I had a hard time getting the words out of my mouth. The sentiment I had to convey was crude and filthy, not to mention incredibly stupid.
“They didn’t hire you, Q., because you’re Jewish.”
I expected her to share my indignation. I expected her to blow her lid, spew venom, possibly at me for exposing her to that sort of naked bigotry. Instead, I got a sharp pain in my ear as this ferocious cackle erupted from Q.’s lungs. This wasn’t a nervous, ironic or weak laugh, mind you, but a real honest-to-goodness guffaw.
“I wondered why they were being so nice to me,” she said, still tee-heeing. “They didn’t know. I certainly wasn’t going to tell them.”
Her response almost surprised me as much as that of the VP from Arschloch AG. Nevertheless, I felt the need to apologize to her, and profusely.
As soon as she could catch her breath, she interrupted my extended mea culpa to say, “Listen, X. Right now, as we speak, I’m painting this bedroom in my summer cottage. When I finish with that, I’m going sailing. And right now those are the only important things on my mind. I’ve got fifteen-million in the bank. I don’t need the job. I just thought it would be fun to do, if they let me do it....You don’t have to worry about anything, and thanks for the call.”
Mainstream discourse on conspiracism, or in popular parlance “conspiracy theory,” often focuses on the anti-Semitic element associated with it. While I can confidently say that such ideas and writers are hardly at the core of conspiracy research, and can readily point out that anti-Jewish hate has existed for millennia, I would nevertheless have to acknowledge that there exists within conspiracy culture a strain that is profoundly bigoted. Moreover, I can find numerous examples of this.*
And it’s here where we have to consider that not all conspiracy suspicions are equal. We don’t have to accept that if shadowy forces murdered President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, then Jews are in some diabolical plot to seize control of the world.
We don’t have to think long and hard to understand that the notion of a grand Jewish conspiracy isn’t just immoral, but idiotic as well. A conspiracy of that apparent magnitude would implode under its own weight. I’d reckon that if every Jew in this world were part of some diabolical plot, a whole lot of them would have blown the whistle by now. Kids, for instance, always get into their parents’ business, and usually have some success doing so. When they grow into rebellious adolescents, which they invariably do, why don’t they all, or at least a significant number of them, reveal who-knows-how-many family secrets? You’d figure that the Refuseniks, Israeli conscientious objectors who took a principled stand against their nation’s government, would have the temerity to spill the beans on some grand Jewish plot, had it existed, for they certainly demonstrated their (1) bravery, and (2) passion for social justice. In short, there’s just too many sources for a leak in a system that wide.**
More important, the example of my acquaintance, Q., offers a much clearer picture of how power actually operates, and who really wields it. Far from being in a position to control the institutions of power, Jews have been consciously, unabashedly rooted out of positions that would allow them the amount of influence alleged in these conspiracy stories. And this runs counter to what many people have always heard about Jews and industrial power. While one can name prominent Jews–especially those executives engaged with the media industry–one can point out many instances where their once proprietary companies were bought out by multinational conglomerates. One can also note the instances where Jewish executives were brought in to helm firms through treacherous waters, only to be let go when the crises ended.***
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are some who persist to fixate on cabalistic mysticism, myopically focus on the Rothschilds as the power behind everything, or blame all contemporary woes on Zionist manipulation. As the Anti-Defamation League notes, blaming Jews for the evils committed by power is hardly new. In an essay titled “Jewish ‘Control’ of the Federal Reserve: A Classic Anti-Semitic Myth,” they write:
For centuries, anti-Semitic propaganda has demonized the Jew as a conspiratorial, manipulative outsider, often with powers and designs of world domination. From the Middle Ages through the Holocaust, fabricated accusations against Jews as poisoners and corrupters have led to horrendous suffering for the Jewish people.
In more recent years, the anti-Semitic notion that ‘the Jews’ dominate and command the U.S. Federal Reserve System and in effect control the world’s money has surfaced across the extremist spectrum. Contemporary economic anxieties and distrust of government have given new life to this timeworn myth.
While anti-Semitism has flourished for literally millennia, a specific strain of it is relatively newer, its origins lying in the circulation of nineteenth-century hate propaganda that has found a new and devoted following in cyberspace.
