Fetzer and Thompson Exchange

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 18:11:37 -0600 (CST)
From: james fetzer 
To: Josiah Thompson 

Here are some comments on the latest outbursts from Josiah Thompson.  JHF

On Mon, 7 Dec 1998, Josiah Thompson wrote:

> Dear Friends,
> This will be short.
> Professor Fetzer is known by what he fails to reply to.  There is no a
> mention in his recent reply of what took up much of mine -- namely, his
> silly but scurrilous insinuation that Michael Parks, the book critic for
> the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and I are all "disinformation agents" of
> some shadowy government agency.  Is he going to apologize?  Have the
> courage to state directly what he is insinuating?  Or continue to pretend
> it never happened?
  I thought I had said enough about these matters but, on pain of repeti-
  tion, let me review and summarized some of the most important points:

  (A) THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL:  I have no doubt that this was a
      professional hit.  The author did not even mention the most impor-
      tant findings reported in the book and distorted its contents in
      an obvious attempt to mislead readers about its contents.  Those
      who want more information about this should review the DISINFOR-
      MATION page found on my web site, www.assassinationscience.com.  

  (B) MICHAEL PARKS:  Within days of the Lancer Conference, Parks had
      posted a complete misrepresentation of Jack's work that was in-
      accurate, incomplete, and totally irresponsible, which included:

      "When the critics of the pro-alteration crew get hold of this tape,
      they are going to have a field day with anyone that backs this video
      as 'irrefutable' proof.  I take my research too seriously to back
      this misinformation, even for a friend.  I tried to warn Jack about
      some of his hair-brained ideas before Lancer. . . ."

      "If you closely review this video, you will see NO proof of the film
      being altered.  It is videos, articles and books like this that give
      us such a bad reputation.  Is a point-by-point critique, posted on
      the Net, needed before people realize the damage the HOAX has done?"

      Parks has now begun posting his alleged "point-by-point critique",
      and his first point is easily refuted, as I have already done.  I
      am unable to explain his behavior, given the high quality of Jack's
      work, other than that he is actively working to spread disinforma-
      tion about the most important recent developments within this area.

      My interpretation of his conduct is further supported by another
      grossly abusive post entitled "Re: Yellow Curb Marker At Zapruder
      Frame 356" dated 28 November 1998, he has viciously attacked Jack's
      work with verbal assaults such as, "GIVE ME MONEY.  ISN'T THAT THE
      INGS WITH 14 COPIES OF MY VIDEO" and similar tripe.  As I have ob-
      served, attacking critics by implying they are motivated by money
      is recommended in CIA Document 1035-960, published in ASSASSINA- 
      TION SCIENCE, pp. 445-447.  Parks has made no effort to impugn the
      motives of other students of the assassination who sell their work
      to the public, as was obviously the case here (with table upon table
      of books, videos, and other research materials).  So why is Parks
      making a federal case out of JACK'S video?  The answer, I believe,
      would be apparent to anyone who has actually viewed it, namely:
      that Jack has presented CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE of Zapruder film alter-
      ation, evidence that is as decisive as any empirical evidence could
      possibly be!  So to avoid having to confront his findings, Parks is
      doing his best to ridicule and belittle his efforts in an obvious 
      propagandistic move.  If he were an honest broker, he would be en-
      couraging everyone to see and study Jack's work.  Instead, he is
      doing his best to discourage that.  I have difficulty imagining a
      reasonable alternative explanation for behavior of just this kind.

  (C) JOSIAH THOMPSON:  Some of the most important considerations that 
      lend support to my belief that Josiah Thompson is not the person 
      that he pretends to be include the following eight observations:

  (1) that he appears to have had no background in photography or film
      that would have qualified him for taking up the study of the Zapru-
      der film--the world's most precious piece of film--at LIFE Magazine
      --at that time, the leading publisher of photographs in the world;

