THE DISINFORMATION DEBATE

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 8A: "Over the edge . . "
PART 8B: "A Partial Response to Tink"
PART 9:  "The one post to read . . ."
PART 10: "THE DISINFORMATION SERIES, indeed!
PART 11: "DISINFORMATION SERIES continues"
PART 12: "This crap has got to stop!"


                       PART 1:  BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW

     [Editor's note:  This section is intended to provide an historical
     background for understanding the exchange between Josiah Thompson
     and me that flared into prominence on this forum in December 2000.
     What most members of the forum might not know is that the roots of
     of this dispute go back to 1996, when I chaired a symposium on the
     possibility of Zapruder film alteration, and included a similarly
     acrimonious exchange via other discussion groups that endured from
     1997-98.  The recent explosion is merely its latest manifestation.]

In 1996, I was invited by George Michael Evica, the co-chair, to organize
a symposium on the possibility the Zapruder film may have been subjected
to alteration for presentation during the JFK Lancer Conference he was in
the process of organizing with Debra Conway.  After consulting with David
W. Mantik, I replied that this appeared to be an excellent plan and that I
would recommend having a workshop on 21 November 1996 in preparation for a
symposium presentation on 22 November 1996.  The workshop would last ten-
and-a-half hours and would be followed by a four-and-a-half hour symposium.

The workshop participants included David Mantik, David Lifton, Jack White,
Chuck Marler, Noel Twyman, Ron Hepler, Roy Schaeffer, and Robert Morning-
star.  Martin Shackelford, Art Snyer, and Sherry Gutierrez were present at
Debra's request.  The public session held the next day included presenta-
tions by Jack White, Chuck Marler, Noel Twyman, David Lifton, David Mantik
and me.  In my capacity as chair of the session, I offered a framework for
considering these issues from the point of view of "inference to the best
explanantion".  The very idea of film alteration proved very controversial.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised, but my impression was that some
of the earlier work on this subject--by Daryll Weatherly, Harrison Edward
Livingstone, Alan Eaglesham, Robert Morningstar, Milicent Cranor and others
unnamed--had created a prima facie case for film alteration, even if some
of the leading authorities on the photographic evidence--such as Robert J.
Groden, for example--were adamantly opposed to the thought.  In any case,
I was not overly charitable to some members of the audience, such as Hal
Verb, who remained strongly opposed to the alteration hypothesis even af-
ter sitting through our presentation.  I found that difficult to believe.

Indeed, it has always struck me as odd that students of the crime who are
strongly committed to the existence of conspiracy and cover-up should have
such strong feelings about the non-alteration of the film.  The most basic
evidence in this case--the autopsy X-rays, the autopsy report, and the au-
topsy photographs--after all, have all been subject to one or another form
of alteration, from fabricating X-rays to rewriting the report to creating,
destroying, and altering these photographs.  Why the alteration of a film
should require such a stretch of the intellect has always baffled me, but
I now suspect that it has to do with the presumptive loss of key evidence.

The motion of the President's head under the impact of one of the bullets,
after all, has frequently been cited as the most important evidence that
we have of a shot fired from in front.  The "back and to the left, back
and to the left" motion highlighted in Oliver Stone's film "JFK" has often
been taken to be THE CRUCIAL INDICATION that not all the shots were fired
from above and behind, as THE WARREN REPORT requires.  Some argue that,
if the film is not authentic, then it is completely useless as evidence,
where we cannot pick and choose which parts are authentic and which not.
Yet such attitudes overlook ever mounting evidence of Z-film alteration.

Indeed, the idea of not being able to "pick and choose" ignores the find-
ings of X-ray alteration, which were based upon meticulous studies that
successfully differentiated between authentic and inauthentic features of
those X-rays, suggesting that comparable meticulous studies might success-
fully differentiate between authentic and inauthentic features of the film.
Moreover, there is a strong tendency to fail to distinguish the question
of WHETHER THE FILM HAD BEEN ALTERED from the question of HOW, WHY, AND BY
WHOM IT HAD BEEN ALTERED, as though, unless we know every detail about the
who, what, where, when, and why of alteration, no alteration is possible.

There is an obvious conflation of questions about WHAT IS THE CASE (such
as whether the film has been altered) and WHY IT IS THE CASE (such as why
it has been altered).  Adquate answers to the first question do not have
to imply adequate answers to the second.  In any case, even though it was
my opinion that more than enough evidence had been presented during this
symposium to establish that the film had been altered, what we had done
was not met with enthusiasm from every quarter.  Attacks via discussion
groups began immediately (even before the presentation on 22 November),
where the most prominent critic of alterationism was Martin Shackelford.

