Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Magic Bullet Arlen

News of the demise, on Sunday, of Arlen Specter brought back memories of a somewhat controversial figure who did some things right and some things wrong (the proportions depending on one's point of view). Most people remember him as a 30-year senator from Pennsylvania and a double party-switcher (Democrat to Republican, then Republican to Democrat) – a political pragmatist, if you will. But the conspiracy buffs among us will remember him as the author of the “single bullet theory”, AKA the “magic bullet theory”, as part of his labors for the Warren Commission. And what made this theory such a key part of the establishment narrative about the Kennedy assassination? To quote from Wikipedia: “This was a crucial assertion for the Warren Commission, since if the two [Kennedy and Gov. Connally] had been wounded by separate bullets within such a short time frame, that would have demonstrated the presence of a second assassin and therefore a conspiracy.” Another way of putting it (from an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) is that “(h)e theorized that two bullets fired in such rapid succession would have been indicative of two gunmen and there was no evidence to support the premise.”

Now, I want you to examine the logic of this statement. Because there was “no evidence”, therefore there could not have been two (or more) gunmen, therefore the wounds in question must have been caused by a single gunman firing a single bullet. Period. Just so. The problem is that there was, in fact, evidence of two gunmen, namely the wounds in question, which could not possibly (according to many analysts) have been caused by a single bullet. In other words, Specter, dutifully serving his employers on the commission, indulged in a blatant bit of backward reasoning based on the already-decided premise that the assassination was carried out by “a lone nut with a gun”. And when that is your premise, and when that premise is the basis for the entire narrative, then no amount of contrary evidence, no matter how compelling, can be allowed to call it into question.

I hardly need to point out that the very same sort of backward reasoning is fundamental to the establishment narrative about the 9/11 attacks. First you decide how it had to have been done, then you either “tweak” or simply ignore all evidence to the contrary – even when that evidence evolves from a few questions and suspicions into a veritable mountain. But by that time, the populace has bought into the narrative, and they're in no mood to consider alternatives because... well, it's “time to move on”, for one thing, and for another thing, to even begin to suspect something would run the risk of what I call metaphysical shock. Conspiracy theories can't be true not because they're impossible, but because they violate a hallowed, clung-to script. So they're not allowed to be true, even though the establishment narrative is far more incredible than anything labeled “conspiracy”.

And when you think about it, we've obviously become a lot less touchy about these things over the years. At least the 9/11 narrative allows for an actual conspiracy -- among a scruffy group of plotters, AKA “terrorists”. Back in 1963, even that idea would have been forbidden; it was either a lone nut with a gun, or it never happened. But it did happen, and therefore... etc. But really, there are more similarities than differences. On 9/11, the Regime had a list of perpetrators at the ready... it was complete, and no one outside the close-knit confines of al-Qaeda cells was involved. So the “lone nut with a gun” narrative morphed, two generations later, into a “lone group of nuts with four airplanes” narrative. But in each case, it was a neat package, hurriedly contrived and wrapped up for public consumption. So I guess we can at least grant Arlen Specter credit for being a pioneer in this field.

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