Lee Harvey Oswald did it.
November 23, 2003 2:53 PM   Subscribe

There was no conspiracy in the assassination of JFK, according to a new BBC documentary broadcast tonight. Offering a CG reconstruction of the plaza based on the Zapruder film and interviews with people who knew people, convincing evidence was offered that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman acting on his own. Essentially that all these people are misguided. It also carefully worked through some of the other theories, Cuban and Mob and had very few nice things to say about Oliver Stone. For example, there wasn't a magic bullet because the diagram in the film is wrong -- Texas Governor John Connally wasn't sitting directly in front of the president, but below and just off the side, so the round just went in a straight line. This was tragedy effecting millions perpetrated by one man. How often have we heard that story?
posted by feelinglistless (59 comments total)
The account of Oswald's tortured personality by his brother and those who knew him points to a loner desperate to secure some kind of fame in a world which rejected him.

Nowadays he would probably try to get on Big Brother.

ha ha!

i just watched that programme and it is astonishing to think that oswald changed the course of world history all by himself (from what it would have been, i guess).
posted by mokey at 3:10 PM on November 23, 2003

"How often have we heard that story?"

Well, the whole JFK assassination thing was done to death just two days ago. ;)

However, I did watch the program and it does give some fairly compelling evidence to dispel pretty much every consipiracy theory regarding Kennedy's assassination.

What a lot of people seem to forget is that Oliver Stone's version of events is a highly polished psuedo-documentary designed to do one thing - sell lots of cinema tickets - as after all, a movie re-presenting the same information that was publicised in the 1960's wasn't exactly going to 'wow' 1990's cinemagoers.
posted by metaxa at 3:14 PM on November 23, 2003

Watched it too... bit overlong, but did some nice debunking of the Oliver Stone stuff. I liked the bit where the 89-year old guy demonstrated that it was indeed possible to fire a bolt-action rifle three times in 8 seconds, and they went through Oswald's shooting scorecards to show that he could fire accurately even in high-speed shooting over a much longer range than 88 yards.

Not that it will convince any conspiracy theorists of course. Except that the BBC are involved in the cover-up...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:23 PM on November 23, 2003

Great, now you guys are going to tell me that we actually landed on the moon.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:36 PM on November 23, 2003

Well, the whole JFK assassination thing was done to death just two days ago. ;)

I was of course offering a reaction to that thread. No really.

Anyway, after seeing the show, I'm utterly convinced LHO acted alone. And that Oliver Stone writes fantasy better than Tolkein.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:47 PM on November 23, 2003

This was tragedy effecting millions perpetrated by one man. How often have we heard that story?

I am convinced this is why conspiracy people don't let it rest. The idea that one man could have such an out-of-proportion affect on things.
posted by umberto at 3:47 PM on November 23, 2003

back...and to the left.
back...and to the left.
back...and to the left.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:48 PM on November 23, 2003

This is no time for goddamn aerobcs, Katemonkey. Don't you realise...
posted by boneybaloney at 4:11 PM on November 23, 2003

Just watched the programme - compelling stuff on the single bullet theory (although I seem to remember something about the bullet landing in the limo in a funny position? And something else about bullets turning in bodies?) which made sense.

That second bullet on the Zapruder always looks confusing though, but it is what I think an exit wound would look like (in no hurry to confirm this) which again suggests Oswald as the only shooter.

Unfortunately the doc was not terribly balanced beyond this. It's great to complain about JFK fictionalisting and dramatising the events, but documentaries do exactly the same - the change of frame and genre alone is not enough.

Eg. the sniper-sight viewpoint showed a fluid moving target that did nothing to consider recoil, reloading and re-aiming, whereas the 89-yr old fellow ("Mr Smith is EIGHTY-NINE YEARS OLD" intones the Gavin Esler voiceover) showed the actual process...
posted by klaatu at 4:11 PM on November 23, 2003

I don't know about conspiracies or anything like that, but I do wonder how the back of a man's head blows out when shot from behind....
posted by Eekacat at 4:16 PM on November 23, 2003

Well Eekacat, when a bullet goes into a skull, it makes a small hole when it goes in and a big hole when it goes out. I learned that watching CSI:Miami. ..And Gallagher.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:27 PM on November 23, 2003

How Does One Get Brain Matter Out Of Ones Dress?

