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It’s been fifty-five years since Oswald’s three shots rang out in Dallas and their echoes still reverberate throughout our nation. In that time, the conspiracymongers have accused 42 groups and 214 individuals of involvement with the murder of JFK and have put forward the names of 82 “assassins.”
I’ve no doubt in the years to come additional transgressors and villains will be placed on those lists, and new titles added to catalogue of “Assassination Dramas.”
The suspicions, paranoia and dissemblance of some have seemingly diminished the gravitas due the assassination of John F. Kennedy, while the shallowness and gullibility of others have rendered their historical awareness the death of America’s 35th president to the level of a National Enquirer headline. For many the idea of a conspiracy is not a matter of study, evidence or plausibility, it is a matter of faith.
Not long ago I was at a pool party, when a casual remark on my part disparaging Oliver Stone‘s JFK brought on an onslaught by another guest.
Let’s call him Don.
Don defended Stone, his film and ranked Garrison as the greatest American since Honest Abe.
Needless to say he was strident in his insistence that Oswald was innocent and that a vast and malevolent conspiracy was behind it all. As with all “True Believers” facts are meaningless, and I began to feel like Michael Palin facing John Cleese in the “Argument Clinic.”
Finally I put to him, “What proof, what evidence, would it take to convince you that Oswald was guilty?”
He snapped back, “There isn’t any, because he’s not!”
And there you go. The same mindset that denies the holocaust ever happened, insists FDR knew of the pending attack on Pearl Harbor, that NASA faked the moon landing, maintains 9-11 was an inside job, that Barack Obama was not a US citizen, that Hillary operated a child brothel in the basement of a pizza parlor, that the “deep state” is undermining Donald Trump’s presidency and believes that the plays of Shakespeare were actually written by some guy named Rollo Gobermouche.
University of Miami political scientist and conspiracy theory researcher Joseph Uscinski warned that “Conspiracy theories are becoming part of our national dialogue.”
The danger here is all too present in our society. The maxim to “question authority” is sound, but to outright dismiss authority is fraught with peril. Hence the cancerous concept of “Fake News” and the hazardous inclination to put one’s trust in the opinions of personalities and reject those of the experts.
That everyone is entitled to their own opinion is one of the bedrocks of this nation, but that foundation will be irrevocably damaged if we come to accept that everyone is also entitled to their own “facts.”
Sadly, it is as Eric Hoffer observed that one of humanity’s great failings is that most people can only be completely certain about that which they know absolutely nothing about.
In her seminal book Virtues of the Mind (1996) Linda Zagzebski lists the barriers to sound inquiry and judicious appraisal as gullibility, close-mindedness, lack of thoroughness, rigidity, negligence, carelessness, prejudice, obtuseness and insensitivity to detail. These “intellectual vices” are the hallmark of the conspiracy minded.
There are those who readily point to the fact that the most recent polls suggest that over 2/3 of the country believe that some conspiracy was behind the events in Dallas as if this in some way establishes the historical facts. But to quote Robert Ingersoll “- majorities count for nothing. Truth has always dwelt with the few.”
Today the Assassination has become the great national Rorschach test for Americans. They look at the events that occurred on November 22nd, 1963 in the city of Dallas, and what they perceive tells you more about them than the ink blots. The ink blots never change.
And the ink blots say, “Oswald. Only Oswald. Nobody else but Oswald.”
- Howard Brennan, a forty-five year old steam fitter had been standing across the street from the Book Depository on Friday November 22nd to watch the presidential motorcade. Looking up he saw a man in the window of the sixth floor holding a rifle, just as the motorcade turned onto the street, the shots that killed the president immediately followed. In the confusion afterwards it was Brennan who first directed the police to the Book Depository and provided them with a description of the man in the window, the information he provided would be broadcast over both channels of the Dallas Police radio. Twenty-three minutes later, Patrol Officer J.D. Tippit pulled his squad car to a stop near the intersection of Patton and Tenth Street to question a man who matched the Brennan’s description of the shooter. It was Lee Harvey Oswald. Witnesses observed Oswald fatally shooting Tippit before fleeing the scene. At Oswald’s third lineup Brennan would claim he couldn’t be sure Oswald was the man he had seen in the sixth floor window prior to Kennedy’s assassination. He would later confess before the Warren Commission that he had recognized Oswald as the man he saw in the window, but feared if he came forward as a witness that he would be placing his family in danger.
- For my comparison review of JFK and Parkland see: TheTVolution.com/2015/04/parkland-and-jfk-two-views-of-the-assassination
- For a fascinating debunking of the film JFK go to McAdams.posc.mu.edu/jfkmovie.htm
- The “magic bullet” is only “magical” to those having no experience with firearms. If you want an education in what bullets do once fired, I recommend you watch The Magic Bullet, Episode 2 from the first season of Forensic Files.
- It should also be noted that Robert Caro, after 36 years of intense research into Lyndon Johnson, stated he found no indication whatsoever of an assassination plot.