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"It’s almost like history is a kind of snake swallowing its tail."
September 27, 2013 3:10 PM   Subscribe

"In trying to understand conspiracy theorists, I used to think that what conspiracy theorists were really doing on some level was grieving, their fantasies a form of displaced love for JFK, but I’ve come to think the love involved is mostly self-love, their self-congratulatory assertion of superiority over mere facts."

What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris deconstructs the most famous 26 seconds in film history.
posted by Atom Eyes (151 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rewind to Frame 313: The visceral impression that the blast came from in front of JFK and blew his head backward is powerful.

Really? If the bullet had impacted from the front, wouldn't the exit wound / all the expelled matter be behind the president's head? I feel like, if anything, Frame 313 (graphic) is proof that the bullet came from behind the motorcade. I'm no ballistics expert, but that seems obvious.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I’ve come to think the love involved is mostly self-love, their self-congratulatory assertion of superiority over mere facts

No, conspiracy theorists are created by two motivators:

1. The allure of being a superior intelligence who isn't fooled like the idiot masses and knows the real truth.

2. Believing in a world where someone, even a bad someone, is in charge is far less terrifying than accepting the undirected chaos of reality where things happen for no reason at all. Any of us can suffer and die at any moment and it's comforting to think that there's some Grand Purpose behind it all.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2013 [36 favorites]


...or perhaps they're created by a third motivator...

3. They believe they are right and then turn out to be proven right in the end.
posted by fairmettle at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I didn't know about the motivation of the umbrella man that was linked in the article. Very interesting how history can turn out odd but perfectly reasonable explanations. Here is link, only 6 mins but worth it:

http://www.nytimes.com/video/2011/11/21/opinion/100000001183275/the-umbrella-man.html
posted by dealing away at 3:38 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


@nathancaswell - FYI, your example of frame 313 is sourced from a site claiming the Zapruder film itself is a forgery... Not that that directly effects your statement, but always good to pull examples from reputable sources...
posted by stenseng at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2013


Sangermaine: Believing in a world where someone, even a bad someone, is in charge is far less terrifying than accepting the undirected chaos of reality where things happen for no reason at all. Any of us can suffer and die at any moment and it's comforting to think that there's some Grand Purpose behind it all.

This level of smugness is ridiculous. Regardless of the actual facts of Kennedy's death, the idea that a competing faction within that government might kill another leader is not proof of some need for a childish soothing illusion. Conspiracies have been behind assassinations. How many poisoned kings, military coups and deposed presidents have there been?
posted by spaltavian at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


There certainly have been conspiracies that have turned out to be conspiracies, but has there ever been one that was uncovered by closely examining footage or photographs?
posted by RobotHero at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


wouldn't the exit wound / all the expelled matter be behind the president's head?

Isn't that what happened? I can't remember the details, but I thought that Jackie literally crawled onto the back of the car to grab her husband's brains. (I don't have any conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination but I can't remember how they explained that).
posted by triggerfinger at 3:45 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were many attempts on Hitler's life, some organized by single individuals, some organized by groups. What's the diff?
posted by No Robots at 3:47 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I don't have any conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination but I can't remember how they explained that).

The Magic Bullet Theory. That is still the "official" explanation.
posted by spaltavian at 3:47 PM on September 27, 2013


From the Warren Commission Transcript:

"I heard her say, "Jack, they have killed my husband," and then there was the second shot, and then after the third shot she said, "They have killed my husband. I have his brains in my hand," and she repeated that several times, and that was all the conversation." - Nellie Connally
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:50 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I don't have any conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination but I can't remember how they explained that).

Aside from the fact that the car was moving forward? His face basically atomised, and the car drove through the cloud.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"accepting the undirected chaos of reality where things happen for no reason at all."

Wow, really? So Austerity in the UK just randomly happened? The overthrow of various legitamitly elected people around the world just randomly happened? The banks just randomly happened to poison the banking system with CDOs? All those south american death squads just randomly happened?

So you don't believe their are powerful people *cough*Koch Bros et al*cough* who use their power to advance their causes, and do so underhandedly? What fairy-tale world do you live in?
posted by marienbad at 3:52 PM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


(My secret kooky theory: The Zapruder film has always looked to me like Jack and Jackie struggling over a gun in his mouth.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:54 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


How many poisoned kings, military coups and deposed presidents have there been?

;3:How many of those were successfully covered up for decades despite near-limitless scrutiny by countless individuals only to be exposed by dogged individuals examining footagefaref or photos that had been available for decades?

None. Sure there are conspiracies and assassinations, but they are never X-Files level perfect machines and they're exposed by careful work by historians or journalists.

This is my first point, this fantasy of being one of the elite few who sees the truth.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Damn you, Sys Rq. I can't believe you've got me laughing at that image!
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't even remember how the whole JFK bullet impacts were supposed to work anymore, though I do know that when a high-velocity bullet hits something, a surprising amount of matter is ejected through the entry wound.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:00 PM on September 27, 2013


Rewind to Frame 313: The visceral impression that the blast came from in front of JFK and blew his head backward is powerful

There is a video somewhere online of something, either a melon or a goat head or something, and it is shot form behind and shoots back just like JFK's head does. The bullet from behind forces an amount of matter out the front and well, Newton does the rest.

I love JFK conspiracy theories, but the main thing they all seem to have is very little in the way of any form of link to Lee Harvey Oswald. Also they need to have Linnie Mae Randle as a central player, as it was she who told Ruth Paine about the job opportunity at the TSBD. (Wikipedia - "At the suggestion of a neighbor, Ruth Paine told Lee Oswald about a job opportunity at the Texas School Book Depository.")
posted by marienbad at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, really? So Austerity in the UK just randomly happened?

Not sure what you mean by this. Austerity happened as the culmination of decades of effort by conservative and free-market ideologues to dismantle and undercut the regulatory state from the late 70s. Public efforts. Thatcher wasn't some puppet master in the shadows, and neither is Cameron.

What fairy-tale world do you live in?

I live in reality. The fairy tale is that the world's problems are caused by a cabal in a room somewhere rather than deeply entrenched systemic forces.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:05 PM on September 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


Here's something I've never understood about the conspiracy theorists (or at least a large chunk of them): Why on earth would anybody plan an assassination using multiple gunmen but only have one patsy? What if all the gunmen hit their target? It's a ludicrous plan on the face of it.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


“In my book about Hitler,” I recall, “I wrote that the inexplicability of horror is equaled by the horror of inexplicability.”
not recorded: Morris's stifled giggles
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Please, it is clear the entire assassination was faked by the CIA with help from a team of Hollywood special effects artists led by Stanley Kubrick. All the clues are in The Shining.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:12 PM on September 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Here's something I've never understood about the conspiracy theorists (or at least a large chunk of them): Why on earth would anybody plan an assassination using multiple gunmen but only have one patsy? What if all the gunmen hit their target? It's a ludicrous plan on the face of it.

Presumably, there were more patsys ready to be revealed if needed, but they only needed one.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sangermaine: "The fairy tale is that the world's problems are caused by a cabal in a room somewhere rather than deeply entrenched systemic forces."

This.

I believe that people's inclination towards believing in conspiracy theories is motivated to a significant degree by a subconscious longing for safety. Because there is comfort in believing that things CAN be under control, even if those currently pulling the levers are evil/bad/wrong. At least, in this type of world view there are levers somewhere. To consider the more realistic alternative is probably even scarier to most.

To quote myself from the the NSA thread from 2 weeks back where this came up in form of the famous Bill Hicks quote:

"... when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scum-fucks who got you in there..."--Bill Hicks"

The Bill Hicks quote is what I tend to think of as a sort of comforting paranoia or conspiracy theory because it suggests that there is in fact someone in control somewhere. Which not only means that things can actually be controlled in the first place but that they could also be changed if only you could figure out a way to access the levers. I think this is subtly comforting because the alternative realization is simply that there is no real control and that humanity's progress through history is really more of a rock slide down a hillside where the individual rocks do influence each other's direction depending on relative size and weight as much as everything is also constrained and influenced by the topography of the landscape but where the overall impression is one of roiling chaos that may have a clear evolving direction but certain doesn't appear to be under anybody's control. Human history as an emergent phenomenon rather than a self directed journey.

I think the latter is probably closer to what's really going on. I think that there are in fact terrifying revelations waiting on the other side of the oath but I think they're probably surprisingly simple and plain and not that much different from the realizations available from a regular person's day-to-day experience of life except obviously with everything being intensely compressed in time and decisions having consequences that affect more people more strongly by a significant number of orders of magnitude: that everything is way more complex than it seems, that nobody is actually much in control of anything and that everyone including yourself is entangled in an enormous web of complex causalities, owed debts and favors, unanticipated curveball events as well as countless loose ends.

[...]

posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:20 PM on September 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


The fairy tale is that the world's problems are caused by a cabal in a room somewhere rather than deeply entrenched systemic forces.

or maybe those deeply entrenched systemic forces are being influenced by a cabal in a room somewhere. By which I mean, humans have been secretly conspiring together toward various ends since before recorded history, and doing their best to cover their tracks, or at least confuse them. I have no problem believing that the assassination of JFK may have been part of just such a conspiracy, and certainly haven't come across any undeniable evidence to the contrary.

But it is history now (as opposed to current event) and as such, I suspect it must join all the other great mysteries as being just that: mysteries that will never really be solved one way or another. Indeed, their value as historical artifacts becomes more about this inherent confusion than any verifiable "truth". They remind us of just how much mystery there is out there (back there?), history being an art, not a science.
posted by philip-random at 4:30 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this where we say we believe in UFO's and Bigfoot because both have been caught on camera? Area 51 and the Roswell landing? 9/11 was an inside job?

