November 22nd, 2010

The conspiracy-generator: JFK’s assassination

It’s the 47th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

The death of Kennedy marked an abrupt and hugely traumatic transition for all of my generation from innocence to experience. It’s hard to convey to younger people how surprising and shocking it was to us that a president could be blown away like that, especially one as handsome and young as Kennedy.

This makes no sense—the beautiful and young are just as vulnerable to rifle shots as the ugly and old, but that’s the silly way the innocent mind works. The subsequent funeral, the killing of Oswald by Ruby, all the strange twistings and turnings, were heartwrenching and frightening for the nation and especially for my generation of young people, who became jaded and suspicious and conspiratorially-minded.

I date JFK’s assassination as the beginning of the widespread acceptability and popularity of dark conspiracy theories in America. Whether or not they made sense, whether or not the evidence supported them (it turns out it did not), people believe in them. How could a nonentity such as Oswald take down a president? How could he have been silenced right under the police’s noses by a weirdo like Ruby? The facts were too strange and too improbable, the people too insignificant, for their large roles in world history. Something greater was needed, and the imagination supplied it.

39 Responses to “The conspiracy-generator: JFK’s assassination”

  1. ahem Says:

    I don’t know, neo. Marked the change from innocence to insanity, perhaps. Somewhere along the line we threw away experience. People who have never grown up are currently running the government.

    For fun, I’ll give you my conspiracy theory: I suspect Fidel Castro has been sleeping soundly for, lo, these many years.

  2. pst314 Says:

    “How could a nonentity such as Oswald take down a president?”

    Yes, Neo, but a much more important factor was liberal refusal to accept that a beloved president could be murdered by a Communist.

  3. SteveH Says:

    And now we know extra terrestrials and area 51 is surely factual reality because somebody is saying it every week on the history channel.

    I agree with ahem. People refuse to grow up.

  4. texexec Says:

    I know it isn’t PC to believe in conspiracies these days, but there just seemed to be too many “coincidences” surrounding JFK’s death. Ruby slipping into a police station to take out Oswald? Then getting cancer and dying not long after? Having close connections to the Mob?

    Here’s a list of whom benefited from Kennedy’s death:

    1. J. Edgar Hoover (he detested the Kennedys and the Mafia supposedly had some pretty lurid pictures of HIM, with possibilities of blackmail if he pressed too hard on an investigation).

    2. The Mafia (under a lot of pressure being applied by the Kennedys).

    3. Castro (Bay of Pigs, etc.).

    4. LBJ (hated losing to JFK in presidential race)

    Just sayin’….

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    1. J. Edgar Hoover (he detested the Kennedys and the Mafia supposedly had some pretty lurid pictures of HIM, with possibilities of blackmail if he pressed too hard on an investigation

    Texexec, are these allegations distinct from the discredited ones promulgated by the KGB as disinformation to smear Hoover?

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    texexec: so what? Do you think there aren’t always tons of people who would benefit from any president’s death? It doesn’t mean those people killed him, except to the conspiratorially-minded.

    I pay attention to evidence. And the evidence that Oswald acted alone is overwhelming.

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    I suspect a major driver of conspiracy theories is the desire of many to appear “in the know,” too clever to accept the commonly accepted explanation. Ominously intoning some highly elaborate, far-fetched conspiracy, then gravely nodding to surrounding acolytes at a party, is the goal.

    I exclude postulates of simple conspiracies from this characterization. Castro (or bin Laden) long dead? Perfectly possible, easily done, and with an obvious benefit to the purported conspirators, and therefore in all entirely plausible.

    I also exclude postulates for which there is substantial relevant evidence. An example would be suspecting George Soros of complicity in a leftist conspiracy (which I do) to impose socialism, since he funds hard-left groups (, Media Matters) and initiatives (Secretary of State project) and has admitted/bragged about sponsoring efforts to undermine and/or replace governments in four or five countries. To think that he may be trying to put ours on that list I don’t think is at all far-fetched.

    I’m talking, e.g., the 9/11 truthers, who seem to think that hundreds of people could be in an elaborate plot and yet not breathe a word about it for a decade. Hell, at one point only Bill and Monica knew the score, and now natives in Papua New Guinea know all about it.

