Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Less than half of the people now alive in America remember the day. I was standing in the bus line at St. Patrick’s Parochial School, ready to go home, when I heard.
Since then there’s been a minor industry centered around proving there was some kind of conspiracy to kill Kennedy. I’ve heard Mark Lane give a live presentation (he showed the Zapruder film; that was the first time I saw it). There’ve been a ton of books, including Lane’s Rush to Judgment. Milton Halpern, the retired NYC chief medical examiner, couldn’t resist putting a chapter speculating about Kennedy in his memoir about his adventures in New York. Jim Garrison, a prosecutor in New Orleans, actually brought a man to trial. (In my opinion, what Garrison uncovered wasn’t a conspiracy to kill Kennedy—I think he ran into the New Orleans gay underground, and found, without realizing it, that prominent businessmen would rather have folks think they were in Dallas shooting the president than that they were in a motel banging their boyfriends.)
Okay. Let us now dispose of most of the Kennedy Conspiracy theories:
1. The CIA did it!
A. No, Kennedy’s dead.
2. There was a second shooter behind the fence at the railway yard!
A. No, that location was under constant observation from the switching tower. There wasn’t.
3. Someone was firing from the Grassy Knoll, firing at the same time as the shots from the Book Depository so no one would hear them!
A. This ignores that sound travels slowly; far more slowly than bullets.
4. Oswald couldn’t possible have known the parade route, which was changed at the last minute!
A. The route was published in the newspaper the day before. How do you think Zapruder and everyone else knew where to stand?
5. No human could load and fire that many times in that short a space of time!
A. The weapon was already loaded long before the first shot. After the last there was no need to reload. There was plenty of time.
6. The magic bullet! It stopped in midair, changed direction, and it was undamaged!
A. It only looks good when photographed from one angle And the timing of which shot went with which bullet strike is unknown. The two bullet hits were from two different bullets.
7. The telescopic sights were misaligned! Oswald couldn’t possible have hit a target!
A. He was using the iron sights. (Lots faster that way, too.)
8. Where did the rifle come from?
A. Oswald bought it, and he brought it to work that day. He carried a long package wrapped in brown paper. He told the folks he was riding with that it was curtain rods. Oswald’s apartment didn’t have curtains and no curtain rods were ever found, but a rifle was.
9. All of Jack Ruby’s strippers died! He must have told them the truth and they were killed to silence them!
A. Being a stripper in Dallas in 1963 was a high-risk occupation for people on the way down. Jack Ruby’s brother lived a long and healthy life. Why assume that Jack told his strippers but didn’t tell his brother?
10. And so forth, and endlessly on.
A. All of the conspiracy theories depend on conspirators making plans that rely on split-second timing in which nothing could possibly go wrong, including random events under no one’s control, else the entire plan would fall apart.
On the other hand, Lee Oswald, acting alone, fits all known facts.
Among the conspiracy theorists, I particularly like the one who found that Oswald, while he was a Marine on Okinawa, got VD and it was recorded that he got it in the line of duty and not due to his own misconduct. The theorist then speculates that therefore Oswald had been assigned to catch VD, making him some kind of Super Spook. The reality is that any time a military person is sick or injured, you have to do a LOD investigation. The usual result is that the person is found to have gotten sick in the line of duty and not due to his own misconduct. “In the line of duty” merely means that the person was either on duty, or on authorized leave or liberty, at the time. If the guy was anything other than AWOL when he got VD, it’s Line of Duty. And the misconduct thing is asking whether the person was violating any lawful order or general regulation at the time of the injury. If there wasn’t an order against getting VD, or if he wasn’t frequenting an establishment that had been placed off limits, or he didn’t get VD while committing rape or adultery, then the finding “not due to own misconduct” is automatic.
So, why so many theories? I call it the Kennedy Conspiracy Delusion. Lots of people (80% by one poll) think there was a conspiracy. I speculate this is because it’s too terrible to believe that no one is in control. Momentous happenings must have momentous causes.