Interest in JFK conspiracies dwindling as other fantasies get online attention
A majority in a recent poll still do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But the figure is lower than at any point since John F Kennedy’s assassination. What’s going on?
Lee Harvey Oswald. “The sad preponderance of other lone nuts with guns may have helped sway opinions. Barely a week goes by without some maniac causing unimaginable tragedy for no good reason. The theory that great conspiracies must surround significant crimes no longer carries quite so much weight.” Photograph: Reuters
Why has so little been said about the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination? Yes, there have been 20 or 30 documentaries on the telly. True, newspapers have published the odd weighty supplement. Films such as Parkland and The Butler feature in our cinemas. But that’s all. Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd? It’s almost as if THEY are trying to hide something from us.
There is a dangerous theory abroad about that notorious incident. It was raised briefly 50 years ago. But, in the intervening years, other less emotionally threatening orthodoxies have bullied the worrying notion aside. Here it is. A lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald – acting without any direct assistance from the CIA, the Mafia, the Cubans or the North Vietnamese – shot John F Kennedy from the Texas School Book Depository. THEY don’t want you to know this.
A few decades ago this notion was the preserve of deranged crackpots. Everybody “knew” that at least one shot came from the front (it didn’t). Everybody “knew” that the arrest of several tramps in a nearby railway siding threw up further suspicions (it didn’t).
Anybody who, while admitting the sloppiness of the Warren Commission’s methodologies, agreed with that body’s eventual findings was, at best, a hopelessly naive bumpkin or, at worst, a reactionary stooge in hock to the military-industrial complex (I may be the former, but I’m certainly not the latter).
But the mad premise stated above is slowly gaining traction. A majority of those recently polled by Gallup still do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But the figure – some 61 per cent of US respondents – is lower than at any point since the assassination. What’s going on?
Time is a factor. After five long decades, not one believable conspirator has come out of the woodwork. The chaotic bungling that, a decade later, characterised the Watergate fiasco confirmed just how hard it is to successfully cover up even the pettiest of conspiracies.
Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” couldn’t plant a few bugs without bringing down the president. How much trickier would it be to suppress details of a complex plan to assassinate the commander-in-chief?
The sad preponderance of other lone nuts with guns may also have helped sway opinions. Barely a week goes by without some maniac causing unimaginable tragedy for no good reason. The theory that great conspiracies must surround significant crimes no longer carries quite so much weight.
More than anything else, however, there is the fact that – once the only game in town – the JFK conspiracy has now been nudged aside by a thousand equally preposterous paranoid fantasies.
In 1997, I wrote a reasonably well- received (tolerated, anyway) short film entitled My Dinner with Oswald. Directed by Paul Duane, the picture goes among a group of conspiracy nuts at a Dublin dinner party. As the evening progresses, after trying to plot the incident with fruit and condiments, they end up staging a full re-enactment around the sofa.
Here’s the interesting thing. Though shot only 16 years ago, the film makes no mention whatsoever of the internet. Moreover, I do not remember anybody – producers, directors, cast – suggesting that we should allude to this developing digital fad.
A mere two or three years later this would have been inconceivable. There were, by that point, two things that drew young men to the internet. One was conspiracy chatter. The other wasn’t trainspotting.
Before the internet struck, conspiracy theorists really had to work at their chosen pastime. Unable to interest sane publishers in their meandering legends, the more committed apostles took to binding photocopied sheets together into unwieldy tomes with titles such as JFK: The East Timor Connection or Dallas: Venusian False Flag.
The need to employ such samizdat techniques reinforced the supposed notion that the researchers were constantly in danger of assassination by exploding cigar or poisoned umbrella.
Real libraries were visited. Actual trips to Dealey Plaza took place. Any question that did not produce an immediate answer was taken as evidence of the most sinister clandestine plots. Read all about it on page 789 of Morris Nutjob’s self-published They Lied and Lied Again.
Then, all of a sudden, the worldwide web set in and anybody with a connection was able to read, research and publish material on the assassination. Soon that event was crowded out by gibberish on crop circles, Princess Diana’s “car crash”, faked moon landings and, ultimately, the 9/11 truther psychosis.
This association with ever-greater lunacies tainted the JFK conspiracies and citizens began to pay attention to the known facts again. Sanity is slowly being restored. In another 50 years this unsettling lone gunman theory might actually become the established orthodoxy.
Of course, he would say that. Wouldn’t he? That’s what THEY want you to think.