“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” — George Orwell
If I wanted to produce a TV documentary that pretends to provide evidence in support of the truth as we know it — Amelia Earhart’s Marshall Islands landing and death on Saipan — while at the same time cunningly undermining this evidence by predicating its entire existence on sensational claims about a photo that are soon entirely discredited, I couldn’t do better than Morningstar Entertainment’s “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” which premiered July 9 on History, formerly and better known as the History Channel.
Here’s History’s promotion of the program on its website: “The disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937 is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time. Now, 80 years later, former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry investigates new, astonishing evidence behind the disappearance of America’s first female aviator in History’s two-hour special ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.’”
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? That’s the idea – to hook the unwary into watching this snake oil. But for those who truly understand the Earhart story, such as your humble correspondent, History and Morningstar Entertainment, which produced this program, practically gave their whole game away when they announced that the Earhart disappearance is “one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time.” This is a verifiable lie. As I constantly stress, this great American travesty, this great myth of the Earhart “mystery,” simply doesn’t exist. It’s nothing more than a cultural construct that’s been sold for 80 years to an unwitting, inattentive public. The fact that it’s believed by nearly everyone doesn’t change the truth.
In the deepest recesses of the U.S. national security apparatus, where the physical evidence of Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence and death on Saipan is kept under the strongest lock and key, there’s no Earhart mystery. More importantly, there’s no Earhart mystery in the minds of anyone involved in the Morningstar production, or anyone else who knows how to find and read one of the few books that present the truth, especially but certainly not exclusively Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Look around the Net and you can find plenty of “experts” who will tell you why you should believe them about the claims that have been made. For the few who might ask what I thought, I never imagined there was even the remotest possibility that the man claimed as Fred Noonan was he, or that Amelia Earhart was this strange person sitting on the dock. Amelia was never known to have thick black hair, not in any of hundreds of photos I’ve ever seen.
The claims about the ship were also shaky, as I saw no plane on a barge behind the ship, and what looks to be a wake of white water and a blurry object that might be a small barge, or even a small boat. A huge metallic mass on its stern could be an airplane, any airplane, as Koshu was known to pick up wrecked planes at sea. The whole drill seems like some kind of bizarre Rorschach test, with any two observers extremely unlikely to agree on what they’re viewing. This is not how one establishes the presence of Amelia Earhart in this or any photo, or what should be the predicate for a History Channel program that purports to be presenting “astonishing new evidence” in the Earhart case.
On Tuesday, July 11, comes this report from The Guardian online that claims the photograph has been found in a Japanese travel book. “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared,” The Guardian reported. “Page 113 states the book was published in Japanese-held Palau on 10 October 1935.” Does it get any worse than this? If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.
“I agree 100 percent with your take [on the photo],” longtime Earhart researcher and former Office of Naval Intelligence agent Ron Bright told me in a July 5 email. “I saw the photo about a year ago, up close, etc., by Kinney, and told him I could not ID AE sitting on the dock, nor ID the plane on a raft on the stern as the Electra. No guards, no official presence etc., on the dock. Undated, and photographer unknown.
“Now if you agree with Bilimon Amaron that he treated two Americans, a man and woman, on the deck of the Koshu, a few days after 2 July 37, for minor wounds, the facts don’t fit,” Bright continued. “Amaron was very clear to two researchers that the Koshu left shortly for Jaluit with a plane on the stern, with a broken wing, and that the two, probably AE/FN DID NOT LEAVE THE SHIP FOR A SECOND, while in port and before sailing away. It is [in] Les’s eyes that the girl (?) sitting there with rather heavy head of hair, with a white shirt (AE left Lae in a checked shirt) was AE. I don’t buy it. Compare hair at Lae with the rather heavy thick hair on the person sitting on the dock. No date, no cigar!” Of course, with the discovery of the Japanese travelogue, this is all academic now, but I thought it might interest some.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this photo failed utterly and completely, even before The Guardian report laid waste to this fraud forever. Does anyone except Les Kinney actually think that Earhart and Noonan are in this photo? Does Kinney still believe it?
