JFK: The Headless Conspiracy


Given the depth and capaciousness of information and potential disinformation regarding the Kennedy assassination, a simpler and more logical point of entry lies not in trying to figure out which conspiracy theories make more sense than others, but rather in determining the coherence and plausibility of the "official" interpretation and presentation of the "facts" involved in the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The relative ease with which numerous sources have illustrated a plethora of discrepancies, reliance on false information, leads not pursued, and testimony and facts that have been classified or censored for no apparent reason is troubling, and can even be seen as evidence in and of itself that certain arms of the government do not want to discover or allow discovery of the truth behind the assassination.

It only takes one aspect regarding the lone assassination theory, if probed thoroughly and logically, to dispel belief in a lone shooter scenario, and by extension, to prove the existence of a conspiracy. For example, the single bullet theory relied on by the Warren Commission requires a suspension of disbelief (a mechanism usually referring to entertainment, but in this case, the motives are far from entertaining) in order to swallow the outrageousness of the physics being relied on by the Commission. Also, the evidence used by the Commission linking Oswald to the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle (the late fingerprint, the disputed photo, the irrational paper trail, Marina's manipulated and changing testimony, etc.) is in some cases flimsy and in others blatantly suspicious. Another highly questionable and rather implausible scenario deals with the Commission's own understanding of Oswald's movements and timeline on the day of the shooting. Not only is there sufficient evidence questioning whether anyone is physically capable of hitting a moving target with a Mannlicher-Carcano in under 6 seconds, but the fact that Oswald was not even a good shot makes it almost impossible. And the percentage of that "almost" is a decimal with a great deal of zeros after it. Further, the description of what Oswald would have to have done in a minute to a minute and a quarter after he shot the president, with the various eye witness accounts of his whereabouts and demeanor, pushes believability to its limits. These are only three various factors that require validity for the acceptance of the lone gunman theory. There are many more; and all it takes to strike down the idea of Oswald as a lone shooter is for just one of these scenarios to be disproved, or concluded as impossible.

If Oswald was not the shooter, then who was? At this point I should make clear my understanding of the assassination in general. I am sure that I am not the only one to mention the overwhelming amount of information we have been exposed to regarding JFK's untimely death, and its sociopolitical consequences. The conspiracy literature runs the full spectrum, from the far-fetched and ill-documented, to the academic and extensively researched. I was drawn to the latter in developing my inference, and in that regard I relied heavily on Peter Dale Scott's book Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. Like Scott, I too find the actual shooters in Dealy Plaza that day to be of minor importance. What I believe to be more telling is the political zeitgeist of American power players at that time. And unlike many conspiracy theorists on one extreme who hold that a specific cabal of static elites control everything and everybody, I take a more reasonable, middle ground approach: that certain people and groups who are in positions of power will conspire with one another in order to maintain that power and power structure. The nature of that power and the individuals who wield it are not rigid, but in fact these people and groups are in a perpetual state of trying to retain their elevated positions. I interpolate an alternate concept of Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil" to help demystify the nature of conspiracy, one in which evil and collusion are not qualities of the supernatural or pathologically wicked, but are produced by rather mundane human qualities of greed, laziness, selfishness, etc. And in relation to the Kennedy assassination, the conspiracy to kill the president, and the subsequent cover-up, were, in my opinion, born out of old-fashioned plebeian corruption. Scott provides a powerful argument that points the finger not at any one agency or group (FBI, CIA, ATF, Mafia, Business Interests, Military Intelligence), but indicts specific players that functioned within, between, and outside of these groups and others.

Many people assume that in order for there to have been a high-level conspiracy to kill JFK, as well as successfully cover it up, by necessity it would require massive amounts of collusion among individuals and agencies. Common sense tells them that this scenario would be impossible to orchestrate covertly on such a scale, as well as to keep hidden for so many years. But considering the twisted web of corruption between the government, mafia, moneyed business interests and powerful individuals that is well documented in Scott's book and continues to be well documented till the present day (Iran-Contra as just one example), a picture appears whereby agencies such as the FBI, CIA, Dallas Police and Military Intelligence assist in the cover-up in order to keep hidden their own connection to and complicity in corruption. They do not have to know who killed JFK nor how, all they have to know is that if the lone assassin theory is blown, everything is blown; everyone is outed. For lower level agents and employees, and people not interwoven in the corruption, they see the danger in what Scott calls "phase one" communist conspiracy myth and choose the only available option to avoid war, the lone assassin theory: Thus, in the context of rumors that were as dangerous as they were misleading, reasonable men may well have settled on a "lone assassin" hypothesis for pragmatic reasons, as less misleading and less dangerous than the alternative theories already circulating. One need not, therefore, assume malevolent motives on the part of all those who engaged in the cover-up. (52) As for the years of silence, my retort is: Aren't we uncovering conspiracies practically every day? Do you really think Enron and WorldCom are the only companies doing what they did? Isn't it conceivable, even "common sense", to assume there is more corruption and collusion than that which makes it into the public eye. And if this is the case, doesn't it mean that there are secrets being kept, and being kept well, for significant periods of time, perhaps even indefinitely? In addition, in the case of the Kennedy assassination, most Americans wanted to believe the lone assassin theory. To believe otherwise, to consider that democracy could be made into an instant farce by it's own caretakers, would be demoralizing, immobilizing their political selves into insignificance. In a way, this mass denial was a cover-up on a national scale, a country-wide "sweeping under the rug". Granted, much of the information used by modern day researchers was not available at the time of the assassination, but given the weak evidence provided by the Warren Commission, you almost have to assume that "the people" really didn't want to question what they were told to any significant degree; and indeed, the mass media and the Warren Commission facilitated that denial by not delving into the assassination "to any significant degree".

Modern day research into the Kennedy assassination is still problematic, maybe even more so than 30 years ago. Along with the de-classified documents and the relative "free publishing" and un-censored aspects of the Internet, comes the fact that sources are more anonymous and "information" easier to "create". The possibility for disseminating disinformation, heavily biased accounts, and just plain delusional rantings becomes immense. The need for skepticism is most likely why I placed more trust in the Scott book. As a university professor on a prominent university press, I assumed there was a certain amount of accountability and fact checking. The web readings ranged from undocumented rumor-mongering to well-footnoted, articulate and plausible essays. I can't deny, however, that my predisposition might have played a role in what I considered believable. Like the dual values of the Internet that affect conspiracy theory, the subjective nature of certainty will always be with us. We must be willing, therefore, to always be prepared to change our daily assertions, as well as deeply held beliefs, when confronted by a certain quality and amount of evidence. This judgment of the evidence is ultimately what makes ascertaining conviction regarding JFK, and conspiracy theories in general, such a difficult and personal task.


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