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So You Think You Can Solve The Kennedy Assassination
July 23, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Want to (dis)prove who killed JFK? Start with the 5 million pages of material in the National Archives' Assassination Records Collection1. Better review the 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits published by the Warren Commission. And each frame of the Zapruder film2. And just to be on the safe side, the operating manual for his then top-of-the-line Bell & Howell 414PD camera. (1: previously, but with outdated link. 2: related)

This photographic panorama and intensively annotated diagram of Dealey Plaza are both striking found-art objects, in a J.G. Ballard sort of way.
posted by Trurl (73 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Finally - proof that Oswald was filming while Zapruder fired the fatal shots!
posted by squalor at 9:42 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


[There's also the simulation game JFK Reloaded]
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:44 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The recent Vincent Bugiosi book on the killing is epic and highly recommended. I'd love to see him debate any conspiracy theorist, or all of them.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:47 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Daily Mail reports that JFK is still dead.
posted by squalor at 9:57 AM on July 23, 2011


Damn. Shit got real at frame 313. Ick.
posted by Jibuzaemon at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2011


For anyone interested in JFK or generic conspiracy research (with a tinge of Timecube and a boat-load of Masonic paranoia) and hasn't read this, I present: King Kill 33.

I'd love to see [Bugliosi] debate any conspiracy theorist, or all of them.

Vincent Bugliosi on the Alex Jones show. Bugliosi was there to promote his new book about religion, so they don't talk much about JFK. But right after Bugliosi left, Jones and Jim Marrs discussed Bugliosi's claim there was no conspiracy behind the JFK assassination.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2011


I have explained (or at least tried to explain) many fairly complicated geopolitical, economic, or even astronomical concepts to my precocious tween daughter. But when she recently asked me about JFK's murder (a subject I've read a few books about, albeit many years ago), i finally met my match.

I introduced her to a few online resources, showed her the Zapruder film on YT, related what details I recalled... but it seemed the more I got into the subject, the more byzantine the story became. So many players, interests, theories, possibilities. It's a bit like quicksand in some respects. I think I finally just said something like, "this is really beyond my ability to convey to you. People have whole libraries on the subject".
posted by stinkycheese at 10:04 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bugiosi is a talented and convincing writer, but he's also a lawyer who is arguing his side of the case.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to make your head hurt, read DeLillo's Libra and then immediately watch Stone's JFK.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Bugiosi is a talented and convincing writer, but he's also a lawyer who is arguing his side of the case.

Yes. And?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:21 AM on July 23, 2011


That annotated diagram is another good method.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 AM on July 23, 2011


DeLillo's Libra

American Tabloid is another fantastic literary treatment of JFK assassination conspiracies.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:25 AM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Norman Mailer's Oswald's Tale is another take on the subject by a literary heavyweight.
posted by Trurl at 10:27 AM on July 23, 2011


The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago, and at this point, any question of conspiracy or not is as academic as debating Lincoln's death.

It frustrates me to no end that people like to think of Kennedy as some sort of liberal saint, and if he had lived, Vietnam wouldn't have happened, and everything would have gone swimmingly in the U.S., because there's no reason to believe that would have happened. But in any case the history of the last five decades isn't going to change no matter how we pick at one incident.
posted by happyroach at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd love to see [Bugliosi] debate any conspiracy theorist, or all of them.

or you could take the Tolstoyan view that history itself is a conspiracy of the many against the few. And in the end, from 10,000 feet, you see America's 1848 (or Decemberist) moment ending in carnage in Southeast Asia and a parcel of dead reformist politicians: JFK, RFK, MLK... so that LHO can be considered an agent of the spirit of the age.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:32 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


[Bunch of comments removed, boy it would be great not to have random thread derailed by unrelated topics.]
posted by cortex at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2011


Bugiosi is a talented and convincing writer, but he's also a lawyer who is arguing his side of the case.

Yes. And?


This means that he may not have been completely impartial. Hope that helps.
posted by longsleeves at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2011


"The recent Vincent Bugiosi book on the killing is epic and highly recommended. I'd love to see him debate any conspiracy theorist, or all of them."
posted by Bookhouse at 5:47 PM on July 23

Try this... it is in multiple parts (about 26!!) and is a dramatised trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. Made in the UK, Bugliosi is the prosecutor. He rules.

Witnesses include:

CHARLES BREHM (who witnessed the assassination from the south side of
Elm Street)

MARRION L. BAKER (Dallas Police Dept. motorcycle officer who was
riding in the Presidential motorcade; Baker encountered Lee Harvey
Oswald on the 2nd Floor of the Book Depository within 2 minutes of the
shooting)

DR. CHARLES PETTY (one of 9 forensic pathologists who served on the
autopsy panel {aka the "FPP"} for the HSCA)

RUTH PAINE (acquaintance of Lee and Marina Oswald - Marina stayed with Mrs Paine when she and Oswald split up. Her testimony is amazing.

and many others...

