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("Quid coniuratio est?")
Sherman Skolnick discusses
"The Einsteins of Conspiracy Theory"
(Preliminary note: Mr. Skolnick's phone, due to bureaucratic bungling, had recently been disconnected. When we spoke on the evening of July 18th, his phone service had just been restored.)
CONSPIRACY NATION: Let me run this by you: this is my theory. You've got this Einstein connection that, where you had been taught by this protege of Einstein, at Spaulding High School. And Einstein was a brilliant theorist...
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yeah. But he was hounded all his life, until his death in 1956, by the FBI who thought he was some kind of spy. It didn't come out, until years later, that they thought he was subversive. He was... He invented things that... The atomic bomb was used to, supposedly, terminate the war and save a lot of American lives. Not everybody agrees 50 years later, but the people at the time agreed. And he did a lot for this country.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah. But see, what I'm sayin' is, the way that Einstein -- because he had to theorize, because there was just so much in the area of physics that was not accessible, that he couldn't access...
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: I'm glad you brought up his name. Because (not everybody's gonna agree with the next thing I say)... But Michael Riconosciuto -- because I spent 4-and-a-half months interviewing him in the federal jail in Chicago in the fall of '92 -- I call him "Albert Einstein in jail". He is absolutely brilliant. In finance, in computers: he's a wiz! A wizard.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Okay, but Ted Koppel, for example, he's knocking "conspiracy theorists", this is my analogy: that you've got, again you've got information that is unknown. Like with Einstein, there was information unknown, so he had to theorize. All right? And with these, what they call "conspiracy theorists", they've got information that's unknown; the government is not letting them access the information; so they've got to be theorists! That's the only way... It's the same thing, just like Einstein.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yeah, we could be documentors if the government will release the stuff! I mean, the government knows. Doesn't... Isn't there an agency, a unit in the government, that really knows, the bottom line, who killed John F. Kennedy, which way the bullets really went in Dealey Plaza; who exactly was the second gunman with Bobby Kennedy; and how exactly did this guy, Raoul, frame James Earl Ray.
Somebody in the government would know. But what they do is, they protect. So that, when the rest of us come along with theories, they says, "You lie! You're a 'conspiracy crackpot'."
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah! And if they would release the information, then we wouldn't need to theorize!
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yes. We're not allowed to see the real stuff.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah. And I was just thinking in terms of, you had been taught by Einstein's protege at Spaulding High School, and I just kind of thought that there's an "Einstein connection".
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yeah, but now that you've mentioned: what happened is, his politics were "wrong". He taught for a "crippled" childrens' high school, he taught for the jail. He was a brilliant math teacher, but he had the "wrong" politics.
CONSPIRACY NATION: It's just an idea that occurred to me: that you could be viewed as, like "The Einstein of Conspiracy Theorists".
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yeah but the ultimate thing is, you want me to create the "atomic bomb of conspiracies"?! [laughs]
There is an "atomic bomb of conspiracies": the mother of all conspiracies, the one that's gonna "blow up" the White House! [laughs]
Well.... I tell ya somethin': an early "Einstein of conspiracies" was the late Danny Casolaro with his theory about "The Octopus". Someday they're gonna prove it, just like Einstein's theory of relativity, there's gonna be Casolaro's theory of the mother of all conspiracies. He's gonna have a formula how to work it, too!
The man was put in his grave by a vast conspiracy, made to look like a suicide. And apparently [Vince] Foster, too!
And so now, Ted Koppel, who's apparently getting a CIA subsidy instead of CBS, he wants to put us all down: we're all "conspiracy peddlers". The thing is, us "conspiracy peddlers" I don't think are getting well-off with it. Whereas these other guys are trying to sell newspapers and TV ads putting the conspiracy theorists down. And we could be conspiracy documentors if the government will just let loose of the real stuff! And turn off all the shredding machines.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Speaking of the "Einsteins of conspiracy theory", you mentioned once Mae Brussell. Had you known her before?
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Oh I knew her for a good 15 years. She was a brilliant woman. And her great dream as she was dying (I was among the last to interview her, while she was still coherent; she was dying of uterus cancer.) And her dream was to use some money that she inherited to set up a library for assassination researchers. But her family (she's part of the Magnin department store fortune), they wanted the money. And they weren't interested in setting up any libraries in her honor. So all of her records that she gathered, from the time of the death of President Kennedy until she died in October of '88, are languishing, I believe, in a garage someplace in Vancouver, Canada.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah. That's sad.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Well... It's, you know what it is? It's not as popular as the latest "gangsta rap" or whatever they call it. Digging out the truth to the world is not always popular. It became popular just briefly when the JFK movie came out. And then some of these counter-conspiracies, that is, the put-down of those that dig into things -- Chip Berlet and others -- came along to harass and hound the rest of us as, what [Ted] Koppel I understand is gonna call "a cottage industry". In other words, we're busy in the secret basements of the world, investigating plots.
The idea that there are no plots is itself a plot.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah. That's what I was gonna say, that it sounds like Koppel is getting paranoid.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Well anyone that makes $2.5 million a year and drives in a limousine is not gonna believe that there are any plots -- except those that are plotted by the ones that he works for.