Answer Me That Martha Stewart!
posted by Dreamghost at 4:40 PM on November 23, 2003

Way to miss the point, Zach: the bullet entered from behind (LHO was to the rear: his bullet entered from the rear > small hole; so the big hole should be in the front), but the big hole was not in the front, it was in the rear. So the entry point was in the front...making more than one sniper ... conspiracy.

back...and to the left.
back...and to the left.
back...and to the left.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:48 PM on November 23, 2003

"So there, we have figured it out, go back to bed America, your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed America, your government is in control again."
posted by Hildago at 4:49 PM on November 23, 2003

Nowadays he would probably try to get on Big Brother.

Now here's something you'd need a TV (and very low self-esteem) to know about:

On this summer's edition of American "Big Brother" on CBS, the role of the "token old guy" was a retired FBI agent who, in addition to being a "father figure" for the younger players who eventually voted him out of the house, spent much of the brain-numbingly dull time on the show telling all the other players about all he had learned about the Kennedy Assassination an its investigation, and his firm conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

I mean, if you can't trust the "token old guy" on "Big Brother", who CAN you trust?
posted by wendell at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2003

I didn't miss the point, Dash. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 5:05 PM on November 23, 2003

I saw the show and thought it was crap. It may well be that the single-shooter theory is correct; the analysis of the angles and positions seemed convincing, though I won't be convinced until I hear from a less biased source. Come on, they didn't interview a single serious critic of their position! Ninety percent of it was people saying "I knew X and believe me, he would never have done that!" Give me a break. And their "evidence" that Oswald acted alone was pathetic. I know a guy who lived in New Orleans and Dallas and knows a lot about the mob-Cuban connections involved, and he's pretty sure Ruby was acting for somebody else. I'm not saying I take his word for it, much less that you should, I'm just saying there's a lot of stuff they didn't get into and may never be cleared up. If you let yourself be convinced by an ABC special... well, you haven't used your time here on MetaFilter well.
posted by languagehat at 5:44 PM on November 23, 2003

For the definitive text on the JFK assassination, read Gerald Posner's “Case Closed." A very level-headed approach to the entire tragedy.
posted by scalz at 5:54 PM on November 23, 2003

JFK was possibly the low point of John Candy's short but brilliant career. The rest of them were just the usual b-list garbage reading an overwrought script to a director who was jerking himself off.

That said, this new loser-lone-gunman meme is showing up from so many directions, usually with its own pitch-man (FOX, NPR, BBC all had "guests" talking about the virtues of this new understanding) that it creeps me out just as much as JFK did.

I didn't like having Oliver Stone panting and tugging on my lapel, and I don't like supposed lefties telling me I'm too paranoid. Is this the new "Schwarzenegger center" all the kids are talkin' about?
posted by squirrel at 6:11 PM on November 23, 2003

I loved the movie, it is so compelling to me, if I watch just one minute of it, I gotta watch the whole thing. As movie-goers, we know the accuracy is dubious. but it nicely portrays different ideas and has surely stimulated a lot of debate. GO OLIVER!
posted by wuakeen at 7:33 PM on November 23, 2003

"this new loser-lone-gunman meme is showing up from so many directions, usually with its own pitch-man"

There is a weird resonance between the JFK "Lone Gunman" assassination theory and the "Lone Al-Qaeda terrorists" theory of the September 11th attacks.

But the anomalies seem to pile up much more deeply around 9-11 - this may just be due to the ability of the internet to facilitate evidence gathering.

Still - what, exactly, was Jeb Bush's connection to the flight school in Florida where the Sept. 11th hijackers were trained?

