"How do we know that our own rational rejections of conspiracy theories are not themselves infected with beliefs so strong that they are, in effect, conspiracy theories too?"
- Matt Ridley in 'Maybe We're All Conspiracy Theorists', The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10-11, 2011
“Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: 'Do you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in a room, plotting things?' For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together - on park benches or carousels?"-Michael Parenti in 'Dirty Truths', p. 174
Five days ago the 49th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination transpired but it coincided with Thanksgiving Day, hence was not met with much fanfare or recognition. Don't look for this to be the case next year, as we reach the 50th anniversary and every minor airwave, TV or talk radio spot will be dominated by endless discussion of the event and oh by the way: 'How come 70% or more of the American public still believe it was a conspiracy and dismiss The Warren Commission?' You can be sure talking head Tom Brokaw (now more a fossil but still out there!), who's already blown "the greatest generation" into a cultural mythology, will make much of this fact, including claiming the "evidence doesn't support it". Don't mind Tom! Or Tom Hanks, planning a 13-part HBO series to convince the American people that they've been "snookered" into believing the conspiracy meme. Both are part of the same disavowal-denial matrix that's been almost continuously in operation for the past 40 years.
All of which elicits the question of how we may discriminate between a genuine conspiracy and a 'conspiracy theory' - which is the generic putdown pushed by the hacks and blow dried bozos of the corporate media, to attempt to undermine any conviction that actual conspiracies unfold in this country. We are instead governed by the 'conspiracy school' of Milton Friedman laissez-faire economics, i.e. that they're all "individualist" or "lone nut" freelance efforts, as opposed to a collaboration between interested parties with a decided agenda. Further, in the case of any real murderous conspiracy (such as the JFK assassination) it's abundantly obvious that two levels had to unfold in sequence: 1) the executive action itself - removing a head of state who'd become an impediment to the banking-intelligence- military axis, and 2) the cover up of (1) by any means necessary and for as long as required before the ultimate ends of the conspirators' agenda were achieved.
Note above I said 'conspirators' agenda' not conspirators, who may well all be dead by now.
This is all relevant since Charles P. Pierce, in his book 'Idiot
“No matter what the polls indicate, the reality is that we have kept the Kennedy assassination as a conspiracy theory, rather than accepting it as an actual conspiracy. Once we believe in the latter, it becomes a deadening weight on the conscience.”
Indeed. But how or why so? First note that he writes this after committing one of the foremost blunders one can, in respect to the assassination aftermath - but quite understandable! That is, his statement that (previous page) "the official U.S. government report (the Warren Commission) into the public murder of the president has rather less credibility than 'the Epic of Gilgamesh' with the American people."
The blunder is the claim that the Warren Commission's report was an "official government report". No, it was not! It integrated discrete aspects of government, via agencies (e.g. FBI, CIA, Secret Service etc.) given varied degrees of power in determining what was and what was not evidence, and who or who would not be called as witnesses (200 material witnesses were omitted, according to special Justice Dept. agent Walt Brown) but it was not an "offiical government" organ. The Warren Commission itself was the creature of Lyndon B. Johnson, and indeed, represented the fallback entity once Johnson's originally proposed "Texas Commission" was rejected.
Never mind! LBJ assigned the same personae he'd wanted on the earlier mutation, including J. Edgar Hoover - who despised JFK, and Allan Dulles (fired by JFK from the CIA after the Bay of Pigs). The Report then, was not any official gov't report but an artifical political construct intended to deflect attention to any deeper questions via the use of a whitewash. I already went over the reasons for that in the earlier blog on Bill O'Reilly's new book on the assassination, and in the link therein.
Second, let us note that - while not necessarily au fait with all aspects of the JFK assassination and its aftermath, most Americans exposed to them even in cursory fashion would have regarded the Warren fabrication as an insult to their intellects. I mean, "the magic bullet" making 7 wounds in 2 men and emerging pristine on a hospital stretcher at Parkland? C'mon! The bullet-pocked limo being disassembled then dispatched to OH? The brain disappearing between Parkland in Dallas, and Bethesda? An alleged assassin's rifle (6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano) which had to be substituted for to try to replicate the alleged shots? How many 'coincidences' have to occur before people are given credit for some basic common sense?
