Welcome to Houdini’s Revenge!

This post originally appeared on Houdini's Revenge

For several years, I have run a site called I Read Odd Books. As the name implies, I write reviews or discussions of strange literature. In addition to strange fiction, I discuss books about conspiracy theory, the paranormal and alternate versions of history.  I sometimes discuss books by authors who have large bodies of work outside of the book they wrote and it is hard to keep people on topic to the book and not the numerous websites or related books on the topic. After a while I wondered if it was even fair to insist that people remain on point with the book and not discuss all the information available. It felt distinctly censorious to insist people limit themselves to the book and wondered if I should create a separate site to discuss such books so that people would be able to discuss the entirety of the topic.

I love conspiracy theory.  I love reading and hearing the theories people come up with and the ways they reach their conclusions.  I love the sheer strangeness of it all.

But my love of odd topics is salted with many grains of skepticism. I am an atheist who received a darn good college education wherein I was taught to read and think carefully. I was taught how to find facts, how to verify sources and how to separate wheat from chaff. Years spent in high school debate also gifted me with the ability to put forth a case without using formal or informal logical fallacies (though sometimes in cross examination debate, being rational was decidedly optional). There are many reasons why people believe in conspiracy theory and the paranormal but those reasons aside, their refusal to follow the most basic rules of argument when offering their cases is upsetting and tiring. Encountering the same sort of poor reasoning, refusals to hear evidence that may disprove their ideas, and an inability to synthesize information from reading sources began to fill me with something close to dread.

I gave creating this site more consideration after the Newtown shooting. I am unsure what was at play in the creation of the LIBOR/Newtown and Aurora shooters conspiracy theory, but it was vile. It was stupid. And what is worse, it was easily proven false with five minutes of research. So I wrote a quick entry on IROB asking for people to think twice before believing the theory, that there had been no Senate Finance Committee hearings on the matter, nor were any in the pipeline, and that at no point had anyone flinging the theory showed a link between the fathers of the shooters or their employers and the LIBOR scandal.

The comments I received were upsetting. With seemingly no self-awareness, people posted information they insisted proved a link between GE and the LIBOR hearings/scandal or between the Lanza and Holmes families and the LIBOR hearings and scandals, and in so doing engaged in some common debate behaviors that I, an amateur skeptic, have found to be part and parcel with those who support conspiracy theory.

tin-foil-hat-3False Equivalence
–Someone left a comment insisting that GE’s involvement in bad loans in Australia and subsequent cessation of issuing of said mortgage loans was synonymous with involvement in the LIBOR scandal. The implication was that any bad acts on GE’s part meant they just had to be a part of the LIBOR scandal in some respect but issuing subprime loans is in no way similar to illegally manipulating interest rates.

Ad hominem
–That same commenter insinuated that I only wrote my opinion in order to raise the hits on my site. That was an interesting accusation to make since at the time I had no ads on I Read Odd Books and therefore benefited in no way from site hits.  Impugning the motives of the person asking for proof is such a common tactic that ad hominem is often invoked even when it makes no sense.

Statements of fact with no evidence to back them up
–Someone commented that GE was most certainly a LIBOR defendant but offered nothing to prove that assertion. When I pointed this out, he never offered any proof.

Red herring (actually, this comment covers a lot of illogical ground, including false equivalence)
–That same commenter insisted that there had been Senate Finance Committee hearings on the LIBOR scandal because HSBC had been fined over a billion dollars for their role in the LIBOR scandal. Actually, it was a Department of Justice probe and HSBC receiving a fine had nothing to do at all with GE or FICO or any of their employees testifying before a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Failure to understand sources
–A commenter named Trevor posted a link to an article that he said showed the links between GE and the LIBOR scandal. The article was a break down of recent financial scandals, including LIBOR, but GE was not in any manner mentioned in the section on LIBOR. GE was mentioned for rigging municipal bond deals, which had nothing to with LIBOR. But for many, GE being mentioned in an article where LIBOR was mentioned as well was proof positive that there was a connection between the two.

