The following commentary was submitted to JFK/DEEP POLITICS QUARTERLY, but
its editor, who also authored this review, declined to publish it after he
had announced that he would include it in the very next issue of his journal.
__________________________________________________________________________

          ASSASSINATION SCIENCE:  A Response to Walt Brown

                        James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to Walt Brown for his review,
which appeared in JFK/DEEP POLITICS QUARTERLY 3/3 (April 1998), pp. 31-
34.  I especially appreciate his favorable remarks about the research of
David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., who contributed about 1/4 of the book's con-
tents.  In this response, I want, first, to reply to several minor critic-
isms Walt has advanced, second, to clarify the nature of the "syllogisms"
to which he objects, and, third, to explain why the discovery that the Z-
film has been edited/altered does not destroy its value as evidence, but,
on the contrary, turns it into a more important "cinematic smoking gun".

Before turning to these matters, however, I would like to respond to the
idea that "the new science (in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE) is really just the
old science" (p. 32, right-hand column), with reference to Josiah Thomp-
son's SIX SECONDS IN DALLAS (1967) and George O'Toole's THE ASSASSINA-
TION TAPES (1975).  I admire these books, which provide different kinds
of scientific evidence of conspiracy and cover-up.  SIX SECONDS, for ex-
ample, includes precise measurements and corresponding graphs that indi-
cate that the President's head was hit by at least two shots (pp. 90-95),
involving applications of the laws of physics and mathematical analysis.

THE ASSASSINATION TAPES applies voice stress analysis to establish, for
example, that testimony by Buell Wesley Frazier (curtain rods), Howard
Brennan (the gunman in the window), and Helen Markham (Tippit's shooting)
appears to be untruthful.  Strictly speaking, this method relies upon the
occurrence of subtle tremors in the vocal chords as indications of a lack
of sincerity, which (for eyewitness accounts) translates into untruthful-
ness.  These results complement the findings of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE but
do not anticipate them, since the "new science" involves discoveries that
are quite different than and sometimes contradict those earlier findings.

(1) In relation to the half-dozen minor issues, my replies are as follows:

    (a) p. 32, right-hand column, Walt mentions an "expert" who has made
media appearances in defense of the theory that the autopsy was done on
Tippit.  Upon inquiry, I found he had Robert Morningstar, who has a great
interest in Tippit, in mind.  Like many other researchers, some of Morn-
ingstar's work is controversial.  He was invited to participate in the Z-
film workshop in Dallas on 21 November 1996, but is not among the book's  
contributors. The use of the term "expert" relative to the book's subtitle
may mislead at least some readers of the journal into believing that Walt
was criticizing one of the contributors to the book, which is not the case.

    (b) p. 33, left-hand column, Walt states that another theory posits
that "the entire alteration of the film was accomplished in five hours".
I assumed that Walt was discussing the article by Pincher and Schaeffer,
a notion he confirmed, but when I reviewed their article in ASSASSINATION
SCIENCE, I discovered that they only claim "the film was at least partially
edited" at the National Photographic Interpretation Center of the CIA (p.
223).  Walt has thus misdescribed the authors' thesis, which permits the
possibility (probability) that the completion of editing was done at LIFE.

    (c) p. 33, right-hand column, Walt may have unintentionally conveyed
the impression that he thought that, by using a quotation from JAMA ("The
scientific evidence [Humes and Boswell] document . . ."), I was thereby
endorsing it.  The point of the quotation was to set up a target for dis-      
 cussion and criticism, as the rest of the Preface makes clear.  Upon in-
quiry, I ascertained that Walt's comment ("So much for science") was in-
tended to be taken as sarcasm, but some readers might have misunderstood.

    (d) p. 33, right-hand column, Walt observes that the book "misname(s)
the Warren Commission [Report]".  Indeed, on p. 2, I stated that the name
of the report was "REPORT OF THE WARREN COMMISSION ON THE ASSASSINATION
OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY", because I relied upon The New York Times Edition
(1964), which uses this title.  The correct title is "REPORT OF THE PRES-
IDENT'S COMMISSION ON THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY".  I
would have been better off had I instead used my St. Martin's Press copy.

    (e) p. 33, right-hand column, Walt also remarks that I assert that the
vast majority of sealed evidence remains sealed.  What I actually say is
that the tremendous surge of interest in the assassination generated by
Oliver Stone's film JFK "motivated the Congress to reconsider the secrecy
surrounding most of the official records in this case, the majority of
which had been sealed away in the National Archives for 75 years" on p. 5.
I acknowledge that records have been coming out of the Archives piecemeal
under the Freedom of Information Act, but I never intended to deny that.