The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald

(Incidentally, his brother is named Robert E. Lee Oswald, and is the only person on the USA (afaik) with the name Oswald.

I loves me some Jfk assasination conspiracy. The most telling part, is when the police went to Ruth Paines house and asked about the gun, and Marina said "Yes, its in the garage." They went in, and there was the rolled up carpet, which Marina indicated contained the gun. As soon as the officer picked it up, it folded in two, and Marina burst into tears.
posted by marienbad at 10:37 AM on July 23, 2011


I read Libra 3 times and is quite interesting and some say the closet theory about JFKs murder. As an aside, production for a movie based on Libra was cancelled for Stones JFK.

I did alot of research on the Fair Play For Cuba aspect and pulled some rather unusual strings when doing interviews. (or trying too) Nothing conclusive was reached just more questions.
It's the only so-called conspiracy theory i didnt take with a grain of salt. What I know is that many people connected in some way are recluctant to talk about it. But that was in the 90's. Things have changed.
posted by clavdivs at 10:45 AM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago

"Then don't mention Jesus to me," etc etc.

But seriously: It's been 50 years since Eisenhower warned the citizenry to beware the rise of the military-industrial-complex. Yet I would argue that 5 decades later his warnings are as relevant as ever, if not more so. The fact that he delivered his farewell address 50 years ago doesn't diminish the importance of his message.

On April 27, 1961 (just days after the Bay of Pigs incident), Kennedy gave a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association (audio). Like Eisenhower, he too had a warning for the American people:

For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.

posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


This means that he may not have been completely impartial. Hope that helps.

It really doesn't. It's an ad homiem attack on a huge (and hugely sourced) book.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2011


Also, for any jfk-conspiracy believers, you need to explain this: Oswald got the job at the TSBD because Linnie May Randle (Buel Wesley Frasers sister) met Ruth Paine at a coffee morning and when Ruth mentioned that LHO was looking for work she said that the TSBD was setting people on. So Ruth Paine rang Roy Truly and spoke with him and he said to send LHO over for an interview, and he got the job.

So how would that work in a conspiracy? LM Randle and Ruth Paine are part of it?

For those who hold to the single bullet theory - John Macadams site is a debunkers dream...

(although, to be fair and unbiased, L Fletcher Prouty claims Macadams is a CIA spook, and that his university hosts CIA conferences and stuff... and then there is this:

"Prouty's boss at the Pentagon was General Edward Lansdale. He described Prouty in Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American by Cecil B. Currey:

I continue to be surprised to find Fletcher Prouty quoted as an authority. He was my "cross to bear" before Dan Ellsberg came along. Fletch is the one who blandly told the London Times that I'd invented the Huk Rebellion, hired a few actors in Manila, bussed them out to Pampanga, and staged the whole thing as press agentry to get RM [Magsaysay] elected. He was a good pilot of prop-driven aircraft, but had such a heavy dose of paranoia about CIA when he was on my staff that I kicked him back to the Air Force. He was one of those who thought I was secretly running the Agency from the Pentagon, despite all the proof otherwise. (p. 384)"

(via Macadams)

take your pick
posted by marienbad at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, link above should be: (audio)
posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:53 AM on July 23, 2011


thescientificmethhead: He was talking about Communism, you nimrod, not about some secret alliance between the Freemasons and Reptilians of Omicron VIII.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:53 AM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Great Noah's grandson entropicamericana no need for name calling.
posted by Sailormom at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The spectre of communism obviously forms the context for the speech, but he specifically states his concern is the need for more public information.

And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

This means greater coverage and analysis of international news--for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security--and we intend to do it.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:04 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


happyroach:The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago, and at this point, any question of conspiracy or not is as academic as debating Lincoln's death.

What George Santayana said...
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the assassination's continuing importance is that it was the first time signficant numbers of Americans felt the government wasn't telling them the truth.
posted by Trurl at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loves me some Jfk assasination conspiracy
The Guns of November is an older annotated radio program.
Family of Secrets Russ Baker's new book of Bush.
a good screen writer could do an incredible story about George de Morenschildt

Jack Ruby's exchange with Earl Warren to get him to DC to testify because it was not safe for him (Warren)in Dallas. ???? volume five of theWC report IIRC.
posted by hortense at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer the board game.
posted by mosk at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2011


The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago

I care. It happened on my watch. I was four years old at the time and it serves as perhaps my earliest memory that I can pin a date to. I remember my mom dropping something on the floor in the kitchen when she heard the news. I was playing with a red truck at the time. I remember the funeral pre-empting Captain Kangaroo. I remember the profound shock it sent through my world (small as it was). Adults crying etc ...

