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Post How Do You Debunk a Myth? Tulsa and the Aerial Bombardment Claim (from Gary Moore)
Created by John Eipper on 06/05/21 3:47 AM

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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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