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"An open letter to Lance Payette" (that would be moi)


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Greg Parker recently posted "An Open Letter to Lance Payette" on the ROKC site, http://reopenkennedycase.forumotion.net/t2075-an-open-letter-to-lance-payette, which I happened upon this morning as I was Googling my own name in an effort to find an article I had written many years ago.  Greg invited me to respond at ROKC, but I really don't want to expand my JFK involvement.  I hope it's OK to respond here.  If not, I will not be offended if the administrators delete this thread.

First of all, Greg, I am unworthy of an open letter.  I do not pretend to be or aspire to be the New DVP.  I am frankly astonished that I have dived into the assassination to the level that I have, which is by no means the level of DVP or yourself.  I respect your efforts and, as you know, have purchased your books.

Anyway, Greg's challenge to me was as follows (some links have been omitted):

I once admired your even-handedness. What happened to that? The Lone-Nutters and Tin-Foil Hatters are just opposite sides of the same coin. I think you say a much in a slightly different way, yet you have begun arguing in the same manner, using the same tactics as the Nutters.
Which means that there are some elephants  that you seem to want to step around and avoid. Let me enumerate them.
1. Every suspect is entitled to offer an alibi and to have that alibi investigated in order to have themselves cleared as a suspect if the alibi stands up. Oswald's alibi was not investigated, despite Chief Curry's belated admission that they never could put Oswald on the 6th floor. The alibi was instead, buried and lied about after he was dead.

2. The known record of the Dallas Police and DA's Office in railroading innocent people. This included knowingly sending at least one innocent man to the electric chair. Innocent Project stats show more innocent people sent to prison by Dallas County than in any other jurisdiction in the US. That is one elephant to avoid right there. 
Nevertheless, you maintain confidence in the evidence against Oswald, which includes
3.1 A positive paraffin test for nitrates on the hands. Hands which seconds earlier had been pressed onto an inkless pad to obtain palm-prints - an inkless pad that contained nitrates.

Here is where you tell me that the paraffin tests were useless and I reply "no, they were not. The cops used them to try and scare suspects into confessing and this case, to also try Oswald through the media."  
3.2 A bunch of evidence with no, or only a partial, provable chain of possession, This includes the so-called Magic Bullet - as luck would have it, a critical find since the recovered bullet fragments were too small for matching. 

3.3 The wackiest bunch of witnesses since Jehovah was seen walking on water - including a bus driver who thought he was there to ID someone else; a cab driver who had Oswald wearing about 4 layers of clothing and who swore he could tell all he needed to know about person by looking at them - and swearing before the commission that his passenger was a drunk; an hysteric related to members of Barrow gang; Howard Brennan who would later call himself God's Eyewitness to History or some such crap and who initially refused to ID Oswald; a cop who couldn't tell what floor he was on or whether he was on the stairs or in a lunchroom and a housekeeper who was described by her employer as a habitual teller of tall tales.
4. Another elephant you've avoided is that while no one claimed to see Oswald on the steps, likewise no one claimed to see Joe Molina (who was in a more prominent spot and was there longer) or any of the African-American employees. I guess some people are just naturally invisible. 
Lance, a critical part of building a case is creating a timeline that puts your suspect at the scene with the means to have committed the crime. The cops had such a timeline in all 24 cases in the above linked exonerations. These were therefore all false timelines. Think about that, and consider it in relation to how the timeline with Oswald can be accepted with any confidence, given what I have laid out here.

To which I now humbly respond:

To some extent, I will plead guilty to losing my “even-handedness” just as I previously lost my "gee-whiz conspiracy theorist-ness."  As I have increased my exposure to the Conspiracy Game, I have indeed lost my patience with it.  Much of what passes for discussion is flat-out insanity that anyone who lives in the real world, be he Lone Nutter or CTer, should recognize in an instant.  Yet no one ever gets called out, at least here.  No one ever says “That’s crazy, Bubba, you’re just embarrassing yourself and the legitimate research community.”  Every conceivable ad hominem is immediately leveled at anyone who even hints at a Lone Assassin perspective, yet every Bubba sails along unscathed, spouting his lunacy.  Staged, faked, fabricated, altered, lying, intimidated, murdered, crazy, yada yada yada.

I happen to think the conspiracy community is its own worst enemy, by far.  Fifty-six years after the assassination, surely a consensus on a single plausible theory should have emerged.  Surely research should be focused on that theory and nonsense should no longer be tolerated.  But no, the theories and suspects just keep coming and being entertained as though they were worthy.  If I were to guess at what disinformation and "cognitive infiltration" might actually look like, the JFK conspiracy community would be my Exhibit A.  And the suspects wouldn't be people like me or the Lone Nutters - quite the opposite.

