Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 23:50:59 -0600 (CST)
From: james fetzer
Subject: Re: Response to Martin Shackelford
My replies to Martin Shackelford's post are as follows. Although I am
going to be as dispassionate as I can be in composing my responses, it
should be apparent to everyone that Shackelford's remarks are highly
misleading, very selective, self-serving, and for the most part false.
James H. Fetzer
> Jim Fetzer's post does nothing to increase my confidence in his
>credibility. He claims that the writers in his book include:
>1) "an expert on photographic evidence who assisted the HSCA during its
>re-investigation of the case and later advised Oliver stone in the
>preparation of the film 'JFK'.": you'd think he was talking about Robert
>Groden here, as the description would be fairly accurate in that case,
>but he's talking about Jack White, who was subjected by the HSCA to
>hostile cross-examination and was simply among the critics who were
>consulted by the HSCA. I don't know what his role was in "JFK." I see
>that Jack devotes his post on this thread to a putdown of credentials
>(those things HSCA said he didn't have).
Martin continues to demonstrate that his comments are as nasty as they
come. No one--certainly not I--needs to defend Jack White, who has made
enduring contributions to the study of the assassination, certainly con-
tributions that far exceed those of the author of this obnoxious message.
>2) the "former Marine Corps officer" is Fetzer himself; for an "expert
>on critical thinking and scientific reasoning," he doesn't engage in
>much of either.
As the editor of this volume, I had an obligation to identify my back-
ground and credentials for the benefit of readers. Those who want to
compare my competence with Shackelford's should read all that follows.
> Let's take a more objective look at the book's contents:
>1) A Preface by James Fetzer, explaining what the book "proves."
Editors characteristically compose prefaces for the works they edit.
The Preface provides a summary of the nature and scope of the book.
>2) A Prologue by James Fetzer, which indicates that his involvement in
>the case didn't begin until after the May 1992 JAMA press conference.
>Then, as he indicates, there is a section on the JAMA treatment of the
>assassination (apparently for those who had missed Harrison
>Livingstone's thorough discussion of the subject four years earlier in
>Killing the Truth).
With eleven contributors, the book obviously needed an introduction to
complement the Preface. I became seriously involved in the study of the
assassination because of the abuse of JAMA, as the book reports. But I
find it amusing that Shackelford would suggest that I had missed KILLING
THE TRUTH, which not only was not published until 1993 but contained two
pieces of mine, "A Piece of My Mind" (pp. 635-641) and "JFK's Assassin-
ation: Conspiracy, Forensic Science, and Common Sense" (pp. 642-648),
as I pointed out in the Acknowledgments. I find it difficult to think
anyone can take this guy seriously when he commits blunders like these.
>It begins with an essay by, guess who, James Fetzer. It is followed by
>reprints of a previously available article by Dr. Charles Crenshaw, an
>excerpt from Crenshaw's book JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, attributed to
>Brad Kizzia; then ANOTHER essay by James Fetzer, this one critiquing Dr.
>Robert Artwohl; then a revised version of a 1993 paper by Dr. David
>Mantik, and a piece by Dr. Mantik on the skull X-rays.
Each section has its own introduction, which of course are authored by
the editor. The point of these essays was to present some of what had
been submitted to JAMA (to demonstrate what JAMA had in its possession
as it continued to publish false and misleading material about the as-
sassination), including my "A Piece of My Mind" and Crenshaw's "Let's
Set the Record Straight", both of which JAMA refused to publish. I do
not know what may or may not have been available to Shackelford in the
past, but Crenshaw's piece had not previously appeared in print. More-
over, the piece by Bradley Kizzia is not from JFK: CONSPIRACY OF SILEN-
ENCE but from a book manuscript on which he has been working. My piece
on Artwohl, which readers may use as an example of the application of
critical thinking to a promient defender of the lone gunman hypothesis,
appears here. The long paper by David Mantik is another example of an
outstanding paper that JAMA reflused to publish, where the point is to
introduce readers to the medical evidence and concurrently demonstrate
what JAMA was refusing to publish. The new Postscript by Mantik that
establishes the alteration of the A-P (anterior-posterior) X-rays by
the imposition of a 6.5 mm metal object is brilliant and, in my view,
worth the very low price of the book (480 pages at $18.95 in paper).
>Part Two is misleadingly called "The Press Conference That Never Was",
>as it definitely took place (I have a videotape of it). What it "Never
>Was," after Fetzer took it over, was anything resembling what it had
>originally been intended to be, as several of the participants have told
This is a silly comment about the title, which obviously implies that it
took place but its occurrence was not reported by the press. I explain
exactly what happened there and that it was far from a complete success.
