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Post Aerial Bombardment in Tulsa, 1921
Created by John Eipper on 06/01/21 2:04 PM

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Aerial Bombardment in Tulsa, 1921 (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 06/01/21 2:04 pm)

Gary Moore wrote on June 1st: "Screened out by the typescript--and by its Smithsonian publicity--are multiple testimonies, real testimonies, that came from persuasive African American eyewitnesses who in 1921 were at the same spot [Tulsa] as described by the typescript--and yet they seemed to see no rain of fire. No one who was really at the spot did."

I'm not sure where Gary gets all this. The aerial attack on Greenwood during the Tulsa Massacre is well-documented by multiple witnesses both Black and white:



There were numerous contemporaneous newspaper accounts of the aerial bombing, and there was even a lawsuit against Sinclair Oil, for damage caused to buildings by bombs thrown from one of Sinclair's planes. See Richard S. Warner, "Airplanes and the Riot," reproduced here: https://tulsareparations.z19.web.core.windows.net/Airplanes.htm

There is some divergence of opinion about how intensive the bombardment was. From my reading of different accounts, my conclusion is that the bombardment--carried out with odd sticks of dynamite and home-made fire bombs, maybe some coke bottles filled with gasoline--was not comparable in intensity to an actual military attack. But so what?

One attacker in a plane was shot from the ground.

Gary asserts that the bombs were "physically impossible"--nonsense. Tulsa was the capital of the oil patch in 1921. There were boxes of dynamite all over the place. Even farmers in those days might have a box or two of dynamite around. Fire bombs improvised out of rags and turpentine are a triviality. I could make one in 5 minutes where I sit right now, with materials in my kitchen. Any of these devices can be easily thrown by hand out of the back seat of a Curtiss Jenny flying at 39 knots (this is what a Jenny looks like: https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/curtiss-jn-4d-jenny/nasm_A19190006000 ). Whether these amateurish bombs, thrown by hand, caused much damage, compared to the mobs, is doubtful in my opinion. But they are not "physically impossible."

So I really don't know what Gary is on about. Whether it was anything like a "rain of fire" is subjective. I think if someone threw a dozen flaming turpentine-soaked rag balls at me out of an airplane in the middle of a race riot, I might very well consider it a "rain of fire," and it is entirely plausible that B.C. Franklin experienced something like that. Was it the firebombing of Dresden? Of course not; those were war-surplus Curtiss Jennies, bundles of rags and sticks and 90 horsepower, gross weight of 900kg and with a cruise speed of 52 knots, not B-17s. But so what? The whole event is ghastly and shameful beyond all words in any case.

It is very good that so much attention is being paid to it during these anniversary days--every American should know about this in details.

JE comments:  From the above, the consensus is that the damage from the air was minimal compared to the mayhem from the mob on the ground.  But the bombing must have achieved the same goal that would be repeated countless times throughout history:  terrorizing the civilian population.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but would Tulsa 1921 be the worst aerial bombardment ever of a continental US city?  (Excluding 9-11 of course, and Pearl Harbor, which is not "continental.")

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  • Was Tulsa 1921 the Worst Aerial Bombardment of a Continental US City? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 06/03/21 3:30 AM)
    JE asked: "[W]ould Tulsa 1921 be the worst aerial bombardment ever of a continental US city?"

    Since the extent of damage from the Tulsa bombing is not well documented, I don't think we know whether it was the worst or not, but it may well have been, since hardly any American city has ever been bombed from the air, even a little. The Tulsa attack might even be the only aerial bombing of a city in the Continental US.

    An interesting history of aerial bombardment in the US: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0118.shtml

    The various Japanese attempts to bomb the Continental US (none of them involving cities) are quite interesting, not to say bizarre, especially the one carried out from a seaplane carried inside a submarine.