Meanwhile, anyone who pooh-poohs the existence of conspiracies is amazingly ignorant of (well-documented) history.
posted by troutfishing at 7:51 PM on November 23, 2003

troutfishing, that's exactly what I'm talking about. This new Oswald-acted-alone media event seems spun of the same fabric as the Iraq invasion defense. Don't get caught trying to look behind the curtain... people are going to think you're wearing an aluminum foil hat. Groupthink works when people are scared.
posted by squirrel at 8:59 PM on November 23, 2003

In terms of the exit wound from the final headshot, it looks to me that it was kind of the upper front part of the head that explodes outwards. And the cloud of blood and brain matter seems to be mostly forward. That would be fairly consistant with an entry point in the upper back part of the head. Given that, I'm pretty sure, JFK was leaning forward by the time of that shot. And that matches with the medical report, according to the ABC special (from several days ago, which, oddly enough, sounds identical to the BBC (down to several exact scene elements) other than who was narrating), that says there was a small hole in the back of JFKs head.
posted by skynxnex at 9:11 PM on November 23, 2003

squirrel - i know. "pay no mention to the man behind the curtain.......urtain......urtain......urt......"
posted by troutfishing at 9:15 PM on November 23, 2003

JFK: Its important to remember that Stone's film is told through Jim Garrison's eyes. If you've read any of Garrison's work, you'll find that the film a pretty accurate representation of his point of view. The Johnson thing is not Stone's "spectacularly nutty theory" -- its Garrison's. Of course, Stone's motivations for choosing that material are another ball of wax, but I've always felt strongly that Stone's true motivation in making JFK was to encourage us to ask the questions, not necessarily to present Garrison's answers as the definitive answers. Garrison's story - his developing obsession with the Assassination - is a compelling bit of Americana, even if you think he's a nutjob.

If you've never read Mark Lane's Plausible Denial I recommend it. Don't be put off by the fact that Lane has a reputation as a grandstanding attention-seeker. The story of the E. Howard Hunt libel trial is a fascinating one, and most people forget that Lane et al won the case. I wouldn't term myself as "a believer" by any stretch of the imagination, but rather as someone who believes that asking questions is a good thing, and I'm fairly sure that no one can deny that the Warren commission asked very few tough questions, which is why we have the deluge of theories we see today.
posted by anastasiav at 9:48 PM on November 23, 2003

Posner addresses the "Why did his head jerk back after getting shot from behind?" question in this PBS interview (about 2/3 of the way down).

Then again, I know a guy who swears he saw Posner and Danny Ferrie together ...
posted by Daze at 9:49 PM on November 23, 2003

Wasn't this actually an ABC Peter Jennings documentary, not a BBC one?
posted by smackfu at 10:10 PM on November 23, 2003

Sad to see so many people swallowing so much tripe without a gag reflex kicking in.

Where to begin. How about the explanation of why Kennedy's head goes (as they say) "back and to the left": First, as the cortex of the brain is destroyed, a neuromuscular response shoots down the spine, sending a seizure through the body. The body's muscles twitch, with the large muscles in the back predominating.

Ah. So it's a friggin' muscle spasm? Is that it? The reason why the science of momentum and force is so easily thrown out the window is (drumroll) a seizure? Ok, just wanted to get that straight.

And the magic bullet? The bullet on the stretcher at Parkland Hospital isn't pristine. It's slightly damaged Ah. Slightly damaged, see? So it's not pristine. Then there's the very inconvenient problem of the bullet fragments found in Connally's wrist. If you add up the fragments found in his wrist with the bullet itself, you end up with a larger bullet than when it started new.

As for an 89-year old guy being able to shoot off 3 rounds in 8 seconds, I've just gotta ask, which of his shots was the best? The first shot, where he has time to set up the shot before the clock is running? Probably -- except we're supposed to believe that Oswald completely missed not just Kennedy, but the entire limosine on his first shot. Then, for the second and third shot, Oswald suddenly becomes an expert marksman. Right, that doesn't defy logic or anything.

Look, folks, the House Select Committee on Assassinations has already dealt with this. They concluded: The committee conducted a three-pronged investigation of conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination. On the basis of extensive scientific analysis and an analysis of the testimony of Dealey Plaza witnesses, the committee found there was a high probability that two gunmen fired at President Kennedy.

Of course, the HSCA couldn't really decide who was involved in the conspiracy -- apparently it wasn't the FBI, wasn't the CIA, wasn't the mob, wasn't the Cubans, and wasn't the Russians. So, I'm not sure exactly who is supposed to take the blame on this one. But to deny that there's been a coverup is eggregiously ignorant. Kennedy's brain is missing from the national archives. Lee Oswald's military record (with ONI reference) was destroyed by the DOD. And several key witnesses' testimony was simply ignored by the Warren Commission. Even Gov. Connally, when asked about the "magic bullet" theory, said, "I don't believe that, I never will believe that, they can't run enough tests to make me believe that."

