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S1 Ep. 6: Rabbit Holes


Why were so many Americans ready to believe conspiracy theories after Watergate? How did those beliefs help trigger Nixon‘s downfall? And given what we know about Watergate—what separates a conspiracy theory from just a theory?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
United Airlines flight five, fifty three was a minute away from landing midway airport in Chicago. When it cry rushed on a residential street and the city South side, the Boeing, seven thirty seven hit the ground. It sent a car I threw one house and sliced the roof off. Another airlines versus Everett police and firemen set up a temporary morgue in a local schoolhouse woman who live nearby and said the place is bedlam ambulances screaming up and down the street. Forty five people were killed, including the captain. Among them was a woman named Dorothy Hunt two noteworthy fact about her first carrying ten thousand dollars in cash, and second, she is the wife of E Howard Hunt who had helped plan and carry out the Watergate break him. The plane crash happened in December is meant in seventy two six months after the buggy
Operation, a democratic party headquarters at that point in time, Howard Hunt stood, accused burglary conspiracy and wiretapping. The plane crash that killed hunts, wife, Dorothy a lot of coverage and television and in the papers in MRS hunts purse. One hundred hundred dollar bills were found federalist, Two gaiters have asked the Federal Reserve to trace the crash, also attracted into from some less mainstream sources is time once again for dialogue. Conspiracy with May Brussels Part conspiracy, political assassinations and abuses of power affect us all. Brussel was a radio host who became known during the nineteen seventies as the queen of conspiracy so much material in this week, I don't know to start that is it just coming and so rapidly Brussels show is broadcast out of tail or be a small left wing Rock station in California. She also bubble
newsletter called simply the conspiracy This letter, the death of Dorothy Hunt, set off alarm bells for me, Russell his business had had testified to the grand jury and they may be wine to use or later and MRS our had died on that plane crash in Chicago decent. He noted that the day after the United five fifty three incident Richard nominated one of his aids. The position of secretary of Transportation, giving him direct control. All over the agency. That would be investigating the crash about a week. After that, nominated another aid to head the Federal Aviation administration, and then a few months later, a third Nixon aid became an x, give at United Airlines, Brussels, Think any of this was a coincidence and that's it as a location for an espionage agent whose tied in with his whole team and secret funding, had some ideas about the cash the Dorothy Hunt was carrying. When her plain went down, the money came,
El Paso gas it had some into a John Mitchell. There were cyanide traces in the bloodstream of the pile crashed, and MRS I've been in with a canadian tabloid called midnight. May Brussel listed thirty people connected to Watergate who had died either just before or after the break in door, Dorothy Hunt was on the list. So long time, FBI, directorate, J, EDGAR Hoover, who died suddenly of a heart attack in May of nineteen. Seventy to the last Person on the list was Martha Mitchell. We talked about Martha. First episode, who is the way Nixon's first attorney general. She died of cancer. Nineteen. Seventy six well My the Mitchell is dad. They murdered her the same way they did Jack roving and Martha Mitchell. Inject Ruby has a lot in common. Some of the people we talked about on the show but fairly be described as tragic figures: Martha Mitchell is one but may Brussels. Who died in nineteen. Eighty eight was not rather,
think of Brussels, the embodiment of a dark but invigorating energy that was unleashed after Watergate one that made Americans more suspicious than it ever been and more desperate to uncover the secrets that their government was keeping from them. Basically, Watergate turned everyone into a conspiracy theorist. We're still. Coming out of the most heated florid period of kind of sixties, radically with them. This is historian David Greensburg, author of the book, Nixon's shadow. So there's in the culture, this deep seated distrust of authority, distrust of of and so people are already in a sceptical frame of mind when it comes to official explanation. And hear something that might seem obvious, but it's worth dwelling on four minute also. Importantly Watergate was a conspiracy. The Watergate plot proved that the paranoia acts were right
There really was a cabal of government officials working in the shadows to seize and maintain power and stifle descent, and they re did steal and cheat and lie what You realize that part of the picture lies outside of you You use your wonder how much else, thanks to Watergate Wild, speculation about invisible forces and schemes no longer seemed all that crazy and it wasn't just crazy people who took it seriously between one thousand nine hundred and sixty three and one thousand nine hundred and seventy six percentage of Americans. We thought Lee Harvey Oswald had acted as part of a conspiracy jumped from fifty two percent to an astonishing eighty one percent, in nineteen. Seventy five columnist for the Washington Post lamented that when you prove A distance of one batch of conspiracies Watergate, for example, belief in others proliferates.