    Incidentally, the Tulsa air attack, although it was the first time a US city was bombed from the air, was not the first time aerial bombing was used in the US. That incident took place a year earlier, and is described here:


    This is a bizarre story I had never heard before now. None other than Billy Mitchell, of WWI fame, was involved, together with a squadron of US Army Air Service planes, and the occasion was a bloody conflict between coal miners and mine owners in West Virginia in 1920. In the event, the military planes dropped no bombs, but the local sheriff rented three Jennies like the ones used in Tulsa, and dropped homemade bombs like those used in Tulsa, and even gas. There were no casualties among the miners and apparently no damage, but one of Billy Mitchell's planes crashed, killing three US Army airmen.

    JE comments:  Billy Mitchell, the "father of the US Air Force," was a visionary on the military effectiveness of air power, but he was also a hard-drinking gadfly who frequently got in trouble with his superiors.  The West Virginia incident smacks of hired "goonism," and doesn't paint him in the most humanitarian light.  Yesterday we talked about Himmler's physical therapist, Felix Kersten, and today it's Mitchell:  this week is one for history's enigmas.

    While not exactly the United States, General Pershing used warplanes in the ill-fated mission against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, 1916.

    Returning to Tulsa, Gary Moore has sent a follow-up on his earlier post. Watch for Gary's comment later today.

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  • Planes Over Tulsa, 1921: Largely a Myth (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 06/04/21 3:16 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    My thanks to Cameron Sawyer (June 1) for his confession that he's "not sure where Gary gets all this," regarding my statement that persuasive African American eyewitnesses refute the 1921 Tulsa riot aerial bombing account given by an expensively purchased document at the Smithsonian.

    Indeed, Cameron is considerately quick in showing how little he knows about the 1921 Tulsa atrocity in general, as he is quick to dismiss--for reasons that must certainly be interesting--information from its primary sources. Was Cameron implying that the eyewitnesses don't exist because they're outside his startlingly confident circle of knowledge? In their place, he presents as his authorities two instant-info websites, linked for ready reference in his dismissal (see farther below).

    One of the eyewitnesses I referred to is actually mentioned within one of Cameron's two linked sources, though he seemed not to realize it. That witness is Mary E. Jones Parrish. The other two, also well known to anyone with experience in researching the 1921 Tulsa violence, are W. O. Gurley and W. D. Williams. Williams was reportedly the source of the phrase "Death in a Promised Land" that became the title of historian Scott Ellsworth's landmark book on the events. In my original WAIS post I didn't name these people for a particularly dismal reason: I didn't want to dig back through my notes because I've grown avoidant, seeing how the myths surrounding 1921 Tulsa evoke frustratingly ill-informed attacks, such as at present. I guess it's my own fault for being obsessed with exploring an underside of public truth, which more practical people either steer clear of or are blind to. That underside is the interface between collective violence and denialist myth.

    All three of the above-named witnesses independently recalled the same moment, when they were at or within easy sight of the same street corner, Greenwood Avenue and Archer, that is histrionically designated in the Smithsonian's document as the time and place of bizarre events. The document is endorsed by the institution as being a mysteriously surfacing eyewitness report. The three real witnesses named here recalled being predictably frightened as rioters approached that corner and bullets flew, but none reported anything sounding supernatural, such as "side-walks...literally covered with burning turpentine balls," as in the Smithsonian's faux document. The real eyewitness accounts present some of the pitfalls typical of fallible human observation, but their unanimity is convincing on the key issue: they didn't see the giant spectacle that the Smithsonian wants us to believe was there. Coming in separate testimonies when the witnesses were unaware of one another in later times, this pretty much makes the case: the "side-walks...literally covered with burning turpentine balls," were a fantasy. And this is only one disproof, among many, showing that the myth cycle claiming supposed aerial bombing in the Tulsa riot is a fervently believed fraud.

    Cameron also dismissed my protestation that the act of hurling "flaming turpentine balls" from a canvas-winged biplane would be physically impossible; he replies that it would be easy to throw out dynamite sticks instead. Whoa. Talk about denial. The Smithsonian fake doesn't say "side-walks literally covered with dynamite sticks." Cameron is evading this to suit his insistence on the myth. He could also have picked from another another clearly fabricated account that says the monster bi-planes were dropping down nitroglycerin. The dreamscapes cross-refute.