>This section begins, as expected, with an essay by James Fetzer,
>during which he throws in a discussion of a "spiral nebula" image he
>claims can be seen in the Altgens photo (unfortunately for his analysis,
>it is only in some printed copies, not in the original photo), a topic
>seemingly unrelated to the subject of the section.
This essay turns out to be simply the four-page introduction to this
section of the book, not a separate essay. Shackelford has misunder-
stood the nature of the photographic evidence here, as I have explained
in a forthcoming issue of THE ASSASSINATION CHRONICLES. (His blunder in
this instance is even more egregious than his blunder relative to KILL-
ING THE TRUTH above. If he had actually read the contents of this sec-
tion, he might have noticed that Robert B. Livingston's contribution to
the press conference included reports of a bullet hole in the windshield
that arose during conversations with his friend, Richard Dudman, who is
a reporter for THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH and who discussed it with Bob.
>There follow, not one, but two press conference texts by James Fetzer,
>one by Dave Mantik, and one by Robert Livingston (none by the third
>participant, Gary Aguilar--for his opinions, see Killing the Truth, a
>more complete discussion of the subject).
This is silly, because I explain that Gary decided to read two pieces
of his own (which were unavailable for publication here) and that I had
therefore read a piece that I had prepared for him. The pieces he read
at the press conference, however, are not printed in KILLING THE TRUTH.
>There follows a subsection, "Supporting Documents." These consist of a
>December 1963 New Republic article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter
>Richard Dudman, long known in the research community; and three pieces
>of correspondence by Robert Livingston (apparently Livingston the
>correspondent is considered supporting evidence for Livingston the press
>conference participant--a novel idea of supporting evidence).
I am of course glad that the Dudman piece may have been "long known in
the research community". This book, however, was written, not for the
research community, but for the general public, which deserves to see
as well as hear about documents, reports, and photographs in this case.
The correspondence reflects Livingston's repeated efforts to make the
information known to others and indicates the consistency of what he
has had to say over a five-year span. The fax that he sent to Maynard
Parker, moreover, has special interest, because Parker was at the time
the Editor-in-Chief of NEWSWEEK, which might have been expected to act
on the information Livingston was providing, as I explain in the book.
The third item is in fact a clarification of his previous statements,
which was published in response to issues David S. Lifton had raised.
>Then, for no apparent reason, there are three letters by James Fetzer to
>the New York Times, totally unrelated to the press conference which is
>the subject of the section.
The introduction to this section explains that the national media, such
as The New York Times, was not only not covering our press conference--
as the letter to Lawrence Altman, M.D., clearly explains--but also pub-
lishing material praising Gerald Posner's CASE CLOSED, which our work
(and that of others, including Shackelford) demonstrates to be a hoax.
>The third section is "The Pursuit of Justice in a Bureaucracy,"
>apparently designed to document James Fetzer's dogged one-man crusade
>for truth in the case, as there's no indication of anyone else's
>"pursuit of justice." It begins, of course, with an essay by James
>Fetzer, followed by a five-letter exchange between Fetzer and a Section
>Chief at the Justice Department.
As before, Shackelford calls the section introduction "an essay" as if
it were not obligatory for an editor to explain what is going on within
each section of an edited work. It is intended to demonstrate that the
Department of Justice was being informed of these developments, yet was
unwilling to lift the least digit in response. These letters not only
provide a concise summary of some of our key findings but also show we
were making efforts to bring these discoveries to the attention of the
government. If this had not already been done, then we would no doubt
have been faulted (by Shackeford, for example) for not having done so.
>There are then three letters to Fetzer:
>1) Elliot Richardson tells Fetzer he would have preferred that Fetzer
>had consulted him in advance before using his name.
I explain the context of these letters in the section introduction, but
it appears increasingly obvious that Shackelford is not interested in
informing his audience of what actually is said in the book but only in
conveying the least flattering impression he can, hoping of course that
his readers are not actually going to pick up the book and judge these
things for themselves (which will inevitably blow his whole case). It
is a delicate matter. For example, he does not say that Elliot Richard-
son writes, "As for the use of my name, I suppose I would have liked to
have been consulted in advance" (the point Shackelford makes) "but if I
had been I would gladly have consented to its use for the purpose in
which it appears". It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize
that Shackelford has taken material out of context to benefit himself.
>2) Robert McNamara's secretary says he believes in the Warren Report and
>has no comment.
Some readers may find the difference between McNamara's impersonal reply
and Richardson's personal response quite interesting and revealing, but
those readers would (fairly obviously) not include Martin Shackelford.
>3) A standard White House thank you for sending Bill Clinton a copy of
>the videotape Fetzer made.
