J. R. Dunn: Neo-Pettifogger
By Laura Could
In a recent issue of American Thinker, James Fetzer entered a short and nasty debate with J. R. Dunn on the subject of 911. Actually, only Dunn was nasty. Fetzer tried to debate by presenting evidence, but Dunn wasn't much interested in evidence. He was interested in sophistry. That is, he wanted to win the debate, at whatever cost.
In some minds, no doubt, he did that. Dunn is a cunning writer and a vicious debater, and he scored many below-the-belt pseudo-points according to the Ultimate Fighting handbook. Unfortunately, a deeper analysis will show that he lost, since his few substantive points hold no water.
To show this, I will closely analyze his final response in the debate. I will show that a large percentage of his output here is ad hominem. The rest is either misdirection or false statement.
Dunn begins his response by smugly telling us that he had set certain conditions to further argument. Among other things, he wants "logical, succinct, and coherent analysis of every statement I have made here, and in my article as well, following the example I have given you." As if that isn't faschistic enough, he also wants "fully researched answers." In other words, he wants Fetzer to spend all his time on the defense, chasing after Dunn's created ghosts and seeking sources. This is a classic debating feint. Of course Fetzer could have said the same thing: "No, Dunn, I want you on the defensive all the time, making no points of your own, only responding to what I have said, and footnoting every word and punctuation mark." Debaters will often be found pushing that plan, though few are as transparent as Dunn. As you can see, a strategy is not as effective when it is stated in bold letters. Normally the trick is to put your opponent on the defensive without letting him or the audience in on the trick. Being caught barking orders at your debating opponent is bad form, if nothing else.
What is happening is that Fetzer had made the mistake of footnoting his assertions in an editorial response (as proof, I suppose, that Dunn had not read any of the st911 material). It is hardly necessary to do this in the first place, but Dunn saw his opportunity. Dunn now demands that everything be footnoted, and warns that the footnotes must pass the strictest scrutiny. Notice that on his side, Dunn does not bother to footnote anything or provide any sort of references from any sources, great or small. He provides a few links which he implies support him, but they are not links to the Encyclopedia Brittanica or the Library of Congress or The New York Times, they are just links to other opinion writers at other sophistic rags like MacLeans. For instance, if you take his link to MacLeans to see one of Fetzer's sources A. K. Dewdney "being ripped up, down, and sideways" by Mark Steyn, you find no such thing. You find Dewdney being attacked because he is Canadian, Canadians in general being attacked for being Canadian, and other very pertinent points of that sort. Dunn's article has ten times the apparent substance of Steyn's, and is far nastier, so that his calling Steyn the master is only false humility. Dunn is much better at drawing blood and much better at disguising his lies, and Steyn should sit at his feet.
It is also worth pointing out, before I continue, that Dunn is not succinct. Fetzer's letter is longish, but Dunn's response is even longer. You don't need to count words, just look at the position of the scrollbar when you hit Dunn's first word.
Dunn next spends several paragraphs showing that Fetzer did not do what he was told and chase Dunn's ghosts to their bitter end, with footnotes linking directly to God. Dunn tells us this means that Fetzer has admitted defeat on those points: "silence is acquiescence." Well, no, silence means that you are trying to spend some time on offense, putting evidence on the table, instead of endlessly debating defensive non-points like whether the term "the aerodynamics of flight" is redundant (Dunn thinks this is worth discussing at some length).
Dunn says outright that any points that Fetzer failed to address in his letter score immediately to him. "If the Endowed Chair can't answer those points, he has to accept them." I don't believe I have ever witnessed such ham-handed debating tricks. Dunn does everything but give Fetzer a wedgie and tell him he has a spot on his shirt.
Dunn would obviously have preferred it if they could have wasted their whole time on the semantics of a couple of sentences of Danielle O'Brien, since he is prepared to insert doubt into even the most straightforward things. He does this even when he can't find a way to look good doing it. For instance, he is foolish enough to pursue into a second round a topic that Fetzer did think it worth continuing, that of a commercial jet flying so close to the ground at the speed claimed by the official report. Although Dunn lost the first round, and must have been seen to lose it by every qualified reader—especially the aerodynamics experts he likes to quote—he is undeterred. His sophistic confidence is bulletproof. He uses the example of a cropduster to counter Fetzer's point that the proposed jet was not landing at the Pentagon, it was crashing—supposedly at a speed much higher than landing speed. Dunn's cropduster is supposed to show us that planes can fly close to the ground. But what aerodynamics expert is Dunn impressing with that analogy? Cropdusters don't normally fly at 500mph and don't normally have a wingspan of 125 ft. They are close to the ground precisely because they are little and going slow.
But Dunn has the debating confidence to deflect this kind of thing almost forever, at least in his own mind. If he gets in a tight spot he can always attack someone's name (Dunn finds a key piece of information in this debate to be the fact that Dewdney's middle name is Native American in origin).