Come on, Nixon even got caught, and the conspiracy he was involved in was far less sophisticated (and therefore theoretically easier to conceal) than what it would have taken to assassinate a sitting president.

The conspiracy narratives in American culture are toxic to democracy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 PM on September 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


If the bullet had impacted from the front, wouldn't the exit wound / all the expelled matter be behind the president's head?

This was demonstrated in, I believe, Nova's Cold Case episode, applying "modern forensic techniques" to the evidence they had. For this, they filled a skull with white paint, and shot it from the rear with a rifle, filming it in high speed. On viewing the slow motion playback, it could clearly be seen that some paint exited the entrance wound, but most exited the front, where the bullet's shockwave burst the front of the skull, causing white paint to literally explode out the front--as you see in the Zapruder film. The front-facing explosion drove the skull backwards off the platform it was sitting on.
posted by fatbird at 4:40 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many of those were successfully covered up for decades despite near-limitless scrutiny by countless individuals only to be exposed by dogged individuals examining footagefaref or photos that had been available for decades?

The official position of the House of Representatives is that the assassination was "probably" the result of a conspiracy, and at various points, a majority of Americans agreed. If the assassination, was a conspiracy, was it covered up?

I believe that people's inclination towards believing in conspiracy theories is motivated to a significant degree by a subconscious longing for safety. Because there is comfort in believing that things CAN be under control, even if those currently pulling the levers are evil/bad/wrong. At least, in this type of world view there are levers somewhere.

This is a strawman in the guise of armchair psychoanalysis. It's a lazy argument about how grown-up you are.
posted by spaltavian at 4:41 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


So ... how "meta" is the link in the FPP? And how "meta" is our discussion about the content behind the link?

meta^2?

meta^3?

meta^4?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2013


spaltavian: "This is a strawman in the guise of armchair psychoanalysis. It's a lazy argument about how grown-up you are."

You have managed to deconstruct my theory with such well reasoned logic that I'm about to admit defeat...

wait...

oh, just some ad hominem and borderline name calling.

I will not admit defeat.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:49 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually believe the opposite, belief in conspiracy theories are a longing for the wonder and magic of our lost youth. A return to our inner child, for whom there is still some mystery in the world.

In a sense, the rejection of a solution is a rejection of the finite, and ultimately a rejection of death.

I believe Don Delillo said something about conspiracies in his book about JFK, Libra. I concur.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


triggerfinger: "... I thought that Jackie literally crawled onto the back of the car to grab her husband's brains. (I don't have any conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination but I can't remember how they explained that)."

Eponydepressing.

The thing I don't understand about most conspiracy theories is that those people seem to forget that we're talking about humans here. Really, I just don't believe they're that good at pulling off complicated, secret operations and never, ever letting the cat out of the bag. I'm sorry, even smart, disciplined people are dumbasses sometimes.
There's just no way.
posted by Red Loop at 5:13 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


How do you know which times?
posted by carping demon at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2013


A quick Google search reveals that at least Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Western Australia, appears to share my belief as per his interview with Salon.com from last April:

"There are number of factors, but probably one of the most important ones in this instance is that, paradoxically, it gives people a sense of control. People hate randomness, they dread the sort of random occurrences that can destroy their lives, so as a mechanism against that dread, it turns out that it’s much easier to believe in a conspiracy. Then you have someone to blame, it’s not just randomness."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:21 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Correction: Lewandowsky WAS at the UWA, he's now at the University of Bristol.)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:22 PM on September 27, 2013


Wow... 50 years since the assassination and we still have people who believe it was a conspiracy. Not a single one of the conspirators let the truth leak. Really?
On June the 8th 1967, during the six day war, Israel deliberately attacked the intelligence collection ship USS Liberty, in full awareness it was a U.S. Navy ship, and did its best to sink it and leave no survivors. The attack killed 34 U.S. servicemen and wounded at least 173.
Scores of intelligence analysts and senior officials have known this for years. That virtually all of them have kept a 40-year frightened silence is testament to the widespread fear of touching this live wire. According to NSA documents – classified top secret – some senior officials in Washington wanted above all, to protect Israel from embarrassment.
There would be no incentive for a person complicit in a crime to out themselves. Really.

Imagine the JFK assassinations in another context (this is hypothetical -- I don't think there's good evidence for a crazy conspiracy theory, but there are some interesting facts). Let's suppose Kruschev was shaking things up and making enemies at the KGB, and he was assassinated in a public place. Five years later, his politically similar brother attempts to run for political office, and he is also assassinated in a public place. What would you assume had happened in that case?

Assuming that elements of the American government aren't corrupt and don't meet in secret to further their own self interest to the detriment of other departments or political enemies is as naive as assuming that it hasn't happened in any government. Sure, we should wait for solid evidence instead of making wild claims, but there is nothing inherently different about the US that would make it impossible to assassinate a president for political reasons.
posted by deanklear at 5:28 PM on September 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow... 50 years since the assassination and we still have people who believe it was a conspiracy. Not a single one of the conspirators let the truth leak. Really?

well, in defense of it maybe having been an actual (as opposed to alleged) conspiracy, this one would have required magnitudes fewer players than say, faked moon landing conspiracy, 9/11 inside job conspiracy both of which are commonly (and to my mind effectively) rejected by the logic you use here.

The deeper point being, not all conspiracy theories are equally and/or obviously bullshit. To suggest as much is to my trigger my suspicions that you perhaps know more than you're letting on.
posted by philip-random at 5:28 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


RobotHero: "There certainly have been conspiracies that have turned out to be conspiracies, but has there ever been one that was uncovered by closely examining footage or photographs?"

Enron was a conspiracy to defraud that was lying in plain sight:
[A]fter extensive analysis in the spring of 1998, six students at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management recommended selling the stock.

“At the time Enron was a very admired company,” said group member Juan Ocampo M.B.A. ’99. “What we found … is that all the hype behind the company had its stock overvalued.”

....

“Enron was a complex company difficult to analyze and understand,” he said.
In their analysis, they did find some cracks. The students concluded that Enron’s stock was overpriced and that the company might have been manipulating its earnings figures.

...

“In addition, our analysis has found that Enron takes more marginal risk than its competitors, in part to set up a high fixed-cost platform for anticipated new markets internationally and in electricity, without a corresponding return to balance the risk. This is risky. Time will tell if it’s prudent,” they wrote.

....
“All the facts were hiding in plain sight,” Lee said.
“With the right tools and motivation it was no real mystery.”
'

That said, I'd say that the difference is the author is discussing people obsessed with conspiracy rather than our capability to imagine them and investigate.
posted by pwnguin at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


We see the black Lincoln Continental with JFK and his wife,

The car was dark blue, not black.
posted by Thing at 5:34 PM on September 27, 2013


deanklear: "Assuming that elements of the American government aren't corrupt and don't meet in secret to further their own self interest to the detriment of other departments or political enemies is as naive as assuming that it hasn't happened in any government."

I don't think anybody is assuming that.

The thing is that this is taking place out in the open, fully visible to everybody. Gerrymandering for congressional power, the entanglement of money and politics, the screwing of the poor, the ruining of the environment, the career moves from business into politics and back into business. Nobody is hiding anything. In fact there's a crowd of vocal supporters claiming that this is how things should be.

I'm not even sure where there would be room for super secret conspiracies to do even more. Everything conspiracies are supposed to be doing is already being done in plain sight and without attempts of denial.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:39 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Any particular reason why RFK didn't say anything? It's not like he was the quiet type, and he certainly had the ability to bring a conspiracy to public attention.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2013


Joe Dimagio paid Art Garfunkel's mob enforcer/hitman uncle to do it out of jealousy and revenge for what JFK did for Monroe. Art told his singing partner who hinted at the dark secret in a song lyric.
posted by humanfont at 5:41 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everybody needs to go read Lance DeHaven-Smith's Conspiracy Theory in America. The very concept of a "conspiracy theorist" is itself a conspiracy theory hatched by the CIA to discredit people who rightfully doubted the Warren Commission report. Once you tar someone with that label, you don't have to deal with their arguments anymore, because they're just a loon. (Sort of like the Founding Fathers, who accused King George of a rather elaborate conspiracy against them.)
posted by goatdog at 5:54 PM on September 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


I love Errol Morris. I particularly love the way he crafts every single thing into a narrative, his narrative. This is an interview with Morris--not even an essay by Morris--and you come away with such a strong impression of the nightmares that Zapruder had from viewing frame 313. But not once in the interview does anyone correct your impression and tell you that Zapruder's nightmare of frame 313 was not one of violence or death or horror at the assassination. Zapruder's nightmare was that his film would not be used for finding the truth, nor for preserving history, but that it would become a sideshow, a Times Square film booth, emblazoned with the slogan "SEE THE PRESIDENT'S HEAD EXPLODE!"

I love Errol Morris. I love how beautifully he makes his points, but only if you stop and think about how he's presenting the thesis he tells you he's presenting.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everybody needs to go read Lance DeHaven-Smith's Conspiracy Theory in America.

That looks like a fascinating book. In regards to the Warren Commission, I believe LBJ want the whole thing put to rest as soon as possible, but a bunch of unanswered questions would be toxic to his chances of getting re-elected. Crass and Machiavellian? Yes (it was LBJ after all), but it does not mean the Establishment conspired to kill JFK.

