Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

6/15/2006

Black is back

Filed under: — stan @ 12:07 pm

Some years ago, I wrote up a little page about the alleged General Motors conspiracy to replace streetcars with buses and force people to buy automobiles. I came to the conclusion that this is a myth. I don’t claim to be a real historian. I just summarize the story and provide links to the sources that I read.

I was recently contacted by a writer named Edwin Black, who is writing a book that deals at least in part with this story. Mr. Black is apparently a fervent believer in the conspiracy story. He asked to talk to me about this story and why I believe it is a myth. He then spent about an hour haranguing me over the phone. It appears to me that he is one who sees conspiracy everywhere. I wrote up a report about this. Mr Black recently found it and left some comments. The funny thing is, if you read the comments that he left on my post, it seems to me their tone almost exactly matches his phone demeanor. It’s the same harangue all over again, and it only reinforces my impression that Mr. Black is a crank and a bully:

  • “Your report about our phone call is almost a complete fabrication.”
  • “you have not examined any of the court documents”
  • “your reporting of our conversation is [a] fairy tale”

If I’d known that this was going to happen, I would have recorded the conversation. Although I’m hesitant to call it a ‘conversation’. The term ‘extended harangue’ seems more fitting. I stand by everything I wrote, but neither of us can prove what was actually said.

I went looking to see if anyone else has had a similar experience with Mr. Black. Roderick Long wrote a review of Mr. Black’s book War Against the Weak and found himself being verbally attacked by Mr. Black. Mr Long writes:

“This past weekend I received a very strange email from the author, distorting the content of my review and accusing me of being part of some sort of conspiracy to defame him.”

He posted the message and his rebuttal for us to see.

The choice bit:

“There has been no defamation by me of Spencer – only a defamation of me by you… Now kindly remove all such references from the Internet, cease your campaign of falsity, and spread the word amongst your colleagues that I know the true definition of defamation, libel and slander.”

Sound familiar?

And perusing reviews of some of his other books, it seems that I’m not the only one who gets the impression that he tends to be a bit over-the-top. Here are some reviews of his book IBM and the Holocaust, in which he posits that IBM was not just complicit, but actually aided in the Holocaust:

query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03E5DA163AF93BA25750C0A9679C8B63

“…he often tells his story not in the subtle hues of genuine scholarship but in the Day-Glo paint of the potboiler”

“Struggling to force his evidence into a box in which it does not fit, Black ratchets up his rhetoric”

muse.jhu.edu/journals/technology_and_culture/v043/43.1allen.html

“…inflated and pompous rhetoric that characterizes the entire text”

“Black relies extensively upon the careful research of Aly and Roth but consistently ignores any evidence that contradicts his own argument.”

“To Black, however, an IBM conspiracy is omnipresent. After a negative review… He demanded a retraction and then set forth the following calumny: ‘Does Mr. Hayes personally know of anyone who has reviewed my book for any publication who has taken money for historical consultation from Nazi companies involved in concentration camps, or their defense attorneys? If so, the names of these Nazi-era corporate clients should be disclosed in any of these reviewers’ author blurbs’”

“Rather than an astounding work of scholarly research and intellectual courage, IBM and the Holocaust is the product of a somewhat fevered brain.”

Anyway, I’m trying to just be amused by this whole thing. I’ve had encounters with cranks before, and my advice to Mr. Black would be that if you don’t want to be thought of as a crank, the first step is to stop acting like one.

12 Responses to “Black is back”

  1. Edwin Black Says:

    There is no way to write about the sensitive subjects of genocide, corporate corruption, government misconduct, philanthropic abuse, and pervasive academic fraud as I do without encountering sources of disinformation and those who wish to hang on to entrenched false history, pseudoscience or fear of new information that unmasks their prior errors or oversights. These very few complainers must be measured against the overwhelming majority that have lauded and awarded the books. Anyone can see my work at http://www.edwinblack.com which links to free-standing book sites which cite comments and reviews from dozens of historians, communal leaders, and reviewers. My book tours annually reach dozens of cities and hundreds of universities and institutes. I mention all this because Stan is again misleading his readers by pinpointing a few of the entrenched disinformation sources. When the disinformation moves into falsehood, I get explicit written retractions. I am happy to send these retractions to anyone, including you Stan, who may wish to view them to gain perspective. Just send an email. My work has withstood the test of time and no company or person ever investigated has been able to challenge a single assertion or requested a retraction or correction. Not in 40 years. Not IBM, not Sears, not Ford Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Rockefeller, Carnegie, or Planned Parenthood. It takes facts to stand up to giant concerns like this. Unlike you, we aren’t afforded the luxury of guesswork and suggestion. We must be precise and bulletproof.

