Painting Horns and Moustaches
America’s Press Addresses JFK Dissent
To discuss this article go to B’Man’s Revolt.
In the weeks leading up to the actual date of the 50th anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy, the news media, we had noted, had, for the most part, adopted a rather low-key approach on the question of who actually perpetrated the crime. The press, it would appear, was following the dictum of CIA Document 1035-960, “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report,” “We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place.”
One notable exception was James Reston, Jr., writing on November 20 in USA Today, the daily lowbrow counterpart to the Sunday Parade magazine. He touted his new book whose purpose is to throw cold water on any talk of conspiracy by floating his theory that Lee Harvey Oswald’s real intended target was Texas Governor John Connally. He begins this way:
What possesses the American public still to believe there was a conspiracy behind the murder of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago?
In a History Channel poll last year, the astonishing figure of 85% of those polled subscribed to the belief. Lee Harvey Oswald must have been a "patsy" of a Mafia organization, people think, or the agent of a foreign government such as Cuba or Russia, or even the tool of a sinister CIA. Surely there had to be a vast and evil empire behind so well-planned and orchestrated a plot.
It's a comfortable notion for Americans. There's only one problem: Conspiracy theories are nonsense. There is no credible or convincing evidence of a conspiracy, not by Mafia gangsters or foreign governments or even by U.S. intelligence agents. And yet the rubbish keeps spilling out in print and celluloid. It appears very likely that these fantasies will dominate the American commemoration of Kennedy's death on Friday.
When what the man says is precisely the opposite of the truth prima facie one really can’t have a lot of confidence in what he says in his book. It’s not at all a “comfortable notion” to believe that we are ruled by murdering gangsters who pay hacks like Reston to tell us otherwise. It’s in spite of how it makes us feel rather than because of how it makes us feel that we believe that there was a conspiracy, Reston’s wave-of-the-hand dismissal notwithstanding. It’s the evidence and it’s common sense. And speaking of fantasies, his suggestion that the controllers of our airwaves and our print media would allow conspiracy talk to dominate the commemoration is just about the biggest fantasy anyone can imagine.
As anyone who is only dimly aware of his surroundings could have predicted, on Friday, November 22, 2013, America’s news media went all out once again for the one-lone-nut explanation of the crime. (Make that two lone nuts counting the Mafia-connected Jack Ruby, but his name was hardly mentioned.)
But should we really expect anything else from Reston? As we reveal in “Watergate Lies Multiplied,” Reston’s father, the famous New York Times reporter and columnist, was at the very heart of the secret cabal that the son would have us believe does not exist. In that earlier article I speculated that there was something peculiar about Reston’s three-year Army tour. It has since come to light and is now on his Wikipedia page that he was an intelligence officer. That is to say that he was, and very likely still is, what a lot of people suspected his father was, a spook.
November 22, 2013
On the actual date of the 50th anniversary the media’s velvet gloves came off as the coverage reached a crescendo, sort of like the finale of a fireworks display. For that one day, all hint of subtlety in defense of the official story was gone. CNN did show some of Jim Garrison’s rebuttal of NBC, but for all of about 5 seconds, and then they lit into him as a fraud in the customary fashion. Dissenter Robert Groden was interviewed briefly in Dallas, but as he spoke CNN put the caption “Conspiracy Theorist” on the screen below him. They might as well have painted horns and a moustache on him, which is pretty well what this “Conspiracy Theorist” charge amounts to from an analytical standpoint. CNN’s Anderson Cooper had the critic Dr. Cyril Wecht on to debate Gerald Posner on the “magic bullet,” and he got all the better of it to my mind, but Cooper, the supposed neutral moderator, repeatedly referred to “the assassin Oswald,” the fact of which is what is at issue in any discussion of the magic bullet. He also set the stage for the exchange by presenting uncritically the new “findings” of Luke and Michael Haag about that incredible bullet.
The Washington Post, though, might well have been the worst. At the conclusion of my previous article I described their front-page article by Joel Achenbach this way: “In its malevolent mendacity, it is quite similar to their 1999 article written upon the death of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.”
In doing so I might have violated the Thomas Sowell admonition that I am fond of quoting, “Specify, don’t characterize.” So let’s get down to some specifics. Here’s Achenbach:
The official story, first promulgated by the Warren Commission, describes the assassination as the act of one man. The Oswald-acting-alone narrative is a small one, and kind of meaningless. The assassination, in this telling of events, was an unlucky alignment of the stars. Which suggests that history can pivot more or less randomly. There is a special terror in that — the notion that huge things can happen for no good reason.
Against that story comes a wide variety of alternative narratives. Many invoke that second gunman on the grassy knoll. Or perhaps multiple gunmen. Or as many as 10 shots in Dealey Plaza. Oliver Stone’s “JFK” has three separate sniper teams.
Here’s Patti Martin, 52, of Oklahoma City, standing in Dealey Plaza a few feet from where Kennedy was hit in the head: “There’s too many gaps. There’s no way there was one gunman.”