  (2) that his academic background, including a Ph.D. from Yale in philos-
      ophy, where his studies focused on Continental, not analytical, phil-
      osophy, likewise failed to provide appropriate background or train- 
      ing for this task for which he seems to have been wholly unqualified;
  (3) that the study he produced, SIX SECONDS IN DALLAS (1967), which I and
      most others thought was a fine piece of work for its time, relied on
      drawings rather than photographs, where drawing have often been used
      in lieu of photographs to mischaracterize the evidence in this case; 
  (4) that the enduring influence of his book appears to have been that it
      created the impression that the Zapruder film had been subjected to
      a serious critical analysis, which was in fact not the case and one
      for the undertaking of which he was in fact completely unqualified;

  (5) that subsequent research by Daryll Weatherly, Jack White, David Man-
      tik, Ray Redmon, Chuck Marler, Milicent Cranor, Richard Bartholomew,
      Harrison Livingstone, Robert Morningstar, Alan Eaglesham, and others
      unnamed has shown that the film has been extensively edited/altered;

  (6) that since these new studies of the film have begun to appear, Tink
      has done nothing but search for arguments, criticism, and compliants
      that have, for the most part, scant foundation in fact in an effort
      to discourage, discredit, or distort these important developments;

  (7) that his motivation may be purely personal in attempting to preserve
      a reputation that was supposed to have been based upon his expertise
      with respect to the film, but where he appears to have had little or
      no understanding of the actual nature of the film he was discussing;

  (8) that I was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that this man is not
      the person he claims to be by his extensive use of sarcasm, ridicule
      and fallacious reasoning during exchanges between us, which I find
      reveal a lack of committment to truth, rationality, and objectivity.

  Other points could be added to this list, moreover, including that his
  question-begging assumption that the official government chronology of
  the chain of possession of the Zapruder film has been completely under-
  mined by new documents released by the ARRB that show that an original
  film of the assassination was at the NPIC run by the CIA already either
  the night of the assassination or the day after, where those who worked
  on the film are certain that their work was done PRIOR TO THE FUNERAL.

  Indeed, Jack's new studies display (what I take to be) conclusive evi-
  dence that the film has been altered, evidence that continues to grow
  daily, and even includes an interview with a French journalist named
  William Reymond who claims to have seen an unaltered copy of the film,
  whose contents closely correspond to those David Mantik and others had
  inferred had been edited/altered in chapters of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE.
  Not only has Josiah created an apparent controversy by attacking me in
  (what I take to be) an evident effort to distract attention from these
  sensational developments, but he has acted as if they had not occurred.

  As I previously observed, the evidence has long since carried us beyond
  his position of 1967; in fact, by 1970, the studies of Richard Sprague,
  COMPUTERS AND AUTOMATION (May 1970), had already superceded those of
  Josiah Thompson.  As I reluctantly concluded in an earlier post, while
  he was once a force for good in understanding of the assassination, he
  has now become an obstacle.  That is something that makes me very sad.

  As I explained my 27 October post, "Why I No Longer Believe in Tink",
  "My efforts to understand Tink end in puzzlement and speculation.  His
  background is weak in logic and critical thinking but strong in ways
  that would promote the use of sarcasm and ridicule.  (Anyone who can
  take Kierkegaard seriously certainly has a stronger tolerance for in-
  consistency and paradox than most rational minds.)  I cannot imagine
  what was going on when LIFE magazine gave someone with his background
  and training access to the Zapruder film.  It makes no sense at all.
  I have no doubt that he and his numerous allies will respond to this
  post with further sarcasm and ridicule, which will again reflect the
  poverty of reason and logic on their side.  For myself, I have no de-
  sire to have any contact with Tink at all.  I hope you can understand
  why I have been forced to this position.  I no longer believe in him."

  Of course, I would not know if the book reviewer, Michael Parks, and
  Tink Thompson are working for some "shadowy government agency", but I
  have not made that claim.  (It might be worth thinking about in view
  of the above considerations; however, if Parks is actually being paid
  for his efforts, then someone deserves a refund!)  It is fascinating
  that the following passage appears in the FINAL REPORT OF THE ARRB:

  "The CIA has a small 201 file on Thompson which indicates that he was
  considered to be of possible operational interest to the Agency in the
  early 1960s while he was living overseas.  CIA lost interest however,
  and the CIA records that the Review Board examined do not appear to re-
  flect that Thompson worked for the CIA in any capacity" (FRARRB, p. 106)

  If the CIA HAD succeeded in recruiting him, of course, I hardly think
  it would have acknowledged as much.  But I have not gone that far.  I
  have simply offered my own reasoned opinion that these sources appear 
  to be spreading disinformation for reasons that to me remain obscure. 