The idea that a clever person can force a massive group of liars to tell the truth is a wrong view of the world. You cannot force big-time liars like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time magazine and others to tell the truth. The top brass of those magazines go to these secret society meetings and don't report what went on there. And so why should anybody say, "Well, we're clever. We're gonna force them to tell the truth." You cannot force a massive liar to tell the truth. It is not possible.
CONSPIRACY NATION: All right, but here is my theory, okay? There's a point where everybody already knows the story. I mean, as far as, say, Waco. All right? The mass media really tried to dismiss that and to demonize the Branch Davidians. But the public was so insistent and began producing their own videos and telling about what happened there that it became... Everybody already knew it already, anyway. And it became a point where...
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Okay what would they do to the rest of us who documented and detailed and demonized the media? What would they do to us?
CONSPIRACY NATION: But see, what I'm sayin' is, that there comes a point where everybody already knows the story anyway. So the media, at that point, to "save face" is gonna have to tell what it knows. Or offer a "limited hangout". And I can notice that with the Branch Davidian massacre, that, at first, all they showed was this one short clip of Koresh -- constantly. It was as if that was the only clip that was available of him. And they didn't mention any kind of alternative view. These were "crazed cultists". And they put out that movie almost right away; it was one of these made-for-TV movies. They really propagandized against these people.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: You should continue telling subscribers that one of the most wonderful things in our time is Internet. That's why the media is attacking it from all sides. Why? Because the rest of us, when some big liar of the press, when we talk to 'em, what is the one magic word that we whisper into their ear and they go completely nuts? We whisper [whispers], "Internet!!"
And they go nuts! Why? Because, in effect, if we're really loud-mouthed we can say, "The hell with you, Washington Post! I'm puttin' this on Internet and people all over the world -- clever people, intellectuals -- are gonna know the truth and know that you, Washington Post, are liars!"
And so all you've got to do is whisper [whispers], "Internet!"
And it's powerful. Because the Washington Post, on July 4th, referred to your category there, "Conspiracy Nation". Listen. When an ant is able to make the elephant or horse move, hey: that's Internet.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah, well they're struggling to find ways to shut things down. I mean, their way with, where it's just a place filled with child pornographers and it's gotta be shut down or whatever -- that hasn't worked I don't think.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: What are you talkin' about? That the networks are loaded with child pornographers??
CONSPIRACY NATION: Well in the newspapers, for awhile there it was like...
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Well we put on the air recently a cable TV show about two terrorist organizations. Can you imagine which two that we put on? They weren't Abu-Nidal and some other group. They were the IRS and a group in Illinois, a state agency that terrorizes sole practitioner lawyers, trying to chew 'em up. We described them as "terrorist groups" [laughs].
The picture of their leaders should hang rightfully in the post office.
One of the stories I did, which has been 20-some odd years in the making was, the reasons why the CIA and other federal agencies will not squelch the Chinese secret police that are operating in the United States.
I told a short version of the story. Actually it would take a good book to go into it. I happen to have been a long-time friend, over a period of 20 years, to a retired "spook" who was an expert on the Chinese secret police. He'd been a parachute spy for the O.S.S. during the second war. And when he got back here, in the '50s, they more or less put him to work, part time, to track the Chinese secret police that the government, the U.S. government, never did anything to stop them. In other words, the Vietnam war came along, they didn't want to stop them -- for a little-known reason: historically and traditionally China was a long-time enemy of Vietnam. In fact when the Vietnam war ended, they had a border conflict! Remember that?
CONSPIRACY NATION: No, no.
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: So the Chinese secret police are functioning.
Although a friend of one Chinese scientist called up and bitterly berated me. I says, "Friend, what are you hollering about? I'm not talking about your man. Why is your man telling you to scream at me?"
Maybe he is with the secret police. I wasn't even thinking about him at all! And he says, "Why do I..." I mentioned about a sneaky scientist being the head of the Chinese secret police in the United States. And somebody called up and says, "Will you stop condemning my friend?" I says, "I wasn't even thinking about your friend! Is your friend feeling guilty about something, that he told you to heckle me?" I says, "The one I was thinkin' about isn't your friend at all!" [laughs]
(But now that he mentioned him, I'm gonna put him on the list.) [laughs]
CONSPIRACY NATION: Is your phone workin' now? 5741, is that back?
SHERMAN SKOLNICK: Yeah, right. It is.
All political activists curse the phone company. I mean, they're the great boogeyman of the world. And it's justified. Because during the anti-war period, whenever there was a big rally, they would try to stop the rally by sabotaging people's phones. When you'd pick up the phone, you'd want to call somebody. You says, "Hey, you goin' down to this peace rally?" And all of a sudden, your phone is dead, your pal's phone is dead. And then when you'd get to a pay phone, to call the phone company, they said, "What?! I don't know what you're talkin' about."
Well how was it that all these guys that were organizing a peace rally, that their phones all went dead about the same time? Now that sounds beyond coincidence.
There was a movie about there was a vast conspiracy in the world, and at the end of the movie it turned out to be the phone company. "The President's Analyst" I think it was called. And actually, the whole conspiracy was conducted from a phone booth!! [laughs]
Maybe the movie was correct. [laughs]
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