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PostVox Clamantis in Deserto and the Tulsa Aerial Bombing Myth (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 06/09/21 3:49 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.