The Cuban connection is slightly interesting to ponder, however...
posted by KokuRyu at 6:13 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that E. Howard Hunt was the shooter behind the Grassy Knoll. Who was it that posted the link about his son trying to find out what his role was when he was on his death bed?
posted by gucci mane at 6:18 PM on September 27, 2013


Israel deliberately attacked the intelligence collection ship USS Liberty, in full awareness it was a U.S. Navy ship, and did its best to sink it and leave no survivors

This is a sidebar, but at a certain, cold-blooded level of foreign policy analysis, this is neither surprising nor indefensible, which is essentially why the situation played out the way it did.

According to NSA documents – classified top secret – some senior officials in Washington wanted above all, to protect Israel from embarrassment.

This narrative sort of assumes an Americo-centric universe, though. There is every reason to believe that these same persons understand that silence also protects US interests, and this outweighs any motivation to expose Israel.

But more than anything else, these same officials would be committing serious federal crimes by speaking on the record. They are part of a professional, bureaucratic intelligence workforce.

By contrast, the people supposed to have been involved in the JFK assassination -- depending on which theory you believe -- are a motley collection of superspies, cut-outs, nincompoops, and wannabes, not to mention gangsters, thugs, and muscle. Only a handful of individuals at the top of any of these pyramids are in the same ballpark as far as non-disclosure. Plenty of the peons would have lots of incentive, or even simply motivation (resentment, anger, a turn in politics) to expose others in the conspiracy.

Now of course, some of the conspiracy-mongers claim to have found some of these people and gotten some of their allegations out into the public.

But really, Occam's Razor is something that really proves itself in this type of analysis. Most of the conspiracies require at least some key individual, some key action, some key equipment, something extraordinary to work -- like an umbrella firing flechettes. When you start to ponder these, you can easily see how it all bleeds out and becomes the basis for a worldview that is essentially Fox Mulder vs. the Smoking Man, or Oliver Stone's apparent thesis that all the conspiracy theories in aggregate were somehow a more correct explanation than mere, dull reality. The idea that a loser with no direction in life manages to parlay a cheaply, freely available piece of killing equipment shot at a man in an open car into the assassination machine that changes the course of history is, for some reason, difficult for a certain segment of the population to swallow.
posted by dhartung at 6:21 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


deanklear - you've used a debunked conspiracy theory to prove that conspiracies could be kept secret for long periods of time. I'm not sure where that text you quoted comes from, but you've linked to this post itself, which is surely some kind of meta-irony.

The USS Liberty attack is widely acknowledged to be a case of mistaken friendly fire during wartime; the Israeli attack force incorrectly identified the ship as an Egyptian supply ship. Israel apologized for the mistake and paid $3 million in compensation to the families of the dead, plus several more payments over the years, totaling $17 million. There are some minor details about the attack in dispute, but the overall conclusion is well supported by a substantial body of evidence released by both involved governments.

While people who believe in this conspiracy theory are certainly not by association anti-semites, the fact of the continued existence of this conspiracy theory despite the evidence has an unpleasant odor of anti-semitism about it.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:27 PM on September 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I guess this must not be a novel metaphor to link with history, but just two days ago I came across something particularly horrible in Pakistan enacted by terrorists, and I thought how odd it is that extremist Islam seems hell-bent on decontextualizing everything from its history, of taking the literal black and white approach to everything. I wrote this email to myself that goes - I'm getting a picture of this convoluted Islam as a snake that keeps biting off it's own tail, or like civilization continuously shedding their history like a skin and forgetting the start of their era, the reasons for things, the whys. The reasons that caused the revolution or collapse or the horseman that ended the last thing.

It goes on and on. I'll spare everyone. But it was like a shock to my system to see the thread title!
posted by legospaceman at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2013


Look, the JFK assassination was a government conspiracy, but it was a government conspiracy from the future.

See, JFK was actually assassinated prior to the "Dallas Incident" by a time-traveling shapeshifter who will want/wanted to start up WWIII because he will buy/bought into nihilism. Not actual nihilism, mind you, but the inaccurate, simplified nihilism like you'll see out of cheap Vancouver action flicks (in the future, Vancouver basically replaces Hollywood's position in the western film industry). The United States government will have/had to send their own guy back to assassinate the shapeshifter from the grassy knoll.

The problem—and the reason the whole Dallas incident is as muddled as it is today—is that the shapeshifter actually will have/had another guy in place retroactively (it's complicated and makes my own head hurt so I won't even try to explain) to try to eliminate the knoll guy from the Texas School Book Depository.

It took a few tries to get right, but eventually the government will get/got the knoll guy to take out the shapeshifter without getting taken out himself, and then they will frame/framed "Oswald" for the assassination. Not the first one, but the second one.

Of course, there was the risk that "Oswald" would blab about the entire time-travelling aspect of the whole thing, so the government will send/sent another guy—"Ruby"—to get him out of the picture.

True story.
posted by KChasm at 6:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


DeHaven-Smith's point is that there are any number of conspiracies that have been alleged about JFK, some a lot more reasonable and supported by the facts than others, but if you espouse anything that doubts the official story, you're tarred with the same brush as those who think men from Mars did it. Somewhere on the more reasonable and probable end of the spectrum is the idea that LBJ directed a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the US government did a really shitty job of protecting JFK and then investigating his murder; this coverup included breaking several laws, for example, about possession of the corpse and who should have conducted the autopsy and where. (The Secret Service had no jurisdiction and no right to remove the body from Dallas, but they did anyway, under what some witnessed considered the threat of violence.) In this case, the Secret Service actually made things worse, because by breaking the chain of custody of the evidence, they allowed all kinds of openings for people to allege all kinds of things.
posted by goatdog at 6:39 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about the JFK assassination (which is a weird thing to say) is that, conspiracy or not, the event is (in some ways) just on the cusp of modernity. There are (I think) only seven photographs and two films of the event, and each image is just vague enough to never be entirely conclusive and wide open to wild speculation. If the assassination had taken place in 1960 there would be even fewer visual accounts, and if it had happened in 1966 there would have been dozens more, and most likely, conclusive proof therein. We'll never know what really happened, and there's almost comfort in that.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 7:03 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Occam's razor is only as sharp as the mind wielding it.

There needs to be a borrowed Germanic cognate for the naivete of feigning cynicism and worldweariness in the service of dismissing the horror of the protean, mundane forms of evil.

Whenever something terrible and seemingly inexplicable happens I always ask myself, cui bono? After I find the answer, connecting the dots is usually straightforward.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:18 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one thing, that consistently indicates to me that the "official story" of the Kennedy assassination just might be bullshit, is the fact that every 3-5 years, a new book is written, a new analysis is done, a new article is written by a respected writer in a sufficiently credible magazine that attempts to prove, once and for all, that there was NO CONSPIRACY AND NOTHING SINISTER AT ALL about the assassination of Kennedy, and that anybody who suspects otherwise or asks any questions is a dangerous, un-American kook.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 7:22 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm working on not one, but two docs on the assassination, and I have seen every frame of every piece of film shot on that day in Dallas. I cannot wait to be finished. If anything, the horror get worse with more exposure to these images.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:30 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a large part of the aversion to rehashing this subject is that it's used by American/British rightwingers as an excuse to dig up dirt on the Kennedy clan and there's also the fact that it was a ripe opportunity for Soviet disinfo operations back in the day.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 7:31 PM on September 27, 2013


I'm endlessly fascinated with the story of the Babushka Lady. She can be seen in frame #285, basically standing opposite of Zapruder, so she would have seen the grassy knoll and other areas not captured by Zapruder's camera. It's possible that she did turn in her film for processing, which was then confiscated by the FBI or some other shadowy government agency. I really don't see how it's possible she could be unaware of the gravity of the moment that she managed to film -- did she destroy the footage, or the camera? Was she too afraid to turn it in? Did it contain evidence of a second shooter? Did she stow the camera away without ever realizing what it contained? I like to think that it's still sitting in an attic somewhere and will be discovered one day at a yard sale. But fifty years later, it may be lost to history.
posted by averageamateur at 7:38 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


What really gets me is that there's reams of conspiracy speculation about the JFK killing, which really does seem to have been carried out by a lone nut. But Martin Luther King's killing, which was obviously backed by some shadowy forces (who was paying for James Earl Ray's hotel room?) gets forgotten.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


My favorite thing about the JFK assassination (which is a weird thing to say) is that, conspiracy or not, the event is (in some ways) just on the cusp of modernity. There are (I think) only seven photographs and two films of the event, and each image is just vague enough to never be entirely conclusive and wide open to wild speculation.

Postmodernity, then, both chronologically and conceptually.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:10 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


The car was dark blue, not black.

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!
posted by The Tensor at 8:12 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Warren Commission examined 5,000 pieces of physical evidence, interviewed I don't know how many people and produced 20,000 pages of documentation about those interviews and the physical evidence. Since the time the commission's report was released no one has produced a verifiable, reliable contradictory piece of evidence. Tons of speculation and guesswork has been published and still there is nothing which scientifically disproves the conclusions drawn in the report.

Conspiracy theorists believe whatever they want because they know that they are smarter than everyone else.
posted by X4ster at 8:13 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's the one thing that amazes me about the Zapruder film: that he caught it at all.

I have a similar camera to the one that Zapruder used: a Bell & Howell, but a different model. It's entirely mechanical, spring-wound, and you get about two minutes of filming before the spring winds down and the mechanism stops. Takes a while to wind it back up, too.