Though, I've never been one to believe the filthy lies of Texas Governors.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:51 AM on November 24, 2003 [1 favorite]

Danny Schechter's take on the Kennedy anniversary coveragae is worth a read.
posted by sudama at 6:40 AM on November 24, 2003

Well said, Civil_Disobedient.

And people who bitch about the Stone movie are seriously confused. Movies are not history; if you treat them as such, you're not going to get very far in either history or movie appreciation. Stone made a riveting movie about a very contested episode in our history; as anastasiav says, it presents Garrison's point of view, and while a lot of it is certainly wrong factually (as is any account, since we don't have most of the relevant facts), that's not the point. It amuses/enrages us and makes us think. It should be compared not to a scholarly study but to, say, Barbara Garson's MacBird!, which hypothesized a Lyndon/Lady Bird plot to kill JFK. Over the top? Sure. Delightful, thought-provoking drama? You betcha.
posted by languagehat at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2003

Obviously feelinglistless has been gotten to.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2003

I'm eerily amused by the amount of work still put in by the "Oswald acted alone" people to defend a then-junior lawyer (now turned Pennsylvania US Senator) last-minute idea and try to spin it into something still viable, making very real facts disappear, like Kennedy's back wound (I remained with Mrs. Kennedy except for one time when I was requested to come to the morgue [at Bethesda] to view the President's body...I saw an opening in the back, about 6 inches below the neckline to the right-hand side of the spinal column., said Agent Clint Hill) being conveniently relocated in his nape, the magic bullet shedding fragments everywhere and ending up, as already pointed out, basically pristine
and of course, Ruby was a good man unconnected to organized crime who was just so shocked! by Jackie's sorrow
do not worry about how Oswald seemd to go back and forth to the USSR with the US government paying for his trip, or about how spooks seem to sprout everywhere Oswald goes. do not worry about that, too. learn to love the "evidence", no matter how badly Photoshopped, and don't even worry if lots of reasonable people still seem to doubt Earl Warren's findings (the good Justice himself wasn't that happy to lend his name to LBJ's public-relations effort to exonerate the Soviets and blame the useful nut). Learn to appreciate Dealey Plaza's "tramps", the most clean-cut ever. Then, go back to bed.

as fold_and_mutilate would say,

posted by matteo at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2003

For the record - and to muddy the "case closed" waters just a bit more - one of the most compelling arguments I've ever come across suggesting a conspiracy is David S. Lifton's Best Evidence, which has little to do with the shooting itself.

Lifton's argument - summarized here - is that there's considerable evidence that JFK's body was tampered with between its first (aborted) autopsy in Dallas and its second (full) autopsy in Bethesda, Maryland.

There's a particularly convincing passage in the book where he reads the notes from the Bethesda autopsy to several pathologists - without telling them whose autopsy he's reading from - and asks them to tell him what he's describing. All of them said it sounded like evidence of post-mortem exploratory surgery on the brain.

Lifton doesn't offer much in the way of answers, but he puts together a pretty solid case that something was going on that didn't make it into the official lone-gunman version.

So, since I didn't see it: did the BBC doc go into any of this - or into any of the other unanswered questions that emerge from pretty much every aspect of the official version - or did it just prove the plausibility of Oswald being the only shooter and leave it at that?
posted by gompa at 9:38 AM on November 24, 2003

It was Oswald. Deal with it.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:41 AM on November 24, 2003

If you let yourself be convinced by an ABC special... well, you haven't used your time here on MetaFilter well.

Obviously feelinglistless has been gotten to.