  8. neo-neocon » Blog Archive » The conspiracy-generator: JFK’s assassination | After Today News Says:

    […] neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Th&#1077 conspiracy-generator: JFK’s assassination Tags: blown away, dark conspiracy […]

  9. Upstate Crunchy Says:

    @Occam — I agree, and the term is “gnosticism” — there’s group of elite “knowers” and everybody else is irretrievably stupid. There were even people who argued that FDR plotted, or at least allowed, the Pearl Harbor attacks.

    @neo–a different sort of conspiracy theory perhaps: anti-Catholicism a la Maria Monk

  10. Sergey Says:

    Somehow I am ready to accept that reality can be sometimes very weird and improbable. This is the part of the mystery of life. One needs to be extremely arrogant and self-confident to suppose that his limited knowledge and reason are enough to explain everything.

  11. texexec Says:

    I’m not saying that any or all of those in my list are responsible for JFK’s death and certainly don’t claim to explain “everything” with my “limited knowledge” but I just think all that happened seems very suspicious (gut feel) and several if not all on my list have done some pretty sleazy things.

    All I’m gonna say on this subject.

  12. SteveH Says:

    “”Somehow I am ready to accept that reality can be sometimes very weird and improbable.””

    Very true. But you’ll be right 99 times out of 100 by allowing the simple explanation to stand. At least until evidence no longer fits but does fit the weird and improbable.

  13. Gringo Says:

    and several if not all on my list have done some pretty sleazy things.
    No argument there. I recently took a quick look at my 20 cent copy of A Texan Looks at Lyndon.

    but I just think all that happened seems very suspicious (gut feel)
    Which is my reaction to the Bill Ayers/Bernadine Dohrn/Michelle Robinson/Barack Obama coincidences and connections, not to mention the Barack Obama/Frank Marshall Davis/Vernon Jarrett/Valerie Jarrett coincidences and connection

    IMHO, Oswald done it. Was there a Castro connection? I wouldn’t rule it out. JFK and RFK tried to rub Fidel out. Quid pro quo.

    Dan Rather was one of the first to try to switch the blame from Commie Oswald to the right, when he reported that schoolchildren in Highland Park , a wealthy Dallas suburb, cheered when they found out about JFK’s death. They were cheering to get out of school early.

  14. stumbley Says:

    The joke in my hometown (central New Mexico) at the time of the assassination was Q: “What was LBJ doing 10 seconds before the assassination?” A: “Holding his hands over his ears.”

    …as in, knowing when the shots would be fired. Central NM is close enough to West Texas to have a lot of folks traversing back and forth; a lot of our Texas friends had no love for LBJ.

  15. Tom Says:

    Neo’s claim of ‘overwhelming evidence’ is what’s being cited by the AGW alarmists. Me, I’m in the doubters’ camp on both scores.

  16. Michael Says:

    The thing about the JFK conspiracy is that it is endless. In fact I have come to the conclusion that Americans love it and will do anything to perpetuate the thing.

    No matter what happens there will always be “unreleased” information.

    Same same UFO’s.

  17. William Manuel Says:

    During my lifetime there has been seven assassinations or attempted assassinations of major political figures: JFK, Martin Luther King, RFK, Wallace, Ford twice, Reagan. Liberals reacted to the death of their heroes with endless conspiracy theories, being unable to accepts that a communist, a anti-Israeli and a non-political looser could do the job. The attempts on their political opponents evidently was just ordinary. Most conservatives have not gravitated towards vast conspiracy theories about any of the attempts. So who really inhabits the paranoid sector of American politics.

  18. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It is not right, nor conceivable, that a giant should be brought down by a pissant.
    Must be some other explanation.

  19. rickl Says:

    I think the reason why the various Kennedy conspiracy theories have had so much longevity is that there were so many people who had a motive:

    1. Fidel Castro (Bay of Pigs, CIA assassination attempts)

    2. The Soviets (it was the height of the Cold War, they were communists after all, and communists have never been shy about murdering their adversaries)

    3. The CIA (they thought they had been double-crossed at the Bay of Pigs)

    4. Cuban exiles (see #3)

    5. The far right (they thought JFK was soft on communism, and some were outraged by the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty)

    6. The Mafia (Sam Giancana apparently played a role in Kennedy’s election; Kennedy had an affair with his mistress; Kennedy appointed his brother Robert, who was a determined anti-Mafia crusader, as Attorney General–therefore Giancana had good reason to feel that he had been double-crossed)

    Add to that Arlen Specter’s single-bullet theory, which strains credulity for a lot of people.