    I've spent more time than I sometimes like to remember with the original materials on the Tulsa incident. Cameron mentioned Richard Warner. I discussed the events with Dick Warner personally before he passed away, and his local research was very helpful, though some of his misimpressions, such as an impression that one of the airplanes over 1921 Tulsa was rented by the New York Times, cost me much time before I finally had to discard it (and Dick, too, did not believe there was aerial bombing --because there wasn't). Cameron said, "There were numerous contemporaneous newspaper accounts of the aerial bombing." Oops. No there weren't. I think I know where he got this, a fascinating story in itself, farther below. Cameron saw mention of a lawsuit against Sinclair Oil--which in real life was a wildly imaginative bulk mailing to any deep pockets in sight by "flamboyant" attorney Elisha Scott, Sr. (whose more focused sons Elisha Jr. and Charles would help launch Brown v. Board of Education). The Sinclair "suits" consisted of one-page boilerplate complaints laced with mis-namings, misspellings and mystifying disregard for even phone-book-level facts (I've counted the entire bewildering mass). They were apparently launched by Scott for whatever small retainers he could squeeze on the front end (he was an oil-field title-jumping specialist), and the "suits" were left to mystify future archivists, finally being declared dead in 1937.

    It has been doubly strange all along (as JE mentioned) that the astonishingly fierce event at Tulsa--extending over a square mile of devastated territory--has seemed to require in some minds a mythic boost from demonized aerial bombing (aerial bombing, in the traumatized time just after the 1921 riot, still had a mystery-shrouded aura left from World War I).

    Now to Cameron's two preferred sources. The first is something called "Historic Wings, The Online Magazine of Aviators, Pilots, and Adventurers since 1982," whose fact-free blog contribution to the subject is: "On the morning of June 1, 1921, the Ku Klux Klan and the white population of Tulsa made their move. At the sound of three blasts from a siren, they stormed the city's wealthy African-American district of Greenwood. The defending African-American citizens were ready. It had been a tense night of preparation. This was a battle they knew would come. Until the attack, Greenwood was a prosperous, wealthy, and well-educated community."

    Notice how "wealthy." keeps repeating. This "source" is a myth-bloated cultural propaganda rant. When I posted originally on this subject, John E asked--in the kind of understandable perplexity any new inquirer might feel upon meeting 1921 Tulsa's wonderland of post-traumatic myths--how it was that the city's pre-1921 African American section, Greenwood, was so wealthy.  This is an understandable question since everything in easy public view seems to say it was very wealthy indeed--a "Black Wall Street," and even the wealthiest black neighborhood in 1921 America (don't tell State Street in Chicago). In real life, where real people live, Greenwood had a not unusual mix of Jim Crow-era real estate--some very well-appointed large homes and owners of multiple properties, some middle class comfort, and large numbers of much more modest residences. The "Black Wall Street" idea--like the aerial bombing idea--is an angels-and-devils myth. This kind of psychological "splitting" lives perpetually in a discussional time-out zone where the tired old post-Enlightenment practice of basing conclusions on facts is not part of the ballgame. In today's world, with its febrile Facebook excitements, that time-out zone of fantasy-as-public-truth may be growing.

    A more complex question, though, is why someone with background like Cameron's would feel perfectly comfortable citing a source like "Historic Wings."

    But on to the second of his two showcased sources. It's History.com, an earnest compiler site using the appearance of a journalistic format to grab a few quick quotes and run. It captures the indulgence which info-haste is obliged to give to myth, since it can't stop for expensive and bewildering deconflictions, and it can't very well confess it can't stop. The title of History.com's Tulsa post gives a warning, seeming to say two things at once: Yes there was, no there wasn't: "What Role Did Airplanes Play in the Tulsa Race Massacre? / Few historians dispute that planes flew low over the city's prosperous Black district during the 1921 attack. What's less clear: whether bullets were fired or incendiaries were dropped."