I've been knocking around this conspiracy for years watched numerous documentaries and read many articles and I'm as much of a sceptic as anyone. What this ABC/BBC co-production (must be -- it didn't seem to be edited in a BBC style anyway) gave was a direct through line. It was clear, concise and mostly, at least in the BBC version, free of the sensationalism these things usually have. And well, yes, it convinced me simply because it offered some of the best evidence I've seen in all these years, at least to these eyes.
posted by feelinglistless at 10:58 AM on November 24, 2003

What's always freaked me out about the Zapruder Film isn't the bullets' trajectories, but Jackie's trajectory. Where did she think she was running? That's bugged me for years. If someone's shooting at your car, why would anyone think getting OUT of the car would be a safe idea? However, after watching Jennings' report, which by the way never touched on this at all, I realized what was going on. Jackie wasn't running away from the monstrous image she had just seen when her husband's face exploded right in front of her eyes. She wasn't trying to hide from the gunman. Had she wanted to do that she would have ducked and stayed inside the car.

Jackie was going TOWARDS the sound. TOWARDS where the bullet came from. She was gonna kick the ass of whatever bastard had just killed her husband. That revelation overtakes everything. That nanosecond showed just how much she loved the guy, despite whatever private and public problems they had. Had that security guy not stopped her, I'm convinced Jackie would have jumped off the trunk of that car, run down the street and up the stairs of the book depository, and kicked the crap outta whoever she found holding a rifle. Rational? Not at all. Her instincts kicked in first - fight or flight mentality - and she was picking fight. Her intuition told her which direction to go, and her instinct was to seek vengeance. Fortunately the security guy and her better judgment caught up with her.

Hell hath no fury... The truth died with her, and consciously she probably couldn't have told you squat if she wanted to, but Jackie's unconscious instincts tell us more than a hundred Warren reports, or a thousand conspiracy theories. For Jackie, the bullets were only coming from one direction, and she was moving toward that direction. Towards the book depository. That indicates it was a lone gunman. It's not conclusive. None of this is conclusive.

We'll never know for sure of course. Jack Ruby saw to that. Had we gotten a fair and impartial trial for LHO, I doubt the world would be as freaked out over the whole thing. Sure conspiracy theories would have abounded during the trial but eventually a judge and a jury of his peers woulda decided, the appeal process would have kicked in, and the American public would have been bored to death by the time an irrefutable decision was made. The truth would have willed out, had Jack Ruby remained silent. But he did not, and thus robbed from the American people the ultimate opportunity to know the truth then and there, and once and for all.

That's why after forty years people still argue this whole thing. We never found any reasonable level of closure for any of this, because Ruby took the law into his own hands. Each individual ultimately has to find an acceptable answer for themselves. For me, the JFK assassination is a perpetual Shroedinger's Cat In A Box. It could be a lone gunman. It could be several. It could be any of the conspiracy theories or something no one's deciphered yet. It's a computer generated instant replay performed over and over for an entire generation. Either answer we come up with, whether it was an international conspiracy or a single crazed mind, neither answer offers closure. Both are equally frightening and unbelievable. To think this was possible. That it's still possible. We want to know the truth so we can prepare against it in the future, but we can never know for sure.

The evidence points to the most logical conclusion being that LHO acted alone. However, if your conspiracy theories involve government coverups, then all evidence has been tainted and can't be deemed admissible. The very ones who collected the evidence become suspect, because they may have been working for the mob, or the CIA may have 'gotten' to them, or maybe some of them were communists, or a combination of all the above and more.

So everything and anything is possible! No wonder many find this to be the most obsessive and fascinating moment in 20th century's history. You may choose to accept an answer for yourself, but there's no way to be 100% certain. That's why it's like a Shroedinger's Cat for me. The box will forever be unopened. The cat will forever either be alive or dead. There's no way to know for sure.

Forty years later, it amazes me it still matters to us the way it does, and it still amazes me every time I drive out of downtown Dallas towards I-35, and I get that eerie chill down my back knowing that, with but a few cosmetic differences thanks to time, what I'm seeing out my windshield is similar to the last images that burned JFK's retinas. Dealy Plaza to the right. The court building to the left. Before me a bridge overpass and a winding road. The book depository behind me. Driving past Dealey Plaza is always like walking over a grave to me.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:14 AM on November 24, 2003

In answer to the point that Stone's 'JFK' is only a representation of Jim Garrison's viewpoint, well... in the aforementioned documentary, there was a clip of Oliver Stone saying that this wasn't the case, and that he had taken poetic licence by putting into Garrison's mouth an amalgam of nearly 30 years of conspiracy theorising. So there.
posted by boneybaloney at 11:34 AM on November 24, 2003

Anyone who really takes the lone gunman theory seriously is really disturbed. The scariest part: the current heads of state for the two Cold War rivals, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, are the respective sons of the CIA and KGB czars from that era.