The incident had impact. It sent a seismic shock through the firmament of the moment, and down through time such that it still touches on the zeitgeist and still affects how very many in the western world (America in particular) have come to feel about the so-called "Official Truth".

If you don't care about stuff like that, I must ask, why not?
posted by philip-random at 11:31 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


That Bugliosi was ever taken seriously again after Helter Skelter is astounding. You'll find more 3-dimensional humanity in the average Hanna-Barbera production, not to mention a better grasp of cause and effect. I've seen it in several different Seattle cop cars, however, so someone must be learning something from it-- but you probably don't want to know what.

I believe, along with Ray McGovern and many others, that Kennedy was assassinated by the US intelligence establishment, with the CIA in a leading role.

The difference this makes is that we haven't had a Democratic President (or a Democratic party) with a spine since Kennedy, because they know in their bones that they only continue to lead-- and indeed continue to live-- at the sufferance of the violent far right, which can take their lives without ever even having the fact that it's happened be openly acknowledged.

We have actually been living through a period of civil war in hiding since the Kennedy assassination.
posted by jamjam at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Illuminatus Trilogy : "JFK Assasination"
posted by adamvasco at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2011


happyroach: "The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago, and at this point, any question of conspiracy or not is as academic as debating Lincoln's death.
"

Anyone, I think, that does not consider himself the center of the universe recognizes that we are all influenced by history. Kennedy's assassination was a pivotal event for anyone living in this country at that time, the way 9/11 or the death of Osama bin Laden will be for this generation. More than that, the ripple effect goes on. First, the coverage of the assassination is some of the most graphic and emotional footage Americans had ever seen at the time. In an unprecedented move, documents pertaining to the case were sealed for 50 years (why the conspiracy theorists hold such sway). Jack Ruby, and the lax security that led for him to kill JFK's assassin, led to more questions about why Oswald did what he did, and the unanswered questions just fueled more conspiracy speculation.

Just one serious repercussion was the Vietnam conflict, which Lyndon Johnson took on as his personal crusade after Kennedy's assassination. When we had 16000 men in Vietnam, Kennedy began pulling back publicly, saying he felt that this was a situation that couldn't be won and should be left to the Vietnamese to handle for themselves. Lyndon Johnson turned those 16000 troops into 184,000. Nixon kept this going and by 1975 2.5 million men served in Vietnam.

It frustrates me to no end that people like to think of Kennedy as some sort of liberal saint, and if he had lived, Vietnam wouldn't have happened, and everything would have gone swimmingly in the U.S., because there's no reason to believe that would have happened.

We may not have had peace if JFK hadn't been assassinated, but we certainly would have had more men alive today if Lyndon had not taken his place.
posted by misha at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bugiosi is a talented and convincing writer, but he's also a lawyer who is arguing his side of the case.

Yes. And?


After reading Reclaiming History, I am struck repeatedly by how Bugliosi's arguments are those of a lawyer, not an historian. While much of his narrative is solidly built, he still resorts to emotional appeals and logical fallacy to "make his case". His tactics would probably work in front of a jury that has no opportunity to ask questions and has little time to consider his verbal arguments. But the critical reader, having time for reflection and consideration, will find holes in his work.

Having said all that: yeah, I think Oswald was the sole perpetrator of this crime. For all of the Bugliosi's weaknesses, his interpretation still makes more sense than the rantings of the conspiracy theorists.
posted by SPrintF at 12:04 PM on July 23, 2011


or the death of Osama bin Laden

I still don't get this...why is OBL's death a "pivotal event"? As far as I can tell it hasn't changed anything.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:09 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe, along with Ray McGovern and many others, that Kennedy was assassinated by the US intelligence establishment, with the CIA in a leading role.

Further to my comment above, I personally don't think we'll ever know what exactly happened with regard to the murder of JFK, simply because the conspirators (assuming that it was a conspiracy) did such a good job of obfuscating whatever evidence there was, mixing the genuine facts with bullshit (from the mundane to the batshitinsane).

That said, I think our job now becomes one of tracking and exploring the possibilities, keeping the discussion alive. Because it does matter. A president was murdered and the perpetrators seem to have gotten away with it. Someone mentioned James Elroy's American Tabloid earlier.