    I used to be somewhat of a JFK conspiracy buff. I’ve read a few books, and I used to think the CIA was involved. I’m less interested in the topic nowadays, but today I lean more towards the Mafia theory.

    Sure, it’s possible that Oswald acted alone. But political conspiracies have been commonplace throughout history. Lincoln was the victim of a conspiracy. Four people were hanged for it, aside from Booth being killed while trying to flee to the South. It’s mostly in modern-day America that assassins tend to be “lone nuts”.

  20. Occam's Beard Says:

    Which is my reaction to the Bill Ayers/Bernadine Dohrn/Michelle Robinson/Barack Obama coincidences and connections, not to mention the Barack Obama/Frank Marshall Davis/Vernon Jarrett/Valerie Jarrett coincidences and connection

    Agreed. It’s not just that there are so many coincidences, but that they’re completely and indisputably documented. Instead of vague and often dubious reports of someone seeing someone at some time (the stuff of JFK conspiracy theories), there is no question but that, e.g., Obama and Ayers played tag for years. Now for some reason they deny that they knew each other for half of that time (despite attending the same university, living in close proximity, and agitating re the same issue), and one of them (Ayers) having a very high profile indeed. The whole story stinks.

  21. rickl Says:

    Julius Caesar was the victim of a conspiracy. So was Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Today we know that he was killed by Gavrilo Princip, but we tend to forget that he was a member of the anarchist group Black Hand.

    In Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August, she describes how a number of Black Hand members lay in wait for Ferdinand’s car that day in Sarajevo. It’s been a long time since I read that book, but her description was almost comical. Guns misfired, bombs were thrown and missed the car. Finally Princip got lucky. To hear her tell it, there was hardly anyone in Sarajevo who wasn’t trying to kill him.

  22. Artfldgr Says:

    YAY Rickl!!!

    Pointing out the obvious humongous hole in the neo-post modern smoke screen “conspiracy theory” as schema to know its not so…
    (i so loath post post modern… or most modern modern as we have run out of naming road)

    Conspiracy theory

    Conspiracy theory was originally a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal, or political conspiracy. However, it has become largely pejorative and used almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning

    in truth… that LAST part is added to make sure we accept that its a pejorative!!! what if its a plot by conspirators with the power of lets say, a nation state backing them, and perhaps, lets say in Soros case, a billion or two of personal money to throw around, and connections to real live historically punished conspirators from his childhood.

    the WHOLE conceptual area is interesting to look at as an exercise in how telling people something and repeating it a certain way, can get them to no longer see that something all over the place any more…

    that by changing it into a pejorative, like ‘fascist’ rather than some defined thing, one has a magic wand to make what one does not want to examine a certain way, or does not want to conclude at least SOME things.

    the ounce of truth in it is the fact that MEDIA, you know, the ones that have been so truthful since the Sulzbergers and those other families had that meeting (you can read about it, but i promised to be shorter), discussing the number of media places necessary to foment ideas in the publics mind (soros has bought a lot of them).

    The term is therefore often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe. Such characterization is often the subject of dispute due to its possible unfairness and inaccuracy

    and like trained Pavlovs dogs we respond the way we are trained to, and are afraid to be the odd dog by NOT responding to it, or the social cues, etc…

    a schema like “all blacks are bad” (because the few X experienced were bad, and the news X reads more is bad, and so on), is of course racism… but its a schema which replaces rational thought and seeks to find a shortcut…

    [edited for length by n-n]

  23. Artfldgr Says:

    Schindlers list, Schindler conspired to do what?

    Valkyrie is about the conspiracy to kill who?

    the 9/11 terrorists did not publish their intent with instructions, they instead kept it secret and so it was what?

    we no longer see what they say is not a rose…

  24. narciso Says:

    The theory proffered by Gus Russo, one of those who dwelled on the Mob/CIA connections until recently was
    the Cuban DGI contacted Oswald, and the CIA chose to block the whole tangled web of the Mob’s cooperation with the CIA

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    rickl, Artfldgr: of course, conspiracies exist. I would never deny that.

    Of course 9/11 was a conspiracy. Just not the conspiracy the 9/11-truthers insist it was. Lincoln’s assassination was a conspiracy as well.

