Sunday, 15 July 2012 20:59

Michael Shermer Strikes (Out) Again: Review of Michael Shermer’s CBC documentary, Conspiracy Rising

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Frank Cassano on the Canadian Broadcasting Company's documentary and its message that “conspiracy theorists threaten democracy”.

“In every case, the chance for complete information is very small, and the hope that in time researchers, students, and historians will be able to ferret out truth from untruth, real from unreal, and story from cover story is at best a very slim one. Certainly, history teaches us that one truth will add to and enhance another; but let us not forget that one lie added to another lie will demolish everything. This is the important point...Consider the past half century. How many major events – really major events – have there been that simply do not ring true? How many times has the entire world been shaken by alarms of major significance, only to find that the events either did not happen at all, or if they did, that they had happened in a manner quite unlike the original story? The mystery behind all of this lies in the area we know as ‘clandestine activity’, ‘intelligence operations’, ‘secrecy’, and ‘cover stories’ used on a national and international scale. It is the object of this book to bring reality and understanding into this vast unknown area.”

- Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, The Secret Team

It has been several decades since those words were written by the late-great Mr. Prouty. This goes way back when to before there existed cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, 24-hour news cycles, and most of all, the internet. What Prouty originally described as being a “vast unknown area” has become infinitely vaster, infinitely more secretive…yet infinitely more widely known about and exposed for all the masses to question in their minds. It’s a dichotomy of wooly mammoth proportions. It has become the 10,000 lb. elephant in the room; everybody knows it’s there, but nobody dares point it out. Especially not our media organizations.

But wait how does that make sense? How can something become more widely known yet remain a secret at the same time? It’s largely a matter of being able to see the forest for the trees. (And what with so much clear-cutting going on in the world, the big picture has never been clearer.) In previous decades, we didn’t know that any such huge covert element even existed. At least now we know. That, in my opinion, is great progress. Not only is the Emperor not wearing any clothes, the fig leaf he uses appears to be embarrassingly tiny! But in this case, the Emperor is not any one single person. It’s a group effort; a movement.

How do we know the elephant exists in the room? Well, that’s pretty simple: because never before have we experienced such a full-force onslaught of disinformation, propaganda, and censorship as we have is recent years. Yes, I said censorship. When media organizations and individuals alike are expressly ordered to not publish or report on certain stories, and they respond, instead, by carting out the typical smoke screen cover story…that is censorship.

When other parties are called in to disseminate false or inaccurate information, distorted evidence, or unfactual information over top of it, this amounts to a clever game of mop-up. Censorship sets you up with the jab, and the disinformation campaigns knock you out with the big right hand uppercut. It’s that uppercut that keeps you down on the canvas and in la-la land. These mop up efforts come in the form of books, blogs, newspaper articles, TV documentaries, film documentaries, and of course, bogus museums.

If you ever doubted for a second that the American rightwing was in complete charge, you can now put that question to rest. There are so many things that point to this all-out take-over that it’s downright chilling. The military and all of its various secret government agencies are bigger, stronger, richer, and more powerful than ever before. They are now the caboose that runs the locomotive.

I don’t know of many left-wing military “hawks” or if such an animal even exists; the Kennedys have been vilified, while Reagan has been resurrected and glorified; corporations, CEOs, and billionaires have never had it better. Again, I don’t know of too many Wall Street executives who would be caught dead supporting a Democrat, or even an independent. Simply put, it goes against their own best interests. Why pay a tax rate of 35%, 25%, or even 1%...when you can get away with paying no taxes at all! Why be forced by pesky unions to pay your workers $20/hr, including job security, overtime, and pension provisions…when you can close down your plant, send those jobs to China, and pay someone $20 a week!

I found the following statement in Michael Shermer’s CBC documentary Conspiracy Rising, quite telling. The statement was: “conspiracy theorists threaten democracy”. And, in fact, this is one of the strongest, most explicit themes in the show. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen this message made so clearly. Namely that the rise of conspiracy thinking can and will lead inevitably to the rise of Nazi terrorism as with the Klan or as in Germany itself. Not kidding at all, this is what the show depicts. See, I’d say the rise of this kind of thinking and digging for facts threatens fascism – which explains the heavy handed efforts at disinformation and propaganda we’ve been witnessing of late. Of which this show, and Shermer himself, are prime examples.