The letter from Clinton, which consists of only three sentences, cannot
possibly be a standard form letter, unless he has a "standard form let-
ter" for acknowledging videotapes on the assassination. The letter is
as follows: "Dear James: Thank you for the videotape. It was thought-
ful of you to share your work regarding the assassination of President
Kennedy with me. I appreciate your generosity and wish you the best."
This is a nice example of how far Shackelford is willing to go in the
process of misleading this audience about the character of this book.
>Next there is a two-letter exchange between James Fetzer and ARRB chair
>John Tunheim, in which Fetzer complains that he is being ignored by the
>Justice Department, and Tunheim responds with a pretty standard reply.
The point is that the responses of the Department of Justice were com-
pletely inadequate to the discoveries we had made. Conveying our work
to the ARRB was entirely appropriate, as Tunheim obviously agreed, in-
sofar as he wrote, "I am very interested in meeting with you to learn
more about the research you have done." According to Shakelford, this
is "a pretty standard reply", which obviously misrepresents the matter.
>Part Four is devoted to the Zapruder film, alteration of which is
>Fetzer's second "Johnny-Come-Lately" enthusiasm, and of course it begins
>with an introductory essay by James Fetzer.
Why are the elements of the case that interest me "Johnny-Come-Lately"?
So far as I am aware, the symposium on Zapruder film alteration, which
I was invited to organize and chair for the JFK Lancer Conference during
November 1996, was the first serious public discussion of film alteration.
Of course it begins with "an essay" by me: it is the section introduction
>In his post, Fetzer repeats the claim that the CIA had the film the night
>of the assassination, a claim for which there is no evidence.
The evidence that the film was in the hands of the CIA (at its National
Photographic Interpretation Center) already the night of the assassination
goes back to discoveries by Paul Hoch, which are mentioned in the intro-
duction and discussed in the paper by Mike Pincher and Roy Schaffer. If
Shackelford is unaware of Hoch's research or of the important study by
Philip Melanson ("Hidden Exposure: Cover-Up and Intrigue in the CIA's
Secret Possession of the Zapruder Film", THE THIRD DECADE (November 1984)
pp. 13-21, then he is certainly not competent to address these issues.
>There are five contributions:
This is one the very few true statements of Shackelford about the book.
>1) 20 Years of reflection by Jack White on the Zapruder film, which
>contains simple factual errors (the money for the Groden slide sets was
>collected in 1977, but due to lab problems, the slide sets themselves
>weren't available until 1978); White's admission that he has no
>expertise in motion picture films, but based his conclusions on "common
>sense"--among them are:
>a) the "spray" of brain matter should be seen for several frames (it can
>be seen in 313, 314, and 315), but is obvious in only one ("obvious" and
>"seen" are two different criteria--but I find the spray "obvious" in all
>b) the "unnatural" Greer head turn, which has already been fully
>c) confusing "nearly came to a complete stop" with an actual complete
>d) a false claim that the film doesn't show Connally turning to his
>left, then right.
>e) the fact that Connally continues to hold his hat after he is
>supposedly wounded--apparently Jack has forgotten he is discussing film
>alteration, and is including a point refuting the Single Bullet Theory.
>f) having admitted he has no expertise in film, he questions the field
>of view in the film, on no valid grounds.
>g) again, with no expertise, he finds the jerkiness and focal details
>anomalous, and sees things "I believe" are "impossible." They aren't.
>h) and he borrows Dr. Mantik's analysis of the white spot.
>He then adds ten "observations" which is is careful to attribute to
>others, not surprisingly.
I am going to let Jack respond to these remarks, if he so desires. But
I would observe that Shackelford's nastiness appears to have no bounds.
>2) The blink pattern study by Mike Pincher and Roy Schaeffer, which has
>been discussed here in some detail.
There is much more to this paper than the blink pattern, including, for
example, the apparent history of the film in relation to its possession
by the CIA and several other important indications the film was edited.
>3) Ron Hepler's piece on the wounding of Gov. Connally, which makes no
>claim of Zapruder film alteration, and in fact relies on the film for
>I have no idea how it ended up in this section the book.
If Shackelford had read the introduction to the section more carefully,
he might have noticed that I explicitly point out that Hepler's piece
is based upon the unedited film. It nevertheless provides an interest-
ing analysis of internal evidence there were two hits to John Connally.
>4) An essay by Chuck Marler on the May 1964 re-enactment, which has
>only a few references (like the "bionic" Greer head turn) to alteration
Since the introduction to this section explains what each of the papers
is about, it should come as no surprise if they are not all devoted to
the same issue. They all concern the film and its evidential signifi-
cance, which extends to the creation of the several re-enactment films.