Deliberately misleading
–A commenter named Jenna sneered that I needed to tell Bernanke and Geithner that they had not, in fact, given testimony about LIBOR. Bernanke was asked about LIBOR as he gave the Federal Reserve’s semi-annual monetary policy report before the Senate Banking Committee. Geithner appeared before a Senate panel to discuss LIBOR. Neither were ever witnesses before a Senate Finance Committee hearing and the presence of either at any sort of Senate panel or hearing in no way proves a connection between Mr Lanza or Mr Holmes and their employers with the LIBOR scandal.

Onus probandi, argumentum ad ignoratiam
–A reasonably intelligent comment from Emma caused me existential despair when I reached the end, for she said that just because we don’t know that a witness list that includes Mr. Lanza and Mr. Holmes is out there does not mean it does not exist to prove her case. In short, she engaged in onus probandi, which means that the person who is making a claim is pushing the burden of proof onto the person arguing the claim, saying that the claim must be proven untrue, not that it must be proven true. Since there was no way to dismiss a list not offered into evidence, there was no way I could refute it, if I followed her illogical conclusion. She also engaged in argumentum ad ignoratiam wherein she pushes aside any notion that we must withhold judgment until there is actual proof to reach a conclusion.

Inability to stay on topic
–Almost all of the comments veered completely off topic, seemingly without realizing it. In a conversation about whether or not Mr. Holmes and Mr. Lanza or the companies they worked for were on a witness list to testify before the Senate Finance Committee about the LIBOR scandal and that their sons were turned into Manchurian candidates in order to scare them off, we ended up discussing all sorts of things that had nothing to do with the topic. Senate Banking Committee hearings, fines given to other companies, testimony given by people not Mr. Holmes or Mr. Lanza, testimony from companies not FICO or GE. This is what I call the greater spitwad argument, wherein people will toss out anything they think is relevant in the hopes that one of the wads sticks.

One entry about one conspiracy theory and it was like a role call of bad thought and logical fallacies. It may seem pedantic to some, but there are basic rules of engagement one should follow when making an extraordinary claim. The logical fallacies and bad arguments I invoked above are not obscure, finicky ways of dismissing claims. They are at the heart of the poor reasoning and deduction that go into making conspiracy theory and supernatural claims and they were offered without a second thought as to how they destroyed the validity of the argument those people wanted to make.

But even that wasn’t enough to make me nag my husband to create this site for me. I was pushed over the edge last Monday, when two bombs went off during the Boston marathon.

Within an hour of the bombings, online people were already speculating wildly, without an ounce of evidence, that the Tea Party was responsible. horsey41913Then Alex Jones invoked false flag and we were off to the conspiratorial races. Before long the mainstream press was dragging the names of innocent people through the mud, making accusations against them based on chatter heard on police radio. In fact, as the mainstream media descended into the sort of sewer reporting common to Infowars, or perhaps following the lead of Infowars, a missing student from Brown University was accused of being Suspect #2, even though he bears only a ballpark resemblance to the suspect (hair length, mole position, and basic facial bone structure made it clear the missing student was not Suspect #2), his face was published on the front of the New York Post, may they be sued until only lint is left in their pockets. The subsequent furor caused the missing student’s family no small amount of pain and forced them to remove social media sites they used to get the word out about their missing loved one.

Another young man who wasn’t even in Boston during the bombing was dragged into this, a young man I will call Mike. Mike was identified by several sources as being Suspect #1, who was killed early Friday morning. There were several people online with that name, but for some reason some people found a twitter feed of a 15-year-old Ethiopian national living in the UK, and insisted he was the bomber. This accusation appeared in many places online, even as saner voices begged for the name to be removed, that it was manifestly impossible that an Ethiopian teenager residing in Europe could be the bombing suspect. I was on my cellphone, reading as this happened, and lack screen shots but I will be revisiting this later in my first real entry here because this is at the heart of conspiracy theory – an inability to change one’s mind even as mountains of evidence are presented that disprove a theory. As of late Friday, Alex Jones’ Infowars was still claiming that Suspect #2 was the missing Brown student.

