SocraticGadfly: My favorite JFK conspiracy theories

November 21, 2013

My favorite JFK conspiracy theories

1. Aliens from Area 51 did it, because they knew Jack was building Camelot on an artificial planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt did it, because she knew JFK wasn't a real liberal and LBJ was.

3. Bobby did it, because he had already been eyeballing Jackie.

4. Frank Sinatra did it, because he thought Jack was dissing him.

5. J.R. Ewing did it, as a prequel to the Dallas TV show.

6. Hillary Clinton did it, because, somewhere, somebody in the vast right-wing conspiracy machine is surely thinking this. Why? She's Hillary, so it's about taking a village to kill somebody or something.

7. Barack Obama's mom did it as part of his Kenyan birth certificate cover-up.

8. Jim Garrison did it, and then invented other conspiracy theories to cover his trail.

9. Mao did it, to frame Khrushchev.

10. It was a look-alike double. Jack couldn't handle the pressures of the presidency and so faked his own death. Look for any hot blonde women who disappeared in a month or two after that, and you'll start filling in more details.

11. Marilyn Monroe faked HER death in 1962 and came back a year later, brunette wig and other disguises, and hid on the grassy knoll.

12. Bigfoot did it. First, any creature so hard to find except by those in the know could easily get away with it. Motive? He wanted all of Jack's white wimmin.

13. Gnu Atheists killed him so that, 100 years from now, they could claim he was a Gnu Atheist. (More seriously? Gnu or non-Gnu atheists who believe in conspiracy theories, whether this or another, again prove my dictum that atheism is no guarantor of intellectual superiority or critical thinking skills.)

Laughable, you say? None are any more laughable than conspiracy theories that are supposed to be serious.

Reality? First, there's plenty of physical evidence tying Oswald to the murder, including palm prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano, tested shell casings from that gun, pictures of him posing with the gun after buying it, the receipt for him buying it, and his previous attempt to assassinate Gen. Edwin Walker with it.

Is that not enough? Hugh Aynesworth, a former Dallas Morning News reporter, got a hold of Oswald's personal diary (and refused to disclose to the FBI his source). Oswald's mental problems are even more detailed there.

Still not enough? Oswald's brother, Robert, still alive in Wichita Falls, Texas, thinks his brother did it, alone, and not as part of a conspiracy.

As for alleged conspirators, besides the ones I list above?

1. LBJ was just worried about staying on the ticket in 1964, not only because Bobby didn't like him, but because the Bobby Baker shite was about to hit the fan. And, in a state of semi-permanent low- or even medium-grade depression, he didn't have the mental energy for this. In short, to use one of LBJ's own phrases? Jack Kennedy had LBJ's pecker in his pocket.

2. Castro? Fidel knew enough about Operation Mongoose that he didn't have a death wish. Plus, to the degree Jack and Bobby were thawing slightly toward Cuba (although this has been overblown), he had even less reason to rock the boat.

3. Khrushchev? The Supreme Soviet, etc., was already worried about his adventurism with the Cuban Missile Crisis, part of why he would be forced out of power less than a year after Oswald shot JFK. And, as for how Oswald got out of the USSR? His brother gave him the money.

4. The Mafia? Not all mobsters were totally in the Kennedy gunsights. Some probably figured they had ways to blackmail him. As for those like Carlos Marcello, facing deportation? Hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world in the Mob. Some mobsters probably were willing to help through a few others under the bus.

Personal reality and related thoughts? More on that below the fold.

I lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex most of the past decade. I’ve been to Dealey Plaza more than once, including on a Nov. 22. And, I even won one or two rifle shooting competitions many a year ago. Add that up with all I’ve read about the issue, and not to start a storm, but I don’t have any real doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

On physical evidence, we have his gun, bullet casings and a palm print. Pictures posing of him with a gun. And, we know of his attempt to kill Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker that spring. In my opinion, had Jack Ruby not killed Oswald, we’d never have the conspiracy theories we do.

We had four previous presidential assassinations. John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln, Charles Guiteau shot James Garfield and Leon Czolgosz shot William McKinley. Guiteau and Czolgosz were both kept alive, taken to trial and convicted. Booth, though, was shot and killed by Boston Corbett at the end of the manhunt for him. (His remains were still put on trial, though!)

Unfortunately, we do have those theories, whether of 9/11, Flight 800, Oklahoma City or something else. It’s hard to accept random craziness, especially if it involves famous people or issues, rather than believing that random craziness does occasionally have such massive consequences.

In my opinion, Oswald had pretty much the same mental health problems as a Jared Loughner in Tucson, Ariz., James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., or Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn. He just decided to shoot one famous person rather than 20 or 30 John and Jane Does.

And Camelot? A myth invented by Jackie Kennedy. Had JFK not been killed, we would have had no 1964 Civil Rights Act, because LBJ wouldn't have been president to push more forcefully for civil rights than Jack did, nor to use him as a martyr to the cause. In fact, it's my considered opinion he would have accomplished no more by 1968, had he been re-elected, likely with a much narrower margin than LBJ was, than LBJ actually did by the end of 1964.

Camelot fantasists cling to a conspiracy, those who do, probably because random nuttery eliminating Camelot causes not cognitive dissonance but emotional dissonance. Surely, that's why Bobby himself "wondered." Slate has a good piece here on the psychology of conspiracy theorists in general. And, Texas Monthly has a good list of what books to read and what to avoid.

Anyway, it was the loss of an era. Rightfully or wrongfully, people had more of a blank-check trust in the government. Questions about Ruby and the Warren Commission then led to questions about Vietnam and Watergate. Believing in conspiracies without evidence is too much, but, being adequately skeptical of the government is good. So, we both gained and lost by that change in national attitude. I hope that our country eventually moves toward keeping a healthy skepticism while rejecting any cynical disbelief. But, I don't hold my breath over that. I'm not Voter Kumbaya, even if President Kumbaya is still at times in the White House.

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