Why fact-based JFK conspiracy theories make sense to most people

“Conspiracy theories,” writes author Annie Jacobsen in a New York Times forum, are “the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of how we live.” A JFK conspiracy theory (or anti-conspiracy theory) is a story we tell ourselves in order to make sense of what happened on November 22, 1963.

Karen Douglas, a British sociologist, notes that some of today’s most prominent conspiracy theories are scientifically unfounded: the theory that vaccines cause autism or that climate change isn’t happening. These have a negative effect she says. They “decreased social engagement because they left people feeling powerless, and there is also some evidence that conspiracy theories might influence people without them knowing it.”

In the case of the Tuskegee medical experiments, the conspiracy theorists were right, observes author Harriet Washington. The U.S. government conducted secret experiments on unwitting victims with horrific results. In the 1960s socially marginal groups like the Black Panther Party and Students for a Democratic Society denounced the experiments (which were conducted in the 1940s). but only when credentialed medical experts exposed the use of unwitting patients was the Tuskegee conspiracy acknowledged. “The poor and marginalized, with no such authority, are dismissed, unheard and shrugged off as ‘conspiracy theorists.'” writes Washington. This, of course, remains true today.

What about JFK?

Richard Helms
Richard Helms, deputy CIA director in 1963

If we look dispassionately at the accumulated facts, the belief the President John F. Kennedy was killed by political enemies stands as one of the more fact-based, scientifically grounded, conspiracy theories, albeit one that awaits ratification by credentialed authorities.

A variety of Washington insiders, including JFK’s widow, brother, and successor, believed Kennedy was killed by his enemies.  Reliable eyewitness testimony from law enforcement officers contradicts the official theory that the president was only hit by gunfire from the rear. New sworn testimony calls into question the authenticity of the medical evidence found in the National Archives. And CIA officials obstructed assassination investigators in the 1970s, much as they obstructed torture investigators recently.

Timothy Melley of the University of Miami writes:

“Twenty-five years after the end of the cold war, the U.S. has 17 intelligence agencies employing hundreds of thousands of workers at a cost of some $70 billion per year — but most of our ideas about U.S. intelligence work come from the endless stream of melodramatic entertainment in movies and on TV. The public thus finds itself in a strange state of half-knowledge about U.S. foreign affairs. When “top secrecy” and “plausible deniability” are widely accepted ideas, is it any surprise that so many people believe political power is wielded by powerful, invisible agents?””

James Angleton
James Angleton, chief of the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff.

It is no surprise all. When it comes to thinking about JFK’s assassination, most people understand that it is fact that in JFK’s America, political power was wielded by powerful invisible agents. There is no disputing that in 1963, there was a group of covert operations officers reporting to deputy CIA director Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief James Angleton, who:

1) had taken an interest in an itinerant ex-Marine names Lee Oswald;

2) had responsibility for organizing political assassinations; an

3)  took deceptive actions after JFK’s murder to hide or misrepresent their knowledge of Oswald while JFK was still alive.

The most plausible suspects in JFK conspiracy speculation are CIA officers reporting to Helms and Angleton who meet at least two of these three criteria. There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that any of them conspired to kill the president. But the preponderance of evidence shows that Helms and Angleton and some of their subordinates were legally culpable in the wrongful death of the president

These officers include  William K. Harvey, David Phillips, David Morales, Howard Hunt, Ann Goodpasture, George Joannides and others. The CIA retains thousands of pages of material on the secret operations of these now-deceased employees, lending credence to the notion that agency has something material to hide about their role in the JFK assassination story.  If and when these secret files are released in October 2017, we will know more about whether such fears are justified.

So when the New York Times asks “Are all conspiracy theories bad?” the answer is no. Those fact-based conspiracy theories that point people in the direction of historical truth have a positive social impact.





43 thoughts on “Why fact-based JFK conspiracy theories make sense to most people”

  1. The alterations also involve cutting of sections of the original film. Earlier footage of the original film is said to have been removed as well as frame/s that coincide with the footage of the fatal shot. If the original film was blown up and reproduced at Hawkeye lab some definition would be lost in copies, that is to say that the copies would not be as clear and detailed as the original film. The reproduced films of which more than one were produced at Hawkeye during the session presided by Brugioni, were different to each other in terms of lightness/darkness and contained artifacts; and the “extant” Z film photos became bracketed.