The International Business Times went one step further – even after they named two wrong suspects, they hilariously chided social media outlets like Reddit for trying to solve the case and for putting misinformation out there, as if people poring over pictures in cyberspace forced them to  publish any name that came along and accuse them of the Boston Marathon bombings.  IBT published the two names online around 3:30 a.m. CST on Friday. The names were still up there when I finally fell asleep around 6:00 a.m. So yeah, sure, Reddit was clearly the problem here.

How did this happen? How did the mutterings of average Joes, of regular citizens yammering online, become the basis for mainstream reporting? People who believe fringe ideas often state that they cannot trust the media but these days, if the handling of the Boston bombing reporting is anything to go on, conspiracy theorists could be right. We all watched as the worst sort of reasoning and lack of dedication to proven fact infested media reporting of one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism on American soil in almost 20 years. Did heads roll? Were people fired? Or has this laxity and lack of perspicacity just become so common that it seems unavoidable? Errors happen. People get things wrong from time to time. But this was not a simple mistake. This was media outlets publishing as fact the first rumors to come across their laptop screens.

So I got angry and unhappy and finally launched the site I had been talking about for months.

Will I change anything? Probably not. Conspiracy theory and the supernatural are remarkably impervious to fact, or even the aforementioned mountains of evidence. But at some point, even being just another voice in the e-wilderness, asking for reason, attention to evidence, and logical debate, has its appeal. I get to channel the energy I spend yelling at headlines and Twitter feeds into this site.  So that’s a net win for me, at least.

On this site, all voices are welcome as long as they follow my comment policy. I will never degrade anyone who believes in that which cannot be proven with logic and legitimate evidence. I will never mock anyone or permit anyone to be mocked here. In fact, I may not even respond much to comments left by True Believers unless their comments demand it, either by request of the commenter or by the information they bring to the table. For example, there is no way to argue with those who believe that the planes that flew into the Twin Towers on 9-11 were holograms and that no one died that day. They believe that everyone involved that day was an actor, sometimes “identifying” one actor in several different roles. They have pictures of clearly different people whom they claim are one person, they insist the Towers never came crashing to the ground, and there is nothing anyone can say to influence them. They believe 9-11 didn’t happen, in the face of overwhelming evidence, because they reject anything that does not prove their case (one of the most extreme forms of confirmation bias I have personally witnessed). There is no way they will change their minds and it is folly to try to engage them.  One of the things that keeps a person sane online is knowing how to pick one’s battles.

But even knowing that, I think it is important to do this. I think it is important to always be on the side of informed truth. This site will likely focus heavily on books, but I will be discussing media, conspiracy and paranormal sites and current events as well. So welcome to Houdini’s Revenge. All are welcome, all will be heard, and all will be dissected.

10 thoughts on “Welcome to Houdini’s Revenge!

  1. Are you going to review “Programmed to Kill” or what? (LOL – off topic). I thought I told you that Alex Jones was a cointelpro disinformation agent. Whether it was a conspiracy or Religious terrorism or an attack by the Soviets, Alex Jones is going to spin and sensationalize, further muddying waters already made black by “respectable” media sources and the authorities.

    I don’t know if you have ever used a pressure cooker, but they are pretty heavy BEFORE they are filled with propellant and schrapnel. Those kids really don’t appear to be carrying pressure cooker bombs in their backpacks. In fact the only backpack I saw that reasonably might have contained something so heavy was the backpack carried by the military looking guy, for a while, until he apparently decided to leave it somewhere. Just saying……………

    I also don’t know that I believe ANY of the colorful story about the rolling gun battle with the bomb throwing Chechens, and I have serious questions about the dead MIT security officer. (keep in mind, MIT has been involved with the Manhattan Project, feeding radioactive cereal to retarded orphans, and many more of our government’s sins in the nuclear age (MKULTRA?). There was also a fairly suspicious “suicide” related to MIT recently, if I remember correctly.