This is no accident; no mere blip. This is the way that power brokers and money men have restructured the system, and they like it this way. But they can’t do it on their own. They need help, in the way of relief pitchers. A mop-up crew.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) began in 1936 as CBC radio. One of its main objectives was to provide important news and information to people who lived on the outskirts of this massive country of Canada. People who lived out on the far coasts, or up north in the Yukon, were more-or-less cut off from the rest of society, unlike those who lived in the bigger cities to the south e.g. Toronto and Montréal. It was the CBC who would keep these people in touch, first with radio, and later in the early 1960’s, with television. It was a way of unifying the country by keeping all citizens in touch.

As a Canadian, I continue to seek out the CBC when I’m after accurate, in-depth journalistic pieces. Or even the BBC. But I sure as hell don’t seek out any of the American outlets. What’s the difference? Well, on the CBC, you might hear the journalists asking: “Have Bush and Cheney started two phony wars for profit and power?” By contrast, on a typical American news channel, you would hear: “And President Bush was seen wearing a handsome grey suit today as he was exiting Air Force One. It was a beautiful suit. I think I’ll go out today and buy myself one just like it. And now…let’s have a weather update!”

It can be argued that the American media only see things in black or white…but at least Bush’s suit contained some shades of gray. Better than nothing.

Now, let us fast forward to a headline in the Huffington Post, dated December 14, 2010: “My Day in Dealey Plaza: Why JFK Was Killed by a Lone Assassin” by Michael Shermer.

Now also on that day appeared in this blog in bold headlines: “Michael Shermer making documentary about ‘conspiracy theories’ for CBC”.

Oh, and just for the hell of it, here’s yet another article of Shermer’s which appeared in the Huffington Post: “9/11 ‘Truthers’ a Pack of Liars”.

Now, this is the same Huffington Post which told Jesse Ventura in no uncertain terms: “We don’t do 9/11.” Yet they let Michael Shemer get away with a title like that? The almost humorous irony here is that in his documentary under discussion, Shermer actually complains that the new media, the Internet, can lead to the fatal Fascist disease of conspiracy thinking. Well, that sure won’ t happen at Huffington Post, not with Michael Shermer and Arianna Huffington around.

Well, gee willies, Shermer sure gets a lot of exposure on the Huffington Post, doesn’t he? I mean, it’s almost like they’re seeking him out! I wouldn’t be surprised to see the following notice on their website.

“This is an open standing offer to Michael Shermer. We will print whatever you want, whenever you want! Our loyalty is not to our readers, or to journalism, or to our share holders our main concern is to make sure your message gets out to the world! We won’t edit your stuff…hell, we don’t even have to read it. We’ll just print it as is. Will you please call us, Michael? Pretty please? Pretty please with sugar on top?


Your friends at the Huffington Post

Now, in that spirit, here are some upcoming articles we might expect.

“Michael Shermer eats an apple!”
“Michael Shermer ties his shoelaces!”
“Michael Shermer goes out grocery shopping!”
“Michael Shermer gets a tan!”

Let’s get back to the pitching analogy. The “team” needed a mop-up crew, and who could they get? Well, Dave Reitzes was away being McAdams’ New Orleans expert; Von Pein was being benched for using growth hormone. Not on himself but on his fried chickens; John McAdams? we can’t get him because he’s working on a book so who’s left? Gary Mack? Nope, we can’t get Mack – he’s just plain exhausted from trying to cut down that large tree on Elm Street which blocks the view from the 6th floor window. So who’s left? The coach now escorts Michael Shermer to the mound.


