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My Kennedy Conversion

Fifty years ago today, America buried JFK. In what must have been very fertile soil, given the stunning number of conspiracy theories that soon sprung forth.  I first heard of JFK back in November 1983. Twenty years had already passed since his demise. I was instantly fascinated. And I bought into the conspiracy theory lock stock and, quite literally,  two smoking barrels. I read, watched and sucked up every bit of gory detail that there was available. The evidence was absolutely convincing. There was no possible way that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled that off all by himself. In 1993, Oliver Stone’s JFK came out and added the weight of Hollywood behind the conspiracy theory. I was a believer. One hundred and ten per cent. For years and years.

Until eventually, I changed my mind. It was quite a sudden epiphany. Sparked by a single article. But it caught my attention, and sparked a personal investigative crusade. For decades, I’d been looking for evidence to support the conspiracy theory. There’s plenty of it to find. But not so much that debunks those theories. What was the article about? It just pointed out that a bullet from a rifle isn’t going to knock anyone’s head back, to the left, upside down or anywhere else. It has neither the mass nor momentum to physically do so. We’ve all seen the Zapruder film. He does make a sudden and pronounced jerk to the back and to the left. A shot from the Grassy Knoll makes perfect sense.

Providing, of course, that you’ve watched enough Hollywood movies and are happy to assume that gun victims do go flying off in the opposite direction to which they’re shot. But they don’t. Most of the time they drop straight down like a sack of potatoes. You can research this for yourself. Don’t want to watch videos of people being shot in the head? Then either take my word for it, take some physics lessons or just watch some big game hunters doing their stuff. But anyway, my conversion had started. I had just learned that one of the most obvious pieces of evidence for a conspiracy theory was just a pile of BS.

What about all the other pieces of ‘evidence’ in favour of a conspiracy? One by one, with a little research, they fell over.  Now that I looked for it, the evidence for the lone assassin theory came quick and fast. It wasn’t simply plausible. Lots of it were plain fact. I’m not going to go into every conspiracy theory going and tell you why it’s nonsense. Although I guess I could. Perhaps I’ll just mention the conspiracy guy who claimd Oswald couldn’t have done it based on it taking 2.3 seconds to reload the rifle. He proves this by doing it himself, on film, with an identical gun in….1.8 seconds. Whoops! But people still suck up his story.

But let’s just say that if JFK were shot by Oswald, the Badge Man behind the picket fence, his driver and the dude in the Dal Tex building, then there wouldn’t have been much left of his head for the autopsy technicians to photograph. Then there’s the ‘who’ arranged it. Castro, the CIA, FBI, the Mob, Lyndon Johnson, the KGB, the Rothschild family, the Feds and other bankers….gee the list goes on and on. The basis of these theories is to build up reasons why Group X hated Kennedy and then make this huge jump, without providing a shred of evidence, to declare them the instigators of the assassination. On the basis of these arguments, there’s not a single president who’d ever survive the end of their first term.

The Kennedy assassination didn’t create the conspiracy theory. But it most certainly gave it a new prominence in public culture, trailblazing a path for countless other grand and unlikely conspiracy theories. They spread further and faster than they have ever done before. Thank you internet. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the vast majority of websites or articles with the word ‘truth’ in the title, is likely to bear much relevance with the truth. Or, as often as not, any form of reality. But there are plenty of suckers out there to soak it up and pass it on. The great irony is that the self proclaimed ‘truth-seekers/truthers/conspiracy theorists’ do nothing more than muddy already murky waters. The average Joe already has to wade through an ocean of lies, half truths, bias and spin in order to form his own opinion. Adding more nonsense to the mix doesn’t make the truth any clearer.

We have marked 50 years since the death of a president. And a half century of half baked conspiracy theories. From faked moon landings, alien visitors, dodgy vaccinations, HIV, the Illuminati, the death of Diana, chemtrails, 9/11, the New World Order…..it’s an awfully long list. There’s an awful lot of commentary on what JFK stood for, what might have been and how different the world could be today. Yet, he was actually a moderate conservative when his actions are studied. His most lasting and profound legacy, may well be the humble conspiracy theory.

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9 comments

  1. I was 8 when he died and over the decades that followed became obsessed with the conspiracies and, to the extent available and credible, the facts. Eventually I landed in the same place you did. It was Gerald Posner’s book that put it all in perspective. Still, a sad day and an unnecessary loss.

