Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On the Ethical Conduct of Warfare: Predator Drones


Jim Fetzer

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm”
— Isaac Asimov’s “First Law of Robotics”

Among the most intriguing questions that modern technology poses is the extent to which inanimate machines might be capable of replacing human beings in combat and warfare. The very idea of armies of robots has a certain appeal, even though “The Terminator” and “I, Robot”, have raised challenging questions related to the capacity for machine mentality and the prospect that, once they’ve attained a certain level of intelligence, these machines might turn against those who designed and built them to advance their own “interests”, if, indeed, such a thing is possible. In an earlier article, “Intelligence vs. Mentality: Important but Independent Concepts" (1997), for example, I have argued that, while machines may well be described as “intelligent” because of the plasticity of behavior they can display in response to different programs, they are not the possessors of minds and therefore may be capable of simulating human intelligence but not of its possession.

From a philosophical point of view, there are at least three perspectives that could be brought to bear upon the use of the specific form of digital technology known as “predator drones”, which are pilot-less aircraft that can be deployed with the capacity to project lethal force —perhaps most commonly, by missile attacks, primarily — with or without any intervention by human minds. The first is that of metaphysics, in particular, from the perspective of the kinds of things they are, especially with respect to the question of autonomy. The second is that of epistemology, in particular, the question of the kind of knowledge that can be obtained about their reliability on missions. And the third is that of axiology, in particular, the moral questions that arise from their use as killing machines, where, as I shall suggest, there is an inherent tension between the first and the third of these perspectives, which is considerably compounded by the second.

As a former artillery officer, I can appreciate the use of weapons that are capable of killing at a distance with considerable anonymity about those who are going to be killed. In traditional warfare, artillery has been used to attack relatively well-defined military targets, but has not infrequently been accompanied by civilian casualties, which today are often referred to as “collateral damage”. An intermediate species of killing machine arises from the use of controlled drones, where human minds are an essential link in the causal chains that produce their intentional lethal effects. The use of predator drones, of course, is distinct from surveillance drones in this respect, because surveillance drones can acquire information without bringing about death or devastation. Without those capacities, however, there would be scant purpose in the deployment of predator drones, the existence of which is predicated upon their function as killing machines.

Ontology and Autonomy

The important metaphysical — more precisely, ontological — question that arises within this context is the applicability of the concept of autonomy to inanimate machines. The traditional philosophical conception related to issues of moral responsibility concerns whether arguments by analogy apply. Moral responsibility for human actions typically requires a certain basic capacity for rationality of action and rationality of belief, combined with an absence of coercion and of constraint. When humans are unable to form rational beliefs (responsive to the information available to them, because they are paranoid) or take rational actions (which promote their motives based upon their beliefs, because they are neurotic), they may be exonerated from moral responsibility for their actions. Similarly, when their actions are affected by coercion (by means of threats) or constraints (by being restrained), degrees of responsibility may require adjudication.

While human actions result from a causal interaction of motives, beliefs, ethics, abilities and capabilities, counterparts for predator drones do not appear to exist except in an extended or figurative sense. If capabilities represent the absence of factors that inhibit their abilities from being exercised — as is the case when they cannot fly because their batteries need recharging — then their incapacity to perform their intended tasks could not be said to be their own responsibility. But insofar as they are designed and built to conform to the programs that control them, it is difficult to suppose that analogies with humans properly apply. Since analogies are faulty when (a) there are more differences than similarities, (b) when there are few but crucial differences, or (c) when their conclusions are treaded as certain rather than merely probable, absent mentality, it is difficult to conclude that they are capable of the possession of beliefs, motives, or morality.

From the perspective of epistemology, the kind of knowledge that can be acquired about these machines is not akin to that of pure mathematics, which acquires certainty at the expense of their content, but rather than of applied mathematics, which acquires its content at the expense of its certainty. The complex causal interaction between software, firmware, and hardware makes the performance of these systems both empirical and uncertain as the product of evaluating their success in use against the properties of their design. If they are not engineered in accordance with the appropriate specifications, for example, then the result of their deployment can be fraught with hazard. The reliability of these systems in delivering their lethal force to appropriate targets can be completely unknown without testing and study, where the conditions of their use in Iraq and Afghanistan makes their probability of success unpredictable.

Epistemology and Targeting

The most serious problems with their deployment, however, arise from the criteria for determining the targets against which they are properly deployed. In the language of artillery, sometimes targets are designated as “free fire” zones, where any human within that vicinity is considered to be a legitimate target. That works when the enemy is clearly defined and geographically prescribed. In the case of guerilla (or “irregular”) warfare, however, there are neither uniforms to identify the enemy nor territorial boundaries to distinguish them, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where virtually any group of individuals, no matter how innocuous they may turn out to be, tends to be regarded as “fair game” for drone attack. In military language, of course, it’s all readily excusable as “collateral damage”.

How many wedding parties are we going to take out because the drone saw group behavior that it had been programmed to hit? How often do we have sufficient information to know that we are actually targeting insurgents and not innocents? Surely I am not alone in finding our actions repugnant when I read, “Over 700 killed in 44 drone strikes in 2009” taking out 5 intended targets —140 to 1 — and 123 civilians were killed for 3 al-Qaeda in January 2010. The headlines are ubiquitous: “CIA chief in Pakistan exposed. Top spy received death threats; U.S. drones kill 54”, Wisconsin State Journal (18 December 2010), where the American government claims, just as it did in Vietnam, that every dead body was a ”suspected militant”: none were innocent men, women, or children. Even The Washington Post (21 February 2011) seems to perceive that something is wrong with killing so many people and hitting so few targets.

We are now invading Pakistani airspace in our relentless determination to take out those who oppose us. From the point of view of the countries that we have invaded and occupied, they might be more aptly described as “freedom fighters”. Since we invaded these countries in violation of international law, the UN Charter and the US Constitution, we appear to be committing crimes against humanity. And the risk posed by our own technology is now extending to the USA itself. A recent article found in Software 26th August 2010 12:26 GMT, “ROBOT KILL-CHOPPER GOES ROGUE above Washington DC!” by Lewis Page, describes a perceived threat to the nation’s capitol as attributable to “software error”. No deaths resulted from this infraction, but perhaps the next time a mistake of this kind will lead to the deaths of members of Congress or of “The First Family” on a picnic outing in the Rose Garden, which will make for spectacular headlines. Yet we don’t even pause to ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with collateral damage?”

