DISINFORMATION

                                     James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.

            [Editor's note:  The original disinformation page, which I
            introduced in an effort to initate systematic thinking about
            a subject of great relevance to JFK assassination research--
            after all, if we cannot distinguish information from disin-
            formation, how are we going to sort out the evidence about
            the death of the President?--is presented here.  Please note
            that this discussion of several different kinds of disinfor-
            mation does not imply that any of these kinds presuppose or
            require government agency or intelligence service relations.]

   The subject of disinformation appears to be far more deserving of study by
members of the assassination research
community than it seems to have had in the past. Disinformation involves the
dissemination of incomplete, inaccurate, or
otherwise misleading information with the objective, goal, or aim of deceiving
others about the truth. Sometimes the source is
accurately acknowledged (this might be called "overt" disinformation), but
sometimes it is concealed by providing no
identification or by providing misleading identification (call this "covert").
The quantity and quality of disinformation may be
difficult to judge, but it should be viewed more or less on a par with acts of
lying, but where the motives that usually bring
about lying (to preserve a relationship, to conceal an affair, to secure a loan,

and such) are displaced by other, often political,
motives, aims, or goals. Because this subject has received so little attention,
my purpose here in raising the issue is to create
the opportunity for further discussion by advancing MY OPINIONS in the hope of
encouraging others to offer their own
views in order to promote theorizing about disinformation.

   The parallel with lying appears to be fairly precise. Individuals commit lies

when (a) they make assertions (as though they
were true), (b) which they know to be false (c) with the intent to mislead
others. It is easy to come up with cases of false
assertions that nevertheless do not qualify as "lies". Assertions that reflect
simple ignorance, for example, do not ascend to the
level of lies. Assertions that are sincere, even when they are false, do not
ascend to the level of lies. Even false claims that a
person knows to be false that are asserted deliberately do not ascend to the
level of lies, when there is no intention to mislead.
Those, such as comics, who ridicule a public figure by suggesting that they are
the south end of a horse headed north, for
example, are making assertions that are (literally) false, that they know are
(literally) false, yet they do not ascend to the level
of lies because there is no intent to deceive anyone.

   On the basis of my experience over the several years since I first became
seriously involved in assassination research (in
1992, in response to the publication of a series of articles in JAMA), I have
speculated that there must be at least five different
types, levels or degrees of disinformation. Here are some illustrations of WHAT
I TAKE TO BE examples of these different
levels, types or degrees of disinformation, from the highest (fifth) to the
lowest (first), where simply advancing incomplete,
inaccurate, or false assertions might not qualify as "disinformation" at all in
the very specific sense that is intended here because
of the absence of intention.



   Fifth Type: The fifth level of disinformation appears to occur when
              a source presents information that has been deliberately
              selected to misrepresent, distort or abuse sources with
              the intention to mislead. Citing only evidence that is
              favorable to one side as if no contrary evidence exists
              is known as SPECIAL PLEADING. The key aspect of fifth
              degree efforts is creating--usually by writing--entire
              new works (books and article), because of which it has
              the character of FABRICATING EVIDENCE. Recent examples,
              appear to include Gerald Posner's CASE CLOSED, articles
              in JAMA, and Seymour Hersh's THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT.
              Thus viewed, a work of this kind qualifies as a "hoax".

                          * GO TO the Posner Page (regarding CASE CLOSED)

                           * GO TO the Overview (regarding the JAMA articles)

                      * GO TO David Wrone's review of DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT



   Fourth Type: The fourth level of disinformation appears to occur, not
                when a work (a book or an article) is being written from
                scratch, but in creating a highly biased impression of a
                study by simply IGNORING its most significant, important,
                or relevant features to mislead others about the contents
                of the work, which is another form of SPECIAL PLEADING.
                Notice that someone unfamiliar with the work--which, in
                this instances, is ASSASSINATION SCIENCE--would not be
                in the position to realize that they were being duped.

                     * GO TO the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL review (1 item)

                           * GO TO the Letter to the Editor in response (1 item)

                          * GO TO my critique of Gary Mack's "review" (2 items)



   Third Type: The third level of disinformation occurs by abusing the
               man (AD HOMINEM) in attacking the author or the editor
               of a work on irrelevant or misleading grounds that have
               little or nothing to do with the position the author or
               editor represents. A recent example involved an attack
               from someone identified only by an email alias "dxmivi"
               on the ground that several of my books are published by
               a company owned by the Moonies. This is an outstanding
               example of the classic smear by character assassination.