>5) A 79-page essay on Zapruder alteration by Dave Mantik; Fetzer
>correctly reports that David has spent a lot of time studying the film.
>He incorrectly assumes that this makes David an expert on film
>alteration; it doesn't. Fetzer wants you to believe David is "the
>world's leading expert on the Zapruder film." If amount of study
>determines this, I've spent more time studying the film than David has,
>and Robert Groden has spent FAR more time--but this would be
>inconvenient for Fetzer to acknowledge, as Robert doesn't believe the
>film was altered, so apparently he can't qualify as the "leading
>expert," though he has far more background in FILM than anyone in
Shackelford conveniently ignores that achievement is a function of
effort and ability. I have no doubt that Groden has spent more time
on the film; the question is, has he spent more time profitably on
the film? I have observed that he had overlooked many aspects even
of still photographs, including, for example, of the Altgens photo-
graph. Take a look at THE KILLING OF A PRESIDENT, p. 36, and you
will discover two photographs, one a cropped Altgens (a full copy
of which may be found on pp. 30-31) and the other a cropped photo
of the windshield the Secret Service later presented to the public.
He claims the Altgens photo shows "no sign of damage from gunfire",
when in fact it shows a small spiral nubua at the location where the
President's left ear would be visible were it not obscured by this
phenomenon, which indicates a through-and-through hole in the wind-
shield. This suggests to me that Groden is not as competent as he
(and Shackelford) would have the world believe. Moreover, his com-
petence has also been called into question by his blanket presump-
tion that the film has not be altered, which he has published even
without looking at the evidence! (See Groden's piece in JFK/DEEP
POLITICS QUARTERLY (October 1997) and my comments on Shackelford's
comments on the Altgens photograph in THE ASSASSINATION CHRONICLES.)
David Mantik's abilities for studies of this kind are manifest on
very page of this important study, which may be the most brilliant
example of inference to the best explanation anyone has ever done.
I have no doubt at all that, at this point in time, David W. Mantik
M.D., Ph.D., is the world's leading authority on the Zapruder film.
>Finally, there is an Epilogue by James Fetzer, FOLLOWED by another essay
>by James Fetzer (in which he explains what "proof" REALLY means), a
>Postscript by James Fetzer, another Postscript by Ronald White,
Of course, Shackelford is not distinguishing between the introduction
to the section and the paper it introduces (both of which are indeed
written by me). As a professional philosopher of science and of the
theory of knowledge, it seemed especially important to differentiate
between different sense of "proof", because the meaning of "proof" in
matematical contexts, in legal contexts, and in empirical contexts is
not the same. In his eagerness to degrade the book and its contents,
Shackelford does not even give the readers a remotely fair impression
of its contents. The only "Postscript" is by Ronald White, a Ph.D. in
history, who provides a fascinating study of why professional histor-
ians have been reluctant to study the assassination, many of which are
rooted in uncertainties about the authenticity of the evidence, which
is the central focus of this book. The idea that there are two "Post-
scripts", of course, arises from failing to separate the introduction
to the section from the section's contents, as he does over and over.
>Appendices (a collection of familiar documents and photos),
>Acknowledgments and capsule descriptions of contributors.
Some of these appendices have never been published before and there-
fore could not possibly be "familiar", including Appendix A, which is
a set of four diagrams of the President's wounds as they were observed
by Crenshaw during the treatment JFK received at Parkland. No doubt,
most of these appendices are familiar to experts on the assassination,
but, as I explained above, this book was written for the general public
and not merely for the assassination community. It is interesting, how-
ever, that David Lifton, Peter Dale Scott, and Cyril Wecht, prominent
members of that community, have provided endorsements for this book.
>Mr. Fetzer's post indicates that he is upset that Howard criticized him;
>I'm sure no one looking at the above summary of contents of the book
>would think that Fetzer might be engaged in a self-aggrandizing effort.
>Why would anyone's comments differ from those on the cover of the book?
Using the method of selection and elimination, as Shackelford does here,
it is possible to prove almost anything, including that JFK was killed
by a lone, demented gunman. Shackelford has demonstrated that he is a
skilled practitioner of this art. The various introductions he counts
as "essays", for example, total exactly 24 pages in a work of 480 pages.
The reader would have a hard time understanding what the book is about
without them. So why is Martin Shackelford so bound and determined to
distort and misrepresent this book to this list and the general public?
>Thanks to Debra for passing this revealing communication onto us.
Distorting right to the end, he does not tell you that it was posted
by Debra Conway because I asked her to post it on my behalf. Q.E.D.
James H. Fetzer
Department of Philosophy
University of Minnesota
Duluth, MN 55812