Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Writers (Like Derek Arnold) Continue to Conflate Princess Diana Conspiracy 'Theories' With JFK Assassination Conspiracy

Image result for Princess Diana
There is no comparison at all between the death of JFK - an assassination via conspiracy - and the death of Princess Diana .

Derek Arnold displays a "bee in his bonnet" in his recent salon.com piece about the persistence of Princess Diana "conspiracy theories ".    I  am only superficially familiar with these, basically only having read that somehow the Queen and MI5 have been blamed for engineering a deliberate crash in Paris to kill Dodi and Diana.   To me, from what I have read, it appears in the realm of ideation - not even "theory".  Anyway, once Arnold drags in the Kennedy assassination he made himself a target for Kennedy researchers. Once more - like others (e.g. Tina Brown in 2013)  - he overgeneralizes, paints with too wide a brush..  .  He writes:

I've taught classes and researched the nature of conspiracy theories for over a decade, and I’m especially interested in the role of logic in these conspiracies — how it’s used to warp and concoct stories that explain extraordinary events. In the end, our reasons for entertaining conspiracy theories about luminaries, whether it’s the princess of Wales or John F. Kennedy, often have more to do with our lives than theirs.'

Uh no, maestro.  Don't drag JFK into your mix. The error committed here is one first highlighted by author Michael Parenti ('The Dirty Truth') in conflating the personal political value of the presumed target with the value of the assassination As entrancing and charming a personage as Diana was, she had no political value via any putative  assassination.  She commanded no armies or powerful allies. (For nor issued major policy decisions that would affect entrenched interests. Apart from initiating some land mine awareness programs and a few charities, Diana’s death had no where near the political impact that JFK’s  assassination had. (For example, JFK's plan to pull out of Vietnam by calendar year 1965, via his National Security Action Memorandum 263).  That Arnold is unable to make such a critical distinction reveals him as an amateur and conspiracy investigator lightweight.

But such casual conflation is a common error for conspiracy- investigating amateurs (under which umbrella I regard a 10-yr. researcher like Arnold) to a): to conflate all conspiracies or potential conspiracies using the same simplistic criteria, and b) to make generalizations which are unwarranted by such conflation. And here, again, my focus is on the Kennedy assassination conspiracy and perhaps Iran-Contra, no others.

It is useful at the outset to separate  "conspiracy theorists" from conspiracy analysts. The distinction is important, because as Dr. Pat Bannister has  shown, it marks the difference between a mature, rational, tempered approach to a case, and a scattershot, irrational, immature set of wild conjectures.  In this sense those who've dabbled in Diana conspiracies have generally been amongst the former. JFK researchers-  95 % of them from my experience (such as Mark Lane, Peter Dale Scott, Anthony Marsh, James DiEugenio, Walt Brown, James Douglass, David Lifton) -  are assuredly conspiracy analysts. Hence, their products are conspiracy analyses not "theories".

One of the conspiracy amateurs' more insulting claims is that people "embrace conspiracies in order to rise beyond the randomness or meaninglessness of celebrity deaths."  Thus, Arnold's claim that "conspiracy theories" have "more to do with our lives than theirs".  Which is emphatic nonsense in the case of JFK's assassination, given once he was taken out LBJ could then rescind his NSAM 263 and re-issue his own (NSAM 273) which paved the way for the Vietnam War in which 58,000 Americans lost their lives.

In the case of the JFK assassination who can forget long time CBS anchor Walter Cronkite's words soon after?  To wit:

"What would be more comfortable? Accepting a lone assassin, or believing a second assassin suddenly materialized out of thin air, fired a shot and disappeared again without leaving a trace of his rifle, his bullet or any other sign of existence?"