Shermer knows how to throw strikes. Well, if truth be told, we’ll never know if any of these guys can or not. Because if they ever balked, or had their pitches belted out of the park, the New Media, that is the Daily Beast or Huffpo would not note it. They’d just turn around and let Michael write an article in the Huffington Post, or come out with a book, blog, or television documentary to tell you that the ball never actually exited the park for a home run, that it was all a misunderstanding; an optical illusion; that the sun was in peoples’ eyes; that they actually struck the guy out. “You see, everybody only thought they saw a home run.” Obviously, those 35,000 fans in attendance, not to mention all of the dozens of news cameras strategically located around the park, were mistaken. They misremembered. It was a “flashbulb” memory completely unreliable. You know just like the Zapruder film! And by the way, Shermer uses that analogy of Flashbulb Memories in this documentary, just like Posner did to criticize that good documentary The Lost JFK Tapes. And Posner did that where? In The Daily Beast. Before they canned him for being a plagiarist. When in fact, he was much worse. He was a liar.

Lie goes to the runner. Oops, I mean tie.

Shermer’s "Flashbulb Memories" theory got me wondering. My father died in 1983 of a brain aneurysm. I have many great memories of my father. Or at least I think I do. Because according to Michael Shermer, I can’t really be sure that my father ever existed. Michael tells me that my memories are unreliable. Was that my father…or some neighbour who just kind of sort of resembled my father? Michael, can you help me with this? Was that really my father I remember, or was my brain playing tricks on me? Have I misremembered? Can you help me to connect the dots?

The CBC “documentary,” titled Conspiracy Rising is just another orchestrated disinformation campaign much like McAdams’ recent book. No difference. Well, there is one difference. The show was hosted, presented and narrated by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Unlike the vast majority of pieces put out by the CBC, where the reporting is done in a straight-up, well-researched and impartial manner, Ms. MacDonald does a surprising thing very unbecoming of a “serious journalist”. She puts inflections in her voice so as to impugn the object at hand that is to be ridiculed.

And the ridicule is non-stop, in every direction. From the choice of talking heads—Jim Angleton’s pal Chip Berlet no less—to the swirling of topics in a blender—Marilyn Monroe meets Roswell meets 9-11 meets JFK meets faked moon landing meets death of Diana meets world trade agreements meets Obama’s birth certificate meets David Icke’s reptile people, etc. As if they are all equal in importance and standard of proof adduced.

Now whom does Shermer trot out to be the representative of the conspiracy side? Well remember who Shermer is. Would he use say John Newman on the JFK case? Or Mike Ruppert on 9-11? Nope. That would be fair. He wants to be unfair and ridiculous. So he brings in the overbearing, non-discriminating demagogue Alex Jones. And then to top if off, Shermer inserts the “Oh it’s all psychological, people need conspiracies to support themselves from facts they cannot accept stuff.” Its all been said before by Shermer. And this is just a cheap rehash. Except the danger of fascism angle has never been more virulent as it is here.

The show couldn’t resist but to levy the same old tried-and-true “tin foil hats” remark when referring to people who suspect a conspiracy. Shermer even says he’s challenged people who believe in UFO’s to produce evidence and how they can’t respond. Fricking UFO’s and aliens, Michael? Michael, why don’t you challenge people in the JFK community? Michael? Are you there? Where’d he go?

But is this a wholesale sell-out by the CBC? I doubt it. More likely, it’s a reflection of how the CIA itself operates; where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing; where individual agents go about their assignments in a bubble, not knowing what other agents are doing or even if there are other agents.

But clearly, somebody at the CBC was receptive to Shermer’s advances; someone at the CBC had either already been aware of, or had been made aware of Shermer’s ongoing mission; otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten the gig…and the CBC wouldn’t have forked out the necessary budget allotment. Right? Clearly, someone at the CBC decided that this was bigger than any one individual; that it was the continuation of a team effort.

Now, if you ask me who first phoned who to get the process rolling, I can’t say. But it is striking how Shermer continues to get the red carpet treatment from various news organizations. Isn’t it?