    Beautiful waffle words: "Few historians dispute that planes flew low over..." Actually, no historians dispute that part of it. It would be like saying the sky isn't blue. But haste seeks to at least appear careful. "Historians are still assessing the viability...." Translation: any current of belief that is strong enough to spread is going to come up with one or another oral history avowal, be it flying witches or little green men--so the question is how "viable" is any such yea-saying (or memory-jogging of a third-hand rumor).

    A full paragraph in History.com is devoted reverentially to the "eyewitness" in the Smithsonian's ten-page 1931 typescript. My first post recalled that B. C. Franklin, author of the ten pages, also wrote an autobiography that is quite at variance with the ten pages, and, describing the same place and time as the three real eyewitnesses saw, has no turpentine balls or apocalyptic aerial bombing. The generous way to look at the Smithsonian's alternative is that Franklin typed up those ten pages as either a novel's fictional intro or simply a reverie. His "side-walks...literally covered with burning turpentine balls" sound like Moses parting the Red Sea.

    History.com's journalistic format also incorporates a live interview with a present-day scholar of the riot, historian Scott Ellsworth, mentioned above--a conscientious researcher who is lauded by both races, and has been studying the riot since the 1970s. But Ellsworth, a professor of Afro-American studies, is also a careful diplomat. He seems never to have spoken publicly, yea or nay, about the Smithsonian document, and doesn't mention it in History.com. But he does cautiously approach the overall subject of whether aerial bombing of any kind occurred, with or without turpentine balls. "There is no question that there were planes flying over Greenwood during the massacre," begins the Ellsworth quote, in an uncontroversial vein (no one disputes that six bi-planes were used by Tulsa's police department to monitor the movements of both rioters and refugees from the destruction--possibly giving rise to bombing rumors, since these planes could communicate with the ground only by dropping message containers--"bombing" without bombs. Then, very carefully, Ellsworth limits the field: "But Greenwood was destroyed on the ground by a white mob. It was not destroyed from the air." This sentence quietly subsumes the fact that no hard evidence exists that any bombing at all occurred, but it refrains from directly challenging believers. Tacitly, however, it challenges the myth considerably, since a major part of the belief current presents the supposed aerial bombing as being decisive in white "victory" in the riot, often saying that whites could not have entered Greenwood at all without unfair technological help from airplanes--meaning, supposedly, massive, highly visible air attacks, which somehow a city full of people didn't see. The fantasy in the Smithsonian document reflects this requirement that the drama have an air attack en masse, claiming that building after building was seen burning "from the top"--where supposedly flaming turpentine balls burst into rooftop fires. Firefighters might find this view of physics surprising. And as to dynamite, a stick or two heaved from a plane might conceivably hit a building, but wouldn't burn it down, and a photographic analyst has stated that the Tulsa damage failed to show demolition scatter.

    Alas, farther on in History,com, historian Ellsworth's caution is drawn down an avenue where he miserably fails the objectivity test, showing a surprising eagerness to believe a third-hand 1950s barbershop tale--from an unknown white--that was supposedly (and incredibly) "overheard" by an unknown rumor repeater (actually, Haste.com prints the word "overheard" as "overhead"--"was overhead in a Tulsa barbershop bragging..."--sort of a Freudian slip on airplanes). This tale about a tale is said to somehow confirm the long past bombing. To anyone who has spent time with survivor memories from bygone racial atrocities, the acceptance of an evidence-free third-hand white boast shows how hard Ellsworth--or History.com--are straining to grant some nugget to the glamor of the myth. The wonderland of white boasting after Jim Crow racial atrocities is a field of morbid miracles, whether called tall tales or lies.

    And with this, History.com reaches the bottom of its barrel on supposed witness confirmations. The dearth plays out as it is forced to fill in with other scraps that don't even allege bombing. We jump to a giant heading: "Where Did the Planes Come From?" Now the ambivalence, having presented its non-evidence, can go back to waffling--for the text below the heading fails to deliver: Nobody here saw any bombing either. And ditto with History.com's glance at one of the three witnesses I've named, Mary E. Jones Parrish. It sets her up as if now she's going to prove the bombing--but nope, she didn't see any--though she did tell, in 1922, of "an anonymous witness" who said he saw planes that "left the entire block a mass of flame." That's a pretty big flame. And nobody else saw it? Or anything like it? And how would planes have done it? Not with dynamite. Only with the magical flaming turpentine balls--which wouldn't have worked either, since rushing air wouldn't have left much flame to reach the rooftops (believers can dispute this if they're willing to buy the rest of the impossibilities). The Tulsa riot left a major psychological wound, and its medication by post-traumatic angels-and-devils myths offers major insight into American racial dynamics, but this can never be accessed if the myths are never faced, and instead are treated as if their magic world is real.