Between the 1996 Lancer Conference and the 1997 Lancer Conference, there
was considerable discussion about the very possibility, much of which was
focused on the alleged impossibility of its being done along the lines of
"If it had been done, why would they leave in the strongest evidence for
at least one shot from in front?" and "How could it have been done, given
the chain of custody for its possession?"  Some of these questions would
be difficult to address absent access to the original, which might make
it all too apparent why certain kinds of editing was done; and the accur-
acy and completeness of the chain of custody would soon become suspect.

In any case, for the 1997 Lancer Conference, Debra Conway affored Josiah
Thompson and Art Snyder the opportunity to present arguments contrary to
those presented at the symposium I had organized a year before.  Rather
to my surprise, they asked if I could appear in relation to their presen-
tation, discussing certain aspects of the alterationist thesis.  I was
willing to do so, but prior to my participation, at least three persons
warned me that they were "setting me up" in order to attack me during
their symposium.  But I went along with it anyway, even announcing that
I had been so advised during my extremely brief (5 minute) appearance.

Josiah Thompson attacked me in ways that I considered to be very unfair,
especially considering that, while I was endorsing, advocating, and pro-
moting the alterationist position, I was not doing so on the basis of my
own original research but rather drawing upon the work of others.  So I
always found it rather peculiar that I should have been the beneficiary
of so much critical attention.  As the man said after having been tarred
and feathered and run out of town on a log, "If it weren't for the honor
of the thing, I would just as soon have walked!"  That would become very
much my attitude, although it was not one that I would publicly express.

The Thompson piece would be smoothed and published in Walt Brown's JFK
DEEP POLITICS QUARTERLY (April 1999), under the title, "Why the Zapruder
Film IS Authentic", which Walt hyped with the heading, "Josiah Thompson
Chronlogy Points Up Difficulties in Z Film Alteration".  This seemed to
me to be a bit much, since Josiah did not actually come go grips with
even one example of film alteration that had been produced during the
Lancer Symposium of 1996!  Indeed, by this point in time, a lot of what
we had discovered had been published in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE (1998),
which would itself become the object of Thompson's relentless attacks.

In the meanwhile--between the Lancer Symposium of 1997 and the publica-
tion of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE--I found myself subjected to a barrage of
attacks from one source or another, some even unwilling to identify them-
selves by name.  There were so many criticisms from so many parties of
such uneven quality that it seemed to me to be a worthwhile project to
sort them out into KINDS OF ATTACKS.  The levels and types of argumenta-
tion and rhetorical technique also impressed me greatly, because it had
long since become apparent to me that many of these attacks had to be
insincere attempts to distrort, mislead, and confuse readers about the
topics of discussion, which qualified as instances of "disinformation".

I therefore began to analyze these attacks from the perspective of the
extent to which they reflected the abuse of logic and language in their
effort to create false, distorted, or otherwise misleading impressions.
I was fascinated to discover that the types of disinformation involved
appeared to fall into at least five categories, from the outright fabri-
cation of evidence to selection-and-elimination down to the least sig-
nificant type, which can amount to no more than difference of opinion.
Because I was so familiar with them, I used many examples from the on-
going controversy over film alteration and ASSASSINATION SCIENCE itself.

The result appeared on my web site, www.assassinationscience.com, in the
form of my DISINFORMATION page.  I used samples of my exchanges with Art
Snyder and with Josiah Thompson as examples of disinformation of Type I,
the lowest level, because it was obvious to me that, however much I might
believe that Josiah ("Tink" to friends) was deliberately abusing language
and logic, others with less training in logic and language than I, as a
professional philosopher, possessed, might be more inclined to treat his
criticisms as nothing more than "differences of opinion".  Because I did
not want to exaggerate the seriousness of our differences, I left it at
that lowest level, assuming that this would be obvious from its context.

I could not have been more mistaken.  Although our exchange resurfaced in
December 2000, it was evident to me--from close reading of Tink's posts--
that he seemed to think that, in alleging he was practicing "disinforma-
tion", I was thereby accusing him of being some sort of government agent,
even though that was something I explicitly disavowed in the post I had
put up as an example on my web site.  Indeed, the first indication I had
that he finally understood that I was drawing distinctions between differ-
ent kinds of "disinformation" occurred in responses that followed this
post, which only appeared on 7 January 2001.  Prior to that, I surmise,
he had not even bothered to read the DISINFORMATION page on my web site.