“Michael Shermer making documentary about ‘conspiracy theories’ for CBC”. Very interesting announcement from the Huffington Post, no less. This is the same Huffington Post who refused to carry Jesse Ventura’s articles about 9/11. Then there’s Mark Lane, who can’t find a publisher for his book. Jesse Ventura sees episodes of his “Conspiracy Theories” pulled. “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” gets banned for all time by A&E. L. Fletcher Prouty’s “The Secret Team” gets mysteriously “unpublished” overnight by the CIA. Oliver Stone gets personally maligned, and his film JFK gets mercilessly slammed by the media…before it’s even released!

No problems here. Or as Leslie Nielson would say with the building burning behind him, “Nothing to see here.”

(Ever smiling)Michael Shermer begins by saying that people just can’t accept the fact that a great man like the president of the United States could be killed by a nobody such as Oswald.

Not so, Michael; your premise is incorrect. Oswald was a somebody. In fact…he was super-human! Because according to Shermer’s logic (but more importantly, according to the president’s wounds) Oswald shot at JFK from behind him on the 6th floor, then he ran out and shot him in the throat from the front, then he ran over and shot him from the grassy knoll, then he ran back into the TSBD and had a Coke all within a few short seconds! With that type of speed Oswald could have made mince meat out of unworthy pretenders like Usain Bolt or Jesse Owens. Or The Flash. Or The Roadrunner.

(Ever Smiling) Michael Shermer is always fond of theorizing about how people are prone to “misremembering” events, and how they are incapable of “connecting the dots properly”. Well, this just exposes how Shermer must obviously have done precious little research into the assassination. Because if he had, he’d know that Oswald was a radar operator for the U2 spy flight missions. Radar operators often use Morse code which is made up of a series of dots and dashes. So in other words…it was Oswald’s job to literally connect the dots properly! Take that, Michael!

For shame, Michael! At least Mack, McAdams, Reitzes, and Von Pein are up to speed on the facts of the case. Of course, the fact that their life’s mission appears to be to subvert, mangle, misrepresent, and conceal those facts is altogether a separate issue. Come on, Michael…get in the game! A team only wins if every player puts out 110%! No team wants a teammate out there that the rest of the team has to carry.

Just take a look at who Shermer consults in any of his puppet show/slide presentations available on the internet, or even on this documentary. Does he speak with Jim DiEugenio? Mark Lane? the Dallas doctors? Jim Douglas? David Mantik? Abraham Bolden? No, no, no, no, no, and no. The list goes on. Instead, Shermer invariably seeks out the expertise of a freelance “tour guide” in Dealey Plaza and tourists! Is this where you go to get your facts, Michael? But of course, (Ever Smiling) Michael Shermer prefers it that way. It allows him to make a mockery out of the whole thing, without having to answer tough questions. Or any questions at all, for that matter.

He slips in, makes a mockery, and slips out again but seldom without his trusty cameraman nearby filming the whole thing. If Shermer could ever dispel even one of the dozens of proven facts that blow the Warren Commission fairy tale out of the water it would be so refreshing. Perhaps then he might be taken seriously. But as you’ll notice…he never once does this. Not once. Not a single time. Never. It is not in his mission statement. Ka-ching! Your check is in the mail, Michael.

In my original review of Michael Shermer, I suggested the title of his magazine should be changed from Skeptic to Denier But now I think it should be changed to “Septic”. That’s because every time one of these disinfo artists has a bowel movement (inevitably disguised as a book, article, blog, slide show, museum, or documentary)…the rest of us are reduced to having to review, well, a bowel movement! It’s not unlike sorting through your dog’s stool with a stick when you think he may have swallowed a foreign object. And I don’t mean a “pink poodle” either, Mr. McAdams: this excrement leaves a pile of Brontosaurus proportions.

But back to the documentary for a second. If you’ve noticed, I’ve spent very little time talking about it. That’s because it’s not worth talking about! There’s one thing that did give me great laughs. And that is when Shermer tells us that what conspiracy theories do is give us a dopamine hit! Aw, come on, now, Michael! Like it’s not enough that our brains don’t work and we can’t remember things properly – are you now telling us that we’re dope addicts too! Sheesh! The show even ends with “quiz”. Just answer the questions to see if you, too, are well, a conspiracy theorist!

