By William Shea
The true threat comes not from apocalyptic Christian groups but from a clique which masquerades as experts concerning them.
When the Heavens Gate story broke in late March 1997, a handful of veteran spin doctors were called upon to comment on the incident: Louis West, Margaret Singer, Steven Hassan, Richard Ofshe.
No matter the tragedyJonestown, Waco, Solar Templeand no matter the facts, these experts interpret the event in but one way.
True to form, as after Jonestown, they attribute deaths to brainwashing or mind control and the dangerousness of religions, both apocalyptic Christian and otherwise.
Their disinformation is widely promulgated by the media, at the expense of the facts.
Going back two decades to the initial news reports about Jonestown, published within days of the murderswell before events could be known about with any authority by anyone outside Guyana West and Singer were front page in the media, asserting that the deaths were a mass suicide caused by the mind control of Jim Jones.
It is now well known that the premise that 913 people there committed suicide on orders is false. Rather than a mass suicide it is, at least substantially, an unsolved mass murder. (See Revisiting the Jonestown Tragedy.)
But regardless of the tomes of documented information available to show that a mass suicide never happened, West, Singer, Ofshe and Hassan continue to tell the public that it did.
Anyone examining the thousands of documents on Jonestown, including the photographs of neatly laid-out bodiesimpossible to have occurred naturally, according to experts, in light of the agonizing spasms that mark cyanide poisoningwill see immediately that something is wildly amiss with Wests and Singers insistence that their version of events is the last word on the subject.
Why are they so insistent? And how are they so readily provided a forum for ideas so easily punctured? Freedom presents here information which these experts fail to include in their curricula vitae.
n December 1995, 27-year-old David Wahl of Portland was reported missing by his girlfriend, Linda Stangel, after a brief excursion to Ecola State Park on the Oregon coast. Stangel said she didnt know what had happened to Wahl because he had gone walking by himself while she slept in their van. Local police treated the matter as a missing person/possible suicide case, despite increasing concern and suspicions on the part of Wahls parents.
A month later, Wahls headless body washed ashore.
The state arranged for Stangelwho had moved to Minnesotato return to Oregon in July 1996 for a memorial service for Wahl. While in Oregon, two Oregon State Police detectives visited Stangel and asked her if she wouldnt mind helping them reconstruct the events of the day at Ecola State Park.
She accompanied the officers on the 110-mile trip from Portland to the coast, where she retraced the steps she and Wahl had taken that day. She then confessed, saying that she had gotten angry at her boyfriend and shoved him, but didnt really mean for him to fall the 400 feet to his death.
The reason she had lied, she said, was that she had been frightened by what might happen if she told the truth. This confession was recorded on tape. The police officers immediately called District Attorney Joshua Marquis, who ordered them to tape it again to be sure.
The police did as Marquis instructed and Stangel again freely confessed. Stangel was arrested and brought to trial.
It seemed like an open-and-shut case. And so it wasbut not before costly detours in the judicial process introduced by Richard Ofshe, an expert in mind control, one of a handful of interlinked practitioners whose specialty, one might opine, is anything but the truth.
$5,000 a Day
As described by District Attorney Marquis, who prosecuted the Stangel case, Richard Ofshe became the sole witness besides the defendant in the case.
Marquis told Freedom, Ofshes contention is that he is an expert in the subject of coerced false confession. Even though he is not a psychologist, and has no psychological training, he passed himself off as some sort of expert in mind control.
After Ofshe entered the scene, Stangel recanted, claiming the police had forced her to lie. Said Marquis, The defenses case was literally structured on Ofshes theory that the police routinely coerce people to give confessions.
The state is always obligated to prove that a confession is voluntary, Marquis pointed out. But Ofshe went one step further. He said, No, nothe police are so tricky that they coerce false voluntary confessions.
As Marquis made clear during a pre-trial examination, Ofshes entire theory and practice is based on his claim that he can tell by reading a transcript that the police not only got someone to confess, but got them to confess falsely under coercion.
In the Stangel case, Marquis said, Their defense was that you couldnt trust the confessions. Confessions were inherently invalid.
The jury didnt buy it. On January 16, 1997, the panel convicted Linda Stangel of second-degree manslaughter, and Circuit Judge Paula Brownhill sentenced her to six years in prison.
Ofshe nevertheless collected $5,000 a day for appearing in the Stangel case. Ofshe admitted that his clock started running the minute he walked out of his house in Berkeley, California. The trial itself lasted from January 14 17, 1997.
While a real expert is somebody who works in the field and may occasionally be called upon to offer an opinion, Ofshe admitted that being an expert constitutes the bulk of his paycheck.
I got him to admit, however reluctantly, that no less than 50 percent of his income is derived from testifying in cases like ours, Marquis said. This is usually paid for by the taxpayer.
The categorical rejection of Ofshes theories by the jury is obviously going to be known in this case far beyond this jurisdiction because of an enormous amount of national publicity that this case has had and will continue to receive, Marquis said.
Ofshes mentor, psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West, has enjoyed a long career in researching and carrying out mind-control activities. He has not researched the subject to expose its dangers to American citizens but rather to secretly perfect its covert use on others. He performed this work for the Central Intelligence Agency.
In a document released under the Freedom of Information Act, it was revealed that the CIA wanted to set West up in a secret laboratory to perform mind-control experiments with hypnosis and LSD. A portion of the LSD, mescaline and other drug experiments that West was enmeshed in on behalf of the CIA were exposed by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Senator Frank Church, in the mid-1970s.
The early work to which West contributed resulted in, among other things, the death of tennis pro Harold Blauer in a drug experiment in New York City in 1953. The Select Committee on Intelligences investigation revealed drugging of unsuspecting targets, electric shocking to destroy memory, and programming individuals to killrobots under psychiatric control.
Wests career highlights include injecting a 7,000-pound elephant, Tusko, with a massive dose of LSDroughly 1,435 times the quantity, in his words, one would have given to a human in order to produce for several hours a marked mental disturbance. Not surprisingly, the elephant collapsed in agony five minutes later and died.
West had taken the powerful drug himself shortly before killing Tusko, the prize of the Oklahoma City Zoo, and was evidently still under its influence at the time he sloshed through the beasts entrails, performing an autopsy which he recorded on film. He later issued a report to advance his discovery that elephants could be killed with LSD and to promote use of the drug to cull elephant herds in Africa.
Not long thereafter, the ubiquitous West turned up in Dallas, Texas, examining Jack Ruby during his 1964 trial for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. The New York Times reported in April 1964 that West treated Ruby with hypnosis and drugs.