SPOILER ALERT:

It's a hard as nails read (easy prose, brutal subject matter) that, as I recall, effectively pins the murder on a few mob-CIA-connected "true believers", one in particular. This guy, though he came from a tough, sleazy background, came to believe in JFK as a good man and through this, came to adjust his whole attitude toward humanity. In effect, he fell in love with JFK. But then JFK revealed himself to be not so lily-white (an affair with Marilyn Monroe, his handling of the Bay of Pigs debacle, etc), so like many a jilted lover, the guy sought his revenge and, being a mob-CIA-connected assassin, he did he damned good job of it.

A fascinating read.
posted by philip-random at 12:09 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


the guy sought his revenge and, being a mob-CIA-connected assassin, he did he damned good job of it.

just like Castro...
posted by ennui.bz at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It frustrates me to no end that people like to think of Kennedy as some sort of liberal saint

If anyone wants to fully and completely dispel this myth, read The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour Hersh.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:44 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


For an incredibly well-researched take on the "Mob + Cubans" killed Kennedy theory, read The Road To Dallas by David Kaiser (Naval War College History Professor).
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:49 PM on July 23, 2011


entropicamericana: I never insinuated that JFK was referring to a conspiracy between Freemasons and Reptoids. The theme of that speech I quoted is secrecy. He says: "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings." The speech was delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association, and he calls upon American journalists to keep the public informed and to hold the government accountable. The legacy of his assassination, as others have pointed out in this thread, is characterized by distrust in the government and the conspiracy culture it has produced. That is why this is still important, 48 years later.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the speech at the American Newspaper Publisher's Association:

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-- and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution-- not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

We have failed.
posted by notion at 12:56 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


The main question is, who cares? It was 48 years ago, and at this point, any question of conspiracy or not is as academic as debating Lincoln's death.

Let's suppose for a moment, hypothetically speaking, that the CIA was involved in the death of Kennedy. In other words, high-level people in the CIA were involved in the planning and cover-up of the assassination. And they learned from this that they could get away with killing a sitting US president, and nobody would be punished, nobody goes to jail.

That completely throws off the balance of power in our entire governmental system. No longer is the President at the top, but now we have a group of people at the CIA or whatever who realize they have this power, and can use it to influence future US presidents. Kind of like the Bill Hicks bit about the new president going into a smoky room full of shadowy figures and the screen comes down and a film starts rolling with a new, never-before seen view of the assassination from the grassy knoll. "Any questions?"

If there was a conspiracy, there needs to be justice. Otherwise rot grows throughout the system, there's no incentive for them to not use this unprincipled power. It becomes a point of pride, and something evil grows from it.

40 years from now people are going to be stating the same thing, "who cares?", about the war in Iraq and torture and illegal surveillance. But all of those policies are going to have long-term effects on our democracy unless we start "looking backwards". Otherwise it becomes the new normal.
posted by formless at 1:01 PM on July 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


If anyone wants to fully and completely dispel this myth, read The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour Hersh.
Later, when Kennedy was preparing for an all-out war, somewhere, anywhere, he got Life magazine to assure the American people that in an atomic war, "Ninety-seven out of one hundred people can be saved," if they would only get out those shovels, and take Civil Defense seriously. Jack knew, of course, that this was nonsense, but the White House film critic and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., assured his master that, if nothing else, this was one way "of making foreign policy less abstract or remote." Arthur thought that the idea of being blown up would strengthen the fiber of the American people...
- Gore Vidal, Palimpsest, pg. 237
posted by Trurl at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2011


The Texas Oilmen theory is good, too.

The timing of JFK's assassination is interesting: if JFK hadn't been killed, chances are very good LBJ would've been implicated in the Senate's investigation of the Bobby Baker Scandal. LBJ probably would've gone to jail and his political career would've been over.

Instead, LBJ went on to become President and his Texas Oilmen backers benefited: they got to keep their Oil Depletion Allowance which Kennedy had proposed to cut. Keeping the Oil Depletion Allowance put hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars into the oil men's pockets.

Johnson's biggest backers throughout his career were brothers George Brown and Herman Brown, who founded a construction and oil services company called Brown & Root, which became part of Halliburton in 1962. After Johnson took over the Oval Office, Brown & Root won contracts for huge construction projects for the federal government. A consortium of which Brown & Root was a part won a $380 million contract to build airports, bases, hospitals and other facilities for the U.S. Navy in South Vietnam.