American society has gone buggy and conspiracy theories to columnist concluded because so many nasty demonstrations of the real thing have turned up. All the secrets and skulduggery that were revealed during Watergate created an enormous appetite for explanations and for answers. Weird bouquet of conspiracy theories that Watergate. Inspired: the men. The station of that appetite in today's episode Why were so many Americans ready to believe conspiracy theories after Watergate and how did those beliefs health trigger the downfall of Richard Nixon and given we think we know about Watergate what separates a conspiracy theory from just a theory This is slow burn. I'm your host they thought there were speculation, brash might have had a Watergate connection. It confirmed everybody may A right that they had proper witnesses, we begin
examples of these bodies and find out what is really happening at this nation episode. Six radicals may Brussel was a child of nineteen, twenty and thirty LOS Angeles. She grew up in a the family descended from California Department store magnet. They had a swimming pool and they took exotic vacations Brussels, fathers prominent rabbi in Beverly Hills, floss angels time. Once called him the rabbit stars: you wanna bite with Albert Einstein. The luminaries. Like Thomas Mann, s House, guests, Brussels studied philosophy at Stanford. Afterwards. She got married and settled into a quiet. Life is a stay at home, mother. In L, a. In an interview. She once said that during this period she was just a housewife interested in ten sports and dancing lessons and orthodontic for her children. That life ended on November 22nd, one thousand nine hundred and sixty
at approximately one o clock it about thirty five minutes ago, after being shot so was forty one years old and President John F Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas If case assassination was the central inflection point of Brussels Life, it was them. That dislodged her from the world. She thought she'd understood it made her distrust. Everything that government said they need? intelligent central intelligence agency FBI not only covered up the assassination of John Kennedy. They were in the execution of it, with the four allows of who Oswald was at the time in nineteen. Sixty four a presidential commission investigated the assassination and concluded that Kennedys killer Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone, Brussels Vincent that was a whitewash. The oswalds Actually government agent had been trained to be a killer and then discarded when the commission released twenty six volumes of evidence. Brussel bought all twenty six as a Christmas present to herself,
spent years indexing and cross referencing them again connections between people and no coincidences that she believed were nothing of the sort. The fact remains that Washington D C has a total responsibility for the cover the entire assassination of John Kennedy. She started in eight newspapers a day looking for now information and new examples of mysterious deaths. She mostly worked alone and while she gave lectures here and there He didn't really start to publicize your theories until she got her Sunday afternoon. Radio show on Caille or be that way. Nineteen. Seventy one which meant that may Brussels just in time for Watergate, I wanted Now we're going go to the Watergate. There is no way that the prosecution, he's. Gonna run a trial when their part of a system that did espionage work, then I can investigate themselves but just to show the state Brussels friend, David being told me Watergate, made hare brained ideas, Brussel had been talking about for years, sound much more legitimate, being
to kill or be as a nineteen year old kid. When Brussels show first got on the air, he still but her in the studio wearing long skirts that reach down to her ankles and seven style Gypsy tops he members going to her house for coffee and looking at the original Henry Miller, watercolors that you had an her walls, He also members being bewildered, but ultimately dazzled by her theories may talk very fast and would cover so many Topix you. It was hard to put about together new more you weren't, quite sure. If both run her her or not, but when they were gaping broke. It confirmed to everybody that may right in so many ways. Brussels radio show began of the local broadcast that only reached Monterrey and Santa Cruz after Watergate got picked up by stations across the country. Soon you could hear her in Boston in Sacramento and Syracuse in San Francisco. And in New York for and who live in cities where her show didn't air Brussel offered a subscription service.