*There are some, for example, who believe that Jacqueline Kennedy assassinated her husband, John. Why do they say this? Because she was a Jew, according to them. Never mind the fact that she was Roman Catholic; her mother’s Jewish ancestors made her Jewish, and thus somehow destined to murder the President of the United States, according to these people.
I could also point you to many who believe in the “Rothchild International Banking Conspiracy.” But I don’t feel like giving any of these sites a link. You’ll just have to Google them for yourselves.
The above link will take you to a RationalSkepticism post about a woman (somewhat resembling Et in Arcadia Ego Eve), who says she’s a scion of the famous Rotschild (or Rothchild) family, and who endeavors to whistleblow on the great family conspiracy. Yet, one has to have severe doubts that this woman is actually Jewish, let alone the descendant of such a prominent family, thus rendering her revelations highly dubious to say the least.
Often, you will find in such diatribes, that a specific family (Rothchilds) becomes the focus of anti-Semitism. Thus one can see rants against the Rothchilds in particular, and against Jews in general, as virtually the same. In other words, for the hater, the Rothchilds come to represent the entirety of the Judaic diaspora.
***In his 1990 book Hit Men, Frederic Dannen related one such instance: Former Columbia Records CEO Dick Asher was asked to take charge of PolyGram, a failing record label then owned by the Dutch-based Philips NV. Dannen pointed out that once Asher steered PolyGram back to solvency, the parent company quietly let him go.
You know, I
started this blog by accident. Then I said I'd only do it for five
years. And as the rest of the modern world has turned to Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter, and other more civilized forms of social media, I
realize I should have quit when I said I would. The blogosphere
takes on more and more characteristics of the ghost town.
That's all well
and good, seeing that everything changes. And after dealing with a
couple of subjects that press hot-buttons in all the people who care
about them, I was content to spend the past year doing nothing but
vamping on a topic that's fun to talk about, but of no real
significance--at least not yet.
Then, in late-summer, anything I wrote here took a backseat to the
drama unfolding with my health. Once again, thank you all for the
e-mails, the snail mail, the telephone calls and just the well
wishes. They meant more than I can express.
For the record,
I'm doing great, and should live to be a little old X, some day.
As I said to our
friend Ray in the previous post, I'm still blogging, just very
slowly. I guess I'm too stubborn to stop. And while I eventually
reopened another Twitter account, this URL seems more like my home on
Home, home on
Where the trolls
and the sock puppets play.
Where always is
So you watch
everything that you say.
As you can
probably tell from the previous post, I'm embarking on yet another
series, one I've been meaning to write for some time. I don't know
how contentious it will be, although to me it's a very serious topic.
Read for yourself
whatever you wish to of this next series, or if you're new to this
page, series past. And I wish you all a very happy new fiscal year.
The LaRouchite office I mentioned working for in the series about Jeremiah Duggan had as its cover an executive head-hunting firm. Ostensibly, we were in business to help corporate titans fill senior positions. In reality, the job was really about gaining information on our clients, and passing it up the LaRouche hierarchy.
To underscore that point: one lady was fired after successfully placing three executives in a month. Everyone in the office heard the behind-the-door screeching of the company president as she bellowed, “What do you think you’re doing? Whatever it is, that’s not your job!”
Everyone else understood the job. But, if in the course of doing business we just happened to place someone, we could still get the bonus for it, so long as we didn’t make a habit of it.
And as it so happened, something landed into my lap. A well known multinational company based in Germany put out the call for an almost impossible-to-find executive, one who was a proven master of credit, operational and political risk. The candidate also had to have held a senior management position with a rather obscure but very important US government agency. And, as I had learned from the successful woman now on the breadline, any candidate for a position this high had to be able to mix it up and fit in socially.
I had just the person, whom I’ll refer to here as “Q.” I got permission from my company president to place my perfect pick with this company. If Q. landed the job, it would mean $30K in my pocket.
I arranged the interview between the search committee and the candidate. Q. would go to the New York corporate office, and meet with company brass who flew all the way from Deutschland to in talk to her in person.
At about 2:00pm, I got an e-mail from one of the company’s executive VPs, thanking me for finding perhaps the only person on this planet who could fill this immense job. He gave a brief description of the meeting. Q. arrived, they had lunch, she obviously knew her stuff. Moreover, she spoke perfect German. In this executive VP’s words, “We’ve fallen in love with her.”
