Notes: Episode 50, Conspiracy Theories (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


2:59 – This was a joke, but it’s also a real thing. Comedian David Rees did a circuit on a book called “How To Sharpen Pencils”, and I think it might have gotten away on him a little bit, as everyone got way on board and I don’t know if even he knows whether or not he was serious any more. He claims it’s serious, but that’s exactly what someone telling a deadpan joke would say, so who are we supposed to believe here? It was either brilliant, or mad, or maybe both. I couldn’t find any information on him being on “This American Life”, but he was on “Ask Me Another”, which is an NPR show, and now I’ve spent a really long time researching this and writing all of this out and I sort of feel tricked by David Rees.

4:58 – Saying something like “these assassinations are documented” and then failing to give any evidence whatsoever sounds really disingenuous upon review, so a few things to read about: the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’etat, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo, the funding of the Contras in Honduras against Nicaragua (which I cover in more detail in the Iran Contra Affair episode), the Cuyamel Fruit Company in Honduras, and the numerous and sometimes comical attempts on Fidel Castro’s life over the years. Some of these were indirect support of coups or assassinations, and some of them were arguably well intended (Trujillo was no saint, for example), but consider that this is an incomplete list of illegal action either committed directly by the United States government or supported by it, all in South America. I have omitted a number of examples with less than clear evidence, I have omitted anything that did not take place in Latin America (southeast Asia and Africa yield similar lists), and of course it is impossible to know what we don’t know – Latin America has an unstable political history rife with violence, and there are many events that one could speculate may have involved intervention by the United States. It is objectively illegal to intervene with force on sovereign soil without either permission from that nation or permission from the United Nations Security Council. It gets murky with some of these events because one side or another will ask the United States to intervene during a civil war or revolt, but for the sitting government to have its opponents invite America into the country against them seems against the spirit of sovereignty to me. To acknowledge that America has some extremely troubling incidents in its past relationship with Latin America isn’t controversial or anti-American; it’s truth.

11:07 – Well that was embarrassing. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, not Austin. I think I repeat this error a number of times more. It’s funny – sometimes you think you know something well enough that you forget to check the most basic details about it, and this is a perfect example of how that can come around and bite you. Listener Stephen left a comment about this before I had a chance to post the correction myself, so he gets the credit for that one.

12:22 – This is actually incorrect. Oswald wasn’t arrested until nearly two hours later, when he was stopped by a police officer for matching the description of a person of interest seen leaving the depository. The fact that Oswald shot the officer four times with a pistol and tried to flee suggests that he may in fact have been hiding something. Of course, there are those who would claim that Oswald wasn’t the one who killed the officer, but for all of the things that don’t add up in this story, that one’s a pretty big stretch.

44:26 – As you can tell, I’m immensely proud of my cavity-free status.

1:15:10 – Obviously  meant to say that he had never attempted suicide before. Would you believe I was just wrapped up in the telling of the tale? If so, let’s go with that explanation.

1:25:05 – I was right; current estimates place the construction of Stonehenge at between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. I thought I’d leave a note in any case, as I was clearly uncertain on tape.

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