For the record, I deny that I am a JFK “conspiracy theorist.” But I freely concede I’m pro-vaccination. I got my flu shot last month. I had no objection to having my children vaccinated. I never yearned for the Paulian liberty not to vaccinate.
So I was intrigued to see Jonathan Alter, writing in the The Daily Beast, link the anti-vaccination movement to those who doubt the official story of the assassination of President Kennedy:
Middle-of-the-roaders were turned into suspicious citizens by events of the 1960s. “In those days, we assumed that government officials would tell us the truth,” David Slawson, an 83-year-old former investigator for the Warren Commission, told former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon recently in explaining why he had changed his mind about the existence of a conspiracy to kill JFK. Nowadays, Slawson noted, “no one makes that assumption anymore.”
Slawson points the finger at Robert F. Kennedy, whom he says misled the Warren Commission into thinking that Fidel Castro’s Cuba had nothing to do with backing Lee Harvey Oswald, his brother’s assassin. Half a century later, one of the leading proponents of the discredited theory that vaccinations can cause autism is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., expressing a distrust in government sown in part during his family’s time in power.
Alter is right about a couple of things. He is surely correct that both the anti-vaxxers and JFK conspiracy theorists tap into popular suspicions of the veracity of the government in Washington. I agree that RFK Jr.’s theories about autism are not founded in science. And he is right to suggest that Slawson’s efforts to link Lee Harvey Oswald to the Castro government are factually unfounded and improbable.
And indisputably, RFK Jr. is (or was) an anti-vaxxer and is an increasingly open JFK skeptic. But that does not mean that anti-vaxxers and JFK skeptics are crowds that overlap. In my experience they do not, at least not much.
I find that a solid majority of readers that JFK Facts has attracted since 2012 are advocates and defenders of the scientific method. Some think Kennedy was killed by political enemies. Others reject the conspiracy proposition. But if you look at the daily debate in our comments board, there are many appeals to the referee of science, and most eschew psuedo-science. Some among them may be anti-vaxxers, but I would bet money that the percentage does not exceed the portion found in the general population.
In any case, the upsurge of anti-vaccination irrationality in the early 21st century does not and cannot change the enigmatic and suspicious facts of what happened on November 22, 1963.
As Slawson’s candid remarks to Philip Shenon in Politico show, it is not paranoid to doubt the official story about the causes of JFK’s death. There is more scientific reason to doubt that story today than there was 10 years ago. Even one of the authors of the Warren Commission report now recognizes the CIA compromised the investigation and blocked the truth. Slawson does not embody populist irrationality. He reminds us there is no vaccination from the facts.