I called Q. to see how she felt about the meeting. She said she had fun chatting with them all, and would really be interested in the position.
I could just taste that thirty grand.
A couple hours later, my reverie crashed and burned. I got an angry e-mail from the executive VP, who only hours before had thanked me for sending Q. to them. I called, only to have him chew me out plenty. “Don’t you ever screen these people?” he thundered. He told me how lucky I was that their own investigation, presumably carried out by their own private detectives/security staff, turned up the problem before any damage was done. He threatened to cut off all ties to me and the pseudo-headhunting firm if I ever sent him such a candidate again. Because of the importance of this particular corporation, my boss would have pitched me out the window had that ever happened. At the very least, she’d fantasize about it.
Puzzled, I could only stammer, “To what are you referring?” This VP had been so busy on the warpath that I had no idea what the smurf he was talking about, or what I could have possibly done to piss him off that much. After a couple choruses each of “You don’t know?” and “You mean, you really don’t know?” he finally told me why his company’s feelings for this woman went from blissful love to searing hate over the course of two hours.
Yup. He told me. I understood what he said. Yet, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why he said it. He made me so bloody angry I couldn’t see straight. I might have punched his lights out were he physically in front of me. At the very least, I fantasized about it.
I had no choice but to call Q. to tell her that she was no longer a candidate for the position. “That’s strange,” she said. “Did they give you any indication why?”
‘Occam's Razor’ which suggests that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. Conspiracy theorists hate Occam's razor.
–Superconductor, Reddit post on the topic of conspiracy (2014)
If you go on the web and do a joint search for the terms “conspiracy theory” and “occam’s razor,” you’ll find quite a few statements similar to the above (which I selected on the basis of its pithiness). Indeed, a number of self-described ‘skeptic’ sites and hard-copy publications depict the Razor as the garlic that wards off conspiracy vampires. And, usually, they do so with a healthy dose of snark. I have, for instance, a slick, glossy 2013 Media Source rag titled Conspiracies: Mysteries, Secrets & Lies, which leads off with the following observation:*
The theory of Ockham’s Razor suggests that the simplest most straightforward explanation to any issue is usually the best....Ockham’s Razor is the bane of conspiracy theorists everywhere. Why keep it simple when a wacky, convoluted theory can be developed about almost anything.**
Put aside, for a moment, whether any of that is true. The fact remains that anyone truly and exclusively believing in this interpretation of Occam’s Razor will lose his or her shirt within approximately one half hour after arriving in Manhattan.
Because within five minutes, he or she is bound to encounter either a three card Monte or shell game. Both cons depend on sleight of hand. They’re both designed so that the simplest, most straightforward answer is always wrong.
And here, we encounter the first problem with this version of Occam’s Razor. It doesn’t take into account human guile. Sure, scientists use it quite often to gain insight into natural phenomena. But using the Razor to study rocks is quite different than using it to find anything meaningful within social interactions and individual motivation. After all, the rock isn’t trying to deceive the scientist, or take her money. It has neither will nor need. It’s just a rock. People, on the other hand, cheat, lie, steal, obfuscate, and deceive to augment or protect their social standing, privileges, power or wealth. Doing these things successfully depends on the ability to complicate reality, knowing full well that fellow human beings will, if given the choice, usually opt for the simplest, most straightforward answer.
Here’s the second problem with this interpretation of the Razor: it’s not what William of Occam actually said. What he said, was this:
 Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitas [You must never assume plurality without necessity, and]
 Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora [It’s folly to do with more when you are able to do with less].
In these two quotes, William of Occam’s telling us not to complicate the explanation any more than we have to. In the three card Monte/shell game example, we go for the simplest, most straightforward explanation and lose everything. So, we must, per the Razor, complicate the explanation of the pea or special card’s location in order to account for the greed and dishonesty of the dealer. The complications arise because of a compelling reason (necessitas).
On a more basic level, the application of Occam’s Razor discounts or downplays superfluous information or data that require additional proofs. For example, let’s say that I drive down a country road, see a white cow in a nearby field, and say to myself, “There are white cows here.”
