Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Journalism as It Should Not Be
Janet Malcolm and Jeffrey MacDonald

Janet Malcolm

The following is an expansion of a comment I made of an article I founded at the Los Angles Review of Books website by  Jess Cotton.1

In the review Mr. Cotton examines several books by Janet Malcolm that touch on legal matters and shows a starry eyed, fan worship of Ms. Malcolm. Here I will only discuss Mr. Cotton’s treatment of the case of Joseph McGinniss and Jeffrey MacDonald. 2

The case involved a Jeffrey MacDonald, Doctor, who in 1969 murdered his wife and his two daughters, (Or so a Jury later found.); he was not tried until 10 years later but he was convicted. During his trial Jeffrey agreed to let writer Joseph McGinniss access to his person and to be present at defence meetings etc, further after his conviction Mr. MacDonald agreed to continue to allow McGinniss ample acesss.3

All was for naught because McGinnis when he published the book concluded that Jeffrey MacDonald was guilty and said so in his book.4  Mr. MacDonald was outraged and sued for breach of contract. The result was a law suit that Janet Malcolm described in her book.

Below is my comment too which I have amended with some additions.
What a shoddy review. Aside from as per usual ignoring the large body of physical evidence that points straight to MacDonald. All those PJ  fibers in all the wrong places for MacDonald's story to say nothing of the blood evidence.  For decades MacDonald groupies have been using the contradictory, retracted and asserted confessions of Helena Stoeckley, (A witness of zero credibility due to high suggestibility and extreme drug and alcohol abuse.), to accuse her and a group of “Hippies” of being responsible for the murders. The fact that not a stitch or stick of physical evidence has ever been found of said home invaders has not discouraged MacDonald fans. We could go into the lack of evidence for the struggle in the living room that MacDonald alleged happened; and of course the DNA evidence that excluded Stoeckley and her boyfriend Mitchell from the crime scene. Interestingly a hair clutched in Colette's hand and for years branded by the MacDonald's as a hair of the real killer was indeed sourced by DNA and it was from MacDonald!4
We also know now that Bernie Segal, MacDonald’s defence Attorney lied to Judge Dupree during a Bench Conference about Stoeckley  telling him earlier about being at the scene of the murders. As for Blackburn's ethical violations and embezzlement it is of no relevance whatsoever in judging his handling of the MacDonald case but serves the useful purpose of poisoning the well. It is nothing more than an irrelevant  ad hominem .Thus the feeble attempt to make it equal to the lies and fabrications of Britt creating a false equivalency. It is a standard polemical rhetorical trick. In the case of Britt’s lies they are directly germane to his claim that he heard Helena Stoeckley confess to being at the murder scene while the murders were committed. Supposedly Helena made this confession while Britt was driving her for several hours to a court house. The evidence shows that Britt did not drive Stoeckley someone else did along with other fabrications. Also if you want to poison the well it appears Britt engaged in it appears in a type of fraud also.5
As for your dismissal of McGinniss' psychologizing MacDonald. Well I am sorry but it is a documented fact that he was compulsive womanizer, who was planning a bogus trip as an excuse to have an affair at the time of the murders. It is a simple fact that he repeatedly and compulsively broke his married vows during the marriage. It is a fact that until his trial in the late 70s he led a "high" life. Further argument that Freddy turned against him after MacDonald's lie about torturing and murdering one of the alleged killers is simply false. Freddy Kassab, (MacDonald’s Father in Law.), was already very suspicious after reading the Army tribunal transcripts, (Which Macdonald tried to stop him from getting.), in which Freddy could read over and over again MacDonald's transparent lies; Freddy became very suspicious of MacDonald. MacDonald's crass appearance of the Dick Cavett show further cemented Freddy's suspicions. That and MacDonald's total disinterest in finding the "real" killers did not help. The lie about killing one of the killer's was simply the cherry on top for a man already largely convinced of MacDonald's guilt.6
As for Janet Malcolm. I have zero respect for this manipulator, liar and distorter. Her books are entertaining novels. Frequently they are little better than studied character assassinations. Her book In the Freud Archives, which resulted in a convoluted libel case, revealed her capacity to invent and fabricate. You see Dr. Masson had seen fit to criticize St. Freud who is the object of awestruck worship by Malcolm so she subjected him to idiotic lambasting. Of course she got off in the end because "malice" could not be proved. But abundant evidence was led showing her to be a producer of fiction and fantasy.7
In the Freud Archives is basically worthless except as the work of a Freudian acolyte reacting to someone committing the terrible crime of blasphemy in being a less than an abject worshipper of St. Freud.  Janet Malcolm has remained dogmatically incapable of taking in the massive, and relevant criticisms of Freud that exist and have thoroughly undermined the scientific credibility of Freud’s work. In regards to Freud Janet Malcolm remains a fanatical true believer.8
Her book about McGinniss and MacDonald carefully omits from consideration that MacDonald lied to McGinnis when he told him he was innocent, (The evidence of his guilt was and is overwhelming), and that certainly showed that MacDonald broke an unspoken rule between journalists and their sources. McGinniss made no promise that he would write a story showing that MacDonald was innocent to MacDonald only that he would write a fair story. Fatal Vision does just that. That MacDonald doesn't like the conclusion McGinniss draws is neither here nor there. Since Malcom is no stranger to fabricating crap herself one would think she would be less a judgmental twerp.
And of course like a novel the “facts” of real life are played fast and loose with by Malcolm and in this her behavior was similar to the “facts” of In the Freud Archives. Perhaps the most egregious distortion is Janet Malcolm’s description of the law suits outcome. Now it is important to remember that Janet Malcolm did not attend the trial for even a few minutes instead she seems to have accepted virtually everything said by MacDonald’s attorney regarding what happened has gospel. Thus Janet Malcolm pontificated about how this or that witness was or was not impressive etc., all without the difficulty of having been there.
Thus Janet Malcolm alleges that 5 of the 6 Jurors accepted MacDonald’s version of events that McGinniss had deceived him. The 6th Juror could not be budged and the result was a hung jury. So the case ended in as mistrial. This is false the question the jury was asked was whether or not MACDONALD had carried out properly the duties  his contract with McGinniss. Since the Jury was told to ignore certain pieces of relevant evidence, (The releases MacDonald had signed being one.), 5 of the 6 voted yes that MacDonald had fulfilled the terms of the contract. One said MacDonald had not. And since they could not agree on that question the jury could not proceed to the other 36! So mistrial.8 This is only the worst of a long list of errors, omissions and falsehoods in Janet Malcolm’s book.9
I note that Janet Malcolm seemed to have had absolutely no problem with the troubling Freedom of the Press issues raised by the case.
Of course we should not forget Malcom's passages in her book indicating that she was indeed enchanted by MacDonald. For example that truly stupid passage describing MacDonald eating a donut has to be read to be believed. It is moronic.10
Errol Morris (Mentioned by Mr. Cotton in his piece.), who wrote Wilderness of Error which again advanced the fantasy that MacDonald is innocent has grown quiet lately. Given how people who are knowledgeable about the MacDonald case have savaged his book for its omissions and distortions. And of course the Judge's decision in late July rejecting an appeal based on "new evidence" and the judge's decision shows clearly that the "new evidence" is worthless.11
So in the end it appears that Janet Malcolm has helped to continue a myth. The myth being that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent, and she did it by cavalier refusal to face facts. Afterall it would not make has good a story.
Jeffrey MacDonald