  2. Well said. It is interesting how people tend to project their own worldview on both the assassination and the man himself. People often forget Kennedy ran to the right of Nixon on several issues (defense, foreign policy, taxes) and then governed that way. Had he managed to be re-elected (and that was not a certainty; in fact, that was the reason he was in Texas that fatal day), he would have most likely suffered from the failed second term syndrome that affects the American presidency.

    I remember coming out of Stone’s JFK. The young man behind me loudly asserted to his girl friend: “See! I told you the Jews did it.” I almost responded until I realized that the film allowed viewers to bring their own brand of prejudice into the theater and fit it into Stone’s template. It is the beauty of conspiracies: facts are merely tinker toys to confirm stupidity.

    1. As we all know, from Facebook, the Jews did everything. Never seen a unicorn? That’s because the Jews killed them. As you know, we don’t agree on all thing Israel, and their natural inclination to extreme secrecy doesn’t always help them, but I don’t swallow half the conspiratorial allegations thrown their way.

      Conspiracies are common place. The real ones don’t have theories, because the truth tends to come out. Sooner, rather than later. The Anglo-Franco-Israeli conspiracy that lead to the Suez War is a good example. The installation of the Shah in Iran. Pinochet’s coup in Chile. Etc etc etc.

      It’s good to debate people with opposing thoughts and ideals. It tests your own prejudices and encourages the evolutions of one’s thinking. Too many people seek out confirmation of their bias, excluding all else. The quick path to extremism.

  3. I suggest that the Kennedy “legacy” has a lot to do with the birth of hope and political activism.

    You are younger than I, but I so remember that day. I was driving home from school, and heard the news on the radio. I greeted my mother in tears. The “Ask not what you can do for your country…” was not inconsequential for so many of us then. Nor was his flexibility, as when he shook hands with those who led such a successful March on Washington, for civil rights.

    Kennedy ran against Nixon, and you know what happened to Nixon. Sparked by my mother, I actually went around door-to-door campaigning AGAINST the next Republican nominee–campaigning against Goldwater, in favor of Johnson.

    There were two threads that sparked that enthusiasm in me: (1) my mother was a life-long civil rights advocate; (2) and JFK.

    1. No ifs or buts, JFK was an inspirational speaker with genuine vision. But I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. Three bullets from the School Book Depository killed both a president and the dreams of a new generation. He’s sometimes referred to as the last real US president. These two sentiments don’t need necessarily to be true to be valid. They just need to be the prevailing thought of a large chunk of people. What came after turned people off of politics. They became cynical.

  4. “Shot by a nut.” A theory that is so simple that many think that it cannot possibly be true. But that is my belief. For one thing, I think that it is difficult to keep things buried forever. Sooner or later, truth has a way of floating to the surface. And yet with re the Kennedy Assassination there really has been no concrete evidence, only speculation into this or that. I agree with you that there has been nothing concrete in terms of what agencies might have been at the root of a conspiracy.

    Wilkes with Lincoln, yes a conspiracy. Gavrilo Princip and Archduke Rudolph, yes it was the Black Hand. But you know in both those cases the facts of the matter emerged almost immediately. It didn’t take years and years of investigation.

    Hinkley shot Regan out of some sort of obsession with Jodie Foster. Maybe Oswald had some sort of secret thing for Marilyn Monroe. Who knows.

    As historian Arnaldo Momigliano once wrote, “Anything is possible, where nothing is certain.”

    1. I gave a couple of modern examples above, of conspiracies that quickly became common knowledge.

      One thing that has been buried for a long time is Jackies pink jacket. Apparently it’s kept in a sealed vault in a protective atmosphere, with JFK’s dried blood on it. It’ll remain there for at least another 90 years.

  5. The problem with conspiracy theories is that they suffer from what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” which simply means that they look only for evidence supportive of their thesis, and ignore evidence to the contrary.

    Like many of your other commenters, I too believe that truth eventually comes out, despite the “powers that be” who may try to repress it. Edward Snowden provides the most recent, best example. I also believe in Occam’s Razor, i.e., when you have the choice of a simple vs a complex explanation for something, you are probably best served by going with the simple explanation.

    I haven’t personally delved much into the conspiracy theories around JFK’s death, but I have no trouble at all believing in a sole nutcase taking advantage of extremely lax security.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, México
    Where there are plenty of conspiracy theories about politics, big business, and myriad other aspects of life.

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