POST (a):  SIX SENSES OF "DISINFORMATION"
----------------------------------------------------------------------
RE:: What's in a word?

 RE:: RE:: A Modest Reply -- Josiah Thompson
 Posted by Jim Fetzer  , Sun, Jan 07, 2001, 12:06:19

      The word "disinformation" is amenable to various shades of
      meaning, as I have sought to explain on my DISINFORMATION
      page, where I distinguish between five different senses.
      If there were not at least five different senses, I would
      not need to distinguish between them. In a deft maneuver
      intended to influence the unwary, Josiah Thompson offers a
      definition from the FBI (posted by Bill Kelly) that defines
      ONE SPECIFIC, VERY STRONG, sense of "disinformation":

      "DISINFORMATION =df Carefully contrived misinformation
      prepared by an intelligence service for the purpose of
      misleading, deluding, disrupting, or undermining confidence
      in individuals, organizations or governments" (Leo D. Carl,
      editor, THE INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORY OF INTELLIGENCE
      (Mclean, VA: International Defense Consultant Services,
      1990), p. 110.

      This is very useful to someone like Thompson, who employs
      straw man arguments that exaggerate opponents' reasonable
      positions until they appear to be unreasonable, so he can
      attack them!  He has done that repeatedly on this forum,
      and I foresee no point at which he will cease employing
      informal fallacies and rhetorical devices of this kind in
      order to create false impressions and distort positions.
      That is very useful technique in spreading disinformation.

      In this instance, this definition (let us call it "disin-
      formation 6" to distinguish it from "disinformation 1",
      "disinformation 2", "disinformation 3", "disinformation 4",
      and "disinformation 5" previously defined on my web site)
      carrys the connotation of intelligence service involvement.
      Anyone who claims--as I have not--that Josiah Thompson is
      committing "disinformation 6" would thereby be implying
      that Thompson works for some "shadowy government agency".

      So this is a very clever move.  But it has nothing to do
      with my proofs that the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL re-
      view and the arguments that Thompson has provided satisfy
      the core conception of disinformation, namely: that they
      abuse logic and language in a deliberate effort to mislead,
      confound, and confuse (in this case, the public) about key
      questions (here, in relation to the assasssination of JFK).
      He has substituted another interpretation for the intended.

      The fallacy that is being committed here is called "equivo-
      cation", which occurs when a word is used with one sense in
      the premises of an argument, but with another sense in the
      conclusion. My use of "disinformation" involves the abuse
      of logic and language in a deliberate effort to mislead,
      confound, and confuse (in this case, the public) about key
      questions (here, in relation to the assassination of JFK).
      It does not require involvement by an intelligence service.

      Here is a simple textbook example. Blondie: "Was he mad
      when you spilled coffee on him?" Dagwood: "Yes." Blondie:
      "Then you should have had him locked up like any other mad-
      man!" In the first instance, "mad" means angry; but in the
      second, it means insane. So the premises can be true while
      the conclusion is false, even though the same word occurs
      in both. This is a fallacy that freshmen and sophomores
      are taught to avoid. Here a philosophy Ph.D. is committing it.

      Thompson, notice, performs a semantic "slight-of-hand" to
      twist the meaning of "disinformation" as it occurs in the
      premises (which, in MY sense, are true) in the conclusion
      he would foist off upon the unwary (where, in HIS sense,
      what I have said is false). This is a classic rhetorical
      device to mislead the unwary. Please read VERY CAREFULLY
      the paragraph in which this "slight-of-hand" transpires:

      > So let me ask the obvious question. Has Professor Fetzer
      > proven that poor Ernst-Ulrich Franzen, the poor editorial
      > writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel who had the bad
      > luck of being handed Fetzer's book for review was in fact
      > an intelligence agent engaged in spreading "carefully
      > an intelligence agent engaged in spreading "carefully
      > contrived misinformation prepared by an intelligence ser-
      > vice for the purpose of misleading, deluding, disrupting,
      > or undermining confidence in individuals, organizations
      > or governments?" Sorry. I mean that's what the professor
      > said he proved.

      Except, of course, that is NOT what I said I had proved. If
      reference to "an intelligence service" were deleted from
      this sentence, however, then it would correspond to what I
      have maintained, namely: that Ernest-Ulrich Fransen was
      engaged in speading carefully contrived misinformation for
      the purpose of misleading, deluding, disrupting, or under-
      mining confidence in individuals, organizations, or govern-
      ments--or, in this case, a book, its authors and contents!

