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June 09, 2007

JFK Investigation Focuses On Single Plotter

That plotter: Lee Harvey Oswald.

Pardon the misleading headline. I learned that from the MSM.

Vincent Bugliosi has written another this-finally-proves-Oswald-killed-Kennedy book which is supposed to shut the nutters up, but of course it won't. It can't. This isn't about fact; it's about satisfying a deep and dark psychological need. Part rampant egotism (the need to feel as though one is possessed of special knowledge unavailbable to the sheep), part intellectual insecurity (the need to simplify, simplify complex world events to a few bad actors or, alternately, to complicate, complicate rather simple events so that they "explain" other complex events), and part low-grade schizophrenic dementia.


Full disclosure: I was once, as a high-schooler/college freshman, a Kennedy Conspiracy Theorist. Two things put me off the conspiracy theory: First, any theory, no matter where it starts (Cuban hit team, mafia) leads, pretty much unavoidably, to Lyndon Baines Johnson. You just can't really postulate this massive cover-up without ulitmately concluding that LBJ must have been invovled; otherwise, how would the killers know they would get away with it? How could they possibly think they could kill a sitting president, setting up a pawn to take the fall (even though that dupe's "innocence" was "easily provable" by amateur researchers), unless they had LBJ, or at the very least J. Edgar Hoover (and Earl Warren, and Alren Spector, and even the Kennedy familly...) on board with the conspiracy from the get-go.

You're either willing to buy that an elected Vice President of the US (and later President) ordered a hit on another President just to move up one step on the executive ladder or you're not. I wasn't so willing, and tried to construct theories that avoided LBJ's complicity, or mitigated it ("He just wanted to protect America from the awful truth!"), but such theories never made much sense.

So either LBJ killed JFK or it was Lee Harvey Oswald all along. Tried though I did to wrap my head around the former, I just kept finding the latter scenario less, what's the word?, insane.

The other thing that put me off conspiracy theories forevere was the OJ Simpson trial (which Bugliosi has also written about). Here's what I learned from the OJ Simpson trial: There are always tiny incongruent details that may not seem, to someone predisposed to disbelieving "the official story," to "add up;" there are always small mysteries left over even after the large one has been adequately resolved; there are always small inconsistencies in the government's account; and there is always a group of people willing to postulate fantastically improbable large-scale conspiracies,and always a group of dupes willing to buy into them. As I watched Cochran and Shapiro and Bailey and crew make much of very little, I couldn't help think, "Good God, this is exactly what all the Kennedy Conspiracy Theorists do. And I'm just as dopey as these jurors for giving them credence."

At any rate, here's a little bit of an interview with a writer who's reviewed Bugliosi's book. It's relevant because what he says is obviously applicable to the current crop of LBJ-ordered-a-mafia-hit-on-the-President theorists: The "Truthers." Why the Atlantic interviewer does not make this obvious connection explicitly I have no idea; if I were conspiratorially-minded, I would suggest that perhaps the MSM is intent on suppressing mention of the crazy aunts in the liberal attic lest the public get the idea the left is simply bonkers.

But I'm not a conspiracy theorist anymore, so of course I could never suggest something so absurd.

The Kennedy assassination has been described as a “political Rorschach test,” suggesting that the way one perceives the shooting and the events surrounding it are as much a statement about the perceiver as the history and context in which they occurred. Could you speak to this?

I think that’s true. I think there is a certain, for lack of a better term, “political-personality” type that is predisposed towards a belief in conspiracy, and another that more naturally inclines to the “lone-nutter” theory. I would say that the preponderance of conspiracy theorists are left-wing. But there is definitely a right-wing contingent and another group whose politics are hard to classify. My sense is that somebody who is very inclined towards conspiracy belief is also predisposed toward an extreme view of politics.

...

Leaving aside one’s ultimate reading of the assassination, it seems to me that there are a lot of coincidences and strange factors at play, a perfect storm of politics, crime, socioeconomics and psychology, both group and individual. What do you think about this?

