I still think Bill Sparkman was a strange bird, but it turns out I was mistaken in my suspicion that his death was a sex crime (or auto-erotic slip). It was a suicide, staged to look like an anti-gubmint lynching so that his son might cash in on the insurance booty. That's the conclusion of state investigators, and I see no reason to doubt their diligence. In my defense, I never dismissed the possibility of suicide, though I did scoff, along with the Malkinite right, at the tea-party rage angle. It seemed ludicrous, and now we know why.
If you want to go double or nothing, I still think that Sarah Palin faked a pregnancy. I'm also calling bullshit on this story, which is obviously propped by facilitated communication hokum — and I'm disposed to doubt every grisly detail of the Pishtaco fat hustling caper. Set your Google alerts.
Not exactly what Robin Hanson has in mind, but I really wish there were a betting market for this shit.
5 thoughts on “Sparkman update”
Radley Balko fell for the facilitated communication story (so did I when I skimmed the article, I didn’t notice it was FC), but his commenters didn’t and jumped all over it:
It’s easy to test. With the facilitator present, show veggie-dude pictures of random things — car, dog, butt-plug — and have him name them with her guidance. Bingo, bingo, bingo. Then have her leave the room and show him a control image — survey says: HELICOPTER. Bring her back in and wait for the excuses.
A ludicrous sop to “fair and balanced” in the NY Times:
“The skeptics who are attempting to diagnose Mr. Houben from afar, using just video evidence, seem to be in a similar position to the members of Congress who tried to evaluate the condition of Terri Schiavo in 2005, during the legal battle over the decision to remove her feeding tube.”
“I showed him objects when I was alone with him in the room and then, later, with his aide, he was able to give the right answers…”
If this is true, it should be simple enough to replicate under double-blind controls. No better way to dispose of the naysaying of skeptics “from afar” than to have James Randi conduct a videotaped test on-site. I’d be willing to chip in for airfare.
One problem with stuff like this is that the reporting locks on a “hoax” narrative when it’s more likely to be an example of sincere self-deception and wishful thinking. That’s harder to understand, especially so because people assume that scientists are less easily deceived. But as James Randi often points out, scientific minds can be especially susceptible to suggestion precisely because they “think in a logical manner.” Whether intentional or unconscious, deception is most convincing when it plays on logical assumptions.
The Frontline documentary, “Prisoners of Silence” can be viewed at: