Saturday, August 08, 2020

Truth Contortionists

Truth Contortionists

     Have you ever watched a contortionist squeeze their way into the tiniest of spaces? They calculate every move, having practiced many times which limb and joint should precede which into the void - a carefully choreographed dance to occupy micro-spaces in ways the human form was never intended.

Equally, in what has increasingly become a fact-free and conspiracy leaning society, we watch truth contortionists in our own politics twist their extreme “version” of the truth into public discourse while attracting new adherents with battle cries of combatting the “Deep State”. Q-Anon endorsers are elected to
James Carrion By James Carrion
The UFO Chronicles
public office and whole swaths of the population, enduring the worse pandemic in 100 years, shun scientific experts in favor of conspiracy mongering and snake oil pushing politicians. People die.

And as I watch this train wreck of what I once thought was the greatest country on earth, with its supposed deep-rooted institutions and traditions of civility and decorum, literally going to hell in a handbasket fast, I can’t help but experience Déjà vu. I have seen this self-destructive and corrosive behavior before, in the world of UFOs.

The microcosm of UFO-world is both fascinating and exhausting to observe. It too is an alternative reality where facts are in constant free fall, conspiracy runs rampant and its truth contortionists are exceptionally adept at their trade. Instead of the Deep State it is the Cosmic Watergate, where the “Government” allegedly wages an almost century old war hiding the “truth” of extraterrestrials visitation to planet earth. In UFO-world, there is no middle ground in this war – you are either against the “truth embargo” or you are labeled a Government agent, an agitator, a disinformer, or a debunker.

Don Schmitt
Don Schmitt
To give you a taste of how UFO truth is stretched, warped and ultimately consumed by the public as “fact”, let me share with you a recent Facebook exchange with Donald Schmitt of “It was Aliens” Roswell fame. I want to focus on two specific areas – standards of evidence and factual reporting.

Let us begin with standards of evidence which are pretty much non-existent in UFO-world. Ufologists for some odd reason often either believe themselves exempt from professional standards of evidence or cherry pick the standards they employ.

Because the Roswell Incident suffers from a complete lack of public domain physical evidence, i.e. the bodies, the craft, etc., Schmitt believes that Roswell is foremost a people investigation. His reasoning is that if he finds the witnesses to the event, at some point the physical evidence is going to pop, and then he can call in the UFO-world equivalent of CSI to scientifically analyze the material evidence. By his reasoning, the real-world standards of evidence would be those that involve witness testimony, i.e. the same standards involved in civil or criminal proceedings. Fine, I can sort of agree with that.

So, let us examine legal standards of evidence. Direct evidence like witness testimony is admissible in a court of law when the witness is present in the court room and subject to cross examination by both the prosecution and the defense. Hearsay, where the witness is not available for cross examination, and instead their words are introduced by a third party, is not admissible with a few exceptions – one of these being the Dying Declaration exception which Schmitt not only endorses but believes trumps all prior testimony.

The Dying Declaration hearsay exception however does not exactly match up to Schmitt’s use of it. Dying Declaration is invoked for example if a person is murdered and they can name their murderer right before dying, or as another example,  a person confesses to a family member with their last dying words that they had committed a crime. But with Roswell, no crime has been committed; instead, we are talking about memories of an event.

Schmitt believes that if Roswell Witness A has been saying X for years, and now close to their death they state Y instead, in his opinion, this end-of-life change-of-heart deathbed testimony is superior to and supersedes any conflicting testimony the witness gave prior. I would love to hear real criminal and civil lawyers (I am not one) opine on this. This sounds like nonsense to me as this change of heart is not related to knowledge of a crime but the radically differing testimony of a witness.

This appears to be more akin to a contested will case. If I write up my will leaving all my assets to my children and toward the end of my life I write a new will leaving it all to my dog, well something’s up that prompted such a radical departure. The will gets contested and various factors like Lack of Testamentary Capacity (read mental capacity) and Undue Influence (prompting by others to modify the will) must be considered. The end of life will does not automatically supersede the prior.

Colonel Doyle 'Dode' Rees
Colonel Doyle 'Dode' Rees
The second issue I want to touch upon is factual reporting, i.e. telling it like it is, straight-up, without embellishment and without leaving out important details. Equally important is not obfuscating or making ambiguous statements that are open to assumption and interpretation. In our lengthy Facebook exchange, Schmitt has provided some glaring examples of non-factual reporting.

Let us take the case of Doyle Rees that Schmitt mentions in his book Cover-Up at Roswell: Exposing the 70-Year Conspiracy to Suppress the Truth.  Schmitt believes Rees provided deathbed testimony to back up Roswell as an alien event.

