Eustace Tilley’s JFK assassination theory

A cosmopolitan look at JFK

From Adam Gopnik’s, The Assassination of J.F.K., Fifty Years Later in The New Yorker.

“The notion that the Cold War national-security state, which Eisenhower warned against, might have decided to kill the President is not as difficult to credit as one wishes. There were C.I.A. operatives prepared to kill foreign leaders, some of them previously friendly, for acts they didn’t like, and to recruit gangsters to do it, and generals who were eager to invade Cuba even at the risk of nuclear war, and who resented Kennedy for restraining them.”

Gopnik continues:

“(A veteran journalist, Jefferson Morley, has been pursuing the trail of a now dead C.I.A. agent named George Joannides through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, believing that, at a minimum, the C.I.A. was keeping a much sharper eye on Oswald than it ever wanted known. Relevant documents are supposed to be released in 2017.)”

Gopnik has reported the facts of my lawsuit accurately. And he notes that historian Arthur Schlesinger had similar suspicions. He wrote of JFK’s enemies in November 1963:

“Intelligence operatives, in the CIA as well as the FBI, had begun to see themselves as the appointed guardians of the Republic, infinitely more devoted than transient elected officials, morally authorized to do on their own whatever the nation’s security demanded.”

Gopnik notes Schlesinger was not alone in his suspicions.

“Ted Sorensen, another Kennedy intimate, wrote in his memoir that when Jimmy Carter nominated him, in 1977, to be the director of central intelligence, agency officials worked furiously (and successfully) to get the nomination withdrawn, quite possibly because there was evidence about J.F.K.’s death that they didn’t want him to see.”

Gopnik takes a poke at the man who claims to have debunked all JFK conspiracy theories;

“Vincent Bugliosi’s confidence that these things don’t happen here isn’t shared by those closest to the case,” he observes mordantly.

Some will complain that Gopnik is, in the end, a partisan of the theory that Oswald acted alone. After raising the possibility that some faction in the Cold War national-security state might have decided to kill the president, Gopnik refuses the poisoned chalice of conspiracy and imbibes a tall glass of lone gunman Kool Aid.

Here’s how he puts it:

“Oswald acted alone, but the hidden country acted through Oswald. This is the perpetual film-noir moral lesson: that the American hierarchy is far more unstable than it seems, and that the small-time crook in his garret and the big-time social leader in his mansion are intimately linked. When Kennedy died, and the mystery of his murder began, we took for granted that the patrician in tails with the perfect family and the sordid Oswald belonged to different worlds, just as Ruby’s Carousel Club and the White House seemed light-years apart. When Kennedy was shot, the dignified hierarchy seemed plausible. Afterward, it no longer did.”

This is brilliant cultural observation. JFK’s assassination did indeed shatter America’s hierarchy of social truths, as well as some habits of political deference. It is a  comforting observation in a literary way. Gopnik’s elegant essay asks us to consider JFK’s murder not as a moment in history–a national security event–but as an aesthetic media experience — which it certainly has become.

This is November 22, 1963, as viewed through the monocle of Eustace Tilley, the iconic gentleman who adorns the cover of the New Yorker once a year. As Tilley inspects a butterfly with his eyepiece, he embodies the magazine’s cosmopolitanism, humanism, and sometimes frivolity.

In this perspective JFK’s assassination endures like a Humphrey Bogart movie, a complex amoral entertainment from another era that induces a frisson of profound emotions that are existentially potent and politically meaningless. This is  Eustace Tilley’s theory of JFK’s assassination. The smartest people in New York believe it. So why can’t I?

See:

“4 CIA officers who made a lethal mistake about Lee Harvey Oswald,” (Sept. 30, 2013).

“Top 6 Washington insiders who suspected a JFK plot,”” (Oct. 2, 2013).

“Top 7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret” (Oct. 11, 2013)

“21 JFK cops who heard a grassy knoll shot, “ (Sept. 24, 2013).

20 comments

  1. bogman says:

    I think a better article would’ve been a comparison of the JFK assassination and our continuing out-of-control security state as seen in the latest news about NSA monitoring of friendly leaders WITHOUT White House approval (at least that’s what the WH is saying).