There are coincidences in the assassination for the same reason that there are coincidences in life. The vast, vast, vast majority of what may look like contradictions, ironies, mysteries—the vast majority of them are explicable. I think that is a real strength of Bugliosi’s book. Whatever you think of the scale of it, he does set out to provide factual explanations of things. You can’t explain everything, and if you could, something would be wrong. It would be too neat.

But one of the things that I think is true about the real and conspiratorial mind is that when somebody’s really got it bad, and is a really heavy-duty conspiracy theorist, they tend to believe that the plot was hatched farther and farther back and farther and farther away from Dallas. They think you have to go all the way back to the 1940s, or that it has its real roots in something that took place over in Europe. And I think that’s a mark of the conspiracist inclination, to go ever farther away geographically and temporally.

Conspiracy theorists have been described in various ways. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about who they are, exactly. Are they real scholars, professors, historians, morbid malcontents, pernicious patriots, cranks, the people who would argue that Humpty Dumpty was pushed?

One of the things that surprises me about Bugliosi’s book is that he is, in some ways, more generous to them than I would be. He frequently makes an effort to point out that he thinks they’re motivated by patriotism or sincere inquiry. I’m not so sure. I think some of them are, but I think it’s a truly dark, morbid fascination to them. Hmm. How inflammatory do I want to be here? On some level—subconscious in some, conscious in others—they find the assassination thrilling. And their preoccupation with it is, I would say, unhealthy.

There are a few supposedly respectable academics who have gone way out there in conspiracy theory, but I would say that most of them are kind of gumshoes, amateurs, and people who probably were impacted by the assassination. Their emotions were impacted by it in what was originally a genuine way, but somehow the tissue around that impact has become infected, and it’s become something that they don’t want to let go of. The thing that they would hate most is for anything that they would have to regard as definitive proof to come along. I think we do have definitive proof that Oswald killed Kennedy, but if definitive proof of their own theories came along somehow, I think they’d be terribly bereft.

They’d have to forfeit.

They’d have a terrible, massive depression—and would go on to something else.

Sound like anyone we've come to know?

In this reply to a question about what effect cell-phone cameras would have had on the conpsiracy theorists, had they been around in 1963, Mallon answers (in part):

My suspicion is that in some ways [the presence of dozens of additional visual records of the assasination] would have allowed for more evidence of a lone gunman. On the other hand, I think that there’s something about the Web that is in itself conducive to conspiracy belief; the way that everything is literally linked to everything else, and the way everything proliferates, and the way everybody has a soapbox upon which to rant. So I think, maybe if I had to take a bet, I would say that you would’ve had widespread conspiracy beliefs starting even earlier if everyone had been filming with cell phones.

Finally, I like this dig at the public masturbators we call the academic class:

According to David Lubin, art historian, in his book Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images, Zapruder is a crucial cinematic text of the 20th century. Is it worthwhile or even sound to consider the film in terms of aesthetics, or do you think this amounts to a morbid line of inquiry?

The latter. It’s a horrifying home movie. Oh, the academic mind. There’s an aesthetic dimension to everything, and one of the things you can’t escape is that the Kennedys were better looking than the average movie star. They were so glamorous. If John Kennedy hadn’t been shot that day, if it had just been an ordinary day of political barnstorming, I think some of the pictures of the Kennedys, under that sunshine, Mrs. Kennedy in that particular outfit, would have become iconic. You would have seen some of those pictures as typical representations of how glamorous and youthful the Kennedys were.

I suppose it’s sort of blasphemous. I mean the book has that unfortunate title, Shooting Kennedy—

Yes, that is so typical of lame academic work. The Zapruder film is revolting; all history turns into a kind of pageant after a while

Indeed, everything is trivialized, aethetized, juvenilized for shock value, because, you know, "real acadmeic work" isn't done unless you can generate some "buzz" and "heat" from it, right?

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posted by Ace at 03:20 PM

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