“The Gang”

It might be wondered why those who have created the website attacking The Great Zapruder Film Hoax are generally referred to as “The Gang”. It’s a name that I will myself use, for simplicity and convenience, throughout this discussion of their criticisms. But why are they generally referred to in this way by the JFK research community?

The grouping goes back through recent research controversies, through the previous volumes, Assassination Science and Murder in Dealey Plaza, edited by Professor Jim Fetzer, and through the history of the Zapruder alteration research. The common denominator in Dr. Josiah Thompson—“Tink”, to friend a foe alike—who in 1966 was a serious student of the case, authoring the excellent and highly influential book on the assassination, Six Seconds in Dallas. Thompson has since taken it upon himself to attack any research that threatens the premises of his own book—and especially the authenticity of the Zapruder film, for which he risked his own neck, to smuggle copies of frames out of the Time-Life building when he was one of their consultants, and for which he later endured costly legal action which attempted to curb his right to use Zapruder frames in his book. Given his early zeal to uncover the clear evidence for fraud and deception by agencies of the U.S. government, many researchers question whether his actions in later years imply sinister connotations, or are simply the understandable quirks of an old man wishing to preserve the memory of his moment in the limelight, so many decades ago. Regardless, “Tink” has made it clear that he considers the thwarting of any research into the authenticity of the Zapruder film more important than the actual quest for truth in this unpardonable crime.

In this task he has drawn around him a group of self-styled “pals”, somewhat nebulous and itinerant in its make-up, for the actual attacks on honest research. He is the den leader; he is quick to hurl the invective, and fly off onto a tangent of diatribe whenever the opportunity presents itself. But, when pressed individually, he argues that he is no scientist, no mathematician; he can follow through the arguments given to him, as any educated man can, but he is not himself the specialist. Rather, he engages the services of others, who generate for him the arguments against those whom he considers his “enemies”: those centred in his cross-hairs.

This form of “Tink by proxy” arrangement would be infuriating enough to deal with, but it is exacerbated further by the composition of his “Gang” of pals. Some, such as Ron Hepler and Gary Mack, are well-known and established researchers in the case; regardless of differences, one knows who one is dealing with. But others, such as Joe Durnavich, David Wimp, and Craig Lamson, are more ephemeral. We are not permitted to know who they really are when they’re at home (of course, Gary Mack is Larry Dunkel, or someone else, when he’s at home, but that’s just a stage name issue); we are not permitted to know their employment, their background, their qualifications, or their credentials. The argument recently presented by Debra Conway of JFK Lancer is that private citizens buy The Great Zapruder Film Hoax, so private citizens—read “anonymous personalities”—should be able to criticise it. That’s undoubtedly true, and we have indeed received letters and emails from such members of the public, offering their opinions or criticisms. Whether that should be extended to public criticism of the book on a publicly accessible website is an interesting question; whether it should occur under the blessing of an organisation like JFK Lancer even more intriguing. But, nevertheless, we can live with it.

It does, of course, mean that we are under constraints when we reply to these criticisms. Rather than being able to deal with each of the contributing researchers individually, it is necessarily the case that we must address them collectively, as a “gang”. It is their choice to band together as an indivisible, indistinguishable entity, devoid of individual reputations, credentials, or qualifications. Perhaps their idea is that collecting together eight or nine individuals with strong interests in certain areas is somehow, combined, equivalent to one professionally qualified researcher. It’s an interesting concept, and quite possibly has a grain of truth to it, for some purposes. But it is fraught with danger when they are inevitably caught out as being out of their depth.

In any case, there needs to be some sort of name for this collective entity, whose individual members wish to remain generally anonymous, or perhaps pseudonymous. Borrowing from Star Trek, the name “The Borg” might be most suitable, but the reference may be lost on many. “Tink’s Gang” would be the most accurate moniker, but Tink doesn’t seem to like being called “Tink” unless you are an ally, and so we should respect his self-consciousness in that respect. And so “The Gang” I have left it at.

Finally, it should be pointed out clearly that, for this most recent piece of work, Gary Mack is not a formal member of The Gang; he’s one of the “pals”, but a formal association with The Gang may cause him problems with his employment at the Sixth Floor Museum. Roland Zavada seems to be an “affiliate member” of The Gang: he had been employed by Tink and Mack as one of his suppliers of hard science, but since pulling out of the Duluth Conference—admitting he was completely out of his depth—he has not been as eager to contribute to the cause. Indeed, Zavada’s contribution to the website under discussion is a curious PDF document, responding not to The Great Zapruder Film Hoax itself, but rather to an unnamed member of The Gang, in relation to quotes from David Lifton’s chapter that were sent to Zavada with the request that he comment on them. It would be difficult to know how he could dissociate himself any farther from The Gang without embarrassing them further over the loss of what was, less then twelve months ago, supposed to be their “star witness” at the Duluth Symposium. Zavada appears to be a decent man, who let The Gang’s compliments go to his head somewhat, only to realise that he had been dumped into the middle of a quagmire; and I really do not wish to pursue a man who was clearly lured into this mess in what should have been the relaxing twilight of his career.