Rees is first mentioned at the end of chapter 6 in which Schmitt summarily disqualifies Sheridan Cavitt as a witness, because Cavitt allegedly repeatedly lied to Schmitt over many interviews. Here is an excerpt from the book:
Cavitt’s own former boss, Lt. Colonel Doyle “Dode” Rees, who was stationed at USA/OSI at Kirkland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wrote a letter at our request to him around the same time. In it, he remarked, “When you call the press conference to tell the world, let me know, because I want to be there”.
 Note how this paragraph has a double connotation; that Cavitt was “in the know” and Rees was also potentially in on the secret and waiting for his more directly involved subordinate to spill the beans.  However, Doyle Rees (DR)  gave a taped interview to Sign Oral History Project’s Tom Tulien (TT) in October 1999, where Rees’ knowledge of the Roswell Incident comes into focus.
DR: [Laughing] Yeah. Well, I came after the Roswell incident. I came out there after that.

TT: Were you aware of that at the time?

DR: No, I wasn't. And one of my top officers was down at Roswell at the time, you know. You've probably heard of Sheridan Cavitt, have you?

TT: Yeah.

DR: Well, he was one of my top officers, and they've always - the people I've talked to – have always suspected that he was holding out. That his lips were sealed. And he told me - and I have lots of correspondence here with him - where he says, "I don't know anything." He says, "If I'd have known, I would have told you." But that may not be so - I don't know. If you're sworn to secrecy, maybe he's got to keep - maybe his lips are sealed, I don't know.
 This exchange paints a different picture. Rees believed Cavitt may have known more than he was saying but clearly professes his own lack of involvement or knowledge.

And in Sheridan Cavitt’s (SC) own May 24, 1994 interview with Colonel Richard Weaver (RW) as part of the US Air Force’s report on Roswell, Cavitt mentions the letter Rees sent him:
RW: Well the names I recognize here that were still: are Doyle Rees and John Stahl.
SC: Doyle is still alive. I have a letter from him.

RW: I think he's in the Association of Former OSI Agents.

SC: Yeah. Right.

RW: And I am also a member of that so I see a lot of that. So, I see a lot of their letters and stuff, pictures that they send.

MC: We get correspondence from Doyle… (NOTE: MC is Sheridan Cavitt’s wife)

MC: Nice, nice man.

SC: He is a nice man. And a nice family. I don’t know what the date on that is. Letter from Doyle, it says: “When you call the press conference to tell the world, let me know, because I want to be there.“ So, I just got reams of this stuff from books.
So, Cavitt acknowledges the letter from Rees with the “tell the world” message. None of this is technically non-factual, at least until Schmitt states this in our Facebook exchange.
Rees was not in Roswell and not involved as we have ever been able to determine. I quoted his letter which he was kind enough to have written on our behalf to Cavitt where he clearly implied that he had a BIG story to tell. We have that letter.
Put into context with Rees and Cavitt’s interviews, we see an alternate picture: Rees professes no knowledge of the Roswell Incident but believes Cavitt may be holding back something, although Cavitt has also denied any knowledge. Schmitt asks Rees to write the letter to Cavitt with the “tell the world” message. Schmitt states in a public forum that Rees was implying that Cavitt had a BIG story to tell. But who prompted Rees to write the letter in the first place? Schmitt & CO. This is a self-generated and twisted version of the truth where Schmitt is simply playing one witness against the other and then trying to attach importance to a letter that has no significance whatsoever.

To explore Doyle Rees (DR) knowledge or involvement with the Roswell Incident further, let us examine this excerpt from his interview with Tom Tulien (TT):
TT: Yeah, it is odd too that the whole thing began during the time that we developed nuclear capability.

DR: Yes, yes.

TT: And you know, the green fireballs around Los Alamos.

DR: Yes.

TT: You know, that is curious, too.

DR: Yeah, it, it's a strange thing. There isn't an answer to it yet, as far as I know. You can't dismiss it, because of the reports you get from good witnesses. But then on the other hand, why haven't we got the concrete evidence somehow. A photograph- or really a crash.

TT: Yeah.

DR: I have lots of reservations about the Roswell incident. I doubt that it occurred myself. I can't believe that it occurred, and it went to Washington, and went to Wright-Pat. And those of us who are in counterintelligence and intelligence - if that did occur we'd have had rumors of it, somehow.

 But I never did hear a rumor from within the Air Force that there was anything like that going on.