I wish the ONI photo actually did portray Earhart and Noonan, because our very worthy cause for the truth would have taken a giant step forward at the moment millions saw it on national television. In itself, that would be extremely gratifying to me, regardless of who got the credit. But I’m also convinced that if the photo is the game changer Kinney and Morningstar claim, it would have never have seen air, and would have been completely suppressed.
The brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com), who’s written two fine reviews of The Truth at Last, may see the essence of the current situation better than anyone. Last week Martin weighed in two days after NBC News broke the news about the photo, kicking off four days of promotions for the Sunday premier. Initially Martin shared my pessimism about a documentary predicated on such a shaky foundation as the ONI Jaluit photo, as his July 7 post, “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo,” reflected.
“The special was conspicuously designed not to be taken seriously,” Martin told me. “I thought it had a certain supermarket tabloid quality to it, and I think Wikipedia’s response will be the standard one and was probably already in the can before the program aired. Notice Wikipedia’s use of #6 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression, ‘Impugn motives.’ They’re just doing it to make money, like that Campbell guy with his book. To be sure their motives were not pure, but in a different way.”
“This is just too good!” Martin wrote in a July 11 email after learning of The Guardian’s findings about the now-infamous ONI photo. “The whole thing was surely a set-up. It’s really amazing the lengths to which they go to keep the lid on the Earhart story. Notice that The Guardian is following the script to the letter, pretending that debunking the photo debunks the notion that Earhart was captured by the Japanese. Now watch the rest of the MSM line up to sing from the same choir book. It’s all really quite shameful, all in the service of protecting FDR’s reputation.”
Martin continued that theme in another July 11 email. “The vultures are sweeping in more quickly than I thought they would,” Martin wrote. “This is turning out to be a textbook example of #4 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. The Guardian quite shamelessly leaves its readers with the impression that debunking this photo — whose phoniness you correctly called — debunks the very notion that Earhart was captured by the Japanese.”
For Dave Martin’s reviews on both editions of The Truth at Last, as well as a summary of that evidence and the press (and Wikipedia) treatment of it, see “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-up,” “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” and “Wikipedia’s Greatest Misses.”
“The Lost Evidence,” formatted in what has become an annoying Reality TV “investigative team” of poseurs we see virtually everywhere these days, did deliver slightly more than I expected. The most important of all the Saipan eyewitnesses, Josephine Blanco Akiyama, 91, and still mentally sharp, told her story to Shawn Henry at her San Mateo home. But to my pleasant surprise, and for the first time on any mainstream TV program, important eyewitnesses other than Josephine were shown, albeit briefly. We saw Bilimon Amaron on film from the mid-1980s, telling T.C. Buddy Brennan of his experience aboard Koshu, treating Noonan while Amelia stood by. In a 1989 interview with Bill Prymak, Amaron said some of the Japanese crewman called the woman, “Meelya, Meelya.”
From the film archives of Don Kothera, which are now in the possession of Les Kinney, we saw Saipan’s Joaquina Cabrera, who washed Amelia’s clothes, and was said to have been moved by Amelia’s “kind eyes,” according to local historian Genevieve Cabrera; and Anna Magofna, who as 7-year-old watched as a tall white man was beheaded while a white woman stood by, and then ran in terror before she could learn what happened next. Lotan Jack, another Marshallese witness interviewed by Buddy Brennan, was also briefly seen on film. David Sablan, among the last of the old guard on Saipan, told his interviewer, “I believe firmly that Amelia Earhart was on Saipan.” These witnesses are magnificent and revealing figures whose convincing accounts, if known and accepted by enough concerned Americans, could be the key to the deepest locks in Washington, the ones with the top-secret Earhart files.
General Alexander A. Vandegrift’s 1971 letter to Fred Goerner, in which the Medal of Honor winner told Goerner that “Miss Earhart met her death in that area [Saipan] because that has been substantiated,” another blockbuster revelation that has never seen American airwaves, was introduced for the first time. On top of this, the 1960 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Report was briefly mentioned, another first, to my knowledge. Vandegrift’s letter truly prompted me to wonder if Morningstar and History were actually serious about trying to advance the truth, unlike all other network Earhart documentaries in recent memory, which are little more than slick infomercials for TIGHAR and Nauticos’ fund-raising activities. But too many red flags signaled that “The Lost Files” was just an advanced form of media disinformation, dressed up and pretending to be a sincere presentation of “new evidence.”