> The good Professor offers us a list of his "contributions."  But that isn't
> what I asked him.  I know he's been a cheerleader and promoter these last
> few years.  But what I challenged him about was something different.  Let
> me put it again: "Tell me of a single discovery, argument or interpretation
> that was first made by you and not by someone else?"  Is he going to try to
> answer or duck again behind a smokescreen titles.
  The question of originality is always a difficult one to assess, because
  it harbors at least three dimensions:  first, doing something that others
  have not done before; second, doing something important that others have
  not done before; and, third, doing something important that others have
  not done before that becomes influential.  In the case of studies about
  the assassination, anyone would be foolhardy to make claims about having
  done things that others have not done before, since almost any position
  on any subject (pro or con) has been presented by others in times past.

  I presume that the things I have done (in moderating a press conference
  on new medical discoveries, organizing and moderating a workshop and a
  symposium on Zapruder film alteration, creating and producing a video
  on the assassination, and writing articles and publishing a book) are
  all appropriate contributions.  I would also assume that the quality of
  my work in this area approximates the quality of my work in other areas,
  which includes various honors and awards from various institutions, etc.

  Thus, I graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where my
  senior thesis received The Dickinson Prize for the best essay in logic
  or the theory of knowledge.  I received graduate fellowships from Indi-
  ana and Columbia Universities, a Distinguished Teaching Award from the
  University of Kentucky, an NSF research award for my work on the theo-
  retical character of scientific knowledge, The Medal of the University
  of Helsinki for distinguished contributions to philosophy of science,
  and other forms of recognition, including distinguished professorships.

  I have listed my more specific contributions to assassination research
  in my last post on this subject, so I hesitate to repeat the list here.
  Anyone who is inclined can assess the originality of my contributions
  by undertaking a scholarly study of whether or not anyone has said the
  things I have said before (created books and videos like the ones that
  I have created, conducted press conferences and symposia like the ones
  that I have conducted, or any of the other activities in which I have
  engaged).  I suspect that the vast majority of what I have done has in
  fact never been done before by anyone, which is why the things I have
  done have been important or even influential to assassination studies.

  If the work I have done is neither important nor influential, by the
  way, then it defies common sense that it should have become the sub-
  ject of so much controversy.  Martin Shackelford, Josiah Thompson,
  and Michael Parks are only a few of those who have felt that what I
  have said or done deserved further discussion, positive or negative.
  But that I should be the beneficiary of so much discussion and con-
  troversy suggests, at the least, that some of what I have done MUST
  be sufficiently original and important to have become so influential.

  Tink has accused me of running away from questions he has posed, but
  I frankly do not know how else to respond in this case.  On the other
  hand, I have stated that I would be interested in knowing what Tink has
  done for assassination research in the past ten years or so, other than
  post email diatribes.  A list of titles of publications of articles and
  books or of videotapes or other contributions he has made would be fine.
  But please notice when he remains silent, but accuses others of ducking.

> Finally, Loftus.  Will the Professor at least look beyond "Assassination
> Science" to the Loftus book and the Marshall article.  Mantik got it wrong
> and Fetzer continues to get it wrong.  The salience of a particular element
> in the film was not established by the socalled "observers" but by a
> different group entirely -- high school students and staff members.  Fetzer
> continues to repeat Mantik's mistake and thus prove the claim that
> "Assassination Science" and Fetzer are unreliable.
   Thompson does not seem to realize that several crucial passages were
   quoted directly from Elizabeth Loftus' book in my last post, namely:

   "'Table 3.1.  Average accuracy and completeness index scores for items
   according to their level of salience(*).  Adapted from Marshall (1971).
   Salience category          Accuracy      Completeness
        0.00                     61              64
      .01-.12                    78              81
      .13-.25                    81              82
      .26-.50                    83              92
      .51-1.00                   98              98
   (*) O.51-1.00 means that the item was highly salient, that is, noticed
   by over 50 percent of a group of people who viewed the movie.  Data
   are presented for conditions in which witnesses were tested with a
   multiple choice format' (Loftus, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY (1996), p. 27)."