    1. “The alterations also involve cutting of sections of the original film.”~Mariano

      Yes these are the assertions of Douglas Horne, and it’s a whale of a tale for certain. The “extant Z-film” refers to the in-camera original; it remains a spool of film, which is now housed in the National Archives. This film has been analyzed by Rolland Zavata, the premier expert on Kodak film and pronounced authentic.

      It is my determination that the original film did not end up at Hawkeyeworks at any time, and that the briefing boards were manufactured using one of the first day copies.

      1. Willy Whitten writes:
        “The alterations also involve cutting of sections of the original film.”~Mariano . . .
        Yes these are the assertions of Douglas Horne, and it’s a whale of a tale for certain.”

        Overall, Horne’s research is enlightening whether one agrees with his conclusions or not. However the film alteration theory is a detour into pure fantasy. IMHO it taints the rest of his work and that’s unfortunate.

        With respect to zfilm alteration, one of the easier problems to consider: the alteration crew would have had to coordinate with the autopsy doctors to get their stories straight. And both of those teams had to be directed by others who were following a detailed script carefully constructed before the assassination. [The script called for assassins to shoot Kennedy from the front, after which fellow conspirators would hijack and modify the visual records so that all the shots appeared to originate from the rear.] Needless to say, the script-writers had to be clairvoyant in order to anticipate all the unpredictable variables that exist in a well-attended motorcade ambush.

        The technical issues are impossible enough. Even without them, the level of coordination and large number of fellow-conspirators needed to carry out such a scheme makes the alteration theory entirely farfetched.

    2. It is a shame that people are losing their historical memories of things that occurred in their very lifetimes. The transition from analog technologies to the digital wonderland of the “future” here has seemingly been attended by mass amnesia.

      A facsimile of film effects done in digital format is still only a virtual product. It is crucial to bear in mind that there was no such thing as digital imagery in 1963. Everything had to be accomplished by analog means at that time.

      My lifetime has been on the cusp of these two worlds. I have been in special effects work from the time of film, and made he cross over to digital when that came to the fore. I understand the relation of one to the other, but also know the ways in which they differ.

      I would note here then, that there is nothing but artificial light in the virtual world of digital. There is no daylight there, only the hypnosis of Ones & Zeros.

  2. What happens, then, when a liar stumbles upon the truth, unawares of the angels watching? Je suis Charlie. I hope everything turns out OK, no matter how long it takes. 2017? Sorry for rambling, it’s a sad night here in Paris. Happy New Year, Earthlingz.

    1. It’s a terrible, terrible loss. I’m getting a friend in France to buy me a copy of the next edition of Charlie Hebdo. They are planning to print 1 million copies. Can’t do anything else to help but I can do that.

      1. Vanessa I have lost track of our conversation about the Zapruder film, and don’t have a record of where it was taking place.
        My system was down the whole day yesterday, so I didn’t see if you answered my last comments there.

        1. Hi Willy – our posts seem to be crossing in the mail so to speak. I was waiting for your post of the detailed comments on the Zapruder film before responding. Did you post that?

          I do have a detailed response for you on the lurch-forward issue but I left it on my work computer 🙁 . Will try and retrieve it asap.

          I’m not that young! Let’s say I’m around Jeff’s generation. 🙂

          I’ll check your other posts and respond shortly.

          1. Hi Vanessa,

            No I still only have my handwritten notes. My system was down for a day, and I have just now been able to get somewhat organized.

            That frame by frame is going to be a very long post, and I am wondering if it would be worth it, as everyone here seems to be floating about on their own personal biases and unwilling to seriously consider the reasoning of others…

          2. Hi Willy

            If you have evidence that disproves zfilm alteration then I think you should post it. There are a lot of people specifically interested in that discussion and every piece helps us work out that puzzle.

            I can’t speak for others on here but I assume we’ve all come to our views after years of considering all the evidence we can and therefore are probably not easily moved.

            But there are still plenty who are on the fence on lots of specific issues to do with the assassination such as zfilm alteration and your views will certainly influence them.