I have total disdain for that aspect of the Conspiracy Game whereby every public servant, every garden-variety employee, every housewife and mother is fair game for the most dark, sinister and scurrilous sort of character assassination and defamation, entirely without regard to reality.  It’s the Conspiracy Game at its lowest, and that’s pretty damn low.  These were real people, some of them still living, with distinguished careers, solid reputations and loving families.  But they are all just fodder for the Conspiracy Game.  Tweak the ego of some Conspiracy Game huckster, however, and he squeals like a stuck pig.

I do not ignore the elephants you suggest I ignore.  Was there a rush to judgment (if you want to call it that)?  Sure.  The evidence pretty well screamed Oswald’s guilt; I don’t believe there was ever any serious consideration of his alibi.  Oswald was dead, so any concern about a trial was gone.  A more probing investigation would have left the bumbling Keystone Cops of the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and DPD with even more egg on their faces than they now have.  There probably was also an understandable fear that probing too deeply might inflame public sentiment against the Soviets and/or Castro to a degree that the administration didn’t want.  In short, what strikes conspiracy theorists as “dark and sinister” strikes me as pretty understandable and easily explainable under the circumstances.

Am I “using the same tactics” as the Lone Nutters (by which I, and presumably you, mean someone who is vehemently close-minded to any possibility that LHO didn’t act entirely alone)?  The Lone Assassin explanation is the verdict of history, reached by multiple commissions, investigators and historians with a far greater depth of knowledge than mine.  The fact that the conspiracy community can’t even agree on a theory, and indeed entertains so many different and utterly inconsistent theories that it’s head-spinning, speaks volumes.  Of course anyone who attempts to bring the Lone Assassin perspective is going to be saying largely the same things as the Lone Nutters.  My primary “tactic” is to attempt to introduce some logic and common sense into the wild-eyed speculation that characterizes the Conspiracy Game.

My Lone Assassin perspective and my willingness to discount the elephants you highlight is based on the following:

1.  I believe we have a very solid understanding of who LHO actually was, what the trajectory of his life actually was, and what motivated him at the various stages of his life up to and including the assassination.  He was no international man of mystery.  He was no KGB or CIA operative.  He was no “Harvey” to some counterpart dubbed “Lee.”  He was not the cardboard figure inserted awkwardly into every conspiracy theory simply because the theorist has to do something with him.  He was, in fact, right out of central casting to become the lone assassin he became.

2.  I understand and appreciate that in the context of a Presidential assassination during a public parade at high noon, or the sudden murder of a police officer on a public street in broad daylight on the same day, chaos will reign.  It will reign on the part of those who witness the events and those who investigate them.  Well-meaning individuals will make preposterous errors and claim to have seen things they obviously didn’t see.  Wannabes will come out of the woodwork and muck things up even further.  As the years roll by, stories will change and typically get “better,” often at the prompting of agenda-driven “researchers.”  Most of the “smoking guns” that fuel the Conspiracy Game thus just roll off my back.  The "contradictions," "lies" and "fabrications" are more accurately described as "precisely what you always get in the context of a sudden, hugely traumatic event."

3.  From LHO's return to America, and especially from his ride to Irving with Frazier to his arrest in the Texas Theater, I believe we have an exceptionally solid timeline pointing to his guilt.  Sure, we do not have a reliable witness or other evidence that can place his body unequivocally on the sixth floor at the time the shots were fired.  Sure, a defense attorney would attempt to poke holes in that timeline - that's what defense attorneys do, to a degree that is often quite comical.  (The conspiracy community is little more than a large body of LHO defense attorneys, which has always puzzled me and caused me to believe that the agenda is something more than "determining the truth about the assassination.")  But I have seen nothing that really dents what I believe to be exceptionally solid evidence of guilt.

4.  With a nod to Larry Hancock, I acknowledge the existence of what can reasonably be called a cover-up conspiracy.  Nothing like body alterations, Zapruder alterations, fake autopsy photos and that sort of stuff but simply some pretty significant CYA scrambling on the part of the CIA, FBI, Secret Service, DPD and others.  But I don’t believe the post-assassination cover-up had anything whatsoever to do with the assassination per se.  It is, as lawyers like to say, a red herring - and one of the principal areas in which Conspiracy Game enthusiasts embarrass themselves and legitimate research.