   "'When a complex incident is witnessed, not all of the details within
   that incident are equally salient, or memorable, to the viewer or
   hearer.  Some things just catch our attention more readily than others.
   A salient detail is one that has a high probability of being spontan-
   eously mentioned by individuals who witness a particular event' (Lof-
   tus, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY (1996), p. 25)."

   You can tell because there is a citation at the end of each quote,
   namely:  "(Loftus, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY (1996), p. 27)" or "p. 25".
   There is nothing here to suggest that Mantik has the article wrong.
   In fact, the key point is that a salient detail is one that has a
   high probability of being spontaneously mentioned by individuals
   who witness a particular event, which is manifest in group situa-
   tions by more than half (between 0.51-1.00 percent of the group's
   members) mentioning it.  Thus, the saliency of an item is ALWAYS
   an internal property of the individuals who witness an event, but
   its presence can only be KNOWN when there is a group of witnesses.

   This is because each witness qualifies as a single instance of a
   test situation (witness observing specific event), where the sal-
   ency of ANYTHING that witness reports CANNOT BE KNOWN except in
   comparison with the reports of other witnesses!  Even though each
   detail any person reports has SOME DEGREE OF SALIENCE, the degree
   of salience of SPECIFIC DETAILS can only be measured by comparison
   of the relative frequency with which different observers report
   the same details!  When more than 50% do so, that item has a high
   degree of salience.  When less do so, it has lower degrees thereof.

   Now it should be noted a single witness has a known 2% chance of be-
   ing wrong only if that witness is a member of a group of which more
   than 50% have reported the same thing.  So if one of them is wrong,
   all of them are wrong, insofar as they are all reporting the same ob-
   servations.  Tink does not understand that, although salience is de- 
   fined relative to individuals (as their probability of responding to
   observations with specific details), specific degrees of salience of
   details can only be known relative to a group of observers.  Salience
   is therefore only KNOWABLE as a property internal to (displayed by) A
   GROUP!  Tink has confused this point, which Mantik has properly under-
   stood, with the process of establishing the BASE RATE for salience,
   which of course had to be done under suitably controlled conditions,
   in this case using groups of high school students and staff members.

   Here is what Thompson has said in his latest (truly hysterical) post:

