Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theories’

Was Ex-Knox Man Linked – To JFK Death? December 21, 1970.

Clippings from the Harold Weisberg collection on archive.org – “the world’s largest accessible private collection of government documents and public records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to Hood College and the Beneficial-Hodson Library at Hood College, which donated a copy to the National Security Internet Archive.” 

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“I have spent a decade studying an earlier incarnation of the white power movement, which gathered extremist groups and activists together in the late 1970s. It united Klansmen, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, radical tax resisters, and others in common cause. This movement, organized around the paramilitarism and weapons of the Vietnam War, turned even more violent in 1983, when it declared war on the state. It used cultural currents and political events to recruit and radicalize its members, and grew into the militia movement beginning in the late 1980s. Its largest act of mass violence, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, killed 168 people including 19 young children.
White power activists from the 1970s onward understood anti-Semitism as one strand of a linked and coherent worldview. White power proponents believed that Jews and other malevolent international forces conspired to control the federal government, the United Nations, the banks, and more. They called this conspiracy the Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG), and, later, the New World Order. They understood the stakes of this conspiracy as tantamount to racial annihilation: that is to say, they believed that social issues like immigration, abortion, LGBT rights, and more were thinly veiled attempts of a Jewish conspiracy to threaten the future of the white race.

Significantly, Bowers [the Pittsburgh shooter] reposted references to ZOG [on social media]. He also wrote about the idea of Jews descending from Satan. This belief appeared in the earlier white power movement as Christian Identity and Dualism, political theologies that posited that white people were the true lost tribe of Israel while Jews and people of color descended from either Satan or animals. This is a significant statement not only for its dehumanizing claim, but because it is tied to an overtly violent faith. Christian Identity foretold an imminent end of the world in which believers would have to take up arms to clear the world of Jews, people of color, and other enemies before the return of Christ. In other words, it attempted to cast white power violence as a holy war.

The white power movement has pursued cell-style organizing since 1983, emphasizing the work of one or a few activists without ties to leadership. Its members, by design, do not always make clear their connections to one another. This strategy, often called “Leaderless Resistance,” was first implemented to foil government informants and criminal prosecutions. But its larger legacy has been its power to blur and erase the organized white power movement from public understanding.

Furthermore, social media played an important role in how the white power movement connected activists in common cause, and it has done so for decades. White power activists got on computer message boards in 1983-84, with the codeword-protected Liberty Net. These message boards included hit lists, but they also included personal ads and similar materials designed to join white power groups and activists in a social network. They used such message boards to circumvent laws prohibiting the distribution of hate literature over the U.S. border—in other words, to build a transnational movement. And this initiative was important enough that they used the money stolen from armored cars to purchase computers for groups that didn’t have them. One activist traveled around the country, teaching groups how to get on the message boards.

The historical archive shows us that events of mass violence motivated by white power movement organizing tend to be connected not only to one another, but also to more public-facing rhetoric and activism. In public, the earlier white power movement pursued political runs and suit-wearing talk show appearances by people like David Duke. It posted fliers, ran newspapers that reached not only movement faithful but casual members, and held public events designed to attract and recruit people.

It will be critical, in the coming weeks and months, to closely evaluate the relationship between public-facing white power activism in the present moment, such as rallies and altercations like the one at Charlottesville last year, and underground organizing that gives rise to mass violence like the 2015 shooting of Bible-study worshippers in Charleston by Dylann Roof. Roof, radicalized online by the social networks begun decades earlier, wore a Rhodesian flag patch in photographs, symbolizing a nation that had never existed in his lifetime, and connecting his activism to that of the earlier movement.

Tragically, the resources devoted to establishing such ties have been sparse at every level.”

– Kathleen Belew, “Pittsburgh Shooting Was Straight Out of White Power Movement.” The Daily Beast, November 2, 2018.  

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HyperNormalisation (Adam Curtis, 2016)

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“Germans Tried To Make World of Drug Fiends,” Sudbury Star. December 28, 1918. Page 02.

“German scientists had intended to make drug fiends of all the nations which opposed Germany, according to Alex. Aabel, chief engineer of the steamer Frederica. Mr. Aabel told in New York recently of a conversation he had had in Iceland with a German scientist on the subject.

‘If they had only waited,’ the German said, ‘we, the scientists and chemists of Germany, could have infused poison into the blood of the whole world so skillfully and so insidiously that in the course of compartaively few years Germany would have had to fight only an alliance of drug fiend nations.

‘In patent medicines, in tooth pastes and powders, in various well known and much used prophylactic preparations, we had planned to introduce our morphia, our cocaine, and other habit-forming drugs.

‘Tooth paste containing drugs had already been distributed to natives on the cost of Africa, who, without knowing why, enjoyed the sensation which resulted from its use and became addicted to it.’”

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“A man in high authority in governmental service who is definitely
in a position to know, recently told me that the American Communists are making
a more concerted effort than ever before to get their people into the various
churches of America. The Communist Party has been urging its followers to join
churches and to act in such a way that eventually they will become president of
the congregation, youth leader, elder, deacon, or occupy some other place of

Some of these known radicals are given these important places
by modernistic men of the cloth who know exactly what they are doing. Communism
is the great deceiver in the world today. It contains the doctrines of Satan,
and, therefore, does not have to tell the truth nor fulfil its promises. Many
clergymen are aiding the communists. If the Red Revolution ever succeeds in
America, these same red-aiding preachers will find that the communists have no
more use for them. They will be liquidated and imprisoned, and their churches
destroyed, closed, or turned into atheistic museums ; they will have a parallel
fate to what will happen to those American clergymen who are now bravely — and
often with much ridicule — battling atheistic communism.

