September 21st, 2009

The Kennedy assassinations: exhibits in the art of rewriting history by the Left

Here’s a link sent by an astute reader, featuring quotes from some prominent media liberals about the JFK (and in one case the RFK) assassination[s]:

Exhibit A — Liberal talk radio host Mike Malloy, August 27: …I remember feeling that way in 1963 and in 1968-when [Ted Kennedy’s] two brothers were murdered by the right wing in this country…

Exhibit B — Novelist Lorenzo Carcaterra, September 13:…In the summer months of 1963, the voices of the right were tossing hate bombs at another young President…messages of hate, threats and warnings.

One such warning was for President John F. Kennedy to stay out of Texas.

To stay out of Dallas…

Exhibit C — Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, September 18:…A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this

That being John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in Dallas, of course…But I’ve been thinking about Dallas in 1963 because I’ve been recalling the history and how that city stood as an outpost for the radical right, which never tried to hide its contempt for the New England Democrat.

In addition, Chris Matthews said that Right-wing anger at JFK was responsible for creating the climate of hatred that led Leftist assassin Oswald to kill him.

Let’s set the record straight here, because they never will. President Kennedy was killed by a committed Leftist, although part of the purpose of the continuing conspiracy theories that have gripped America ever since is to obscure this fact and blame it on the Right. That’s not the only reason for the conspiracy theories, of course—they naturally arise from an event so traumatic and so initially mysterious, and the truth (that Oswald did it alone) is so frightening, because it means a mouse can lay low a king.

But there is no question that the Left has pushed the theory that the assassins were shadowy figures on the Right and that Oswald was the patsy, just as he said he was. I could link to tons of sites alleging just this, but I’m not interested in giving them traffic so you’ll have to find them yourself; it’s not difficult. And of course we have Leftist movie director Oliver Stone mightily rewriting history in films such as the abominable “JFK.”

As for Robert Kennedy, he was killed by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian whose motivation was clearly anger that RFK was a supporter of Israel. Unless you turn yourself into a pretzel, it’s impossible to see Sirhan as a man of the Right responding to criticism of RFK emanating from the Right.

As for the contention by Matthews and many others that the assassins may have been from the Left, but that it was the Right’s verbal hatred sparked the Left’s assassinations—that’s quite a stretch, isn’t it? But since Matthews isn’t so far down the rabbit hole that he sees Oswald as a figure on the Right, or believes Oliver Stone’s wild conspiracy theories, he must come up with the next best thing: the devil (i.e. the Right) made him do it. Even if that makes zero sense.

Rewriting history can be difficult. But practice makes perfect. And the Left has had over forty years to shape and polish this particular gem of a rewrite.

36 Responses to “The Kennedy assassinations: exhibits in the art of rewriting history by the Left”

  1. Thomass Says:

    I’d say most of their history of the last 100 years is on par with this / totally bogus.

  2. craig henry Says:

    “The issue isn’t the issue”.

    I think that New Left slogan expains why many on the left promoted the conspiracy theories. It was not that they were convinced that the CIA did it. But suggesting that the Pentagon/CIA/Texas oilmen/anti-Castro Cubans killed a beloved president did help undermine the “Establishment”.

  3. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Post bookmarked as an excellent summary.

    Never forget, and never tire of injecting it into discussions of who is dangerous: Lee Harvey Oswald was a man of the left.

  4. davidt Says:

    The only JFK assassination conspiracy theory I could find even remotely possible was that the Mafia did it because of how the Kennedys stabbed them in the back with prosecutions after they put JFK in power. Then they killed RFK. Chappiquidick was a botched attempt on Teddy. And they got JFKjr.

    All nonsense, but emotionally satisfying to some, and impossible for a lefty to contemplate because of the mafia backing of the Kennedys angle.

  5. huxley Says:

    OTOH people on the right frequently speak with certainty about the JFK and RFK assassinations without having made a good faith effort to understand the troubling aspects of both assassinations.

    There were many good reasons to doubt the investigations. The Single Bullet Theory is hard to swallow. The Zapruder film violates one’s intuition of a shot from behind. Oswald’s murder in a police station was highly suspicious. Sirhan’s shooting in terms of the number of shots fired and from what distance still contains contradictions. Both assassins were complex men whose specific motivations remain unclear.

    I could go on.

    With the JFK assassination I wasn’t persuaded until I read Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, which answered just about all of my questions and concerns. There truly are strange things about the JFK assassination, but sometimes strange things happen.

    However, for the longest time, defenders of the Warren Report mostly said, “Shut up, you’ve got a sick mind,” which I never found persuasive.

  6. Richard Aubrey Says:

    wrt assassinations:
    When everything else has been pared away, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
    Sherlock Holmes. Or somebody.
    Problem is that the paring away must be thorough and seen to be thorough.
    If there are partisan reasons to avoid the truth, the paring away can be discredited endlessly. Will be.
    While I yield to no one in being distressed as to the false memories being implanted about American history, I will add that it could not work without the massive ignorance of that history in general. If people knew their history, false history would fail.
    It’s only when they are ignorant and don’t even know they’re ignorant–after all, they took a whole year of American history in high school so how can they be ignorant?–that the false memories are effective.
    Talking to a young lady pursuing her PhD in international security. Asked me about my military service. Infantry, I said. What’s that, she asked. I guess I shouldn’t be too concerned about my three nieces, all with post-bachelor education, who didn’t know, either.

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    And those were recent events, neo.

    Consider how many people think that the KKK was composed of Republicans, who also were responsible for segregation and Jim Crow, little realizing that it was Republicans (black and white) who were the victims of lynchings.

  8. huxley Says:

    A problem with the “rewriting of history” charge occurs when the history was poorly written to begin with.

    I cheerfully claim that anyone who was satisfied with the Warren Report and the Lone Nut Theory as they were first presented is no more thoughtful or less partisan than the leftist who was sure from the git-go that a shadowy conspiracy killed JFK.

    A 2/3 majority of Americans still believe that there was more to the JFK assassination than Lee Harvey Oswald. Sure, some of the left and some of the media have pushed the idea, but it had legs because the original explanation was hard to believe and inadequately argued.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    huxley: I always found the single bullet theory plausible. But until recent years (especially the computer animations) I understood those who doubted it.

    But if one keeps up with the science of the thing (as apparently you have), there is no longer much reason for doubt. Books such as Bugliosi’s and Case Closed by Posner are virtually overwhelming in the weight of their evidence that the Warren Commission was essentially correct. Maybe the Warren Commission just got lucky, but it was right. People who continue to doubt at this point are ignoring the evidence. I haven’t seen recent polls, but I would wager the majority of Americans still subscribe to various conspiracy theories.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    huxley: the reason I always leaned to the single bullet theory and the Oswald the Loner theory is a bit more complex than merely believing the Warren Commission mounted such convincing evidence.

    These were my reasons: as shaky as the Warren Commission evidence was, the conspiracy evidence was far shakier. I also tend to believe that a conspiracy is harder to plan and especially to execute and cover up then a single perpetrator, so I’m predisposed to not be in favor of conspiracy theories in general, absent some fairly strong evidence (which was lacking in this case).

    I wrote that I “leaned” to the single bullet theory. I was perhaps 75% convinced. But in the 90s that changed (computer simulations, the Posner book, etc.) and I became more and more convinced, so that now it’s about 99% for me.

  11. huxley Says:

    neo: I appreciate your probabilistic estimate of 75%. Far too many people, whatever side they presume to weigh in on, want to push *all* their chips forward.

    Reality is usually not so simple. Reality is often a bet. Worse yet, often you have to bet, even if you’d prefer to be more certain, like Eisenhower on D-Day.

    I appreciate that you have some appreciation for us JFK conspiracy folks who said, “Wait a minute….”

    Yes, the current evidence is now overwhelmingly strong for the Warren Report’s conclusion. But that was not the case in 1964 on to 1993.

    Most people, right or left, never bothered to attend to the specifics of the debate. They made their decisions based on their politics, not the best evidence and argument.

    So I don’t give people on the right much credit for getting the JFK assassination right.