Morality and Methodology

We cannot know whether or our conduct or that of our machines is moral or not unless we know the nature of morality. The answer depends upon which theory of morality is correct. There are many claimants to that role, including subjective theories, family-value theories, religious-based theories, and culture-related theories, according to which “an action is right” when you (your family, your religion, or your culture) approve of it. So if you (your family, your religion, or your culture) approve of incest, cannibalism, or sacrificing virgins to appease the gods, such actions cannot be immoral, if one of these theories is true. All these approaches make morality a matter of power, where right reduces to might. If someone approves of killing, robbing, or raping you, then you have no basis to complain on the ground that those actions are immoral, if subjectivism is correct. Similarly for family, religion, and culture-based alternatives. Every person, every family, every religion, and very culture is equal, regardless of their practices, if such theories are true. They thus embody the principle that “might makes right”.

As James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (1999), has explained, on any of these accounts, the very ideas of criticism, reform, or progress in matters of morality no longer apply. If attitudes about right and wrong differ or change, if that is all there is to it, even when they concern your life, liberty, or happiness. If some person, family, or group has the power to impose their will upon you, then these theories afford you no basis to complain. While Rachels is correct, as far as he goes, I have sought to establish objective criteria for arbitrating between moral theories that parallel those we have for scientific theories, including the clarify and precision of their language, their scope of application for the purpose of explanation and of prediction, their respective degrees of empirical support, and the simplicity (or economy or elegance) with which that degree if systematic power is attained. And, indeed, as I explain in detail in The Evolution of Intelligence (2005) and in Render Unto Darwin (2007), there do appear to be parallel criteria of adequacy for moral theories.

Theories of morality, no less than theories of physics, chemistry, and such, are also subject to evaluation on the basis of (CA-1) the clarify and precision of their language as a first criterion. Since the problem of morality arises from the abuse of power, it seems apparent that a second criterion of adequacy (CA-2) should be that an acceptable theory not be reducible to the principle that “might makes right”. Yet a third, which might be viewed as encompassing empirical content in the form of virtually universal human experience (CA-3) holds that an acceptable theory of morality should properly classify the “pre-analytically” clear cases of immoral conduct — such as murder, robbery, and rape — as “immoral” on that theory; and similarly for “pre-analytically” clear cases of moral behavior — such as (apart from special cases) telling the truth, keeping our promises, and dealing equitably with other persons. The fourth (CA-4) is that an adequate theory of morality should shed light on the “pre-analytically” unclear cases, such as pot, prostitution, and flag burning but also abortion, stem-cell research, and cloning.

Alternative Theories

While I address those “unclear cases” in the recent books I have cited, here I shall confine myself to considering the moral status of the use of predator drones, If we apply the four criteria by focusing on the second, third, and fourth, then the inadequacies of all but one moral theory become apparent. With regard to the four traditional theories I have discussed — simple subjectivism, family values, religious ethics, and cultural relativity — it should be apparent that they reduce to the corrupt principle that might makes right and therefore violate (CA-2). Since they permit pre-analytically clear cases of immoral behavior to qualify as “moral”, they also violate (CA-3). Because the “morality” of unclear cases, like the use of predator drones, varies with attitudes, which can differ from person to person, group to group, religion to religion and culture to culture at the same time or within any of those at different times, none of these theories satisfies (CA-4).

The relativity of traditional theories has motivated students of morality to move in the direction of more philosophical theories, which tend to fall into the categories of what are know as “consequentialist” and “non-consequentialist“ theories. The former classify an action as “right” when it produces at least as much GOOD as its effect as does any available alternative, where what is GOOD is usually taken to be happiness. The problem, however, remains of deciding FOR WHOM that happiness ought to be produced, since it might be the individual, the group, or everyone. According to Ethical Egoism, for example, an action is right when it brings about as much happiness for you personally as any available alternative. The consequences for others simply don't count. So Ted Bundy, John Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, are home free — morally speaking — though few juries would be likely to be impressed by the argument that killing gave them more happiness than any available alternative. The violations of (CA-2), (CA-3), and (CA-4), I presume, require no elaboration.

According to Limited Utilitarianism, moreover, an action is right when it brings about as much happiness for the members of your group as any available alternative. This is good news for The Third Reich, the Mafia, and General Motors. If no available alternative(s) would produce more happiness for Nazis than territorial acquisition, military domination, and racial extermination, then those qualify as moral actions if Limited Utilitarianism is true. As in the case of Ethical Egoism, the violations of (CA-2), (CA-3) and (CA-4) appear to be obvious. Classic Utilitarianism, among consequentialist theories, is the only one that dictates the necessity of encompassing the effects actions have upon everyone rather than some special class. But even this virtue does not guarantee the right results. If a social arrangement with a certain percentage of slaves, say, 15%, would bring about greater happiness for the population as a whole — because the increase in happiness of the masters outweighed the decrease in happiness of the slaves — then that arrangement would qualify as moral. Yet slavery is immoral if any practice is immoral.

Deontological Morality

The problem here is more subtle than in other cases and therefore deserves more explanation. Actions that benefit the majority may do so at the expense of the minority. The Classical Utilitarian conception of “the greatest good for the greatest number” should not come at the expense of the life, liberty, or property of the minority — absent mechanisms to insure that their rights are protected and upheld. Technically, we are talking about a concept of morality that is distributive (as a property of each person) rather than collective (as a property of the group), as I shall explain. Suppose that ten smokers were selected at random by the government each year, put on television and shot. It might well be that enthusiasm for smoking would fall dramatically, that heart and lung disease would diminish, that health care premiums would drop and that the net happiness of society would be maximized. If that were the case, should we select ten smokers at random each year, put them on television and shoot them?

If theories that qualify manifestly immoral behavior, such as a slave-based society or random public executions to promote the health of the nation.as "moral" ought to be rejected, then perhaps a non-consequentialist approach might do better. According to what is known as Deontological Moral Theory, actions are moral when they involve treating other persons with respect. More formally expressed, it requires that other persons should always be treated as ends (as intrinsically valuable) and never merely as means (instrumentally). This approach has its roots in (what is technically known as) “the Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative” advanced by Immanuel Kant, but we can forego such niceties here.

This does not mean that persons can never treat other persons as means, which usually happens without thereby generating immorality. The relationship between employers and employees is clearly one in which employers use their employees as a means to conduct a business and make profits, while employees use their employment as a means to make a buck and earn a living. Within a context of mutual respect, this is moral conduct as a feature characteristic of human life. When employers abuse their employees by subjecting them to unsafe working conditions, excessive hours, or poor wages, however, the relationship becomes exploitative and immoral. These are the conditions that typify “the sweat shop” and explain why they are despicable business practices.

They can also occur when employees fail to perform their duties, steal from their employers, or abuse the workplace. Similar considerations apply to doctors and patients, students and faculty, or ministers and congregations, which may explain our dismay at their betrayal. Perhaps the central consequence of a deontological perspective is the centrality of due process. No one should be deprived of their life, liberty or property without an appropriate form of certification that punishment of that kind is something that they deserve, which reveals the gross immorality of military aggression, territorial conquest, systematic genocide—and death by the use of predator drones to kill other persons, with only superficial regard for due process in the case of the intended targets and non-existent for everyone else!

