Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The Limits of Gullibility
The recent massacre in Las Vegas provides a good testing ground for this approach.
There are lots of bizarre details in the official account that cry out for careful analysis, but we won’t bother doing any of—because it’s not our job. Instead, we’ll simply look at eyewitness testimony and ask ourselves a simple question: How likely is it that all these people came up with what they said on their own?
Here is a list of links to videos of people who say that they witnessed the massacre.
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If you watch them, you will find that all of these 59 people had spontaneously and instantaneously formed the same impression of what was happening, and subsequently expressed it in identical terms: all of them thought that what they heard was “fireworks” or “firecrackers” and most of them used the words “pop-pop-pop” to describe the noise. There are a couple of facts to take into account.
First, these people were at an outdoor country music concert, and at such events the sound level is typically over 100dB, while the shooter was supposed to have been some 300m away, and the noise from the muzzle (150dB at close range) would have been attenuated by the distance to well below 100dB. Thus, the sound of the distant gunfire wouldn’t have stood out enough over the background noise to be instantly noticeable to everyone.
Second, automatic gunfire doesn’t sound at all like fireworks. Here’s what typical automatic gunfire sounds like. And here’s what fireworks typically sound like. How likely is it that 59 people simultaneously, instantaneously thought that one sounded just like the other? At the risk of being labeled as “conspiracy theorists,” let us propose an alternative: somebody put words in their mouths—somebody incompetent, who didn’t even bother to check whether the words made any sense.
In addition to the endless variations on the theme of “Like firecrackers going off, pop-pop-pop!” we have numerous people spontaneously opining that “There was blood everywhere” and that “It was like a war zone”:
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There was “blood everywhere” at Sunrise Hospital, a relatively modest Level II trauma center, which received 214 patients, approximately two-thirds of whom had suffered gunshot wounds. There, Renae Huening, a trauma nurse, followed “a trail of blood” from the parking lot to the hospital, where the overwhelming “[smell of] iron” accosted her senses. She soon found herself “slipping and sliding” in pools of blood until she was “covered” with it. Jacqueline Rodriguez, a nursing aid, raced to work to find “a trail of blood from the ambulance bay all the way in.” Dr. Dan Inglish was stunned by what he saw: “People were bleeding everywhere...” Jessica Weisberger, an 8-year veteran of the emergency room, struggled for words: “Everything seemed to be… either had blood or… I mean everywhere.” Dorita Sondereker, the Director of Emergency Services at Sunrise Hospital, recalled “blood everywhere, and honestly, I want to say bodies on stretchers everywhere.” Amber Ratto, a paramedic, reiterated that there was “blood just soaking the hallways, everywhere.” Dr. Michael Seiff observed “blood everywhere… blood all over the floor… the stench of blood and bodies whisking by in either direction on stretchers.” Jon Dimaya, a nurse, empathized with the housekeeping staff, which desperately tried to keep the flood of blood at bay: “I must have bumped into every one of them cleaning the floor every minute,” he remembered; “It was stained in blood the whole time.” Dr. Christopher Fisher described wounds that were “literally everywhere,” and a scene reminiscent of “a war zone...[with] blood in the hallways.” Technician Tom Kaiser was shocked by the “copious amounts of blood” while Dr. Allen McIntyre put it as plainly as he could: “There was blood everywhere.”
It was much the same at University Medical Center, which treated 104 patients. “There were blood trails from the ambulance bay into the hospital corridors and into the units; it was like a war zone,” said CEO Mason Van Houweling. “It was like a war zone,” offered Dr. Jay Coates, a senior trauma surgeon; “[There] was a trauma bay full of at least 70 people and patients stacked everywhere.” Robert Smith, a cardiovascular tech, confirmed the awful scene: “There was blood on the ground in the car park… trails of blood about 20 feet from the entrance.” Inside, Dr. Dale Carrison recalled an environment of “controlled chaos, a combat medical hospital… blood everyplace.”