    Eventually in the History.com excursion, the same otherwise careful historian, Ellsworth, who could be moved to embrace generations-old barbershop bluster, did do his service for belief. "I believe without a doubt," he was finally quoted as saying, "that Greenwood was bombed from the air...but more likely with sticks of dynamite." This would mean no entire blocks enflamed, and not even a single account from even the flimsiest witness (for none reported dynamite), nor any shred of physical proof. The growing mountain of cross-refutations can still be swept aside by believers, if you focus on only one impossibility at a time.

    Perhaps hardest to deal with in History.com's dwindling murmurs is its assertion about supposed confirmation of the bombing in the 1921 black press--hard to deal with because this issue forces a grating, explosive bluntness. Scarcely noticed by whites (whose mainstream press seethed with tawdry comments about Negroes), weekly newspapers published by and for African Americans in 1921 stood in various cities. And, though there were lonely exceptions like the New York Age, these newspapers, in their captive niche which could not object, were often remarkable liars, sometimes on an almost magnificent scale. I met this problem long ago unearthing the Rosewood events from 1923 Florida, where confirmed survivors were astonished to find how much their assaulted community had been transformed into a fantasy by distant black newspapers in 1923, chiefly the nation's largest at that time, the Chicago Defender. The Defender invented an entirely fictional protagonist for the Rosewood events, gave him a glamorous bio (as both a movie promoter and a former World War I sergeant, at once), and then walked him through rambling and sometimes barely coherent Rosewood exploits that all the real Rosewood witnesses agreed never happened. The Defender of those days (before later retooling) was notorious for doing this. Its millionaire publisher Robert Abbott grumbled that if he couldn't get the facts on a juicy racial blow-up it didn't matter, since from second sight he knew what must have happened. And what he imagined, he printed as fact, sometimes surreally. Abbott's own remarkable psychology is jaw-dropping even as shown by his official biography, written for the Abbott family by African American newsman Roi Ottley. The labyrinths of imposture extended to the publisher embarrassing friends at Chicago's opera house, where he arrived in his Rolls-Royce but spoke loudly in gibberish, to convince onlookers that he was royalty from Africa. Apparently this was not done in jest. With his genius for giving his beleaguered readership the sort of myths that sold, Abbot circulated his weekly not just in Chicago but throughout the South, by mail-order or consignment carriers such as railroad porters. It may have been the Defender's editions of June 4, 1921 ("airplanes rained bombs"), and June 11 ("liquid fire poured down...firebombs of turpentine and other flammable material") that enshrined the spectacular notion of demonic mass attack from the air at Tulsa.

    A nearer African American-market newspaper, Oklahoma City's Black Dispatch, spied only bullets coming from Tulsa's mystery planes, The distant Defender, though, didn't need an expensive correspondent on the scene, owing to Robert Abbott's cost-free second sight. Not just the lack of any hint of sourcing but also the Defender's well-established lack of accuracy restraints meant that using it as any kind of proof about a news event--especially a startling or suspiciously supernatural-sounding event--was like using the Canals on Mars. Its credibility on Tulsa went further through the floor on October 14, 1921, when it fabricated a bizarre confession by a non-existent Tulsa police official telling how he had helped launch the great airplane invasion back in June. Modern journalists in Tulsa have searched avidly for any basis to that story, and found none.