Axiology and Autonomy

When we are talking about a so-called "autonomous machine", then the question becomes whether or not such an entity is even capable of understanding what it means for something to be a person or to treat it with respect. There are ways to guarantee killing the enemy within a target zone, namely, by killing everyone in it. And there are ways to avoid killing the wrong target, namely, by killing no one in it. The problem is to kill all and only the intended targets. But is that possible? This becomes extremely problematical in the case of unconventional warfare. In principle, persons are entitled to be treated with respect by following rules of due process, where no one is deprived of life, liberty, or property without having the opportunity to defend them selves. In the case of the use of predator drones, however, the only processes utilized by autonomous machines are those that accrue from the target identification criteria with which they are programmed.

These machines, like other tools including computerized systems, are inherently amoral — neither moral nor immoral — from a deontological point of view. They, like other digital machines, have no concept of morality, of personhood or of mutual respect. They are simply complex causal systems that function on the basis of their programs. Were these conventional wars involving well-defined terrain and uniformed combatants, their use, in principle, would be no different than high-altitude bombing or artillery strikes, where, although the precise identity of our targets are not always known, we know who they are with high probability. In cases like Iraq and Afghanistan, our information is partial, sketchy, and all too often wrong. We are killing around 140 innocents for every intended target!

We are taking out citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, which, alas, if research on 9/11 is well founded — visit http://911scholars.org , for example, or http://patriotsquestion911.com -- have never threatened us. So we really have no business being there at all. Yet to this day we continue to hear about the threat from al-Qaeda and from Osama bin Laden, who appears to have died in 2001. We are depriving the citizens of other countries of their life, liberty, and property with no semblance of due process. This means that our actions are not only in violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the United States’ Constitution but also violate basic human rights. We once believed it was better for ten guilty me to go free than for one innocent man to be punished. We now practice the policy that it is better for 140 civilians to die than for one suspected “insurgent“ to live. We have come a long way from Isaac Asimov’s “First Law”.

* An expanded and revised version of “Predator Drones: The Immoral use of Autonomous Machines” (2010). For a version with active links, see http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23324

Jim Fetzer [send him mail], a former Marine Corps officer who earned his Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science, is McKnight Professor Emeritus at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. He has published extensively on the theoretical foundations of computer science, AI, and cognitive science. His academic web site may be found at http://www.d.umn.edu/~jfetzer/ .

Monday, February 14, 2011

LIFE ON THE RUN: On Judyth Vary Baker and the Death of Martha Rose Crow

LIFE ON THE RUN: On Judyth Vary Baker and the Death of Martha Rose Crow
by Judyth Vary Baker and (the late) Martha Rose Crow (with Dr. James Fetzer)

Abstract. Marctha Rose Crow, a social activist and contributor to OpEdNews, was the closest friend of Judyth Vary Baker, the author of ME & LEE, which documents her relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans during several months prior to the assassination of JFK. Judyth has had to live her life on the run because of harassment and death threats she has received since she began to speak out about their relationship after watching Oliver Stone’s “JFK”. Her dear friend, Martha, began receiving threats of her own after endorsing Judyth’s book and may have been murdered because of it. Portions of this article were adapted from her web site for inclusion here.

Martha Rose Crow, a social activist and contributor to OpEdNews, was the closest friend of Judyth Vary Baker, the author of ME & LEE, which documents her relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans during several months prior to the assassination of JFK. Judyth has had to live her life on the run because to the harassment and death threats she has received since she began to speak out about their relationship after watching Oliver Stone’s “JFK”. Her dear friend, Martha, began receiving threats of her own after endorsing Judyth’s book and may have been murdered because of it.

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Martha Rose Crow

At about the same time Martha posted, “Judyth Vary Baker is my best friend!” on her multitude of blogs, “That’s when she started getting threats,” Judyth has told me. Mere hours after Martha wrote a publisher that both she and Judyth had just received “terrible death threats” and that she wasn’t feeling well, Martha collapsed for unknown reasons in a public market. She was not diagnosed with any heart attack symptoms during her brief hospitalization. Nevertheless, she died that same night due to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. She was in her early fifties, physically fit and in good health until she began complaining of feeing unwell just before her death.

Dr. James Fetzer:


It may be difficult to believe that someone like Martha might have been taken out because of her friendship with Judyth Vary Baker. We know, however, that Judyth’s story is one that the intelligence agencies of the United States’ government, especially the CIA but also the ONI and the FBI, do not want to become familiar to the public. Having invested so much time and effort to demonize Lee Oswald as “the lone, demented gunman,”, Judyth’s story reveals that he was actually a sociable, highly intelligent and very disciplined individual, who appears to have had a long history of undercover operations with the government, where he appears to have been recruited by the ONI, defected to the Soviet Union at the behest of the CIA, and served as an informant for the FBI.

Since I organized a research group consisting of the most highly-qualified individuals to ever investigate the death of JFK in 1992—including a world authority on the human brain, who was also an expert on wound ballistics; a Ph.D. in physics who is also an M.D. and board-certified in the treatment of cancer using X-ray therapy; a physician who was present after a moribund JFK was brought into Trauma Room #1 at Parkland Hospital, and two days later, was also responsible for the treatment of Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Oswald, in Trauma Room #2; I also brought in a legendary photo and film analyst who testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations during its reinvestigation of the deaths of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1977-78; as well as another Ph.D. in physics, this time an expert in the properties of light and the physics of moving objects, which he applied to the study of the Zapruder film—I have been fascinated to learn what Judyth has to tell us, which I find entirely credible.

Our research, which has been published in three books and many articles, has exposed the use of fabricated evidence to frame Lee Oswald as the patsy and to create a false account of the causes of the death of our 35th president. Among those published on OpEdNews, for example, are "What we Know Now" (26 November 2010), “Zapruder JFK Film impeached by Moorman JFK Polaroid” (28 March 2009), and “Another Attempted Reenactment of the Death of JFK” with David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D. (21 November 2008). Indeed, those who have wondered about the backyard photographs, which have been disputed for decades, may find “The Dartmouth JFK-Photo Fiasco” with Jim Marrs (18 November 2009), of special interest, where we expose the irresponsible conduct of Hany Farid, a computer scientists at Dartmouth College, for his shoddy attempt to prove the photographs were authentic based upon the study of one feature of one of the photographs, when there are many other ways to prove the photos fake.


Perhaps the most important reason the intelligence community would be concerned about Martha is that her endorsement of Judyth’s book was strong and clear and forceful:

As Mistress to Lee Harvey Oswald,
She Has A Great Story to Tell That Will Change History!