The released film's length is half a minute long. That's like catching an assassination on Vine. Sheer dumb luck.
posted by cmyk at 8:33 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Life magazine was the arguably the premier print news media at the time of the Kennedy assassination. Management at the offices of Life magazine immediately assembled a team of their best reporters to prepare a report on the assassination. Life had prepared a regular issue for the week of November 29th featuring football star Roger Staubach on the cover. That issue was scraped and replaced by the Kennedy assassination issue. The writer who wrote the Staubach feature was selected as the leader of the team of writers assigned to find out everything they could about the assassination. Their article was published in February 1964. You may have seen the cover image of Lee Harvey Oswald holding the rifle.

That writer was Donald Dale Jackson. By 1999 when I met Mr. Jackson had been exposed to all of the conspiracy attacks on the commission's findings and on him as a writer. He remained steadfast in his conclusion that the assassination had been committed by a single man acting alone. I agreed then and agree now.

Case Closed.
posted by X4ster at 8:38 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]



Come on, Nixon even got caught, and the conspiracy he was involved in was far less sophisticated (and therefore theoretically easier to conceal) than what it would have taken to assassinate a sitting president.


Yes, but Nixon and his immediate cronies were the only ones that had something to lose. If you examine the Kennedy situation, even if you only go so far as Oliver Stones film...beyond which a BBC documentary shows evidence of Johnson's involvement, the people that Kennedy alienated included the heads of the CIA, Texas oil millionaires, the military. To not see this event as the touchstone that transformed the USA into the _____ regime it now is I think is not understanding history. It's not
wacky conspiracy. Read Barr McLellan's book.
posted by eggtooth at 8:40 PM on September 27, 2013


eggtooth, aren't you paying attention? X4ster just announced the case closed.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Case? I'd use another word.
posted by eggtooth at 8:50 PM on September 27, 2013


Sorry, forgot to post the link. Case Closed
posted by X4ster at 9:08 PM on September 27, 2013


(in the future, Vancouver basically replaces Hollywood's position in the western film industry)

I'm on board with the time travelling shape-shifter assassins, but that is too far fetched for me.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:18 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


…unless most of California fell into the sea due to seismic activity and climate change and the US annexed Vancouver as a handy replacement. That I could actually see happening.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:37 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are some minor details about the attack in dispute, but the overall conclusion is well supported by a substantial body of evidence released by both involved governments.

Here's a Chicago Tribune article from 2007 which discusses some loose ends.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:15 PM on September 27, 2013


nobody got that one?

well....I'll say it a different way: Yes, something's closed, but I don't think it's the case.
posted by eggtooth at 10:44 PM on September 27, 2013


Regarding the USS Liberty, I always wondered if the ship was deliberately attacked because this was a clumsy attempt to cover up what they were doing in the Sinai. Wasn't the attack at roughly the same time that the Israeli army was killing large numbers of POWs? Thinking back to other incidents, such as the time the Israeli army pointed guns at and almost attacked US Marines in Beirut, this doesn't seem entirely implausible. If this was the case, then, yes, this was a terribly clumsy and ineffective attempt, but governments in a panic often take clumsy and ineffective actions.

Conspiracy theories are a natural reaction to the enormous secret state the US, and others, have created in the past 60 years. So much is hidden and when we get glimpses, such as the Snowden leaks, the reality is disturbing enough to make one want to buy tin foil by the ton. For every Manning and Snowden and Ellsburg and Deep Throat, you have to wonder what didn't get leaked.

Anyways, all JFK conspiracy theorists should read Macbird. Recasting LBJ as Macbeth definitely makes too much sense.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:52 PM on September 27, 2013


I'd like to ask a question to those who still have faith in the American government. What is this meme going around now about "are Americans special?" Is that a serious idea that people have in the USA now? And wasn't there another country that thought that way not so long ago? Like,
Germany? "Americans are special."....it's not even an adult concept, let alone a sane one.
posted by eggtooth at 11:16 PM on September 27, 2013


American exceptionalism? Not a new thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:24 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regarding the USS Liberty, I always wondered if the ship was deliberately attacked because this was a clumsy attempt to cover up what they were doing in the Sinai. Wasn't the attack at roughly the same time that the Israeli army was killing large numbers of POWs?

IIRC the most commonly accepted theory is that the Israelis wanted to cover up their intent to invade the Golan Heights, which was scheduled for June 8th (the date of the Liberty incident), but delayed until the 9th.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 12:09 AM on September 28, 2013


Conspiracy theories are a kind of modern magical worldview.

To elaborate: every time I see something related to conspiracy theories I'm reminded of that flickering-lightbulb sensation I got when I read the The Golden Bough. It took our species a very long time to be able to say we understood -with any kind of reliability- how disease spreads, but that didn't stop us from formulating explanations sans evidence. Indeed that was entirely the point of things like zodiac calendars, sympathetic magic, fertility gods, etc...and lacking that evidence, a few of our intuitive conjectures did seem to work, enough that we held on to them for a long time. Hell, a lot of folks still do.

It's not condescending to admit that as a species we like our narratives wrapped up in pretty packages. We do like the world to make sense, even if it's a sick kind of sense. Confirmation bias is a thing, after all.

This is not to say that there are no conspiracies ever, but rather an old and unoriginal observation that the truth is usually quite boring.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:15 AM on September 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Except Israel informed the US that they were going to attack the Golan a few days earlier. And the single (anonymous) source of claims of a mass killing have yet to produce any evidence despite the Egyptians controlling the Sinai Peninsula afterwards. (Previously).

Anyway friendly fire is not a conspiracy. In the 1991 Gulf War it accounted for 25% of casualties, although historically for the US it hovers around 2%, which is still a lot higher than what people think it is.
posted by PenDevil at 12:22 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like the twist: The weaponized camera.

Was Zapruder the second shooter all along?

I'm going to call this the "Chomsky Angle"
posted by flyinghamster at 12:23 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Conspiracy theorists" is a name we give to people who believe, e.g. all world affairs are controlled by a secret cabal of Baal worshippers. It does not necessary apply to anyone who wonders about hidden aspects of events. In fact, to think it does is also a pretty strange point of view.

I tend to agree that the Zapruder film doesn't provide any evidence for a shooter from the front, despite initial appearances. But there are (several) oddities about the assassination and the following events that can be questioned and scrutinised. And it's really not that weird of a suggestion that there might have been more organisation behind a big deal political assassination than just one lone nut who happened to be shot himself soon after. I don't have a horse in the race, just sayin'.

If Nixon's Watergate activities had never been substantially proven, would anyone who discussed the possibility be a conspiracy theorist?
posted by iotic at 12:42 AM on September 28, 2013


This site has a good debunking of the conspiracy theories, including the single bullet.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:38 AM on September 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Most of the conspiracies require at least some key individual, some key action, some key equipment, something extraordinary to work -- like an umbrella firing flechettes.

no, not really - all you really need is a second person with a second gun

and here's the kicker - you don't even need a conspiracy to have that second guy there - he could have decided to show up on his own - he (and oswald) may have had the shock of their lives when they realized there was another guy firing

unlikely? - perhaps

but people keep coming back to one thing - that oswald would have had to be one hell of a shooter to get off all those shots in the time he did it in

i don't think we have the truth - i don't think we ever will because this isn't a government coverup, or big organization conspiracy and people are wasting their time on that angle - it was oswald and someone else - and they may or may not have known each other - and a few or no other people knew anything about it
posted by pyramid termite at 4:28 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


has there ever been one that was uncovered by closely examining footage or photographs?

Odds are yes due to investigations into the Mob.

And C-SPAN does cover Congress, no?

But what is more interesting is how when there is a tragic event the video cameras in the are stop working.
Now I could have decided to pull this example from infowars just to cinch up some peoples underwear round these parts and see if anyone would step forward with "yup, that was said" but instead as some of the posters here were not old enough to remember:
"Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995. There ain't no such thing as a coincidence," Trentadue said. He said government officials claim the security cameras did not record the minutes before the bombing because "they had run out of tape" or "the tape was being replaced."

(I was looking for the state rep/police union rep who said videotaping the police is bad, only useful to videotape the "bad guys" but I didn't come across it quickly and its not like that link will change any hearts and minds when the topic is conspiracy on The Blue. But some of you might not know that one lawyer has chased that 1995 issue through the courts and there exists an open enough system of government to be able to get enough information to be able to ask questions about the official narrative.)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:03 AM on September 28, 2013


Everybody knows the gunman on the grassy knoll was Mr. Spock. Case closed, indeed.
posted by briank at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2013


The single biggest boost for the conspiratorial view of the Kennedy assassination might have been the illegal (under Texas law) removal of JFK's body from Parkland and its transportation back to DC on Air Force One. Apart from anything else, this ensured that the autopsy would be carried out in the middle of an undignified kind of scrum by surgeons with no real familiarity with, or experience of, gunshot wounds. Kenny O'Donnell, acting from the most human and understandable of reasons, screwed up the best chance of a proper forensic investigation of his boss' death.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 7:16 AM on September 28, 2013


I was eight years old when this happened. At the time, it never occurred to me to question the official story. It wasn't until my teen years that I first started to pay attention to the various conspiracy theories. Slowly over a decade or two, I came to believe that it was very unlikely that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for the assassination. As I came to this belief, it seemed to me that more and more Americans were coming to this understanding as well. I will admit that I'm shocked to see that most of the MeFites commenting in here seem to think of us as misguided at best and loons at worst. I wasn't aware that the pendulum of belief had swung back so far the other way, or that it even was a pendulum.
posted by marsha56 at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I came to this belief, it seemed to me that more and more Americans were coming to this understanding as well.