Follow the money...
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


Around 1964 I read a story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction that looked at a future where JFK had become a dying-and-reviving god. I followed SF's take on the assassination for some years -- Barry Malzberg's Destruction of the Temple, J.G. Ballard, and others -- but the part of the event that became new myth was Oswald's elevation to the role of Patsy, a modern archetype, I think. There's a lot of music out there, too, including Skatalites, "Lee Harvey Oswald"; Camper van, "Jack Ruby"; and stuff on the shooting itself by The Misfits, Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Coal Porters, Daniel Johnston, and (the only one I know of to have been close to a hit), XTC. Favorite photos include investigators walking inside a giant model of Dealey Plaza (not the one used in theCongressional hearings, this one has buildings about four feet tall) and a series of paintings by an Ethiopian artist that depict a uniformed leader being shot in his car and generic uniformed officers capturing the assassin. (No, I can't find these on line anymore -- but they are out there somewhere.) Anyway, this whole thing is long past Lone Gunman/Single Bullet-or-not theories and well into myth territory.
posted by CCBC at 1:44 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if you think the Oliver Stone movie is a package of deliberate lies, you have to admit that it's an incredibly effective package. Riefenstahl caliber.

Before I went to see it, I had always thought of JFK conspiracy theorists the way most of you regard 9/11 conspiracy theorists - i.e. not highly. After I saw it, I thought it virtually impossible that the Warren Commission had presented the whole truth.

Then I read Gerald Posner's Case Closed when it came out and found it persuasive. But after Iran-Contra, I no longer brought to such controversies any assumption of good faith on the government's part. If it's not feasible that the CIA could successfully cover up a conspiracy to assassinate the President, it sure as shit isn't unfeasible that they might think about it.
posted by Trurl at 1:57 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you don't care about stuff like that, I must ask, why not?

Eh, I care about out in a historical context, the same way I care about W.W.II or the Mongol Empire. But the pseudo-religious "Saint Kennedy" bullshit I can't stand- it's more tedious then the AH crap they post on soc.history.what-if.

If they're going to come up with this nonsense, at least couldn't make it entertaining? Say, make it all the Reptoid's fault. Our maybe make all the conspiracies true at the same time; have the CIA, KGB, Cubans, mafia and MiBs all sneaking around Dallas, interfering with each other until some random lunatic kills the president. Now that would be amusing.

[i]The difference this makes is that we haven't had a Democratic President (or a Democratic party) with a spine since Kennedy, because they know in their bones that they only continue to lead--and indeed continue to live--at the sufferance of the violent far right, which can take their lives without ever even having the fact that it's happened be openly acknowledged.

See, now this is a perfect example of the pseudo-religious conspiracy bullshit I was talking about. It explains everything that's happened in the last half century in terms of an all-powerful "them" (as opposed to hard-to-understand sociological and economic changes), and justifies passivity ("I don't bother to get involved because "They" control everything"). It's comforting to believe the blame for the state of today's society doesn't lie with the public, but with a conspiracy, and history makes sense in a magical thinking sort of way.

This sort of thinking has infected entire generations of American intellectuals, which leads to things such as a university English teacher I had claiming that every war for the last 120 years was the result of a conspiracy to distract Americans
from thinking of social change. I suppose we can at least be grateful that the Jews or witches are no longer being blamed, but when you get teachers building classes out of "don't vote, it doesn't do any good", well it's no wonder American civics are so screwed up.
posted by happyroach at 2:25 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've spoken to people about this with bunches of caveats. I have no problem with one lone shooter. It's surprising what one highly motivated individual can accomplish.
It's possible to make a shot from the book depository, and perhaps the acoustic recordings are wrong and there are some assumptions being made, ok.

Let's say Oswald acted completely alone. Took the shot, etc.

You then have a fabulous series of coincidences. Kennedy's brain, for example, a pretty key bit of forensic evidence, going missing. Maybe Bobby Kennedy took it. But then he was assassinated by a lone nut too. Meanwhile, no independent experts had access to the evidence from Kennedy’s autopsy for years.

But in any case the history of the last five decades isn't going to change no matter how we pick at one incident.

Theories abound. And no matter who did it, certainly there were people who profited from it and augmented the political chaos in order to profit from it.
And man if that isn't dangerous as all hell.
Without transparency and genuine representation the cake is ... er ... democratic government is a lie.
So working to improve systems which maintain transparency and accountability are worthwhile whatever the subject matter.
Hell, look at 9/11. Conspiracy theories abound. But what's staggeringly obvious is how many times our own government said "screw you, we don't have to tell you anything" by blocking investigations, holding up proceedings, etc.

That alone is a conspiracy of silence even if no crime (on their part) was perpetrated.

The only theory I've heard which explains how you would get secret service off detail without kicking is that JFK and his brother essentially almost ended the world during the Cuban missile crisis. You had one group which believed in proxy war and 100% Vietnam and another group which had a more cowboy approach with nukes and only about 70% Vietnam. (Kennedy was pushing publicly to fill a missile gap that wasn't there, tried to push Khrushchev after the Berlin wall thing. Which, c'mon, you're going to lean on a guy who fought at Stalingrad and expect him to move back?). So the first group assassinated him with some elements of the second group providing the cover up, both doing their black ops.
But I don't see anyone in SOF command taking out Kennedy, they loved him.

Whatever. Events like this point up how well our government is serving us and illustrate how important it is to keep an eye on policy so they do need to be studied.

As a f'rinstance, it was under Kennedy we (first) backed the Ba'athists in Iraq and gave them arms with which they killed the usual suspects (smart people, the educated, the dogma-less compassionates, etc) along with the people we wanted them to fight (then, the communists)

So yeah Santayana indeed.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even if you think the Oliver Stone movie is a package of deliberate lies, you have to admit that it's an incredibly effective package. Riefenstahl caliber.

I agree with this 100%. I love the movie even though I consider it slightly evil (not nearly as evil as Riefenstahl, of course). I also love American Tabloid. This is the edge conspiracy theories have over other, simpler (and more often true) theories: they're a hell of a lot more fun.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:13 PM on July 23, 2011


Before I went to see it, I had always thought of JFK conspiracy theorists the way most of you regard 9/11 conspiracy theorists - i.e. not highly. After I saw it, I thought it virtually impossible that the Warren Commission had presented the whole truth.

I don't buy the conspiracy theories in JFK, but one thing that's stuck with me is the view from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository down Houston Street. The motorcade came down Main Street, turned right onto Houston, then left onto Elm Street. Why wouldn't Oswald have shot at Kennedy when the motorcade was driving slowly down Houston directly towards the Depository? That seems like it'd be a much easier shot than waiting until the motorcade's driving away at a seemingly more difficult angle.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2011


Then I read Gerald Posner's Case Closed when it came out and found it persuasive.

I generally liked Posner's book, but his subsequent behavior w.r.t. the followup discussions and his inability to address the factual errors in the book put me off. The recent plagiarism scandal isn't helping him.

I would like to be more sympathetic to the conspiracy crowd, but their unwillingness to get off the grassy knoll and pay attention to basic sociology (none of them have read Mill's The Power Elite apparently) is tiresome. In the long run it doesn't matter who shot JFK, but there were plenty of power groups that were happy to have him out of the way and all too willing to look the other way.
posted by quartzcity at 4:30 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they're going to come up with this nonsense, at least couldn't make it entertaining? Say, make it all the Reptoid's fault. Our maybe make all the conspiracies true at the same time; have the CIA, KGB, Cubans, mafia and MiBs all sneaking around Dallas, interfering with each other

Haven't read Illuminatus, have you? There's also a giant squid involved.
posted by philip-random at 4:34 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the assassination's continuing importance is that it was the first time signficant numbers of WHITE Americans felt the government wasn't telling them the truth.

That's an important correction.
posted by milarepa at 5:07 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


This sort of thinking has infected entire generations of American intellectuals, which leads to things such as a university English teacher I had claiming that every war for the last 120 years was the result of a conspiracy to distract Americans
from thinking of social change. I suppose we can at least be grateful that the Jews or witches are no longer being blamed, but when you get teachers building classes out of "don't vote, it doesn't do any good", well it's no wonder American civics are so screwed up.
posted by happyroach


Your whole take on the Kennedy assassination revolves around an infantile grudge against some English teacher and an astonishingly childish concern with the teaching of civics classes?

Let me know when you get out of short pants and it might be worth talking to you, but I doubt it.

The people who are most reluctant to acknowledge the existence of actual conspiracies are generally those who are most frightened of the conspirators, and I can hear your teeth chattering from here-- or maybe in your case too much light makes you scuttle for cover. Don't worry about it, it's probably just your nature.
posted by jamjam at 5:08 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


In light of the information we've seen from Wikileaks, I find this recommendation from The Assassination Records Review Board especially relevant:

The JFK Act established admirable and effective standards through its standards of “presumption of disclosure” for releasing records and “clear and convincing evidence of harm” in restricting them. Both standards helpfully guided the Board in its decision making, were understandable and simple in application. The Board strongly urges that these standards be applied to other efforts to declassify federal records.

Yes, I did see that they numbered, "a, 2, 3, 4", but other than that, this actually makes sense!
posted by misha at 5:17 PM on July 23, 2011


Jack Ruby was a ferengi. Now, I fear for my latnum.
The only problem is that no one actually saw Oswald shoot. There are about a half dozen people who saw something in the TSBD. I don't recall anyone mentioning that piece of irony...the president being killed by a man were school books are stored.

If there was a conspiracy, the least amount of people involved is logical, perhaps only 2 or 3 people.