    I am criticizing the tendency to attribute nearly all untoward events to a conspiracy, especially when the evidence for it is weak or incorrect, and the evidence against it is strong. I think this tendency accelerated greatly with and after the JFK assassination.

    It is not a false conspiracy theory because it is a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are neither true nor false per se.

  26. rickl Says:

    There’s a large forum I read, which has a wide variety of people of all political persuasions. There are liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and so forth. A few are 9/11 truthers.

    It’s amazing to me that so many people are able to attribute the basest evil to the United States government, corporations, banks, etc. The same people utterly downplay the evil of Islam. They seem to believe that the Powers That Be are cynically stirring up hatred of Islam in order to deflect anger away from the “real” villains in the US government, corporations, etc.

    Of course, they have it exactly backwards. Islam has been at war with Western civilization before the United States, the Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs even existed.

  27. LAG Says:

    What day did Lincoln die? If you can tell me that without looking it up, then I’ll respect your deep fascination with the deaths of assassinated presidents (tho I find that one more importlant). But, Kennedy? Sorry–I don’t get it.

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    LAG: then you have a failure of imagination, I believe.

    My guess is that perhaps you are too young to remember the event clearly yourself? I think that people who were very tiny then, or who were born since, accept it and assimilate it in a way that’s much different than those who are older.

    Its significance doesn’t have much to do with what sort of president Kennedy was, or whether you agreed with him or supported him. It was the event itself, which marked a boundary between feeling (falsely) safe and feeling (correctly) vulnerable.

    And it is not a contest—Kennedy’s death vs. Lincoln’s. Lincoln’s assassination, for me, was something that had always been, part of history. Kennedy’s death was something I lived through during my very formative years, in real time.

  29. S.Graham Says:

    In Joe McGuiness’ book “The Last Brother”,he claims that mafia money helped get JFK elected with the expectation that he would remove Castro who had lost millions for them when their casinos were closed down in Havana.
    When RFK went after the mob and JFK failed to get rid of Castro, they exacted payment.

    Apparently,Oswald was a nephew of a good friend of the mob and a patsy as was Ruby.He writes this in a very convincing way.I am sure the Kennedys hated this book about Ted.

  30. rickl Says:

    LAG Says:
    November 22nd, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    What day did Lincoln die? If you can tell me that without looking it up, then I’ll respect your deep fascination with the deaths of assassinated presidents.

    He was shot late in the evening of April 14 and died early on the morning of April 15.

    Just like the Titanic. It’s easy to remember.

  31. LAG Says:

    neo, actually I remember the event very well and can tell you exactly where I was (Spanish class). I’m not as young as you imagine, and I am definitely not a hero-worshiper. Kennedy’s assassination is an event that relies on its (relative) contemporaneity, at least for baby-boomers, for its impact.

    I appreciate your suggestion that it marked a division between safe times and vulnerable times, but that division has no validity historically. And now, it lingers as an artificial marker of the sort to which children cling. It is very like the call for civility in political discourse that is so often repeated but that has never existed in the history of this nation, either.

    There has never been a time of safety in our history. Adults know that. What was safe in the 1950s? Did MAD give you a warm and fuzzy? I enjoyed duck-and-cover drills, but they weren’t designed to make you feel safe (“turn away from the blinding flash, children”). What about the 1930s? Not safe and secure according to my parents. I strain to think of a safe time in our history–name one for me, if you can.

    I don’t buy the dividing line–it has no substance except to the immature.

    I simply don’t understand the object of the fascination in any personal way. I imagine something similar to what I saw with Michael Jackson, etc.

    I recognize that it was a human tragedy that Kennedy was killed. As a youngish man, he ought to have lived longer, but so ought many, many others. Is his death more meaningful than theirs? Why? Because he was a war hero, had a lovely wife, had charming children–sorry, but I know or know of literally millions of others who can meet that criteria and no one knows their name except their families.

    It was a sad day for the nation, but America didn’t end. Our founders long anticipated that leaders die and our system has the internal flexibility to accommodate those losses. What did we lose as a nation, exactly, that cannot, was not replaced? Are we missing something that died with Kennedy? I’m not aware of it.

