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conspiracy theory

all-seeing-eyeA conspiracy theory is the idea that something is not as it seems because of a secret plot, of facts purposely hidden.

Examples:

  • The moon landings were fake.
  • Global warming is a hoax.
  • 9/11 was an inside job.
  • The Illuminati secretly rule the world.
  • Shape-shifting Reptilians from Alpha Draconis secretly rule the world.
  • Area 51 in the Nevada desert is hiding alien artefacts.
  • The CIA killed President Kennedy.
  • President Obama was not born in the US.
  • Big drug companies are hiding the cure for cancer.

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Not all conspiracy theories are false. Some turn out to be true, like Watergate, Russian trolls, Project MK-ULTRA or Cointelpro. And that is the whole trouble with conspiracy theories: there is no easy way to tell the true from the false.

Compare and contrast:

  • A scientific theory comes to conclusions from known facts and provides a way to prove it false. It is falsifiable.
  • A conspiracy theory is based on secret facts no one can know, by their very nature, and is therefore hard to prove wrong. When people in the know deny it, it is seen as a cover-up. “They would say that, wouldn’t they!”

Is it true? Things to check out:

  1. Science: What does the science say? This is how many conspiracy theories are proved to be false. Science is not always right, but it is more likely to be right than a conspiracy theory. Global warming, therefore, is likely not a hoax.
  2. Leaks: are how many conspiracies are proved true, like Watergate by Deep Throat. The bigger the conspiracy or the longer it lasts, the more likely its cover will be blown by a leak. No leaks means there was probably no conspiracy to begin with. If the moon landings were fake, for example, their cover would have been blown long ago. Someone would have talked.
  3. Faceless Theys: The more faceless the They behind the conspiracy, the less likely it is true. Even when it comes to fake news and urban legends, the lack of concrete, confirmable facts (names, dates, places) is a dead giveaway.
  4. Occam’s Razor: the simplest theory that can account for the facts is most likely the right one. Conspiracy theories are often anything but the simplest explanation. Thus no Reptilian Overlords.
  5. Debunking websites: Check out what debunking websites say, like RationalWiki or Skeptoid.com.

Keep in mind that even in the most tightly controlled scientific experiments, there are still coincidences and things that just cannot be explained. And most theories, true or false, will have strange facts that fit it, which can lead to confirmation bias.

Demographics: In the US conspiracy thinking is found on the left and the right, among the rich and poor, young and old, Black and White, and so on. Race and politics determine which conspiracy theories you are likely to believe in, but not the fact of conspiracy thinking itself. The only thing that seems to affect it is education: with more education, people are less likely to go for conspiracy theories.

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– Abagond, 2016.

Sources: mainly RationalWiki, National Geographic, Scientific American, MindChop, Noam Chomsky on 9/11.

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536

Jackie Salyers

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Jacqueline Salyers (1983?-2016), an unarmed, pregnant mother of four, was shot dead by police on January 28th 2016 in Tacoma, Washington, south of Seattle. She belonged to the Puyallup Tribe, who have been living in Tacoma since before Tacoma was Tacoma. In the US, Native Americans are 30% more likely to be killed by police than Blacks, three times more likely than Whites.

kenneth-wright-jr-wantedKenneth Wright Jr, her long-time boyfriend and father of her two youngest children, was wanted by police on robbery, gun and drug charges. On January 28th police spotted him in a parked car with Salyers.

The police say they approached with guns drawn and ordered them to get out with their hands up. Salyers, “a Native American female that appeared to be around 30 years of age”:

“stepped on the gas, and accelerated toward the officers. One of the officers fired at and hit the driver.”

Officer Scott Campbell, with the car just “inches” away from running him over, opened fire. The car went another 50 feet (15m) before stopping. He was unharmed. Salyers was shot in the head, arm and stomach. Wright shouted, “You fucking killed her!” and ran off into the night, gun in hand. It took police 18 days to find him again.

The police say they saw signs of acceleration in the dirt.

Eyewitnesses say police approached the car from behind. The police did not announce themselves. There were no signs of acceleration in the dirt. Her uncle:

“Witnesses told me they took her out of the car, dragged her to the curb, put her in a police car, drove her a short distance away and dragged her out again onto the pavement. She must have died sometime during all this. The people who spoke to me found this extremely painful.”