    (f) p. 33, right-hand column, in relation to the backyard photographs,
Walt observes that, on p. 33 of the book, I refer to "the evidence that
this picture was one of several that appear to have been faked".  Walt's
response is that such claims have often been advanced, "but proven?  By
whom?  When?"  In the sentence following the sentence quoted, however, I
cite "the discussion and accompanying copies of three different photos of
this type in Groden and Livingston's HIGH TREASON 1989".  Other sources
and evidence are also provided in the book (p. 84, p. 206, and p. 208).

(2) On p. 32, right-hand column, Walt remarks that sometimes the content
of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE "is not always 'science':  some of it is trite
rehash--particularly 'Assassination Science and the Language of Proof',
a concluding essay which contains arguments that have been around longer
than David Belin's bowtie".  This clever remark is followed by the final
sentence of this review, in which Walt makes a derisive comment that the
reader should not "be bothered by the infantile syllogisms".  Clearly, he
does not believe that the chapter in question has very much to contribute.

The fact is that the language of proof (concerning when something has or
has not been proven) has been invoked in many discussions of this case
over the years, where distinctions are not always drawn between the use
of "proof" in abstract contexts, in legal contexts, and in empirical con-
texts, which are not the same.  As an expert on matters of this kind, I
thought it would be worthwhile to explain the differences between them
in an effort to make arguments about the assassination more responsible
and articulate with respect to standards of reasoning and of provability.

Since the publication of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE, I have found no reason to
believe that these distinctions have lost their significance.  Moreover,
in relation to "arguments older than David Belin's bowtie", I think that     
Walt may have misunderstood the intended audience of this work.  I have
never supposed that the assassination research community was our primary
audience but rather the American people as a whole.  Some of these argu-
ments are undoubtedly familiar to serious students of the assassination,
but recall too that I was sending them to the Past President of the AMA.

They were offered to help to place issues in perspective for those who
could benefit from them.  (Indeed, I have received many favorable com-
ments from non-experts who found it refreshing to see the logic of the
arguments laid out in such an explicit fashion.)  The "syllogisms" that
Walt considers to be "infantile", moreover, were only meant to summarize
some of the key points about the relationship between the evidence that
had been discovered about the film and the conclusions drawn therefrom.
I never even imagined that anyone would mistake them for anything more.

Nevertheless, they have a useful if not important function to serve by
indicating the significance that should be attached to the findings of     
the authors in each instance.  Consider, for example, the "syllogism" I
provide in relation to Jack White's summary of research on the Z-film by
Ray Redmon, Chuck Marler, Milicent Cranor, Richard Batholomew, David W.
Matnik, Harrison Livingstone, Daryll Weatherly, Robert Morningstar, and
Alan Eaglesham, which I summarize in the form of the following argument:

   (A)  P1:  If these observations of anomalies are well-founded,
             then the film has been subjected to alteration.

        P2:  These observations of anomalies are well-founded.
             ___________________________________________________

        C1:  The film has been subjected to alteration.

Arguments of this form have a deceptive simplicity, however, which may
cause them to be misappraised.  What the first premise does is charac-
terized the nature and force of the kinds of evidence reported by the
second premise.  To appreciate this role, compare the two following:

   (B)  P3:  If Clinton has lied about having sex with Monica Lewinsky,
             then he deserves to be removed from office.

        P4.  Clinton has lied about having sex with Monica Lewinsky.
             _________________________________________________________

        C2:  Clinton deserves to be removed from office.

Someone with a different point of view, however, might argue as follows:

   (C)  P5:  (Even) if Clinton has lied about having sex with Monica
             Lewinsky, he does not deserve to be removed from office.

        P6:  Clinton has lied about having sex with Monica Lewinsky.
             _______________________________________________________    
              C3:  Clinton does not deserve to be removed from office.

Thus, the simplicity of these arguments does not mean that each of their
premises has no important argumentative role to play.  The second takes
some evidence for granted, while the first characterizes its importance.
It would therefore be wrong to suppose these "syllogisms" are infantile.

There are other ways in which the points that I was attempting to make
by means of these summaries might have been accomplished, some of which
might have made more sense to many readers of the book.  Consider, for
example, this formulation based upon inference to the best explanation:

   (D)  P7:  These observations of anomalies are well-founded.

        P8:  The only hypothesis that appears to explain them is that
             the film has been extensively edited.
             _______________________________________________________
             _______________________________________________________

        C4:  The film has been extensively edited.

Here the double line between premises and conclusion indicates that the
argument is inductive, while the single line between premises and con-
clusion in (A), (B), and (C) indicates these arguments are deductive.
Perhaps (D) is an improvement over (A) and should be incorporated into
a revised edition of the work.  (Incidentally, none of these arguments
is a "syllogism", which requires sentences of specific fixed forms that
do not occur in them.  The first three are technically of the form Modus
Ponens, while the last exemplifies an inference to the best explanation.)