    I am still on my own Sabbatical from these things as I have been since about the time we last chatted in January, so I haven’t paid much attention or done any research on the bombing. My comments are based only on the little bits and pieces I have caught form TV and radio. I did notice that the entire city of Boston was essentially placed under martial law due to, allegedly, a couple of 19 year old kids with a pipe bomb who were able to, allegedly, thwart the decade (plus sixty years) of Draconian police state infrastructure and marked civil rights erosion placed upon us by the powers that be. Obviously, assuming (laughably) the press and media (despite all of the unresolved conflicts in the “official” story) are telling the truth about what happened, I personally would expect many many many heads should roll and drastic controls and oversight be placed upon Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, and all of the Boston area police departments who receive massive federal funding to “fight terrorism”. Naturally however, we will only see more money and power pumped in to these organizations to “keep us safe”.

    Of course, the media has not even questioned the serious morality and Constitutional issues related to the implementation of martial law over one of the nation’s most densely populated urban communities. Nor will they.

    Anyways, I would also love to hear any comments from you regarding my last comments about Jake Bird. I have, in the course of my Sabbatical, began organizing my notes and hopefully will begin work on a book about Jake Bird.

    I love the name of your new site. Houdini lived in Laurel Canyon, and his house was directly across the street from the famous house inhabited by Tom Mix and later Frank Zappa. If I remember correctly, both houses burned down on Occult holidays…………………………….

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you are commenting here! You, Dave, are my favorite conspiratologist!

      Yes, I am going to discuss Programmed to Kill over here. I left you a comment over in my comment section on the Franklin Conspiracy about the section about Jon Benet Ramsey. The book was a hoot and a half and was frustrating beyond belief because McGowen would discuss things rationally then would take a completely bizarre turn that could not be born out by any evidence and was sheer lunatic supposition, like that JBR was ritually sacrificed at the Fleet White home and the whole thing staged in the house. Were that the case and JBR were sacrificed at a neighbor’s house and brought home dead, then the Ramseys had lots of time to deal with the dead body as they were flying to Michigan the next morning. If they carried her dead body home, they could have flown the dead body on their chartered plane to Michigan, had her “disappear” into the snowy areas around their lake house and create a far more believable story. That is if we are willing to accept that a bunch of upper class suburban church-going Boulderites ritually murdered a child, like that is a reasonable expectation for that subset of people.

      So yeah, it’s gonna get discussed here because how can I not? Cannot say exactly when. I am getting myself into gear to write for both sites, plus a third site for a sewing business I am running. I would like to get to it sooner than later but it may be June or so before I can. I’m having three themed weeks over on IROB that will take some planning. I have plenty of time to do everything – I just need better organizational skills.

      At this point, everything is such a mess in the reporting that I don’t know what anyone should believe about the Boston Marathon bombing. It’s a far cry from “the press is getting everything wrong” to “false flag” but if the mass media does not check itself immediately, I don’t know how anyone will ever believe an official story, no matter how true. There have been reports from the AP that Dzhokhar had no gun in the boat. But in the same article it says that Boston Police had a shoot out with him in the boat. And if there was no gun how did he shoot himself in the throat? This has been so poorly managed that why not believe in a conspiracy theory? It won’t make any less sense than the garbled story the media has fed us.

      I’ve not used a pressure cooker but I am aware of them and have been in the same room as one (they freak me out – a friend got terrible burns when some sauce he was canning exploded). It is said one of the cookers was a mid-sized Fagor model. I haven’t read an exact model size used in the bombing but it was purchased at a Macy’s location. Bearing in mind stores often sell different products than what they have online, the Macy’s store has three Fagor pressure cooker sizes – 8 quart, 6 quart and 4 quart. You can fit the 6 quart in a backpack. I can’t recall the surveillance images of Dzhokhar’s pack, but Tamerlan’s looked like a six quart filled with debris could have been in there.

      How should the police have handled it, do you think? The city of Boston was under “Martial law” for less than 24 hours and had they not locked the city down and there had been another bombing in an open area where people were congregated, I cannot imagine the cries of outrage that people would have had for the police not protecting them.

      What would happen to the USA if we were in the position of the UK during the Blitz? Relentless demands that we be able to exercise our civil rights to keep our houses as bright as we want? I think in cases of things like bombs taking off people’s legs and the perps potentially running amok, citizens in the affected areas are often willing to comply with something like a curfew.