As another sample of misdirection, Dunn gives us the link to an F4 Phantom crashing into reinforced concrete at 500mph. First of all, notice the narrator in the link telling us that the plane is bolted to the ground to keep it from taking off. I think that answers our previous question, but Dunn isn't afraid of sending us there to hear it with our own ears, since he assumes he can always slander and slur our ears later. Also notice that the jet does not punch a hole in the wall. If Dunn wants to make the analogy, he has to explain why the analogy holds and does not hold. He wants it to hold to explain the vaporization. But he wants it to not hold, since there is a hole in the Pentagon and no hole created by the F4 Phantom. One would think that whatever hit the Pentagon either vaporized or punched a hole through several layers of the building. It cannot do both. Vapor cannot punch holes in walls. This question is addressed over and over on 911 Truth websites, in much more depth than I can address it here, and Dunn thinking it is a strong argument just means he hasn't read anything beyond the articles of his fellow sophists. No doubt he will think our silence means acquiescence, forgetting that his own publication gave him the last word.
Dunn's next substantive point is Allyn Kilsheimer, although he is not substantive in the way Dunn had intended. Dunn gives us a link to Popular Mechanics, a periodical already caught lying over and over on this topic and certainly not a scholarly source, regardless. Both Dunn and PM quote Kilsheimer claiming to have found a black box, having held body parts in his hands, and so on. Unfortunately, these are all lies. According to real sources reporting at the time, including the Washington Post and Newsweek, workers from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station 14 and the FBI found the black boxes from flight 77. Not only that, but it is patently absurd to believe that the other agencies on hand would allow a structural engineer from a private firm to sift through wreckage and hold body parts in his hands. Rescue teams had arrived long before Kilsheimer, so there was no need for non-professionals to be deputized and turned into paramedics or undertakers.
Again, Dunn hasn't even bothered to search on Kilsheimer, or he would know that we already have the goods on him.* The main question is why Kilsheimer would change his story, lie so outlandishly, and not even choose a believable lie. Did he really need to pad his other lies with the body parts claim? A secondary question is why PM and Dunn would be foolish enough to choose this lie as one of their talking points. The answer, sorry to say, is that it is no more or less outlandish than all the other lies, and they don't have much to choose from. Their best hope at this point is hiring really hammy debaters like Dunn, who can appear—to those who aren't paying much attention—to win even when they are losing.
Dunn's next feint is equally desperate, and it is that if Fetzer makes one mistake the whole 911 truth movement must fall with him. Fetzer calls an A3 a fighter rather than a bomber, so Dunn claims immediate victory. But in doing so he just looks childish and ham-handed once again. Skeptics of the official story don't have to show what hit the Pentagon. All we have to do is show that evidence was destroyed, tampered with, and suppressed; that thousands of lies have been told, that witnesses have been threatened, intimidated, and denied access to the Commission; and that the physical story, as presented to us in innumerable reports and press conferences and television specials, is an insult to science and all intelligence. This evidence is overwhelming. Dunn and his cronies can dismiss all evidence as "factoids" but that will not make it go away. They can dismiss all skeptics as nuts and cranks, but that will not make them go away, stop doing more research, and stop asking more questions.
I wonder when we will reach a percentage that demands the most basic forms of well mannered debate? One third was not enough for PM a year and a half ago. One half does not impress Dunn. Even higher percentages of Europeans are skeptics, but these sophists at the minor magazines have no trouble writing entire countries and continents off with a broad brush. Dunn's buddy at MacLeans has already written off all of Canada as an "alternate universe." Europe can be blithely dismissed in some equally jingoistic way. In fact, by continuing to attack JFK skeptics as nutcases—even though recent polls of US citizens have shown that there are 70-80% of us in that camp—these ostriches have shown themselves to be actual fascists. We could reach 95%, one supposes, and they would still attack us because we have not been peer-reviewed by their 5% or because our names are spelled funny or because we once used a colon instead of a semi-colon.
But there are glad tidings here as well. If the debunkers actually believed we were clinically insane, unpatriotic, marginalized, or ineffective, they wouldn't need to print all these books and articles answering us. You don't need to debate the clinically insane. They wouldn't need to pay all these creeps to lie and destroy evidence, they wouldn't need to hire sophists like Dunn and Steyn and Meigs and Chertoff and Reagan and Penn and Teller to come in and muddy the waters with misdirection and invective. They are desperate.
Yes, they are desperate, and that is why they thought it might be a good idea to print these two letters from James Fetzer. A magazine that is in a real position of power and authority has no reason to print two unedited letters from a vocal opponent. It normally doesn't happen that way, as I well know. But they can see that they are outmanned and factually outgunned all over the internet—as any search on the subject would tell them*—and the best they can do is set their dogs on an occasional intruder. No doubt they had hoped the dog would snag a major vein in all his tearing about, and they must be disappointed that the little guy just went for the scrotum.
*For instance, do a Yahoo search on Allyn Kilsheimer and the Phoenix Project comes up third; Popular Mechanics comes up second; and Lets Roll Forums, which is just one of many sites that debunks Popular Mechanics, comes up first. This is astonishing positioning for a private listserv, just one of thousands of 911 truth sites.