Every week should male out tapes to people's homes, complete with brilliantly agrifuels in which cited all forces in nice seventy two shortly after the water Break in Brussels working with Paul Craster, the publisher of an underground newspaper, called the realist. It must have been conceived as a grown up version of mad magazine is contribute. Included. Norman mailer can't easy and Joseph how're distributed nationally and Paul Chrysler told me that it had a hundred thousand subscribers. Muscle first published piece of writing appeared in the realist in August of nineteen. Seventy two, it was about Watergate, and it was titled. Why was Martha Mitchell kidnapped? It ran at eighteen thousand words: Crasser says that in order to pay for printing costs, he had to coax his foot and John Lennon into letting him for thousand dollars brusque article wasn't just about Martha Mitchell, it was a tree. On the secret governments role in all of our lives with one it serving as the ultimate proof nineteen
year in is a very important year in american history. She wrote events have been made to eliminate the outdated constitution, The new version of democratic rights does not resemble anything but a fascist dictatorship and data by article eleven thousand, a funny magazine, amazing fill the Santer is a sir, is article of how of waste They can operate in He's brothel marshal the research had been doing over the past decade to comply. Dossiers and all the participants in the Watergate Affair, complete all? Their known ties. The CIA in past government operations at the bay of pigs mapping of Martha Mitchell was a tell. She wrote the man. Which Martha was handled simply indicates how the fascist police agents are forced to treat any witness that the system putting down a person who knows too much they're trying to discredit her. Now I feel compelled to say here that I dont we believe, may Brussels theories. I dont stand most of them?
and the ones I do understand. I mostly find absurd mass and was at the back around which was I save house, the Sharon Tate Math, I've said for several years was an army intelligence operation. He was wearing For this we believe the government was using chemical weapons. Is mine control every? She believed that a fascist takeover of the United States was imminent. Has the facilities to spread germ warfare the USA and I don't have any doubt that they will be doing this. Uncertainty is also she was really interested in doing buggies, Brussel connected them too. Everything from the mass murders, the military industrial complex lot of warning about the dune buggy seen in the last few months, with in mind. One is planned be communes and the other is to kill sick, The three million minority people, one third of the population, now That's for making seventy three its bananas Well, I don't think, may Brussel was right about doing buggies. I do think that the
stuff that she and other conspiracy theories wrote about Watergate. Wasn't that much less plausible, then what really happened. After Watergate Brussel found herself for the bigger audience than she had ever had suddenly shit occult following fans who she referred to as Brussels I've just got about my research. Slowly and steadily. She told the Monterrey Harold in seventy six, but after Watergate, I found a lot People were listening to me, The different interview she said that Watergate had made Americans hungry for truth, woodwork, Bernstein want a pure surprise for taking a position against the whole administration. She said: there's in truth these days, although for years you can give it away, I think people are bored with lies. After her big one. Seventy two article about Watergate two article about Watergate Road up for the real, less eighteen. Seventy three tiled. Why is the Senate Watergate Committee functioning as part of the cover up in that? say: Brussel criticized, Senator same Servants Committee,
Calling the wrong witnesses asking the wrong questions and ignore discrepancies, murder, conspiracy. Sabotage and treason should be the charges she wrote or they would if the investigators weren't part of a conspiracy buddy and the Watergate thing: murder, J, EDGAR Hoover if they had the proper witnesses and the right course Genes will begin to exams over these bodies and find out what's really happening in this nation. Brussel never got much respect from mainstream journalists in a semi satirical Esquire peace outlining forty three theories that purported to explain. Watergate John Barrington, Edward Roget Epstein wrote that MRS Brussel is fast becoming America's leading conspiracy, dearest already championed by the underground. But then they but for all for conspiracy theories. To be true, more than half the country would have to be in on them. In a nineteen. Seventy four interview published in play, girl magazine
Brussels estimated that it was actually less than one half of one percent of the population. So under a million people will have more than a minute when slow burn continues. If you're looking to reduce unnecessary trips out and trying to-
