I’ve been reading a book by Vincent Bugliosi entitled Reclaiming History, which purports to definitively prove that Oswald killed JFK by himself and was not part of any conspiracy. Bugliosi amasses a mountain of evidence (almost literally; the book is huge) and strikes down each and every conspiracy theory point by point by point.
It’s a gargantuan task. I’ve not read the entire thing and probably won’t, but I’ve read a good deal of it, and I think he does a remarkably (and almost frighteningly) thorough job, and a convincing one as well.
Bugliosi makes an especially interesting point in his introduction, one I hadn’t really thought of before, which is that although most of the people who believe in the various conspiracies are probably sincere in their beliefs, many of those who actually write the conspiracy books are not. They are lying and they know it, but they count on their readers not to realize this.
The Kennedy assassination involves an almost unimaginable amount of data and evidence, so much so that most of us have forgotten many of the details although we may think we remember them. Authors of conspiracy books—who generally are exceedingly familiar with these details—are counting on their readers’ faulty or incomplete memories.
On pages xxviii-xxix of the introduction to his book, Bugliosi points out:
The conspiracy theorists are so outrageously brazen that they tell lies not just about verifiable, documentary evidence, but about clear, photographic evidence, knowing that only one out of a thousand of their readers, if that, is in possession of the subject photographs. Robert Groden (the leading photographic expert for the conspiracy proponents who was the photographic adviser the Oliver Stone’s movie JFK) draws a diagram on page 24 of his book High Treason of Governor Connally seated directly in front of President Kennedy in the presidential limousine and postulates the “remarkable path” a bullet coming from behind Kennedy, and traveling from left to right, would have to take to hit Connally—after passing straight through Kennedy’s body, making a right turn and then a left one in midair, which, the buffs chortle, bullets “don’t even do in cartoons.” What average reader would be in a position to dispute this seemingly common-sense, geometric assault on the Warren Commission’s single-bullet theory?…But of course, if you start out with an erroneous premise, whatever flows from it makes a lot of sense. The only problem is that it’s wrong. The indisputable fact here—which all people who have studied the assassination know—is that Connally was not seated directly in front of Kennedy, but to his left front.
Bugliosi goes on to add that Connally’s jump seat was also three inches lower than Kennedy, and his head was turned to his right (which is clear from the Zapruder film) at the time the bullet hit. The proper trajectory of the bullet was therefore exactly as the Warren Commission stated. None of these facts are all that difficult to ascertain, and there is little doubt that conspiracy author and consultant Groden is (or should be) well aware of them. And this is just a single point on which conspiracists prevaricate; there are countless others.
Bugliosi continues [emphasis mine]:
I am unaware of any other major event in world history which has been shrouded in so much intentional misinformation as has the assassination of JFK.
The question is why? Bugliosi notes that conspiracy sells, and he is correct. There is no question that some of the motivation to write these things is to make money. But for at least some of the conspiracy authors and promoters there is probably another reason, which is that belief in conspiracies undermine faith in our government as a whole. Earl Warren had this to say about the matter (page xxi of the introduction):
To say now that [the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and Departments of State and Defense], as well as the [Warren] Commission, suppressed, neglected to unearth, or overlooked evidence of a conspiracy would be an indictment of the entire government of the United States. It would mean the whole structure was absolutely corrupt from top to bottom, not one person of high or low rank willing to come forward to expose the villainy, in spite of the fact that the entire country bitterly mourned the death of its young president.
I would add that, as the years have gone on and conspiracy theories that allege that the above government agencies were responsible for killing Kennedy—rather than just incompetent or engaged in a coverup—have proliferated, Warren’s statement has become even more true.
I’ve never seen an analysis of whether Kennedy assassination conspiracists are predominately of the left or of the right. But my gut sense is that, although there are some on each side, the left is far more amply represented (Oliver Stone himself being a prime example). The left has a special reason not only to undermine faith in the US government but to exonerate Oswald as well, because there is no question (to any sane person, at least) that Oswald was a devoted man of the far left.
Somehow even that latter point has gotten somewhat lost. A significant number of pundits have been asserting for quite some time that the far right was responsible for Kennedy’s death (I discussed the phenomenon at greaster length here).
From my reading of Oswald’s testimony and demeanor, he was well aware that he would be championed and/or exonerated by those who would want to believe him innocent. His famous “I am a patsy” remark was a brilliant statement along those lines. Bugliosi’s book explains that Oswald maintained a resistance to police interrogation that was impressive; he virtually never lost his imperturbable demeanor during the time he was in custody. When confronted with clear evidence of his guilt, he calmly and arrogantly denied whatever implicated him, no matter how powerfully it did so. When asked, for example, to explain a fact that pointed strongly to his guilt, he merely answered, “I don’t explain it” (page 255).
Perhaps Oswald correctly surmised that others would do his explaining for him.
[ADDENDUM: Coincidentally, Ed Driscoll has some thoughts on a similar subject.]