  12. waltj Says:

    The problem with conspiracies involving well-known public figures in an open society like ours is that eventually someone spills the beans. Someone who was in it or close to it blabs to a reporter, has death-bed pangs of conscience, or sees a bestseller in his future, and bingo! What was hidden is now laid out for all to see. Almost 46 years after JFK was shot, nothing. Oh, there’s been plenty of speculation and investigation, sort of nibbling around the edges, but nobody who’s authoritatively said, “I was there, this is how it went down”, or “these are the people you need to talk to in order to get the straight story”. With groups as disparate as the ones allegedly involved, from the CIA to the Mafia to Cuban exiles to Texas oilmen to the KGB, it seems that somebody would have had second thoughts or wanted to implicate one or more of the others. But so far, nothing. Occam’s Razor still applies: the simplest explanation is likely the correct one.

    I understand popularity, but July 4, 1776 should have put paid to any thought of American “kings”. No American politician should ever be considered above the people he serves. A politician might think of himself as some sort of godfather or secular cardinal, dispensing favors and indulgences, but We the People should never regard him as such. He works for us. I have no problem with common courtesy, but we do not owe him any sort of deference (no matter what office he holds, how long he’s held it, or what party he’s from).

  13. br549 Says:

    This just popped into my mind. Didn’t Oswald work at the book depository? In those days, wasn’t the president’s route through a town made public beforehand, so people could line up, wave and take pictures? I haven’t run it down yet, but I’m wondering on both those questions.

    Acting alone and telling no one of your plans is probably the best way to succeed at something like what Oswald did. Don’t forget the police officer he shot. Why would he have done that where and when he did, if he were “innocent” or otherwise had no idea the president had been shot because he was in a movie house?

  14. R.B. Glennie Says:

    Anyone who, today, doesn’t believe that Oswald was the murderer of JFK is either self-deluded or insane.


    I wanted to make another point though: some years ago I read `Oswald’ by Norman Mailer (it’s actually a very good book), which I think was published in 1995.

    Reading the words written by Oswald in the weeks and months immediately prior to his murder of Kennedy, I thought to myself as to what a good New Leftist he would have made!

    Here was a guy who, after his re-defection from the USSR, spoke of a `humanitarian’ socialism, one that rejected both the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and the `decadent’ late-capitalism of the U.S.

    (Of course, the New Leftists were just pretend `humanitarian’ socialists; as their activism continued they became the cadre Leninists they always wanted to be… but no matter).

    If he had only hung on for a few more months, surely he could have found himself a nice little place in the New Left movement of the time.

  15. R.B. Glennie Says:

    *Yes, the current evidence is now overwhelmingly strong for the Warren Report’s conclusion. But that was not the case in 1964 on to 1993.*

    Did the evidence somehow become different thirty years after the assassination?


    The clear, unambiguous evidence was there from the beginning: it was an open and shut case against Oswald.

    There was no other suspects, no other evidence pointing to someone else.

    Any statement in contravention is either mythology or outright lies.

  16. R.B. Glennie Says:

    *Didn’t Oswald work at the book depository? In those days, wasn’t the president’s route through a town made public beforehand, so people could line up, wave and take pictures? I haven’t run it down yet, but I’m wondering on both those questions.*

    Oswald got the depository job through, I believe, the woman with whom his family was staying near Dallas. (For some reason, her name completely escapes me, although I can picture her now…). This woman, by the way, was a solid Kennedy supporter, a quaker and member of the ACLU.

    He got this job before it was decided that the motorcade should pass by the depository.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    R.B. Glennie: The evidence didn’t change. Our ability to evaluate it changed. This is especially true of one of the previously most-controversial findings of the Warren Commission. Computer simulations proved that the heretofore difficult-to-believe single bullet theory was highly plausible, in fact an excellent way to account for all the wounds inflicted, plus the angle from which Oswald shot. Before that, it was called the “magic bullet” theory, but if you’ve ever seen the computer graphics it becomes no magic at all.

  18. huxley Says:

    Also the Zapruder film has been enhanced and there has been a reconsideration of the timing and order of the shots which allowed more time for Oswald to aim and fire.

    One of the most troubling aspects of the Warren Report was the inability of expert marksmen to duplicate Oswald’s shooting that day under the Warren Report’s scenario. That was a key reason I remained a skeptic of the Lone Assassin theory for as long as I did.