    Various other black newspapers nationwide were perhaps not as audacious in their inventions but nearly as mendacious, sometimes plagiarizing the Defender directly, if a whopper looked promising enough. I think the credulous mention in Cameron's History.com source--"Black newspapers were 'full of stories of turpentine or nitroglycerin bombs being dropped and men shooting from planes'"--may have morphed into Cameron's own volley against me, when he revealed triumphantly: "There were numerous contemporaneous newspaper accounts of the aerial bombing." I've never found any white mainstream paper of 1921 (notwithstanding their many flaws) that ran any sort of bombing story. But the niche press, dauntingly controversial, became a last redoubt. A present day concerned inquirer, upon stumbling into all this in History.com, and with prior passion enough to write as immediately and as emphatically as Cameron did, might easily feel that the case was closed, no trouble at all. Preconceptions confirmed.

    But really now, in greater detail, what is behind History.com's "Black newspapers were 'full of stories...'"? Try this:

    "At 6:15 a.m., men in the planes began dropping fire bombs of turpentine and other inflammable material on the property. Women and children running from their burning homes were struck dead by the incessant machine gun fire from the hills or burned to death by the liquid fire poured down from the airplanes. A great concourse of people fled to the church to seek protection in prayer. Men carried their weapons with them. The whites stormed the church, the defenders putting up a game fight until the airplanes bombed the structure and all within were driven out to the mercy of the mob."--Chicago Defender June 11, 1921

    Or this:

    "Men fought with utter abandon against the human devils above and around them. As the scorching, white fire from airships above was poured upon them, the defenders of their homes made a valiant effort to stave off the bloodthirsty passion of the hounds who killed them. Men slipped and fell in the blood of their brothers....One man, leaning far out of an airplane, was brought down by the bullet of a sharpshooter and his body burst upon the ground. Men were hideouts. Women were evil. Judgement was in the air and the multitude perished."--Chicago Defender, June 11, 1921

    Such psychosis from Robert Abbot is what has been laundered down to us finally as Cameron's "numerous contemporaneous newspapers."

    And this points to the real issue. Even to name that issue can cause such tremors in public orthodoxy that questions then go deeper, into the imponderable, asking what is causing such anxiety as to produce such startling non sequiturs. The real issue is a preference for myth, specifically in matters of the great American enigma, racial controversy. This preference for myth often makes a mockery of our elaborate strivings to verify baselines of fact in history--and indeed in some current events.

    Cameron has opened a window onto a vast, hyper-sensitive landscape which ordinarily might seem too fraught with minefields to enter. Even just five or ten years ago, the idea that Tulsa had been bombed from the air seemed to have been gently discarded even by orthodox indulgence. But now I find in surprise, seeing Cameron's intense reaction, that myth-preference in easily accessible information has seemed to increase, and to win the day. When I posted about what seemed a side issue (the Smithsonian's flirtation with the bombing myth), I felt a bit sheepish because I thought, from previous looks, that debunking had already put the issue to bed, making any lingering controversy on Tulsa's aerial bombing obsolete. Not so. Cameron has demonstrated that even an articulate, well-educated consumer of current information can be unknowingly carried along by chosen authorities, which seem intuitively to be compelling.

    What I've posted, inciting Cameron's rebuke, is only the iceberg's tip of how the 1921 Tulsa event has fallen under our era's own brand of comforting myth, with its deep emotions.

    And perhaps we can wind up with a bewildering comment appended to Cameron's post by John E, leaving the suspicion that what I've written here is really just unwelcome irrelevance. John wrote:

    "From the above [meaning Cameron's post], the consensus is that the damage from the air was minimal compared to the mayhem from the mob on the ground. But the bombing must have achieved the same goal that would be repeated countless times throughout history: terrorizing the civilian population. Correct me if I'm wrong, but would Tulsa 1921 be the worst aerial bombardment ever of a continental US city? (Excluding 9-11 of course, and Pearl Harbor, which is not 'continental.')"

    Jeez, John. "Correct me if I'm wrong"? "Would Tulsa 1921 be the worst aerial bombardment ever of a continental US city"? The dismal impression is that all my verbiage is just me spinning my wheels. If psychological imperative says the myth has to win, then the myth has to win. Why can't I see that?

