A Minor Critique Of Revisionist Methodology

Where contemporaneous documentary evidence conflicts with recollected eyewitness testimony - which may be related many years later - it is standard Revisionist methodology to reject the latter in preference for the former. There are self-evident reasons for this; as everyone now acknowledges, human memory is frail and notoriously unreliable, as indeed is eyewitness testimony, especially when associated with traumatic events. There is though one very big problem with this approach, that is that documents are created by people, and very often these chroniclers are every bit as unreliable as later eyewitnesses.

In Chapter Nine of Robert Lenski’s book THE holocaust ON TRIAL, the testimony of a certain David Irving is related. Citing his fellow historian Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, Irving says there are three criteria necessary for a document to be accepted as credible by an historian.

1) is it genuine?
2) was the person who wrote the document in a position to know what he was writing about?

and 3) why did this document come into existence?

Irving expanded on the third criterion: “People often create documents in order to protect themselves.”

This condition does not of course invalidate the contents of a document in whole or in part, but it does at times lead to abuse. The current writer has been on the receiving end of this treatment many times, but one example will suffice. Having developed a medical condition known as a frozen shoulder I was referred by my GP to the physiotherapy department at Lewisham Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed. My second appointment was most unsatisfactory, and I was not treated.

Having been beset with other medical problems since 1988, I called in sometime later to pick up a regular prescription and was told that I needed to make an appointment for a routine review, at which point I was shown a document which informed me with some surprise that I had “failed to attend” my last appointment at the Hospital.

My verbatim response (complete with minor punctuation error) can be found (in Portable Document Format) at this link.

Shortly I received a response which included an assurance that the error has been corrected. Some error! Although this sort of nonsense is not comparable with creating an alibi for murder, the physiotherapist concerned had clearly falsified the record in order to cover her back.

Now, supposing this had not been such a trivial matter, and that five years down the line I - or my hypothetical widow - had been engaged in litigation with the Lewisham Hospital Trust over the events of that day. What would a High Court Judge say? “The documentary evidence demonstrates clearly that the late Mr Baron failed to attend this important appointment, so the Trust cannot be held in any way responsible for his death.” Case dismissed with costs.

A very important point here is that I saw this letter to my doctor only by chance. Most official documents, those generated by hospitals, local and national government, the police, the security services, etc, are never but never shown to the people they concern, indeed most of the time we have no idea such documents are being created except perhaps in a very general sense. Many or perhaps most of us are at times traduced, or even libelled in the most vile terms by people we have never met, who perhaps know nothing about us except what they have heard third or fourth hand, and there is nothing we can do about it.

The police are particularly adept at such fabrication, and again I speak from personal experience, but let us cite here one particularly well known case that has long been in the public domain.

In June 1992, a young mother named Rachel Nickell was murdered in shocking circumstances on Wimbledon Common. A local man, Colin Stagg, was soon targetted as the prime suspect, even though the evidence against him was practically non-existent. Under pressure to bring the perpetrator to justice, the police set up a bizarre entrapment operation involving an undercover police woman. The bottom line was an attempt to induce a confession to the murder by an offer of sex. Luckily for him, the sexually inexperienced Stagg failed to take the bait, but when after eight months the police had clearly failed, they arrested him for the murder anyway, he was charged and spent thirteen months on remand.

When finally the non-case came to court, the trial judge, Sir Harry Ognall, savaged the entrapment operation, ruling: “A careful appraisal of the material demonstrates a skillful and sustained enterprise to manipulate the accused, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly.”

Even so, the police refused to accept that they had got the wrong man, and Keith Pedder, who had led the investigation as a Detective Chief Inspector, published a book on the case in which he as good as claimed Stagg had gotten away with murder. It remains to be seen what internal police documents said about Stagg’s guilt, but fortunately at least one person in the Met or the Forensic Science Service was sufficiently skeptical to hand the matter over to the cold case boys rather than to simply close the file with the usual bland insinuation that the police had done their job but the courts had not done theirs.

A crime of the ferocity of that perpetrated on Rachel Nickell would almost certainly have left some discernable forensic trace, and in 2004, enhanced DNA profiling techniques identified an entirely different suspect, a sexual psychopath named Robert Napper whose catalogue of violent crimes included the murder of a young mother and her daughter. Napper was convicted of the murder of Rachel Nickell in December 2008, and a sincere public apology from the Metropolitan Police, together with the six figure compensation he had already received brought this sad chapter in British criminal history to an end for Colin Stagg, and for all concerned. It goes without saying though that if the real killer had not been identified, internal police files would have continued to name a very different suspect as the perpetrator of this heinous crime.