The Rev. Claude Clausey Williams, a member in good standing
with the U. S. A. Presbyterian Church, is the spearhead of the Communistic religion
movement through religion. He is Director of the People’s Institute of Applied
Religion, Inc., which was headquartered in Suite 420 of The Transportation
Building, 131 West Lafayette, Detroit 26, Michigan, a half block from the city
hall. Recently Mr. Wiliams moved his headquarters to Birmingham, Alabama. According
to members of the church board over him, his support ran only until the end of
May, 1946. Williams said farewell to Detroit officially at the beginning of
June. It has not been ascertained at this writing whether the two facts are
related to each other.) Two national church boards pay the salary of Williams and
the Executive-Secretary, Calla E. Tenant. This group is but one of many found
in cities all over the nation. It now instructs and ordains its own radical preachers
after a few weeks of training.

Recently I paid a visit to this office and while one of the women
leaders of the Institute puffed away at her cigarette, she assured me that
everything they did and everything Mr. Williams wrote was from the Bible. She
kept repeating between puffs:

“It’s all from the Bible. It’s all from the Bible!”

A casual reading of Williams biography will show that this man
is not a true shepherd of Christ’s sheep, but is instead a genuine, modern
Judas to his Lord.

Supported From Moscow

We have in our possession photostatic copies of a number of checks paid in
one day to various communist organizations by the American dispenser of funds
from Moscow. One of the largest checks for that particular day’s financial
transaction goes to the DAILY WORKER,
the official communist organ. Others are made out to the PEOPLE’S INSTITUTE OF

William’s History
Claude Clausey Williams was born in Tennessee, the son of Jess and Minnie
Bell Williams. His parents were extremely poor, but had the greatness of the
full, fundamental salvation of Christ as is found in large parts of the
Presbyterian Church. According to Belfrage’s biography of Williams, his parents
kept the faith and frequently admonished their son to get back on the right road.
The biography gives the impression that Claude just patted them on the head
with deep understanding of their fundamentalist ignorance. It is evident that
unless Claude changes his ways, he will not meet his parents before the throne
of grace.

After much arguing with an inner voice, Claude finally consented
to becoming a preacher. He went to college; served several parishes near his
birthplace; and finally received a call to Paris, Arkansas. During this time
he came in contact with the modernistic writings of Harry Emerson Fosdick.
These writings were the beginning of his slip-over from fundamentalism into modernism
and eventually to the support of the communists.

The entire biography ridicules fundamental religion as scorning
the Negroes, being responsible for slavery, anti-semitism, fascism, etc. During
the persecution that followed, Williams was always aided by the members of
Commonwealth College of Mena, Arkansas, which was a school for training
communists, and which — after he had served as its director for a time — was
closed by the State of Arkansas. The public testimony which is on file at the
Attorney General’s office in the state capital, is so revealing of the
activities of Commonwealth College, and so disgusting to the moral senses that
it should not be read in mixed groups.

During the investigation to see whether the school should be
closed, it was amazing to find out which people all over the country, including
some from red centers in Europe, came to the rescue of this little school, way
down in Arkansas. It is amazing indeed to know that people that far away had ever
heard of a school of this size unless it had some international signification.

Before Williams was made director of the college, he had
been ousted by the Bible-lovers of his Paris Church. Those who came to his
defense were people he had lured to the church through pool hall tactics and
preached to them a heaven here on earth to help them escape the hell which they
were supposed to be enduring before Wiliams came to help them.

Much of the expensive literature put out by the Institute is loaded with
attacks on the true Bible preachers of the day. The headlines say that the
fundamentalists are the true fascists of America. In fact, the theory is urged
that the common denominator of all American fascists is their fundamentalism in

Youth for Christ
There are undoubtedly many fundamentalist preachers who may disagree with
some of the methods used by the YOUTH FOR CHRIST campaign. I do not believe,
however, that any fundamentalist can deny that YOUTH FOR CHRIST is a truly fundamentalist
undertaking. The rallies do not want modernists to preach for them. Recently
Claude Williams while teaching a red school in Wisconsin indicted YOUTH FOR
CHRIST as anti- Semitic. In an interview appearing in the CAPITAL TIMES and the WISCONSIN
, July 12, 1945, Williams is quoted as saying:

“The Youth for Christ movement is such s movement (a
movement to mobilise for undemocratic purposes). Aimed at converting children
to racial hatred and prejudice, it is anti-Semitic and anti-union. It is
another Hitler youth movement.”

The quotations found in the rest of this chapter are from
"A Faith To Free the People,” by Cedric Belfrage, published by Dryden
Press. (This book appeared in London under the title: “Let My People Go.” —
1939.) Price: $2.75 (or $1.25 if purchased from Institute headquarters).

“It was Fosdick’s book that, long before the great crisis
threw society’s structural decay into relief, had had perhaps the most profound
effect in revealing to him (Williams) THE FALLACY OF THE FUNDAMENTALISTS.”