Her cousin, who prepared her body for burial, said her arm was broken.

The angle of the gunfire seems to show that the police were not directly in front of the car at the time of the shooting.

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Her car, with three or four gunshots in the windshield, a shattered driver-side window and an exit bullet hole in the car door.

Video: None. No bodycams, no dashcams. A nearby police camera was working fine before and after the shooting, but not during. Three security cameras on a nearby house were destroyed by police.

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Protests: There were “Justice For Jackie” protests calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the State Patrol to do an independent investigation. They were unmoved, leaving the Tacoma police to investigate themselves.

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Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

A tribal councilman, along with her uncle and others, travelled to Washington, DC, to the DOJ’s Office of Tribal Justice. The Office offered no help.

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The county prosecutor, Mark Lindquist, concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law which requires:

“a showing of malice to prove an officer acted criminally.”

The key word is “malice”, a state of mind, which is hard to prove. The Puyallup Tribe, NAACP and others are pushing Initiative 873 to reform this.

Last year, in the very same county, police killed Daniel Covarrubias, He was also Native (Suquamish). The police thought his mobile phone was a gun.

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Native Americans killed by police (L to R) – Top row: Marcus Lee, Lance McIntire, Daniel Covarrubias (same county as Salyers), Raymond Eacret, Jessie Lee Rose; Middle row: Jacqueline Salyers, Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, Richard Estrada, Jeanetta Riley, Larry Kobuk; Botton row: Jamie Lee Brave Heart, Loreal Tsingine, Corey Kanosh, Allen Locke (killed the day after he took part in a protest against police brutality), Sarah Lee Circle Bear (died the same month as Sandra Bland, also in police custody). Click on the picture to find out more about each one of these.

– Abagond, 2016.

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Sage Honga

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Sage Honga (1992- ), an American student and model, won the title of First Attendant in the 2012 Miss Native American USA pageant. In 2014 she was a waitress at the W Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2016 she appeared in the YouTube video “100 Years of Beauty – Episode 26: Diné / Navajo Nation”.

She is Hualapai, Hopi and Diné. The Dine (dih-NAH) are better known by their Spanish name of “Navajo”. They are the largest First Nation left in the US.

The video: The video shows how Dine beauty has changed over the past hundred years, from the 1910s to the 2010s. It is part of a series put out by WatchCut Video showing how female beauty has changed through time and across the world. In the past they have done the US (White, Black, Puerto Rican and Hawaiian), Brazil, France, Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, China, Philippines, and so on.

Beauty: Honga and her mother say that Dine beauty is less about hair and make-up and more about jewellery and inner beauty. Less is more.

Dine jewellery is based mainly on turquoise, which they value more than diamonds or gold.

Inner beauty is part of how they see themselves as Dine:

“There’s a saying in Navajo, we’re always taught to walk in beauty. And it’s about the way we think, the way we talk, our behaviour that should be all in a positive way. ‘Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty above me and beauty beneath me.'”

Honga:

“My mother has always spoken our language [Western Navajo] so proudly…whenever she speaks to me in Navajo it is so comforting to me and makes me feel at home, and it makes me feel closer to her, my grandmothers and the women in my family. It just reminds me of who I am.”

#NoDAPL: She finds the #NoDAPL protests (against the pipeline going through the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota) so powerful, even on television. Her heart and spirit call her to go there, but she has to complete her studies. The pipeline threatens the reservation’s water. Honga:

“All of this destruction happening to our land, Mother Earth isn’t going to give back to us – it is going to poison her. That water, that every living thing needs to survive, will be gone. “

Her grandmother, who raised sheep, taught her to be ecosystemic: that if we take care of the land and the animals, they will take care of us.

Cultural appropriation: She says Columbus Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving in October and November are the hardest holidays to get through: people who have no understanding or respect for Natives dress up like them. But it is not like them:

“Anything Native Americans wear, there is a process. It’s done with prayer, it’s done with song.”

While Native women and girls are being killed, raped or gone missing, Urban Outfitters sells “Navajo-designed” women’s underwear, which

“is against everything we stand for and it does not represent us in any way, shape, or form.”

– Abagond, 2016.

Source: Indian Country Today (2016), PowWows.com (2014).

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Remarks:

My favourite Redbone song and their first hit. In 1971 it went to #2 on the pop charts in Britain and #21 in their native US. The song is about a real person, Marie Laveau. There are at least seven other songs about her.

