“Earhart Photo” Debunker Debunked?


Perhaps everyone should have been a bit more skeptical when the British Guardian came out with its article with the confident sweeping headline, “Blogger discredits claim Amelia Earhart was taken prisoner by Japan.”  As we noted in our previous article in which we accepted the “discovery” of the photo in a 1935 Japanese travel book as valid, the apparent discrediting of the photo did absolutely nothing to undermine the wealth of evidence that Earhart was, indeed, captured by the Japanese, in spite of The Guardian’s major overselling of the new purported evidence:  But serious doubts now surround the film’s premise after a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of the National Diet Library, Japan’s national library.” (Emphasis added) 


The Guardian did go to some length to give the discovery quite an appearance of authenticity.  They provided links to the travel book including the photo and page numbers.  In addition, they gave us this quote from the blogger himself:


Kota Yamano, a military history blogger who unearthed the Japanese photograph, said it took him just 30 minutes to effectively debunk the documentary’s central claim.


“I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself,” Yamano told the Guardian. “I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan.”


Yamano ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long timeframe starting in 1930.


“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”


The initial impression one gets—the impression that The Guardian clearly wanted us to take with us—is that this Yamano is quite an enterprising researcher.  But the impression does not bear close scrutiny well. 


Yamano claims that the motivation for his effort was the belief that the Japanese military did not capture Earhart. The main problem of the supposed evidence presented by the photo is that it is not strong enough to convince any skeptical person that it actually shows Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in the custody of the Japanese.  The natural reaction of a predisposed doubter is simply to reject the photo out of hand. 


The second paragraph in the Yamano quote, then, amounts to a non sequitur.  From the outset, what could conducting a search for a copy of the photograph presented in the History Channel program have to do with anything?  It really looks like a waste of time.  Did Yamano have some premonition that he might find evidence that would apparently prove that the photograph had been taken well before Earhart’s disappearance?  Going in, the endeavor looks like a wild goose chase.


Furthermore, I, for one, find it quite difficult to believe that a supposed “history buff” with the apparent independence of mind that Yamano has displayed, someone determined to find out things for himself, would, at this late date, still believe that Earhart was not captured by the Japanese.  Could such a discriminating researcher as Yamano, as presented to us by The Guardian, be completely oblivious to the mountain of evidence supporting that fact?  Put simply, could Yamano really know nothing about the revelations in Mike Campbell’s Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last or the numerous other books that it builds upon?


Looking back on it, what The Guardian has given us sounds very much like a concocted story to provide a superficially plausible explanation for how this photograph was found in an old Japanese travel book.


Japanese Debunker Hoist on Own Dating Petard


Now we learn from a July 15 press release issued by the government of the Marshall Islands that Yamano is mistaken about the impossibility of the photograph having been made at a date later than 1935.  Here is how Rich Martini, who was an early poster of the release on his web site sums it up:  Turns out the ‘book copyrighted in 1935’ could not be a book copyrighted in 1935, because the docks in Jaluit did not exist until 1936.” The date on the Japanese travelogue, as Martini explains it, is essentially meaningless because the travel book is not a real book but is more like a loose-leaf scrapbook and pictures could have been inserted at any time.


This important new development in the Earhart saga came to my attention when Campbell posted an article about it on his web site on July 28:


Marshalls release is latest twist in photo travesty


Lest those who might have thought the latest chapter of the continuing Amelia Earhart disinformation campaign had come to a neat and tidy close with the July 11 report from The Guardian online that the photograph of the dock at Jaluit in the Marshall Islands had been found in a Japanese travel book published in 1935, we now have another, not unexpected, loose end. You might recall that The Guardian reported that “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared.”


“Does it get any worse than this?” I wrote in my July 12 review of the latest History Channel propaganda effort, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” “If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.” 


I didn’t need a report from a Japanese blogger to convince me that the claims made by Les Kinney, Morningstar Entertainment and the History Channel, first broadcast nationwide by NBC News on July 5, were false and totally without substance. I was the first to publicly denounce Kinney’s assertions for the delusions (at best) that they were, and I’d known about this shameless plot to grab headlines under false pretenses for many months, since a reader from Pennsylvania procured the same photo from the National Archives in College Park, Md., and sent it to me. 


Now Karen Earnshaw, a journalist who lives in the Marshall Islands and wrote June 26, 2015 and July 9, 2015 stories in the U.K.’s Daily Mail online about Dick Spink’s discoveries at Mili Atoll’s Endriken Islands, has informed me in a July 16 email about a Marshallese government press release she found on Rich Martini’s blog.  (The Marshall Islands press release and the remainder of Campbell’s article along with a lively discussion board can be found at Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.)


The big revelation in Campbell’s article is that this press release, which in all likelihood went to most of the major press organs, has apparently been completely ignored.  Put another way, they took a shot at #4 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression, “Knock down straw men,” and it blew up in their face.  Now they have decided to fall back on old favorite #1, “Dummy up.”


Fake News Close to Home


One example of the dummying up is particularly poignant to me since it has some connection to my own formal education.  Back in March, my alma mater Davidson College (which also happens to be the alma mater of the late Clinton White House counsel, Vince Foster) offered a free online two-week course on the subject of fake news.  One of their contributing “experts” was National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Camila Domonoske, also a Davidson graduate.  Here we can watch one of her contributions to the course, explaining why the “fake news” term has almost lost all meaning. 


She makes some good points, but I think we can agree, though, that if the Marshall Islands officials are correct, the widely disseminated report that the key photograph in the History Channel Earhart presentation had to have been made in 1935 or before is not true. That is to say, what was widely reported as news has turned out to be, in fact, fake news. 


As it happens, the reporter who put out this fake news for NPR online very quickly in the wake of the story from The Guardian was young Camila Domonoske, herself.  I can find no indication online that NPR or The Guardian or any other news organ has retracted its Japanese-debunker story or has clarified it in any way in light of the latest Marshall Islands revelations, so we may now accuse them all of trading in fake news on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.


David Martin

August 2, 2017





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