“It’s a Wonderful Union, they sang now in a great chorus of hope and mass
strength, ‘and It’s Good Enough For Me.’ The old chant, ‘When The Saints Go
Marching In,’ to the strains of which millions of children of the South had
marched to revival altars for emotional conversations, had become: ‘When the
Unions Win Their Fight.’ ‘The change was only superificial, for the organized
people saw their Kingstom at hand on earth, and no mere symbolism of words
could have put it back in the sky, where the landlords and the rich folks
wanted it.’” (p. 182).

The author ridicules heaven; referring to southern planters
under the slave system, who treated their colored folks with sentiment and
kindness, he says:

“But soon they had passed on to their lilywhite heaven, to fan themselves and
sip juleps through eternity.” (p. 54).

“Religion was not doing for the planters of the South what the text-books said
it ought to do: it is not STUPEFYING THE PEOPLE but stirring them up.” (196.)

Remember what Lenin said:

“Religion is the OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE,”

it stupefies the masses.

Claude in visiting his home in Tennessee is asked by his brother Jack:

“Do you still believe there ain’t no hell?” “Still believe

Claude said. (p. 213).

“Chall told a good story about a preacher stranger who had come by the farm not
long before, had looked over the place and said:
‘Brother, that’s a fine farm you have.’
‘Yes, preacher,’ Chall said.
‘Well, you must thank the Almighty for that.’
And Chall had said: ‘Preacher, you just ought to have seen this piece of ground
when the Almighty had it all to himself.’” (p. 211).

Claude Williams speaking:

“Truth-nature-God: when you define them as far as the human mind can go you
have the same thing. But when I go to do God a favor WHATEVER HE IS, I’ve got
to go to man. There’s no other way. So I have no use for supernatural belief.”
(p. 218).

A fundamentalist preacher friend asks him:

“Have you lost faith in the Creator of all things as absolute spirit and

Williams answers:

“I guess I have – I’ve ceased to believe in anything absolute in life: absolute
God, absolutely morality, absolute panaceas for the world’s evils. The world
changes. God changes….Yes, God must grow as well as man. The Bible itself is a
dialectical development. If we postulated the fatherhood of God, the leadership
of Jesus and the progress of man onward and upward forever, then God must grow
or we’ll overtake him.” (p. 218)

Expressions are used such as ‘Old God,’ ‘New God,’ ‘The revolutionary God,’ ‘Pool-table
God,’ ‘Brush the cobwebs off God,’ ‘Reservation in heaven,’ ‘Cumberland
Presbyterian heaven,’ and a regular church is a ‘Worshipping plant.’

Jubilating in the fact that so many preachers were beginning
to preach modernism, Williams’ biographer notes:

“’If the study of the Bible is going to hide the real Jesus from me, there goes
my Bible. The Bible is not the word of God. It is man’s interpretation of the
word of God, and anything reduced to words is imperfect, for language itself is
imperfect.’” (p. 122-123).

Claude Williams speaking:

“But now I have to tell you that I have taken my stand with
Jesus of Nazareth. And I do not even know, nor can any of us know, whether He
ever actually existed. I do not care whether He is fact or myth. (p. 127).

[cut a long section decrying Williams for supporting scientific study of the
body, supporting evolutionary theory, supporting birth control, being okay
with drinking, marrying a couple who got pregnant out of wedlock and adjusting
their marriage certificate so it wasn’t premarital sex, subscribing to The Nation and The New Republic]

Williams and Communism
One of the best evidences of Claude’s support by communism is his directorship
of the communist Commonwealth College. A person couldn’t even be a student
there without being an ardent follower of communism (not necessarily a member
of the party) much less a director of the school. Remember this, dear Reader, there
are many, many more communists outside of the limited membership of the
communist party than there are in it. Remember also that it is nearly impossible
to trace any person’s actual membership due to the fact that the membership
lists are carefully guarded — even from different groups of communists — and due
to the fact that members change their names one or more times while working in
the party. Yet, these people may be well-known personalities if their real
names and associations were only revealed.

Bearing these known facts in mind, we must examine a person’s
activity and statements to see whether they follow the communist line. When the
communists smear good patriotic Americans they usually like to use quotations
from a book written by a brother of theirs. For example, if they wish to smear anyone
of some 452 generally good Americans, they would quote something against this
individual from a book like "Under Cover,” by John Roy Carlson, or
“Sabotage,” by Kahn, or "Time Bomb” by E. A. Piller, or they would quote
from a communist front organization like Dr. L. M. Birkhead’s Friends of Democracy,
Inc. It is significant that none of these authors can find even one tiny little
thing against one single little communist in America, and yet they are supposed
to be exposing the "enemies” of our country. Any student of communist
activities will use such books as almost infallible guides against the decent
people in America who believe in and love our country first.

I am not going to quote an enemy of Mr. Williams’ below, nor
have I done so above. I am quoting from his friend, Cedric Belfrage, who wrote
his biography, which I personally purchased from Williams’ own office. Look at
these direct quotations:

“Claude found the Marxian theory interesting.’ (p. 91 –
early in his career).

Leon Webb was a leader at Commonwealth College.