Martha Rose Crow:

The Article: Judyth Vary Baker and Lee Harvey Oswald: “True Love”

He was twenty-three, she just nineteen when they first met in the romantic city of New Orleans. They soon fell in love. But there was one problem – he was on a mission to kill Castro, which would end with his involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was living in a dangerous, covert world. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald. Her name was Judyth Vary Baker.

Edward T. Haslam, author of the popular book Dr. Mary’s Monkey, spent years searching for the lab technician he knew had to be involved with eminent cancer researcher Dr. Mary Sherman. “Dr. Mary” was brutally murdered the same day the Warren Commission came to New Orleans to get testimonies about the Kennedy assassination. The murder was never solved. Sixty Minutes investigators contacted Haslam in 2000 to verify what Judyth Baker was telling them about Sherman. A decade later, Edward T. Haslam wrote the foreword to Me & Lee, Baker’s book about her cancer research with Sherman and her love affair with Oswald:

“This book is thick with political intrigue, but it is also a story about something else: something softer, but stronger. It is about that invisible force commonly called “love.” A stubborn and enduring love, spiced with anger, frustration, and yes, revenge. This is the story of the 20-year-old girl who screamed as she watched the man she loved murdered on national television, who saw him summarily convicted of the very crime she knew he gave his life trying to stop.

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Judyth hid in silence for decades, afraid that she too would be murdered. But love eventually overcame fear. And love is ultimately the reason this woman decided to risk her life to tell her story… You can listen to Madame Butterfly, or read Romeo and Juliet, but you are not likely to find a story about undying love in which a woman has “stood by her man” with more resolve. Despite their separation by death, the horrible accusations made against him, or the crude insults she has endured publicly for pleading his case, the bottom line remains that Judyth Vary Baker loves Lee Harvey Oswald. And she wants you to know the man that she knew: the man who ultimately died because of his efforts to save John F. Kennedy. Here is her story at last.”

Judyth Vary Baker:

Lee Oswald revealed his double life as a secret government agent to me as I gained his confidence. “The Warren Commission missed a significant JFK assassination connection,” wrote Prof. Donald E.Wilkes, Jr. about those revelations. He writes a yearly article on the Kennedy assassination for Flagpole Magazine. Wilkes says respected researchers Harold Weisman and Prof. Michael Kurtz have both “concluded that while in New Orleans Oswald behaved as if he were an undercover intelligence agent.

Kurtz wrote: “What the Warren Commission failed to disclose is that Oswald led a double life in New Orleans, outwardly posing as a pro-Castro Marxist, but secretly associated with such rabidly anti-Communist individuals as Guy Banister and David Ferrie.” And Weisberg wrote: “Everything Oswald did in New Orleans in 1963 is consistent only with the establishment of what in the spy trade is called a ‘cover.’”

Wilkes added, “As a result of allegations made by Judyth Vary Baker, a woman who was born in Indiana in 1943, lived in New Orleans in 1963, and now lives incognito in Europe, the story of Oswald’s five months in New Orleans has, in the words of author Edward T. Haslam, “morphed into an 800 pound gorilla” that includes a “sizzling little romance between a beautiful young woman and a soon-to-be-accused assassin.”

Rollin Stearns (HenryMAKOW.com) summarizes the fates of those who knew too much about Lee Oswald, Judyth, and a secret, deadly cancer developed for the CIA:

“Judyth Vary had a dream, to find a cure for cancer…Her research won her state-wide prizes and offers of prestigious scholarships. It also brought her into contact with Dr. Alton Ochsner, head of the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. Unknown to Baker, Ochsner was working with the CIA on a plan to kill Castro. The plan was to develop a "galloping" cancer virus that would kill its victim within weeks. Under the guise of medical treatment, it would be injected into Castro.”

Stearns goes on to tell what happened to Judyth and Lee in New Orleans and beyond, involving David Ferrie, Dr, Mary Sherman, and Jack Ruby:

http://www.henrymakow.com/she_and_lee_the_oswald_we_neve.html ).

“...he and Judyth would marry and live in Mexico once all this was over,” Stearns writes,” but it was a forlorn hope. Oswald said he could not leave yet; he had to go on, in the hope that he could protect the President.

The rest is history. It's possible that Oswald was able to thwart an assassination planned to take place in Chicago, but in Dallas the story was different. When Kennedy was killed, Oswald was arrested almost immediately.

Denied a lawyer, held incommunicado except when he was moved from one location to another, he was shot by Ruby, the friend he had known since he was a boy. He was the first person to die live on TV. Judyth was watching….A few months later, Dr. Mary Sherman was brutally murdered in her apartment…Shortly after Jack Ruby won an appeal for a retrial, he came down with cancer. He said he had recently been injected with something by the prison doctor. He was dead within weeks. The next month -- just days after Jim Garrison's investigation was announced in the New Orleans papers -- Ferrie was found dead in his apartment. Also found were two different suicide notes, both typed, both unsigned.”

Stearns concludes,

”Her book, which is exhaustively documented and filled with fascinating detail, is unsparingly honest about herself and free of rancor or blame. She now lives (some say) somewhere in Scandinavia. The world has been turned upside down. Good men are called assassins and murdered while the real assassins bask in glory.”

Martha Rose Crow:

Jim Marrs, whose book CROSSFIRE was a basis for Oliver Stone’s movie "JFK", wrote the afterword to Judyth’s book ME & LEE:

“Could it be true? I pondered. How could a 19-year-old college student have been dragged into a covert operation to develop a cancerous biological weapon? And if she had, how did this involve Lee Harvey Oswald, who was officially supposed to be a lone nut and a Communist who dreamed of living in Cuba?”
Marrs, who studied Judyth’s case over a period of a decade, asks,
“Can we ever learn the truth? Yes, by studying the wide array of information now available, thinking for ourselves, and listening to the impassioned, unflinching voice of Judyth Vary Baker.”

Judyth Vary Baker:

I have to live in undisclosed locations. Why? here’s an example: The History Channel, in their current Internet film “Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theorists” says I ‘claimed’ to have helped a top secret CIA team create AIDS! Now, who can walk safely down the street with that kind of lie hanging over them?”