      Does anyone doubt that Tink has has "resorted to selective
      quotation and word excision in order to create a misleading
      impression and smear me"? Or that Ernst-Ulrich Franzen has
      performed a professional hit by ignoring the key findings
      reported in the book--the fabrication of the X-rays and the
      substitution of someone else's brain in diagrams and photo-
      graphs--while trivializing the discovery of overwhelming
      evidence that the Zapruder film has been altered? That is
      what I claim to have proven and, indeed, what I have proven.
      Let anyone who doubts it return to "The one post to read ..."

      So not only does Josiah Thompson not refute my conclusions,
      his own post actually demonstrates my point. Because here,
      once again, he is resorting to the abuse of logic and lang-
      uage--specifically, by committing a fallacy of equivocation
      --in order to spread carefully contrived misinformation for
      the purpose of misleading, deluding, disrupting, or under-
      mining confidence in individuals, organizations, or govern-
      ments--or, in this case, a book, its authors and contents!
      Does anyone doubt that he has committed an equivocation?
      I could not have asked for a better example of his craft.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Once this barrier had been crossed, the situation took a turn for the
better.  Thompson made belittling remarks about my suggestion that, in
discussing "disinformation", I was contributing to something that might
be called "the philosophy of disinformation" (because philosophy is de-
voted to the clarification or disambiguation of vague and ambiguous lan-
guage), nevertheless, he seemed to better understand the situation in
ways that he clearly (in my opinion) had not understood them from the
very beginning, at least since my DISINFORMATION page was posted back
in 1998.  This post thus caused a dramatic increase in communication.

Other members of the forum were suggesting that he and I should bury
the hatchet, perhaps by my disavowing the use of the word "disinfor-
mation" to describe what he was doing.  I was reluctant to do this,
however, because--when detached from any implications of government
agency or intelligence service involvement--it conveyed exactly what
I intended to convey, as, indeed, I had explicitly explained on the
DISINFORMATION page itself.  I was therefore gratified that at least
one member of the forum had understood the situation quite clearly.

POST (b):  "DISINFORMATION" vs. "MISINFORMATION"
-------------------------------------------------------------------
What is the meaning of "IS"?

 RE:: A Fetzer-Thompson Detente.....? -- R. Charles-Dunne
 Posted by jack white  , Sun, Jan 14, 2001, 16:12:48

Robert... as usual, I find much wisdom in your above
proposal.

However, I must reject your call that Dr. Fetzer
APOLOGIZE FOR A PERCEIVED INSULT. By definition,
a perceived insult is ONLY in the mind of the insulted.
It might be WISE to apologize, but would not change
the OPINION. It would be like saying, "I APOLOGIZE
FOR THINKING YOU ARE A JERK" when the opinion stays
the same.

As is apparent to anyone who has READ (as most of us have
numerous times) what Jim ACTUALLY wrote, the gist of it
is:

"Dr. Thompson ACTS LIKE an agent of disinformation."
This obviously is an OPINION.

He has never said:

"Dr. Thompson IS an agent of disinformation."
This obviously would be a statement of FACT.

In my opinion, these are easily understood concepts which
have distinct and different meanings. Demanding or offering
an apology for an OPINION is a matter which should only
involve the participants, and not others. On the other
hand, a statement saying "IS" instead of "ACTS LIKE"
is clearly a statement of "FACT", and if UNTRUE, it should
certainly be withdrawn, altered and apologized for.

In all these discussions, Jim has steadfastly stated
(as is obvious from reading it) that his OPINION falls
in the category of "ACTS LIKE" and NOT "IS".

Now all of us have an OPINION on this. I certainly do.
I would hope that all could get along amicabally. But
my opinion cannot be forced on others, unfortunately.
If Dr. Fetzer had written an UNTRUTH about Dr. Thompson,
he certainly should apologize and alter what he said.
But if Dr. Fetzer (perhaps unwisely some think) only
expressed an OPINION (which he still holds), I hold that
I cannot tell him what to THINK. It might be WISE for
Jim to apologize...but that would not change his opinion,
would it?

As for the distinctions between MISinformation and
DISinformation, here is my belief:

DISINFORMATION is disseminated by agents or conduits
of FALSE INFORMATION by persons, witting or unwitting,
for compensation or not for compensation, OF A SPECIFIC
AGENDA to counter truth. The AGENDA is the true mark
of disinformation. Calling someone an agent of DISinformation
insults not them as much as their agenda.