  19. huxley Says:

    The problem with conspiracies involving well-known public figures in an open society like ours is that eventually someone spills the beans.

    That a standard argument against conspiracies. It doesn’t explain Jimmy Hoffa though.

  20. huxley Says:

    The clear, unambiguous evidence was there from the beginning: it was an open and shut case against Oswald.

    The JFK assassination was officially rehashed in the US system three times after the Warren Commission: the trial of Clay Show (1966), the House Select Committee on Assassinations (1979), and Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby (1985).

    Two of those three times, the official determination was in favor of conspiracy.

    For those attending to the details, the JFK assassination was not an unambiguously open and shut case.

  21. huxley Says:

    …the trial of Clay Shaw….

  22. br549 Says:

    The reason, I believe, that Oswald was successful was pure dumb luck, as far as aiming and pulling the trigger goes. Even if he was a good shot.

    The three assassinations in my memory would be hard to re-create now, considering modern technology and all that has been learned from those acts. Today, Oswald would have been seen from a roof top elsewhere in the greater area as soon as his face showed in the window, and been picked off as soon as the rifle barrel appeared.

    I would not be surprised if it has been tried, we just don’t know about it. And rightly so. Further September 11 type plots were discovered and stopped during the Bush years. The Obama administration, however, aren’t smart enough to keep their mouths shut about finding and thwarting one.

  23. R.B. Glennie Says:

    huxley –

    fair enough.

    with regard to the Zapruder film, in particular, there was no need for computer enhancements to show that the fatal shot came from the back – and not from the front, as alleged by the `grassy knol’ theory.

    In the unenhanced film (and warning, I cannot be other than macabre) the president’s brain matter sprays FORWARD and not ‘back and to the left’ as alleged by the conspiracy narrators (their stories don’t deserve the term `theory’). The jerking of Kennedy’s body toward the back and left occurred because of the laws of physics: namely, when one third of your brain is ejected forcifully from your skull, the expected reaction is for the body so affected, to go the opposite way.

    Also, it is clear from the frame of the z. film exposed just after K. was hit, that the president’s body jerks forward several inches BEFORE he then moves back and to the left. the laws of physics again in action: the bullet that hit Kennedy forced his entire body forward…

    Also, you seem to be mentioning the Claw Shaw trial in reference to official investigations which found in favour of conspiracy.

    In reality, Shaw was acquitted in less than three-quarters of a hour.

    the jurors said there was no evidence of conspiracy whatsoever.

    As it happens, I took the time to find about Clay Shaw – and about his persecutor, Jim Garrison.

    This trial was an absolute outrage. It was clear at the outset that Garrison, a good ol’ boy if there ever was one, was intent on persecuting homosexuals, and doing so to advance his own career. He called the `conspiracy’ of Shaw, David Ferry (ho boy what a unlucky name) and the others, `a homosexual thrill kill.’

    It was only later, when he met up with Jim Marrs and Mark Lane that he started speaking about the militaryindustrial complex killing Kennedy…

    but, to put it subtly, Garrison was psychotic. Another term is `batsh!t crazy.’

    I’m sorry to be coarse, but there is no other way to describe him.

    One of his methods of uncovering `conspiracy’ was, when given a name of an alleged conspirator, to look in the telephone book for the person’s address.

    “Look,” he’ say. “Ferry lives less than four blocks from Shaw. The dope is that they both regularly eat at the same restaurant… got to be something there.”

    Another method he had, was to pour over evidence and search for numbers. He found some cryptic numbers in materials belonging to Oswald.

    “If you deduct forty-two from this number [I’m not quoting exactly, but what would be the point?], you get 19. Nineteen times two is 38. Thirty-eight, when you add 100, is the same house number that Shaw lived at. It’s obviously a secret reference to Shaw.”

    THAT is psychotic.

    I used to be indulgent toward Stone and others who suborned these conspiracy fables. After learning about the real Clay Shaw, I understood what Stone and others are: I would call them McCarthyites, but the junior Senator from Wisconsin was piker where these fanatics are professionals.

