Sunday, 31 January 2010 18:52

Reply to Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule

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In a letter to the authors of the article "Conspiracy Theories", Cyril Wecht takes up their claim that "conspiracy theorists" typically suffer from a "crippled epistemology".

Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D.
(CTKA file photo)



Cyril Wecht is a nationally recognized forensic pathologist, and past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American College of Legal Medicine.




I recently learned of your jointly written article, "Conspiracy Theories", in which you contend that "Conspiracy theorists" typically suffer from a "crippled epistemology". Such individuals are considered by you to be "members of informationally and socially isolated groups (that) tend to display a kind of paranoid cognition".

In your litany of conspiracy theories, you have included those people who hold "the view that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy". In an obvious attempt to portray such critics and disbelievers of the Warren Commission Report as paranoid nuts and fruitcakes, you cleverly list this extremely important, highly controversial, 46 year old, still ongoing controversy among several absurd conspiratorial allegations, e.g., "doctors deliberately manufactured the AIDS virus, the moon landing was staged and never actually occurred; the plane crash that killed Democrat Paul Wellstone was engineered by Republican politicians", etc.

While this kind of quasi-intellectual, semantical game playing may have legitimate application in a law school classroom in order to stimulate debate and enhance the development of legal reasoning among future attorneys, it is an insulting ploy that is far beneath the dignity of two distinguished professors when utilized in the manner set forth in your article.

Is it conceivable that you are not aware of the fact that 70-80% of the U.S. public (and even higher percentages elsewhere in the world) has repeatedly and consistently expressed disbelief in the WCR in every national poll conducted on this subject from 1965 to the present time? Do you not know that the House Select Committee of the U.S. Congress (1977-79) concluded that the WCR was wrong in its official determination that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in plotting and executing the assassination of JFK?

Are both of you so intellectually arrogant and strongly defensive of the federal government that you are willing to publicly state that more than two-thirds of the American public and a bi-partisan committee of Congressmen are cognitively dysfunctional? From whom have the two of you derived such power and right to ridicule and defame so many people?

But this part of your cleverly orchestrated diatribe pales by comparison to the far more egregious and dangerously frightening proposition that you have advanced with incredible academic chutzpah, namely, your recommendations for "Governmental Responses".

Officially sanctioned government counterspeech "to discredit conspiracy theories'; the hiring of "credible private parties to engage in counterspeech"; the official banning of conspiracy theorizing; the imposition of "some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories;" etc.


Gentlemen, why are you being so hesitant and conservative in your proposed efforts to rid our society of conspiracy theorists, including all of us who reject the WCR and the scientifically preposterous "single bullet theory"? Why not simply have us arrested, placed in concentration camps, tried by special government tribunals (presided over by eminent sycophantic law professors like the two of you to ensure correct verdicts), and then executed? After all, if we need to make America safe, we had better get serious.

In closing, I should like to be so bold and daring as to invite either, or both of you together, to engage in a public debate with me – anywhere, anytime – relating to the JFK assassination and the WCR. Even though I am only a lowly Adjunct Professor of Law at a school that admittedly does not rank among the elite institutions such as Harvard and the University of Chicago, I would endeavor to do my best to make such a public presentation interesting and intellectually stimulating.

Please let me know where and when you would like to arrange for such a debate. What a formidable challenge I would be confronted with having to contend with the combined sagacity and erudition of two such prominent legal scholars.

Very truly yours,

Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.

Past President, American Academy of Forensic Sciences
Past President, American College of Legal Medicine
Clinical Professor of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health
Adjunct Professor, Duquesne University Schools of Law, Pharmacology and Health Science
Distinguished Professor of Pathology, Carlow University

Last modified on Saturday, 22 October 2016 22:05
Cyril Wecht

Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., is a forensic pathologist, attorney and medical-legal consultant.  Among his many achievements in the field figure consultations on numerous high-profile cases.  He is best known for his criticism of the Warren Commission's medical findings and his dissenting opinion on the HSCA forensic pathology panel.  He also consulted with Thomas Noguchi on the RFK autopsy.  Read more about his career here.

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