Well, most Americans believe that UFOs are alien spacecraft, and that a flying saucer crashed at Roswell. The key is that the line "I want to believe" doesn't actually mean what people think it means.
posted by happyroach at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2013


marsha56: There are two issues here.

First, if you spend time reading about the Kennedy assassination, you can't help but be struck by the number of hard-to-believe weirdnesses surrounding it - and yet none of them seem to point to anywhere, and the majority of the evidence clearly seems to point to a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. (Yes, the magic bullet is a stretch, but things like that have happened before when people shoot firearms at other people.)

But more important, there's been a strong push to marginalize anyone who doubts the word of the US government as crazy.

Metafilter has been a good example. When we had the "Osama Bin Laden killed" thread, I mentioned early on that we should be skeptical about the government's story, pending hard evidence. The abuse I got for that!

But indeed the government completely changed its initial story, and within 48 hours. No longer did Bin Laden come out, using a woman as a human shield, armed and shooting at US forces - now the story has him shot alone, in his room, unarmed, and mentions that the orders were to assume he was deadly dangerous and kill him "unless he was naked" (what a strange image!)

I didn't see any apologies from Mefi - but the fact is that I still say that we should be skeptical about the government's story, considering they haven't deigned to give us even on scrap of hard evidence - not one photo, let alone one second of video. (Nor did we get any explanation as to how they were so wrong initially and stayed wrong for so long - despite every soldier involved supposedly broadcasting live video right to the White House. The argument given always starts, "In the confusion..." but if you start to think through what that would actually mean, it breaks down. "In the confusion" someone hallucinated a story that never happened from start to finish and put it out to the news wires, and it stayed there for a day even though dozens of people in the White House were watching the whole thing live and had to know it was false?)

This apparently makes me a conspiracy theorist - even if I add that my best guess is that the true story is something much like the government's story, simply by Occam's Razor. It's not that I have a specific countertheory that I'm touting, it's rather that I'm unable to believe someone's naked claim, particularly when won't provide any hard evidence. ("I speak French!" "Cool, say a couple of words?" "No, I don't have to.")

It is obviously advantageous for elected officials from either party to be able to make any claim they like, whether or not there is any evidence, and have anyone who doubts their claims - or even asks for evidence - considered "a conspiracy theorist", i.e. crazy.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:39 AM on September 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


The key is that the line "I want to believe" doesn't actually mean what people think it means.

where does marsha56 say she wants to believe? Or are you saying that about the Roswell types?

I must say that my trajectory is much like hers. Four years old when the assassination happened, then slowly, incrementally swayed over the years to my current position which I've alluded to already in this thread:

that I've yet to see incontrovertible evidence that there was or wasn't a conspiracy, and more to the point, that we're now at the point historically that (short of time travel) we'll never know for sure what happened. So the mystery becomes the thing.

Which makes the kind of dismissive tone of much of this thread frustrating. Why is it so important to say CASE CLOSED when it clearly isn't (and to my mind, likely never will be)? Maybe it's a closure thing -- a getting on with one's life, a decision to no longer dwell in the murk (and tragedy) of the past. I can certainly see the value in this ... for some. But if you take this view, you're negating pretty much everything that makes history interesting. Nothing controversial -- just the long agreed upon conventions.
posted by philip-random at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


oswald would have had to be one hell of a shooter to get off all those shots in the time he did it in

This is a myth that the conspiracy theorists have successfully gotten accepted as fact. I've stood where Oswald knelt and was shocked at the short distance. I've played JFK Reloaded and killed Kennedy a number of times within the given time window. And most importantly, CBS's re-enactment of the assassination with marksmen on a tower firing a Carcano at a moving target showed that it was, if not easy, at least plausible. All eleven scored at least one hit on their first attempt; most scored three hits on subsequent attempts. At most, you have to grant a little luck to Oswald to make the shots he did.
posted by fatbird at 10:59 AM on September 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists cling to the idea that Oswald couldn't have fired 4 shots from a Carcano 6.5X54 carbine in 4 seconds. They ignore the fact that the Warren Commission had someone test that capability. If you had been a member of that commission who might you choose to do that test? How a about the head of the NRA? Yes, that is in fact who fired the rifle under test conditions to confirm that it was possible that Oswald could have fired four rounds in under four seconds.

I have fired the same model of Carcano at a gun range in California. I shot more than 80 rounds at targets from 100 yards to 600 yards distance. I never shot for speed but found the short throw of the bolt action on that rifle to be the smoothest of any of that I ever fired. By comparison the Enfield 308 and the Springfield 30.06 were clunky and slow.
posted by X4ster at 11:43 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


But which "Oswald" are we talking about? This is where the lone-nut theorists get uncomfortable.As many know, there were a number of "Oswalds" running around Dallas, New Orleans and even Mexico City in the months preceding the assassination.

The "historical" Oswald shows up and meets with Carlos Bringuier (an important anti-Castro activist) in New Orleans and even offers him his Marine Corp manual. Then he appears on local TV and radio espousing the socialistic principles of Castro. Using his favorite (but not only) aliases "Alex Hidell", Oswald orders a cheap war surplus Carcano rifle (serial number C2766) and later a pistol from a Chicago mail-order film at a time where you could buy a gun easily on almost every other block in 1963 Dallas. (leaving the paper trail?) Numerous men identifying themselves quite purposefully as "Oswald" show up at rifle ranges, used-car dealerships and various other places, according to credible and documented witnesses. But who are they? He is known as Lee Odom, Harvey Lee Oswald, O.H. Lee, "Leon Oswald" in Mexico City (in the steadfast testimony of Sylvia Odio) -- and maybe even a few more. His alleged associations with people associated with the CIA and the FBI are still not believably explained.These are questions that still need answering.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2013


This is where the lone-nut theorists get uncomfortable.... These are questions that still need answering.

I don't agree that these questions still need answering because this is a flaw of the conspiracy theorists, to demand that every question have a satisfactory answer. Life's not like that for average people, and Oswald was both not average and not that stable. He was in the military, he was involved in politics, and he flirted with revolution and the other side in the cold war. That he would do a bunch of things that are suspicious, like giving false names, just indicates the usual silliness of people who feel like they're playing at espionage. It suffices to show that Oswald acting alone is the simplest explanation of Kennedy's death, and compared to theories about LBJ, the mafia, and the CIA, it is.

BTW, x4ster, it's only three shots in 6-8 seconds, at a distance of around 70-80 yards, for Oswald to have shot Kennedy alone. Experts have gotten four aimed shots off in four seconds with the same rifle in testing.
posted by fatbird at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


This discussion can be simplified to
"Everything you know is wrong"
...a good counterpoint to "case closed".
posted by eggtooth at 12:52 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a video somewhere online of something, either a melon or a goat head or something, and it is shot form behind and shoots back just like JFK's head does. The bullet from behind forces an amount of matter out the front and well, Newton does the rest.

I'm not sure if it's the video in question, but this video demonstrates how a jet propulsion effect can cause a melon shot from behind to explode in the front, then snap backward.
posted by jonp72 at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2013



"There is a video somewhere online of something, either a melon or a goat head or something, and it is shot form behind and shoots back just like JFK's head does. The bullet from behind forces an amount of matter out the front and well, Newton does the rest."

...there's so much "stretching." to justify an explanation that is full of holes. Might as well believe
in Jesus
posted by eggtooth at 1:16 PM on September 28, 2013


The problem with the JFK conspiracy theorists is that they try to poke holes in the conventional explanation of the assassination, but they fail to offer their own counter-theory to explain the assassination. Or when conspiracy theorists do offer an alternative theory, they never subject their own theory to the same level of scrutiny that they give to the "official" story. At most, all I have seen from the conspiracy theorists is a claim that a particular conspiracy could have happened (e.g., Alex Cox's claim that Umbrella Man was shooting a poison dart), but no actual proof that it did happen.
posted by jonp72 at 1:36 PM on September 28, 2013


but no actual proof that it did happen.

Fair enough. Except that a truly successful conspiracy would have hidden its tracks more or less completely. Maybe that's what happened here. The President was assassinated not by Oswald (certainly not Oswald working alone) and those ultimately responsible got away with it, because they did their homework, they were pros, they didn't leave any smoking guns.

Which isn't to say that there aren't doubts. There seem to be all kinds of doubts.

and so on ...
posted by philip-random at 2:47 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not an exception.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:56 PM on September 28, 2013


I tried to put this video as a post on here, but it didn't transfer somehow and I got negative feedback, so I gave up. But if you are able to see it, It has interviews with Barr McLellan, a lawyer in
the firm Johnson used, , one of Johnson's mistresses, and a fingerprint expert vowing that a fingerprint he identified from the book depository....the only print not identified right after the assassination, belonged to Malcome Wallace, a henchman of Johnson's and who had (according to Billy Sol Estes) had killed for Johnson before. The video was banned in the USA, and after it came out, the BBC issued a retraction and an apology to Ladybird Johnson. I hope you can see the video.

http://www.personalgrowthcourses.net/video/assassinations/men_who_killed_kennedy_9_assassinations
posted by eggtooth at 2:56 PM on September 28, 2013


Fair enough. Except that a truly successful conspiracy would have hidden its tracks more or less completely. Maybe that's what happened here. The President was assassinated not by Oswald (certainly not Oswald working alone) and those ultimately responsible got away with it, because they did their homework, they were pros, they didn't leave any smoking guns.

