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.”
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.”
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:
“…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”
“…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.