. The first line of their now infamous Web site reads: [continued]

...It is clear that the group's beliefs changed over the years, but precisely when and how is still being pieced together from the materials they left behind. It is clear that popular-cultural science fiction, especially visions of extraterrestrial life highlighted by movies and television, profoundly influenced the group's worldview. Members were tremendous fans of the Star Trek TV series, as well as The X-Files, both of which featured alien beings in prominent roles. [continued]

For those not familiar with Art Bell, he hosted a radio show that featured guests ranging from the wackiest crackpots to respected scientists. Subjects ranged from Ghosts and UFOs to Physics and other sciences; from government conspiracy theories to legitimate current events. Bell certainly encouraged exotic stories and beliefs but all in all he seemed harmless enough to me. If people tuned in and believed everything they heard, then they obivously would believe nearly anything anyone told them, so to me it seems unfair to hang this on Bell. And in fact this goes a bit deeper I think: For all the BS on Bell's show, first and foremost it was a place for people to tell their stories. Obviously many people didn't like Bell for promoting "nonsense", but it wasn't all nonsense, and its not always easy to tell where nonsense ends and a true mystery begins.

I think this attack on Bell stinks a little of censorship based on personal bias - a bit of a witch hunt based on the skeptic's hatred of alternative points of view. From what I read, all of Sci-Fi is equally responsible for thirty-nine dead people.
Last edited by a moderator:
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
I tend to agree with you Ivan. The trajectory of the Heaven's Gate believers is internal to themselves, and pointing the finger at Art Bell, or for that matter Star Trek, is just tendentious and wrong. I've always thought CSICOP were just a little too fanatical in their debunking. Not that the stuff they critique isn't false, but why the animus?
  • #3
I think any blame for the deaths of the Heaven's Gate believers has to lay on the believers. Come on, normal people don't go to these extremes.
  • #4
Evo said:
I think any blame for the deaths of the Heaven's Gate believers has to lay on the believers. Come on, normal people don't go to these extremes.

What evidence is there to show that they did commit suicide? Did CSI do a complete sweep of the place or did everyone assume this was a mass suicide and leave it at that?

Is there solid proof that this was a suicide? Or was it emotional manipulation that led up to a mass murder?

For instance, how many of the people at Jonestown actually understood they were drinking a poisoned koolaid that was strong enough to kill children and adults?
  • #5
selfAdjoint said:
Not that the stuff they critique isn't false, but why the animus?

Well, they're not always right. But what strikes me is that the more extreme minded debunkers qualify as a cult in their own right. Debunking can be a religion of hate and intolerance, and this is a good example. Next, since it is generally assumed but not always true that debunkers have the intellectual high ground, their sins often go unnoticed.

A long time ago I set aside two groups in the fringe: The true believers, and the true disbelievers. Obviously debunking and skepticism play a vital role in evaluating unusual events, but there is a group of "denialists" who get a lot of attention but often lack credibility. Consider for example the time that I challenged James Randi fans to produce evidence of Randi's one-million dollar prize account. Finally, after a time Chronos posted something that appeared that it could be checked, but this only came after I had to close about five threads. The very idea that ANYONE would even question Randi's credibility was simply too much to endure. It was more important to attack me than to get the evidence.
Last edited:

Related to Did Art Bell's Broadcast Influence the Heaven's Gate Suicides?

What does "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls" mean?

This phrase is a line from a poem by John Donne and is often interpreted to mean that the death of any person affects all of humanity. It is a reminder to not be self-centered and to recognize the impact of our actions on others.

What is the context of the phrase "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls"?

The phrase is from a poem called "No Man is an Island" written by John Donne in the 17th century. It reflects on the interconnectedness of all people and the idea that we are all part of a larger community.

What is the significance of using "Bell" in the phrase "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls"?

In the 17th century, it was common for a bell to toll when someone in the community died. This phrase is a metaphor for the idea that when one person dies, it is as if the bell is tolling for all of us.

How is "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls" relevant today?

This phrase is often used to remind people to think beyond themselves and consider the impact of their actions on others. It can also serve as a reminder to be empathetic and compassionate towards others, especially during times of tragedy or loss.

Is "Ask not for whom the Bell tolls" a quote from a famous person?

Yes, the phrase is a quote from the poem "No Man is an Island" by John Donne, who was a famous English poet and cleric. It has also been used by other famous figures, such as Ernest Hemingway in his novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls".