Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK Theorizing - 50 Years of Conspiracy

It's been 50 years since a President of the United States was killed in office. Assassinated. And from that moment myths became set in stone. The legend of a new Camelot. The story of an age of renewed optimism quashed. And, the theories about that day started fomenting.

People quickly declared, there's a hidden truth in Dallas. But it's only natural. When powerful people are killed, it seems too asymmetric that their deaths could just be happenstance.

1964 magazine memorializing President Kennedy
Still, in every other assassination, or attempted assassination, of an American president any talk of conspiracy died down. But with President Kennedy, it persists. In fact, 60% of Americans today think that there is more to the assassination then we know.

It may be that the question is worded so loosely that it increases the final percentage. But overall many Americans still hold to the idea that some group put a plan in motion to kill the president. We can't seem to escape the conspiracy.

The trouble with any talk about a conspiracy here is that no evidence exist to confirm such a plot. There are anomalies to be spun into insinuation. There are coincidences that can be made into damning truths. There are minor facts that can be reborn as revelations. But when all of this can explained away with "the official story", you have to make a leap of faith into conspiracy.

If you want, you can go online, or into any bar and hear a long diatribe about the who's and why's of the assassination. But you can also here a similar diatribe about the World Trade Center destruction, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the secret truth of President Barack Hussein Obama. None of it means anything. Ir can sound really good. But it lacks the ability to withstand scrutiny.

And that makes the conspiracy all the truer. The heft of facts only hamper conspiracy.

And people are drawn to a good conspiracy. It fills some void in our lives. It balances out life. It all makes sense. Why is the economy struggling? A conspiracy. Why can't I get a job? A conspiracy. Why is the president dead? A conspiracy.

...Because how could a president die on the whim of some loser? It must be bigger. Grander. It's an exciting flight of fantasy.

People embrace the idea that some force was at work, and still is at work, against them. Hiding a secret history. Killing great men. Holding them back.

Not to say conspiracies don't happen. A conspiracy of Southern sympathizers was behind President Lincoln's death. The World Trade Center was destroyed by a conspiracy, set out by a terrorist group. It can all be quite real. And we know about these conspiracies because there was evidence of them to recover and learn about.

But when a conspiracy can't be shown to have substance, it isn't real. (If evidence, real evidence, emerges, that will change things.) So when people grab on and get lost in a phantom conspiracy, it is disconcerting to watch.

I remember that I used to listen to a podcast about the paranormal and conspiratorial. It was a fun show. They joked and enjoyed stories about ghost, mysteries, and aliens. No solid evidence was offered, but it proved a pleasant listen. It was affable.

But one anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, they did a show about a particular CIA agent tied to conspiracy stories about Dallas. And the whole show was an angry diatribe. Now, being a CIA agent in the 60's, I can believe this guy was tied to plenty of shady operations around the world. But why would I think he killed the president? Because someone says they saw him in Dallas, despite evidence saying he wasn't there?

But that didn't matter to this podcaster, who talked about him being a monster. And it was all based on insinuation, assumption, and the need to place the blame for the presidents death on some greater force. He was raging against a crime that happen more than a decade before he was born. It's more myth to him, and most of us these days.

And for me the trouble is that I can't distinguish any of this from people talking about grey alien conspiracies. They all have the same amount of supporting evidence.

And even if we want to talk about some coherent claim, we don't have that.

Who had killed Kennedy: (Pick one or more.)
  • CIA
  • Cuba
  • Cuban Exiles
  • FBI
  • Federal Reserve
  • First Lady
  • George H.W. Bush
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Joseph Kennedy
  • KKK
  • Mafia
  • Military-Industrial Complex
  • Pentagon
  • Richard Nixon
  • Secret Service
  • Soviet Union
  • The Smoking Man
  • Vice President
  • Zionist
  • Other
(Here's a look at suspects.)

You can find SO MANY theories. Everyone is the secret super villain/mastermind. Johnson plotted to kill him. Hoover plotted to kill him. Castro plotted to kill him. How does this all fit together, as each adherent believes their version of history is the most solid and well supported. It's a mess. And, no, they couldn't have come together to plot Kennedy's demise. Life is NOT Murder on the Orient Express!

That's how conspiracy works. You plug in your favorite Boogeyman to bring it alive. It's like how the Anti-Christ gets recast every few years (Hitler -> Castro -> Khomeini -> Gaddafi -> Hussein -> Bill Clinton -> Oprah -> Hillary Clinton -> Obama). Is it the Mafia in the Dining Room? Khrushchev in the Library?

And who actually killed the president? Oddly, anyone, but Oswald. It's odd. You could potentially argue for a plot against the president. (Even as meager as the evidence is.) And tied to the man tied to the weapon, it could make some sense. The idea that Oswald was used and manipulated to kill? Could make sense to some.

But no. He's just a patsy. You can't blame him. He wasn't there. It wasn't his gun. The shots came from somewhere else. ...Yet the evidence says none of this is true. It says he had the means and opportunity to do it. it says he was there. And it says he already had a history of attempted assassinations.

But that doesn't matter. It can't be him. (Heck. There is a strain of conspiracy theory where The Driver Of The Car turned and shot Kennedy...Yeah.)

Now if you are interested in getting to understand this man, you can look at the Frontline show on him. Yes. We shouldn't focus on killers. But conspiracists have made misinformation about this man such a centerpiece of their ideas that we end up needing to look at him, to see passed the myths others have replaced him with. Then we can get back to forgetting him.

Oswald was a pathetic figure. He wanted to be something. The greatest traitor for the Soviets. The greatest ally of Cuba. The man who killed that one general. He wanted to be someone.

And then he saw his chance for history, and took it. It's both human and twisted. It's small and earthshaking/

But that doesn't matter. It doesn't fit "the theory".

From that day 50 years ago we've had bad information. I was watching Jim Lehrer on All In with Chris Hayes last night. He talked about how frantic that day was. He was hearing stories about secret servicemen shot, and reported it. But it proved wrong.

There was a frantic effort, to save the president. People were running to and fro looking for the assassin. It was messy. But life can be messy. People were flooded by a mix of data. But over years we've strained away the extraneous. We've pushed away the unfounded claims. (Examples of bogus evidence. The dubious eyewitnesses on the street. A look at the claims about the medical evidence.) And the result is the story of Oswald taking advantage of the news coverage of the president's motorcade path to plot murder.

But pop culture hasn't liked this. It's not dramatic enough.

So we've gotten books and movies telling us "the facts". How the shadowy figures plotted and drew Kennedy to his tragic death. You have movies like JFK. And as so often happens with :"real life" movies, it's become history for many. But if you want to understand it's severe flaws, go here and here. This may be a good piece of fiction. But it's just fiction. Like the movie 300, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, or Braveheart.

But the damage JFK can do is done. It's a matter now of standing up for evidence and empiricism.

And if you want to learn more about the actual facts of November 23rd, 1963, here's the documentary useful documentary from 2003.

And, yes, seeing as I agree with this documentary I am:

  • Part of the conspiracy.
  • A sheep.
  • Drinking the Kool Aid
  • Need to wake up!

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