    In the meantime, your readers might also be interested in knowing why you almost completely fabricated the report of our conversation, and why you are so staunch in your position about trolleys and NCL since you have never examined any of the court documents. Three branches of government have called GM’s actions a commercial conspiracy, one for which the company was tried and convicted in court, with prosecutors and judges repeatedly using the word “conspiracy.” I can’t reinvent the indictment’s terminology. Yet the impact on America reaches far beyond the mere petty monetary fine GM paid. That said, my forthcoming book only deals with the GM conspiracy in a single chapter and actually deals more fully with the history and future of energy from the Pharaohs to hydrogen. It also unmasks the lies about energy and transit we have been told for a hundred years.

    I realize this is “your soap box” Stan. You can censor all my comments and cut off discussion as you did before. You can fake out your readers with selective negative materials. You can show your venom for being exposed by gathering up negative links.

    This is why it is important for your readers to remember a personal adage of mine… the ability to type should not be confused with the ability to tell the truth… and since you asked previously, by truth I mean assertions completely based on quoted documents. Anyone who reads my work will realize that 99% of my GM references are based on document quotes.

    Blogs are new in communication media. A few years ago, it would be you Stan who would be declared a crank and dismissed. But you do not depend upon the vindication of fact finding because you control your own blog. You owe your readers an honest reading and honest answers. You should also rethink your blog and try to limit yourself to truth and not tantrum.
    edwin black
    http://www.edwinblack.com

  2. stan Says:

    I have nothing more to add here. But I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m not the one having a tantrum here.

    I do wish he would stop accusing me of fabicating the phone conversation. I don’t make stuff like that up. I took notes, and he said what he said. But I’m not going to get into a pissing match. As they note in Wikipedia, the hallmark of a crank is, “No argument or evidence can ever be sufficient to make a crank abandon his belief.”

  3. Edwin Black Says:

    Since you added a comment to further mislead your readers, I thought I would chime in. I am only doing this because you appended you remarks after you stated you would not and then asserted I was not accurate in saying you totally fabricated the tenor of phone conversation. That you did.

    First, I admit that I do not understand the blog mentality. I am been so dependent upon fact finding for decades that I work differently. I do not understand what would cause a person to post his private wedding pictures and private family photos up on the web for anyone to see, even if, as your own posted photograph shows you are self-described by virtue of your license plate as a “Nerd.”

    Exposing your family pictures to web access is one thing, but delving into the realm of historical revisionism is something else. This country desperately needs to understand how we became addicted to oil. We need to take steps to remedy the problem. The GM chapter is just one of many in the long story of energy corruption. You do a disservice to your readers, whoever they are, by distracting them with false history and the rather irrelevant question as to whether you felt harangued. Who cares? Are you that self-centered and solipsistic? I can assure you, I can document the tenor of our conversation. It was you who fulfilled the definition you proffered of a crank, disregarding any solid factual information in favor of entrenched false history. So be it. Your choice. But I made the good faith effort to determine if your information was based on solid facts or just guesswork, hyperbole, and urban legend. It was the later. You had not examined the corporate papers, court testimony or exhibits, FBI documents, contemporary newsclips, judicial private papers, or archival materials—some 30,000 documents. I have.

    What is more important to your readers than your sense of embarrassment and entrenched closed mind is the truth about our energy history and future… not your personal discomfort at being offered a chance to provide factual back-up for your assertions when you could not. That is the discussion that should ensue.

    The same sort of deliberate fact management employed in your trolley page can be seen in your ad hominem assemblage about my own work. In order to list those few negative reports about IBM and the Holocaust and War Against the Weak, both multiple award winning bestsellers, you had to bypass scores of posted positive, laudatory reviews and endorsements which your readers can see for themselves at the very sites you had access to. I do not understand why you respect your readers so little that you think they can be manipulated so easily. They can check for themselves:

    http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com
    http://www.waragainsttheweak.com
    http://www.bankingonbaghdad.com
    http://www.transferagreement.com
    http://www.edwinblack.com
    http://www.featuregroup.com

    Your readers can also compare your judgment about my work—one you have not read— against those of other esteemed experts who have scrutinized it. Here are just a few. These will all post within a few days. But your readers can see them first and judge for themselves.