                             * GO TO the initial exchange with dxmivi (2 items)

                            * GO TO the second exchange with dxmivi (2 items)

                             * GO TO the third exchange with dxmivi (2 items)



    Second Type: The second level of disinformation occurs when relevant
                available evidence that ought to make a difference to a
                a conclusion, hypothesis or conjecture under examination
                is simply dismissed or ignored. EVIDENCE IS RELEVANT
                when its presence or absence (physical evidence) or its
                truth or falsity (testimonial) makes a difference to the
                truth or falsity of the point at issue. RATIONALITY OF
                BELIEF occurs when we distribute our strength of belief
                in proportion to degrees of support supplied by avaiable
                relevant evidence. Since this kind of disinformation is
                a violation therefore, it may qualify as IRRATIONALITY
                OF BELIEF. On the other hand, irrationality of belief
                may be displayed in pursuit of RATIONALITY OF ACTION as
                a means that is appropriate to attain a particular aim,
                objective or goal. Such behavior has the appearance of
                tenaciously defending a view REGARDLESS of the evidence.

                          * GO TO the three-way exchange between myself, Doug
                                 Weldon, and Anthony Marsh (14 items)

                            * GO TO the three-way exchange between myself,
                             David W. Mantik, and Clint Bradford (8 items).



    First Type: The first level of disinformation might equally well be
               characterized as apparent incompetence by someone who
               assumes the task of offering criticism but for which he
               is not well-positioned to provide. This may be due to
               any number of factors, including lack of mental acumen,
               specific misunderstandings, or lack of familiarity with
               relevant evidence (simple ignorance). Since none of us
               knows all there is to know about anything--especially in
               relation to complex and contentious matters such as the
               assassination of JFK--it can be difficult to resist the
               temptation to describe those with whom you disagree as
               falling into this category. Of course, they might say
               the same thing about you. The problem thus becomes one
               of sorting things out to arrive at reasonable judgments.

                          * GO TO my response to a review by Hal Verb (1 item)

                         * GO TO a recent exchange with Josiah "Tink" Thompson

                         * GO TO a recent exchange with Art and Margaret Snyder



   In offering this analysis of different kinds of disinformation, I build on my

expertise with regard to critical thinking. But I
cannot claim to be an expert on disinformation. My intention here, therefore, is

one of promoting more discussion and debate
about the nature of disinformation, especially in relation to arguments about
the assassination of JFK. All of this, I suggest,
should be viewed from an historical perspective. In the heyday of the KKK, for
example, the Klan was heavily infiltrated by
informants for the FBI. At the peak of the communist scare of the 1940s, there
were cell meetings where everyone present
was an informant for the government. It would be naive in the extreme to think
the assassination research community has not
been similarly infiltrated by individuals who have the task of disseminating
disinformation. It therefore appears to be a good
thing for attention to be devoted to its nature and varieties.

    EXERCISE.  It might be an interesting exercise to review an exchange
               between myself, Martin Shackelford, and Howard Platzman
               that occurred over the unmoderated assassination bulletin,
               board, alt.conspiracy.jfk, and other nets during the past
               several months. This debate reflects how difficult it is
               to decide whether someone is disseminating disinformation
               or is simply arguing tenaciously for their point of view.
               The posts offered here are only part of the entire heated
               exchange and are clearly not for the faint hearted. I do
               not claim infallibility for any of my pronouncements with
               respect to this or any other exchange, but I do think it
               is appropriate and responsible to think about these things.

                            * GO TO the exchange between Martin Shackelford,
                            Howard Platzman, and James H. Fetzer (28 items)

   An interesting (and relatively brief) exchange recently appeared between Jack

White, Martin Shackelford, and myself
about the subject of this page.

                       * GO TO the exchange between Jack White, Martin
Shackelford,
                          and James H. Fetzer concerning disinformation (3
items)

   Any serious student of disinformation may want to pursue these issues by
consulting one or more of the following sources:
(1) a CIA dispatch on "Countering Criticisms of the Warren Report" dated 1 April

1967 which is reprinted in
ASSASSINATION SCIENCE (1998), Appendix M; (2) Philip Agee, INSIDE THE COMPANY:
CIA DIARY (1975);
(3) Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, THE CIA AND THE CULT OF INTELLIGENCE
(1975), with deletions impos-
ed by the CIA; (4) Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, THE CIA AND THE CULT OF
INTELLIGENCE (1983), with
deletions restored; (5) Ralph W. McGe- hee, DEADLY DECEITS: MY 25 YEARS IN THE
CIA (1983); (6) Philip Agee,
ON THE RUN (1987); and (7) Angus Mackenzie, SECRETS: THE CIA'S WAR AT HOME
(1997), and other references
therein. An especially outstanding source is Richard Sprague, THE TAKING OF
AMERICA 1-2-3, which is also on-line.

                      * GO TO Richard Sprague, THE TAKING OF AMERICA 1-2-3

                  NOTE: Anyone who thinks that propaganda and disinformation is
a lost or
                dying art might want to take a look at some of the "Readers'
Reviews" for this book
                                     to be found on amazon.com.

SEE ABOVE:

PART 1: Background and Overview

SEE BELOW:

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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