An ounce of perspective is all you need...
posted by zekinskia at 12:28 PM on November 24, 2003

Found a pretty nice message in Snope's discussion area that provides a link to someone who demonstrates why the killing shot came from behind, replete with the clearest pictures I've seen to date. Moreover, he also inverts the color to better illustrate the direction of the bloody cloud of ejecta from the head wound.
posted by RavinDave at 12:41 PM on November 24, 2003

Anyone who really takes the lone gunman theory seriously is really disturbed.

So considering that there wasn't more than three shots, that they appeared from the book depository, two of them his JFK and the governer from that same direction, the direction both that and Jackie turned to, from the same rifle disposed of on the scene and no one else was hit. Where was the other gunman.

On the programme, it was demonstrated that the only evidence of a fourth shot, which supposedly came from the grassy knoll, was a recording from the microphone of a policeman who was supposedly in the vacinity of the depository. This evidence was brought to light by three scientists in the closing days of an inquest during the late sevenites. Using the CG plaza, the gap between place where the cop was supposed to be and where he actually was half a mile down the road were shown. Apart from the fact that the audio on the tape was filled with crackle, his and pop anyway, when the cop testified he said he was nowhere near the place the scientist said he must be. In the programme we say an 8mm film, clearer than the Zapruder taken at the time that the cop should have been getting into the position to record the fourth shot and he's nowhere to be seen -- he disappears from view about fifteen seconds before. The three scientists refused to be interviewed, which a conspiracy theorist would no doubt suggest was because they were got at. Actually it's more likely embarassment at having fuelled another twenty years of speculation using late seventies technology.

There was a lone gunman. This is no longer theory, it's fact. Which in it's own way is quite disturbing. But no more disturbing than watching JFK and know how some of the fiction in there has become truth for some people even though it's about as factual as Tolkein.

Funnily enough I mentioned all this to a couple of people today and they were clear that there was a lone gunman, but they wondered who Oswald was working for, as though there isn't any possibility the man would just shoot the president in cold blood in an attempt to gain noteriety. Why do they always have to be working for someone?

[My god, that's the longest post I've written here in months ...]
posted by feelinglistless at 2:04 PM on November 24, 2003

I won't get into the whodunit fray here except to note that the "It was a lone Gunman, just get over it" folks seem to completely ignore the purported facts cited by the conspiracy crowd. As far as I can see, the two sides in this debate seem not to be really addressing each other's claims at all.

That said :

Sure, there are lone wackos. Agreed.

So does this fact negate the existence of conspiracies? Of course not. Anyone who has watched local politics, from the small town to the big city level, knows that secret or semi-secret insider deals represent business as usual. Official" channels, rules and protocol tend to be reserved for the clueless, the poor, the disempowered.

Anthropologists have long noted the wide gap between official societal accounts of how things are done and the reality which emerges as one observes actual behavior ; an awful lot of important business tends to get conducted through secret or unofficial channels.

Humans collude, price fix, make power sharing arrangements and secret deals and concoct conspiracies all the time - The existence of conspiracy as a staple of human behavior is a well documented historical fact, and so to dismiss the body of evidence marshalled by the multiple gunman crowd is absurd.

This does not mean Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy -and, further, we will probably never know the truth. But I tend to be suspicious, for the above reasons, of "lone wacko" arguments, especially when there is some evidence to the contrary - evidence which those who toe the official line do not seem to completely address.
posted by troutfishing at 2:23 PM on November 24, 2003

Actually, according to at least one documentary I have seen over the years, the reason Jackie is climbing out of the seat and onto the back of the car is to retrieve a bit of JFK's skull that had just been blown off and was on the back of the car. If you watch that footage closely she seems to be reaching for something and when she gets it she sits back down.