    A PAGE TURNER. As usual, Edwin Black puts all his readers in his debt by his lucid, dramatic and thought-provoking discoveries. Internal Combustion is a story that should be read by everyone concerned about the strange realities of our modern world. An indispensable contribution to the story of oil and travel: the twin pillars of our modern dilemma. A true page turner.
    Martin Gilbert, author
    A History of the Twentieth Century, and Churchill: A Life and First World War

    EXPLOSIVE. Edwin Black has produced an explosive, eye-opening exposé of the corporate forces that have for more than a century sabotaged the creation of alternative energies and vehicles in order to keep us dependent on oil. There is enough truth in this book to revolutionize our way of life.
    Max Wallace, author
    American Axis, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich

    RIVETING. Edwin Black’s Internal Combustion provides a riveting, well researched, technically on-target, no-holds barred revelation of the factors that have brought us to today’s crisis point–the world’s reliance on oil. His compelling narrative detailing the evolution of what has become today’s global dilemma is a must-read for the technically savvy as well as for the layman.
    Melvin I. Olken, PE
    Editor-in-Chief, IEEE Power & Energy Magazine

    DOGGED JOURNALISM. Internal Combustion is proof that investigative works can be both illuminating and entertaining; comprehensive and thought-provoking. Through extensive research and dogged journalism, Black has given his readers a portrait of the world’s modern energy crisis. From the corporate conspiracies to the political intricacies, Black connects the dots, outlines the history, and underlines the combustive relationship between civilizations and the energy sources they so dearly rely on.
    Wendell Rawls, director
    Center for Public Integrity

    BREATHTAKING. Breathtaking in scope. While many other authors have looked at the various mechanical aspects of the history of the electric vehicle and our national addiction to oil, nobody has tried to tackle the big picture head-on—the question of why technologies so superior for a variety of uses has been tried and failed so often. As Edwin Black points out in Internal Combustion, the secret has less to do with technology than bad judgment, stupidity, greed and even the occasional whiff of out-and-out criminal intent. This book should get people very concerned—and very angry.
    Bruce Epperson, author
    Failed Colossus: Albert A. Pope, the Bicycle & the Dawn of the American Auto Industry

    BRAVE & GUTSY. Internal Combustion is a brave and gutsy story, one that had to be told years ago. Only one modern writer has had the guts to do it, and that is Edwin Black. Internal Combustion is a publishing milestone.
    Al Mankoff, electric railway historian
    North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society

    A BARN BURNER. Edwin Black has created another barnburner! And so timely. He recounts the deplorable history of how alternative fuels and vehicles were squeezed out of the market throughout the 20th century in favor of highly polluting petroleum based products. The chain of events recounted in Internal Combustion reveals one of the sleaziest actions ever taken for financial gain—it has resulted in increasing and continuing public health and political problems for the people of the world. It is a scandal most people will understand only after reading this book
    Henry W. Wedaa, president
    California Hydrogen Business Council
    Chairman Emeritus, South Coast Air Quality Management District

    REVOLUTIONARY! Edwin Black takes off the gloves and reveals the people whose invisible hands have been shaping and controlling energy markets. Internal Combustion describes forces that have brought us to the brink of disaster, and raises a call for a green revolution to restore sanity and regain control over our destiny.
    Karl Gawell, executive director
    Geothermal Energy Association

    INTRIGUE & COLLUSION. Black has done it again! Internal Combustion provides a compelling and anger-arousing history of energy use and the automobile—filled with intrigue and collusion—that policymakers will wish Black had written ten years ago. It reads like a tense novel, but historians will love Black’s well-footnoted use of previously unknown original sources. Futurists and those tired of high Mideast oil prices will see that Black has identified the key to our future.
    Mark Abramowitz
    Green Coast Post

    MASTERFUL! Why are we so incredibly and collectively stupid in applying technology? Is it the so called free market system which worships competition and institutionalizes greed? Edwin Black’s Internal Combustion is a masterful telling of truth, right on the technology, right on facts, right on the history, and right on the future.
    John Diers, Minnesota Streetcar Museum
    Author, Twin Cities by Trolley, The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul

    INTERNAL COMBUSTION FOR THE BRAIN. Edwin Black’s new book will create internal combustion in the brains of his readers. Complacent people will become awakened and excited. People who thought they knew it all will be astonished to discover how much the world has progressed by good and bad deals. In Internal Combustion, accidental happenings become intentional and ingenious work will be shown to be doubtful. Finally we can read the truth.
    Karl V. Kordesch, author
    Fuel Cells and Their Applications

    It seems that if people are fascinating by the details of your life and personal experiences, this blog is a fine place to visit. If they want credible facts about energy history and the National City Lines-GM conspiracy prosecution and conviction, they can go elsewhere.
    Edwin Black
    http://www.edwinblack.com

  4. Ed Says:

    Hey Stan, I believe YOU need to do some research before blasting the works of Edwin Black.
    Are you a schill for the corporations and maintain a blog to discredit anyone who challenging the government, the mainstream media whores and the multinational corporations who answer to no one?