“I, too, was surprised at how far they went in revealing the truth,” Martin wrote in a July 10 email. “It was way too slick to be the product of incompetence, and we know what that leaves us with, which practically radiated from the screen. The proof of the pudding will be in the reaction of the opinion-molding community. What we will see, for the most part, will be a combination of #1 and #14 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. The contrast between the buildup and the reaction will be striking. Most will simply ignore it and proceed as though the program never aired. Those few who might write about it will devote most of their attention to debunking the photo. No one in the MSM or the academic community will ruminate about what it all means. ‘Nothing to see here. Move along.’ ”
Laurel Blyth Tague, Ph.D., a friend and former radio talk show host I’ve known for several years since doing two long interviews on her program, is now well versed in the media’s Earhart disinformation program. But even she has been surprised by the way this soap opera has played out. “I am most struck by the determined refusal [by media] to go DEEPER into any existent supporting evidence by all these people,” Blyth Tague wrote in a July 8 email. “What I mean by ‘surprised’ is that there is no excuse for that perspective, that it almost jumps out as intentional and hostile. They are tipping their hand.” Indeed they were, but as always, these rats in the media are also good little soldiers and carry out their orders without questions or qualms. The real question is how much of the public will actually see this sleazy charade for what it is?
For me, the worst aspect of “The Lost Evidence” was the abject refusal of the principles to acknowledge the work of so many fine researchers and authors who made this program possible. It’s as if these people discovered the story just the other day, when some local natives told them about it. They never mentioned the most important Earhart disappearance book ever written, Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, and insisted on calling Goerner, a “journalist,” not the great researcher and author he was. Other notable Earhart researchers and authors fared even worse, and none of them, not Vincent V. Loomis, Thomas E. Devine, Oliver Knaggs, T.C. “Buddy” Brennan or Bill Prymak were ever even mentioned. Donald Kothera had to be cited once or twice, because some of the film shown came from Kothera’s archives, which he left to Kinney upon his death.
Otherwise, History’s pretentious-beyond-words “investigative team” took all the credit for about 60 years of research by several devoted, honorable men who risked life, limb and reputation in pursuit of the truth. This practice is absolutely beneath contempt, and is the most shameful breach of ethical and moral standards I’ve yet had the extreme displeasure of viewing on the small screen. For someone like myself, who’s spent 30 years on this story and never lied about any aspect of it to anyone, not once, watching these thieves and pirates prattling and posing throughout this program was painful indeed.
I can’t say with certainty whether Kinney actually believed what he said in “The Lost Evidence,” or whether he knew the truth. Kinney has said more than once that he’s spent “thousands of hours” at government archives over many years in search of the smoking gun in the Earhart case. Based on countless conversations I had with him for several years after he initially contacted me in 2012, it’s easy to believe Kinney convinced himself that he saw things and people that weren’t there. Though it’s a stretch, it’s remotely possible this Earhart-addled soul actually believed his own imagination, but I seriously doubt it. But to those around him, who enabled and facilitated this absurdity presented on this program as legitimate, we shouldn’t think for a millisecond that they were sincere. Are we to believe they’re all delusional or incompetent, including the former FBI official Shawn Henry and Morningstar chief Gary Tarpinian?
Conclusion: A Pure Propaganda Operation
In my opinion, “The Lost Evidence” exhibits many of the hallmarks of a classic disinformation operation. “The Lost Evidence” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a masterpiece of deceit, cleverly designed to discredit the long-established facts that reveal the truth about Earhart and Fred Noonan’s landing at Mili Atoll and deaths on Saipan at the hands of the prewar Japanese.