This is ridiculous, because it makes any theory involving a conspiracy unfalsifiable, because any evidence in opposition to the conspiracy theory is explained away as having been planted there by the conspirators themselves or as a result of omnicompetent conspiracy plotters not leaving any evidence. It turns conspiracy theory into an article of faith that can never be proven wrong.
posted by jonp72 at 6:43 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It has interviews with Barr McLellan, a lawyer in the firm Johnson used, , one of Johnson's mistresses, and a fingerprint expert vowing that a fingerprint he identified from the book depository....the only print not identified right after the assassination, belonged to Malcome Wallace, a henchman of Johnson's and who had (according to Billy Sol Estes) had killed for Johnson before.

All the conspiracy theories that posit LBJ as the primary force behind the conspiracy are absurd, because they cannot explain away why the successful execution of the conspiracy had LBJ in the line of fire, in the limo immediately behind JFK's limo. LBJ may have been a sonuvabitch, but he wasn't stupid.
posted by jonp72 at 6:46 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The USS Liberty attack is widely acknowledged to be a case of mistaken friendly fire during wartime; the Israeli attack force incorrectly identified the ship as an Egyptian supply ship. Israel apologized for the mistake and paid $3 million in compensation to the families of the dead, plus several more payments over the years, totaling $17 million. There are some minor details about the attack in dispute, but the overall conclusion is well supported by a substantial body of evidence released by both involved governments.
Bryce Lockwood, Marine staff sergeant, Russian-language expert, recipient of the Silver Star for heroism, ordained Baptist minister, is shouting into the phone.

"I'm angry! I'm seething with anger! Forty years, and I'm seething with anger!"

Lockwood was aboard the USS Liberty, a super-secret spy ship on station in the eastern Mediterranean, when four Israeli fighter jets flew out of the afternoon sun to strafe and bomb the virtually defenseless vessel on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of what would become known as the Six-Day War.

For Lockwood and many other survivors, the anger is mixed with incredulity: that Israel would attack an important ally, then attribute the attack to a case of mistaken identity by Israeli pilots who had confused the U.S. Navy's most distinctive ship with an Egyptian horse-cavalry transport that was half its size and had a dissimilar profile. And they're also incredulous that, for years, their own government would reject their calls for a thorough investigation...

"They said, 'We've got him in the zero,'" Kirby recalled, "whatever that meant -- I guess the sights or something. And then one of them said, 'Can you see the flag?' They said 'Yes, it's U.S, it's U.S.' They said it several times, so there wasn't any doubt in anybody's mind that they knew it."

Kirby, now 86 and retired in Texas, said the transcripts were "something that's bothered me all my life. I'm willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that we knew they knew."

One set of transcripts apparently survived in the archives of the U.S. Army's intelligence school, then located at Ft. Holabird in Maryland.

W. Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel who spent eight years as chief of Middle East intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the transcripts were used as "course material" in an advanced class for intelligence officers on the clandestine interception of voice transmissions.

"The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship that he had been briefed on and that it was clearly marked with the U.S. flag," Lang recalled in an e-mail.

"The flight commander was reluctant," Lang said in a subsequent interview. "That was very clear. He didn't want to do this. He asked them a couple of times, 'Do you really want me to do this?' I've remembered it ever since. It was very striking. I've been harboring this memory for all these years.""
But nevermind that, Comrade! Always trust your government. Always. Pravda agrees with our always honest politicians, and only conspiracy nutcases believe anything else!

Also, having these kind of conversations after the NSA revelations is fucking mind boggling.
posted by deanklear at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


He didn't get hit, did he? And why were there no secret service on the back of Kennedy's limosine like they should have been? Yes Connally was hit...collateral damage?
posted by eggtooth at 6:49 PM on September 28, 2013



"All the conspiracy theories that posit LBJ as the primary force behind the conspiracy are absurd, because they cannot explain away why the successful execution of the conspiracy had LBJ in the line of fire, in the limo immediately behind JFK's limo. LBJ may have been a sonuvabitch, but he wasn't stupid."

He may have been in the line of fire, but where else could he get such a good alibi? And, he wasn't in Kennedy's car. No, you are absolutely right. He wasn't stupid.
posted by eggtooth at 6:55 PM on September 28, 2013


He may have been in the line of fire, but where else could he get such a good alibi?

If you're arguing that the JFK assassination was a murder for hire, then whether LBJ had an "alibi" is irrelevant, because you don't have to be present at the scene of a crime to be convicted in a murder-for-hire plot. In other words, LBJ being in the limo behind Kennedy makes absolutely no sense, if he were actually in on the conspiracy. The more logical conclusion is that LBJ had no idea JFK would be shot the shot and certainly had no idea anybody would be shooting in his direction.
posted by jonp72 at 7:02 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


No...the logical conclusion is that expert marksman did the best that they could to
kill Kennedy without harming Johnson....which, what ever you feel is true, is what,
in fact happened, no matter what I or anyone else believes to be true.

Could one Arab with a box cutter-rife named Oswald have pulled this off?
I don't know what planet you are dreaming on, with all due respect.
posted by eggtooth at 7:09 PM on September 28, 2013


sorry..."rifle"
posted by eggtooth at 7:16 PM on September 28, 2013


because they cannot explain away why the successful execution of the conspiracy had LBJ in the line of fire, in the limo immediately behind JFK's limo. LBJ may have been a sonuvabitch, but he wasn't stupid.

An interesting turn of phrase "explain away".

Let me see if I understand. If LBJ trusted various actors to pull off this effort and keep their mouths shut he somehow was not to trust them to not shoot him?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:30 PM on September 28, 2013


Maybe that's what happened here. The President was assassinated not by Oswald (certainly not Oswald working alone) and those ultimately responsible got away with it, because they did their homework, they were pros, they didn't leave any smoking guns.

This is ridiculous, because it makes any theory involving a conspiracy unfalsifiable, because any evidence in opposition to the conspiracy theory is explained away as having been planted there by the conspirators themselves or as a result of omnicompetent conspiracy plotters not leaving any evidence.


I did say maybe. So I'm not asserting anything here, just suggesting a possible reason as to why there's been no actual proof of conspiracy -- because the conspirators might just have done such a damned good job of it . And yeah, part of this conspiracy might well have included throwing the blame all Oswald's way. How is this ridiculous?

And though there may be no proof of such a conspiracy, there is certainly a lot of doubt (not all of it unreasonable to my mind) floating around as to the veracity of the of the official story (as documented in the Warren Report).

And that's really as far as I'm interested in pursuing things. Because I certainly don't have a personal theory as to what did or didn't happen in Dallas, Nov-22-1963.
posted by philip-random at 7:33 PM on September 28, 2013


The more logical conclusion is that LBJ had no idea JFK would be shot the shot and certainly had no idea anybody would be shooting in his direction.

And your 'logical' position is based on what school of logic? Where does the claim of 'logic' come from? Last I knew bullets travel in mostly straight lines and armies use the idea of 'suppressing fire' and 'cover fire' where bullets travel in the same downrange direction of the people you don't want to hit.

As for certainly had no idea - care to explain the video of Madeleine Ducan Brown made the claim that LBJ told her the day before that the Kennedy's "would never embarrass me again" and HL Hunt made a remark before the assassination 'we may have lost a battle but we're going to win a war' and the day of the assassination HL Hunt said 'well, we won the war'?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:44 PM on September 28, 2013


The USS Liberty attack is widely acknowledged to be a case of mistaken friendly fire during wartime.

And who are these groups and people who make this 'wide acknowledgment'?

Can you identity them and how they have gotten to this point? And what is their position on the Lavan Affair?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:48 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, having these kind of conversations after the NSA revelations is fucking mind boggling.

Not at all. When Nixon was being impeached about 20% of the US population felt that should not happen to Nixon. And in the NSA threads you'll find Blueians defending the NSA.

A %age of the population works for the government or fears the government and will back 100% of what they say. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understand it." - U. Sinclair.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:54 PM on September 28, 2013


But indeed the government completely changed its initial story, and within 48 hours. No longer did Bin Laden come out, using a woman as a human shield, armed and shooting at US forces - now the story has him shot alone, in his room, unarmed, and mentions that the orders were to assume he was deadly dangerous and kill him "unless he was naked" (what a strange image!)

I didn't see any apologies from Mefi


Remember the census worker found hung? I remember there were plenty of theories about how this was anti-government VS what was determined to be a suicide.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:02 PM on September 28, 2013


I don't understand how any conspiracy about JFK's death could still be relevant. So, like, if the Illuminati "accidentally" hired the Soviets to trick the Mafia into persuading Castro to secretly train brain-washed Americans to infiltrate the Masonic Order and [skipping 42 steps] use Stevie Nicks' mind-control powers to induce Lee Harvey Oswald and six other men, INCLUDING KENNEDY HIMSELF, to kill JFK, where exactly would that leave all of us who live in the world? I mean, no matter what kind of conspiracy it was, what difference could it possibly make now?
posted by clockzero at 8:28 PM on September 28, 2013


why study history?
posted by philip-random at 9:35 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how any conspiracy about JFK's death could still be relevant.

And how is the NSA grabbing data in the past at all relevant now?

How is the conduct of George W. Bush and Dick Chaney at all relevant now?

Shouldn't we all just Move On?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:37 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


why study history?

There are plenty of great reasons. Surely you can easily name one example of a revelation related to this case that would be significant for more than historical reasons, if it's so obvious? I'm genuinely curious.

And how is the NSA grabbing data in the past at all relevant now?

How is the conduct of George W. Bush and Dick Chaney at all relevant now?

Shouldn't we all just Move On?


I think I was unclear before. I didn't mean to imply that any conspiracy theories about JFK were necessarily untrue, I just don't know which, if true, would be significant. Can you give an example?
posted by clockzero at 10:19 PM on September 28, 2013


I just don't know which, if true, would be significant.