Dr. James Fetzer:

This production, like many others—“Another Attempted Reenactment of the Death of JFK” (with David W. Mantik), “Death in Dealey Plaza”, and “Spectacular Disinformation: ABC’s Simulation” ignores the facts that the “magic” bullet theory is not only false but not even anatomically possible, that the Mannlicher-Carcano could not have fired the bullets that killed JFK, and that he was not even on the 6th floor at the time of the shooting, as I have explained in “Dealey Plaza Revisited: What Happened to JFK?” So take what you see here with a considerable grain of salt, since it is intended to discredit Judyth’s story, which is true, by surrounding it with unfounded theories and distorting Jim Garrison’s investigation, which would probably have resulted in a conviction but for the untimely deaths of key witnesses:



At this point in the article, Martha Rose Crow had inserted “I want to talk about our death threats. Get me a copy of the Jim Fetzer Interview, to back us up.” Dr. Fetzer had received the first death threat in twenty years of exposing controversy and cover-up in the Kennedy assassination. The death threat arrived just after he created a blog for Judyth. Fetzer, when told of Martha’s death, said “The blog will stay up.”

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Martha Rose Crow:

Baker says she regularly receives death threats. When Dr. James Fetzer interviewed her in February [2010] on “The Real Deal” in a rare, live session, Fetzer said,

" … one of the most convincing aspects of your life story in relation to with your association with Lee Oswald is the massive harassment to which you have been subjected. It’s been a veritable horror story."

JVB: "Yeah, it's been real fun."

JF: "’It’s been real fun!’ [laughing]. In fact, you've had to live in one country after another. Weird accidents and attempts have been made on your life. And I must tell you [that] to me, it was astonishing that, when I put up your blog, I received the first death threat I have ever received in about 20 years of doing research on JFK. It wasn't directly mentioning you but, I take it …"

JVB: "No, they wouldn't want to do that."

JF: "That would be too obvious, huh?"



In 2003 The History Channel aired a documentary about Judyth Vary Baker’s life story called “The Love Affair.” It was quickly banned along with the two other new documentaries in the popular series The Men Who Killed Kennedy. No less lights than Lyndon Johnson’s widow, two former presidents (Carter and Ford), Jack Valenti and Disney’s head honcho Eisner threatened lawsuits. However, the banned documentaries, including “The Love Affair,” are posted –and sometimes quickly removed --on YouTube.

Baker says she could have become wealthy simply by saying “Oswald did it.”

“But he was innocent,” she says, “and the world is finding that out, even though it means I lost my teaching career, my doctoral degree, and just about everything I had. There are people who hate me for speaking out.”

Judyth Vary Baker:

But I have wonderful friends and supporters. Without their help, I wouldn’t be safe. This Christmas I was sent a romantic “Me and Lee” ornament, with the words ‘True Love.’ Those who know me best know that’s the bottom line. I loved Lee Oswald, and he loved me. And I will continue fighting to clear his name.”

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True Love Pendant


As stated above, Martha created the outline of this article for the woman she called “my best friend!” in February, 2010, just prior to her sudden and suspicious death on March 1st. Everyone was shocked. One friend wrote:
I had read a number of Martha's articles and found them to be spot on when it came to understanding the world and pathocracy. When I saw the news of her death I looked back and reread some of her articles just to see if there was anything I missed. She definitely had an awareness beyond many writers I've read. I remember she had a short bio on OpEdNews....

Other comments: “…sadly another bright light in the darkness has been extinguished. My condolences to her family… and all who were touched by her efforts on behalf of humanity.” One comment struck home: “This borders on unbelievable. I'm at a loss for words.”

The same day Martha died, she wrote this email to a publisher and close friend:

Subject: Chapter 12 is going to be a couple days late
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2010 07:07:40 -0800 (PST)
From: Martha Rose Crow

Judyth and I are under harsh attack. Our yahoo email accounts were hacked this weekend (mine longer than hers), her computer got hacked real bad last night (some people came over to help her and stayed up with her all night until it got fixed), she got a terrible death threat…[details of threat removed]….one of her big and famous supporters also got a terrible death threat, youtube took a video of her off minutes after it was posted and on and on...”
After Martha’s Sudden Death

Judyth Vary Baker:

I posted on SCRIBD some of the circumstances surrounding Martha Rose Crow’s sudden death:

I write this in memory of Martha Rose Crow who, with myself, received a death threat a few days before she died, when, in her early fifties, she suddenly collapsed due to a “heart attack” though she’ d never had any heart problems. She died soon after posting that I was her ‘best friend´ and had placed my website address and the book cover of Me & Lee on all her blogs. [They are still there] She had never previously received any death threats in Europe, where she had been living in exile for over eight years.

Her death occurred not long after Jim Fetzer interviewed me by telephone and subsequently receiving his first-ever death threat (concerning his 9/11 activities) after doing so. When I went to London later to complete several YouTube interviews for Dr. Fetzer there, I was seriously harassed at the airport, both coming and going. In addition, several important items were stolen from my possession, and a few other events occurred that, should I repeat them, might not be believed.”

Martha’s body was cremated against her family’s wishes and before they could arrive from America to order a full autopsy. Police did open a case, but with only ashes to analyze, could do little.” Under ordinary circumstances, I would not have sent an article promoting my book, but these are not ordinary circumstances. Martha Rose Crow wrote portions of the article as it now appears, and created an outline for the rest of it. Dr. James Fetzer has supplemented the article with his own insightful comments, offering additional information for anyone who wants to learn more about the root causes of the problems in our country.

For Martha, the threats are now over. Thank God, she can rest in peace. We who knew and loved her will never forget her cheery “Hey!” -- her overwhelming kindness -- her dedication to peace, justice and truth. She was not afraid to do research into topics as varied as aliens, illegal torture by the US, and political ponerology. I know she is watching from heaven and understands why I will never give up the fight for justice for Lee Harvey Oswald. More than most, she knows the price that is paid for the sake of true love.

Martha Rose Crow’s official website is here: http://www.martharosecrow.com/
Also see: http://hiddenmurder.blogspot.com/2006/09/americas-darkest-secret.html

Martha foresaw the economic crash and hard times across America and Europe; she reported on the early deaths of baby boomers, was concerned about FEMA camps, and deplored the torture of Iraqi prisoners. She educated people about Big Pharma and publicized problems with contaminated modern vaccines etc. long before they reached mainstream news. She was the enemy of darkness and evil.

Martha’s OpEdNews biography: http://www.opednews.com/author/author15624.html

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Misadventures of Kevin Ryan

The Misadventures of Kevin Ryan

Jim Fetzer

In what has to be one of the more bizarre twists of fate in relation to the 9/11 truth movement, Kevin Ryan, whom I have admired in the past, has attacked me for criticizing an article by Robert Parry in “9/11 Truth is No ‘Parlor Game’.”  Ryan had already expressed his displeasure that I had responded to Parry’s trivialization of the truth movement in a thread on the bloggerbrigade and was apparently taken aback when some of those on the thread responded negatively to his assault on me.  When I was invited to reply and exposed certain shortcomings in his false and defamatory attacks, he left the thread saying that he was going to “write it up”.  His latest blog is the outcome.

