Rogues' Gallery

Lona's links to tales
of phonies, rogues, hoaxes and
academic scandals

 

What? Someone with an unusual interest? And on the INTERNET, of all places... who would have believed it?

 
 

Lying memoirs extravaganza!

Thanks to the fuss over James Frey, everybody's talking about whether the truth matters. Seems everybody's a sucker for novels and memoirs about abused children, native americans with FAS, transgendered prostitutes, foster children raised in South Central Los Angeles, especially if the authors are people of color. Turns out heaps of them are written by middle-class white folks. What does this say about our culture that we feast so greedily upon frauds and fall so heavily for hoaxers, as long as the frauds paint a dark picture of our civilization?

An Amazon client named "annulla" has compiled a list of works of fiction presented as fact.

 
 

Lo, the poor Indian*

Churchill characterized those who died in the World Trade Center at "Little Eichmanns." What? Asked an outraged Paula Zahn, what about the janitors and the waiters and the passersby? Don't you owe their families an apology? She did not challenge Churchill on his larger thesis; a stockbroker is comparable to a Nazi because the United States is comparable to Nazi Germany. One might have expected her to tackle the larger argument, instead of nitpicking over whether janitors are as Nazi-like as life insurance executives. Oh well.

The good news is, other, more capable intellects have analysed Churchill's work. University of Colorado professor law Paul Campos calls his colleague a "pathetic buffoon"... "whose writings and speeches feature an incoherent farrago of boundless paranoia, wildly implausible theories, obscene celebrations of murder, and atrocious prose. The question of whether a serious research university ought to hire someone like Churchill is laughable on its face. What's not so funny is the question of exactly how someone like him got hired in the first place, and then tenured and named the head of a department."

And Professor Thomas Brown says Churchill's writings are worse than sloppy, they're fraudulent.

Then there is the question of his biography: "Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is one of the most outspoken of Native American activists and scholars in North America and a leading analyst of indigenous issues." Wouldn't you assume from that sentence that Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado was, in fact, a Native American?

The Keetoowah Band has disowned him and disassociated themselves from his remarks. Their former tribal clerk explained to the Talequah Daily Press, "[Churchill] claimed to be part Cherokee, but he couldn't prove it; when I first met him, I didn't like him, and I didn't trust him. I told the chief, 'Don't do this, John; it will damage the integrity of the [tribal] roll,' but they went ahead and made him an associate member. He has since used that to promote his own purposes, and he has not helped the United Keetoowah Band at all."

Although Churchill's supporters attempt to disguise the controversy as a debate over free speech, Churchill himself doesn't believe Italian-Americans have the right to express their pride in Christopher Columbus.

Churchill has the freedom to publish his threadbare point of view, but I call him a hypocrite of the lowest order, for drawing a large salary at an institution funded by the tax dollars of the country this professor professes to despise.

*(The title of a poem by a dead white 18th century poet).

 
 

The "Truth" matters more than mere facts
The Cause matters more than mere people

"I have been in paradise. I saw a community where there is no such thing as racism."

So said Charles R. Garry, radical lawyer and public relations man for Jim Jones and his Guyana settlement, a year before the Jonestown massacre. When relatives and defectors said that the People's Temple was a horrible place and Jim Jones was a criminal, Garry defended the cult, saying it was a bold socialist experiment under attack by the reactionary, fascist American government. Charles Garry's other clients, Angela Davis and Huey P. Newton, sent messages of revolutionary solidarity to their brothers and sisters in Jonestown. Garry's account for services rendered was no doubt paid for with the confiscated wealth of Jonestown converts.

Garry was on hand for the end of paradise, talking his way past Temple guards wielding rifles, fleeing for his life and hiding in the steaming hot jungle, while he heard children crying, people screaming, assault rifles firing, and the deranged voice of Jim Jones urging his followers -- over 900 of them -- to die. His client ended up murdering hundreds of black men, women and children -- a record that puts Police Commissioner Bull Connor in the shade.

