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"What To Do With The Facts?" by Cary Hill

Aug 20, 2018

Conspiracy Theory Rebuttal by Cary Hill
The following blog article was written by friend of the show Cary Hill as a response to our latest podcast episode, "Top 5 Conspiracy Theories with Expert Brian Dunning." Cary is the writer and director of Scream Park, and is currently in pre-production of his latest film, a sci-fi thriller, "Night Sky."
What To Do With The Facts?
Written by Cary Hill
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory.  Why shouldn’t they, after all they make for good entertainment.  That’s probably the reason you turned in to the latest podcast by List Rate Rank with conspiracy expert Brian Dunning.  The time was taken to cavalierly debunk numerous conspiracy theories in the episode, but it lacked in the discussion of why conspiracy theories exist in the first place.  
One might say conspiracy theories arise out of suspicion, paranoia, or discontent.  In this divided time in our nation, a Democrat will tell you the Republicans are scheming behind sealed doors and vice versa.  Invisible adversaries are hard at work to get you to look the other way or buy their choice of breakfast cereal.  The truth is, conspiracy theories are born out of combination of two elements.  The first is vacuum of information or knowledge.  This is why so many conspiracy theories originate from government action -- redacted documents, top secret clearances, and suspiciously classified information (Lee Harvey Oswald’s still-classified 1962 tax return, for example) all lead to an absence of public knowledge about an event.  Speculation naturally fills this void.  The other element, and to which this blog is dedicated, is evidence-to-the-contrary.  Orphaned bits of fact that run counter to official narratives that cannot be explained by the official narrative but must be addressed somehow.  These bits of fact act as seeds in the fertile bed of information vacuum, and conspiracy theory sprouts forth.  
The fewer the facts associated with a conspiracy theory, the easier it is to disprove or, at least, poke holes in.  The ‘Flat Earth’ conspiracy was discussed in the podcast, a theory that seems to be absent much evidence.  Admittedly, I struggle to even comprehend this one.  Aristotle made the first arguments against a flat earth in the 4th century B.C. by noting that the hulls of ships disappeared first when sailing over the horizon, that Earth cast a round shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse, and that different constellations are visible at different latitudes.   Guest Brian Dunning’s top four pick Amelia Earhart is another example of a conspiracy theory that lacks evidence-to-the-contrary, so it’s easy to poke holes or spot flaws.   As pointed out in List Rate Rank’s conspiracy theory episode, the Moon Landing Hoax is just that.  However, NASA hasn’t done itself any favors by erasing the original moon landing tapes.  They also have Buzz Aldrin to contend with.  The elderly astronaut was recorded saying “we didn’t go there” in regards to a little girl’s question about landing on the moon.  (In defense of poor Colonel Adrin, I think he meant we didn’t go back after Apollo 17 but you decide)
So, yes, many conspiracy theories can be debunked.  But what of the ones that hold up to stronger scrutiny?  That contain conflicting facts that can’t be ignored?  Admittedly, I winced when hearing Brian Dunning refer to the assassination of Kennedy as having “nothing interesting to say about it” and “there’s no true science.”  Indeed, Dunning claims “all evidence shows” that “one guy acted alone.”  The evidence, as such, confirming Oswald acted alone presents the following scenario: A former Marine known for being a poor shot fired three shots from a bolt-action rifle in 8.3 seconds (with the scope mounted for a left-handed person, Oswald was right-handed) six stories up, through a tree, at a moving target that was driving away from him.  The first shot - which presumably Oswald had the most time to aim - missed completely and struck the curb, injuring bystander James Tague in the cheek.  The second shot accounted for seven different wounds between Kennedy and Governor Connolly (and stopped in mid-air before turning direction) before the third shot struck Kennedy in the head.  As it stands, you cannot make the claim that “one guy did it” without accepting the magic bullet theory and what Oswald did that day has been impossible to reproduce.   Oswald’s M.O. never checked out either: Why would a self-proclaimed Communist sympathizer want to assassinate a president known for being “soft on Communism”?  
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had that tree cut down by the way, as it (literally) got in the way of the official story. 