    • JSA says:

      I agree. Eisenhower claimed that he did NOT authorize the May U2 overflight of the USSR from Turkey that Powers took (and was shot down). The reason Ike was against doing this AT THIS TIME was because he didn’t want anything that he could control to risk damaging his summit meeting with Premier Kruschev in June of 1960. When he found out that CIA had gone ahead and authorized Power’s U2 flight anyway, and it was shot down, he was furious. He realized that he had (felt he had to) claim responsibility for the disaster, to avoid looking like he wasn’t in control of his own military-industrial-spy bureaucracy, but he seethed about the plane flight in private, according to several historians.

      I really think Obama signed on to the expanded Homeland Security State (that Bush 2 had overseen grow from 9/11) because he trusted them. They helped him get bin Laden, and he was appreciative of that. They protected him from harm during his first inauguration, and showed him some credible threats, and he was thankful of that protection. But now I think he’s as peeved as Ike was over what NSA has done. I don’t think any modern president can control his vast intelligence bureaucracy. They stay in power forever. Presidents come and go. They know how to work the Congress to stay funded, and they have a lot of influence in the media and in the private sector, in addition to inside Washington. Anyone who thinks otherwise strikes me as being quite naive.

      Moynihan wrote that Congress could and should reign in our intelligence agencies, for the good of our democratic republic, and as a needed check to what the original framers worried about: unbridled power. Perhaps Congress can do this, but first they have to clean up their own corrupt ties to K Street and we need campaign finance reform to take the worst corporate trust monies out of Congress.

      I think if Obama pushed too hard on NSA or CIA, he could be assassinated. I think Kennedy was assassinated for pushing too hard on CIA, and the assassination was made easier because of Lyndon Johnson as replacement stand-in.

  2. Re Schlesinger’s remark, ““Intelligence operatives, in the CIA as well as the FBI, had begun to see themselves as the appointed guardians of the Republic, infinitely more devoted than transient elected officials, morally authorized to do on their own whatever the nation’s security demanded.”

    That had been Allen Dulles’s belief since World War Two, when he contrived successfully to subvert the (perhaps ill-advised) Roosevelt/Morgenthau Plan for the de-industrialization and break-up of post-war Germany.

    It was still his belief in 1957 when, faced with Eisenhower’s reluctance to authorize more than occasional U-2 overflights of the USSR, he secretly approved a plan with Britain’s MI-6 whereby U-2 flights could be authorized instead by the UK Prime Minister Macmillan (Stephen Dorril, MI6, 659-660).

    It was also Hoover’s belief since World War Two, when he successfully evaded direct orders from his superiors to cease planning for the massive detention of communists and other dissidents. See my article, “The Unchecked Security State: Part II: The Continuity of COG Detention Planning, 1948-2001,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, April 29, 2013, http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/3933.

    It is clear however that the resistance of the deep state to public authority is even worse now than it was than.

    • leslie sharp says:

      “morally authorized to do on their own whatever the nation’s security demanded.”

      This speaks to the theory that an ideology, and not simply “global economic interests” drove the events of 11.22.63.

      “subvert the (perhaps ill-advised) Roosevelt/Morgenthau Plan for the de-industrialization and break-up of post-war Germany.”

      Look to John Jay McCloy and his brother-in-law, Lewis W. Douglas (an executive of Empire Trust), both of whom were related to the wife of Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war chancellor of Germany, and General Lucius Dubignon Clay for clues as to what drove those decisions.

      “he secretly approved a plan with Britain’s MI-6 whereby U-2 flights could be authorized instead by the UK Prime Minister Macmillan (Stephen Dorril, MI6, 659-660).”

      Study Major John B. Ackerman, Air Force attache to London at the end of the war who proceeded to a significant role within the NSA and Air Force Security & Intelligence; Ackerman reported to the first Secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington at the close of WWII. And further study Stuart Symington’s partnership with Clark Clifford who not only contributed financially to the fledgling aerial reconnaissance program instituted by Symngton, Ackerman and Reinhard Gehlen of the Gehlen Org (which involved OPC Frank Wisner) but played an “alleged” befuddled role in the BCCI affair.