1. Cotton, Jess, A Wall of Words: The Tintinnabulations of Legal Fictions, Los Angles Review of Books, Here.
2. Malcolm, Janet, The Journalist and the Murderer, Knopf, New York, 1990.
3. McGinnis, Joseph, Fatal Vision. Putnam Pub. Group, 1983.
4. See The Jeffrey MacDonald Information site Here for  data, info and legal documents on the case. See specifically Here for the DNA results. See also Just the Facts Here for documents and analysis of the case.
5. Star News Online  ‘Fatal Vision' author testifies in MacDonald case Here. See also No. 3:75-CR-00026-F & No. 5:06-CV-00024-F, July 24, 2014, United States of America v. Jeffrey R. MacDonald,  Order by Judge James C. Fox. pp. 107-109, 137-139, located at Here. See also Just the Facts Here.
6. MacDonald’s Magical Mystery Tour, Here, Jeffrey R. Macdonald, Wikipedia Here.
7. See Malcolm, Janet, In the Freud Archives,  Knopf, New York, 1984. See also Malcolm's Lost Notes And a Child at Play, New York Times Here.
8. For critiques of Freud that reveals that the Emperor indeed is naked see Esterson, Allen, Seductive Mirage, Open Court, Chicago ILL, 1993, Webster, Richard, Why Freud Was Wrong, Basic Books, New York, 1995, Crews, Frederick, Follies of the Wise, Shoemaker & Hoard, Emeryville CA, 2006, pp. 15-87.
9.  McGinnis, Joseph, Fatal Vision, Epilogue, 1989, Joe McGinniss Here.
10. Malcolm, 1990, p. 124. I will give here a full quote of this remarkable passage:
As we talked, MacDonald, who had forgone his lunch to be with me, ate some small powdered-sugar doughnuts — breaking off pieces and unaccountably keeping the powdered sugar under control — with the delicate dexterity of a veterinarian fixing a broken wing.
The above is merely one example of Janet Malcolm’s star struck prose regarding Jeffrey MacDonald. Stuff like that and her airy dismissal of and near total ignorance of the massive physical evidence against MacDonald, (Malcolm seems to have had no interest in it.), would seem to indicate quite strongly that she to a certain degree “fell” for MacDonald. Of course it also vacates to a large degree any point to her book.
11. See Morris, Errol, Wilderness of Error, Penguin Press, New York, 2012. See Judge Fox’s decision Footnote 5. For a discussion of the errors in Morris’ book see Lindsay, Beyerstein, Lindsay, Wilderness of Errol, Columbia Journalism Review, Here , Citron, Robert, Down the Rabbit Hole, Verdict Here, and Weingarten, Gene, Since 1979, Brian Murtagh has fought to keep convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in prison, The Washington Post Here.
Pierre Cloutier

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