The gaps, the unknowns, the inconsistencies . . . the shadows . . . the “coincidences” . . . the anomalies . . . the things that just don’t seem right.
Patti Martin: “Why would he have waited until here?” Meaning this spot on Elm. “He had a perfect shot at that corner.” (In fact, he’d already taken two shots, closer to the corner, but whatever!)
BUT WHATEVER?! Did you see the horns and moustache he painted on poor, well-meaning citizen Patti? “Whatever” is the surly putdown of a middle-schooler; it is not the proper writing of a reporter of news in a supposedly respectable newspaper. Is this man a journalist, or is he a naked propagandist, watchdog or lapdog?
If you learn nothing else from Oliver Stone’s JFK you learn that Patti Martin’s point is right on the money and that Achenbach is playing the disinformationist here. Patti said “at that corner,” not “nearer to the corner.” JFK takes you to the actual window and lets you look at the view below. You are perched right at the corner of Houston and Elm Streets. The motorcade comes toward you on Houston and turns left onto Elm. The target is square and slowing for the turn as it comes toward you. It is moving across your field of vision from left to right and a tree intervenes once the car is on Elm. So, as a lone gunman with a rifle with a scope and a bolt action—which means that finding the target in the scope will be difficult after shooting, and then chambering the next round—when do you take that precious first shot, knowing that that might well be the only one you get? You take it at the corner, as Patti Martin can see, or you take it even before that.
Gerald Posner says that Oswald took it when the tree was between him and Kennedy. That’s his explanation for the bullet that ricocheted off the curb far ahead of Kennedy’s limousine. He says it glanced off a tree limb first, causing a severe change in its path—another magic bullet, if you will. The Warren Commission, for its part, has no explanation for such a wild miss. What is most likely is that the bullet that missed came from directly behind the vehicle around the second floor of the DalTex Building on Houston Street. That would be, then, where one of the sniper teams was located. The second would have been behind the fence on the grassy knoll, where the shot would have come from that knocked Kennedy’s head backward and to the left and sent brain matter flying far enough to the rear that some of it landed on a trailing motorcycle cop. The third team would have been at the “Oswald” sniper spot, explaining the path of the bullet that went through Governor Connally. That would explain why the shots were fired after the car was proceeding along Elm Street, to catch the target in a withering Crossfire.
That’s the common-sense explanation for what transpired and that was Jim Garrison’s explanation as depicted in JFK. But in the online version of Achenbach’s “news” article, there is a link to Achenbach’s 1992 lone-gunman-defending article, “JFK Conspiracy: Myth vs. the Facts” at the mention of “three sniper teams.” In that earlier article Achenbach states flatly that JFK is “a film with roughly as much historical veracity as your average episode of ‘Lost in Space.’ ”
One has to wonder if Patti Martin actually thought she was talking to a decent, honest man when she consented to be interviewed by Joel Achenbach.
Page AA7 of The Post’s special section entitled “THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION 50 YEARS LATER” is dominated by a big drawing of Dealey Plaza, with buildings, the grassy area, and the motorcade route. The opening caption is as follows:
DEALEY PLAZA, DALLAS
Overcast morning skies cleared by the time President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrived in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, but darkness would soon fall on an entire nation as a lone assassin—perched six stories above the presidential motorcade and parade onlookers—aimed his rifle at the president and fired.
Further down on the lower right of the page there is a box with a schematic showing the supposed trajectory of the “magic bullet.” It is accompanied with this explanation:
Some claim that a single “magic bullet,” which was found nearly whole, could not have done so much damage. Later scientific analysis supports the Warren Commission single-bullet theory.
Also in the special section was an article by guest writers Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis. It is a distillation of their book, Dallas, 1963, recommended to readers in the Nov. 17 issue of Parade magazine and previously characterized by this writer as blaming the assassination on the city’s “climate of hate.”
Pundits Generally Lie Low
Conspicuously missing from the big propaganda fireworks display this time were the sage observations of The Post’s collection of pundits. They want to keep some measure of credibility, after all, and they wouldn’t have done it by obviously overdoing the insulting of readers’ intelligence. That would not have been a danger, though, for Reston writing for USA Today or for anyone writing for Parade. Curiously, The National Catholic Register apparently didn’t think it would be a problem for its credibility with its readership, either. On November 17 it featured a commentary by the PNAC warmonger, George Weigel, entitled “JFK After 50 Years.” As with Reston, we have previously discussed this putative Gentile and luminary in the national mendocracy. See “The Brazen Duplicity of George Weigel.” The nub of his article is to be found in one paragraph:
The myth of Camelot, for example, misses the truth about the assassination: that John F. Kennedy was a casualty of the Cold War, murdered by a dedicated communist. “Camelot” also demeaned the liberal anti-communist internationalism that Kennedy embodied; that deprecation eventually led Kennedy’s party into the wilderness of neo-isolationist irresponsibility from which it has yet to emerge.