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he made headlines locally when he helped exposed corruption. On the Illinois Supreme Court later he wrote a whole book, but the nineteen seventy two plane crash that killed Dorothy Hunt, title decision history of airplane sabotage in the book school executed crash is part of the Watergate. Cover up. Dorothy Hunt had here Nixon and she had to be silenced. Ninety on talking to Pacific, a radio nineteen. Seventy three captain white out private of better quite we're dead, private granite You what happened at the midway crag were divided the murder robbery of sabotage. That's amber along magazine profile of School Nick said that his work on Watergate had transformed him, from quote in obscure little cripple into a fit his full time fanatic, profile, ran and rolling stone. I mention that after Watergate conspiracy theories became something there not really supposed to be mainstreamed. In nineteen, seventy six, a paper bag,
print of new American Library, published a book called government by gun play on the cover. Flap was the slogan, conspiracy is an ugly word, but what is happening in Amerika for fifteen years, is ugly. The book was it is by a young man, named Sidney, Blumenthal blooming. Would go on to become a key adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Hated the so called vast rightwing conspiracy against them in his entered into the book limit position. The rise of conspiracy theory, as an expression of left wing ideas left over from the nineteen sixties. The reason the hopes of the sixties, we're not realized. He wrote a group of people at the top certain. They were dashed conspiracy. Is the doctrine of those still holding onto their faith. But the left did not have a monopoly on Watergate conspiracy theories mixed supporters had their own versions of events that exonerated their president and put the blame on someone else. A former CIA officer MILES Copeland published an article. National Review, claiming that the Watergate break
had been deliberately set up to fail according to cope. And the driving force behind this conspiracy against Richard Nixon was the CIA and the inside man was the treacherous James Mccord my favorite. The pro Nixon conspiracy theories came from a molecular biology steam Charles Lane, now no flames and mixing supporter per se, but he did believe that responsibility for Watergate ended with the what, if we low level Whitehouse Operative Howard Hunt, Lane believe hunt initiated the Watergate Scheme unilaterally. Then used a voice altering device to impersonate members. The Nixon administration over the phone wasn't just people on the fringes of culture who began to think like conspiracy theories stirring and after Watergate. In some cases, it was powerful individuals at the very centre of things. People influence and access to classified information that even lose some who worked on the Senate Watergate Committee Centre. How Baker and Fred Thompson, the TOP republic, in the committee and its staff
scribe to the idea that maybe the CIA was to blame for Watergate that the agency sabotage the break in to weaken Nixon. They also believed that the Democrats might have known about the burglar in advance and allowed to happen in order to embarrass the Republicans. They undertook a fee investigation, but in the end the evidence proved elusive and nineteen. Seventy four big in his republican staff, completed a report. The drew no Conclusions about the CIA is involvement, even so Baker and said did that. There were still unanswered questions. Here he isn't CBS his face. The nation but I do say there are aspects of the involvement the CIA, that require inquired their organs theories on the democratic side of the committee to Scott arms. Does the investigator you heard about Watergate Episode, five still that the key figure in the Watergate affair with of Millionaire Howard Hughes. This is action worth explaining in some detail, because it's a really entertaining theory and while it seems far
the evidence is also really compelling. So if you will in the rapid hold for a moment. Okay, so Howard Hughes, famous and mysterious reckless a movie sir and aviator and obsessive compulsive maniac in nineteen. Fifty six, when and was vice president under Eisenhower, Hughes Lonely, two hundred thousand dollars to Nixon's younger Brother Donald two thousand dollars was a lot of money. At the time the equivalent of two million today, was considered kind of an embarrassment to the Nixon family The reason he wanted the money was to fund a chain of hamburger. Restaurants in California A key item on the menu at these places was no joke. The Nixon Burger The Berger chain ended in failure and Donald Mix. Never paid Howard Hughes back. So that part is all true. We know because to mock, making columnists Jack Anderson and drew Pearson, dug it up and reported it. In nineteen sixty presidential campaign. They thought that change for the loan. Richard Nixon,