Some new info has come to light about threats to JFK in Miami and Chicago which has been confirmed, the motorcade was changed in Miami.
posted by clavdivs at 5:48 PM on July 23, 2011


And we didn't go to Dallas
Because Jackie Onassis said
It ain't safe for Catholics yet
Think about what they did John F Kennedy
And think about his security
And think about what they might try to pull on you and me

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:53 PM on July 23, 2011


Conspiracy theories are generally insane. The disturbing reality about who runs the country is in plain sight. Follow the money.

That said, the Kennedy murder is the one event that seems to me to be a clear conspiracy, although I haven't read enough to finger the appropriate suspects conclusively. But what does it mean that the five or six presidents after Kennedy were still interested in the files? Oswald, as he put it, was a "patsy."
posted by kozad at 8:54 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dad always claimed the CIA had JFK killed. I don't trust the official story, but I'd rather it than my Dad's version.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:56 PM on July 23, 2011


Like a lot of people, I had grown unassuming that Kennedy's assassination was a conspiracy and the the "Single Bullet Theory" was one just the lamest conclusions to put forward by the Warren commission. My opinion changed after watching the Zapruder film stabilized. It now looks pretty plausible to me.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:21 PM on July 23, 2011


If you can get past the uncanny Michael Moore sound-alike doing the narration, JFK II is well-researched and does a good job of connecting the dots using publicly available information without delving too much into conjecture. One thing I had never noticed before was the behavior of the limousine driver; after the first shot is fired, the driver slows the car and turns his head to look back at JFK, watching the second shot. Only after the third and fatal shot is fired does he turn his head and speed up.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 11:57 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Conspiracy theories are generally insane. The disturbing reality about who runs the country is in plain sight. Follow the money.

... or as a long surviving junkie I know puts it, "There's only one conspiracy, and that's money."
posted by philip-random at 12:54 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Didn't Howard Hunt basically blow the whistle on all this?

"Why wouldn't Oswald have shot at Kennedy when the motorcade was driving slowly down Houston directly towards the Depository?"

It could have just been hesitation. He wasn't a combat veteran and if I'm not mistaken it would have been the first time he fired at a human with the full intent to kill. If he did shoot at Gen. Walker (in April), then it'd only be the second time. And he probably missed walker on purpose, subconsciously or otherwise (if, as a small game hunter, you can't shoot an immobilized (seated) man sized target from less than 30 - 50 yards with a rifle, you're not motivated)

Hesitation really does kill. And when you're in combat you have an entirely different mentality.And you have to change back to become a civilian. There are days I don't leave my house.

Which is sort of what hooks me that Oswald was a, if not the, shooter. (Whether someone was handling him or not).

If I was going to kill Kennedy ... well, if you've seen JFK, triangulation is a nifty technique, yes. If I was alone, I'd have scouted the sewer system and fired from the one near the overpass.

But technique aside, if I would have gone after JFK I wouldn't have gotten the Mannlicher-Carcano. In the first place your
ammo stream. It's an odd round. And how sure are you going to be of it's quality, especially since you can't reload the
shitty Italian brass.
In the film they have a nice montage "methodical. patient men. Hunters. It's gonna be a turkey shoot"
except the exact problem there is, they're thinking like hunters, not like killers.
Having worked both ends of this street, I can say I see where Oswald might have hosed this.
He's a wannabe to begin with. His brother's a marine. He becomes a marine and - boy, life doesn't really change much. Except you don't
get to shoot people right away like in the John Wayne movies. So go around with a chip on your shoulder. Go hunting and get some game
birds or coon or squirrels. Ok.
Now you come home, you want to be a big man. But how do you kill a man? Well, a small gun kills a small animal, a big gun must kill a big animal like a human.

Except the Carcano makes narrow wound channel and the bullet goes straight through.
For a hunter that's fine. You can trak an animals bookd trail and then perform the coup de gras.
For a human - not so good. For an enemy soldier - he's gonna shoot back. At you. A lot. Until he bleeds out. For a president - they will eat your lunch.

Oswald got himself a straight hunting rifle with a round nosed unfraggable, non-tumbling, undeforming, rounds
The 6.5mm don't tumble, they don't spall.

THis is bad because penetration and cavitation through cardio-vascular tissues produces effective hemorrhaging.
Most bullets deform to some degree. Some frag or at least tumble for wound expansion. Most bullets rely on deformity for their success.
Tumbling during penetration greatly increases cavitation. A flat bullet that spauls on impact is more effective in using hydrodynamic pressure
to increase cavitation.

If he'd hit him in the lower back or sides, Kenney would have bleed like a stuck pig, but he would have lived.

The mistake in equipment was getting hard, round nose bullets with a high sectional density. Sure, it makes it more stable in flight,
it's great if you're hunting deer.
Assassination, different story.