> ^Consider, too, what Tink says about ^salience.^ This is the key
> question that functions as a ^litmus test^ to differentiate between
> those who know what they are talking about and those that do not. Tink
> says, ^He (Mantik) got the article wrong with respect to who made the
> judgments about salience (they weren^t made by the 151 observers Mantik
> said they were made by).^ If Tink is right, who made the judgments?^
> Professor Fetzer goes on to quote not the Loftus book, not the Harvard
> Law Review article which is at issue, but (what else?) Assassination
> Science. He even quotes Mantik^s mistake which is the focus of the
> dispute ^ to wit, Mantik wrote: ^Saliency, however, was determined not
> by the researchers, but rather was defined internally ^ i.e. by the
> responses of the observers themselves.^
> Then Professor Fetzer returns to his point:
> ^Now pausing for a moment, let us ask ourselves what Tink meant when
> Tink wrote, ^He (Mantik) got the article wrong with respect to who made
> the judgments about salience (they weren^t made by the 151 observers
> Mantik said they were made by).^ Because there appear to be at least
> two things wrong with this complaint: first, the judgments were in fact
> made by the observers (as a group); second, Mantik does not have the
> article wrong.^
> For all of us who are not professors of logic, the issue is pretty
> simple: Was the judgment of ^saliency^ made by the observers (that is,
> the subjects who made up the experiment) or others?
> Had the Professor taken the awesome step of looking beyond
> Assassination Science for information he would have found the following:
>     (1) Harvard Law Review (Volume 84, 1971) pages 1620 - 1643, ^The
>     Effects of Kind of Question and Atmosphere of Interrogation on
>     Accuracy and Completeness of Testimony^ by James Marshall, Kent H.
>     Marquis and Stuart Oskamp. At page 1631, the authors point out
>     explicitly that salience was not determined by the 151 observers
>     but by ^high school students and members of the staff of the
>     Survey Research Center.^
>     (2) Elizabeth Loftus, Eyewitness Testimony (Cambridge: Harvard
>     University Press, 1979 and 1996), page 26. Loftus points out
>     correctly that salience was established not by the 151 observers
>     but by ^high school students and staff members.^
> David Mantik was just plain wrong when he said, ^Saliency ... was
> determined not by the researchers, but rather was defined internally ^
> i.e. by the responses of the observers themselves.^ It was defined
> externally and not ^by the responses of the observers themselves.^ The
> good professor has simply been wasting everyone^s time by mindlessly
> repeating Mantik^s error, never bothering to look at what actually
> happened. Professor Fetzer himself called attention to this point.
> ^This is the key question,^ he wrote, ^that functions as a ^litmus
> test^ to differentiate between those who know what they are talking
> about and those that do not.^ I agree. And guess who has been revealed
> as a pompous blowhard who didn^t know what he was talking about? ^You
> betcha^,^ as they say in Minnesota, the Professor of Logic himself!

   Now I have quoted Tink at length here because I want to give him all
   the rope he needs to hang himself, as he has done here.  The studies
   with high school students and staff members were used to establish
   BASE RATES, namely, guidelines that could be APPLIED to draw infer-
   ences from the relative frequencies of reports within groups of ob-
   servers to the saliency of the details thereby reported, where sal-
   ency, strictly speaking, is a property of each individual observer.

   Using those base rates, studies were undertaken with 151 subjects in
   relation to viewing a two-minute long motion picture.  The results of
   those studies presented a distribution of salience ratings that were
   INFERRED FROM the relative frequencies with which various details of
   the film were reported.  Without BASE RATES, it would be impossible
   to draw inferences about salience.  Similar inferences can be drawn
   whenever you have a group of observers in relelation to the relative
   frequencies with which they report the features of observed events.

   Therefore, David Mantik was not wrong when he said, "Saliency ... was
   determined not by the researchers, but rather was defined internally,
   i.e. by the responses of the observers themselves."  It is ALWAYS de-
   fined internally by the responses of the observers themselves, since
   it is a property of them individually that is displayed by their re-
   sponses collectively!  Tink has misunderstood the process of estab-
   lishing the base rates with their appliciation to particular cases.
   When Tink goes on to lambast me by reasserting that our respective
   understandings of this notion serves as a "litmus test", therefore,

>                                                                 The
> good professor has simply been wasting everyone^s time by mindlessly
> repeating Mantik^s error, never bothering to look at what actually
> happened. Professor Fetzer himself called attention to this point.
> ^This is the key question,^ he wrote, ^that functions as a ^litmus
> test^ to differentiate between those who know what they are talking
> about and those that do not.^ I agree. And guess who has been revealed
> as a pompous blowhard who didn^t know what he was talking about? ^You

   he is tacitly indicting himself as "a pompous blowhard who doesn't
   know what he is talking about"!  But of course I don't expect that
   any of us will ever receive an apology from him for "wasting every-
   one's time mindlessly by repeating his own error".  And there can be
   no doubt that Tink has indeed wasted all of our time with his "mind-
   less blathering".  I therefore ask of Tink the following question: 


   I would not expect an answer from this guy anytime soon, so don't
   hold your breath.  It is not that he is a complete moron, but that
   he simply has a very limited understanding of science.  It there-
   fore should come as no surprise that he has a very limited under-
   standing of ASSASSINATION SCIENCE.  But, by this time, that point
   ought to be evident to even the most partisan of his supporters!

> And one could go on... and on.... and on.....  But you know.  Who really 
> cares?
> Josiah Thompson