After surviving the living nightmare in Guyana, Garry told People magazine that he was still a believer -- if not in Jim Jones, then in his utopia. Jonestown's "Utopia" was a dictatorship which featured manual labour in the fields and low protein diets. Its citizens could not own property, could not vote and could not leave when they wished. In the evening, for entertainment, they sang spirituals. Jim Jones exercised the droit de seigneur and punishment consisted of public beatings and other tortures. How is it humanly possible that Garry didn't notice that the "paradise" he praised bore a striking resemblance to plantation slavery?

Garry was also the lawyer for the Black Panthers, for whom he acted as a propaganda mouthpiece. Charles Garry died peacefully in bed at age 82, unlike his clients.

 
 

From Radical Terrorist to Distinguished Professor

There was this right-wing militia-type kook who set off over a dozen bombs -- targeting public buildings, utilities, and military installations -- because he wanted to spark a revolution which would destroy the government. He even urged teenagers to kill their parents. After years on the run from the law, he ended up working in a daycare and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, all without doing prison time for his crimes.

Are you shocked? Well, don't be alarmed. He wasn't a right-wing kook, he was a left-wing kook. So that's all right, then. His name's Bill Ayers, and along with some other "idealistic" young adults, he was a member of an underground terrorist group called the Weathermen.

Here's a quote from his memoirs, Fugitive Days: "Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon. The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them." Now he teaches the young people who go on to become teachers in America's classrooms. And all that "kill your parents" stuff? He says he was just kidding around! Yes, since his book was released shortly before September 11th, he's concerned that the "bastards" quote just might be taken out of context. The context is called Accountability, something Ayers has managed to avoid so far in his self-indulgent life. He says he doesn't regret his radical past.

One wonders what the ageing 60's radicals make of the new breed of terrorists. Just like the Weathermen, the radical Islamists have passed judgement on America. Does he now see that one of the chief blessings of the America he loathes, is that we have democracy and the rule of law? Does Ayers now see that if you appoint yourself as judge, jury and executioner for people whose way of live you despise, you can hardly turn around and complain when others do it. If Ayers wants to blow us up because we're war-mongering bourgeois capitalists, he can hardly quibble if someone blows him into little bits for being a godless infidel.

 
 

The Crimeless Victim -- the story of Lauren 

The amazing saga of Lauren Stratford, aka Laurel Willson, aka Laura Grabowski. You've heard of "victimless crime?" This is the story of a crimeless victim. First she was a survivor of a child pornography ring. Then she was the survivor of a satanic abuse cult. Most recently, she's a Holocaust survivor! This fraud was uncovered by some great investigative journalism by Cornerstone magazine. Way to go, guys...
For more on the ritual abuse panic, visit my other website, Imaginary Crimes.

 
 

"The worst historical scandal in memory."
History Professor Under Fire

When Professor Bellesiles of Emory University published a book claiming that our pioneer forefathers didn't have much use for guns, other historians were surprised. And sceptical. Some of them checked Bellesiles' footnotes and his sources -- and started taking aim at his research. (Sorry, but who can resist all the gun metaphors?). Turns out Bellesiles has some 'splaining to do. For example, he claims he reviewed some early probate records in San Francisco. But San Francisco's pioneer probate records were destroyed in the great 1906 earthquake. And Bellesiles says his OWN records, which by golly would have proved his research is legit, were destroyed in a flood at his university. (This link includes some interesting research into the flood story.) Oh well, keep your powder dry, Bellesiles!

Update: Emory University has accepted Bellesiles' resignation.

 
 

 The History Professor who made up his own history

Another one from the Spotlight Team at the Boston Globe -- Professor Joseph Ellis of Mount Holyoke University admits that he may have, er, misled his students and others when he talked about his wartime experiences in 'Nam. Turns out he was never there. He wasn't a football star or a civil rights activist either. The Wall Street Journal said, (on June 22, 2001) "Mr. Ellis' false resume is more perverse, done not to lay claim to the pride but the shame of service, thus enhancing his own moral credentials at the expense of those men who did serve in Vietnam -- not to mention the 58,000 who died there."