I simply approach the assassination as I do any other subject in which I have an interest: analytically, doing my best to apply logic and common sense to what seems to me to be the best evidence.  If and when a true, no-question-about-it bombshell comes to light, I will cheerfully alter my position.  Show me a clear photo of LHO standing on the TSBD steps at the time of the assassination and I will leap for joy.  But I am no longer interested in bogging down my life in the endless minutiae and speculation that characterize the Conspiracy Game.


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I will add that I'm slightly confused by the repeated references to poor Joe Molina, as though this somehow bolsters Oswald as Prayer Person.  The beloved Vickie Adams (is she a candidate for conspiracy sainthood yet?) testified she spoke to him immediately after the assassination, Geneva Hine saw him come into the building with precisely the people he testified he was standing near, and he appears in Altgen 6 and the Wegman and Darnell films standing precisely where he said he was standing.  Pauline Sanders' FBI statement doesn't say anything about standing or seeing anyone - it simply doesn't address the topic - and she didn't testify to the WC.  Pretty much ditto for Otis Williams, who told the FBI he didn't remember who was standing on either side of him and likewise didn't testify to the WC.

True, no one specifically said he or she saw Joe Molina on the TSBD steps.  But there is no question Molina was in fact standing on the TSBD steps.  I am lost as to what sort of logic regards this as bolstering the notion that the blurry blob in the corner might be Oswald.  All it really shows is that "not everyone who claimed to be in the vicinity of the TSBD front entrance at the time of the assassination was recalled by those who were asked who they recalled being there."

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The argument is that people did not see LHO on the steps. Well the same goes for Joe Molina and Carl Edward Jones. It is more of an association thing... Colour or creed LHO being tagged as a commie and a cop killer now who would associate themselves with that.

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23 hours ago, Bart Kamp said:

The argument is that people did not see LHO on the steps. Well the same goes for Joe Molina and Carl Edward Jones. It is more of an association thing... Colour or creed LHO being tagged as a commie and a cop killer now who would associate themselves with that.

Sure, I understand the point - but it just seems to me to carry no weight.  As I noted above, some people weren't even asked who else they recalled on the steps.  Others like Williams simply didn't recall who was standing right next to them.  My point is, there is rather a wide gulf between (1) "No one mentioned Joe Molina or Carl Edward Jones when asked who they recalled on the steps" and (2) "No one in the entire vicinity came forward screaming 'Lee Harvey Oswald is supposed to be the assassin?  Are you kidding?  I saw him standing on the front steps!'"  This is why the Prayer Person narrative has to become "Well, he just slipped out there unnoticed for a couple of seconds" - the very couple of seconds when the blurry image was conveniently caught on film.  I'll be delighted to see a clear photo some day, but the theory seems to me to pile implausibility upon implausibility past the breaking point.  That doesn't mean it isn't true, but it does exemplify the axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence - in this instance, a clear and unequivocal photo.

I do admire the Prayer Man site, however.  It is one of the most valuable and best-organized resources around.

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Thank you Lance.


Williams and Molina were working together in the accounting dept. Molina, as you are probably aware, got in a bit of a pickle and lost his job. As there were threats coming in from people not buying books from any company harbouring subversives and or commies. The fact that Williams did not mention him at all in any affidavit is telling.

Jones was black, the idea of a white person associating himself with a black person in those days.......hmmmm . Jim Crow laws had only just finished. 

I find the lack of social nuance in this particular investigation rather telling, in the sense that it had no effect whatsoever on the investigation whereas  the opposite rings more true. 

If Oswald was not exposed, so incredibly quick as a commie defector......


And to me the reason why people did not mention Oswald as being on the steps.

He was arrested for killing a cop...who wants to associate himself with that?

Molina and Frazier both got rough treatment from the cops.

Since we have examples of cutting corners by the FBI and DPD it is quite possible that fellow workers at first did mention him as being on the steps but were encouraged not to mention this. 

After Oswald's death....who cares right? Why rock the boat and get the entire law enforcement after you!

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There is nothing improbable in Lee Oswald, if he was not the one who shot the President from the sixth floor window, going out for several tens of seconds. All people but Prayer Man and Mr. Frazier were transfixed on the Triple Underpass, the place where the limousine disappeared and where people were running  in an effort to capture the assassin that could shoot from the Grassy Knoll. They certainly did not try to look upwards in direction of the sixth floor. As the doorway occupants focused all their attention toward Triple Underpass they could miss a person who came out during those tense moments and returned back into the building while they were still engaged in trying to understand what happened. Some reported not seeing who was to their left or right (Otis Williams), some told seeing only one person and being unsure about others (Pauline Sanders), some were not asked at all. During that short time window, Lee Oswald could have come out, only to find out that he was in deep trouble, without being spotted by anyone. That man, Prayer Man, does not behave the same way as other people at all. He stares east about in direction of Records building while the rest of people watch the scene at opposite direction. 