So if I were to kill Kennedy, I'd have a Winchester Model 70 with Redfield optics
(yeah the 8X Unertls were there too but Redfield ... I digress) and 30-60 frangables or an M1903 (cheap by then),
or a M1c Sniper rifle in .30, m82 telescope, and an m2 flash suppressor. He'd be a dead man wherever I placed my shots. .... uh, I did only say 'if'

Point being, Oswald was looking at this as a boy hunter with some military (shooting) experience but no combat experience.
He bought the wrong rifle. He hesitated through the shoot and rethought it and decided to get Kennedy from behind.
Even then he's lucky he got a head shot. The kinds of wounds he made, Kennedy might very well have lived.

On the plus side, the rifle could shoot quickly and be reloaded. So he could have taken all the time he needed to keep firing and firing, But he was scared to shoot.
Which, really, is a good thing you want people to have. But it made him an assassin all the moreso. Even if he was acting on behalf of/in concert with others.
I'd speculate he planned to shoot more and planned to die if not to get captured immediately. The whole 'blaze of glory' thing. Top of the world ma!

That does bring up a further question - why would his handlers not give him an adequate weapon and assign him to a more covert firing position?
Whether there were handlers who did it too him or not, Oswald was a patsy,
posted by Smedleyman at 1:10 AM on July 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I vote for undecided.

Oswald's motive makes some kind of sense--nobody wants to be somebody is common enough.

Ruby's motive makes very little sense. I guess it was the same--nobody (although he was not nearly as obscure and powerless as Oswald) wants to be somebody (although assassinating an assassin is nothing like assassinating a president). It's almost stupid enough that a committee could have come up with it and said it will have to do.

I had not seen that Ray McGovern thing before though, so thanks to jamjam for that.
posted by bukvich at 7:35 AM on July 24, 2011


One thing I had never noticed before was the behavior of the limousine driver

Even Posner has no explanation for his having slowed down after the first shot.
posted by Trurl at 7:51 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Ruby's motive makes very little sense.

I've received a personal eyewitness account, from a non-conspiracy junkie source I trust, one with zero interest in publicity and no love for JFK, that Ruby and Oswald knew each other well enough to be sitting together at Ruby's table in Ruby's club in the months prior to the hit.

Without the benefit of any particular evidence or direct observation myself, my suspicion is that there was Mob and CIA involvement. Though this would have struck me as ridiculous even a couple of years ago, the allegations about Mac Wallace and Billie Sol Estes increasingly make me think LBJ at least had foreknowledge. And the bits of business within the "Oswald in Mexico" angle make it seem to me as though Russia and Cuba were being framed... which would of course effectively compel a nuclear-war-preventing-cover-up, and the institutional verdict that it was a lone nut.

For that matter-- and this, too, is entirely subjective, but so it goes-- Oswald's defection and weirdly smooth repatriation, apparently uncanny Russian fluency, various hamfisted political PR projects, and social circle together look much less to me like the life-elements of a Loner with Something to Prove than those of a low-level intelligence guy being given spook odd-jobs.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:43 AM on July 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


>have the CIA, KGB, Cubans, mafia and MiBs all sneaking around Dallas

At this point, though, it's established fact that the CIA, the (anti-Castro) Cubans, and organized crime did collaborate on certain projects.

If you're not considering that contraband networks-- moving and selling drugs and guns-- along with white-collar crime, are among every country's intelligence sources (and intelligence agency funding sources), you're apt to miss a lot.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2011


Well, after watching the blatant stupidity of the UK prime minister snuggling up with News International, I feel like people in positions of power are just too stupid to form conspiracies.
posted by gonzo_ID at 4:56 AM on July 25, 2011


Ruby wielded the pistol like d'Artagnan. "Oswald! - N'yAHA!"

I don't think he was a hitman per se. I'd concede though that you really couldn't be a club owner in that era without being mobbed up.

Maybe he was just a nutcase.

But his speech was really creepy and his testimony was closed. And the thing with the DA is f'ing suspicious too.

Still, the whole thing, publicly, seemed like a circus of incompetent wannabe characters and glory seekers. For example Dean Andrews.

Makes me miss John Candy.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:13 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a stretch, but maybe Ruby just loved Kennedy? I'm not a violent guy, but if I was in the same room as Mark David Chapman I'm not sure how under control I'd be...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:31 PM on July 25, 2011


> But his speech was really creepy

Those are remarkable clips: Ruby basically states that people with a lot to gain forced him to do it.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:18 PM on July 25, 2011


Posted on the Mail Online today:

"Jackie Onassis believed that Lyndon B Johnson and a cabal of Texas tycoons were involved in the assassination of her husband John F Kennedy, ‘explosive’ recordings are set to reveal."
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:46 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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