as vice president, had made sure that Howard Hughes businesses get favourable treatment from the government, in other words thought the loan was a bribe less than eighteen, sixty election to John F Kennedy, the defeat scarred him and you can. Instead, Anderson and reporting on a Nixon Burger loan was the reason he had lost. And was so preoccupied with this, but he had his own brother, Donald wiretapped. So what is it have to do with Watergate, well fast, food nineteen. Seventy two Howard Hughes had made it second suspicious loan, this one to Nixon's best for And baby repose out some investigators and the democratic side of the Senate, Watergate Committee staff, including Scott, strong belief this loan was also intended as a bribe and mixed because of its experience in nineteen sixty was obsessed with preventing them from finding out about it according to arms, Nixon was worried that the head of the Democratic Party knew about. The loan was going to it against him. During the campaign, mixing
Did you find out if this was true and that's why you the bugging of a democratic party headquarters. So that's the Howard Hughes theory. That happens may Brussel also had some thoughts about the Watergate Howard Hughes connection I maintain many many years that the president is owned and his own by a handful of people and they major Peace is the action belongs to our use. Richard Nixon has represented the interests of the aerospace and the argument and the banking industries. Armstrong would probably be a little bit mad at me for putting him professional investigator on the same plane as may brussel. In his view, the house, use theories unequivocally true, he says there's Instead, the loan from Howard Hughes to be Bozo was the real, Dixon, ordered the Watergate. Breakin and he says that evidence I've come to light, if only the committee hadn't disbanded before it could be nailed down for No Armstrongs right. My point is just that
already all but force people to think in this paranoid seeming way, all kinds of people, reasonable people, unreasonable full radicals on the left and the right and moderates too with Watergate, truth was stranger than fiction, or at least it was ass strange and that all bets are off. Think about what Gordon Bernstein were writing in the washed imposed. Wasn't that conspiracy theory to this they told him all kinds of implausible elements. Under cover agents, surveillance devices, sabotage plots surreptitious phone calls. Please from random pay phones, do you accept all that is true? Why wouldn't you accept that united and fifty three was deliberately brought down to prevent Howard Hunt? Wife feeling everything she knew about the Nixon restoration. In June of eighteen. Seventy three Sherman scorning the guy who wrote the book about flight five. Fifty three showed up at a public hearing for the National Transportation Safety Board. The borders discussing the crash that day, scorning whistle
to give a presentation about his theory that one of them lieutenant aboard the plane had been a CIA agents in disguise Fourthly, hunt had information that would blow the White House out of the water. The board ignored Skull, nics findings Official investigation ended today under the plane crash last year, which took court, The official report and the plane crash had been an accident But the official word today is that the crash was due solely to pilot error, asked ten thousand dollars the Dorothy Hunt was holding when she died. We still no. That was for. At the end of last week's episode. I said, Richard Nixon refusal to hand over the White House tapes was the first thing that really tough his supporters, and I said that it caused the Crack in the wall that had been protecting him up to that point. Now: not spoiling anything by saying that, eventually the wall crumbled, but before we get there,
We have to understand the shift in the culture that preceded the crumbling. The shift that I think got people ready for the crumbling. There's a widespread idea that Watergate brought about a new level of cynicism about politics. It sort of comment: the wisdom and its right, it makes sense, and the data as its true in nineteen and you too to professor asked a sample of graduate students whether they agreed that often those who enter politics, think more about their own welfare or that of their party than about the welfare of the citizens, just twelve percent Responded said yes, the following year after I get had begun dominating the headlines. That number rose to ninety four percent. An increase in cynicism about politics doesn't explain why at a certain point, the american people so FED up with Nixon that he was forced to leave office. So what does explain it? I think it's the same thing that explains the rise of conspiracy theory after Watergate people too, want to know what the deal was.