If you believe the grassy knoll theory that image proves that the back of his head was an exit wound.
posted by whatever at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2003

The first shot, where he has time to set up the shot before the clock is running? Probably -- except we're supposed to believe that Oswald completely missed not just Kennedy, but the entire limosine on his first shot.
People whom have re-created it say, the third shot was the easiest which hit the target too.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:09 PM on November 24, 2003

This is no longer theory, it's fact.

Because of a tv show? feelinglistless, you really need to take your skepticism vitamins. I saw the show too, and I didn't think it proved a thing. Parts of it were suggestive, but "it's fact" presupposes a level of knowledge we'll probably never achieve.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2003

Part of the problem is that many pro-conspiracy people see the question as a matter of self-image. I'm the sort of person who questions authority and doesn't just believe what the government tells me, so I believe in a conspiracy. The Oswald-acted-alone crowd are obviously all sheeplike dupes who believe anything the government tells them. That's not true skepticism, that's just posturing.

This is an empirical question, which should be judged by reasoned evaluation of the evidence. The evidence for Oswald acting alone is overwhelming and consistent. The evidence for the various conspiracy theories is flimsy, piecemeal, anecdotal and speculative.

We can't know with absolute certainty what happened, but the case for Oswald acting alone is just as solid as the cases for Hinkley and Chapman acting alone.
posted by Daze at 8:57 PM on November 24, 2003

Good find on the Zimmerman site, RavinDave. Well worth checking out.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:42 PM on November 24, 2003

Daze - You haven't touched (even to dismiss) purported evidence cited earlier in this thread.

This fact doesn't strengthen the case made by the Kennedy conspiracy crowd, but it doesn't cast a favorable light on your own argument.
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 PM on November 24, 2003

I realize that I'm probably going to be called out for trolling, and it's honestly not my intention, but I'm very curious what the political leanings are of the lone-gunman/conspiracy groups. Just from the way some people have written comments -- one person gives a bunch of examples to support a conspiracy, then someone else comes along and says, "No. Just Oswald." without even addressing the issues. This type of argumentative style reminds me of other liberal-conservative arguments we've seen on MeFi. My bet is liberals generally believe in the conspiracy and conservatives think Oswald acted alone.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:29 AM on November 25, 2003

I've just gotta ask, which of his shots was the best? The first shot, where he has time to set up the shot before the clock is running? Probably -- except we're supposed to believe that Oswald completely missed not just Kennedy, but the entire limosine on his first shot. Then, for the second and third shot, Oswald suddenly becomes an expert marksman. Right, that doesn't defy logic or anything.

Perhaps he initially sighted with the scope, then switched to the barrel. Perhaps a branch obscured his line of sight for the first shot. Once he made a quick correction, the third shot was easiest since he had a clean line of sight at a slow moving object; no need for wasted lateral movement.

By the way, CD ... I'm extremely liberal, and my experience has been that the most insistent online conspiracy-theorists are conservatives. I'm basing this on discussions I've been following on some Rightwing talk radio sites. I almost brought that up here, because it was counter to what I would have expected. I was a bit surprised at their tenacity. Perhaps this does not relect the real world and perhaps these poeple on those sites are the noisy fringe. I dunno.
posted by RavinDave at 3:04 AM on November 25, 2003

I would say that the more extreme liberal or conservative you are, the more likely you are to adopt conspiracy theories as your preferred explanation, y'all.
posted by boneybaloney at 4:19 AM on November 25, 2003

Fair enough, boneyb ... that sounds pretty reasonable.
posted by RavinDave at 4:57 AM on November 25, 2003

That's an interesting suggestion, boneybaloney.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:28 AM on November 25, 2003

boneybaloney - meaning that political extremes are suspect? What about descriptions of political affiliation which use more than one axis?

Also, do you doubt my earlier statement - that there exists extensive historical documentation concerning the existence of conspiracies - not the alleged Kennedy conspiracy, but impeccable documented examples of conspiracy widely accepted by historians (and throughout human history)?

Let me start with the assassination of Julius Caesar........

Are you saying that there really is never any truth of the matter we can arrive at, that the existence or nonexistence of conspiracies is rendered a moot question because of the Rashamon-like clash of contradictory perspectives?