      Consider the trajectories.

      • I would not make Leslie Sharp’s distinction between ideology and economic interests. In contriving to overcome plans to de-industrialize Germany, Dulles was actively working to reconstruct the pre-war multinational network of financial and industrial connections that had been so profitable to his two private institutions (at the same Wall Street address): the Sullivan and Cromwell law firm, and the J. Henry Schroder Banking Corporation. At the same time, it would be grossly wrong to think that Dulles was simply wondering how to make more bucks. He sincerely believed that he and others like him (some of them ex-Nazis and pro-Nazis) had a clearer idea of what was best for Europe than did Roosevelt and Morgenthau.

        • leslie sharp says:

          My humble apologies if I seemed to suggest that I thought there was a distinction. I believe there is a symbiosis between the two; the significant disconnect is that only a few enjoy the true economic rewards of capitalism, while the masses carry the burden of an elusive ideology, but all are driven by the same system. I’m one of PD Scott’s greatest and original fans.

          My point was, is, and has always been, that while the very powerful are driven by long-term financial gain, what informs their choices, what allows their conscience to live with those choices is often an ideology, a world view, whether ‘manifest destiny’ or ‘laissez faire.’ The Dulles family are the perfect example. Their contribution to the machinations of US companies in Latin America, i.e., Gulf Oil Corporation or United Fruit, was “necessary” to fulfill their role in expanding quite specific “ideologies” (anti-communism in those days) that would impact global business practices, political agendas, long term capitalist goals for decades. Weren’t they fortunate that that particular ideological expansion included a whole load of creature comforts for them and theirs?

          And to close the point: their ideology became the trough from which the middle class would not only drink but eventually vote against their own long term interests as citizens of a ‘democracy’ as defined by the privileged. It is an ingenious loop, Mr. Bernays. If I align myself with their practices, I too someday will live as they? BUT, in the meantime, while I serve their corporations, I satisfy my conscience knowing that I’m inspired to do so, not by my personal gain, but by the fact that I will promote “freedom” around the world.

      • Eric Saunders says:

        That is a false choice. The drive for economic hegemony is so intertwined with security state ideology that they are impossible to disentangle. They amplify each other, but which ultimately begot which?

    • Thank God for Peter. And thank you, Peter. You, and your work, are appreciated.

  3. Alan Dale says:

    “In this perspective JFK’s assassination endures like a Humphrey Bogart movie, a complex amoral entertainment from another era that induces a frisson of profound emotions that are existentially potent and politically meaningless. This is Eustace Tilley’s theory of JFK’s assassination. The smartest people in New York believe it. So why can’t I?”

    That’s some of the best writing I’ve seen on this site. I believe the answer to Mr. Morley’s question may be found by examining the simple distinction between those who look at President Kennedy’s assassination as a dis-connected aberration from outside our system of governance and those who see it as a manifestation of power arrangements which exists outside of constitutional parameters.

    My conversation with Professor Scott may be heard here:

    http://www.jfklancer.com/audioconversations.html

  4. Robert Harper says:

    Very,very good response to the frivolity of Gopnik’s conclusion. To say LHO “acted alone” seems absurd to anyone who knows the case. One would think he would have addressed the fact that LHO was radioed as the lone assasin within hours of the killing. Or the numerous ways LHO is cloaked in vapors from the intelligence community–his passport, re-entry, “Albert Schwitzer College” etc etc. The “so-called evidence” or the circle of LHO’s contacts or the questionable ballistics and autopsy is just ignored? The “liberal” way of looking at the JFK killing is now to have a limited hang out: yes, it’s possible, but it didn’t happen.

  5. Robert Harper says:

    Very,very good response to the frivolity of Gopnik’s conclusion. To say LHO “acted alone” seems absurd to anyone who knows the case. One would think he would have addressed the fact that LHO was radioed as the lone assasin within hours of the killing. Or the numerous ways LHO is cloaked in vapors from the intelligence community–his passport, re-entry, “Albert Schwitzer College” etc etc. The “so-called evidence” or the circle of LHO’s contacts or the questionable ballistics and autopsy is just ignored? The “liberal” way of looking at the JFK killing is now to have a limited hang out: yes, it’s possible, but it didn’t happen.

