Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Night students: Take-home final questions

The night students already know what their take-home final questions are, but I have posted a .pdf file of the questions that should print more nicely and also has the course number and dates corrected. I also wanted to say that while the stated due date is Dec. 8, knowing some of your schedules, I will accept them up until the day of the in-class final a week later. Keep in mind that that will leave you less time to study for the in-class final.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

JFK Assassination Anniversary

Today was the 42nd anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, but I don't think I have seen one of these anniversaries go so little remarked in the press. It may be a good thing when the media forget to do their typical rote anniversary stories, but I also wonder the country is turning some sort of corner on this issue, towards a point where the public will not care quite so much and historians will able to approach this event in a relatively rational way. Meanwhile the conspiracists soldier on. Here's the one piece I saw on the assassination today, from Joel Achenbach's Washington Post blog:

Kennedy Assassination 42 Years Later: Case Closed?
It was the Mafia. It was the CIA. It was anti-Castro Cubans. It was LBJ. It was the military. It was the Dallas police. It was Howard Hunt. It was the Umbrella Man. It was Marilyn Monroe. It was the Martians. In fact, they were all responsible -- the ultimate crossfire. The Single Conspiracy Theory doesn't wash. How could one conspiracy, by itself, explain the astonishing number of quirks,
inconsistencies, and evidentiary gaps in the crime that happened 42 years ago
today in Dallas?
Yesterday George Lardner, Jr., who knows more than any other Post eporter about the Kennedy Assassination, had a piece in the paper about a
weekend meeting of assassination researchers. Lardner's piece starts out with the poignant observation that a lot of these people have gotten gray and bald over the years as they've tried to crack the case. There was much talk at the meeting about bullet fragments, echoes in Dealey Plaza, the Zapruder Film, and the unhelpful schemings of CIA agents. "CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck said the agency had no immediate comment," the story reported, which was a let-down, because I was hoping for a line saying, "CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck admitted that the agency had murdered the president, and apologized profusely."

The Kennedy Assassination isn't like the Deep Throat mystery, where there was always the promise that, someday, we'd know the truth. Even if someone stepped forward and said, "I shot JFK," assassination buffs wouldn't be satisfied. There's always More To The Story.Reality gets fuzzier under closer scrutiny. It must be some kind of law of physics. (Actually, I think it's called quantum mechanics.) You would think that abundant evidence, steadily compiled, would make everything clearer, but the opposite is true. Partial knowledge gives us a simple picture of the world and its phenomena -- an extension of the ignorance-is-bliss rule. Look deeper and you wind up scratching your head. The world was simpler when it didn't move, when it stood firmly at the center of the universe. Since Copernicus, things have gotten a little crazy around here. One of the premier skeptics of our time, Carl Sagan, who vociferously argued against tales of alien abductions, telepathy, and all manner of anti-scientific thinking, and who believed that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, still believed that JFK was killed in some kind of conspiracy (or so he led me to think when I interviewed him not long before his death). According to Lardner, three out of four Americans believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy, and nearly as many think there was a cover-up.

For the record, I am among those crazy, goggle-eyed knuckleheads who think that Oswald shot Kennedy. Just a lone nut in the window. But I recognize that many intelligent and rational people have different thoughts on this, and I am willing, potentially, in theory, because of my great mental dexterity and openness, to ponder alternative scenarios, and perhaps even change my mind and admit that Oswald wasn't even there that day. Maybe there were two Oswalds. Maybe the real target that day in Dallas wasn't JFK, but, as one dingdong wrote a while back, the limo driver.

"History is bunk" and Donovan had it right

Check out this priceless customer review of a truly go-for-broke "alternative" science & history book called Forbidden History : Prehistoric Technologies, Extraterrestrial Intervention, and the Suppressed Origins of Civilization , from the editor of a journal called Atlantis Rising ("Learn what the mainstream press & the tabloids won't tell you") :

Is history real? Do we even have a rough idea who we are and where we come from? This book is an ideal gift for anyone on your list who thinks Orthodox History is bunk but don't know what to do next. Collected from some excellent articles from New Atlantis Magazine, these essays are nicely arranged to build the case slowly, carefully and wisely. Contributors include Christopher Dunn and Peter Thomkins, and subject ranges from debunking Darwin to the Electric Universe. You've been warned! This is the place to start finding out Henry Ford didn't know the half of it. Bunk? Most of the history we get in school is FICTION! Rounded out with discussions of eclectic goodies available only with difficulty elsewhere, this is a must for any alternative science/history bookshelf.

Even the hot sheets are no longer hot enough, it seems.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Smedley Butler: "I was a gangster for capitalism"

Click the title above for the quotation I mentioned in class, which is actually not part of War is a Racket, which you should also read.

Day students: Reading from week of Nov. 15-17

We will be finishing up with the Revolution today and moving on to topic 8 on your syllabus, "Competing Conspiracy Theories in the Early American Republic." The Illuminati are finally here! The reading is as follows

Monday, November 14, 2005

9/11 video shown on campus

Several of you asked if you could get some extra credit (1-5 points added to your midterm is what I have decided) for reporting on conspiracy-related events on campus. Here Melissa Boerema reviews a 9/11 conspiracy roadshow that came to Columbia last week. (I marked a classic bit of "negative subjunctive reasoning," on the part of the presenters, in bold type.) Others who saw this presentation can submit their own reviews and questions in the comments.
On November 9, 2005, the SIJAC organization presented two videos which were designed to present the truth about the tragedy of September 11th. The first video, which featured an engineer named Jeff King, focused on the structural features of the World Trade Center buildings and examined their falling patterns. When investigating the structure of the buildings, King found that each building had 47 hermetically sealed, core steel beams whose main purpose was to withstand building trauma. King states that even with extreme trauma, such as a plane hitting a building, that at least some of the 47 core steel beams should have been left standing. He goes on to state that only with the use of explosives, could the complete destruction of these beams occurred, as was the case on September 11th. Along with the complete destruction of the beams, King contends that explosives must have been used because of the smoke patterns, the complete disintegration of the concrete & office supplies, and the way the buildings collapsed onto themselves.