    JE comments:  First of all, apologies to Gary Moore and WAISworld for not publishing this comment yesterday as promised.  Aldona and I were tasked with rescuing four adorable feral kittens and their mother.  The mission ended up consuming our entire afternoon and evening.  Much blood was shed by your editor-in-chief, but the little ones are now safe and looking forward to finding new homes.  Mom, a committed "community" cat, has been fixed and will return to her original haunts.  (Someday WAIS should scrutinize the notion of "fixed" for sterilization--only English embraces this curious euphemism.)

    Sorry to wander off our topic.  Gary, my apologies for dismissing your carefully researched myth-busting work.  You touch on a story that plays into our collective need for myths.  And America in the 1920s was so disgustingly racist that no offense against African Americans sounds too sensationalist.  Tell us, what did you discover about the role (or non-role) of WWI pilot Billy Mitchell in the Tulsa events?  Should we accept that planes were indeed flying over Tulsa, but their activities were limited to observation and law-enforcement "control"?

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    • How Do You Debunk a Myth? Tulsa and the Aerial Bombardment Claim (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 06/05/21 3:47 AM)
      Gary Moore writes:

      JE has asked (June 4), regarding my attempt to show the voluminous evidence debunking the aerial bombing myth on the 1921 Tulsa race riot: "Should we accept that planes were indeed flying over Tulsa, but their activities were limited to observation and law-enforcement 'control'?"

      You know, even in the best outcomes, myth often responds to evidence by stages, grudgingly giving ground inch by inch. There is instructive precedent in, of all places, the Stockholm Syndrome incident in Sweden in 1973. Remember that one? A bank robber was trapped into siege and, negotiating to have a friend freed from prison to come help him, he then held four hostages in the bank's vault for six days, and the poor hostages, terrified to the core, began expressing their terror as a slavish sympathy for their captors, to the point that one angrily insulted the president of Sweden for trying to affect their release. My point, though, is that after the hostages were finally freed, authorities found that idolization beliefs were so strong--and demonization of the rescuers--that it was felt the best therapy was to let the rescuees chill out slowly, giving them, without comment, abundant documentation in the form of news reports from the time of their captivity, to let them see that their view from the vault had been limited. The fantasy world they had unknowingly come to accept had to be allowed to slowly make its peace with the avalanche of universally confirmable minutiae that everybody could see as constituting the rough outlines of the material world.

      JE's concession to my outpouring of evidence against the Tulsa aerial bombing myth suggests retreat into the implication of only two choices, either accept the magical belief structure or cave in and goose-step with the still half-demonized authorities, appeasing their "control"--as shown in the doubting parens he put around the word. In fact, it's not a matter of me knowing that the real planes flying over Tulsa in 1921 were all perfectly virtuous. How could I know what each was doing? It was certainly physically possible, though logistically demanding, for some gunshots or even a thrown rock or two to come down. The mass of evidence says no on this, too, but not as conclusively as on the fabulously cinematic aerial bombing story. The essence of the myth is its grandiosity--that great swarms of Biblically chastising planes "won" the Tulsa riot for rioting whites--but this doesn't mean that a fallback compromise is any more credible, by saying, well, it might have happened in one or two cases too sly to be caught. There might have been UFOs in one or two cases, but if all the hopes that there were can be traced back to nothingness, what does one then think of mutterings that they were too sly for anybody to have seen one?

      From the point of view of the vault, these might come to seem very prolix comments on an issue which, the debunking shows, was materially nothing at all. But unfortunately--regarding a wide spectrum of myth-glossed issues--it might be said that mentally we're still in the vault. The arcane glimpse afforded by 1921 Tulsa, in the story of the aerial bombing and its buried disconfirming evidence, looms larger in the ancient battle between superstition and what really happened.

      Why should we bother with such a battle at all?

      JE comments:  Gary, I hope you'll take my confusion as the "understandable perplexity" (your words from yesterday) of an outsider non-specialist who trusts the mainstream narratives.  If it's a topic you're unfamiliar with, why would you doubt such a respectable source as the Smithsonian?  Where else are you going to turn?

