You've got that right. What actually constitutes the phenomenon are UFO reports over a period of more than 70 years. Applying standard historical methodology to the subject is a reasonable way to begin to understand the problem. See, for example,In many ways it's a function of life in the digital era. It's so easy now to blow up minor moments, or get contentious with each other online and create the flare ups. There are other basic threads at play as well. When you look at the history of the debate, or search, to identify critical theories in the field we are still hanging on to older, unresolved themes: Roswell (currently a sliding circus), MJ12, gov't coverup & the saga of the disclosure movement, ETH or not ETH etc. In the age of UFOlogical & illogical blogging everyone has a broadcast point from hardcore debunker to true blue believers. It's easy, with so many voices at play, to get into a fracas. It's more about personality than the event.
And because of this, whether anyone recognizes it or not, it is still the wild, wild west filled with radical outlaws and self-proclaimed sheriffs. There is no real school of critical thought, or direct descendents of James E. - no one can claim authority or provide real direction, as there is no designated, legitmate, connected sphere of critical thought taking place. It's a democratic field day of infighting, camps, supporters and self-destruction. It has, for the most part, become a very sociological study, a discussion of the aftermath of the event as opposed to a critical examination of the phenomenon itself, the "Roswell slides" being a very good example of this.
I would think that most critical discussion is happening in online fragments and in underground groups that are not really sharing publically what they know. Consequently, what you are expressing is a very valid observation. MUFON has Hollywood in its sights and there is little room for boots on the ground investigation. Those agencies that are data driven, as opposed to speculation driven, are given little if any notice.
A full bibliography and PDF scans of Loren E. Gross' UFOs: A History / The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFO history series.