But barely ten years after "Uncle Walter" uttered those words, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) did find for a "96 percent probability" of a second gunman (and hence conspiracy)  based on acoustic tests done by MIT researchers. While a special gov't appointed team attempted to refute it, they failed, and moreover none of them were bona fide  acoustic specialists like the MIT group.  Let us also note that the HSCA was the only genuine government investigation while the much ballyhooed Warren Commission was actually a creature of Lyndon Johnson - confected for his political cover. (Just prior to the assassination Johnson was facing investigation and possible prison time for his role in the Bobby Baker influence peddling scandal) NO  - not all conspiracies are created equal, and one wonders if Arnold even got as far as reading the HSCA findings.

Arnold blabs on:
"Indeed, many are drawn to what science writer Michael Shermer has termedagenticity” — the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning and agency. It’s the idea that someone, somewhere — from God down to human conspirators — plays a role in what happens to us."

But I've already dealt with Shermer's straw man in past posts, so will do so again. For example, in my Nov. 22, 2014 post on the Skeptic Society's efforts to treat the JFK and other real conspiracies as looney ideations, I wrote:

"By the clever use of a pseudo-scientific,  dime store psychology template virtually any real conspiracy could be dismissed as nothing more then a combo of :  P (patternicity)+ A  (agenticity) + H (hindsight) + C (confirmation bias) nonsense!   
In the case of the Iran-Contra conspiracy,  the shipping manifests revealing the assorted Hawk and TOW missiles  destined for Iran would be likened to "seeing a pattern".  This would then be "infused with agenticity"(sic)  because the missiles ended up with the Iranians - so someone had to be a bad guy in doing it- since the Iranians were bad guys holding American hostages.  The next step would be to accuse  Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh of "looking for confirmatory evidence of what he already believed", i..e. the guilt of Oliver North, John Poindexter et al. because they "used their Government positions to create a hidden slush fund under the exclusive control of the conspirators”.  And finally, the coup de grace, Walsh would be accused of "hindsight bias" - advancing explanations after the fact for what he already knew happened. (Of course he knew, he uncovered the evidence in the course of his investigation!)

So, in other words, their bandying about of this pseudo-process is useless because it errs by proposing an excessively subjective and open-ended standard for parsing objective evidence. Hence, tying proof of conspiracy to sophisticated second guessing."

And then we see the usual citation of babble by some expert in the general area of "conspiracy theories":
"As political scientist Michael Barkun details in his bookA Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America,” conspiracy theories usually hinge on three core beliefs:
  • Nothing happens by accident. For this reason, the horrible machinations of “evil” conspirators become more believable than a fluke or an accident.
  • Nothing is as it seems. Successful conspirators hide their identities and actions; we must, therefore, always be wary, even when there’s little reason for suspicion.
  • Dots can always be connected. Though conspirators attempt to hide their actions, patterns exist everywhere

But let's parse these three beliefs in terms of the JFK assassination. Did it happen by "accident"? No,  JFK was quite deliberately shot and killed in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The issue at hand is whether one lone nut did it, or whether it was a planned conspiracy.  The best evidence we have of a malignant,  pre-planned influence pertains to the altered autopsy photos showing JFK's head:

Parkland surgeon Charles Crenshaw also validated the rear of the head being blown out and readers interested can obtain his excellent book, 'JFK - Conspiracy of Silence' .  This link to a .pdf version of Dr. Crenshaw's book can be found below:

Most interesting (page 10) is when Dr. Crenshaw was shown one of the Warren autopsy photos (same one produced in the PBS Nova exercise) and asked by Gary Shaw of the Sixth Floor Museum whether it matches what he observed when attending to JFK.  Dr. Crenshaw was incredulous. He immediately spotted the fake and ascertained  that the head had been "manipulated".  It was immediately evident to him that a conspiracy was at work, else why alter the massive frontal head wound to a rear one?  I would leave that question for Derek Arnold to address if he can. And while he's at it, why did Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford find it necessary to alter the official (autopsy)  account of the back wound to a neck wound, e.g.
No automatic alt text available.Moving the wound to the back of the neck as opposed to being parallel to the third thoracic vertebra e.g. of the back., as JFK's physician identified it originally  could then permit people - many otherwise intelligent - to buy into the single bullet baloney  and dismiss the original improbable track, e.g.
No automatic alt text available.All the preceding is relevant to the second point, i.e. of the capability of conspirators to hide their actions - and often identities. In the Kennedy assassination many of the participants used "cut outs" so that effectively concealed their identities.  The deliberate series of actions, meanwhile, including altering the JFK rear head wound and the bullet trajectory by Ford - was made possible because not all files, photos were released until much later The actual autopsy photo showing the rear of the head blown out didn't appear until the HSCA in 1978 or nearly 15 years after the assassination. Ford's notes and alteration of the upper back wound to the neck wound didn't emerge until 1993. This was after the JFK Records Act was passed.