It’s a variant of a technique known as “Fake Opposition,” or more commonly, “Controlled Opposition,” and traces its ancestry to Vladimir Lenin, who said, “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” The controlled opposition, in this case, would be anything that purports to contradict the officially approved theories about the Earhart case, which do not need re-stating here. Also known as “Psychological Operations” or PSYOPS, this practice is ubiquitous in our media. The onslaught of activity from the leaders of our fake news brigade that preceded the July 9 airing is all we need to tell us that a massive propaganda operation was under way, and remains so.
I’ve had enough experience with media and their aversion to the truth about Amelia Earhart to know that nobody who runs production companies in Hollywood could be this incompetent. Many will disagree with my analysis, and say it’s good that the Marshalls, Saipan and Earhart are being presented together in any way at all on History, considering the media blackout that has predominated up till now. But this reasoning is shortsighted, and is rooted in the fact that most Americans want to be entertained, not educated, especially when they watch TV. “The Lost Evidence” undoubtedly fulfilled the entertainment requirement for most, but it is not the work of people who are serious about advancing the truth; on the contrary, they are dead set on discrediting the truth.
If Morningstar and History wanted to make the case for the Marshalls-Saipan truth, this was not the way to do it. Kinney’s ridiculous ONI photo that has now been re-dated by two years earlier in a Japanese travel guide, the empty hole on Saipan, Spink’s unlinked artifacts, all these fail miserably to corroborate the truth as we know it; all are little more than objects of interest and speculation. Nothing is proven in any of these investigations, and plenty of ammunition is handed to the enemies of the truth. The interviews of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, Bilimon Amaron, David Sablan, and footage of Joaquina Cabrera mean nothing when the predicate of the program is destroyed a few days after it airs. Who in the mainstream is showing any interest in the Marshalls-Saipan truth? Not a soul; all are jumping on to denounce all of it because the photo claim no longer holds water. The entire program has now been tainted and will quickly be forgotten. “The Lost Evidence” is simply and transparently the work of people who want to undermine the truth as we know it.
I like Dick Spink and consider him an honest man and a friend, and I don’t believe he’s culpable for the ugliness and stink that so characterize “The Lost Evidence.” But Spink and Les Kinney, with their three minutes (down considerably from Andy Warhol’s original 15) are yet oblivious to the cold fact that they have been duped and made unwitting pawns in the establishment’s ongoing Earhart disinformation efforts, Kinney far more than Spink, who is little more than an innocent bystander.
Kinney, whose dreams of fame and glory, of being hailed as the “man who solved the Earhart mystery,” has lost all credibility and is witnessing a far different reality, as his fantasy dissolves into smoke before his very eyes. After all, how can one solve a mystery that doesn’t exist? Kinney has only himself to blame, because he lit the fuse that ignited this monster. On many occasions I tried to tell him about the media and its overwhelming hatred of the truth, that if he were ever to find a legitimate smoking gun, they would never allow it to stand. He never listened, thinking he knew better.
Just before the publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last in June 2012, Sunbury Press Publisher Larry Knorr asked me what my goal was for the book. My answer was simple: I wanted to change the conversation about the Earhart disappearance, to make the Marshalls-Saipan truth at least an acceptable possibility again, instead of the forbidden territory where only conspiracy nuts dared to tread. In the big picture, “The Lost Evidence” has done nothing except incite a brief argument about the credibility of a photo. Meanwhile, something unintended may have happened, because more readers are coming to this blog and to Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. The silver lining is real, though it will not last very long.
“Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” is only the latest in the growing list of tawdry Reality TV rip-offs, serial disinformation classics such as “Hunting Hitler,” “Mystery of Oak Island,” “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” and other phony productions conceived in the worst tradition of Barnum and Bailey and designed to sow only confusion, ignorance, money and ratings. It’s all so predictable, depressing and most of all, EVIL. Nothing but darkness and lies have plagued the Earhart case since its earliest days, and if the American public ever learned about its own history, few would watch these time-killers, the ratings would plunge and less of these abominations would be produced.
When this nasty little episode fades away, the whole cast of odious characters will soon be forgotten, relegated to the void that is the just reward for those who serially abuse the truth with a disregard and contempt that hasn’t been equaled in recent memory. Their Sacred Cow has been protected once again through the most deceitful of methods, but Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last will remain standing, stronger than ever.