Bullets defying the laws of physics?  Nitrate tests that showed that Oswald had never fired a rifle on the day of the assassination?  No fingerprints found by the FBI on the assassination rifle?  I have to refute Dunning’s claim that there’s “nothing interesting to say about it.”  On the contrary, it’s kept researchers and prominent professionals working hard for 55 years.  I think men like Dr. Cyril Wecht, Lawyer Mark Lane, Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty,  Hollywood director Oliver Stone (who’s 1991 film JFK would lead Congress to pass the JKF Records Act, which led to the recent 2017 declassification of thousands of government documents) and my own father (a JFK researcher for 50 plus years) would take offense to the claim “there’s no true science.”
Back to the point, these facts can’t be ignored.  You cannot pick and choose which facts to use to support the claim of an official story (“Oswald acted alone” or “terrorists brought down the Twin Towers”) and disregard the facts that create doubt or question the same story.  Another perfect example of inconvenient facts meeting a vacuum of information was Joe’s top conspiracy theory of Hitler surviving the war.   The Red Army reached the fuhrerbunker before the western Allies, and quickly blanketed the fate of Hitler in secrecy.  The Soviets would actually create a campaign of disinformation about Hitler’s death, spreading the claim that Hitler had escaped.  Stalin himself would declare to President Harry Truman at the Potsdam Conference that Hitler was alive -- likely the origin of the ‘Hitler escaped’ conspiracy theory.  British agent Hugh Trevor-Roper would ultimately be tasked to investigate what really happened.  Trevor-Roper interviewed survivors of the bunker and concluded that Hitler and Eva Braun indeed committed suicide on April 30, 1945.  The Soviets later claimed they had skull and jaw fragments (found at the bunker) belonging to Hitler -- in 2007 an archaeologist and bone specialist named Nick Bellantoni from the University of Connecticut tested the skull was found to belong to a woman under 40 years of age.  American intelligence agencies also continued their hunt for Hitler during the cold war, as recently declassified FBI documents show, and CIA memo HVCA-2592 records a confidential source claimed in 1955 that Hitler was still alive, and even contains a photo!  
Adding to the speculation are mockups done by an American artist on orders from the OSS in the event Hitler tried to escape Germany after D-Day.    
This information is not to perpetuate a conspiracy theory, but to give an example as to the why behind them and their longevity.  The vacuum of information (in the case of Hitler, thanks to Soviet disinformation campaigns and secrecy) led to speculation and theory designed to explain these orphaned facts.  This informational void is also responsible for conspiracy theories related to the Illuminati (as David mentioned in his list) and other secret societies (Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Knights Templar, Knights of Malta, Bilderbergers, Club of Rome).  These exclusive clubs are often tied with mysticism and eccentricity (Google ‘Rothschild Party Invitation’ for further illustration) and are shrouded with mystery.  When you combine this with the fact that prominent politicians and bankers are members...well then, they must be up to something.  
So what to do with these facts? If debunking fifty conspiracies can be done all in one book by Brian Dunning, are these troublesome ‘inconvenient truths’ just discarded or swatted away?  I think our current zeitgeist is only going to breed more conspiracy theories.  Claims of fake news immediately cull the idea of a conspiracy to mislead the public or spread untruths.  Now information gets lost in the shuffle and a void forms -- ripe for a new conspiracy theory to grow.  I have to point out it was (again) the Central Intelligence Agency that institutionalized the phrase ‘conspiracy theory.’  It was born out of the growing rejection of the Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  Anyone who disagreed with the official report would be chastised and ridiculed.  CIA document 1035-960 lays out countermeasures to critics and ‘conspiracy theorists.’   Some facts can be explained away, some facts debunkers need to explain away.  But there are some facts that can’t be just ignored.  In the end, it’s really just entertainment; the job of guessing and reverse-engineering mysteries is all great exercises in thought (and fodder for endless History Channel specials and Hollywood movies).  Remember, the truth is out there. 
Big thanks to David Fedor and List Rate Rank.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t include my own top 5 (for various reasons) conspiracy theories:
5. Howard Hughes
4. RFK Assassination
3. Watergate 
2. 9/11 
1. JFK Assassination
Honorable Mentions: “Bill Hicks is Alex Jones”; Roswell; the Kursk submarine disaster; Denver airport; AIDS was created in a lab