Taking that position is the idea that 'what happened in the past is in the past and therefore doesn't matter'.

That is your position, right?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:25 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's not quite it, rough ashlar. I think that the past matters and didn't mean to suggest it doesn't.

Rather I wondered about the following question: what's an example of one plausible conspiracy theory, and what would it mean for our understanding of history or politics if it were true?
posted by clockzero at 10:31 PM on September 28, 2013


Rather I wondered about the following question: what's an example of one plausible conspiracy theory, and what would it mean for our understanding of history or politics if it were true?

Philip Nelson has been an interesting podcast guest with his LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:42 PM on September 28, 2013


well, that is the question. And it's a good one. As I've already suggested in this thread, I don't think we'll ever know for sure either way who killed JFK? And/or why. Welcome to the study of history. The further we get from something, the less precise the memory we have of it, the more we're filtering through the evidence, piecing together some kind of secondary understanding of what really happened.

So the issue of a suspicion that won't seem to die (that we've been lied to by the powers that be about who killed the President in almost fifty years ago) feels more powerful than whatever the truth of it really is/was. We don't trust the powers that be. Fundamentally. Some of us anyway.

I mean, what incontrovertible evidence could there even be that someone other than Oswald killed JFK? A death bed confession from somebody who was part of it? How many minds would that really change? Some previously suppressed 8mm footage that distinctly shows another shooter? That kind of thing could be faked.

It's all questions at this point, feeding more questions.
posted by philip-random at 10:46 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, what incontrovertible evidence could there even be that someone other than Oswald killed JFK?

All depends on the observer. There are people who don't believe there was ever a plan to fake American deaths to get into a shooting match with Castro's Cuba.

A death bed confession from somebody who was part of it? How many minds would that really change?

I believe Hunt has had such and there are people who've discounted what was said.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:53 PM on September 28, 2013


I see that nobody except the conspiracy theorists is even trying to participate in this thread any more.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:33 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


except the conspiracy theorists

Just a reminder about the words 'conspiracy theorists'

CIA Popularized "Conspiracy Theory" Term to Silence Dissent
posted by rough ashlar at 5:22 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


CIA Popularized "Conspiracy Theory" Term to Silence Dissent

This is completely bogus. The Oxford English Dictionary has documented the term "conspiracy theory" existed as early as 1909, before JFK was born or the CIA was founded.

1909 Amer. Hist. Rev. 14 836 The claim that Atchison was the originator of the repeal may be termed a recrudescence of the conspiracy theory first asserted by Colonel John A. Parker of Virginia in 1880.

1952 K. R. Popper Open Society (ed. 2) II. xiv. 94, I call it the ‘conspiracy theory of society’. It is the view that an explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of this phenomenon.

posted by jonp72 at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If LBJ trusted various actors to pull off this effort and keep their mouths shut he somehow was not to trust them to not shoot him?

Even the most practiced hit man could still misfire due to mechanical failure. Why would LBJ or any other plotter take the chance?
posted by jonp72 at 7:29 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


CIA Popularized "Conspiracy Theory" Term to Silence Dissent

This is completely bogus. The Oxford English Dictionary has documented the term "conspiracy theory" existed as early as 1909, before JFK was born or the CIA was founded.


"Popularized" ≠ "Invented"
posted by lalochezia at 7:31 AM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I came across the term "kettle logic" recently. It's from Sigmund Freud originally, via Slavoj Zizek. A man borrows a kettle and returns it broken. When asked about it, he explains that the kettle was fine when he gave it back, that he never borrowed the kettle, and that it was broken when he borrowed it. It doesn't matter to him that these explanations are logically inconsistent.

There certainly are real conspiracies. One example is the Gleiwitz Incident where German troops pretended to be Polish troops launching an attack, in order to justify the German invasion. But there isn't generally a lot of "kettle logic" around actual conspiracies. There weren't hundreds of conflicting explanations about whether these troops were German or Polish or Russian or Chinese or Brazilian and what immensely complicated chains of motivation made them do it. There was a plausible reason for the conspiracy, and a plausible way to enact the conspiracy.

It's the "kettle logic" of many, mutually exclusive, explanations that makes skeptics start to file conspiracies as mere conspiracy theories.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:00 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are people who don't believe there was ever a plan to fake American deaths to get into a shooting match with Castro's Cuba.

It wasn't so much a plan as a half-baked idea. However, it does make one reconsider RFK's golden-boy aura (although I suppose his brother's assassination and the increasing violence of the decade may have affected a profound change in him).
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2013


It's the "kettle logic" of many, mutually exclusive, explanations that makes skeptics start to file conspiracies as mere conspiracy theories.

This is a good point. But I still can't help but imagine that a sufficiently sophisticated cabal might choose to aid and abet the proliferation of such divergent explanations as a means to discredit those who might be onto them.




I would.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "kettle logic"

Hah! Great term!

I had a neighbor who owned a rooster once (those chickenfuckers are NOISY in the morning, and this was in Brooklyn).

When I approached him, he said, "I don't have a rooster and besides I can keep him if I want to."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


rough ashlar >

Philip Nelson has been an interesting podcast guest with his LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination.

I said plausible theories, dude. I don't think anything we do know about LBJ comports with this idiosyncratic story, so it's not really plausible. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of ambiguities in history cannot be treated as evidence for something that hasn't been proven.

philip-random >

well, that is the question. And it's a good one. As I've already suggested in this thread, I don't think we'll ever know for sure either way who killed JFK? And/or why. Welcome to the study of history.

I beg your pardon but I'm not entirely new to history. And I don't think my ideal point of entry to the study of history would be JFK conspiracy theories anyway.

So the issue of a suspicion that won't seem to die (that we've been lied to by the powers that be about who killed the President in almost fifty years ago) feels more powerful than whatever the truth of it really is/was. We don't trust the powers that be. Fundamentally. Some of us anyway.

It sounds like you're saying that the truth is less important than a feeling of irrational and unsubstantiated epistemological crisis. Weren't you just talking about the study of history? You must realize that this is not how history works, unless of course you're a student of Herodotus, in which case I would like to discuss with you the suppression of stories about people with heads in their torsos who totally exist!

I mean, what incontrovertible evidence could there even be that someone other than Oswald killed JFK? A death bed confession from somebody who was part of it? How many minds would that really change? Some previously suppressed 8mm footage that distinctly shows another shooter? That kind of thing could be faked.

It's all questions at this point, feeding more questions.


The only way for it to be true that it's "all questions at this point" is to insist upon a pathologically high evidentiary standard: the mere fact that one can articulate unanswerable questions doesn't prove anything, since ambiguity is a characteristic of reality and is thus present even in true explanations.

It's very noticeably peculiar, to me, that you feel more inclined to despair over the impossibility of proving non-empirical conspiracy theories than to consider accepting the exhaustively-researched and perfectly plausible explanation that has already been determined. Usually being unable to prove something should indicate that it's not true, or at least is probably not true; taking the insufficiency of any evidence to prove something as, itself, evidence of its plausibility is logically perverse in the extreme.
posted by clockzero at 12:08 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a good point. But I still can't help but imagine that a sufficiently sophisticated cabal might choose to aid and abet the proliferation of such divergent explanations as a means to discredit those who might be onto them.

What if someone just wants you to think that there's a cabal, though?
posted by clockzero at 12:14 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]



It's very noticeably peculiar, to me, that you feel more inclined to despair over the impossibility of proving non-empirical conspiracy theories than to consider accepting the exhaustively-researched and perfectly plausible explanation that has already been determined.


First of all, I don't despair over any of this. It's old news, whatever it is. Which isn't to say I don't find it very interesting. That said, it does bug me that so many in this thread seem to have accepted the conclusions of the Warren Commission, not due to any empirical superiority, I suspect, but because they seem to be tired of the discussion. Which I can understand, I guess, but it's no basis for settling an argument.

Second, if the already determined explanation is perfectly plausible, what's all this about? Some of it is sheer bullshit, I'm sure. But all of it?

Usually being unable to prove something should indicate that it's not true, or at least is probably not true; taking the insufficiency of any evidence to prove something as, itself, evidence of its plausibility is logically perverse in the extreme.

Being unable to prove something only indicates that it's unprovable. Last I heard, Darwin's theories still can't be thoroughly proved. Doesn't mean I don't generally hold to them. Because they make perfect sense. As for whether there was a JFK assassination conspiracy, I find it plausible simply because, like Darwin, it makes sense to me, it's consistent with how I've come to view history: what actually happened is by no means what makes it into the books, history being written by the victors and all that.

Finally, sorry about that "Welcome to history" bit. I realize it comes across as condescending, which wasn't my intention. It's more reflective of how I've lately come to think about history. What's eternally compelling are not the dates, the battles, the treaties etc but the mysteries, not just unresolved, but unresolvable.
posted by philip-random at 12:36 PM on September 29, 2013


what's all this about? Some of it is sheer bullshit, I'm sure. But all of it?

Maybe all of it, maybe not. But here's the relevant bit: None of it offers a better explanation (meaning more plausible and better supported by evidence). I'm not tired of the discussion. I do believe the Warren Commission's explanation is obviously empirically superior, especially in light of subsequent analyses and information. I am tired of rehashing "with all this smoke, there must be a fire" style arguments.

Is all of this bullshit? Using the existence of conspiracy theories to prove the existence of a conspiracy is called bootstrapping, and it's not a valid argument.
posted by fatbird at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2013


Second, if the already determined explanation is perfectly plausible, what's all this [link to wikipedia entry on "JFK assassination conspiracy theories] about? Some of it is sheer bullshit, I'm sure. But all of it?