In the second video, author David Ray Griffen presented two theories of what may have occurred on September 11th. Griffen’s reasoning behind each of these conspiracy theories is based on the United States’ greed for foreign oil and the United States’ need to continue imperialism & world domination. The first theory that Griffen presents, argues that the federal government knew of the terrorist attacks beforehand and did nothing to prevent them. Griffen supports this theory, by presenting the statistic that half of New York Residents believe that the U.S. government knew of the attacks beforehand, the example of attorney David Schipper who contends that FBI agents told him of the attacks in advance, and the example of reporter William Grigg who interviewed FBI agents which supposedly confessed that they knew of the attacks beforehand. The second theory, which Griffen presented, stated that the United States government performed the September 11th attacks itself. He contends that the U.S. government showed its guilt by having all of the steel beams immediately melted down and by having all of the building remains, except for 200 pieces, destroyed to prevent investigation. Griffen also supports the second theory by examining the Pentagon attacks. When looking at the Pentagon attacks, Griffen argues that we were given three different stories about the military response to the attacks. Griffen also argues, that the Pentagon should not have been hit because it has a radar system, it has an anti-aircraft defense system which is designed to launch missiles at any unauthorized aircrafts, and it has Andrews military base located close by for protection. Lastly, Griffen upheld this second theory by questioning why the pilot would hit the renovated west wing, which contained no important political officials at the time.

When examining these September 11th conspiracy theories, I felt that King and Griffen’s ideas were clearly articulated but relied much too heavily on information provided by other conspiracy theorists. I also felt that they played too much on the listener’s emotions because they made you feel as though it was your duty to believe these theories and spread this information to others, so that tragedies like this would not occur again. I also thought that like the JFK conspiracy theories, these September 11th conspiracy theories were much too complex and required too much planning & time to be truthful.

Melissa Boerema

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Day students: Reading for week of November 8-10

We will be finishing up with witchcraft today, so if you have not read the Hoffer book and look at the witchcraft documents page, where I recently fixed some of the links. Next we will skipping over the Indian topic and moving on to "Conspiracy Nation," on the role of conspiracy theory in the coming of the American Revolution. So you should get to work on the 7th set of readings in the syllabus, to wit:

Monday, November 07, 2005

The documentary "Hell House"

The night class saw the documentary Hell House in its entirety last Thursday, unless there was some technical problem no one told me about. What did you guys think -- about the movie and the origins and impact of the thinking on display?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Marilyn Monroe conspiracy theories in the news

This weekend I have happened to catch two different news reports with new and supposedly mysterious information about Marilyn Monroe's final days.

First, there's one from the Associated Press regarding notes Marilyn's psychiatrist took during what was possibly her final visit to the shrink.

Second, there was a thing on MSNBC that I can't find on their web site that had some woman who had talked to Joe DiMaggio's sister and claimed that Marilyn was really happy the day she died and planned to remarry Joltin' Joe. Here's an older MSNBC piece on MM until I find the one I am looking for.

I am not terribly interested in celebrity death CTs, as you know from class, but several people in class appear to be in to the Marilyn Monroe issue, so this one goes out to those students. Aging actress known to be a pill-abuser who overdoses seems like the simplest and most convincing explanation to me. The fact that she may have sounded happy to people who talked to her that day may have been driven by the kind of pill she was on at the moment, you know? It doesn't disprove the suicide theory. I think it's pretty unusual for people who plan to commit suicide to act openly suicidal to others beforehand.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New World Order rant

Last night in the evening class I mentioned a speech from "Oklahoma Independent Media" giving one particular conspiracy theorist's views on the dangers of the New World Order. Read it through the link above and download the mp3 audio version here. Comment below if you can make heads or tails of it.

"Good Night and Good Luck": Discount tickets to a conspiracy-related film

Here's a message from our History Department academic advisor about a film that will be playing at the Missouri Theatre downtown next week (and at Ragtag Cinemacafé on 10th St. throughout the month -- check their schedule.) The movie, Good Night and Good Luck, concerns CBS News's role in the downfall of Communist witch-hunter Joe McCarthy and, as such, is extremely relevant to this course. Go see it if you can and post your comments here.

The movie “Good Night & Good Luck” will be showing at the Missouri Theatre on November 10, 11 & 16th. This is the movie about Edward R. Murrow’s showdown with Senator Joe McCarthy. Tickets are $7.00 for the public, however Ragtag is going to offer a discount to history majors, their tickets will be $5.00 and only good for certain shows.

If you would like to announce this in your classes, especially American history classes, that would be great, just be sure and emphasis that the students have to be history majors, undergrad or graduate, to take advantage of the discounted tickets. Students that want tickets need to come to 103 Read Hall to pick them up.

Thank you,


Jenny Morton, M.Ed.

Senior Academic Advisor

Department of History