Of course, there is no visual evidence as to how long that unknown man in Darnell continued standing like he stood, however, he was not at his spot in Hughes film.  I have not analysed the timeline of various films that carefully yet, however, it is reasonable to assume that about 45 seconds elapsed between the moments when the Depository doorway is visible in Hughes and the doorway scene in Darnell which itself lasts only about 2 seconds. The absence of visual evidence of Prayer Man's departure from the doorway does not prove but also does not disprove the possibility that he left the doorway right away after Darnell stopped filming.

I do not agree with labeling Prayer Man's figure in Darnell as a blob. One can extract quite a lot of information from that picture if one wishes so and if tools are applied which were not available just several years ago. If one says that Prayer Man is a blob, it is logical not to analyse it further. If one asks what information can possibly be extracted from Darnell scene to learn about Prayer Man and other people in the doorway, the logical continuation is to invest some time and effort into learning as much as possible. That effort may fail, however, it is a worthy effort and an effort which may shed new light on Prayer Man and other people who stood in the doorway during those fateful moments. There is something magic and hypnotic in claiming that extracting information from Darnell film is impossible - it exonerates from investigating those who are not willing to try or know they do not have the capacities. It also sheds quite a damning light on those who actually try because those could only be some weird people who do not know how to waste their time and decided to waste it on a blob. However, one thing I know. If we ever learn with some certainty who Prayer Man was, it will not be thanks to those seeing merely a blob, it will rather be thanks to those who keep searching.

It took Barry Ernest more than 30 years to find Vicki Adams, however, he eventually found her because he never stopped searching. Did he give up, Vicki Adams herself would never come forwards.


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15 hours ago, Andrej Stancak said:

There is nothing improbable in Lee Oswald, if he was not the one who shot the President from the sixth floor window, going out for several tens of seconds.

What I am referring to is:

1.  With all the evidence pointing toward Oswald as the assassin, the Prayer Person thesis is, from the get-go, a massive implausibility - not utterly impossible, certainly, but neither are alien basis on the dark side of the moon.

2.  In order to make PP work, a large number of seemingly ordinary and credible people, such as the 20-year-old Frazier and his sister (and many others), would have to either be part of the conspiracy or knowing accessories after the fact - another massive implausibility and, it seems to me, a classic violation of Ockham's Razor.

3.  In order to make PP work, one would need a convincing explanation as to why Oswald, in his interactions with the press, his appearances at line-ups, his forays within the hallways of the DPD, and his meetings with his wife and brother, never screamed at the top of his lungs "Jesus Christ, I was standing on the front steps - someone must have seen me!!!" - rather implausible, it seems to me.

4.  In order to make PP work, one would need a convincing explanation as to why Oswald undertook his rather extreme series of post-assassination actions, without having any idea as to whether the photographic evidence or eyewitness testimony might provide him with an airtight alibi of having been standing on the front steps - rather implausible, it seems to me.

5.  No one in the vicinity - not just TSBD employees, anyone - ever came forward and said he or she saw the ostensible assassin standing on the steps of the TSBD - a rather substantial implausibility, it seems to me.

6.  In order to make PP work, one must posit that Oswald appeared unobtrusively for a few seconds and vanished back into the building, never so much as asking anyone "What's all the excitement?" - not impossible, of course, but certainly somewhat implausible and conveniently tailored to fit the PP hypothesis.

7.  During those seconds that Oswald was out there, as luck would have it, his blurry image was caught on film.  Pretty much the one person who can't be readily identified just happens to be Oswald - again, not impossible but certainly somewhat implausible and conveniently tailored to fit the PP hypothesis.

8.  The PP hypothesis requires a convincing explanation as to why, after planning a Presidential assassin and planting the patsy's rifle on the sixth floor, the conspirators would have exercised so little control that the patsy was standing on the front steps of the TSBD - I have neither heard nor been able to think of such an explanation.

In short, the PP hypothesis is the classic really extraordinary claim requiring really extraordinary evidence.