Again, just because there are ambiguities, oddities, or inconsistencies, doesn't mean the underlying explanation isn't true. Those things are present even in truth and true accounts of events.

Being unable to prove something only indicates that it's unprovable.

Well...not exactly. What it means that something can't be proven depends entirely on the assertion in question.

Last I heard, Darwin's theories still can't be thoroughly proved. Doesn't mean I don't generally hold to them. Because they make perfect sense.

In addition to making sense, there are mountains of evidence that support those theories. But in any case, Darwin's theories are articulations of ostensibly nomothetic patterns derived from the essential character of the material world, whereas JFK's assassination was a discrete historical event. There are different standards for proof and evidence between such different phenomena anyway.

As for whether there was a JFK assassination conspiracy, I find it plausible simply because, like Darwin, it makes sense to me, it's consistent with how I've come to view history: what actually happened is by no means what makes it into the books, history being written by the victors and all that.

Well, that's not the most robust standard I've ever heard. I understand what you're saying, but you must realize that "it makes sense to me" isn't a compelling way to establish the truth or plausibility of a theory to other people.

The question of who writes history is clearly an important one, I agree with you about that. But I feel the argument you're advancing does a disservice to this principle. In America, for instance, we leave out the history of pre-Columbian people and many, many other important stories which can be substantiated. The way that the US government has systematically destroyed Native American people and culture is actually very well-documented, it's just that the evidence was callously excluded from places like textbooks because it makes the US government look bad. On the other hand, none of the JFK conspiracy theories can be proven. I think it could be insulting to people who are denied a place in official history, even with ample evidence of their story extant, to suggest that their exclusion is comparable to the dismissal of non-empirical stories which also do not share that relevance to the struggles of systematically/historically marginalized and mistreated groups.

Finally, sorry about that "Welcome to history" bit. I realize it comes across as condescending, which wasn't my intention.

Thank you for saying so, that's very gracious of you.

It's more reflective of how I've lately come to think about history. What's eternally compelling are not the dates, the battles, the treaties etc but the mysteries, not just unresolved, but unresolvable.

That's interesting. What's really compelling to me about history is the ability to see the incredible diversity of humanity in contexts I cannot personally experience. I like to read histories of, for example, Tang-era China to learn about how people lived in a totally different time and place than what I'm used to, the fashion in which their lives and ways of thinking both diverge from and recapitulate what I know.
posted by clockzero at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


a thought about word use here. It seems to me there's a kind of continuum worth considering.

impossible
unlikely
possible
plausible
probable
verifiable

with no doubt more words that could be added. For the record, I'm at most arguing for the plausibility of a JFK conspiracy, but more likely something between possible and plausible.

And I must say, it's weird for me to have assumed the position I have in this thread. Because back in the day when my contemporaries really cared about this stuff (the 1980s, when we were in our twenties -- mostly before we'd seen JFK, the movie), I was generally the guy being very skeptical of those who were arguing for probability and/or verifiability. And my contemporaries generally weren't a bunch of wingnuts. But they were youngish (as I was) and certainly skeptical enough about the intentions of the powers-that-be to have all kinds of doubts about various "official stories". No doubt, it helped having grown up in the shadow of Vietnam, Watergate, other big deal debacles.

I wonder what it says about the difference in generations that folks now seem more accepting of these "official stories". Is this fallout from the absurdities of the 9/11 and Birther crowds? Other things?
posted by philip-random at 2:26 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that official stories are more accepted now, but I don't think that's a consequence of an increase in trust of authorities. I'm pretty sure trust in government is at an all time low. But I think that, correctly or not, people feel vastly more informed about things nowadays--not just information, but analysis that gets torn apart and rehashed and rediscussed in a wide variety of forums. The official story tends to be less about men in suits saying 'trust us on this', and more about a fairly quickly assembled collection of information that has an agreed upon interpretation.

I think the comparison to 9/11 is instructive because we got to watch conspiracy theories be born, gain currency, and become conspiracy canon or die out relatively quickly (e.g., the "test of a space based laser system" theory didn't catch on). I've read endless threads about 9/11 conspiracies, and seen people try to defend the proposition that it was a demolition job; that gets torn apart pretty quickly, not with appeals to plausibility, but with links to engineering reports and reference material. One specific point that I always remember is CTers saying that steel girders don't fail the way the official report says. Not only can one respond with reference material on the effect of heat on the strength of steel, but you can link to stories about a hotel fire where an identical collapse happened, or video of an interstate off-ramp that collapsed after a flaming tanker trunk burned beneath it for 45 minutes. That's not about trust, that's about a feeling that your average bear can do a lot more legwork themselves supporting or destroying a particular version of a story. Stories that survive, like the official account of 9/11, are viewed as being far more thoroughly tested.

It's certainly possible that some CT about JFK's assassination is true. But I don't find any of them plausible at all individually, in comparison to what I see as the very plausible story of Oswald acting alone. And having watched CTs about 9/11 happen in real-time, I've come to understand that the fringe always generates a certain amount of CT about anything worth anyone's time, so the existence of a wide suspicion about JFK's assassination says lots about people, and nothing about the plausibility of a conspiracy.
posted by fatbird at 3:06 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understand it." - U. Sinclair.

beautiful quote...

"what difference could it possibly make now?"

Well, people could wake up further, beyond "occupy" and realize that the govt.'s been sticking it to them sideways since the assassination, which is when these psychopaths realized that they could get away with anything....ANYTHING....and, that's exactly what they've been doing ever since.

A lot of the posts here...the "anti" conspiracy posts, really feel like what they are accusing the conspiracy theorists of: watery logic that is threadbare. It's like Stockholm Syndrome on a mass scale.
posted by eggtooth at 1:25 PM on September 30, 2013


Well, people could wake up further, beyond "occupy" and realize that the govt.'s been sticking it to them sideways since the assassination, which is when these psychopaths realized that they could get away with anything....ANYTHING....and, that's exactly what they've been doing ever since.

I don't think I've ever read a more succinct explanation of my impression of most conspiracy theorists. I know quite a few living in the Woo southwest. I've always felt that for most of them, there's a point in the past that they'll point to as the "turning point" where things started sliding away from the American public and into the hands of the rich few. All their conspiracy theories fit together in an interlocking drama that hinges on their personal turning point.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:34 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like Stockholm Syndrome on a mass scale.

Sometimes the rest of us have sound judgement, you know.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:21 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


somebody said it way earlier in the thread. The cultural timing of the JFK assassination is significant, coming just recently enough to have been filmed by random amateurs, but the footage is at best unclear. And like the movie Blow Up, the closer we zoom in on the available evidence, the fuzzier it gets.

So we're left filling in the blanks ourselves (cognitive bias etc), or surrendering to some level of perpetual confusion, unresolvedness. I guess I choose the latter because the whole JFK thing is nothing if not a 60s movie.
posted by philip-random at 3:53 PM on September 30, 2013


"Sometimes the rest of us have sound judgement, you know."

I'm sure that most of us do....

..but which "ones" are you referring to? The ones that have my point of view (to an extent)
or the other view?

For me, to say it's "sound judgement" that the US government cares about it's citizens is absurd.
I mean, George Carlin is not Jefferson or the like, but just remember what he had to say....listen to it. To me, that is "sound judgement"...and common sense.
posted by eggtooth at 7:07 PM on September 30, 2013


"sound judgement"....like the Gulf of Tonkin? Even if it hadn't been proven to be a lie
so Johnson could send a million troops to Vietnam, you have McNamara himself declaring
that Vietnam was a mistake. C'mmon...
posted by eggtooth at 7:12 PM on September 30, 2013


sorry to go on, but that's not a "conspiracy".......it is a proven fact.
posted by eggtooth at 7:19 PM on September 30, 2013


Once again, I apologize, but I feel I have to correct something:

"And like the movie Blow Up , the closer we zoom in on the available evidence, the fuzzier it gets."

Actually, according to the movie, the exact opposite is true. He only discovered a possible murder when he blew up the film.
posted by eggtooth at 7:30 PM on September 30, 2013


well, friends, all....I've blown my composure, so, not having taken up much
space here, historically,I hope you will indulge me a bit further. The timely
point of the movie "Blow Up", is that the photographer discovers evidence
of a murder, but because of the orgy of self indulgence that is his world and
is the world around him, he can't make anybody listen...they don't care...and
eventually, he ceases to care himself. There is the rub, and the well pointed
out connection to the main topic.
posted by eggtooth at 8:05 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody's commenting, so, I feel like an idiot, or, I'm right...kinda like Jesus or Neitzsche
posted by eggtooth at 8:47 PM on September 30, 2013


we could have a long discussion of Blow Up, but I'd have to watch it again first.

I always took that actual blow-up sequence to be a suggestion that yes, someone was lurking in the bushes, but the more the photographer blew it up, the less distinct that someone became.

Which remains my take on JFK's murder.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 PM on September 30, 2013


Everybody knows the gunman on the grassy knoll was Mr. Spock. Case closed, indeed.

It WASN'T this script, but I saw something eerily similar on broadcast TV in September, 1986. I remember the date because it was after a going away party (for me).

Basic premise was someone was sent from the future to persuade JFK to fulfill his destiny in Dealey Plaza (after someone else from the future had done otherwise), lest all manner of ills befall humanity.

Could it have been an episode of the reprised Twilight Zone TV series?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:30 PM on October 1, 2013


Yup.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:32 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


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