Last week I posted a couple of new advertisements on Facebook for Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015) and they generated a good deal of traffic. As I have discussed elsewhere, both of these images are completely phony graphics, made up by conspiracy theorists, and used for decades now, as if they were factual representations of what the Warren Commission found. Some conspiracists even gone so far as to say that these graphics appear in the Warren Report.
The diehard faithful were naturally upset by me calling them out (What’s new?) and their reactions tended to fall into one or more of the following categories:
- “This is what the Warren Commission found.” Sadly, there are still many people who continue to fall for these misrepresentations and Oliver Stone’s dramatization of them in JFK (1991).
- “The people who made/use these graphics are not lying, they were just mistaken.” I find this even more outrageous than the people who simply believe the lie. You can’t spend decades supposedly “researching” the assassination and making reference to these false documents without coming across the truth (i.e. These documents are false!).
- “This doesn’t matter because there are so many other questions about the case beyond the magic bullet.” As one Facebook commenter told me: Arguing with conspiracy theorists is like playing a game of, “whack-a-mole.” It doesn’t matter how many lies you refute, they can always pop up another one. I must agree.
Conspiracy theorists (aka, CTers or conspiracists) see the world through an unrealistic lens. They imagine that vast, super powerful forces can and do conspire successfully, using the government, the “mainstream media,” and academia, even across multiple generations, to not only commit fantastic crimes, but also cover these things up to a phenomenal level. Armed with this unrealistic, ahistorical view of what is or is not possible, they are undaunted by the clear pattern of lies that all their books, movies, and websites depend upon. They can always dismiss their lies as, “mistakes,” or call them, “false flags,” put there by “the conspiracy” to make CTers look bad. And they can always find, or create, new lies faster than you can knock them down.
I have also found that many conspiracists get hung up on one or two items (real or imagined) that absolutely prove the conspiracy in their minds. They refuse to accept the fact that contradictory and misleading evidence can be found in any case. To actually solve a case you need to look at the wider picture (the full case, the forest, if you will) and not get stuck on one pixel (one piece of evidence, or a single tree). Here are just a few of the many, many, many examples I could give you from things I have heard over the years (and over and over again):
- “Bill Newman, one of the closest witnesses to the fatal head shot said that the shot came from the grassy knoll.” This is a stretch. Mr. Newman said the shots came from behind him and the area now known as the “grassy knoll” was behind him to his right, but the Schoolbook Depository was behind him to his left.
- “Why didn’t the Warren Commission interview Bill and his wife, Gayle Newman, the closest eyewitnesses to the fatal head shot? Because they didn’t want to hear what those two had to say.” It is true that the Warren Commission did not interview everyone with any possible knowledge of this case, and the Newmans seem like people who should have obviously made the list. Nevertheless, how does this really matter? These two were not saying they had any great insight into the case that the Warren Commission missed, and they were interviewed, by law enforcement and journalists, repeatedly. In fact, they appeared on local Dallas TV immediately following the shooting. No sinister agents of “the conspiracy” stopped them, even though no one knew what they had seen or what they would say.https://youtu.be/iC1ebqkXGTkIf you have already decided from the outset that there was a conspiracy, then you can try to pull out bits and pieces of what Bill and Gayle said to support your faith, but there is one point that stood out to me when I first watched this, which conspiracists never quote. When Bill is standing alone with Jay Watson, the newsman interviewing him, Bill says he heard, “two shots.” Watson, who was around the corner and did not see the shooting, but heard it, says very definitely that he heard, “three shots.” You can see on Bill’s face that this makes him think as he says he’s not sure, but he knows he heard, “two shots.”
The problem here is that conspiracists typically insist that there were more than three shots (4, 5, 10, depending on how out there you want to get, you can find a wide range). For Bill to initially believe there were only two shots does not help the conspiracist case, so they ignore it. It is also interesting that Bill later told the story, consistently, with three shots. For years Bill believed that the President’s ear had come off and even testified to this “fact” when he was called as a witness by New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison in the witch hunt of Clay Shaw. After seeing more of the evidence, Bill realized that his memory on this point was incorrect; had he been a conspiracy-minded person, however, he could have convinced himself that the rest of the evidence was faked and the President’s ear really did come off.
Reasonable people understand why someone who witnessed such a horrific event, and was full of adrenalin and fear for his family, would not be 100% accurate about what he saw. Even witnesses who are under no stress often recall things differently than they actually happened and differently than one another. When these differences work in favor of conspiracists’ predetermined conclusion, however, CTers are quick to presume the rest of the evidence is false or wrong and only this “real” piece of evidence is worth focusing on.
- “Gov. Connally said he was not hit by the same bullet that hit President Kennedy. Connally was very familiar with rifles as a life-long hunter and he would know when he got shot.” It’s true that Connally was a hunter, but this doesn’t make him an expert at being shot, nor does it prove that his memory is somehow more accurate than anyone else’s, particularly in such a stressful situation. As I have often tried to remind people, when President Reagan was shot, he didn’t even know he had been hit. It was only the quick thinking of Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr that saved Reagan’s life. Had Parr not padded the President down in the limo they would have headed back to the White House, rather than the hospital, and Reagan would have probably bled out before they could get him the care he needed.
- “Oswald was photographed with CIA Operative David Ferrie during a Civil Air Patrol meeting. Ferrie claimed he did not know Oswald and Ferrie was one of Claw Shaw’s accomplices in the New Orleans assassination trail.”
There are multiple layers to the problems with this line of attack. To begin with, Ferrie’s links to the CIA, like Shaw’s alleged links, are unfounded allegations. There is no evidence that Ferrie engaged in any kind of operations, for the CIA or anyone else, with Shaw, and Shaw was acquitted in less than an hour at his trial because it was so obvious to the jury that Garrison had no case against him. Furthermore, Oswald was 15 teen or just barely 16 when that picture was taken (depending on the time of year) and he hardly seems to be close with anyone in the picture, let alone Ferrie on the other side of the group. According to the testimony from people who knew Oswald at the time, young Lee was much like older Lee, a loner, who only stayed in the Civil Air group for a few months and it is very unclear how much or how little he and Ferrie interacted. Imagine that someone found a photo of you at summer camp when you were a teenager and then they asked all the camp counselors in the photo if they “knew” you? How likely is it that they would say, “Yes?” Now imagine that you shoot the President. Even if any of those counselors remembered you, can you imagine that they would say, “No,” just to avoid the association? Reasonable arguments like this are dismissed by the conspiracists as, “simplistic,” or, “stupid,” because, “there is a photograph of these two men together,” so they must have been close; so close that they could be involved in a conspiracy to murder the President, more than eight years later, and never leave a single piece of hard evidence behind to prove they worked together on this plan (along with countless other individuals and groups).
- “The term ‘conspiracy theory’ was invented by the CIA to make anyone who criticizes the official story look like they are nuts.” No. This simply isn’t true. The term “conspiracy theory” predates the CIA by many decades and it has always had a negative connotation, because conspiracy theories have always been nutty.
I could go on all day, for an entire lifetime, like this, but why bother? Once you have established that the thinking of conspiracy theorists is a lie – a misconception of the world no better than racism – and once you have seen the constant pattern of lies that are used to support their wild tales of conspiracy, this should be enough to realize the truth. Unfortunately, the threshold for some people is so great that they will never cross it. They cannot bring themselves to admit that there is a pattern of lies behind their beliefs, or that the conspiracy mindset itself is a lie. They have their, “evidence,” and the case be damned!