Coincidence or Conspiracy: What Are the Odds?
A man takes out a lavish, grossly excessive insurance policy on his wife. The next day she keels over dead. Which hypothesis should guide the detective assigned to the case? (A) It’s probably just a coincidence, no need to investigate. (B) There’s a significant probability of foul play, so the husband should be considered a suspect, at least until a thorough investigation definitively clears him.
Intuitively, most of us k now that the correct answer is “B.” We don’t need probability theory to tell us that, any more than we need Einstein to tell us that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
But wait! Here comes a mathematically-inclined professional debunker, who explains: “Actually, more than ten million life insurance policies are taken out every year, with the insured person averaging 19.2 years of life expectancy after the initial policy purchase, so 500,000 annually-insured people die each year which means more than 1300 annually-insured people die each day. The insured wife in your example could easily have been one of those 1300 people who just happened to die on that particular day, which just happened to be the day after the husband bought the policy. So it must have been a coincidence. No need to investigate.”
Wikipedia, The New York Times, Snopes, DHS’s Disinformation Governance Board, and assorted fact-checkers all agree. Social media labels people who suspect the husband of murder and insurance fraud “conspiracy theorists” and disables the accounts of those who voice their suspicions.
And then it gets worse. The husband uses part of his gargantuan insurance settlement (with additional help from unknown but very wealthy parties) to sue selected alternative media outlets for libel. He says the alternative media has tormented him by reporting on the people who want him investigated for murder and insurance fraud. He says his feelings have been hurt and he has had to move and change his phone number and seek psychological counseling. He says the “conspiracy theorists” are tormenting him by being so disrespectful of the dead (his wife) and the grieving survivor (himself).
A reasonable judge and/or jury might rule:
But what if Mr. Innocent Widower could produce an expert witness: a mathematician who swears on a stack of Principia Mathematicas that probability theory proves the odds are over 95% that Mr. Widower is innocent, and the timing of the insurance purchase was just a coincidence? In the absence of expert testimony to the contrary, and with the entire mainstream media supporting poor bullied Mr. Widower, the judge and jury might jettison common sense and say: “Jeepers, that pretty much proves the guy’s innocent! Those conspiracy theorists sure are a stupid, nasty bunch of reality deniers! Why won’t they just ‘trust the science’?”
The above example is, of course, fictitious and hypothetical. But its resemblance to actual events is more than coincidental.
Take Richard Gutjahr—please! Gutjahr has a way of popping up in the strangest places. As I wrote in 2018:
I stand by my 2018 statement that Gutjahr is an obvious terror suspect. But he’s just a suspect. He could be innocent. It could be just a coincidence that he happened to be perfectly positioned to film the most-used media footage of two spectacular, ultra-media-hyped “Islamist terror attacks,” in two different nations, in the same week…and that he also just happens to be married to an Israeli intelligence officer. But…what are the odds?!
Now here is where it really gets weird. Gutjahr has just “shown up” at another “suspicious location”: A seemingly well-financed website called Rootclaim that pretends to have developed an app for determining the odds that any given “conspiracy theory” is true:
Rootclaim was developed by one of Gutjahr’s in-laws, a certain Saar Wilf, who is presumably related to Gutjahr’s wife Einat. (These people know how to keep it in the family!) Saar and Einat Wilf not only share a last name, but have co-authored an article on COVID. Of course that might be mere coincidence; they could be completely unrelated. But…what are the odds?
Rootclaim seems reasonably open to non-mainstream perspectives…at least on issues where the Wilf-Gutjahr family doesn’t have skin in the game. It tells us there is an 86% chance that Putin does not have cancer, a 96% chance that the anti-Assad US-NATO backed forces (not Assad) attacked al-Ghouta with chemical weapons, and an 86% chance that COVID-19 “was developed during gain-of-function research and was released by accident.”
That’s all well-and-good. But again: What are the odds that Richard Gutjahr, or any TV host for that matter, would just happen to be the unique person in position to shoot the first and most-used footage of two successive major terror attacks? For some strange reason, Rootclaim hasn’t run those calculations.
When we estimate the odds of such things, we need to consider background information. For example: How relevant is the fact, attested to by Wikipedia, that Richard Gutjahr is married to a former Israeli intelligence officer?
Wikipedia tells us that Gutjahr’s “coincidental presence at events gave rise to conspiracy theories, alleging his presence at both events could not have been a coincidence. Gutjahr has pressed charges against those who make the allegations, which he sees mostly motivated by antisemitism against his wife considering the often antisemitic nature of the hostilities.” (Funny how Wikipedia tells us that Gutjahr “pressed charges” against journalists like Gerhard Wisnewski but fails to mention the outcome: Gutjahr suffered a crushing defeat in court.)
And then…bring on the obligatory charges of anti-Semitism! Whoever is editing Wikipedia apparently thinks it is “anti-Semitic” to notice that Israel is the only nation that has benefited from the “war on terror,” an episode of international mass hysteria elicited by a string of alleged “Islamic terror attacks” in which the Israeli government in general, and its intelligence community in particular, is the leading suspect.
Was it just a coincidence that the people who happened to be pre-positioned near the New Jersey waterfront at the perfect spot to film the attack on the Twin Towers, and who filmed and wildly celebrated the attacks before being arrested, were Israeli spies who later confessed they had been sent there “to document the event”?
Was it just a coincidence that the mysterious “Janek” who was pre-positioned on a rooftop to film the iconic footage of “the Charlie Hebdo terrorists’ escape” turned out to be an Israeli agent? As Hicham Hamza wrote:
There is a mass of evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that implicates Israel in 9/11, the 7/7/2005 London bombings, the Paris attacks of January and November 2015, and indeed most of the highest-profile GWOT terror incidents attributed to “Islamic extremists.” So Richard Gutjahr’s being married to an Israeli intelligence officer, and then magically showing up to film the beginnings of two successive terror attacks, does seem a tad suspicious. And his presence at a website selling an app that claims to mathematically arbitrate between mainstream and non-mainstream narratives seems not just suspicious, but bizarre…if not downright absurd. If noticing such things makes you “anti-Semitic,” then the alternative to “anti-Semitism” is sheer unmitigated idiocy.
Is mainstream media idiotic…or complicit? What are the odds?
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