    Wake up Stan and read the facts.

  5. stan Says:

    Hmm. Are you sure you’re not a sock puppet? I see from your IP address that you’re on the same ISP as Edwin Black.

    And if you actually read what I wrote, I’m not saying that what he says is wrong. I just described how he treated me when we spoke.

    Also, the word you want is ’shill’.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Wow. I just stumbled on this site completely randomly, and I must say, it makes for outstanding reading.

    Stan, you wacky crazy “nerd”! You should give Edwin more respect. His mad rhetorical flair, sockpuppetry extraordinaire, and ability to manufacture quotes that are as unimpressive as they are useless — well, really, what can I say? It’s just pure comedy trolling genius. Genius!

    Do not silence Edwin Black — or “Ed”, as he so cleverly pseudonymously calls himself. His gift is just too precious.

  7. Anton Sherwood Says:

    Looks like Mr Black has time on his hands.

  8. stu padaso Says:

    Your first paragraph in this story concludes the whole truth of this matter. “I don’t claim to be a real historian.” A real historian would have done real research and looked through the governments files containing the case against GM, looked through the records of the national city company etc—You did not! You find it easier to claim you are correct because you think people will believe anything in print even if the person writing it admits it is their own opinion. You probably believe Grace chemical didn’t help create a superfund site. It’s too bad lazy dumb people want to fill our society with this own personal bullshit. Back to ostrich land for you and the “I did not see it so it must not be” May you get stuck behind GM busses in traffic and have to breath the polutants they spew for many hours on end!

  9. Ric Says:

    I don’t want to get into the name-calling. Seems counter-productive. I do want to say I’ve read Edwin Black’s Internal Combustion and it appears well validated. I read the footnotes because I do want to know the facts. I also work for the U.S. Dept. of Energy in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy. I find Black’s book an invaluable guide to the history. I would agree that he does use some inflammatory phraseology. But, he also backs up his claims. There are also issues about battery capacity – and those are still an issue of R&D. But, it is the case that the game got rigged on electrical-powered transport. I live in a city where the street cars and tracks were removed, and now we are looking to recreate what used to go directly down the street by my house. I also lived in Boston and greatly appreciated the electrically-powered systems they retained there, one of which still houses its trackless trolleys next to my old apartment building. There were real issues of economics which have not been fully explored and explained by Black, but that doesn’t make the picture any prettier for internal combusion. Things like oil depletion allowances and unfavorable rules for grid connection to sell back power have certainly favored fossil. A level playing field would most likely have resulted in a very different energy system. It’s also the case that there have been energy conspiracies going back for millennia – indeed, conspiracies and manipulations in many resource areas. That’s hardly a mystery. One has only to look at our current situation in the Middle East to figure that out. As a rider of all forms of mass transit, I’ve never understood any preference for diesel buses. They do pollute. Having lived near one of the main terminals in Baltimore, MD, I also know the extent to which they affect health. So, I look at Edwin Black’s contribution to the literature as helpful in understanding how we got to this point, but also recommend further scholarship. Let’s drop the name calling and oversensitive egos. Facts do matter. And, there are conspiracies of business – Adam Smith pointed that out in Wealth of Nations. Having taught at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, I would also say we need to take seriously the global consequences of such conspiracies.

  10. I Wanna Be Ed Says:

    Wow, good thing ed has so many big names to review his work. If “Internal Combustion” hadn’t received the glowing review it did from the North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society or the Minnesota Streetcar Museum I wouldn’t have stood in an hour’s queue, knee deep in snow, after abandoning my electric bicycle during the 2 hour commute to the bookstore in the years worst blizzard.

  11. Walbert Says:

    I’m jumping into this whole thing a little bit late. My personal interest in the GM/Redcar Conspiracy Theory is motivated by the more recent GM Bailout, and I stumbled upon your page via Google.

    I’m not going to spend my time here debunking Black’s research or writing, as I’m honestly not too familiar with either. However, as a student and an aspiring investigative journalist, it’s clear – from his own responses – that Black needs to learn some respect.

    Black should save the preaching for his books. Sources should be just that – SOURCES of information, not subjects to be schooled. Black needs to learn to focus on presenting facts that can speak for themselves, and he should rely less on reviewers to support his sensitive ego.

  12. Don Says:

    Does Mr. Black own and drive an all-electric car? (They are available…) I doubt it. I’ll bet that he’s a complete hypocrite. So I say, “Mr. Black, throw away your gasoline car!” (spoken in the manner of Ronald Reagan’s ‘Berlin’ speech- “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”.

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