Then Pierce goes on to write (ibid.):
"The revelation of an actual conspiracy- the Iran -Contra matter- has come to have a rather deadening effect on American politics and culture. It runs through stages. There is disbelief. Then the whole thing dies in banality. It's too hard to understand..."
True, but why hold that against the American people? (He goes on to state that Iran -Contra "ought to have immunized the American public against wishful, fact free adventurism in the Middle East"...a la the bogus basis for the Iraq invasion and occupation. )
The fact is most people don't have the deep politics savvy, time or inclination to dig very deeply into anything that isn't fairly clear or obvious! (Like a glaring head shot in the center of a major U.S. city!) I don't necessarily hold this against them, because I understand and grasp that not all citizens have had the fortuitious time allotment and resources I've had to pursue these things. Including Iran -contra, which basis I showed in a previous blog, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/10/argo-iran-contra-and-what-bob-sheiffer.html
The main thing to bear in mind amidst whatever conspiracy is proferred, is the definition - compliments of my 1,500 page Webster's:
A treacherous, surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons”
Let's also be clear that in many true conspiracies, as in the case of many complex financial instruments (e.g. variable annuities), the architects have ensured the complexity is such that most citizens will give up in pursuit of the truth after a fairly short time. They lack the energy, time or resources to spend more than a few hours a week on the conspiracy or event, if that! In addition, in events like the JFK assassination (as Winn Schwartau has pointed out in his book, Information Warfare') misinformationists have had their hands all over it, muddying the waters by the mega-gallons. Thus, we've seen garbage injected like "Castro killed Kennedy" by hacks like Brian Latell, or other nonsense. It takes a dogged personality with single -minded determination to wade through most of the crap and especially ...separate signal from noise!
Thus, Michael Shermer's claim (in his book 'The Believing Brain' ) that:
"Conspiracy theories are usually bunk when they are too complex, require too many people to be involved, ratchet up from small events to grand effects, assign portentous meanings to innocuous events, express strong suspicions of either governments or companies, or attribute too much power to individuals".
Must be treated with deep suspicion. In the case of the BCCI banking conspiracy, since it entailed moving money to thousands of "dummy accounts" all over the world, the complexity was implicit. In fact, reams of evidence were culled from that criminal bank's operations in 73 countries and exposed. But whether anyone could comprehend all aspects of its workings - which were deliberately rendered complex- is another matter.
This brings up another mistaken assumption of Shermer's: that "Ockham's Razor" (i.e. the simplest explanation for something is almost always the correct one) applies equally to conspiracies as it does to explaining natural phenomena, like lightning or solar flares. This assumes that the non-conspiracy model will always be correct because it is 'simpler'. This is almost invariably true in the realm of natural sciences, such as physics, but it is dubious that this can be applied to the realm of human affairs.
For one thing, humans are enmeshed in complexes of emotions and ideological agendas that can't be quantified like Newton's laws of motion, or simplistically reduced to one cause-one effect relationships. In addition, humans - unlike natural laws -are capable of deceit and misdirection. So, from many points of view, it would be foolhardy to reduce the realm of human behavior - including conspiracy - to the model applicable to simple natural laws. It would require something basically approaching a general denial that humans would or could ever act with duplicity. Which is nonsense.
By contrast, it is clear that misdirection (including interjection of misinformation at key times) would have to be a fundamental part of any successful conspiracy.
This complexity false assumption also colors Shermer's other one of "too many people involved". But this is basically an absurd and artificial complaint or criterion if the number is exactly that needed to succeed! For example, if 55 individuals were needed to make the JFK assassination succeed, then who's to say that was "too many"? In relation to what, exactly? Yes, it sounds like a lot, but not if the objective was to change the course of U.S. history - which it did! Had JFK lived the Vietnam War would never have been fought since his National Security Action Memorandum 263 planned a pullout of all U.S. personnel by 1965. (As per Freedom of Information released documents, ca. 1997)
If, 1,100 were needed for the BCCI banking conspiracy to succeed ( as it did for years!) then who is to say that was "too many"? I mean we're talking about a criminal bank with its paws in 73 countries, for god's sakes! By the same token, if 400 people were needed for the Iran-Contra conspiracy to succeed, e.g. double dealing with the U.S.- backed Contras in Nicaragua and the Iranians at the same time to funnel arms from the latter to the Contras, in violation of the Boland Amendment, then who is to say it is "too many"?