      Trust, but verify:  as you've shown in your research, the rub is in the latter.  Tell us, have you received any feedback/comments from folks outside of WAIS on your debunking of the bombardment myth?  While not as viral as a cute cat video, our discussion on Tulsa 1921 is receiving many more "hits" than our normal volume of traffic.

      I'm still trying to figure out your analogy with Stockholm.  Who are the captors in the present discussion, and who are the impressionable victims?

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      • Vox Clamantis in Deserto and the Tulsa Aerial Bombing Myth (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 06/09/21 3:28 AM)
        Gary Moore writes:

        Our moderator, making some very good "trust but verify" points in the discussion of the 1921 Tulsa riot aerial bombing myth, was nonetheless puzzled by my roundabout analogy to the Stockholm Syndrome.

        John E wondered whether I was thinking about anybody in the Tulsa belief current somehow being a sinister captor (as I referenced the 1973 Swedish bank robbers whose hostages grew eerily believing). I wasn't. I was only trying to get to the point that after the Stockholm hostages were freed, they were found to only slowly give up their false beliefs (beliefs in the virtue of their erstwhile captors), cognitively decompressing by stages, as they gradually made up their own minds about the wealth of evidence they were presented with in freedom, evidence that had been screened from them inside the bank vault.

        My distracting prolixity in trying to make that point makes a larger one, on the dilemma of the lone investigator of a culturally protected myth. Even if one spends the extensive time required to seek the primary evidence on such a no-man's land, and to understand the confusing context required for informed search, and even if one tracks the loose ends to their wearying deconflictions, then one still faces the problem of how to present the findings. There are special obstacles not only from the adamance of resistant belief, but also from the fact that such a presentation is denied key tools of exposition: there may be no prior authorities to cite, no list of previous questioners to build on. The raw evidence alone may successfully make its own case, and any opposed authorities promoting the myth may be disarmed by showing their internal contradictions, but this can leave a winding trail, becoming too tedious for even a sympathetic audience--while many receivers of the information, if their cherished assumptions are being challenged, may simply take the tedium as grounds for a comforting Aha moment, concluding that, sure enough, this challenge comes only of petty nitpicking. This is no excuse for me getting wordy and tripping over subordinate clauses. But the expositional problem is important to note.

        Not least because the special obstacles work both ways, on receivers as well as presenters of paradigm-shifting novelty. The hearers of the case also face an uphill climb. If they are asked to think past and reject customary authorities that they have found credible and useful in the past, then on whose extraneous authority are they supposed to make that leap? On the thin word of some outrider voice? Perhaps without any institutional endorsement at all? Isn't the world full of lone crackpots touting perpetual motion machines--who claim they can see what trusted authorities can't, and are quick to show mazes of findings that they say represent revelations?

        In public announcement, the investigator has to rely on exposition skills (reduced as said above) to gain at least enough trust to get people to look at discovered evidence. And even then, there is only the lone voice to certify that the persuasiveness that emerges hasn't been somehow rigged, and is not a special pleading. The startled hearer is faced with quite a lot.

        This is perhaps another way to look at any parallels to the Stockholm Syndrome's reported decompression period, a period when beliefs formerly under constraint find new information filtering in. It may take time, by slow stages, for evidence disproving a culturally protected myth to take effect.

        JE comments:  Gary Moore has found the two biggest challenges for the lone wolf researcher:  how do you get the word out, and what authority gives you credibility?  WAIS has been around a long time, and many times I've observed the cybersphere citing "Stanford University's WAIS" as a way to add "oomph" to one of our claims.  The more accurate description, "WAIS, an independent scholarly association founded by a guy at Stanford" wouldn't carry the same weight.

        The paradox of our Information Age:  anyone can make their message available for the entire world, but it's harder than ever to be believed.

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    • "Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten" (John Hesley, USA 06/04/21 5:00 PM)
      In connection with our discussion on the 1921 Tulsa riot/massacre, PBS has recently aired this documentary:


      JE comments: Thank you for pointing us towards Tulsa, John.  I wanted to post the link before viewing, but tell us, does the PBS program address the aerial bombardment issue?

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