      Industry and citizenry in Boston and Watertown were inconvenienced for a day and it wasn’t even Martial law. It was indeed a curfew. No one had to open their doors, no one had to cooperate with the law. The Constitution was still in effect. People still had rights. No one was arrested for leaving their homes – if they left, the police questioned them and suggested they return home, which, under the circumstances, most people were happy enough to obey. Storm troopers did not kick down doors, it ended in less than a day and the Bostonians who complied with police requests, who have complained about the curfew less than the average citizen in Idaho and Alabama, did so because it was their disaster and they wanted to help the police.

      People adopting disasters not their own and that did not affect them as a banner for their pet beliefs is wearing thin for me. Bostonians are still cheering the police while others not in their shoes insist the police were tyrannical. I think the people in Boston get to make the call about what they were willing to do in a crisis, not the people in Austin. The reaction to this has been, in my opinion, utterly irrational.

      If you find yourself able to stomach reading more about the bombing case, Google the blood on the boat. If what people see in those pictures is the case, there was no blood outside the boat before the “shoot out,” which raises a bunch of questions. As much heat as Reddit took over their role in the whole Tripathi witch hunt, more concise analysis has come from that site than the entirety of the mainstream media. Absolutely fascinating.

      I have not had a chance to read up on Jake Bird yet but it is on a list. Seriously, it is. I have a list of a whole bunch of stuff I need to read or research. I accidentally stumbled across an audio recording from the Original Night Stalker and that was the first time in years that something actually upset me. Have you heard it? I… I don’t even know what to think but once I feel less freaked out I intend to research him, as well. And I am still reading about the Dutroux debacle. I am willing to concede right here and now that I was wrong and that it really does look as if there was a conspiracy to at the very least protect the killers from detection. How does one search a house and not hear the two little girls screaming in the bunker below when basic acoustics show anyone in there was audible? We may not agree on Martial law but in this area you were definitely correct. Bleah.

      And now I’m adding looking into Houdini’s house in Laurel Canyon and it’s burn down date to the list. My evergrowing list… How close was it to the infamous Terry Melcher house? If it was very close I may cry.

      Yay, I really am glad you came over here. We may disagree but you bring the sort of conversation I hope this site spawns. Intelligent and polite with a love of the topic.

      1. Well……I’m not sure about the proximity to Terry Melcher’s house……I’m sure it is buried in McGowan’s Laurel Canyon series, however (which I really want you to read because I’d love to hear some negative analysis – or you might become a believer!). I do know that the Manson family was known to stay at the Log Cabin house, which was inhabited by Frank Zappa at the time (Where they most likely mingled with their future victims), across the street from the old Houdini house.

        I live in Omaha and I have absolutely no qualms about believing that upper class white churchgoers could be involved with the ritual murder of a child.

        I may have been a bit over dramatic in using th phrase “martial law”. However, I’m sure you’ve read the not-so-odd book “Animal Farm” (very amateur conspiratologist book reference on my part – apologies) you will remember that these things happen in steps – a fact borne out repeatedly in the 20th century. Seriously, though, I have not been paying attention and cannot honestly argue either way. I would tend to agree with Alex Jones on this one to an extent. That being said, everything has to be reported as a conspiracy by Mr. Jones whether it is or not. His job, as a CIA disinformation agent, is to rally, draw out, and then exploit the conspiracy crowd while being viewed as abrasive and borderline insane by those less likely to open up their mind to the obvious fact that politicians are sociopathic whores who care nothing for them, their children, their lives, or their prosperity and well being.

        Although Jones often muddies up the facts, shouts down more rational conspiracy researchers, creates an endless string of impending doomsday scenarios, and largely ignores key incriminating elements within conspiracy stories while ranting endlessly in generalities and absolutes – he also has to come up with some real tidbits to maintain his “street cred”, so to speak.