  24. R.B. Glennie Says:

    I forgot to add one thing that I shouldn’t –

    Whereas Garrison should be interred today in the American Hall of Legal Shame (instead of being portrayed in a feature film by a big – at the time – movie star), Clay Shaw is a genuine American hero, a brave man decorated for his service in WW2 by the U.S., U.K. and French governments – a gay man viciously persecuted, he along with some of his lovers – by a bigot.

    THAT is the man Oliver Stone champions.

  25. waltj Says:

    “That a standard argument against conspiracies. It doesn’t explain Jimmy Hoffa though.”

    What explains Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance is the company he kept. I don’t know if you could say, in that company, Jimmy was “a friend of mine” or “a friend of ours”, but his buddies were used to keeping lots of secrets. For his friends to talk to the press, much less the cops, would likely have meant they’d have joined him soon after.

  26. br549 Says:

    Some people think McCarthy was right………………..

  27. keninnorcal Says:

    Thank you for calling out the rewriting.

    Although I can see where selective reading can cause a false memory regarding JFK. While Dallas was named the City of Hate after the assassination, it had truly earned the title before 1963. Picture a woman, dressed in red, white & blue, spitting in Lady Bird Johnson’s face. Those that want to conflate events will do so regardless of what really happened.

  28. R.B. Glennie Says:

    *Some people think McCarthy was right*

    McCarthy was wrong with respect to his reckless accusations anyone and everyone whom he wished to defame.

    There WERE communist spies inside and outside the U.S. government before and during his rise to the top: the rosenbergs, white, and so on.

    But to go around accusing Gen. George Marshall of being a Communist – friggin’ George Marshall for heaven’s sake, that’s not being patriotic in defence of your country, that’s being a reckless opportunist.

    And you know what? This recklessness brought the entire, just and righteous movement against Communism into disrepute.

    McCarthy, the witchhunter who made the world safe for witches.

  29. huxley Says:

    R.B. Glennie: The Clay Shaw trial was settled in favor of Shaw. Although some jurors were interviewed afterward and said they were convinced of conspiracy but not of Shaw’s role. It is the other two cases I listed which favored conspiracy.

    Even as a Warren Report skeptic, I was aware that Garrison’s investigation of Shaw had been a travesty and I wished that Stone had used a different framework for exploring the assassination.

  30. huxley Says:

    R.B. Glennie: Investigators faced several large problems in reconstructing the bullets, wounds, and timing in the JFK assassination.

    The enhancement of the Zapruder film was useful for “jiggle analysis” and examining JFK and Connally for clues as to when and how they had been wounded, thus lengthening the window of time for Oswald to shoot. The enhancement was also necessary for your point about the initial forward head snap.

    The claim was not that the blood and brains went “backward and to the left” but that JFK’s body did — which it did — and that is hard to explain with a shot from behind. The jet effect could explain a mild head snap but not lifting JFK’s head and torso. The current thinking is that a neuromuscular spasm combined with Kennedy’s back brace caused that drastic body movement to the back and to the left.

    Ah me … this stuff seemingly goes on forever.

    In any event, one’s instinctive response in viewing the Zapruder film is that the final head shot was from JFK’s front and right. With all the other anomalies, irregularities, handwaving explanations, withheld evidence, and unexplored avenues, the Warren Report failed to convince many people, and over time the skeptics won the propaganda war.

    There was little substantial defense of the Lone Assassin Theory until Posner (1993) and Bugliosi (2007) — far too late.

  31. huxley Says:

    Unfortunately for us, the economic turnaround in Germany was caused by a complete and unconditional embrace of Free Market Economics, and that doesn’t seem to be likely here in the good ol’ USA.

    Giles: I’d hardly call the German economic model the result of a “complete and unconditional embrace of Free Market Economics.” For instance, consider this wiki quote:

    the German model of a rigidly structured and regulated economy has become more attractive, as part of the financial crisis could be attributed to a lack of regulation associated with laissez-faire capitalism.

    The US periodically tilts between the right and the left. I see no reason that it won’t tilt right again.

  32. huxley Says:

    woops … wrong topic.

