Thursday's anniversary of the JFK assassination got pretty much lost in the early arrival of Thanksgiving and, here in New England, arctic winter, but this piece in Quillette is a good primer for those of you who don't have first-hand memories of an event that rocked the country in 1963 and effectively gave birth to the modern conspiracy-theory movement. It also, by the way, drove the Left insane trying to ignore the fact that a Communist recently repatriated from the Soviet Union had shot the president of the United States.
In writing my first novel, Exchange Alley, which uses the assassination as part of its background, I spent weeks at the National Archives poring over the assassination archives. From that experience, and several visits to Dealey Plaza, it became clear to me that Oswald acted alone; the shot was something that any Marine sharpshooter could have made; and that while Oswald was directly connected to the Russians, the KGB, the FBI, the CIA, the USMC and probably the pope and Queen Elizabeth and their twelve best friends as well, none of that proved he didn't act alone -- only that he was a lot of trouble.
My tumble down the JFK assassination rabbit-hole began in the Tunbridge Wells Odeon on 25 January 1992. I was 16. A few years previously, I had watched a television documentary that purported to identify a second assassin in police uniform (known to conspiracy researchers as ‘badgeman’) firing at the president from the grassy knoll. But I’d never heard of Jim Garrison and knew precisely nothing about the case he had prosecuted against Clay Shaw. Oliver Stone’s new film had a 189-minute running time (later expanded to 206 minutes in the Director’s Cut) which struck me as excessive, and there was something vaguely irritating about the piety of the sentences emblazoned across the promotional material (“He is a District Attorney. He will risk his life, the lives of his family, everything he holds dear, for the one thing he holds sacred… the truth”). Nevertheless, on JFK’s opening weekend, I took my seat in a packed auditorium along with a couple of school friends and for over three hours I was mesmerised. By the time it was all over, my misgivings had been forgotten and I was convinced.
I would see Stone’s epic a further four times on the big screen. My school’s film club showed it, I persuaded my American politics teacher to take our class to see it, and I dragged my younger brother to watch it twice, the second time with our sceptical father in tow. My father was unimpressed. Jim Garrison, he tried to explain, was an unscrupulous charlatan. And the long and sinister monologue authoritatively delivered by Donald Sutherland’s mysterious X on a Washington bench should probably be disregarded until we can ascertain who this person is. (X has since been identified and the news, from a credibility standpoint, was not good.) To my annoyance, my brother wasn’t sold on Stone’s hypothesis either. He found the film manipulative. “I just don’t trust Oliver Stone,” he shrugged, and moved on with his life...
Given what we know about the world, what would we expect to find in the wake of the assassination had Oswald acted alone? We would expect to find a convergence of evidence pointing to his guilt and a paucity of evidence pointing elsewhere. And since that is exactly what we do find, what is the more parsimonious explanation? That all the evidence implicating Lee Harvey Oswald was doctored or planted? And that all witnesses were bought off and intimidated or killed? And that a plot and cover-up requiring hundreds of conspirators never yielded a single confession? And that every other shooter in Dealey Plaza simply vanished into thin air? Or would it be more reasonable to conclude that the conspiracy theorists are simply wrong?
Read the whole thing, which charts the author's progress from conspiracy to sanity. Be sure as well to watch the embedded video, which explains the provenance, and the validity, of the "magic bullet."
That said, Oliver Stone's movie, JFK, is the greatest propaganda movie since Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, and just as wrong.