The NBC Today Show is the latest entity to drink the Kool-Aid of Lyndon Lafferty’s book: The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up: The Silenced Badge. This segment is from yesterday’s show (May 26, 2012).
[ video no longer available ]
The inability of media to differentiate between meaningful vs. meaningless developments in the case of the Zodiac Killer leaves me feeling more pessimistic than I’ve felt in quite a while. Between all the hype that people like Lyndon Lafferty and Corey Starliper get, truly important yet less sensational developments are likely to get lost in the noise. And whatever collective patience the public has for this case is sure to be left worse for the wear.
The above segment and other sources mention that Lafferty has accumulated more than 150 points of circumstantial evidence pointing to his suspect. After some point, this type of argument by number loses its effectiveness when dealing with provable facts.
In some ways, it reminds me of the book 100 Authors Against Einstein in which 100 scientists went on record declaring Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to be invalid. Of course, the intention of the book was to convince the public that it was not possible for 100 learned people to be wrong and Einstein be right. When asked for comment about the book, Einstein, quite wisely, pointed out: “If I were wrong, one would be enough.”
Admittedly, circumstantial evidence in a criminal case is a bit different. But, exactly how many points of circumstantial evidence about a provable fact should one expect to be able to accumulate without actually finding proof of the fact itself?
I also was interested to hear Lafferty declare his certainty regarding the guilt of his suspect to be 98%. The problem with this case, however, is the number of people who have at least 98% certainty in their respective suspects…
Assuming that the Z-mystery is finally solved, I would give at least a 50% chance that it the person with the critical insight will at first be vilified as kook.
That said, I won’t put my money on Lafferty being that person.
Hi G Gluckman,
You may well be right. Given the diversity of the people interested in the case, any particular opinion is likely to be embraced by some and rejected (likely in very unflattering terms) by others. This just seems to go with the territory.
The issue that’s weighing heavily on my mind are all the undeserving people who have attracted so much of the attention in the case of the Zodiac over the last few years: Deborah Perez, Dennis Kaufman, Corey Starliper, and, most recently, Lyndon Lafferty.
One thing is clear. If you want attention in the case of the Zodiac, make sure you claim you know who he was or that you’ve solved his ciphers. Otherwise, you’ll just get ignored…
The entire Lafferty chapter in the Zodiac saga really points out the deep mythology that surrounds the case. From Lafferty’s point of view, the buzz about his book has to be a good thing. This kind of press coverage (in fact, any kind of press coverage) is great for sales, especially for a self-published author. From that perspective, it really doesn’t matter if the book is legitimate or not. The truth about the case seems irrelevant to all those who report about the book. It doesn’t seem that accuracy was Lafferty’s highest concern.
However, think about the continuing Zodiac influence over so many decades! The killer has had an amazing run for a very long time. He was a master manipulator of the media back in the day and his influence is even greater today. The media in this country is so unreliable and so easily influenced by the drive to entertain readers/watchers that content just doesn’t matter. In the end, isn’t that what Zodiac really wanted to accomplish? He has gone from victimizing individuals, to a large metropolitan area, to our entire country. This would certainly have put a smile on his face and egg on all the other faces who interject themselves into the case without any understanding of the true facts. Score another one for Zodiac, courtesy of both Lafferty and the media, not to mention the Internet buzz.
The good news is that all of this nonsense has driven a few, key investigators completely underground to do their work. If anything is to come of the case, it will be from these people and not from the media, self-proclaimed experts or authors. In the end, this is probably good for the case. We will find out someday.
Anyway, Mike, glad you are following this little episode and writing about it. Apologies for the soapbox comment.
Very well-written and thought-provoking comments, Mike. Thanks! Hopefully I’ll have time to reply with something more meaningful soon…
Yeah, this need to commingle entertainment and news is really troubling. I’ve been bothered by it in other areas for quite a long time. In fact, I once came up with the word “enterforming” (an amalgam of “entertainment” and “informing,” of course) to describe the adulterated information delivery we have nowadays. Not too long after that, I heard somebody describe the same phenomenon as “infotainment.” I was happy to find a person thinking similarly, but I decided I liked my word better since the primary emphasis was on the “entertainment,” to the obvious detriment of the “information.”