Ten minutes later, you drive by, see the same white cow in the same green field, and say to yourself, “There’s a white cow over there.”
According to Occam’s Actual Razor, who’s statement is most likely correct? In this instance, your explanation wins out over mine. Why? Because I said “cows,” plural. In order to validate my response, I would need to find another white cow in the vicinity. In your statement, the white cow in the field is proof of itself. No further evidence is necessary.
Of course, you could go hog wild overboard with this and say, “There’s a white cow over there....at least she’s white on one side....during this time of day....when in this field.” But you get the drift, right?
More importantly, you can probably see how this applies to the JFK assassination.
* A writer going by the name J. Lee Marks is credited with penning all the articles in this issue.
**’Occam’ and ‘Ockham’ are both commonly found spellings for William.
Scroll down or click here to read the second part of this post.
James Tague, the last surviving victim of the JFK assassination, died this past February.
Tague, at the time heading for a lunch date with his girlfriend (and future-wife), had to stop halfway under the triple underpass because of motorcade traffic. He got out, and just as he emerged, he heard a shot. He then heard two more very close to each other. Between the second and third shots, he felt a sting on his right cheek. A bullet had struck some nearby concrete, which then flung abrasive debris towards his face.
Figure 1. Tague’s recreation of the shooting
Tague insisted that his injury did not occur after the first shot, but most likely the second and before the third (hard to tell because the two shots were very close together). This presents a severe challenge to the Warren Commission's findings, for the bullet’s trajectory would indicate that it came straight from the Texas School Book Depository. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Warren Commission was correct, and Oswald fired three bullets from the sixth floor. The second shot had to be the magic bullet that caused seven wounds in Gov. John Connally and President Kennedy. The third shot would have to be the fatal head wound. In both of these scenarios, there would have been insufficient force to have blasted cement near Tague. Thus, he would have to have been hit by the first shot.
Yet, Tague insisted that the first shot didn’t hurt him.
Moreover, he heard the shots coming from the grassy knoll. But after hearing about the Warren Commission findings, Tague backed off of that position, and deferred to the panel's opinion, explaining in a 1966 interview:
[Interviewer] Mr. Tague, on the 22nd, when the shots were being fired, your first impression was that they came form the area near the wooden fence.
[Tague] That’s correct.
[Interviewer] Where do you now think that the shots came from?
[Tague] I believe that they did come from the school book depository, because of the things I read about it, the evidence that’s been brought forth in newspapers, through the Warren Report and so on.
Figure 2. Tague, 1966 interview
While the above would make it seem that Tague supported the Warren Commission, the truth is he didn’t. He would eventually become a prominent JFK assassination researcher. Last year, Trine Day came out with a paperback version of his book LBJ and the Kennedy Killing. In this, and on his website, Tague made clear his criticism of the Warren Commission’s findings.
Scroll up, or click here to read the first part of this post.
I might say that the evidence exonerating Oswald is so complete that had he lived they could not have had a trial. They would not have dared to come to trial.
--Jim Garrison, lecture (unknown date).
Figure 1. Recording of the lecture quoted above.
We can see the JFK assassination in terms of a pop-culture understanding of Occam’s Razor, and we can see it in terms of Occam’s Razor. We can see simplicity in terms of the most simple and straightforward explanation, or we can see it in terms of the explanation requiring the least plurality, or additional proofs.
According to this first viewpoint, the simplest, most straightforward answer is that a single shooter, Oswald, acted alone. One person, one gun, one intended victim, and two accidental ones that got in the way. You could also think that, with respect to plurality, one shot, specifically the fatal head wound, did the bulk of the damage. Only one shooter needs to have performed this. Thus, you need not have other shooters, or for that spotters or any other assistants in your explanation.
Yet when looking at the particulars of the case, one has to weigh, in terms of necessary proofs, which explanation contains less plurality: the Oswald alone hypothesis, or the multi-shooter hypothesis. Speculating about the motivations and the preparation behind the assassination might be interesting, but irrelevant for our purposes here, just as it would be irrelevant to speculate on Oswald’s motives were he the lone assassin. Here, we’re simply talking about the physical possibility of explanation A versus explanation B.