You won’t be surprised to know that Gary Mack offers up his opinion in this show. Mack says: “I’ve long believed, personally, that there was more to it than Lee Harvey Oswald. I just can’t prove it. And I don’t know anyone who can.”


Gary, allow me to present a list of FACTS that ARE proveable.

  • JFK was shot in the throat from the front
  • The “stretcher bullet” arrived at FBI HQ before the FBI agent delivered it
  • The most botched autopsy in history was conducted by inexperienced pathologists and was directed and controlled, not by medical protocol, but by military personnel who were yelling out orders of what to do and what not to do
  • The president’s brain was and is missing
  • The man who took the photos of Kennedy’s brain says he did not take them
  • Oswald was seen on lower floors during the time of the shooting
  • The condition of CE 399
  • Most of the Dallas doctors could not recognize the head wounds that they were later shown as having been the same as they had originally witnessed and treated
  • Several people expressed foreknowledge of the assassination
  • There were fake “agents” in Dealey Plaza
  • The Zapruder film

And that’s only a partial list. I’m sure Gary would have little difficulty fleshing it out…to about ten times it’s current size. Just one of the items on that list would be sufficient to prove that Oswald was set up. But to have literally dozens and dozens? That sort of stuff just doesn’t happen in the real world. But this ain’t the real world we’re talking about here. Remember what I said earlier? It’s a review of the latest in a series of bowel movements. Hey, somebody’s got to do it. And Jim DiEugenio asked me to. Maybe he’s anti-Canadian? Whoops, another conspiracy theory.

By Mack saying, “I’ve long believed, personally, that there was more to it than Lee Harvey Oswald. I just can’t prove it. And I don’t know anyone who can.” is just Mack taking the chump’s way out. Mack assures us that the case can’t be proved. Even though he surely know better. So what does Mack do instead? He uses this as justification to go ahead to put out KNOWN FALSITIES about the case! That’s like an paleontologist saying: “Well, all we have here are dinosaur bones … but we have no actual living dinosaurs. So, therefore, dinosaurs don’t exist.”

I must give full credit to Gary, however. In Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory television show, Jesse asked Mack if he could imagine himself prognosticating about the JFK assassination over a beer a proposition that Mack enthusiastically accepted. This surely must have been gut-wrenchingly difficult for Mack. He was probably thinking to himself: “Beer? What’s with the beer? Everybody knows I prefer three shots.”

From 1964 until 1968 there was a television show called “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” It was all about spies, counterspies, secret agencies, disinformation, mercenaries for hire, double-agents, people in high places mounting wide-spread propaganda campaigns, and intelligence gathering. Contrary to popular belief, the original working title was not “The Man from D.U.N.K.L.E.” And I got that straight from Wikipedia – John McAdams’ own personal fiefdom!

As you all know, McAdams cites Mack as being his "voice of sanity," so  I don't think McAdams would have steered Mack wrong about this. However, Gary very nearly did figure in another popular show from the 60's – "McAdams' Family". Who could ever forget that memorable theme song with the snapping fingers?

“They have a 6th Floor muse-um

But nobody does believe ‘em

It’s Reitzes, Mack, and Von Pe-in

McAdams’ Family!”

To see this one, click below.

The most uplifting part of this whole exercise was certainly not the documentary itself, but the comments log beneath the show as seen above, and the CBC trailer here:

There are dozens of pretty fantastic and excellent posts down there. What it proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that nobody not Michael Shermer, not Gary Mack, and not even the CBC is fooling anybody with this type of shameless propaganda.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 04:27
Frank Cassano

Frank has dabbled with writing all of his life – including songwriting, journalism, a book of humor, comedy bits for radio, and placing articles with several magazines. His interest in the JFK assassination was piqued in 2004 when he discovered BlackOp Radio. He is currently adapting one of his short stories into a novel. The story – called "A Player Cheats The House" – is loosely based on the JFK case.

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