    • George Simmons says:

      I have seen quite a bit of this limited hang out in media pieces recently, and they all seem to follow the same kind of path.

      They acknowledge that the CIA/FBI lied to and misled the WC and HSCA ( which I guess they have to because the evidence of this is overwhelming ). But then they insist this is all good and normal because it is only the intelligence services attempting to protect their reputation and credibility etc.
      The problem with this explanation for me is the suspicious actions of the CIA BEFORE the assassination. For example, the Oct 10 cable where Oswalds fracas with the DRE is omitted to their colleagues in Mexico.

      Also, these pieces all seem to imply that if their was a conspiracy it was Cuba or Russia manipulating Oswald, and not the CIA/Anti-Castro Cubans.

  6. Neil says:

    I see it as a positive development that the mainstream media may finally be coming around to admitting that the government’s investigations into the JFK assassination were flawed. Hopefully it won’t take 50 another 50 years for them to start acknowledging that there may have been a conspiracy.

    • Thomas says:

      Recent polls suggest that 71% of people believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy and more incredible is the remaining 29% apparently work for the mainstream media. What an amazing disconnect between media (cautious, conservative, barely able to move from party line) and the public which is vastly more open-minded with more common sense on this issue.

  7. mitchum22 says:

    The smartest people in New York? Hey, I’m in New York and take my word for it: those people stopped reading this rag the day Conde Nast bought it.

    Gopnik is — as all things post-Shawn “New Yorker” — a pseudo-literary poseur; someone who knows, and presumably cares less, about the case, but who does serve a function: he makes the greasy-pole climbers of current day Bloombergistan feel just peachy about the pole they’re climbing. The pole present, and past.

  8. TLR says:

    Why are people acting like this is something new? Ever since the congressional investigations of the 70s, the idea that the FBI, CIA, etc engaged in a “benign cover-up” has been a favorite fallback position for the Establishment. No one in the mainstream media is allowed to wander outside the safe confines of “Oswald as lone assassin.” The evidence is overwhelming, blah blah blah. You’d think these people had never heard how J. Edgar Hoover and Henry Wade (among others) had framed innocent people throughout their careers.

  9. PaulC says:

    Jeff, I think you are being too kind to Adam.

    In one place, for example he writes, ” many … doctors in the emergency ward at Parkland Memorial Hospital, … said that they saw a large wound to the back of J.F.K.’s head, instead of the right front side, where the later autopsy and X-rays locate it. This is not really hard to explain. The wound was enormous, and the doctors never examined it, or turned J.F.K. over to verify that there was a rear head wound.”

    Of course this is blatantly false. It comes at the same time your web site presents this article about Parkland intern Don Curtis in the Canyon News: http://www.myplainview.com/canyon/news/article_f6555d0a-48c4-11e3-bbd1-001a4bcf887a.html

    “As he [Curtis] was beginning the cut-down procedure …, a third doctor moved around to the president’s head and lifted it so he could examine the president for any wounds that were not visible from his position, lying on his back. As soon as the doctor lifted the president’ head, he said, “Stop resuscitation. This is not compatible with life.”

    Curtis reported that each senior physician, and there were several in the room by then, looked at Kennedy’s head.

    Curtis also looked, and he told the audience “the posterior part of his head was blown out.”

    Curtis, who had become very familiar with entrance and exit wounds during his trauma room work at Parkland, said that there was no doubt in his mind that the exit wound on the president’s head was at the back.”

    As we know, Curtis is just the latest in a long parade of expert and non-expert eye-witnesses who describe the wound this way.

    Gopnik completely mis-uses the discrepancy between testimony and film/x-ray evidence to marginalize those buffs who claim the Z-film was altered, rather than question the scant surviving autopsy photographic record.

    Though I think the Zfilm authentic, the huge discrepancy between testimony and film, taken together with ARRB testimony from principals that original X-rays and autopsy photos are missing or different than those taken by principals, needs to be emphasized, not marginalized.

    This is a huge factual error for Gopnik and the New Yorker, that needs to be highlighted.

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