        Although he was around before then, he really exploded with the release of his Bohemian Grove video. I do not for one second believe that he snuck in there and made the film. I firmly believe he was allowed in there to film the ceremony in order to gain, again, “street cred”. The rest of the video really showed nothing that wasn’t already known and his little confrontation with David Gergin or whatever his name is seemed staged, in retrospect. The very existence of the Bohemian Grove, it’s guest roster, and definitely the ritual filmed by Jones involving a ritual sacrifice to Minervah (fraudulently labeled by Jones as Moloch – a baby eating Phoenician demon, which would make a verey interesting conversation some time, btw………….) is very disconcerting, to say the least. However, Bohemian Grove has been largely suppressed by the media as it always has, the non-believers scoffed at Jones’ video (which was his intent, I maintain), and conspiracy theorists began flocking to Jones’ website due largely to the fact that search engines listed Infowars at the top of any search involving numerous keywords.

        I’m not sure why I’m rambling about Jones, you and I are pretty much in agreement (albeit for slightly different reasons) as far as he is concerned. Sorry.

        As far as being scared of the bombers and needing to give up freedom – I’m gonna go amateur again…………………………..GOLDSTEIN!

        1. I used to love Alex Jones. I may share my early Jones stories here. There was a time when my then boyfriend, now husband, were some of the only Austin-ites who took him seriously. I am unsure if he would remember us, but at the time he visually recognized us and certainly visually recognized my husband’s truck. It was a distinctive vehicle.

          His attention to the disaster and completely unconstitutional mess that happened in Waco was one of the first things that made me really like him. He had an eye on genuine wrong-doing. I don’t know exactly when he lost his mind and became a dancing monkey for every hackneyed conspiracy that came along but it was sad. He was once a real provocateur and he is now part of the problem of just stupid misinformation being tossed around.

          Did you ever read Jon Ronson’s Them? It has a chapter on Jones and Bohemian Grove and is one of the most unintentionally funny things ever, in that Jones did not mean to be so funny in the book as he loses his mind and has to be comforted by his girlfriend, so shattered is he after seeing some men standing around an owl statue.

          I don’t want to lose any of my rights either but I don’t think the curfew is anything for us to worry about. If we want to worry, we need to be concerned about what happened to Dzhokhar during his interrogation with the FBI. Even though I think he qualified for an Miranda exception, the fact remains that he repeatedly asked for a lawyer, which should have been honored. The Miranda exception should have stopped the moment the Feds got info that the public was not in any further danger and it definitely should have stopped the second he asked for a lawyer. The Miranda exception was not meant to be used this way and Carmen Ortiz is a scourge to a free society. And he only got his Miranda rights read to him after a federal magistrate with a sense of honor shut it down. Had it not been for her, he might still be under question by the FBI as we speak. That scares the hell out of me more than the curfew, rights-wise. But mileage varies…

  2. My thought is, if the Ramsey’s were in fact covering up the murder, she was more likely accidentally murdered while being raped rather than intentionally sacrificed, which would in turn cause the Ramseys to possibly react in a less calculated manner. This would be my guess as to why, if they killed her, the body was not taken to Michigan (a hotbed of MKULTRA, occult bloodlines, and Satanic ritual murder – in conspiracy folklore, at least) but rather very poorly staged in the basement where possibly corrupt local officials could aid in the cover up.

    1. JonBenet frequently wet the bed and had frequent urinary tract infections. The coroner said there was no sign of prior sexual abuse but really he meant there was no gross sexual trauma that left scars. I think that JBR was likely sexually abused, but I don’t think it was her father who harmed her – he had no history of abuse with his other daughter or any intimations of inappropriate behavior with children.

      But all my theories are screwed when I consider the number of people who had access to the house and the number of people who had access to JBR, it is hard to narrow down who may have harmed her. I’ll share my theories in depth one day but I think I am most confounded because the Boulder Police could not have done a worse job had they tried. At some point a lot of people wondered how much was due to incompetence and how much was deliberate, but as I have often said, the limits of human incompetence are, in fact, limitless. And it is the Boulder Police’s fault that people in search of answers to how this precious child was killed can go so far afield and wonder if the White family were part of a ring of child sacrificing Satanists. Good police work and accurate reporting go a long way to ending speculation, I think.

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