At any rate, I think the key to not being disappointed in the media (as is the case with too many other things as well) is to have sufficiently low expectations. Hopefully, people like you, me and the others who are truly engaged with the case can fill the small voids left over after the Today Shows of the world do their high-profile, drive-by reporting…
Mike C, in reference to your comment about circumstantial evidence vs provable facts:
In addition to being a master manipulator of the media, it seems to me Z has very masterfully manouevred his adversaries into pursuing him on terrain of his own choosing: away from the fact-based territory of forensic evidence; into the land of speculation and subjectivity.
We are all ravenous to know the answers to his ciphers and riddles, so we drive ourselves deeper and deeper into distraction trying to find answers to questions that may have no answers. Answers that are (or were) his perogative to give or withhold. So far, it’s mostly withhold.
While a few serious-ass researchers are working their butts off to eek out answers from the forensic dustbowl (hopefully they succeed), the rest of us nutbars find it easier to sniff around in Z’s garden of confusion, where we pass the time like a bunch of stoners trying to make sense of his enigmatica, and blathering on about all the pretty patterns we see in his ciphers and riddles and dyslexic nonsense.
The problem is that the garden gives the impression of being more fertile than the dustbowl. The garden holds out the promise of a meaningful solution just beyond the psychedelic rose patch. The dustbowl, just some lousy fingerprints and some handwriting in the dirt.
All this to say that speculation and subjectivity and circumstantial evidence will always hold sway over concrete facts, because Z did such a good job of things. There is a chance that the answer will finally come from the direction of forensics and traditional analysis and concrete facts, but in all likelihood Z-research will keep going in the direction Z leads us: further and further into the land of speculation and subjective reasoning.
(At least until the Chosen One shows up with the real answers.)
My conclusion: I certainly agree with both of your sentiments on the unbalanced handling of matters in the media. I would just add that the nature of the Zodiac mystery is such that speculation is the main byproduct of Z-research. Facts are just things we wish for. Despite my tongue-in-cheek likening of some researchers to stoners, there is little choice but to engage in constant speculation. For many people, there is no clear boundary that tells us when speculation and subjectivity have turned into hallucination and complete abandonment of objectivity. For me it will be when I decide to write a book.
I re-read my comments when I woke up this morning and saw that I was rambling and off topic. Too much time in Z’s garden, I guess. My apologies. I will try to stay on track next time.
Hey G Gluckman,
I liked your comments! I really appreciate that you’re taking the time to think about these things and write it up.
I’ve been planning to reply to both you and Mike Kelleher above, but I haven’t found enough time to write substantive replies… Plus I’ve been working on a new addition to the site which will hopefully be ready for prime time soon.
That’s very hospitable of you, Mike.
[Perhaps you’ll let me slip in one last way-off-topic comment. It’s a non-Zodiac related observation for any chess fans out there: I noticed that one of the “100 authors against Einstein” referenced in your link was chess legend Emanuel Lasker. Turns out he was also an accomplished mathematician as well. I found it curious that he and Einstein were very close friends. I guess Al didn’t hold a grudge. He described Lasker as one of the most interesting people he knew in his later years. A couple websites mentioned that they even shared an apartment at one point. I tried, but could not find a Zodiac connection between these two. Okay, I’ll stop going off topic…starting now.]
I guess Lasker must have been like: “Hey, Al, sorry about that whole, umm, 100-author’s-against-you thing….” To which, I’m sure, Einstein replied: “No worries, man. It’s all good.”
My dad was way into chess – I wouldn’t be surprised if he owned some of Lasker’s books. Sadly, I never got bitten by the chess bug. I would like to know more about Lasker, though. I’ll put reading about him on my way-too-long list of things to do.
Ever heard of the park ranger, that early on in the zodiac investigation was a serious POI. I 1st heard of it on cold case files #51 I am on zodiackillersite.com and asked this and was dissed by many major members but the admin. of the site said “yes there was a park ranger mentioned in the FBI files( he had) many times from Yosemite NP .
and was the main focus for awhile as coworkers had tipped police about him acting strangly at that time and a close likeness to the composite ”
this is a prime example of tunnel vision focusing on 1 guy and excluding the rest which I think police are guilt of too.
What I know is that there was a park ranger working at Yosemite who was identified (by at least two separate people, I believe) as looking very similar to the composite drawing of the Zodiac. To the best of my knowledge, law enforcement investigated and nothing came of it.