The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much

The Zapruder film? It was faked. The Wellstone crash? It was a hit. 9/11? An inside job. Tumbling down the rabbit hole with professional philosopher Jim Fetzer.

In late April, about 30 people gathered in a windowless conference room in the basement of Tobie's Restaurant in Hinckley, a pit stop on I-35 about midway between the Twin Cities and Duluth. Fetzer had been invited to give what he refers to as his "three-parter"—a lecture in which he covers three outrages of modern times: the JFK assassination, the Wellstone assassination, and 9/11. Dressed in a sport coat, polo shirt, and khakis, Fetzer looked like a college professor as he stepped to the podium, which was adorned with a green Wellstone campaign placard and a framed portrait of JFK.

Behind him, a banner read, "Welcome Professor James Fetzer, Expert." With his UMD-issued laptop and computer projector, Fetzer began his presentation with a detailed multimedia critique of the Warren Commission's single-bullet theory. As he clicked through film footage and autopsy diagrams, Fetzer was a portrait of human confidence. "We have not only proven objectively and scientifically that the magic bullet is false," he announced, "we have been able to establish objectively that there had to have been at least six shots from three directions." He proceeded to outline his other critical findings:

• the Zapruder film was altered;

Dan Picasso

• another brain—not JFK's—was substituted during the autopsy;

• autopsy X-rays were manipulated;

• the Secret Service set up the hit;

• the FBI covered it up; and

• behind them all lurked the puppet masters Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover.

At the end of the JFK portion of the presentation, Fetzer took a few questions from the audience. A guy in a Green Bay Packers cap asked whether Fetzer thought Dealey Plaza was laid out by design like a Masonic sacrificial altar. At this, Fetzer paused and said he hadn't considered the matter. Another questioner began by offering his opinion that the Secret Service is not really an official agency of the U.S. government. Fetzer looked puzzled, before responding delicately: "That comes as news to me." Another questioner wanted to know if Fetzer thought JFK Jr. had also been assassinated. Fetzer politely stated that he hadn't investigated and didn't have much to say.

And so it went. After a full two hours had elapsed, Fetzer commenced part two of the lecture. With the image of the smoldering World Trade Center towers on the screen behind him, Fetzer cautioned the audience: "The government's account is just fine—as long as you're willing to believe impossible things." He made his customary case for controlled demolition of the WTC towers and then moved on to arguments that are, even in the truth movement, controversial. After reviewing the evidence, Fetzer announced, he found no reason to believe a jet airliner struck the Pentagon. Had a plane crashed there, you would surely see signs of damage on the lawn near the impact point. He power-pointed his way to a photograph of the Pentagon after the attack. The grass looked normal. Out came the well-oiled laugh line: "I expect to see Tiger Woods out there practicing his putting." The audience tittered.

He then discussed United Flight 93, which, it seems increasingly clear, did not crash over Shanksville, Pennsylvania. What happened to the flight, he acknowledged, remains a mystery even in the face of reports that it may have landed in Cleveland. He talked about the neo-con manifesto, Project for the New American Century. He played some of Loose Change. The Bali bombing, he surmised, might well have been a U.S. operation, and bore some of the hallmarks of a mini-nuke. He brought up anomalies in the photographs of the moon landing. "There are really serious questions," he offered almost offhandedly, "about whether we went to the moon."

Fetzer lobbed a few verbal grenades at the Bush administration. He exhorted his listeners to spread the word. Come election time, he warned, we must throw all the bums out. We might need to smash the electronic voting machines lest another election wind up stolen. "Something is terribly wrong," he said ominously. "If we don't wake up, all our liberties might be gone." He told the audience that he had become so alarmed that he "had come around" on the Second Amendment. "Every American family needs to be armed as citizen soldiers," he declared. "The threat is not illusory."

Three hours into the presentation, Fetzer had yet to address the third subject of his talk, Paul Wellstone. There just wouldn't be time. No matter. He gave out the address of his website ( Fetzer, who takes pride in his capacity to speak for hours on end, sounded as if he could have gone on for another three hours. His stamina seemed to simultaneously impress and overwhelm his Hinckley audience. Mike, a soft-spoken 48-year-old sheet metal worker from Mora who declined to give his last name, said he had heard Fetzer previously, probably on short wave. He learned of the presentation from a flyer posted at a local grocery. He would have liked more discussion of the WTC Building 7 but understood the time constraints. "It's a colossal issue," Mike allowed. "He could have spent four hours on Building 7 alone."

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