            In terms of changing my own views on zfilm alteration there are a number of specific issues in the film itself which persuade me that it has been altered. If you have the time and patience to work through those then I would greatly appreciate it.

            I’m going to be flat out the rest of today but will post my response to the lurch-forward issue tomorrow.

          3. Vanessa and the entire readership here;

            The bottom line to this whole issue is the distinction between daylight and artificial light and the effects one or the other have on the chemistry of emulsions in film.

            No matter what is asserted as far as the techniques used to alter the film, even the fantastically elaborate scenario posited by David Healy; the final product must be a Kodachrome II film.

            As Joe Durnavich & David Wimp point out about Kodachrome II Daylight Film:
            “What would happen if you copied a movie shot with this film stock onto this same film stock? Well, the contrast boost would get applied twice, really boosting the heck out of the contrast. The film has a limited ability to hold all that (indicated by the flattening of the curves at the top and bottom of the graph), so bright scene details become too bright to record and dark scene details become too dark. As photographers say, you blow out your highlights and you lose shadow detail. Even worse, because the color curves are not the same, contrast of the red layer gets boosted more than the green layer, which gets boosted more than blue layer. Your colors are all out of balance in a somewhat complex way.”

            — Adding to this the problem of the necessity to use artificial light using a projector ie, an optical printer, and any faker would have an insurmountable, in fact impossible problem creating anything that looked remotely realistic.

  3. The trick is to stick to the forensic evidence. Focus on the altered medical evidence, the altered zapruder film and combine those findings with multiple and credible eyewitness testimony that will bring the forensic findings to life. Do not go down the rabbit hole looking for only rabbits.

    1. mark colucci writes, “The trick is to stick to the forensic evidence.”

      I think this is a most reasonable approach as well. So let’s address some of that forensic evidence. Mark continues with this:
      “Focus on the altered medical evidence, the altered zapruder film..”

      Does the forensic evidence actually point to alteration of the Zapruder film? My own opinion as a professional special effects film artist for over 25 years, is that the real evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that the Zapruder film is authentic.

      Whereas this particular thread may not be the one to go into this in great detail, allow me to introduce you to my own assessment at this link:

      Both the properties of film, and the newest forensics of the crime scene are discussed there at length.

  4. “most of our ideas about U.S. intelligence work come from the endless stream of melodramatic entertainment in movies and on TV.”

    We also get our ideas about U.S. intelligence work come from Ed Snowden.
    When these officials are out on TV, they’re not talking about what’s good for you. They’re not talking about what’s good for business. They’re not talking about what’s good for society:

    The issue is too abstract for average people, who have too many things going on in their lives. And we do not live in a revolutionary time. People are not prepared to contest power. We have a system of education that is really a sort of euphemism for indoctrination. It’s not designed to create critical thinkers. We have a media that goes along with the government by parroting phrases intended to provoke a certain emotional response—for example, “national security.” Everyone says “national security” to the point that we now must use the term “national security.” But it is not national security that they’re concerned with; it is state security. And that’s a key distinction. We don’t like to use the phrase “state security” in the United States because it reminds us of all the bad regimes.

    “So when the New York Times asks ‘Are all conspiracy theories bad? ”
    The NYT’s parrot official conspiracy theories – they are good..


  5. Excellent article. Thanks for posting.
    To me, sifting through the “theories”, and real research results in a lot more sensible or common sense result than My Government has given me in my lifetime thus far.

  6. “the belief the President John F. Kennedy was killed by political enemies stands as one of the more fact-based, scientifically grounded, conspiracy theories, albeit one that awaits ratification by credentialed authorities.”

    Who’s a credentialed authority that ratifies conspiracy theories? Cass Sunstein?
    He was mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court. While at Harvard Law School, Sunstein wrote a paper proposing that the Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems false conspiracy theories:

    “most of our ideas about U.S. intelligence work come from the endless stream of melodramatic entertainment in movies and on TV.”

    The chummy relationship between the CIA and Hollywood executives is used to mold these ideas:
    We also get ideas about intelligence work from the media – Carl Bernstein’s The CIA and the Media
    describes this: http://carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

    1. Thank you anonymous, for bringing up Cass Sunstein and his proposed strategy of ‘cognitively infiltration’. I would like to add that this idea has a precursor in CIA Document #1035-960 ‘Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report’. This begins with point number 1. “Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy’s assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder.”