To make the Red paint stick to Oswald, Weigel overlooks, among many other things, the fact that Oswald’s closest friend in Dallas was the anti-Communist White Russian George de Mohrenschildt and the fact that those Fair Play for Cuba leaflets that Oswald handed out in New Orleans had printed on them the same 544 Camp Street address as that of the militant anti-Castro activist, Guy Banister. And as Weigel sees it, America’s Democratic Party is apparently lacking in bloodlust for his taste, in spite of the overwhelming support of the Congressional members of that party for George Bush’s gory and aggressive ventures in the Middle East.
Judging by the comments, the publication seems to have underestimated its readers (as did The Post, as indicated by the comments on the Achenbach piece). This one is from a man named Paul Bennett:
Why are you printing such a mean spirited and foolish attack piece written by the Neocon’s own pet Catholic? Do you not detect the venom and acid he is spreading? Maybe the author is paid to throw dirt upon the names of our honored dead, but I expect more from the Register. Did you even read it? The author tries to erase from history the vision of an American Camelot, still so clear in the memories of many of us. The Kennedy Clan once battled great politicians, and this tends to get dirt on the cleanest of hands, but this kind of character assassination has its own dirty political aims. In what way did having a Catholic president fighting for what is right prevent the “flowering” of American Catholicism? Is the author aware of what has happened to the American Catholic culture since the beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”? Of course he is. He is simply using rhetoric to satisfy the foundations that pay him. The Chomsky clones attack from the Left, and the professional Neo-conservatives attack from the Right. Do not confuse the remnants of the Kennedy legacy (who today promote eugenics and are given honors by Bishops) with the works of great men. For if we remember rightly, there was true hope in those days, not the manufactured Sebelius variety of today. Finally, this nonsense about “quickly” deciding to support the Warren conspiracy in the face of all evidence betrays either the author’s foolishness or the influence of his paymasters. Disgusting.
With that concluding adjective, Mr. Bennett quite well summed up the coverage of America’s press of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
November 29, 2013
With all the attacks on the Achenbach article by people commenting online, one might have expected an example or two to turn up among the letters to the editor in the print edition. For any letter of skepticism about the official lone gunman narrative to appear in the pages of The Post, however, would have broken a 50-year precedent. What did appear on the “Free for All” page on November 30 were the following three letters, under the heading, From the Kennedy assassination to the tea party
Bill Minutaglio’s essay in the Nov. 22 special section The Kennedy Assassination, “In 1963, the roots of a paranoid right,” was an exercise in silliness. Minutaglio’s cataloguing of Dallas’s right-wing extremism and hatred of President John F. Kennedy, in an attempt to tie his assassination to the tea party of today (which, for the record, is a movement of which I am not a fan), was a subtle attempt to delegitimize this group.
This is a remarkable act of dishonesty, given that Kennedy’s assassin was an avowed Marxist who wanted to live in the U.S.S.R. or Cuba and who had previously attempted to kill a retired right-wing general. Perhaps Minutaglio’s next essay could be a discussion of hatred and extremism among the radical abolitionists in Lincoln’s time, finishing by subtly implying that John Wilkes Booth was an abolitionist.
-- Jon Lynch, Aldie
Thank you for publishing Bill Minutaglio’s Nov. 22 essay as part of the coverage marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It connected today’s political quagmire with the politics of 1963 in a way that I had never understood before. Like many Americans, I am daily confounded and depressed by the ongoing vitriolic rhetoric propagated by the conservative right, which profoundly harms our country, by fomenting hatred and condemning the government to a state of forced inaction on many important pieces of legislation. I was 8 years old in 1963 and well remember the agony of those four days. What I have not understood until now is how similar the time was to present-day politics. I understand that connection now and am more terrified and saddened than ever.
-- Rosemary Donaldson, Falls Church
Lee Harvey Oswald defected to the Soviet Union and admired communist Cuba. Did The Post mention this in its special section on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy? No, but we were treated to an essay on the parallels between the “paranoid right” of 1963 and today. Rely on The Post to skirt history in order to “round up the usual suspects.”
-- Tony Kostelecky, Manassas
Now you see why The Post included that Minutaglio article, don’t you? It distracts the readers with the mainstream press’s usual fanning of the Right vs. Left flame, and then The Post gets to do it some more by printing a sampling of the predictably contentious letters they get about it. As a bonus, they are able to reinforce the notion that Oswald was the lone perpetrator because two of the letter writers take it as a given to make their point. Never mind that that view is representative of a minority of Americans, and the further notion that Oswald pulled off his incredible act for ideological reasons is swallowed by an even smaller minority. Going by the comments online on the Achenbach article, these letters are also quite unrepresentative of the views of the readers of The Washington Post, as well.
Here’s to the letters editor,
The person who rations the word.
His job is to see that vox populi,
Will never, ever be heard.
December 1, 2013
A couple of my supportive readers have sent me videos in response to this article and my previous ones on the JFK assassination. They are “Festival of Lies,” filmed at Dealey Plaza upon the 50th anniversary of the event by the reader himself and “The Garrison Tapes, Part 2.”
Take that, Joel Achenbach.
December 15, 2013