“’Preachers,’ said Webb, ‘God or no God, you are getting
Moscow gold too – only you don’t know it yet. You soon will.’ The talk ended
with Claude and the Commonwealth group agreeing on ways in which they could
work together. For there was no conflict between the objectives for which both
were striving.” (p. 93.)

“The miners were tickled by the sermon Claude preached a few Sundays later. He
quoted Paul: ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.’ He said
that Jesus’ blood was red. The international workers’ (communist) flag was red.
All men, regardless of race, had red blood. It was the one common color of
mankind, symbolic of solidarity and brotherhood. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I AM RED.’”
(p. 104).

“The preacher was behind the broad New Deal program with everything he had,
needing in any case only to observe who its enemies were to know WHERE GOD

This is written by an author who knows no personal Savior! It is like a blind
man describing a sunset!

“A Communist in the twentieth century was like a Christian in the first three
centuries, before Constantine legalized Christianity and muffled it in a
jeweled rope…The popular hatred of them (the Christians) was stirred up not on
a basis of reason, but of superstition. Their revolutionary doctrine of
brotherhood and community of ownership. (Note: This was certainly NOT the
fundamental doctrine of the early Christians), like Communism many centuries
later, was too horrible for respectable people to discuss.” (p. 180)

Look at how the pro-communist Henry Wallace and federal funds
were used for the communist-controlled Southern Tenant Farmers Union which
Williams helped to organize. Belfrage writes:

“Plantation toilers saw the tide turning at last their way,
and the third winter convention of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union was held
in an atmosphere of jubilation. Secretary of Agriculture Wallace sent a
telegram of greeting to the convention, urging it to forward its
recommendations to him. Through the new Committee for Rural and Social
Planning, FEDERAL MONEY was contributed to the convention, to board and feed
GOVERNMENT, the delegates shed few years over the stubborn refusal of certain
labor czars to attend. The president of the UMWA District 21 had been announced
to address the convention, but he declared: ‘It will have nothing to do with it
until the communistic element from Commonwealth College (attending the
convention and aided by federal funds and Henry Wallace) is got rid of, and as
long as the Reverend Claude Williams is recognized. I stand a hundred per cent
behind my God and my country.’” (p. 208-209)

Williams said to a fundamentalist preacher:

“There’s a horse-sense in Marx. Lenin knew a few things too,
and so did Jeremiah and Jesus. They were all big men.” (p. 215-216).

How Claude Works
Mr. Williams and the People’s Institute of Applied Religion openly say they
are communistic in philosophy and in support. A visit to their office indicated
that the Institute advocates the same people for election in Detroit that the
Communist Party and the DAILY WORKER
advocate. A visit to their office and a casual reading of their literature,
indicate that they hate the same people the Communistic Party and the DAILY WORKER hate. Mr. Williams and his
outfit help communism by attempting to discredit all those who oppose communism
whether they range from the strictly political, like certain senators and
statesmen, to the strictly orthodox Bible preacher like some of those mentioned
earlier in this chapter. The clerics who support this kind of pro-communist
endeavor are either modernists in such organizations as the Federal Council of
Churches which is notorious for its catering to reds, or they are plain
ordinary fundamentalists who have not taken the time to see what the Williams
plan is doing.

How any decent person, especially how any preacher who loves
Christ and the Bible completely and above all else, can allow a man of such
dubious background and with such immoral anti- Christian teachings, go
unchallenged, is beyond conception. That the U. S. A. Presbyterian Mission
Board supports him and his pro-communist Institute either indicates a
willingness on the part of the Mission Board officials to aid communism
outright, or it shows they know little of the Bible or of Williams doctrines. You
see, Williams has constantly warned them that he would be called a communist.
This has unarmed those who have the authority to stop Presbyterian Church
support of his activities.

Claude Williams is an associate editor of the notorious red magazine
THE PROTESTANT. This magazine is
attempting to split the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches in
their combined fight against their common enemy, atheistic communism. The
words: THE PROTESTANT, were painted
on the doorway of the People’s Institute Headquarters in Detroit. The magazine
does not represent any protestant group. Many notorious communists like the red
Dean of Canterbury and Adam Clayton Powell, Harlem preacher and representative
in Congress who is divorced from his first wife and now married to boogie-woogie
pianist Hazel Scott, are also on the associate-editor list. Williams spent the
Spring and Summer of 1946 on a western tour. He left no doubt in the minds of
his hearers that heis definitely a communist using the church for his evil purposes.

At Denver he was quoted as preaching and declaring: “Denominationally
I am a Presbyterian, religiously a Unitarian and politically I’m a Communist.
I’m not preaching to make people good or anything of the sort. I’m in the
church because I can reach people easier that way and get them organized for

In California the communist newspapers announced his meetings.
He is quoted by the press there as saying: “The closest approach to true
religion in the world today is pure Communism — materialistic aspects of the
ideology notwithstanding.“

Williams works with Leon Birkhead, the ex-Unitarian preacher,
who said that youth needs the shock of the sex novel; that the Bible is unfit
for young people; and who opened his former church in Kansas City for communist
meetings. Williams secures some of the material he uses to smear decent
Americans and fundamentalist Christians from Birkhead’s notoriously red “Friends
of Democracy.”

The detailed machinery of the Institute cannot be given here
for lack of space, but it is mentioned in newspapers, etc. as either the
People’s Institute of Applied Religion, Inc., or as the People’s Congress. When
you see these names, or the names of Claude Williams and Birkhead, look out!

