Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Files: Sonny Bono assassination claim and Ted Gunderson, initial post

Introduction: Although the bulk of this blog for the past several months has been about refugee resettlement issues and Burma (Myanmar), most of my published writing has either been in the realms of Asian studies or else combating bizarre claims through skeptically analyzing them. And thus it is that I've decided to resurrect the title, "The Why Files," the name of the newsletter of the The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York, an organization intended to promote science and critical thinking, and occasionally jot down my thoughts on such things here.



Last night, I got two hits on this blog seeking information on "Bono assassination."
It turns out that approximately a year ago, a bizarre claim was made that Sonny Bono, the late pop-singer and congressman, did not die ten years ago from skiing into a tree and striking his head but instead was assassinated.

For instance, see:

THIS

THIS

OR THIS

Although there is nothing on this blog about Sonny Bono, there is information here on Bono, the lead singer of U2 and his work on Burmese human rights, as well as the threat of assassination that some Burmese dissidents live under. But nevertheless, fearing that someone was conspiring or threatening to assassinate Bono of U2, a public figure who works hard to improve the world, I google the terms myself and then took a moment to look over the results. I discovered that while no one is apparently plotting to assassinate Bono, the singer, instead there is a Sonny Bono Assassination Conspiracy Claim. (Actually, I thought the entire notion of Sonny Bono as a congressman was sufficiently bizarre in itself, and now we have a conspiracy about his death.)

Where did these ideas come from?

They came from Ted Gunderson. Who is Ted Gunderson? Ted Gunderson is a former FBI agent, now turned private investigator, who periodically appears in the media making statements that lie well outside the mainstream. These often involve giant conspiracies, the illuminatti, Satanism, and other increasingly bizarre things. For the record, I do not find these ideas believable. I first came across the name Ted Gunderson, a couple years ago while watching a DVD called Disinfo TV.

Disinfo TV showed its origins in the sort of "Southern California scary, transgressional fringe journalism" stuff of the '90s that Adam Parfrey and his associates did so well in works such as the book "Apocalypse Culture." However, it also showed the limitations of that genre quite well too. Although some portions of this brief series, self-described as "'60 Minutes' reaches for the meth pipe," are fascinating and mind blowing other parts simply seem to degenerate into displays of the mentally ill and random cruelty being shown for entertainment value. Ted Gunderson appears on two segments, one featuring Brice Taylor, and both segments involve sensationalistic and over-blown conspiracy claims. On the Brice Taylor segment the claims, claims confirmed by Ted Gunderson, were just bizarre. Even considering that I've heard related and very bizarre claims before these were the weirdest ones I'd ever heard.

Brice Taylor is one of those sad people who describes herself as a survivor of extreme forms of unlikely abuse, abuse she discovered through recovered memory therapy, and claims to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. (This entire realm of "recovered memories," "multiple personality disorder" and "Satanic ritual abuse claims" have been discredited repeatedly and all involve distortions of human memory, resulting in people coming to very strange conclusions about their own pasts.) The forms of abuse she describe includes being forced to suffer through being used as a sex slave by former presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, George Bush (the father) as well as Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and others. She says that she was sold as a mind-control sex slave to celebrities at public auction. She also says she was forced to have sex with dolphins while Silvester Stallone filmed it and that he then later distributed the films to other celebrities. You may, if you'd like, see all of this on Episode One of Disinfo TV in the segment labeled Brice Taylor. Please be advised that these are only some of the very strange claims Brice Taylor makes about her life on this show.

Also, just for the record, one of the reasons I became burnt out on this sort of journalism is that it is very difficult to know how to deal with a person like this when one is the media. Do you present them as a reliable source? Portray them as an amusing eccentric and make fun of them in front of your audience? Attack them mercilessly so they will be discredited and the gullible will be spared their views? Or not cover them and their statements at all and then let your audience only see part of the picture? There are no easy answers. None are good options when dealing with someone this far off the deep end.

Regardless, on the segment one could also see Ted Gunderson, former FBI agent, presented as a reliable expert on the claims of Brice Taylor. And are the claims true? According to Ted Gunderson on Disinfo TV all the above has been confirmed multiple times including confirmed to him by people inside these giant, far-ranging conspiracies that involve celebrities, mind control slave auctions and dolphin pornography. I do not believe in these things. By his statements, Ted Gunderson says he does. Therefore when one considers the claims that Sonny Bono was assassinated consider the source. Also consider that the story was never, as near as I can tell, picked up by any non-tabloid reliable news sources.

In conclusion, if Ted Gunderson is the only one who claims that the late Congressman and pop-singer was assassinated, I for one, feel perfectly able to ignore the claims. Ted Gunderson is a name that comes up again and again in the media surrounding bizarre and often disprovable claims. In the absence of corroborating claims or evidence, I'll just skip this one for as long as I can.

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