 
 

 "The Memory Thief"

Binjamin Wilkomirski "remembered" his long-suppressed childhood in the Nazi death camps and wrote an autobiography about it. He was never in the death camps but made money off the suffering of those who were. Another phony child survivor of the Holocaust claimed that she remembered him from the camps -- none other than Laura Grabowski, above.

 
 

Reverend Al, the friend of the common man

Perry McKinnon, who worked closely with Al Sharpton during the 1987 Tawana Brawley case before quitting in disgust, called the Reverend, "a stone swindler, who'll use anybody until he uses him up." One of McKinnon's duties was to count up the piles of cash and checks that flooded in from around the country in support of the youngster who claimed she was raped by white cops. Says McKinnon, "I knew it was bullshit. I broke away. [Sharpton and two radical lawyers] were just running their own agenda, on the back of a sixteen-year-old girl they didn't even care about, and didn't believe. Even Sharpton told me, several times, 'I think it's bullshit,' meaning her story."

quotes taken from Unholy Alliances: Working the Tawana Brawley Story, by Mike Taibbi and Anna Sims-Phillips, 1989
 
 

"Stolen Valor"

Authors B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley expose some phony Vietnam Vets and show how their self-serving lies have distorted the view that Americans hold of the Vietnam War and the people who served in it.

 
 

Can I Borrow a cup of Religion? Thanks!

Before founding his own religion, Eckankar, in 1965, Paul Twitchell experimented with Scientology and Indian mysticism. A prolific writer, he expounded his philosophy in a series of books and articles, including Eckankar, the key to secret worlds.

Then in 1977, as journalist Dodie Bellamy explains: a university student named David Christopher Lane, "noting the similarities between Radhasoami (yogic teachings) and Eckankar.... wrote a term paper comparing the two for an undergraduate religious studies class at California State University, Northridge. In the course of his research Lane discovered that Twitchell plagiarized whole chapters from Radhasoami texts, lied about biographical details, and commenced vast cover-ups concerning the true origin of Eckankar's doctrines."

Lane, now a philosophy professor, maintains a list of the plagiariams on-line. The Eckankar movement is not amused.

 
 

"Hitler's Apologist"

Historian David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel when she wrote a book that, among other things, criticized Irving's WWII research. He lost. An expert witness for the defense, Richard J. Evans, stated in a report to the court that:

"Penetrating beneath the confident surface of (Irving's) prose quickly revealed a mass of distortion and manipulation in every issue we tackled....

I was not prepared for the sheer depths of duplicity which I encountered in Irving’s treatment of the historical sources, nor for the way in which this dishonesty permeated his entire written and spoken output. It is as all-pervasive in his early work as it is in his later publications.... His numerous mistakes and egregious errors are not, therefore, due to mere ignorance or sloppiness; on the contrary, it is obvious that they are calculated and deliberate. That is precisely why they are so shocking. Irving has relied in the past, and continues to rely in the present, on the fact that his readers and listeners, reviewers and interviewers lack either the time, or the expertise, to probe deeply enough into the sources he uses for his work to uncover the distortions, suppressions and manipulations to which he has subjected them."

Evans turned his report into a book, Lying About Hitler.

 
 

 Freud a Fraud?

"For several decades," writes Martin Gardner, "Freud's reputation has been steadily going downhill, (in part because of)... the growing awareness that Freud had only the flimsiest understanding of how to test a conjecture. Over and over again he tossed out brilliant guesses; ingenious, yes, but with an absence of empirical underpinning exceeded only by his dogmatic claims of certitude."

Frederick Crews writes, "Step by step, we are learning that Freud has been the most overrated figure in the entire history of science and medicine--one who wrought immense harm through the propagation of false etiologies, mistaken diagnoses, and fruitless lines of inquiry. Still, the legend dies hard, and those who challenge it continue to be greeted like rabid skunks." Crews, a brilliant writer, edited a collection of essays which deconstructs the Freud Myth:"Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend. Richard Ofshe says of this book, "With characteristic Crewsian intelligence and grace, the Freud legend is exploded, revealing forevermore a Viennese quack distinguished only by certain low cunning and a cigar."

(p.s., Martin Gardner doesn't call Freud a fraud, just headline writers unable to resist temptation)

 
 

 
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