– Kenneth Goff, Traitors in the Pulpit and Treason towards God. Colorado, 1946. pp. 11-20

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“It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange.

Too strange for a university professor to take seriously.

“There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing,” Starbird told me the other day in her office. “It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it.”

Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by “crisis actors” for political purposes.

“After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity,” Starbird says. “It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it.

“That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it.”

Starbird is in the field of “crisis informatics,” or how information flows after a disaster. She got into it to see how social media might be used for the public good, such as to aid emergency responders.

Instead she’s gone down a dark rabbit hole, one that wends through the back warrens of the web and all the way up to the White House.

Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these “strange clusters” of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

It features sites such as Infowars.com, hosted by informal President Donald Trump adviser Alex Jones, which has pushed a range of conspiracies, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a staged fake.

There are dozens of other conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots.

Infowars.com alone is roughly equivalent in visitors and page views to the Chicago Tribune, according to Alexa.com, the web-traffic analysis firm.

“More people are dipping into this stuff than I ever imagined,” Starbird says.

Starbird is in the UW’s Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering — the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as “false flag” and “crisis actor,” web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be.

It happens after every mass shooting or attack. If you search for “false flag” and “Westminster,” you’ll find thousands of results theorizing that last week’s attack outside British Parliament was staged (presumably to bring down Brexit, which makes no sense, but making sense is not a prerequisite).

Starbird’s insight was to map the digital connections between all this buzzing on Twitter with a conglomeration of websites. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying?

It isn’t a traditional left-right political axis, she found. There are right-wing sites like Danger & Play and left-wing sensationalizers such as The Free Thought Project. Some appear to be just trying to make money, while others are aggressively pushing political agendas.

The true common denominator, she found, is anti-globalism — deep suspicion of free trade, multinational business and global institutions.

“To be antiglobalist often included being anti-mainstream media, anti-immigration, anti-science, anti-U.S. government, and anti-European Union,” Starbird says.

So it was like the mind of Stephen Bannon, chief adviser to Trump, spilled across the back channels of the web.

Much of it was strangely pro-Russian, too — perhaps due to Russian twitter bots that bombarded social channels during the presidential campaign (a phenomenon that’s now part of the FBI investigation into the election, McClatchy reported last week).

The mainstream press periodically waded into this swamp, but it only backfired. Its occasional fact checks got circulated as further evidence: If the media is trying to debunk it, then the conspiracy must be true.

Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we’ve built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor.

“Your brain tells you ‘Hey, I got this from three different sources,’ ” she says. “But you don’t realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn’t know how to vaccinate for it.”

Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”

I sat dumbfounded for a time as she spooled through tweets in her database: an archive of endless, baseless speculation that nevertheless is evidence of a political revolution. It should be unnecessary to say, but real humans died in these shootings. How disgustingly cruel it is to the survivors to have the stories of those deaths altered and twisted for commercial or ideological ends.

Starbird sighed. “I used to be a techno-utopian. Now I can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking to you about all this.””

– Danny Westneat, “UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it,” The Seattle Times. March 29, 2017.

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“In 1960 two significant judgements on the ‘documents’ [consisting of forged documents claiming a massive Communist conspiracy had existed in Spain, necessitating the ‘Nationalist’ revolt] were published by
Englishmen. One was by Hugh Thomas, a one-time Labour candidate for
the House of Commons and later ennobled by Margaret Thatcher; the other
was an English United Press war correspondent on the Republican side,
Burnett Bolloten, who later became a citizen of the United States.

Thomas’s initial positions about Documents I, II and III, were expressed
in his 1961 general history of the Spanish Civil War (probably the best-known narrative account of the conflict). In his later, and much superior,
editions, he was to change his mind. However, the publication of his second
edition in 1965 did not, understandably, have the same impact as the first.
The enormous commercial success of the first edition effectively ensured that
the majority of readers would have read what he first wrote about the documents rather than his later corrections.

In Thomas’s 1961 edition, the only authority on the ‘documents’ cited is
Loveday’s 1939 book, and it appears in a footnote. Thomas did not explicitly
mention Loveday’s 1949 book at all in connection with the ‘documents’
despite its presence in his bibliography. Still, the flagrant contradictions in
Loveday’s 1939 account of the manner in which the ‘documents’ came into
his possession should have been enough to put doubts into his mind.

It seems to me possible that Thomas’s opinions on the ‘documents’ were
influenced by Loveday (1939) as analysed by Madariaga (1942). However,
Thomas did not mention Madariaga in relation to the ‘documents’. Thomas
referred to Madariaga’s 1942 book a number of times in his text – usually in
footnotes – and in his bibliography. It is reasonable to suppose that Thomas was aware of the study of the Anglo-Spanish professor-diplomat touching on
the problems posed by Documents I, II and III. Certainly, their conclusions
were similar. Madariaga wrote, ‘If the documents reproduced … are forg-
eries, they are very thorough, and it is easy to understand that Mr Loveday
should have taken them for genuine … I incline to think they are genuine.’
Thomas, in similar vein, concluded ‘I have come to the conclusion that the
three documents … are not forgeries … The fact that these documents were
probably genuine …’.