(3)  Perhaps the most important issue that Walt has raised, however, was
lucidly formulated in comments to me in response to questions I raised as
to specific points made in his review.  In particular, Walt has asked how 
it is possible to conclude that the Z-film has been subjected to extensive
editing/alteration without thereby jeopardizing its value as evidence.  He
has said, "[I]t can't be had both ways; we can't say that the government
faked a bunch of stuff--and certainly they did--and then turn around and
say, '. . . but look here, this is valid and it's not faked'" with respect
to the same items of evidence.  Thus, in his view, if we accept the con-
clusions that the Z-film has been faked, then we can no longer appeal to
the violent head-snap as evidence of a shooter from in front and thus find
ourselves in the position of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".

I suspect that this argument derives at least some of its apparent force
from a faulty analogy with certain kinds of evidence.  Consider, for ex-
ample, the ransom note in the JonBenet Ramsey case.  If any part of this
note is faked, there is reason to suspect the whole note is faked.  But
in the case of the film, that certain parts--specific frames, say--have
been edited/altered does not mean that the whole film--every frame, that
is--has been edited/altered.  Of course, in a trivial sense, editing/al-
tering even one frame means that the whole film has been edited/altered.
But that trades on an equivocation between taking the frames collective-
ly (altogether) and considering them distributively (frame-by-frame). We
thus have to study each frame of the film to establish its authenticity.

We have multiple sources of information about what happened in Dealey
Plaza that can be drawn upon in arriving at judgments about whether the
Z-film has been edited/altered or not, including eyewitness reports, the
physical evidence (of damage to the limousine, for example) and bullets
found in various locations, and the injury to bystander James Tague, as
well as other films and still photographs.  As Milicent Cranor pointed
out to me, under the law, photographs are merely considered to be more
vivid and detailed records of what happened, for which a foundation must
be laid in the form of eyewitness testimony (as I explain in ASSASSINA-
TION SCIENCE, p. 210), which is one reason why Mantik's analysis of the
eyewitness testimony in this case is of such extraordinary importance.     

Moreover, there are features internal to the Z-film itself that provides
stunning evidence of alteration, including oddities with the intersprock-
et images, such as magnifications that are grossly different from frame
to frame, intersprocket images of the right motorcycle where they should
not occur, interprocket images that are missing in frames Z-413 and Z-414,
and dozens of other anomalies that appear to be explainable only on the
basis of the hypothesis that the Z-film has been extensively edited/alter-
ed using highly sophisticated techniques.  But no one should depend on my
summary of points here:  consult Mantik's extensive study (pp. 263-344).

Among the most important of Mantik's findings is the conclusion that the
two hits to the President's head (which SIX SECONDS concluded had been
nearly simultaneous, on the basis of the film available to Josiah) were
temporally separated in time by perhaps as much as a second or more, and
that the head-snap (back and to the left) is an artifact of the editing
process.  Each of us must consider the evidence here, but in my view the
reasons Mantik advances place the matter beyond reasonable doubt.  I am        
not suggesting that those who do not consider the evidence should be con-
vinced or that evidence that is convincing will always be treated as if
it were convincing by anyone with a vested interest.  But if Mantik is
right--as ongoing studies suggest--the Z-film has been edited/altered.

It would be a serious mistake to argue for conspiracy on the basis of un-
tenable evidence.  If Mantik's analysis is well-founded, as I am wholly
convinced, then the head-snap did not occur.  (He has analyzed this mat-
ter extensively; see, for example, pp. 279-293, but also pp. 295-297).
It would therefore be folly to base the case for conspiracy on an event
that never transpired but was brought about inadvertently during the ed-
ting/altering process.  On the other hand, that the Z-film has been edit-
ed/altered provides compelling evidence of governmental involvement in
the cover-up, at the very least.  And the immediacy of the editing pro-
cess--that it appears to have been undertaken already Friday night, 22-
23 November 1963--further indicates that prior planning had been made
for precisely this contingency.  The Z-film is a cinematic smoking gun.

The studies published in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE provide powerful reasons
for concluding that the most basic evidence in this case--including the
autopsy X-rays, diagrams and photographs of the brain, and the Z-film it-
self--have been faked, fabricated, or reprocessed.  None of these things
could have been done by the Mafia, for example, which would not have had
the reach to extend into Bethesda Naval Hospital and fake X-rays under
the control of Naval officers, the Secret Service, and the President's
personal physician.  Neither pro- nor anti-Castro Cubans could have sub-
stituted diagrams and photographs of someone else's brain for that of JFK.
The KGB, even if it had the ability to do so, could not have gained pos-
session of the Z-film to subject it to extensive editing/alteration.  Nor
could any of these things have been done by Lee Oswald, who was either
incarcerated or already dead.  The quesion thus becomes, what remains as
the best explanation for these and other anomalies in the death of JFK?

Department of Philosophy 
University of Minnesota
Duluth, MN 55812
jfetzer@d.umn.edu                                                              
     

 

 

Home
Books
Challenge
Posner
Disinformation

Video
Special Cases
Terrorism
Social Issues
Order