Slate dodges the JFK bullet

Slate’s David Greenberg is one of those historians who prefers to discuss JFK theories rather than deal with JFK  facts. In his recent Slate piece, The plot to link JFK’s death and Watergate, (republished from 2003), Greenberg has this to say:

Elaborate speculations about Kennedy’s murder had begun, of course, earlier—almost from the moment he was shot. Shock and grief, along with lingering mysteries surrounding the killing and the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, stoked doubt that a lowly maniac could really snuff out such an august leader. But what started as normal human disbelief evolved in the next decade into a conscious program of radical skepticism, especially among the ranks of the New Left.

Since the New Left is going on 50 years old, the contemporary relevance of this claim questionable. But normal human belief–not disbelief–points to the obvious: we  really don’t have a very convincing explanation of the causes of the JFK’s death, at least not one that convince most Americans.

So why don’t we leave elaborate speculations aside and deal with the  evidence. Some of this evidence was available to Greenber in 2003;  some of it has emerged since.

To wit:

Lots of cops at the Dallas crime scene acted as though a gunshot came from the front of the presidential motorcade.

So did the Dallas doctor, Robert McClelland, who examined Kennedy’s head wound from a distance of less than two feet for ten minutes before JFK expired.

Afterwords, a number of Washington insiders–including the slain president’s successor, widow and brother–privately rejected official theory of a “lone gunman.”

The story in 2015

And now,  a half century later, we find a disturbing cocoon of unwarranted secrecy stil. surrounds several thousand unseen JFK documents. Hundreds of pages of censored material concerns the secret oprations of  CIA personnel who:

1) were informed about accused assassin Lee Oswald’s travels, politics, and clashes with the law in the weeks before November 22, 1963 (Anne Goodpasture, David Phillips, Birch O’Neal); or

2) implicated themselves or others in the crime (Howard Hunt, David Morales, Tony Cuesta); or

3) are known to have participated in CIA assassination plots against other leaders whose politics they disliked  (William Harvey, David Phillips).

(For the  details, see my May 14 post,  7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret.)

While Politico notes that the still-secret CIA documents, scheduled for release in 2017, may embarrass the Agency,  Slate recycles the pointless but comforting anecdote that some JFK assassination theorists somewhere once called themselves “Brussell sprouts” in honor of the late researcher Mae Brussell.

Such amusements are feeble and dated but condescending  JFK conspiracy theories is easer than coming to terms with the historical record.

 

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4 comments

  1. Allen Lowe says:

    Jeff, you are missing the most obvious and blatant flaw in GREENBERG’s theory – which is that anyone who is involved with or follows New Left and post-New Left politics knows that this side of the political spectrum almost completely rejects the idea of a conspiracy in the murder of JFK.

  2. David Talbot says:

    Exactly! What kind of a historian is Greenberg, to be completely ignorant of the history of the “New Left” in regards to the Kennedy assassination? Prominent voices of the Left — from Noam Chomsky to Howard Zinn to IF Stone — firmly rejected conspiracy theories about Dallas, even as the evidence piled up around them. I think they did so for largely ideological reasons — in the case of Chomsky and Zinn they mechanistically lumped JFK in with Cold War liberalism, seeing him as little different from the rest of the hawkish national security establishment of his day (a profound misreading of the bitter and growing split with the Kennedy administration over the Cold War) — or in the case of Stone and his ilk, they were so worried that the assassination would be pinned on the Soviet Union and/or Cuba, thereby precipitating a dangerous global conflict, that they quickly rallied around the Oswald as lone gunman theory, as patently weak as it was. In other words, the Left’s leading intellectuals became part of the cover-up — and Greenberg has it completely upside down.

  3. David Talbot says:

    PS Greenberg cites New Left activist/writer Carl Oglesby — who did indeed devote his life to understanding the deeper significance of the Kennedy assassination and its connections to the US power structure — as his prime example of the New Left’s sponsorship of conspiracy-think. But Oglesby — who deserves respect for his pioneering work in the field — was a New Left outlier when it came to Kennedy research. Besides a handful of people like Oglesby, the New Left hierarchy — particularly on the East Coast — toed the establishment line on Kennedy. It took maverick Left Coast publications like Warren Hinckle’s Ramparts magazine, to do serious JFK conspiracy research. Meanwhile, bastions of the East Coast left, like The Nation magazine, continue to publish lone gunman propagandists like Max Holland, who has been acclaimed by the CIA for his scholarship. East Coast power corridor bubble-think is a powerful force field, especially when it comes to the Kennedy assassinatoin, pulling in even bold intellectuals like Chomsky.

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