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The SMH vs Donahue

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 3 weeks, 2 days ago

A page on the JFK shooting


See also The JFK shooting seen from 2019,  The Howard Donahue theory on the JFK assassination and JFK: The Smoking Gun.


On November 7, 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald published a review by Paul Monk of the documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun. Its headline is subtitled (there's probably a better technical word for that but I don't know it) The idea that the American president was shot by mistake is complete rubbish, which indicates rather well the writer's view of the Donahue theory. 


The most important issue it raises is this: It's unsound to dismiss Donahue's work purely on the basis of defficiencies (real or imagined) in McLaren's work. Despite the subtitle, the article provides no evidence that there's any flaw at all in Donahue's theory. It blandly states, several times, that it's been dismissed, but fails to say by whom and how and then goes back to a critique of McLaren. 


But to his credit, and unlike many other writers, Monk does appear to have read both books, although perhaps not too well in either case. Perhaps we should say he appears to have at least picked up a copy of each. Monk notes for example McLaren complains that the Warren Commission's 1964 Report was ''poorly indexed'' and dismisses other conspiracy theories as ridiculous, but fails to provide an index to his own book at all and boldly advances a perfectly ridiculous and long since discredited theory. He claims to have read ''all the available evidence and testimony'', but there is not a single endnote or precise citation in his book and there is no bibliography.


There are no endnotes nor any sort of reference list in the Kindle version of McLaren's book either, but that's in stark contrast to Mortal Error, which provides copious references (pp. 335-350 in fact), and also an index. Strangely, the Kindle version of McLaren's book has an index too, from Location 3942 of 4447, which you don't really need as the text is of course searchable anyway, that's one of Kindle's big plusses over print. Stranger still, this index in the Kindle version goes by page numbers, which the Kindle version itself doesn't have, so it's absolutely useless there. So where was it intended to be published? I have not seen the print version of The Smoking Gun, so I can only assume that's what Monk is referring to, but as I said it's all a bit strange. It's a newish book, so it's unlikely that some print versions have the index and others leave it out. But Monk didn't find it, and he thought he'd looked well enough to make a point of its absence. Strange indeed.


If Monk is going to quote McLaren's lack of references as a criticism of Donahue's theory, shouldn't he also note that the publication on which Donahue collaborated doesn't have this particular flaw?


There's some good stuff in Monk's SMH article. The lack of references in McLaren's book is a glaring and revealing omission and a very good point.


But it's a very mixed bag. For example, describing McLaren: He bangs on about what a great detective he was, but shows himself to be a poor a forensic analyst by declaring that ''the problem with science is that it is often contradictory'' and ''comes down to interpretation'' (pp.133 and 135), so he prefers to rely on ''the purity of witness evidence'' (p.6). Belief in the ''purity of witness evidence'' should have been drummed out of his head a long time ago. Eye and ear witness testimony is highly unreliable and has to be very carefully sifted and collated to get even an approximation to the truth. That's not at all fair, firstly because McLaren makes exactly the same point repeatedly, and secondly because Monk then goes on to rely himself on individual witnesses that support his view, ignoring many others that contradict those few he does quote, and whom McLaren does quote in considerable number and at great length.


The real contrast is between the expert witness, Donahue, and the journalists, McLaren and Monk. And Menninger being also a journalist, it makes his work in presenting Donahue's material in such a scholarly way all the more impressive. Again, the contrast is stark.


A very interesting review, in many ways. It's at http://www.smh.com.au/comment/stuffing-up-the-mother-of-all-jfk-conspiracy-theories-20131106-2x1kk.html and will be available there free for a little longer as I write. It's also probably relevant to note that according to the article byline Paul Monk is a founder and director of Austhink Consulting, which has run a three-day workshop on the JFK assassination for intelligence professionals, lawyers, bankers and others for the past 12 years. It's said that there's no such thing as bad publicity, and I'm sure that the workshops are stimulating, but I must wonder whether they are any more informative than Monk's article.




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