A multi-shooter explanation requires the following proofs: (1) shooters having access to two or more positions, (2) one of the shooters having a relatively flat trajectory, and (3) positive identification of any and all shooters, spotters and assistants. Fleshing this out a bit, we must first assess the value of this hypothesis. President John Kennedy’s head jerked suddenly to his back and left. The Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) loomed to his back towards his right. The physical properties of inertia would lead one to suspect that had an assailant administered the fatal shot from that position, President Kennedy’s head would have moved sharply forward and to the left. But the Zapruder film clearly shows Jack's head going back and to the left, a fact clearly more consistent with a shot from the grassy knoll which was to the front and to the President's right.
Also, Parkland doctors observed that the fatal bullet entered from the front and exited toward the back (entrance and exit wounds usually differ in size). A number of civilian and police witnesses heard or saw shots coming from the grassy knoll area in front of the President. In later years, some would photograph, get testimony from and identify conspiracy suspects. In 1969, Garrison won indictment and brought one of them (Clay Shaw) to trial. Towards the end of his life, E. Howard Hunt detailed his involvement in the conspiracy. So it’s not like these people are completely obscure, or unknown.
Meanwhile, witnesses not only saw a gun retract from the sixth floor of the TSBD, but heard it firing from there as well, among them Dallas Police officer Marion Baker. The bullet that grazed bystander James Tague came from a direction inconsistent with that of the fatal head shot. This indicates at least two shooters from very different positions.
Conversely, if one explains the JFK assassination as Lee Oswald’s lone homicide then the number of necessary proofs begin to increase. For starters, you would (1) have to place him on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting. You would subsequently have to (2) have him fire three times in 6.7 seconds with a cantankerous bolt-action rifle, the sight of which had not yet been adjusted. Oswald would then have to have (3) hit James Tague with a bullet or fragment, (4) fired off the magic bullet that produced seven wounds in President Kennedy and Gov. John Connally, and (5) scored a shot to the head from behind that either hit Kennedy in the front, or left a much larger wound in the back of his head contrary to the typical patterns of entrance and exit wounds–and all of this through dense foliage. You would have to (6) also show how Oswald could have fired the rifle without a trace of nitrate on his cheek and (7) have done so without leaving prints discernable by the FBI (but apparently not to local police, who found a five-point palm print match a week after the Bureau tests). You’d then (8) have to prove that Oswald neatly lined up three shell casings side-by-side, stashed the rifle behind some boxes, and ran down to the second floor within ninety seconds.
Officer Marion Baker of the Dallas Police Department heard shots ring out from the Texas School Book Depository. He raced inside and found Oswald’s boss, Roy Truly. Baker asked Truly to escort him to the roof, where the cop believed a sniper would be. They try taking one of the two working elevators, but they’re both on the fifth floor. Truly started rushing upstairs, but Baker stayed behind after catching a glimpse of Lee in his peripheral vision. Drawing his weapon, the officer asked Truly to identify Oswald when Lee and the officer came face-to-face, only a yard or two apart. Baker specifically noted that Oswald was neither mussed nor sweaty.*
Before coming to this point in the story, Baker painstakingly retraced his steps for the Warren Commission, even going go far as to go on site to recreate the events. Both parties determined that this took 90 seconds. In a 1992 interview, Former Orleans Parish DA Jim Garrison outlined the difficulties Oswald would have had to have overcome in order to accomplish this:
Furthermore, it was a physical impossibility for Oswald to get downstairs in that short of time. Especially if he had to wipe off the fingerprints, and hide the gun under the boxes, go to the sixth to the fifth, fifth to the fourth, fourth to the third, third to the second in the same time that Roy Truly and Marion Baker went from first to second...If he had been able to do that, he would have been the decathlon champion of all time....In conducing their tests to see if he could do it....they found...that if the man ran fast enough--I think they got somebody, some track star from recent track events and had him run him down the steps [sic]. They found that they could get him down there at maximum speed to reach the Coke machine, but could not get the Coke out of the Coke machine.