    But nothing explains for me the worshipful and apparently never-ending nostalgia. It’s beyond me. Kennedy was a middling president remembered for the image and not the substance. It’s time to put his assassination where it belongs alongside Garfield or McKinley.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    LAG: I don’t claim the distinction has a validity historically. My claim is that it has a validity psychologically. It was a perception of safety that was shattered for most members of the generation that lived through it. And, as I said, it had nothing to do with hero-worship or agreement with Kennedy himself or his policies. Nor did it have to do with nostalgia, or immaturity. People such as my parents, of a much older generation and certainly not immature children, were deeply affected by it as well.

    I repeat: for some reason you seem to have a failure of imagination about this reaction, which you did not share, although you lived through it. I also believe that the Kennedy assassination is probably about as distant as that of Garfield or McKinley for most young people. Not so for most who lived through it, and that is as it should be.

  33. Gary Rosen Says:

    The reason for all the JFK conspiracy theories is very simple – the shooting of Oswald, witnessed by millions on national TV no less prevented any kind of genuine resolution to the crime.

    Remember also that network newscasts had only recently been expanded from 15-minute headline rereads to 30 minutes and television itself was still comparatively new. This also explains the dramatic psychological effect of the event (re neo vs. LAG).

  34. expat Says:

    People read about Garfield and McKinley. We saw the assassination. And we have seen the films again and again since then. Jackie Kennedy took us through the WH. The whole presidency was open to us as to no previous generation. You also have to remember that most of us boomers came from Father Knows Best/Leave It To Beaver worlds in terms of range of experience. We existed in our families, neighborhoods, and towns or suburbs, not in a world of Live Aid concerts or 24/7 coverage of tragedies. It was expected that we would gradually enter the adult world as we entered college, got jobs, and married. Instead, the realities of the world were transmitted into my Chem lab.

    Within a few years, there would be more assassinations, riots, the Weathermen and Mai Lai, all before the eyes of the young. The age of innocense was made shorter for every child that followed. History was no longer something one learned from books. It was real time and subject to real time interpretation and spin.

  35. sergey Says:

    Sherlock Holmes gave the following exellent synopsis of his inductive-deductive method: “First you should exclude everything which is not possible. Than what is left must be true, however improbable it could seem.” The best lithmus test for all conspiracy theories, true or false!

  36. suek Says:

    Yesterday was “Conspiracy Day” on Michael Medford’s radio show. There was the usual, but one that was interesting was that the assassination was due to Kennedy’s actions taken and about to be taken against the Federal Reserve. According to the caller, there is an executive order that Kennedy wrote very early on that had some restriction on the Reserve, and was intending to take action against their ability to print money. I didn’t have enough time to listen and absorb what the caller was saying, and I don’t know if what he said was true, but his position was that basically, those who are on the Federal Reserve Board are among the most powerful in the country – maybe in the world – and saw a threat to that power.

    By the way – Medved’s response to those who deny that Oswald actually killed Kennedy … apparently Oswald also killed a police officer while trying to escape. I wasn’t aware of that.

  37. neo-neocon Says:

    suek: there’s a good book on the evidence in the Kennedy assassination: Case Closed. It’s old now, having come out in the early 90s, but it’s still pretty good. The case against Oswald is absolutely overwhelming, as is the case that he acted alone. Most people are unaware of 1/100th of the evidence against him.

  38. LAG Says:

    neo, I still disagree, at least with your diagnosis of me. I’m not unimaginative, but I am not empathetic in this instance with the deep feelings that this event provokes in others. Actually, I’d like to offer the suggestion that the lack of imagination lies on the other side of this discussion. As expat wrote, “You also have to remember that most of us boomers came from Father Knows Best/Leave It To Beaver worlds in terms of range of experience.” That description is of an artificial world–it never existed in reality. The inhabitants like expat simply lacked the experiences that I had growing up and didn’t have the imagination to appreciate the carefully tended garden in which they were fortunate enough to live. I, on the other hand, live in a different reality then, though I largely share the comfortable existence of other Americans now. Sorry to disagree, but too much time in the third world, at home and abroad.

  39. lb100 Says:


    I completely agree with your assessment. It was as if Evil had been given an opening, and Aeschylus was charged with choreographing the scene of LBJ taking the presidential oath. A horrible episode that lives with us to this day.

    Vincent Bugliosi, the Manson prosecutor, refuted brilliantly the various conspiracy theories in a C-span or Booknotes interview several years ago. I can’t find the original, but youtube “vincent bugliosis kennedy” for similar discussions. Bugliosi is extremely persuasive.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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