It seems to me that the approach of folks such as yourself is to say "If we can prove the image is Oswald, items 1-8 above all fall by the wayside."  This is true, but items 1-8 count decisively against anything other than an absolutely clear and unequivocal photo of Oswald that simply cannot be denied.  You will never get there through "analyses" showing no more than "hey, you can't say for sure that the image isn't Oswald."  Because of items 1-8, at this point we pretty much can say that.

16 hours ago, Andrej Stancak said:

It took Barry Ernest more than 30 years to find Vicki Adams, however, he eventually found her because he never stopped searching. Did he give up, Vicki Adams herself would never come forwards.

I have spent a great deal of time on Vicki Adams and the arguments woven around her.  There is sufficient uncertainty as to the accuracy of her recollections, the actual Truly-Baker-Oswald-Piper-Adams-Styles timeline, etc., that nothing can be said with any degree of certainty.  Oswald may have come down ahead of Adams and Styles or he may have come down behind them.  He may have ducked into the second floor lunchroom because he heard them.  These were three-foot-wide wooden stairs - two women in 3" heels would have been easily heard.  Moreover, the stairs did not simply descend in a straight line from the sixth floor on down.  At each floor, one had to cross something like 20 feet of floor space to pick up the next segment of stairs.  Those are a lot of opportunities for people to miss each other or intentionally avoid being seen.

I have little confidence that the recreations of the Baker-Truly entry or the Oswald descent are strictly accurate.  I have little confidence that Adams' recollections are strictly accurate (Styles told Sean Murphy they did not leave nearly as quickly as Adams said).  Piper's testimony is a problem for Vicki fans.  Adams saying they saw Lovelady and Shelley is a problem.  I'm not saying anyone is fabricating.  I am saying that this sort of confusion is precisely what psychological studies show happens to eyewitnesses to sudden traumatic events.  If one account is off by 30 seconds, another is off by 30 seconds, and another is off by 10 seconds, the possibilities change dramatically.

OK, Barry Ernest found Vicki Adams in 2002, 39 years after the assassination.  He has managed to turn his find into a book, a website, media appearances, conference appearances and all the usual conspiracy capitalism.  He claims to have proved something he simply has not proved, and this has quickly hardened into conspiracy gospel.  "Vicki Adams' story proves Oswald was not the assassin!"  Hardly.  Find a clear and unequivocal photo of Oswald on the TSBD steps and you will indeed have proved that.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I encourage you to read the responses of Greg and his sycophantic, self-congratulatory minions.  It could be quite enlightening, although not in the way you might suspect.

You will see that Greg, et al., employ a familiar Conspiracy Game tactic – against you, their fellow members of the Conspiracy Brotherhood.  You are whacked-out, credulous, tinfoil-hat-wearing loons.  They are hard-boiled researchers who do not countenance your sort of BS and deal only in facts.  See the difference?

I, you will be pleased to learn, am lacking in common sense and logic and am perhaps not all that smart.  That’s right, it’s dense old me who for some unfathomable reason just cannot seem to grasp the plausibility and indeed sheer brilliance of the Prayer Man Hypothesis.  Notwithstanding my academic and professional credentials and having made my living in reasoned analysis and debate for some four decades, I’m practically as lost as you folks – maybe more so.

I declined to respond, at ROKC or here, because Greg, et al., are simply another species of H&L junkies, Best Evidence junkies, John Newman junkies, and other species of conspiracy junkies.  There is simply no such thing as reasoned discussion with a fundamentalist zealot.  There is nothing I could say, there or here, that would not cause the discussion to descend even deeper down the endless, convoluted rabbit hole I call the Conspiracy Game.  To borrow a phrase from Cliff, I no longer do fake debate.

Please, if you find my Tower of Implausibility regarding Prayer Man as set forth above to be a poorly constructed edifice of illogic, enjoy the responses of Greg and his self-congratulatory sycophants as they shred poor, not-too-bright moi.  I have nothing further to say to you.  You are too far gone.

I will, however, briefly address two epistemological issues.  I was attacked at ROKC for my “gross” misuse of Ockham’s Razor and the ECREE principle (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) in my above post.  My failure to understand these principles was deemed sufficient in itself to demonstrate what a hapless dolt I am.


“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was a phrase made popular by Carl Sagan who reworded Laplace's principle, which says that “the weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness” (Gillispie, et al., 1999). This statement is at the heart of the scientific method, and a model for critical thinking, rational thought and skepticism everywhere.

Patrizio E. Tressoldi, “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence: The Case of Non-Local Perception, a Classical and Bayesian Review of Evidences,” Frontiers in Psychology 2:117 (2011), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114207/.

