THE DISINFORMATION DEBATE James H. Fetzer, Ph.D. An extended (and highly contentious) exchange more recently occurred between Josiah Thompson and myself on Rich DellaRosa's JFKresearch Forum. It endured for at least two months, but represented the extension of differences between us that had emerged as long ago as 1996-97. Although it began with a dispute about the alteration of the Zapruder film, a possibility that he denies but I affirm, its latest manifestation focused upon a post that previously appeared here. This post offered reasons why I believe that Josiah Thompson is not the person whom he pretends to be as an open, honest, seeker after truth. These were clearly presented AS MY OPINIONS, but they were taken by some figures in JFK assassination research as harmful to our discipline as a field of inquiry. Among the more important posts dealing with this subject and criticizing me for maintaining this post on my site was the following post put up by Gary Aguilar: ____________________________________ PUBLIC STATEMENT To David Mantik, Cyril Wecht and Gary Aguilar's public rebuke of our colleague Jim Fetzer's behavior, we must regretfully add our own. We agree with David Mantik when he points out "that public attacks on the motives of others... are biased, prejudicial, counterproductive, and, finally, useless." We agree with Cyril Wecht when he asks Jim Fetzer to apologize to Tink Thompson and points out that "you do not help our cause... by publicly attacking one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and respected critics of the Warren Commission Report." We agree with Gary Aguilar when he states that Jim Fetzer's "slanderous piece about Tink Thompson has no place on the web site of any credible Warren skeptic" and points out that "Jim has seriously undermined his own credibility with collateral damage that will.. harm me, David Mantik and others who have worked with him." By choosing to insinuate what he dare not say, Jim Fetzer chooses a low road. In so choosing, he hurts not only himself but all of us. Signed, PETER DALE SCOTT, WILLIAM W. TURNER, MARY FERRELL, DEBRA CONWAY, and others. ______________________________________ The post itself appeared at 19:31 on 3 February 2001, while I had announced my own decision to remove the post at 13:49 on 3 February 2001, six hours earlier! Insofar as, to the best of my knowledge, everything I have said about this guy is true, I do not believe that I have committed the transgressions with which I have been charged. I withdrew the post because I thought that the controversy was interferring with our research, causing a major distraction in effort and time. But I have pubicly reserved the right to reinstate it if there appears to be suitable justification. I believe that the study of different varieties of "disinformation" is indispensable to assassination research. Whatever our attitudes about that point, however, it remains that these noted students of the death of JFK and I have a public and striking difference on our opinions. David Mantik, for example, is quoted as remarking "that public attacks on the motives of others . . . are biased, prejudicial, counterproductive, and, finally, useless". These are noble sentiments, no doubt, but no one observes I have not attacked anyones motives. On the contrary, I don't profess to know what they are, as I explicitly remark in the post that is subject to dispute: Of course, I would not know if the book reviewer, Michael Parks, and Tink Thompson are working for some "shadowy government agency", but I have not made that claim. . . . . . . I have not gone that far. I have simply offered my own reasoned opinion that these sources appear to be spreading disinformation for reasons that to me remain obscure. Under these circumstances, I cannot imagine why I should be expected to offer an apology for an offense I have not committed. Indeed, if everything that I have had to say about him is true, as I firmly believe, then it is difficult for me to see how I have commmitted slander (spoken) or libel (written) in my dealings with him. My opinion is that, if these worthy personages had only done their homework, they would never have issued such a condemnation. Bertrand Russell, the great British philosopher, has offered three principles that should be observed for situations in which "experts" agree and disagree: (1) When the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain. (2) When they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non- expert. (3) When they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exists, the ordinary man would do well to suspend judgment. "These propositions seem mild", Russell observed, "yet, if accepted, they would absolutely revolutionize human life". The number of experts on each side, alas, does not determine the issue, since the majority opinion is not invariably true. Indeed, it is my view that, unless we become more sophisticated about different kinds of disinformation--the topic to which my DISINFORMATION page is dedicated and where the offending post originally appeared--we haven't a ghost of a chance of actually discovering the causes and reasons for the death of John F. Kennedy. My point was not that this guy works for the CIA, the NSA, or the FBI, as I was supposed by Gary Aguilar, among others, to have meant, even though it was some- thing I had explicitly disavowed, but rather that he was engaged in the abuse of logic and language for the purpose of deceiving, misleading, and confusing the members of the forum about important matters. The study of logic and language, moreover, is the province of philosophers rather than of scientists or physic- ians, which only strengthened my case that these activities on his part had to be deliberate, because he himself had earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale! Some understood very clearly. Martin White, for example, described the very distinction at issue in a post he put up 3 February 2001 at 12:48 as follows: With regard to the dis/mis information debate, I think we all agree that differences of opinion will occur. This may be the result of someone being MISinformed, which is (normally) an innocent occurance, but which may in turn be the result of DISinformation; the deliberate dissemination of knowingly false material, or the misrepresentation of true facts. My purpose here, however, is not to debate the issue but to provide a context for understanding the debate itself. That it occurred is an historical fact; that its influence lingers would be difficult to deny. I believe that there are important lessons here for us all, including myself, and that preserving this exchange for the stake of future students of the assassination is worth while. Some may find this discussion already sufficient for their purposes. Others may want to learn more. Consequently, I have organized my discussion around a series of posts that appeared on the Forum during the course of this debate. There is no point in concealing these differences and there could be important benefits from exploring them. In that spirit, I offer these pages. CONTENTS James H. Fetzer
PART 1: Background and Overview
PART 2: The Disinformation Page
PART 3: The Controversial Post
PART 4: "**** strikes again!"
PART 5: "**** strikes out!"
PART 6: "Not to belabor the obvious . . ."
PART 7: "Consider the evidence"
PART 8: "Over the edge . . "
PART 9: "A Partial Response to Tink"
PART 10: "The one post to read . . ."
PART 11: "THE DISINFORMATION SERIES, indeed!
PART 12: "DISINFORMATION SERIES continues"
PART 13: "This crap has got to stop!"