The Vegas brothers, Pat and Lolly, form the heart of the band. They are from California, a mix of Yaqui, Shoshone and Mexican, though their music has a Louisiana influence. They have played on the records of Tina Turner, James Brown, Little Richard, Elvis, Sonny & Cher and others. Pat says they were an influence on Jimi Hendrix, but my 256-page book on Hendrix says nothing about them.

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Lyrics:

Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’ll put a spell on you

Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’ll put a spell on you
Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’s the witch queen – oh
Of New Orleans

Of New Orleans

I’m gonna tell you a story
Strange as it now seems
Of zombie, voodoo, gris gris
And the Witch Queen of New Orleans

She lived in a world of magic
Possessed by the devils skew
From a shack near the swamplands
Made of mud-brown brick
Marie stirred the witches brew

Marie, Marie
La voodoo veau
She’ll put a spell on you

Marie, Marie
La voodoo veau
She’ll put a spell on you

Marie Marie
La voodoo veau
She’s the Witch Queen – of New Orleans

Of New Orleans

Dime or a nickel anyone could buy
Voodoo of any kind
She had potions and lotions, herbs
and tanna leaves
Guaranteed to blow your mind

Early one morning into mud, the swamp dew
Vanished Marie with hate in her eyes
Though she never returned
All the Cajuns knew
A Witch Queen never dies.

Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’ll put a spell on you

Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’ll put a spell on you

Marie, Marie
La voodoo, veau
She’s the witch queen – oh
Of New Orleans

Source: A-Z Lyrics.

Ghost Dance

ghost-shirtThe Ghost Dance (1889-1891) was a dance that spread like wildfire among Native Americans in the western US in 1890. It came with Ghost Shirts and Ghost Songs. It was a last desperate attempt to end White rule. It led to a US military crackdown that was the end of all hopes.

It was started by Wovoka, a Paiute from Nevada, who lived not far from where the Transcontinental Railroad crossed into California, the railroad along which the Ghost Dance would later spread. In January 1889 the moon covered the sun and Wovoka had a vision. He saw all the dead coming back to life. The Creator showed him the dances and songs needed to bring it about.

The Red Messiah: Wovoka taught a way of peace. He had a scar on his wrist and face. They say he worked miracles. People came from near and far to see him. Many thought he was Christ come back to earth as a Red man to judge White men, the Christ-killers, to put things back the way they should be.

The Ghost Dance spread among the Paiutes, Shoshone, Arapahoes, Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux, but not among the Yankton and Santee Sioux, Navajos, Pueblos or Natives in California. In general, it spread among the most desperate, like those the US government was starving into submission.

It reached its height among the Lakota Sioux in the western Dakotas, who said the Ghost Shirts would protect them from guns, who said Whites would be destroyed. The Dance was big on the Standing Rock reservation (where the #NoDAPL protests are now taking place) and the newly established Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.

The dance: Thousands gathered. They made you go through a sweat lodge and then put on a shirt with a crow, fish, stars and other symbols on it. They put a magpie feather and an eagle feather in your hair. Then you joined a great circle of dancers, holding hands. It was not a glad time yet people were expecting something wonderful. They sang songs like:

Mother do come back!
Mother do come back!
My little brother is crying for you –
My father says so!

They danced and danced and danced, all day and deep into the night. You danced till you dropped, falling out of the circle. Then you had a vision. All the visions ended the same way: a great camp of all the Sioux who had ever lived joined together in joy, with plenty of bison to live on. But then you would wake up into the terrible, unhappy world and start wailing.

And then it got worse:

The US military cracked down, Sitting Bull was killed, the last leader capable of leading a Sioux uprising. And then, on the fourth day after Christmas, the 7th Cavalry, defeated 14 years before by the Sioux at Custer’s Last Stand, killed over 153 unarmed men, women and children – by the stream where Crazy Horses’s heart lay secretly buried: Wounded Knee.

– Abagond, 2016.

Sources: mainly “Speaking of Indians” (1944) by Ella Deloria (has an eyewitness account); “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (1970) by Dee Brown; “Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America” (1968) by Peter Farb.

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Thanksgiving 2016

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The Real America.

In memoriam

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This still breaks my heart. It is hard to believe it was only two years ago. Somewhere someone slipped in an extra year.

Requiescat in pace.

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