Want to know what happened. What actually happened, who did what and who was in on it It wasn't acceptable. The people that I couldn't hear these tapes Can you imagine knowing that there might be a tape of the President, doing something illegal just happened: We can you imagine how badly you'd want to get your hands on it. The fact that but the Nixon administration during the Senate. Watergate hearings encouraged. Africans to assume the worst they also exhausted people's patients for Nixon stubborn fight to block the tapes from being released, obviously not everyone became a professional conspiracy. Theories is resolved. Some people, like may Brussel insurance Cornick stated their suspicions more energetic within most, but the desired? the truth to look past appearances want or need spread that far and wide did finally come out
field that Richard Nixon President, the architect of all these seeker plots and cover ups, put himself obsessed with conspiracies against him. Other things he believed leaking of the Pentagon papers was the result of a liberal conspiracy. You're, probably couldn't make out, was Nixon into his chief of staff in eighteen, seventy one, but how to deal with the release of the Pentagon papers. But with Dixon said, was and why find me a man who worked with me on this whole situation. I want a son of a bitch was just as tough as I am for a change, we're up against an enemy concerned, z, using any means that turned out the paranoia and suspicion that flowed out of Watergate started on the inside, and it went all the way to the top. In an article called the bow of May Brussel, published in height Times magazine, p
cross nor related comment that Brussel had once made to him. But the origins of conspiratorial worldview. You told him that her initial concern over who killed John Kennedy was basically a selfish one. I want to find out if there had been a coup state was going fascist. You said that She added something surprising and kind of profound which he didn't want she told prisoner, was to turn out like an Frank's father, a manhood this family. They were living there last days that things were okay and that people were basically good with, and we have five children, my husband myself, Brussels said I obligation to understand the world outside my home, few people took feeling of obligation. As far as May Brussel did, but many felt it, and the FAO that Richard Nixon enablers didn't notice that change would cost them. Very dearly when a man named Archibald Cox was appointed special prosecutor too. To get the Watergate affair. Copses professed,
Harvard law. He, the solicitor general, the government's chief trial lawyer under President's, can all these concerns. The theory is floating. Around Archibald Cox was gone. We get to the bottom of it maybe even more so than the Senate hearings, special prosecutor Investigation is going to deliver. Clarity on what exactly took place and who is responsible All I can do is pledge my best. I am Khan Whatever else I should say, I shall be. Independent. Talks have been high, an empowered to conduct the investigation by Nixon's new attorney General Elliot Richardson before he was confirmed, its pledge to Congress that he would appoint a special prosecutor could look into Watergate that he would give him complete into thence to pursue the investigation, Cox has been given extraordinary power to investigate the Watergate scandal and rigid. Some kind patient now seems assured what no new at the time with that Richard Nixon had also asked his new attorney general for kind of pledge.
I had no knowledge of any of this Dixon had said. You must believe that when you can't take this job, if you like slow burn, do us a favor and leave us a rating and a review on Itunes. It helps tumors We find the show this plan ass. The production of sleep plus slate membership programme sleepless members get it. Please bonus episode of slow burn every week going, or into the wild world of Watergate. I'm sharing somebody amazing stuff. I found in researching the series and playing conversion to my interviews with people who watch that I'll go down this week. An interview with David Dawson, an assistant chief counselor Senate, Watergate Committee. The subject discussion is the controversial judge presided over key parts of the Watergate proceedings and what it means that its aggressive, arguably unethical methods in the bench, maybe Bosnia for Nixon resignation here was trial. Judge presiding over a trial
in which he's is ready, pretty much said he thinks the people are guilty. Vengeance did not get a fair trial. On members, help I'll be doing a facebook chat, and sleep plus can page out more port to show the rest of our work find out more and sign up for sleigh, plus it's late calm, Slash, Watergate Slow burns produced by me and Andrew Parsons, our script editor Josh Levine, Gabriel Roy if as the editorial director of sleep plus the art Four slow burn is by Teddy blanks from ships, thanks to NBC News archives, specific, a radio archives, CBS News, Tim finale from May brussel dot com for the Audio heard in this episode. Thanks, also to slates chow to Rachel, with theirs the June Thomas and Steve. Like time, you can find a full list of books. Goals and documentaries used to research. This episode ownership, hedge on weeks, episode of slow burn, how a bizarre
This compromise over the White House tapes led to the Saturday night Massacre and what it felt like to watch the FBI. Orders for the next administration. Ministration storm offices of the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. At that point, my wife walked into the office I thought it was the safest thing to give her the evidence which she stuffed interpol genes come on and the elevator doors opened and the FBI agents came in to the next week.
Transcript generated on 2020-07-22.