      I will comment that it certainly would be a concern to an agency that has it’s fingerprints (metaphorically) all over the murder of JFK.
      . . . . .
      The agency also directed its members “[t]o employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.”

      1035-960 further delineates specific techniques for countering “conspiratorial” arguments centering on the Warren Commission’s findings. Such responses and their coupling with the pejorative label (of ‘conspiracy theorist) have been routinely wheeled out in various guises by corporate media outlets, commentators and political leaders to this day against those demanding truth and accountability about momentous public events.”

  7. The press has some complicity in the failure to find truth, and it wasn’t nowhere near as concentrated and controlled as today – how many newspapers were still in New York City? Where were the Woodwards and Bernsteins of 11/22/63? What scared them into this complicity?

      1. She died of polypharmacy complicated by alcohol.
        And there is NO evidence that she ever interviewed Jack Ruby-another false factoid from the imagination of a conspiracy researcher undocumented by anybody and refuted by many.

      2. Dorothy Kilgallen is to my mind a suspicious death due to the intricate circumstances of her deep study of the Warren Commission. As a well known journalist she had plenty of connections and ended up with information about the interview Warren and Ford did of Ruby when he pleaded to be taken back to Washington and put under protection.

        When she returned to New York after her Texas investigation, she told her friends she was going to blow the case wide open and began working on a book, one she probably expected to win another Pulitzer. She claimed to had been able to interview Jack Ruby in jail while in Texas.

        As some may latch onto this claim, and insist there is no verifying proof of such a meeting, this tidbit is used as a distraction to the rest of the details of her investigation and suspicious death.

        No, it cannot be proved that Kilgallen personally spoke with Ruby. But bickering on this point diminishes the other strange evidence surrounding her untimely death. It is my opinion that she was murdered because of the information she was going to publish on the JFK assassination.

        1. No, it cannot be proven that Kilgallen spoke with Ruby. Despite that the claim has been a staple of conspiracy lore for nearly half a century. Just another lie created out of whole cloth to a.) create a false narrative in an attempt to discredit real evidence and genuine players in the Ruby story or b.) create an interesting story to encourage suckers to by a book and make a buck for the author.
          It ranks right up there with Mark Lane’s claim of being able to see Jack Ruby in pictures taken of the TSBD at the time of the assassination-pure, proven BS put out to gin up sales of Mr. Lane’s book ” Rush to the Deposit Window”. There is still gold in them thar factoids.

          1. You leapfrog over my point Photon. That is that there is other evidence strongly indicating the murder of Dorothy Kilgallen.
            She was killed shortly after making public her intention of breaking the case wide open. Her manuscript and other materials ended up ‘disappeared’.
            You stated in definitive language the cause of Kelgallen’s death as “polypharmacy” complicated by alcohol consumption. Cite your source for such.

            “The cause of death in the autopsy says “PENDING FURTHER STUDY.” A handwritten note below that says “Acute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication. Circumstances undetermined.” This handwritten note was *APPARENTLY* based on the chemical findings, which were appended to the report. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.15, and barbiturate level that says “UV – 2.4 [illegible]” in the liver.”~ Junior Medical Examiner James Luke with doctors Sturner and Baden present), a handwritten addendum to the “Autopsy Report”.

            How definitive is “apparently”?

          2. Photon, what “real evidence” are you referring to in your point “A”? Also, a check of my Webster’s dictionary does not lead me to the word “polypharmacy”. Could you explain what that is?

  8. Hoover is equally culpable in the wrongful death of JFK, as is the Secret Service. Hoover was dictatorial as head of the FBI. Helms and Angleton at CIA, headed teams of agents loyal not to JFK, but to Dulles, Helms, Angleton and Harvey. These agents were veterans at coup d’etats, assassinations, subterfuge, and propaganda. When the two groups tasked with domestic and foreign intelligence decide to look the other way, it is more likely a conspiracy to kill a sitting President will succeed. I believe Hoover stated that if he would reveal what he knew about the JFK assassination, the whole political system would collapse. The JFK assassination was as coup d’etat against America. Ruby hints at the “form of government” that would replace JFK/democracy, because “the people that put me in the position I’m in, wont let the truth come above-board (the underworld which includes covert organizations) to the world.”