My point is that the relevant "hiding" was not a matter of personal "belief"  but rather of straight up evidence only being made available much later. In each case the motive for alteration leads directly to the logical conclusion of a cover up. That in turn leads to the question of WHO would want to do such a cover up.  

The last aspect: "dots can always be connected" is useless gibberish.  Again, it conflates meaningful "dots" with meaningless ones. Thus, if said "dots" have intrinsic meaning, one can say their analysis and the conclusion arising therefrom  is rational.  For example, the "dot" of Kennedy's head being altered at the time of autopsy and photographs taken, leading to the "dot" of the Warren Commission publishing the altered (intact) head but not the other (blown out rear).  Plus the "dot " of Gerald Ford's  revision of the wound placement which makes it (sort of) conform to the single bullet theory. Why? Well, because if the latter  is accepted it obviates the nees for a 2nd gunman (or a 3rd).

Then there's the inescapable "dot" of Jackie moving back across the limo trunk to try to retrieve a dislodged occipital bone from JFK's head  e.g.
No automatic alt text available.
This an example of  linear transfer of momentum  comporting with the "dot" of the massive rear head wound. Hence, we are not selecting dots out of thin air but based on actual physical evidence and laws.

Like other pretenders before him, Arnold then drags in "Occam's Razor" which is totally irrelevant. He writes:
"Yet many conspiracy theories routinely contradict Occam’s razor, a philosophical principle based on the idea that the more assumptions needed to explain something — whether it’s a scientific law or a conspiracy theory — the less reliable the explanation. 
In short, the simpler your explanation, the better. "

But as I've pointed out before, scientific hypotheses are distinct from conspiracies, and hence from conspiracy hypotheses.   The "Razor" -  as we call it -  basically stipulates that given two or more hypotheses to account for the same phenomenon, the one which makes the fewest assumptions is most likely the correct one.

However, the one proviso in invoking it, is that one is applying it to a hypothesis concerning a natural event, or natural phenomenon! The reason is simple: we expect all natural events or phenomena to conform to a limited number of defined natural laws, including: the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy law), Newton's laws of motion, and the conservation of mass -energy.

The problem inherent in applying it to the Kennedy assassination is that this event is not an exclusive natural act or phenomenon. Indeed, the plausible presence of human emotions, motivations and agendas automatically places it in the realm of an unnatural event so that Occam's Razor cannot apply.

In effect, we are making a deliberate separation between the causes and effects which govern the natural world, say like solar eclipses, and asteroid flybys, and those which govern human affairs.

Unlike asteroid collisions or  total solar eclipses
, 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 putative 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

A final header in Arnold's  piece is:

Conspiracy trumps logic

Where he writes:

"Conspiracy theories make for interesting stories; they often involve breathtaking action, complicated plots and shadowy villains. They give us access to lives we normally never get to see."

But alas, this is useless in reference to actual documented conspiracies, such as Iran-Contra, BCCI and the JFK assassination. (By 'documented', I mean that an official government investigation has already found for it.)

Arnold's claim that "conspiracy theories" entail "complicated plots" and "shadowy villains" begs the following questions: 1) WHO is to make this determination? 2)  WHO is to reckon what is "complicated" in relation to what is a "large event" in the context of the conspiracy?  HOW does one distinguish a "shadowy villain" from a conspirator?