Note, Oswald was no track star. By the same token, he was at best a mediocre shot, according to his Marine Corps records. Although Oswald tested positively for nitrate residue on his hands, the same tests on his cheeks were negative. If Oswald fired a rifle, he would have shot from the hip or chest, thus delaying the manual loading mechanism necessary for that rifle, and seriously compromising his aim. Still, according to the single-shooter hypothesis, he had tremendous luck on that time, managing to squeeze off not only the magic bullet, but the anomalous head shot was well. I’ve read in some sources where this might be theoretically possible. But after fifty-one years and millions of trials and simulations, no one has ever replicated this shot under ideal circumstances with ideal weapons and training, much less under the conditions Oswald faced, and with the limitations that he had.
When Baker and Truly arrived at the fifth floor, they noticed that only one of the elevators remained on that floor. The other one had descended. So they took the first one to the roof to look for evidence or culprits, completely bypassing the sixth floor. Whoever might have been in that second elevator would have had ample time to finish their business and head downstairs without much notice.
Of course, the point here isn’t to rehash evidence that every JFK assassination researcher and her Aunt Mathilda already knows. Rather, it’s to demonstrate a few things about the application of Occam’s Razor to conspiracy issues, starting with the JFK assassination. First off, the public understands this tool to be something different than what it actually is. Second, while the Razor might be useful for many things, it might not be useful in subjective matters, in no small part because of how the individual using it understands the phrase sine necessitas. Some scholars and scientists have developed anti-razors in order to challenge complacent, comfortable allusions to Occam. As Fr. Ernesto Obregon wrote in a post dated 19 November 2012, exclusive use of the Razor, even when not misapplied, could be problematic:
...the anti-razors are most often warnings to scientists, mathematicians, and secularists, against the dangers of over-simplifying the data to the point where they actually misunderstand what is the actual explanation of the data or the events.
Later, Fr. Obregon quoted science philosopher Dr. Dieter Gernert (Technische Universität München) as saying:
The philosopher of science Henry H. Bauer...disputes the common view that scientists are open-minded and strive for new cognition and insight. By way of contrast, he states that open-mindedness for the new exists only as long as the new things are not too new. Bauer makes a distinction between the ‘known unknown’ which can be derived from secured knowledge (and hence is suitable for research proposals), and the “unknown unknown” that cannot be expected on the basis of the state of knowledge.
One can extend the concept to any skeptic or cynic. I would disagree that scientists–or for that matter debunkers, some of whom are actually compelling and helpful–are so overtly biased that they indiscriminately filter out any and all dissonant information. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that for all the strengths of the scientific process, its practice is often relegated to human beings who bear the same emotions, and some of the same prejudices, as the population in general.
And I’m not alone in thinking this way. Such academics as Drs. Thomas Kuhn (Princeton) and Norwood Hanson (University of Indiana) have written about the social context of science. (One could easily broaden this to include many of the other liberal arts, including the soft sciences and the humanities.) All in all, most professionals are actually pretty good at maintaining objectivity and not falling into groupthink, but only in relation to the rest of us. Consequently, over-relying on such things as Occam’s Razor might be problematic in the best of skilled hands. Imagine the havoc it could wreak in the hands of the dilettante.
But here’s the weird thing about applying Occam’s Razor to conspiracy hypotheses in general, and the JFK conspiracy hypothesis specifically: when weighing the simplicity of conspiracy and non-conspiracy explanations, the latter might not be a shoe-in to win. While J. Lee Marks and others might see the Razor as “the bane of conspiracy theory,” that’s not always--or perhaps not even often--the case. If someone truly believes this, then he or she might have a bias, a predetermination that the conspiracy explanation is always going to be less accurate. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. But pre-judgments and over-generalizations won’t show this any more than they would show that conspiracies lurk around every corner.
*Baker gave three separate accounts of this incident. The above is the one given in his testimony to the Warren Commission. In previous versions he said that Oswald had approached from the opposite directions, or that he was in the back of the lunchroom taking a Coke out of the vending machine. Obviously, this one is most favorable to the single-shooter hypothesis, but it’s still good enough to prove the unlikeliness of Oswald being on the sixth floor, especially given that he has not been sweating. Even the track star sweated.
Truly said he had started going to the third floor when he noticed Baker not with him. Moreover, he saw that Baker had drawn his weapon at someone in the lunchroom. This would imply that Oswald was already there, and jibes best with the Coke machine version of Baker’s stories.