MISINFORMATION is spread by persons who usually are
ill-informed, ignorant, cognitively impaired, rumor-spreaders
or such. Misinformation may actually be DISINFORMATION
which is repeated WITHOUT THE ORIGINAL AGENDA. An example
of this would be people who say Oswald was the assassin
BECAUSE THE WARREN REPORT SAYS SO. These people spread
misinformation which was originally DISINFORMATION, because
they are ignorant of the truth. To call someone a spreader
of MISinformation is an insult to their intelligence.

Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

For truth...and peace,

Jack
---------------------------------------------------------------
While Jack understood the situation perfectly, I concluded that,
since I had never claimed that Thompson was working for a govern-
ment agency or an intelligence service but, on the contrary, had
explicitly disavowed such a claim--a point other commentators on
this matter, including some of considerable prominence within the
research community, likewise overlooked--I thought that it could
do no harm and might do some good to emphasis a point that I had
already made in that earlier post, which led me to offer further
clarification of this crucial aspect of this contentious affair.

POST (c):  A "DISINFORMATION" CLARIFICATION
-----------------------------------------------------------------
A "Disinformation" Clarification

 Posted by Jim Fetzer  , Thu, Jan 18, 2001, 11:43:54

       In the spirit of Robert's suggestion, I shall be glad to
incoroprate the following
       clarification in the post in which I discuss Josiah Thompson as an
example of
       "Disinformation of Type I" if it might help to resolve these
outstanding issues, namely:

       - - - - - - - - - - - -

       [NOTE: Disinformation of many kinds can be disseminated for many
reasons, including
       economic (by businesses), political (by campaigns), personal (by
individuals), and so
       forth. The occurrence of disinformation occurs independently of the
reasons it is done.
       The questions must be distinguished: is disinformation taking
place? and, if so, why?

       It follows that, in describing these persons' conduct as the
dissemination of
       disinformation, I am not implying that they are employed by any
intelligence
       agency or government service for that purpose, much less that they
work
       for the CIA, the NSA, or the FBI. That is not part of what I am
asserting here.

       I regret if anyone should have misunderstood and mistakenly
inferred that I intended
       to make such claims in the context of my web-page discussion of
DISINFORMATION.
       And I am indebted to Robert Charles-Dunne for suggesting that a
clarification
       of this point could help those who otherwise might take the wrong
impression.]

       - - - - - - - - - - - -

       Unless dissuaded by members of this forum, I intend to add this
clarification
       immediately after the paragraphs of that post that begin and end as
follows:

       "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 simply offered my own reasoned
opinion that these
       sources appear to be spreading disinformation for reasons that to
me remain obscure."
------------------------------------------------------------------------
This proposal was well-received by members of the forum, who endorsed it
forthwith.  I would hear from Thompson via a personal unpublished message
that he thought this clarification afforded a basis for a "settlement" be-
tween us.  But his proposal for a settlement entailed that I change my use
of the word "disinformation" in relation to him and refer to him instead
as, say, an agent of "misinformation".  After all that had gone before, I
felt unjustified in taking that step, especially since, so far as I have
been able to discern, nothing I have said about him during this exchange
appears to be untrue.  Moreover, in those cases where I have become per-
suaded that clarifications were appropriate, I have introduced addenda.

Ultimately, in a post of 18 January 2001, Robert Charles-Dunne put his
finger on a crucial aspect of all of this, which was the extent to which
Thompson was trashing the authors and chapters of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE
and of MURDER IN DEALEY PLAZA, who were not engaged in this exchange with
him and who deserved better.  As he observed in relation to my proposal,

> I also hope your display of generosity will be matched by Dr. Thompson's
> own. Henceforth, when Dr.
> Thompson posts critiques of your books, perhaps the rest of us who read
> them will do so assured that
> the critiques are motivated by a professional difference of opinion, and
> not a personal vendetta.

I have no idea whether he will continue to offer himself as a reviewer
of books edited by someone with whom he has engaged in such acrimonious
disputes for such a prolonged period of time.  But if he does persist in
this behavior, it will be obvious to everyone he has no scruples when it
comes to conflicts of interest.  Indeed, it would be reassuring to know
that his critiques were motivated by professional differences of opinion
rather than by a personal vendetta against the editor of these books.  I
cannot predict what the future will hold, but everyone ought to be able
to readily ascertain how he and I conduct ourselves from this point on.

SEE BELOW:
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!"

 

 

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