Alas, this blog illustrates the worst tendencies in the 9/11 truth movement.  Kevin criticizes me for trivialities, including a couple of typos.  He attacks my JFK research, which he does not know, and assails me for trespassing into terrain that is “off limits” to the members of his clique. He pretends to understand a subtle debate between two professional philosophers over the meaning of the word “information”, which drives him to absurd claims over a dispute where he hasn’t a clue.  To guard against public criticism, he has “closed” the comments on his blog before any could be posted. He shows that dogmas are not restricted to religious groups but can be embraced by 9/11 societies.

My Background

As it happens, I am the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a former Marine Corps officer, a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton and a Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science.  I have done a lot of research on the assassination of JFK as well as on 9/11, where I edited the first book from Scholars, THE 9/11 CONSPIRACY (2007), organized and moderated its first conference, “The Science and Politics of 9/11: What’s Controversial, What’s Not”, and produced its first DVD.  These events have proven to be expensive, however, where I lost about $10,000 on the Madison meeting, which was blackballed by Ryan, even though I had invited both him and Steve Jones to be speakers.

I have participated in hundreds of interviews about 9/11 on radio and television, including a 3.5 hour appearance on television in Athens in December 2006, which was broadcast worldwide by satellite, speaking in New York in 2006 and in 2007, traveling to Buenos Aires for 9/11 presentations in 2008 and 2009, and organizing a London symposium on “Debunking the ‘War on Terror’” just this past summer.  But, none of that matters to Kevin Ryan, who insinuates that I have an agenda to spread false information about 9/11, which is apparently based, at least in part, on his misunderstanding of a philosophical disagreement. This means that, when he attacks me, the truth simply doesn’t count.

Ryan’s Attack

Since Parry was condemning the 9/11 truth movement, while I was defending it, that Ryan should attack me for doing so is most peculiar.  Acknowledging that mine is the only response to Parry that has been published he says I “did not contribute to any of the research he claims as ‘our research’, and apparently cannot even spell Parry’s name or the name of the company that I worked for in his continued efforts to spread false information.  The article also makes wild assertions that are not supported by evidence, such as–“…every claim the government has made about 9/11 is false.”  I took a look to figure out what he was talking about and found that they were either trivial or false.

The name “Parry” appears nine or ten times in the article, and in one instance, I had it as “Perry”.   I had also referred to Kevin Ryan’s former place of employment, as “Underwriters Laboratory”, where, strictly speaking, it is “Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.”  I was curious about his allegation that I had made a “wild assertion” in saying that, “… every claim the government as has made about 9/11 is false”. When I took a closer look, I discovered that he replaced the word “virtually” with “…”, which is not the act of an honest critic.  Indeed, since my rebuttal is devoted to elaborating major falsehoods advanced by the government, based upon research by the members of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and previous research, as I observe in “Why doubt 9/11?”, what’s wrong with calling it “our research”?

My JFK Research

Kevin was not satisfied to trash me for trivialities but also claims that, when I founded Scholars in 2005, I was “known for some dubious contributions to the JFK assassination research community”.  What he has in mind is beyond me.  To the best of my knowledge, Kevin Ryan knows nothing about the death of JFK, where I organized a research group consisting of the best-qualified individuals to ever study the case in late 1992.  We have discovered that the autopsy X-rays were altered, that another brain was substituted for JFK’s and that a home movie known as “the Zapruder film” was extensively edited.  I have published these findings in three edited books, which Vincent Bugliosi, who defends the lone gunman theory, has described as “the only three exclusively scientific books” on the JFK assassination.  Our work has been encompassing and of exceptional scientific significance.

As an indication that others do not share Kevin Ryan’s dismal assessment of our work, MURDER IN DEALEY PLAZA (2000), which has chapters from nine contributors, was reviewed by George Costello for THE FEDERAL LAWYER, a professional journal for attorneys who work for the federal government, who practice before federal agencies, or who appear in federal courts.  His take, which you can read for yourself, is decidedly at odds with Kevin’s dismissal as “dubious contributions”.  He concludes,

It is time for people of integrity who were involved in the official investigations -- especially the professionals -- to take a good-faith look at the new evidence and confront the likelihood that their conclusions were based on falsified data.  Murder in Dealey Plaza may not be the last word on the medical evidence, but it should be the starting point for a fresh look -- not only at the medical evidence, but also at the assassination and its implications.
Costello would later write to me that he had even received an award of recognition for his review. But what I do not understand is why Kevin Ryan would hazard opinions about research on a topic that, if anything, may be even more complex and convoluted than research on 9/11.  That does not strike me as a responsible approach for someone who wants to be taken seriously, especially when I have been pioneering the application of scientific reasoning to controversial political events like these.

My 9/11 Research

Some of my most recent JFK articles are “US Government Official: JFK Cover-Up, Film Fabrication”, “Forrest Gump on the grassy knoll”, and “Who’s telling the truth: Clint Hill or the Zapruder film?” As in the case of my JFK research, which has focused on its most challenging aspects, especially with respect to separating authentic from inauthentic evidence, my research on 9/11 has focused on the most challenging aspects of that case, too. Thus, I have studied what happened at the Pentagon, the causal mechanisms by which the Twin Towers were destroyed, and the possible use of video fakery in New York. My research has included “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon”, “An Analysis of the WTC on 9/11”, and “New Proof of Video Fakery on 9/11”.  It is common knowledge Kevin Ryan’s society, Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, shuns those who, like me, study the Pentagon and video fakery.

Even though Pilots for 9/11 Truth has concluded that the FDR data it obtained from the NTSB shows that a plane flew toward the Pentagon on a different trajectory and too high to have hit any of the lampposts and, rather than crashing into the building, swerved over it—for which there is a great deal of evidence—Kevin Ryan and his friends are intolerant of anyone who suggests that no plane hit the Pentagon.  Indeed, there is also no evidence that a plane crashed in a field in Shanksville.  Even though Elias Davidsson has shown the government has never proven the hijackers were aboard any of those planes and David Ray Griffin has established that all of the alleged phone calls were faked, Kevin’s society refuses to even consider questions they raise for the prospect of “phantom flights”.

The Scholars Breakup

Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice not only proscribes the study of video fakery (or “no planes”) but it also insists that thermite in one or another of its forms is the crucial ingredient for explaining the demolition of the Twin Towers.  I am sure that Kevin took a dim view of my agreement with Parry on the point that thermite does not seem promising as an explanation of the demolition of the Twin Towers for the reason that it is an incendiary, not an explosive.  For thermite to be explosive, it has to be combined with explosives, where the same could be said of toothpaste.  That has long been my opinion, which is no secret within the 9/11 research community. I have given critiques of his theory during 9/11 conferences as well as elsewhere, such as “The Manipulation of the 9/11 Community”.