In respect of (1) we are entitled to inquire regarding the qualifications of the one making the assertions, say of "complicated plots".  Did these people, say like Arnold or others actually study the given background or did they merely lump it together with superficial examples of fringe conjectures, e.g. Apollo Moon hoax, Princess Diana, etc.?

In fact, a genuine conspiracy only demands enough complexity or elements to make it work – if even partially. And if it works, as the JFK conspiracy clearly did, who’s to say the elements were excessive or "complicated"? Also, let's bear in mind as long time JFK researcher Peter Dale Scott has pointed out, in the Kennedy case we are actually looking at THREE separate conspiracies but which are often conflated by the media or careless critics. These were: 1) The pre-assassination framing of Lee Harvey Oswald, 2) the actual killing of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963 and 3) the extended cover-up of the facts starting with the Warren Report itself and extending to "Operation Mockingbird" assets preventing subsequent revelations, insights in the media. Oh, and let's not forget the latter day disinformationists like Gerald Posner and Vince Bugliosi - serving the mandate of CIA doc. 1035-960.

Who is also to say that over 100 components –say  to make the BCCI banking conspiracy work, was too much or “too complex”? This is a totally subjective take that need not be vindicated objectively.  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

What about separating an actual conspirator from a "shadowy villain"/  Arnold provides no insights or clues.  Iran -Contra investigator and special counsel Lawrence Walsh named a number of conspirators, e.g. Albert Hakim, Oliver North, John Poindexter, who not only made "slush fund" withdrawals -  used to fund the purchase of Israeli Hawk and TOW missiles to ship to Iran - but also doctored manifests. Were these shadowy villains or just real good guys who somehow were misunderstood?

What about CIA master spook, David Atlee Phillips, e.g.

Was he just a misunderstood spook, or as Peter Dale Scott has written (Oswald, Mexico and Deep Politics’, 2013, p. 25) : the primary person responsible for manipulating the Mexico City CIA cables to frame Lee Harvey Oswald in advance of the assassination?

These assorted cables sent from the CIA station in Mexico City might have seemed like 'small potatoes'. But only in retrospect, as Scott observes, did it become apparent those cables were part of what was used to frame Oswald leading  to phase one of the conspiracy leading to the installation of a national security  and endless war state.

In a very real sense articles like Arnold's do no service to either genuine assassination conspiracies like John F. Kennedy's, or to tragic deaths like those of Princess Diana - which feature some residue of unanswered questions. In future, a more forthright approach by authors who tackle conspiracies and "conspiracy theories" is needed, with greater effort to separate wheat from chaff.  In particular, to make more subtle distinctions between conspiracy theories directed at celebrities and political conspiracies such as Watergate, Iran-Contra and the JFK assassination. 

There is especially the need to be wary of the use of language by many of these authors, such as the  substitution of "scandal" for  "conspiracy". Thus, we are now supposed to accept "the Watergate scandal" as opposed to Watergate conspiracy, and the "Iran-Contra scandal" as opposed to Iran-Contra conspiracy. The effort here clearly to expunge the concept of political conspiracy from public consciousness.
By his cavalier conflation of the JFK conspiracy with a conjectured one for Princess Diana, (with nowhere near the equivalent degree of evidence), Derek Arnold drives one more nail into public consciousness of actual conspiracy. 


Petra said...

Great post. Am restricted to phone for a couple of weeks so not writing much as I'm so much more a desktop person. Just to say that even if, technically, Occam's Razor only applies to scientific hypotheses it seems to apply extremely well to human-created events too when used properly. What the anti-conspiracists do is talk about "the simplest explanation" in terms of the hypothetical instance of an event rather than according to the evidence. They also conveniently ignore important evidence. I have a website www.occamsrazorterrorevents.weebly.com that may interest you. What I plan to do is write an article entitled "Occam's Razor proves we landed on the moon and 9/11 was an inside job". While I believe I have good basic reasoning and logic skills my scientific understanding is pretty poor so I'd be most appreciative of some feedback from you on my draft.

Copernicus said...

Thanks for your comment, Petra. I will be interested to read and comment on your "Occam's Razor" article when you have it ready. I will also check out your website!