If, as seems to be the case, Thomas did not take a look at the revised
editions of Madariaga’s 1942 book – for example, the New York edition of
1958, in which all references to the ‘documents’ are left out, with no explanation of this omission – it is regrettable. It seems probable that Madariaga
did see Loveday’s 1949 edition, with its two new explanations of how
Documents I, II and III came into the possession of the one-time English
businessman in Barcelona, and that even for Madariaga, harsh critic of the
Spanish Republic, four different versions of the same event were too

Thomas’s commentary on the three ‘documents’ is found in a fairly long
footnote, based on these lines of text:

All sorts of plots and plans to achieve this were now prepared. Despite
the fact that the establishment of a Communist régime in Spain would
have been contrary to the general lines of Stalin’s moderate foreign
policy at that time, the Communist Party of Spain, intoxicated by their
capture of the Socialist Youth, continued to feed Largo with flattery and
to egg him on to more and more extreme statements.

This citation had followed extracts from inflammatory speeches, one by
Margarita Nelken, the other by Largo Caballero (dated 24 May). Thomas
gave no further particulars concerning ‘all sorts of plots and plans’, save in
his footnote on the ‘documents’. Thomas’s opinions, by the sheer number
sold, were, after those of Madariaga, probably the most influential in the
English-speaking countries and elsewhere, in the interpretation of the ‘documents’. As we have seen, the propaganda of the ‘documents’ after the
outbreak of the Civil War was largely orchestrated from London. There is a
direct line from del Moral to Jerrold to Loveday (or Loveday to del Moral)
and with subsidiary lines to Bardoux in Paris, to ‘Belforte’, to Hart, etc., and
then to Madariaga and on to Thomas.

Here is Thomas’s conclusion:

I have come to the conclusion that the three documents alleged to have
been found in four separate places after the start of the Civil War, and making plans for a Socialist-Communist coup d’état by means of a simulated rising of the Right are not forgeries.

Thomas’s reasoning was that since the ‘first reference’ he had found to ‘those
documents’ (Loveday) was in Diario de Navarra of 7 August 1936, they
could not have been fabricated between 18 July and 7 August, for this latter
date is ‘rather early for clever propaganda forgeries’.  In fact, the Diario de
, which mentioned not three ‘documents’ but only Documents I and
II, was dated 8 August, which could have weakened Thomas’s cause by
twenty-four hours, but since the Diario de Navarra openly acknowledged its
own source to have been the Palencia newspaper cited earlier, dated 1
August, there was even less time to fabricate ‘clever propaganda forgeries’, a
mere two weeks. However, Thomas went on to write:

The fact that these documents were probably genuine does not mean
that the plans they envisaged were ever likely to be put into effect. They
were dreams more than blueprints, or rather plans for hypothetical
circumstances which might never arrive.

Thomas then continued that the fact that the ‘documents’ were ‘probably
genuine’ did not mean that they ‘justified the generals’ uprising, since the
plans of these latter were already very advanced before their enemies had
begun to prepare their own’. The net effect of this analysis was to declare
Documents I, II and III ‘probably genuine’ but without significance.

Hugh Thomas’s consideration of the historical and political problems of
the ‘documents’ led him into several errors. First, he concluded, following
Madariaga, that the ‘documents’ ‘were probably genuine’, which was, as we
shall see, inexact; and second, he declared them to be if ‘forgeries’ then
‘clever forgeries’. Third, Hugh Thomas, in deciding that the ‘documents’
were ‘genuine’, concluded that they were Republican plans and not the
production of the military rebels; and fourth, he made no effort to analyse
the ‘documents’ in the context of the Spanish political scene, nor in that of
the Soviet Union and the European political situation.

A spin-off from Thomas’s book brought a new guarantee to the ‘documents’, this time from Sir Charles Petrie, who reviewed Thomas’s book in a
popular London weekly immediately after its publication. Petrie seized on
the occasion to affirm his faith in the proofs of the ‘Secret Communist Plot’.
He wrote: ‘… it is clear that Franco’s blow forestalled one by the
Communists. Documents which fell into the hands of the Nationalists
proved that the plans of the extreme Left were complete …’! Petrie then
repeated ‘facts’ found in the three ‘documents’ and offered this judgement,
‘Russian complicity was fully established.’ He observed that the original
dates for the Leftist revolt had been changed and concluded that ‘this change
of plans enabled the Nationalists to get their blows in first’.

Hugh Thomas was a talented young graduate of Cambridge, where he was
President of the Union, published a novel or two, stood for the House of
Commons for the Labour Party in an unwinnable constituency, and then
produced for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish
Civil War the first scholarly general history of the conflict. His book gained
the encomiums of the English intellectual establishment (Cyril Connolly,
Philip Toynbee, etc.); he won a world-wide reputation, became a professor in
one of the newly founded English universities. Successfully launched from
the Centre-Left, he gradually moved to the Right and seventeen years after
having published his book on the Spanish War, he declared himself for the
Tory Party. 

Thomas had begun his career as a writer of fiction, of imaginative prose,
and, in his historical work, at times, his narrative instincts sometimes
seemed to gain the upper hand. In 1975, in my book La destruction de
, and in later editions, I called attention to Thomas’s method of
structuring his historical narrative, which was much as a novelist might do,
and which occasionally led to a greater elasticity than appeared justified by
the facts themselves. An example may be found in the way in which he
incorporated in the same chapter two events of the war: the bombing and
burning of Guernica by the Rebels and the siege of Santa María de la Cabeza
by the Republicans. 