It was my growing conviction that thermite was most unlikely to be able to provide an explanation for the destruction of the Twin Towers that was behind the separation of Scholars at the end of 2006 and the creation of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, which entailed corrupt activities by those trying to wrest the control of Scholars from me, including the misrepresentation of my views, which continues to this day, but also by conducting a phony poll of the members while feigning to be the “membership administrator” and freezing our original web site at st911.org, even though I had been responsible for posting every item that ever appeared there, which forced me to create a new web site at 911scholars.org, where the history of these events has been archived on Scholars home page.

Kevin’s Distortions

Kevin claims, for example, that, less than one year after founding the society, “just before the 5th anniversary of the attacks” when media attention was at its peak, “Fetzer began speaking publicly about space beams destroying the WTC and other such nonsense”.  He also faults me for a radio interview with Judy Wood, Ph.D., which occurred on 11 November 2006 when I was about to speak in Tucson.  With her degrees in structural engineering, applied physics, and materials engineering science, I regard Judy as among the best qualified students of 9/11 in the world today.  A former professor of mechanical engineering, she introduced her theory that directed energy weapons may have been employed on 9/11 during during our conversation on the radio.  I found her conjecture fascinating because it opens an unconventional approach toward understanding the events of 9/11. 

Since 11 November is two months after 11 September, I have no idea where Kevin comes up with this stuff, but factual accuracy does not appear to be an important desideratum for him. I do not know to this day whether Wood is right, but her web site (at http://drjudywood.com) sets a high standard in accumulating evidence about the data that an adequate theory would have to explain, including the conversion of the Twin Towers into millions of cubic yards of very fine dust, the peculiar kinds of damage that were sustained by WTC-3, WTC-4, WTC-5, and WTC-6, and the oddity of the “toasted cars”.  While I have advocated the study of DEWs—along with nukes, lasers, masers, and plasmoids—I have not endorsed them because we still do not know how it was done.  And I should add that Kevin and his colleagues are certainly not in the position to know that Judy Wood is wrong.  

The Exchange

What set him off in composing this blog appears evident from what occurred on a discussion thread between January 26th and 28th 2011.  Kevin began by expressing dismay over my article criticizing Robert Parry by remarking, “Oh God, not Fetzer again.” He was immediately countered by Ben Collet, who replied, “Kevin Ryan’s reputation as a scientifically-minded 9/11 activist has, unfortunately, taken a big hit with this snide comment about one of the most important voices in the 9/11 truth movement.”  Not to be outdone, Kevin responded with a partial transcript of my interview from 11 November 2006 in which I expressed fascination with Judy’s theory. He was again countered by Ben:

Ryan's citation of this four year old interview demonstrates only that Dr. Fetzer starts with the appropriate attitude of the truth-seeker who is employing the scientific method.  That is he exhibits curiosity and openness to a new idea.  Nowhere does he say Judy Wood is correct, he simply evinces an honest curiosity to hear her views.  This is the true scientific approach. Unfortunately others who do not have Dr. Fetzer's familiarity with the scientific method think it is enough to denounce unpopular views as heretical without even listening to them. Dr Fetzer has a PhD in the philosophy of the scientific method.

Kevin’s Defense

Kevin responded by offering an exaggerated version of my position, which makes it easier to attack, and ridiculed him for supporting me: "Ben"s support for Fetzer's claim that space beams destroying the WTC is "the most fascinating development in the history of the study of 9/11" is interesting.

"Oh Really?? Oh ho ho ho ho! Oh Ben. Oh my oh my oh my oh my. This is huge ... this is huge Ben.

He added, “See attached for an article on the value of false information, written by Fetzer and presented in a conference one month before 9/11/01.  Fetzer doesn't have any peer-review scientific articles on the attacks of 9/11.  But he does know the value of false information.”

Ben replied, Kevin Ryan misrepresents Dr. Fetzer's position.  Fetzer never has said he supports "space beams", only that he supports the study of space beams and other theories of how it was done. This is the appropriate attitude to take until we figure out the actual method used. . . . In writing, "9/11 Truth is No Parlor Game", Dr. Fetzer is defending the 9/11 movement against an attack from a widely admired investigative journalist, Robert Parry.  It is unfortunate that Ryan feels compelled to belittle and misrepresent the person who has so ably defended the truth against Parry's lies.

Another Response

While I am sure he was not pleased with Ben Collet’s comments, I imagine that another response from mlkjeldsen was even less warmly received, since it cut to the core of his attack upon my article:


I do not mean to attack you, because I consider your actions to be heroic and your tenacity inspiring.  But I have two questions.

Number one, after going back and reading Jim’s piece a second time, I found nothing to be untrue or disinformative.  I found it to be a quality refutation of a piece of garbage written by a scoundrel.  Did you find any flaws?

Number two, our phony president, while addressing the phony congress and the rest of the phony government actually made a joke about the sexual assault that the TSA carries out against us everyday.  There are blimps surveilling us.  The country is divided into ten FEMA regions. The economy is being collapsed on purpose. The noose is being tightened around our collective neck.  How does, let’s be honest, attacking Jim Fetzer help us to reach the critical mass of informed citizens that we need to hold off this tyranny?  This is a war of government against freedom, plain and simple. He, like you and I, is reaching people with this message—is he not?

Kevin’s response was almost guttural: 

He has been reaching people with space beams and holograms and false information for many years.  Please don't promote it.  It is the problem.

To which he would subsequently add:

The most influential article relating to this topic that he wrote is the paper on the value of false information, which Fetzer presented at a conference in August 2001.  Why would an expert on false information, who has made no serious contributions to the truth movement, be seen as worthy of our attention let alone be welcomed as a champion of truth?

Thank you, Ben and Mike, for reminding me of the power that false information still has in the 9/11 truth movement.  I will turn my attention to this problem again, and write it up.

Kevin’s Misconceptions

As I have already explained, I have not been endorsing “space beams” or “holograms” but promoting their study.  The hologram hypothesis to explain the video fakery in the footage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower—where the plane is traveling at an impossible speed, entering the building in clear violation of Newton’s laws, and passes through its own length into the building in the same number of frames it takes to pass through its own length in air—is one of at least three possibilities, where the other two are the use of computer-generated images or the use of video compositing.  Unless you have studied the issues involved here, it may sound a bit far-out.  But how are we going to understand “the pivotal event of the 21st century” if we are not allowed to study the evidence and explore alternative explanations?  Kevin’s attitude is not only unscientific but is virtually illiterate.

