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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conspiracies Come, and Sadly, They Rarely Go

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there. This does not mean that some conspiracies were not real. (John Wilkes Booth had a band of fellow conspirators and intended what we would now call a "decapitation operation" against the Union government, but in the end only he succeeded in killing his target.) There is little doubt that there are a lot of "little conspiracies" going on even now, driven by the internet that allows so many like minded people to find each other.

One of the things that makes so many conspiracy theories seem somewhat plausible is a general ignorance of things outside of our own fields of interest.

One item that keeps coming up about the Kennedy Assassination is that "the records were sealed for 75 years." Obviously the government had something to hide in this one specific case.

Problem is, prior to about 1966 it was standard procedure to seal the records of any given government investigation for 75 years. It would have been unusual if the records had not been sealed. (And, by the way, most of the Kennedy assassination records have already been released to the public because so many people were clamoring that their being sealed must mean there was a conspiracy with the result that an act of Congress was passed to release them prematurely.)

Other things are to impute impossibility to the possible. In Oswald's case, he was a trained rifleman, and "JFK" to the contrary he was a competent shooter when he was in the Marines. He did not score "Maggie's drawers." And could a bolt action rifle be fired accurately in the time stipulated from the Zapruder film? Actually, yes. Because one of the key aspects is that the rifle was being fired at a receding target moving in a straight line. The shooter did not have to search for a dodging target, nor wait for the target to appear from behind cover between shots.

Once you do these things (find like minded people, impute the possible is impossible, and work on ignorance . . . this latter for example is that most people do not know how fast a bolt action rifle can be fired in the conditions under which Oswald was operating), you then simply start smearing your favorite villain of choice.

In John Wilkes Booth's case, there are some who still insist that members of Lincoln's own administration were in on the plot to kill him, and this explains how Booth was able to kill Lincoln.

So we live our lives surrounded by conspiracy theories. Big Oil, the Gnomes of Zurich, FDR knew about Pearl Harbor beforehand, Roswell/Area 51, the invasion of Somalia was to get the Somali oil, 9/11/01 was an "inside job." Most of them are put forward by people simply because they have their own agenda and railing against a larger conspiracy against them or their cause helps draw the ignorant in to support them.

Am I immune to all of this? No, not even myself. Even I can craft possible conspiracies behind some actions and activities. And I am certainly quite capable of "spinning a web of tissue" to link things together that can appear plausible. But what makes most conspiracies appear plausible to those not already part of them is a lack of knowledge about how things really work.

Like the records of Federal Investigations being sealed for 75 years is a government statute that long predated the findings of Warren Commission, and was not created to conceal the findings of that commission, but was simply the way things were done at that time.