In the end, Shermer's criteria comes off as uninformed (i.e. in the context of most of the serious conspiracies proven so) and cartoonish. About what I'd expect of a third former physics student who thinks he's invented a "rocket ship" but only has a balsa wood model and it doesn't even operate properly.
Shermer's last remark is especially choice: "express strong suspicions of either governments or companies, or attribute too much power to individuals"
Huh? Is he serious?
So, by Shermer's cartoonish criteria, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ought to never have been suspicious of the Watergate break-in and the role of Nixon's government? Had that been the case, the Watergate conspiracy would never have been exposed, and Nixon would never have been forced from office! So much for that one!
What about companies? Is Shermer's memory THAT short? Can he not recall a certain Houston company called ENRON in 2001, which set up hundreds of dummy accounts in the Caribbean and used them to funnel money to, and at the same time kept other liabilities off its U.S. books to fool shareholders? More than 21,000 Enron employees who'd been duped into buying its shares- while Kenny Lay and his cohort profited- paid the price.
As for author Charles P. Pierce, incredibly - though he appears to short change those who accept the JFK assassination as genuine- he yet concedes (p. 79): that conspiracies of every sort embedded themselves in the Kennedy years ("a fertile time for conspiracy".) He even notes the 'Operation Northwoods' conspiracy by the Joint Chiefs (p. 80) which is nevertheless valid though it never materialized. Thank goodness! As Michael Parenti (op. cit.) has noted, in our debased media culture if the claimed conspiracy hasn’t been validated to officialdom's satisfaction, it’s merely a theory - which they erroneously equate with speculation. But if it was validated, as in Iran-Contra, then ‘Voila!’ it’s no longer theory but an actuality... a FACT! But this is essential nonsense! As Parenti observes, it means that “conspiracy can never be proven and if proven it can’t be conspiracy”.
Anyway, my takeaway point here is that if 'Northwoods' is acknowledged, even hyperbolically, and it meant the top generals wanted to off American citizens using terror bombings and mass shootings - then surely a plan to kill the American head of state isn't that far behind in terms of credibility! (Pierce puckishly refers - p. 81- to Kennedy being believed to have been "shot from a storm drain below the street level" at Dealey Plaza, but this is a straw man. No serious researcher accepts it, especially after D.B. Thomas' paper in the journal Science and Justice (Vol. 41, p. 21, 2001) precisely correlating echoes- propagation distances from impulse profiles to a location at the edge of the grassy knoll.)
Finally, thanks to a humble audio and visual aids specialist- Lt. Commander William Bruce Pitzer - based in the mid-1960s at the National Medical Naval Center at Bethesda, we have the first hand evidence via actual and forged autopsy photos that we've all been had. We have the evidence in black and white that the Kennedy assassination was a definite conspiracy - as the ONLY true government investigation (the House Select Committee on Assassinations or HSCA) determined in its 1979 conclusions with "95% probability".
Though Pitzer was himself assassinated- likely by a mechanic out of the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, NC (they attempted to make it look like a suicide, but Pitzer had everything to live for ...as he believed exposing the fraudulent photos would earn him fame and money) the pairs of photos did get out. As my German friend Kurt Braun put it in 1978, "Pitzer made certain he had slide copies made of the forged and true autopsy photos and provided the information to access them in the event of his demise".
Pitzer never lived to expose the "unspeakable" fraud perpetrated upon all of us (after the book title, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James Douglass) but we now know that - like Iran -Contra, conspiracy in the Kennedy Assassination was real. According to author Charles P. Pierce, if accepted as such then it "imposes a deadening weight on the conscience" and hence "accepting it as a reality means we are obligated to do something about it." I have and will, in the form of trying to educate Americans how and why this event continues to impact our policies, politics today!