  33. R.B. Glennie Says:

    *The claim was not that the blood and brains went “backward and to the left” but that JFK’s body did — which it did — and that is hard to explain with a shot from behind. The jet effect could explain a mild head snap but not lifting JFK’s head and torso. The current thinking is that a neuromuscular spasm combined with Kennedy’s back brace caused that drastic body movement to the back and to the left.*

    I misstated what I intended to say: which is not the brains when `back and to the left’, but that Kennedy’s body did so in reaction to the fatal wound.

    I will restate my objections to the conspiracy fables that were spread after 1963, by referring to the Z. film itself.

    Namely, if before enhancement by computer technology (the jerk forward and brain matter hurtling forward are clearly visible on the original film, but no matter…), it was impossible to `defend the lone assassin theory’, how could it thus support an entirely more fancible theory that assassins shot from behind the `picket’ (stockade) fence, the grassy knoll or wherever?

    I think Bugliosi had it right: the Z. film is not, in itself, conclusive evidence of everything. Put together with other evidence, however, it does uphold the `lone assassin’ theory; it DOES NOT support any proferred `theory’ of conspiracy.


  34. huxley Says:

    R.B. Glennie: Well, it’s been fun to rehash the ol’ JFK assassination!

    Your point seems to be that the conspiracy theorists never concocted a persuasive conspiracy theory for the JFK assassination.

    True. But you miss the point that the onus was on the Warren Commission to convince people beyond a reasonable doubt that Oswald was the lone assassin.

    They failed. Once the theory that Oswald was the lone assassin failed, there was no other explanation than conspiracy, even if the details were unknown.

    Additionally JFK, by making mortal enemies with the mob, CIA, anti-Castro Cubans, and right-wing militia types, set himself up as the American president most likely to be assassinated by conspiracy.

    And Oswald was an incredibly odd bird whose path intersected with all those elements as well as White Russian emigres, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the KGB.

    The JFK assassination was a perfect storm that yielded an astonishing amount of confusion. We’re lucky, I suppose, that we didn’t blunder into WW III or the delegitimization of the government.

    I understand the Warren Commission’s objective to settle the assassination quickly and decisively so that the US could return to normalcy and its mission in the world. But the Commission failed to make the sale because they could not nail down the peculiarities of the shooting in Dealey Plaza and the all strangenesses surrounding Oswald.

    And here we are.

  35. huxley Says:

    There were three crucial problems with the Warren Report’s account of the shooting:

    1) Oswald shot three times within 5.6 secs hitting JFK twice.

    The WC was not able to duplicate this feat with expert marksmen.

    2) The second shot — the Magic Bullet — caused seven separate wounds in JFK and Connally. It lodged in Connally’s leg then rolled onto his stretcher where it was recovered later.

    This is a bizarre story and the path of the bullet made little sense.

    The WC failed to provide suitable visual reconstruction of the bullet’s path. The WC attempted to duplicate the “pristine” condition of the Magic Bullet by firing bullets through a cadaver and the results did not match the Magic Bullet at all.

    Three of the seven members of the Warren Commission went on record as doubting the Magic Bullet Theory.

    3) The third shot — the head shot — as shown in the Zapruder film made it look like Kennedy had been struck with a baseball bat from the front-right. Any person watching the Zapruder film instinctively felt that JFK had been shot from the front.

    The WC made no attempt whatsoever to explain this. The Zapruder film was unavailable for years and the stills from the film which was shown in the Warren Report were conveniently reversed so that the sequence made it look like JFK’s head was rocketed forward instead of back.


    I submit that any person persuaded by the Warren Report’s account of the shooting did not bother to think deeply or critically about the assassination but just accepted what they were told.

  36. Hey Kids! You Too Can Be Mindless Zombies! « ricketyclick Says:

    […] But the thing causing me the most stomach lining at the moment is this video: [Direct link] This, folks, is blatant political brainwashing of children. This is the cult of personality. This is worship of the man, not respect for the office. I’m uncomfortable with idolizing Presidents like Washington, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. FDR gets far too much credit, and did enormous damage. [Wickard v Filburn. FDR, I spit on your “commerce clause”, and I spit on you.] I can only shake my head at the canonization of JFK. […]

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