Back at the site of the massacre, Jeff Buchanan, deputy fire chief for Clark County, could not believe “all the smatterings of blood, the blood footprints, the pooling of bodily fluids." Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who toured the site on Monday, concurred that "there were bloodstains everywhere.” Nor did simply running away from the site allow one to avoid seeing lots of blood everywhere: Maria Beth Stanfeld retreated to MGM after seeing “blood on people’s clothes,” only to find that “they cut the elevator off because there was blood all over the elevator.” Taylor Winston, an ex-Marine attending the concert, decided to commandeer a vehicle to transport the wounded. After finding keys inside the first vehicle he checked, he went into action, evacuating 30 wounded to Desert Springs Hospital in just two trips. He later reflected: “It was overwhelming how much blood was everywhere.” Army veteran Rod Ledbetter likewise fell back on his training, but still struggled with what he saw: “There was blood everywhere: Excalibur, Luxor, on the Strip, on the street.” Tara Spangler, sitting in a restaurant across the street from Mandalay Bay, could see the panicked crowd coming toward her: “There was just blood everywhere, and it wasn't even their blood.”
Nikita Ronolo was standing next to a man who suffered a fatal headshot: “[He] just dropped to the floor, blood everywhere… and I had blood on my dress.” After witnessing a man take a round in the chin, Taylor Benge looked down and saw that: “My jeans are covered in someone’s blood, my t-shirt is covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg [is] covered in blood!” Sara Lake was shielded from the barrage of bullets by a complete stranger who was subsequently shot in the head: “I was covered in his blood,” Sara later recalled. Lani Langton saw “bloody people just everywhere… I just had a lot of other people’s blood over me, so people thought I was shot.” For veteran LAPD officer John Kline, the horror of the night brought to mind “a war zone...there were people covered in blood.” Bill Shermett, who survived the ordeal with his girlfriend, tried to convey the experience: “You see people shot everywhere, blood all over everyone. It's not like on TV. When you see people bleeding everywhere, this is some real shit!”
And so we have 28 people who saw “blood everywhere,” with a substantial number of them also opining that “it was like a war zone.” Some of these were bystanders who may have never seen any large quantity of blood, others medical professionals or combat veterans who have seen their share of it. And yet their impressions were identical, and couched in similar terms. How likely is it that all of these people simultaneously, instantaneously formed the same impression and expressed it in nearly identical terms? Also to keep in mind: gunshot wounds do not always bleed profusely, and they rarely bleed after the initial 10 minutes, because after that the nearby blood vessels constrict by spasm. Also, bleeding is by far the simplest effect of a gunshot injury to treat: all you have to do is apply direct pressure to entry end exit wounds—for about 10 minutes.
In addition to not particularly believable eyewitness testimony, there are also the not particularly believable official statistics. The final numbers, announced early the next day, came to exactly 59 dead and 527 wounded, and they haven't been updated since. Of the wounded, not a single person has subsequently died. It appears that the only two options were instant death or swift recovery. Large victim populations, such as this one, tend to form normal distributions: some die right away, some linger for a while; some make a fast recovery, some require multiple rounds of surgery, a few remain handicapped for life and a few more persist in a coma. A bimodal distribution such as the one we are being asked to believe is possible but extremely improbable.
In addition, we have some particularly preposterous bits of evidence: interviews with the wounded that are quite amusing, such as people who were supposedly shot through the lungs or with bullets lodged in their spines looking as fresh as daisies and cheerfully answering questions for the camera. And then there is this character, who was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and said that his friend got shot in the chest three times. Apparently, Stephen Paddock was a superhuman rifleman. Think about it: he was 500m away and 32 floors up and yet he managed to hit a single person in the chest three times! Even a trained sniper coolly and carefully placing single shots would be very unlikely to achieve such a result. All three chest shots managed to miss all the vital organs, because here is the victim two days later, smiling and ready to return home to North Pole, Alaska. (Who writes this crap anyway?) If you will believe that Paddock hit somebody in the chest three times with automatic fire but failed to kill him, then you will probably believe anything! But perhaps most tellingly, if you watch the video, you will notice something called “duping delight”: The pleasure of being able to manipulate someone, often made visible to others by flashing a smile at an inappropriate moment. Also, all the sideways glances are “tells” that this person is lying. All it takes is one bad liar, and the entire house of cards starts to wobble.
The truth of this matter may never become known while speculations about it abound. Note, however, that I have refused to engage in speculative theorizing; instead, I chose to point out the obvious: what we are being asked to believe happened is so utterly unlikely that it deserves to be dismissed out of hand, along with everyone who dares to insult our intelligence in this manner. In the end, only one question remains: How gullible are you?
In case the answer is “extremely gullible,” I’ll throw in this gem: a video of a guy who got shot in the back of the head. The bullet went in under the scalp and came out after traveling under the skin for three inches. The back of his skull didn’t get shaved or taped up; apparently, it just instantly healed by itself. Nor was there any trauma to the skull or the brain alleged to have been installed therein. You better believe it!