I considered this linkage, though theoretically indicated by the
chronology, to be, in reality, unjustified. He placed in contraposition the
Franco atrocity in Guernica and the alleged Republican ‘savagery’ in Santa
María de la Cabeza: two examples of Iberian bloodthirstiness. Thomas
objected to my comments in a book review published in The Times Literary
and a discussion ensued.
Mr Thomas had written in 1961: 

The defenders were surrounded by 20,000 Republicans, who seemed
likely to be as savage as Red Indians. Doubts and difficulties arose. The
attacks began again. Aircraft and artillery led the way. The heroic Cortés
was wounded on April 30, and on May 1 the International Brigade and
the militia of Jaén broke into the sanctuary. For a while slaughter was
general. The sanctuary was burned. Flames engulfed the Sierra.

In my 1975 book on Guernica, first published in French, I had written: 

This basic anti-Republican prejudice on the part of Crozier can be seen
in his account of the end of the siege of Santa María de la Cabeza, in
Jaén province. According to Crozier, it ended with the ‘overrunning of
the improvised fortress by the Republicans, and the slaughter of the
defenders’ … However, in reality, the vanquished were treated with a generosity rare in the Spanish Civil War, and certainly nothing like it
can be found in the accounts of Nationalist treatment of Republican
prisoners. See Epopeya de la guardia civil en el santuario de la Virgen de la
. Also la Cierva, Historia ilustrada, II, p. 207. Crozier perhaps
obtained his impression of a ‘slaughter’ from Hugh Thomas, who wrote
concerning the surrender of the sanctuary, ‘For a while slaughter was
general’ … In Thomas’s book, this account followed that of Guernica,
and the English historian doubtless credited the Republicans with this
atrocity in order to keep things in balance.

In his review in The Times Literary Supplement, Hugh Thomas wrote:

Mr Southworth is entitled to read my chapter like that if he wishes. In
fact, my arrangement was logical since I had adopted a chronological
approach to my account. That Nationalist redoubt did fall on May 1,
five days after Guernica. [I presume Mr Thomas means ‘five days after
the attack
on Guernica’, for the town itself fell only on April 29.] On
April 26 itself, the fighting there was, in the words of Captain Cortés,
‘tough and murderous’ (tenaz y mortifero). There is thus a perfectly good
reason for considering the two events close together.

Mr Thomas seemed to have disregarded the first lines in my note concerning
Santa María de la Cabeza, and I replied as follows:

The chronology he [Hugh Thomas] observes is ‘logical’ and I can but
agree. However, it is clear from my text that I was protesting, not
against his chronologically ‘logical’ treatment of the two events in the
same chapter, but against the serious errors of fact in his dramatic (‘The
defenders were surrounded by 20,000 Republicans, who seemed likely
to be as savage as Red Indians’) account of the siege of Santa María de la
Cabeza. Mr Thomas wrote: ‘The heroic Cortés was wounded on April
30, and on 1 May the International Brigade and the militia of Jaén
broke into the sanctuary. For a while slaughter was general. The sanctuary was burned. Flames engulfed the Sierra.’

This dramatic account was demonstrably inaccurate. There was no
‘International Brigade’ at the final assault on the sanctuary. The attacking
forces, ‘who seemed likely to be as savage as Red Indians’ were in number
not even 20 per cent of those to whom Mr Thomas referred. The sanctuary
was not burned. No flames ‘engulfed the Sierra’. This early text of Mr
Thomas was vividly written, it made for exciting reading, but it was not
history based on facts.

More importantly, it is inexact that after the Republican forces ‘broke
into the sanctuary, for a while slaughter was general’. There was no
‘slaughter’, general or otherwise. This can be confirmed by both Republican and Nationalist accounts (Trayectoría, 1971, by Antonio Cordón, who
commanded the Republican forces; the Civil Guard’s own official history of
the siege; and Historia ilustrada de la guerra civil española, by the neo-franquist historian Ricardo de la Cierva).

I suggested in my Guernica book that Mr Thomas had used his account
of the siege of Santa María de la Cabeza in an effort to balance a Rebel
atrocity (Guernica) against a (supposed) Republican atrocity (Santa María de
la Cabeza). In my 1964 book, Le mythe de la croisade de Franco, I argued that
Mr Thomas tended to seek to equalize the blame for atrocities between the
two contending parties, ‘de couper la poire en deux’ (split the difference). I
can give many examples, but I consider the accounts of Guernica and Santa
María de la Cabeza, placed side by side, classic examples of the method. Mr Thomas’s reply did not justify his original choice of words:

Santa María de la Cabeza. The attack on this Nationalist redoubt was
undertaken by the Army of the South. Their effectiveness … surpassed
20,000 men, although the 16th Mixed Brigade which carried out the
assault, was, of course, smaller. Everything points to the fighting being
extremely violent. The Republican artillery fire was considerable. The
defending commander died of wounds and I think about 100 out of the
400 defenders were killed.