If this is indeed true, then universities around the world are wasting a lot of money on historians, who should be replaced by advertising-copy writers (who wouldn't get tenure either).
posted by troutfishing at 7:37 AM on November 25, 2003

You haven't touched (even to dismiss) purported evidence cited earlier in this thread.

True. Dozens of books have been written about the subject. Every point or piece of purported evidence cited here has been hashed out at enormous length elsewhere. Rehashing every conspiracy element here seems pointless.

For a quick refutation of the major conspiracy claims, read the Unofficial JFK Assassination FAQ. For a more in-depth refutation, read Gerald Posner's Case Closed. Of course, a diehard conspiracy supporter will point out that these are both Oswald-acted-alone sources. That's true. But more to the point, they're both sources that apply proper historical methods, sound reasoning, honest evaluation of evidence and competing theories. No conspiracy source does that.

My bet is liberals generally believe in the conspiracy and conservatives think Oswald acted alone.

Some early conspiracy theories had Castro or the Soviets behind the assassination. The Mafia theory doesn't seem particularly liberal; most liberals consider the Kennedys' aggressive attack on organized crime one of the best things they did. Oliver Stone's movie had a cabal of drag queens behind the assassination, which hardly seems liberal. The various FBI-CIA-LBJ "Kennedy was killed because he wanted to pull out of Vietnam" conspiracy theories come from the left, but many on the left also consider those theories loony and embarrassing.
posted by Daze at 11:15 AM on November 25, 2003

Daze - nice retort. - especially for not getting worked up about it the way most would. Coolheadedness does your case justice. But I'm actually not really your target audience. I'm still agnostic on the issue - being a suspicious type (and for the wider reasons I cited above) but I sure as hell don't need another pointless (for my purposes) and time consuming hobby ( reading endless proofs and disproof of the lone gunman theory or the many conspiracy theories ). So I'm content to leave it at - "I'm ignorant of the relevant facts!" (ha ha)

But - as someone who has spent a godawfull amount of time trying to convince people ( on and off Metafilter ) to take Global always necessary to rebut specific factual claims or purported evidence your opponents cite, even if the material they cite is totally spurious. It's a drag, but if you don't whack that tennis ball back over the net the clueless audience watching from the sidelines (such as myself) will assume that you haven't because you can't. So what this means, unfortunately, is that a clever opponent can waste huge amounts of your time by throwing out objections and "evidence" which he/she knows to be spurious, discredited, or even a complete fabrication.

I'll take your word for it that you can cite endless sources which debunk all the specific claims made in this discussion - but others may not take your word for it.
posted by troutfishing at 11:32 AM on November 25, 2003

I would say that the more extreme liberal or conservative you are, the more likely you are to adopt conspiracy theories as your preferred explanation, y'all.

Well, I'm an Oswald believer and consider myself a moderate, so maybe there's something to that.

As for why I didn't cite any facts ... how much space should I take up, and how much time should I devote to it? This has been well-documented elsewhere; go read Case Closed.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:45 AM on November 25, 2003

zekinskia: "Anyone who really takes the lone gunman theory seriously is really disturbed."

Anyone who really takes the JFK assassination seriously is really disturbed. It's all possible, and none of it is plausible. That's the beauty of it. Everyone dies sad and frustrated and that is so beautiful.

feelinglistless: "some of the fiction in there has become truth for some people even though it's about as factual as Tolkein."

The deuce you say!

whatever: I have heard the theory that Jackie's reason for heading to the trunk was to pick up a piece of brain. In fact I believed that theory myself for a long time. When you look at the Zapruder film that is actually what she does. Her hand touches a piece of JFK's brain and then the secret service guy overtakes her and the car speeds on. Kinda hard to see what becomes of what's in her hand, but it's also plausible that her hand just happened to land where the debris was and her intent wasn't to pick up the brain at all.

We're talking about frames of film, and film runs at 26 frames per second, so it's fractions of a second we're witnessing. I honestly can't rationalize that in such a short period of time, out of everything that was going on, Jackie would bother with that. When dealing with a new situation, and this was obviously a situation new to everyone including her, the mind and body resort to instinct before anything else. Jackie also looked like she was going past the trunk, and was stopped by the secret service man.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:45 PM on November 25, 2003

The deuce you say!

posted by feelinglistless at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2003

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