ECREE is often misunderstood in terms of what is meant by “extraordinary” and is often wrongly applied to dismiss claims simply because they are unusual or bizarre.  ECREE does not apply to the Prayer Man Hypothesis simply because it is “unusual” or “bizarre.”  It does apply to the PMH because the PMH (1) is contrary to the vast weight of the known evidence; (2) rests on a foundation of the flimsiest sort of “evidence” and the wildest sort of speculation; and (3) is on its face highly implausible for the reasons set forth in my Tower of Implausibility.  Google “ECREE + Baye’s theorem + probability theory” and you will have a far better understanding than the folks at ROKC.

This is the sense in which the PMH is “extraordinary.”  This is why ECREE applies.  Show us a clear and unequivocal photo Oswald in the doorway and we’ll listen.  Otherwise you are simply engaged in the same sort of mental masturbation as people who think the moon landings were a hoax (they actually have more “evidence” than you do, but we’ll let it go).

Ockham’s (or Occam’s) Razor

Given that most people believe in one conspiracy theory or another, this chapter examines how tethered to truth those beliefs are. It first explains why conspiracy theories are hard to disprove and discuss. It then defines some commonly used terms and phrases and makes the case for talking about conspiracy theories in as neutral a manner as possible. It next assesses several of the best tests for verifying the truth in conspiracy theories, arguing that there are at least six standards for evaluating conspiracy theories: Occam’s razor, falsifiability, the worst intentions test, the cui bono test, the eternal recurrence of the same test, and the impartial spectator test. Lastly, it makes the case that a full battery of these tests is the best method to evaluate the truth content of conspiracy theories.

Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent, American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford University Press 2014), https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199351800.001.0001/acprof-9780199351800-chapter-2.

William of Occam would have hated conspiracy theories. A 14th-century philosopher and Franciscan friar, William is celebrated for developing the “law of parsimony,” better known today as “Occam’s razor.” According to the razor principle, the simplest explanation for an event is almost always the best; shave away any extraneous assumptions, and what you’ve got left is usually the truth.

That’s not exactly the way conspiracy theorists think. Either Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii, or an international plot unfolded over multiple decades to conceal his Kenyan birthplace and install him in the presidency. Either vaccines are safe and effective, or every major hospital and health organization in the world is covering up the fact that they actually cause autism. Never mind the razor — conspiracy theories are nothing but extraneous assumptions.

Jeffrey Kluger, “Why so many people believe conspiracy theories,” Time (October 15, 2017), https://time.com/4965093/conspiracy-theories-beliefs/.

The principle of Occam’s razor suggests that the simplest hypothesis is usually the correct one — or as the character Gil Grissom in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” succinctly puts it, if you hear hoofbeats, “think horses, not zebras.”

In his lively new book, “Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History,” the journalist David Aaronovitch uses Occam’s razor to eviscerate the many conspiracy theories that have percolated through politics and popular culture over the last century, from those that assert that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were actually a United States government plot to those that claim that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered at the direction of the royal family or British intelligence.

In most cases, Mr. Aaronovitch notes, conspiracy theorists would rather tie themselves into complicated knots and postulate all sorts of improbable secret connections than accept a simple, more obvious explanation.

Michiko Kakutanifeb, “It’s a plot!  No, it’s not: A debunking,” New York Times, (February 15, 2010), https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/books/16aaron.html.

Ockham’s Razor is, of course, not a “law” in the sense of being a defeater for any conspiracy theory.  Sometimes the convoluted, non-parsimonious explanation is indeed the correct one.  In terms of explaining events, it is simply a guiding principle.

In the context of the assassination, “Lee Harvey Oswald was up there on the sixth floor with his rifle” is far more consistent with both the evidence and this guiding principle than the Prayer Man Hypothesis.  The reason that the PMH is contrary to the principle of parsimony is not merely because it is convoluted and unlikely but because it unnecessarily complicates the event past the breaking point.  To legitimately do that, you need – wait for it – extraordinary evidence.

It would appear that dummy Lance is in pretty good company insofar as his understanding and application of ECREE and Ockam’s Razor are concerned.  (I would hope so, since I frequently cited them in appellate briefs for nearly 40 years.)  It would appear that the folks at ROKC do not know what they are talking about insofar as ECREE and Ockham’s Razor are concerned.  But please, get out your pom-poms and cheerlead for them if it makes you happy (after all, they are the A Team and you mentally scrawny folks are mere junior varsity wannabes).

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