The hardest part of scientific inquiry—which involves stages of PUZZLEMENT, SPECULATION, ADAPTATION (of hypotheses to evidence) and EXPLANATION—is figuring out all of the possible alternative explanations.  Premature closure at this stage (by excluding hypotheses that seem too unusual, unconventional, or politically incorrect) can consign an investigation to failure by excluding the true hypothesis for consideration on inappropriate grounds.  That, in my opinion, has been the case with Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice with regard to the possible use of directed energy weapons or the possible use of sophisticated technology to create images of a plane that isn’t really there—as the absence of strobe lights above and below the fuselage and on its wingtips implies.  But the most bewildering aspect of Kevin’s assault concerns his attacks upon me for  (what he claims to be) the use of false information, which is a massive confusion.

False Information.

The differences between me and Professor Floridi concern whether or not truth is a condition for something  (reports, photos, evidence) to qualify as “information”.  In other words, we are engaged in a classic philosophical debate over how a word should best be understood in order to clarify and illuminate its use within various contexts in which it might occur.  He maintains that, for something to qualify as “information”, it has to be true, which I deny.  I argue that, for every assertion, there is a denial, where we can be presented with those assertions from alternative sources.  As I see it, we are being presented with information and have to figure out which is true and which is not.  According to Floridi, however, we would not even know if one other the other of these assertions were “information” unless we knew that it was true.

As it happens, I have published two papers, one on this question and another on the nature of misinformation and of disinformation.  I argue that misinformation is information that is false, where disinformation occurs from the deliberate dissemination of false information with the intention to deceive or mislead an audience.   Think how awkward it is to even talk about “false information” if you have presupposed that, to qualify as information, it has to be true.  This is another reason for rejecting Floridi’s approach.  It creates very awkward—even incoherent—uses of language in talking about false information, if that means talking about the falsity of what we have already implied is true merely by calling it “information”.  So I think Floridi’s approach has no merit and have offered my reasons for holding that position in these articles:

"Information: Does it Have to be True?", Minds and Machines 14/2 (May 2004), pp. 223-229.
"Disinformation: The Use of False Information", Minds and Machines 14/2 (May 2004), pp. 231-240.

Kevin’s Confusion

Imagine my astonishment when I read in Kevin’s blog that, “In this paper, Fetzer argues that false information (including disinformation) is just as meaningful as true information, implying that false information has just as much value as true information.”  He further maintains that, according to Fetzer and his colleagues, “spreading and using false information (more precisely, misinformation, if the source is unaware of its falsity, or disinformation, if the source is aware and uses/spreads it on purpose, precisely because it is false) is perfectly fine and acceptable”! I must say that in my entire adult life I have never read such drivel, which has no basis in my work other than drawing a distinction between information, misinformation and disinformation. We are dealing with a man who has a diminished capacity for drawing conceptual distinctions.

To say that information, misinformation and disinformation are “equally meaningful” does not mean “that false information has just as much value as true information”!  No one in their right mind would make such a claim.  The point about meaning is that I define “information” as meaningful data, where the meaningfulness of data is not a function of its truth.  If we are told my one source, “It is going to rain”, and by another, “It is not going to rain”, they cannot both be true but they are both meaningful!  The problem that we confront in every area of inquiry is to sort out the claims that are both meaningful and true from those that are instead meaningful but false.  Truth itself can even be defined as beliefs that provide us appropriate guidance for actions in the world, where, when our beliefs are true, actions based upon them are more likely to be successful than if they are false.  Their value is enormously different!

What’s the Deal?

In this blog, Kevin Ryan asserts that, “This paper challenged the work of a professor at Oxford University by the name of [Luciano] Floridi, who like most honest people, contends that, since information is data that changes what we do, only true information that helps us respond to our world accurately and effectively has value.”  He then contends that, “When contacted by 9/11 researchers who suspected Fetzer of being a propenent and purveyor of false information, Floridi confirmed that Fetzer was effectively arguing for the use of false information.  Floridi responded that the arguments of Fetzer and his colleagues suggest that – “spreading and using false information (more precisely, misinformation, if the source is unaware of its falsity, or disinformation, if the source is aware and uses/spreads it on purpose, precisely because it is false) is perfectly fine and acceptable”.  But there is no reason Floridi would make such claims.

That Kevin Ryan did not know his first name, Luciano, suggested to me that this was a false report.  In spite of our philosophical disagreement, Luciano and I are friends, so I wrote him to ask if he had made such a claim to 9/11 researchers.  He replied that, “I'm afraid I had not recollection of being contacted by any 9/11 researcher, but before writing to you I wanted to check my computer. It also does not have any recollection. So I might be wrong (it happens more often than I like to think), and my computer might be wrong (but it is a beautiful new iMac after all), but it seems more plausible to think that there was no contact at all. I do answer tens of emails a day, so who knows, but I would remember, I think, and there should be a trace in my mail, at least of my reply. But nothing, no biological or artificial memory of any of this.” So it may be that one of us—deliberately or not—really is trading in false information.

Bringing It Home

On the basis of a gross misunderstanding of my position, Kevin contends, “Facts and evidence indicate that the use of false information to derail the 9/11 truth movement is a reality despite the inability of leading 9/11 researchers to admit such a possibility.  With unsubstantiated claims of space beams, video fakery and holograms, Fetzer and his colleagues have taken advantage of the fact that many Americans are scientifically illiterate.  These evil parlor games give influential professionals like Robert Parry, who are already psychologically challenged and fearful of the topic, additional reasons to ignore all the evidence and spout off about the issues with little or no understanding.”  Which is especially ironic, since, in this very blog, Kevin Ryan is spouting off about me and my positions, even philosophical ones, with little or no understanding. And nothing would give me greater pleasure than to discuss these things in a public forum.  I therefore extend an invitation—a challenge, if you like—to debate these issues over the radio.

Once again, we see that Kevin wholly ignores the difference between STUDYING A POSITION and ADVOCATING A POSITION.  I do not know how the Twin Towers were destroyed, but I do know that Judy Wood has advanced an interesting hypothesis.  I don’t know if holograms were used to perpetrate video fakery, but I do know that the weight of the evidence supports it. And I have no doubt at all that no Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon, for which there is abundant and compelling evidence.  But don’t ask Kevin Ryan, because he won’t even consider them. How, I have to ask, could I be dedicating my life to sorting out the differences between authentic and inauthentic evidence regarding JFK and 9/11 were I not profoundly committed to discovering the truth?  And why would I even care, if I held the absurd views that Kevin attributes to me? As a philosopher, I care about truth. As a former Marine Corps officer, I care about my country. And, as a philosopher of science, I know that scientific investigations are our most reliable means for discovering truth.  One of us has lost his way and is betraying the movement, but it isn’t me.

Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer who earned his Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science, is McKnight Professor Emeritus on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. He co-edits assassinationresearch.com with John P. Costella and is, most recently, the editor of THE PLACE OF PROBABILITY IN SCIENCE, his 29th book.