Another example of documents containing willfully misleading information can be found at a higher level. The State can and does at times not just falsify information but creates blatantly false documents including even on occasion birth certificates and similar in order to protect vulnerable persons. Government agents - including undercover police officers - and “supergrasses” are the most obvious examples, but just as obviously, the beneficiaries of such official falsifications are seldom identified in advance. There is though one striking example which has been in the public domain from the very beginning.

In February 1993, two year old James Bulger was kidnapped from a Liverpool shopping centre, and murdered in horrific circumstances. The abduction was captured on CCTV, and was all the more horrifying for being carried out by two ten year old boys.

Acting against the weight of public opinion, the authorities decided in their wisdom to parole Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in 2001; a legal injunction is the last layer of protection for their identities, which includes new birth certificates, and undoubtedly all manner of other officially sanctioned fabrications.

It goes without saying that numerous entities and individuals besides the State and its servants fabricate the contents of documents - official and otherwise - including sometimes documents in their entirety. In the days before the widespread use of computers there was an old joke that every business had two sets of books, and court cases, criminal and civil, are often replete with perjured statements, so much so that it may be impossible to ascertain the truth.

Sometimes, the interpretation of a document, a sentence, or even a single phrase, can be twisted subtly in order to pervert its actual meaning. One spectacular example of this will suffice. First some background.

In August 1985, Jeremy Bamber murdered five people in a killing spree that lasted a few minutes: his victims were his adoptive parents, his sister Sheila Caffell, and her two young sons. Then he staged the crime scene, rode home on his bicycle, and phoned the police telling them he’d received an urgent call from his father to the effect that Sheila had gone berserk with a gun, and the line had suddenly gone dead. Sheila Caffell had a history of mental illness, so this sounded plausible, and was apparently accepted uncritically by the senior officers who investigated the crime, but some junior officers and family members were far from convinced, and subsequently the latter unearthed incriminating evidence which the uncharacteristically credulous detectives had overlooked. Apart from this, Sheila was not a particularly well-built woman, while Bamber’s father, a big man, had clearly fought with his attacker.

Bamber was convicted, lost an appeal, and in 2002 his second appeal, backed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission was also dismissed. When the CCRC take on a case of this gravity they are thorough beyond all meaning of the word; Bamber had his day in court and more, but the case against him was, and remains, absolutely overwhelming. This though has not prevented him and his amen corner from spreading the most ridiculous lies about the case. One of these, possibly the most ludicrous, is that when the police arrived at the farmhouse, they entered into a conversation with someone inside, and there are police notes to that effect. Apparently. What actually happened was this.

After they were alerted by Bamber, the police turned up at the property without any real understanding of what they were facing. They had only his word for what had happened inside the house, and for all they knew he could have been high on drugs, or the victim of a sick practical joke.

The police assumed, indeed had to assume, that there were people alive inside, and that there was a hostage situation, so they shouted into the house. And of course, nobody shouted back. A police telephonist miles away entered in his log words to the effect that the officers had arrived and had made contact with someone inside the house, that they had started a conversation. This telephonist was telling the truth as he saw it, but unfortunately for Bamber if not for justice, shouting into a morgue does not constitute a conversation.

It is easy to see that a hundred years from now some hapless Revisionist stumbling over this apparently unchallenged claim might conclude that Bamber had been the victim of an appalling miscarriage of justice, but a little thought will demonstrate the self-evident fact that the police telephonist who created this document was not really in a position to know what was happening on the ground, and therefore does not fulfill the second of Professor Trevor-Roper’s criteria.

What do we learn from all this? We have not covered blatant forgeries to any great extent, nor observer bias - personal, political or otherwise - nor such niceties as reading between the lines or the perversion of the true meanings of documents by failing to consider the proper contexts of the facts pleaded therein, or indeed of the important facts a document may omit.

What we have learned is that ultimately history is an inexact science, as far as it can be called a science at all, and that we must always be willing to change our beliefs in the face of new credible evidence coming to light, or possible new interpretations of the facts we already have. It was for that reason that I changed my view of the existence of homicidal gas chambers in Nazi-occupied Europe.

January 13, 2009


The letter linked above was originally uploaded here in WORD format. Today, I decided to replace it with a PDF - see Site Corrections Page for more details. I altered the three quotes in this letter to smart quotes - the only alterations I have made, but on re-reading it I noticed I had alluded to the locum showing the hospital note to me rather than my regular doctor. The odd thing is that when I re-read it I was expecting it to allude to my regular doctor - Dr Morant - and was 99% certain it was he who had drawn my attention to it. Another example of the unreliability of memory. For the record I was/am equally certain that the words “FAILED TO ATTEND” were capitalised thus.

July 25, 2014

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