But I hope there can be a resolution to this and put it to rest. Or, if there is something to this, let's make an all-out effort to resolve it. Because if there are UFOs coming from other galaxies, they have some scientific information that would be awful valuable to us.
What is striking about Rees’ response is that he reveals his non-involvement or knowledge of the Roswell Incident, unprompted! Schmitt in his book paints a different picture:
"Rees refused to tell anyone about the '47 incident..."
When I asked Schmitt why he didn’t mention Tulien’s interview in his book, he initially gave lengthy and irrelevant explanations of how deathbed testimony was superior to prior testimony and argued this point ad nauseum, and only after much banter back and forth did he then claim he had never seen the Tulien transcript to begin with and only first heard of it when I brought it up. OK, benefit of the doubt granted.

But as oftentimes happens when one does protest too much while contorting the truth, slippage occurs where you say something that sounds good in the moment but does not exactly fit the overall story. Here’s some relevant Facebook exchanges where Schmitt talks about Rees:
Rees was not in Roswell and not involved as we have ever been able to determine. I quoted his letter which he was kind enough to have written on our behalf to Cavitt where he clearly implied that he had a BIG story to tell. We have that letter.
Rees was not at Roswell at the time of the incident, so he remains a non-witness. The only reason we sought him out was because he was Cavitt's boss and Cavitt wouldn't even admit being at Roswell in 47'.

For the umpteenth time; Doyle Rees was in Albuquerque at the time and not involved at Roswell.

The fact that you intentionally select a non-witness to argue your point demonstrates how flaccid your effort.

The fact that Rees was not at Roswell at the time of the incident is the bottom line.

If the best you or anyone else can do is relegate an individual who was 200 miles away from Roswell at the time to somehow being involved - your misrepresentation.
Which really begs the question, if Rees was such a non-character and the only reason Schmitt sought him out was because he was in Cavitt’s chain of command, why in the world would Schmitt write this about Rees:
"Unknown to his family, he was also involved with the CIC investigation of the Roswell Incident"
Twisting the truth here is saying it mildly.

Now to be fair to Schmitt, since he does place such importance on deathbed testimony, let me finish this off by relating the anecdote in the book where Schmitt ties in Rees’ alleged endorsement of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Summarized on Facebook:
Rees died in 2007 and according to his daughter Julie, who we interviewed in 2011, just before he died she was spending time with him at his home in Utah. One day she found him sitting in a chair staring through a window up at the sky. "What are you looking for Daddy? she asked. "I'm looking for UFOs. They're real, you know," he replied and then he added, "I saw the bodies."
The problem with this “deathbed” anecdote is that there is absolutely nothing to tie it to Roswell. Rees is not quoted saying “I saw the Roswell alien bodies” but it is a general statement in support of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. This exchange remains hearsay and would not be considered anything close to a Dying Declaration. However, Schmitt believes this anecdote trumps Rees’ taped interview where he opines on the UFO phenomenon:
TT: You've been looking at this phenomenon for fifty years, what's your attitude about it these days? DR: About?

TT: About the phenomenon in general?

DR: Well, I would say this: I'm not convinced that there are UFOs. I'm convinced that people are seeing something that they are accused of being UFOs. Some of the testimony of the people that have observed them, and my own observation - it's something you can't just laugh about and forget about. They did -people that were honest and trustworthy - make awful sincere, honest reports on what they saw. I don't know. I'm not convinced that there are flying saucers. Yet, I'm - I can't understand, if there isn't a strange phenomenon going on, why people are seeing them. Not only in New Mexico or the Southwest - but all over the world. They're observed them all over the world. So, it's strange. But then it's strange, if there is such a thing - why haven't we had concrete evidence to show that there is? That would be my thoughts.
Rees did not deny the plausibility of UFOs but denied knowing what UFOs are, due to lack of evidence. Rees also denied any knowledge of the Roswell Incident itself.

To summarize, Rees when interviewed on tape in 1991 at the age of 91, by all appearances was in a sound state of mind, based on his coherent answers to Tulien’s questions, as reflected in the transcript. But then eight year later, in 2007 when he died at the age of 99, Doyle Rees allegedly had a radical change of opinion on UFOs. I say we contest the will!

Schmitt was livid that I called him out on these factual errors, and he did not hesitate to mention the 150 other witnesses that he had interviewed multiple times over many years. But if he is so nonchalant about distorting the record of one of the least important of the characters in his book, what are we to assume about the central witnesses that he attaches great importance to?

I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if Schmitt really wants to avoid being labeled a truth contortionist, it would be in his best interest to release the complete transcripts of his witness interviews so we can judge their testimony for ourselves. Other wise we are at the mercy of his interpretations, factual errors, and unconventional standards of evidence and in UFO-world that bar has been set far too low for way too long.