In the 1977 revision of his The Spanish Civil War, Thomas made substantial
corrections in his account of the siege. Laid aside was the comparison with
‘savage indians’, but Thomas maintained the encirclement by ‘twenty thou-
sand Republicans’. Antonio Cordón, the superior officer of Martínez
Cartón, wrote that during the occupation of the Cerro by the Civil Guards
the number under arms was around 700 and that the number of the
attacking forces was hardly superior to three times the defenders. Thomas
now eliminated from his scenario the aviation, for the good reason that the
Republicans had none. He also left the ‘brigada internacional’ on the
cutting-room floor, despite the colour it added to the story. And in the new
version there was no ‘slaughter’, ‘general’ or otherwise. But Thomas could
not cut out all the scenic effects and retained the lines: ‘The sanctuary was
burned. Flames engulfed the Sierra.’ Thomas did not mention the fact
that none of the occupants of the sanctuary was mistreated or brutally
punished after the surrender. I now want to include the epilogue to the
affair, written by Antonio Cordón. After insisting on the generous treatment
given the survivors, he wrote:

But the same thing did not happen to those who, whether soldiers or
not, had been in Andújar on our side when the Nationalists entered town after the Nationalist victory in 1939. From what I know, Pérez
Salas was shot, one of the doctors who treated Cortés, Dr. Velasco, was
shot, Rey Pastor was shot along with many more. Others spent long
periods in prison.

Thomas’s 1961 book quickly became accepted as a classic on the subject. Its
substantial sales had the effect of institutionalizing the errors regarding the
‘slaughter’ at Santa María de la Cabeza, and such careless conclusions as
those concerning the ‘Secret Documents of the Communist Plot’. As for the
influence of Thomas’s debatable account of Santa María de la Cabeza, we can
read in Brian Crozier’s Franco of ‘the overrunning of the improvised fortress
by the Republicans and the slaughter of the defenders’.Carlos Seco
Serrano, a Barcelona university historian, in his Historia de España. Epoca
, writes of those ‘who survived the slaughter that came after the
final assault’. Crozier gave no source for his account of the siege of the
sanctuary, but he refers frequently to Thomas’s book in his notes. Seco
Serrano gave no source either, but in the first edition of his book (1962) he
quoted from Thomas in the caption placed under a photograph of Santa
María de la Cabeza. Also in that first edition, Seco Serrano published a bibliography on the Spanish Civil War that was practically in its entirety copied
from Thomas’s book. It is therefore reasonable to assume that on the question of Santa María de la Cabeza, the accounts of Crozier and Seco Serrano
were following that by Hugh Thomas.

Earlier, in 1963, in El mito de la cruzada de Franco, I pointed out how
Thomas did not take a firm stand on the numerous polemical issues where
the Rebel and Republican interpretations differed. He sought to find a
middle position. This was true not only of the ‘Secret Documents of the
Communist Plot’ but also concerning the siege of the Alcázar, the Massacre of
Badajoz, the Murder of Calvo Sotelo, and a number of other events, including
the Siege of Santa María de la Cabeza. An exception was Mr Thomas’s account
of the atrocity of Guernica, where he clearly favoured the Republican version
as, overwhelmingly and outspokenly, did the bulk of English public opinion.

In his 1975 The Times Literary Supplement review of La destruction de
, Hugh Thomas made an effort to justify the campaign of misinformation carried on in England and the United States during the Civil War by
Douglas Jerrold and Arnold Lunn in defence of the Franco cause. Thomas
wrote that Jerrold and Lunn in 1937

were indeed convinced that as Mr Southworth says (though using the
words as a denunciation) the Civil War was a ‘holy war, a Christian
crusade to save the Catholic Church; as well as western civilization, from
oriental threats, and from communism’. Hence, they would champion
what their friends said and stick to it.  

It seems odd to find virtue in the sincerity of the political positions of
Jerrold and Lunn concerning the Civil War, inasmuch as most of what they
wrote about the war in Spain was incorrect and they could hardly have failed
to know it. I am still amazed that persons holding the beliefs of Jerrold
and Lunn could think ‘the Catholic Church, as well as western civilization’
could be ‘saved’ by lying and by endowing the Spanish people with forty
years of Francoism.
Thomas went on with an elaborate pun: 

These Christian gentlemen had, however, been fundamentally affected
by the terrible atmosphere of a witch’s sabbath which characterized
Nationalist Spain in those days. To understand this atmosphere requires
a more equable spirit than that of Mr Southworth who approaches his
victims with all the generosity with which the Count of Monte Cristo
approached his enemies. Was the origin of Danglar’s treachery to be
sought in the number of pregnant girls in the Rue du Chat Qui Pisse in
Marseilles in the Napoleonic era? Such pedantry would have been swept
aside by Edmond Dantes with contempt, just as Herbert Southworth,
the Count of Anti-Cristo, tries to sweep aside sceptical historians of the
next generation. With Dantes, as with Mr Southworth, you must take a

Mr Thomas seemed to wish to persuade his readers that he, unlike myself,
was above taking sides. In fact, by coming to the defence of Jerrold and
Lunn, he was surely taking sides. Jerrold had, after all, boasted of having
tried to get machine-guns for José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s Falangist

– Herbert R. Southworth,

Conspiracy and the Spanish Civil War: The brainwashing of Francisco Franco. Routledge: New York & London, 2002. pp. 51-58

Herbert Southworth takes Hugh Thomas to task in a very amusing and effective section of this really, really, great book.

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