  9. The steadfast containment of evidence by the FBI, CIA, SS’s, DPD, WC, government and official investigative committees of 11/22 have successfully railroaded any possibility of learning the truth for over 50 years.
    There is no longer any doubt as to the failure of every official investigation into 11/22 to pursue the truth with integrity.
    Thanks to the not insubstantial symphony of voices that disapprove of this travesty of justice (whether believable or not) we have facts, theories, and a multitude of questions that require explanation. Therefore, the events of 11/22 will not be erased from memory, and the issue will not rest until these events are properly investigated.
    The beasts of treachery that existed at the time of 11/22, that systematically killed off any chance of proper investigation, are still with us in the form of institutional sacred cows that tow the same line of obfuscation.

  10. Good quotes, Dr. Mantik. The constant attempt by the establishment to explain away “conspiratorial thinking” does rely on repetition and the appearance of a coherent story. It’s been only intermittently successful in the last 51 years. And also, for someone writing for the New York Times, everything in their domain mitigates them from accepting impertinent facts.

    “Once the sandbox is acquired, and a person’s personal reputation, livelihood, and status is dependent on that sandbox, a person can be very reluctant to give it up. When the English scientist Bertrand Russell was a teenager, he wrote a letter to the German logician Gottlieb Frege that destroyed his entire system of thought. Frege first denied it, then claimed that “the whole of mathematics is undermined.” Which of course it wasn’t. It’s just that his theory was wrong.”


  11. I disagree that “…the preponderance of evidence shows that Helms and Angleton and some of their subordinates were legally culpable in the wrongful death of the president”

    It is clear beyond doubt Angleton and his group were keeping tabs on Oswald. If Oswald had been an agent working for Angleton, there would have been “no keeping tabs on him” as the record shows. Oswald wouldn’t have been a matter of keen interest or curiosity. He would have been at work, as a known and in some way trusted person, providing information to Angleton.

    It’s clear Angleton was interested in Oswald. Not because he knew much about Oswald, as he would if his group had recruited Oswald as an agent. But because Oswald was an odd duck who was of natural interest.

    There’s zero indication IMO Angleton, Helms, or any other CIA employee was controlling Oswald. The closest one comes to such an indication are the statements of the CIA pay clerk who said some years after 1963 that he cut payments for the benefit of Lee Harvey Oswald. The pay clerk’s statements lack corroboration, especially because one struggles to detect Oswald’s having any significant unexplained income. He was always scraping bottom financially, not characteristic of a compensated agent.

    1. Please, read State Secret, by Simpich. There are more than indications that David Atlee Philips was controlling Oswald in a CIA-FBI joint operation against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
      Besides, the CIA has ever produce neither a photo nor a tape of Oswald in Mexico City, and missed him as security risk although he was an ex Marine re-defector from the URSS, open pro Castro activist in New Orleans and Dallas, subscriber of U.S. Communist newspapers, and above all an American citizen in Mexico visiting both the Cuban and the Soviet embassies with the clear intention (caught on CIA transcripts)to travel illegally to Cuba in order to go on to the URSS.

    2. Jonathan writes; “I disagree that “…the preponderance of evidence shows that Helms and Angleton and some of their subordinates were legally culpable in the wrongful death of the president”

      And then Jonathan goes on to speak of various connections Helms and Angleton may or may not have had to Oswald. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it is not proposed that Oswald was the shooter, by most of the research community I am familiar with.

      Personally I think Oswald was a patsy, just as he claimed to be.

  12. “The preponderance of evidence shows that Helms and Angleton…were legally culpable in the wrongful death of the president.” Jefferson Morley

    I’m speechless. That’s quite a thing to write.

  13. The JFK assassination mystery is like some kind of modern day Rosetta Stone lying indecipherable to modern memory. This mystery may one day establish that powerful governments lie to protect themselves from incompetence, or that a charismatic-liberal president got ahead of himself, and got off message. What I can’t believe is that there is some kind of trail of evidence just waiting for officialdom to make public. If the body-politic is so malign, any trace of Oswald’s connections to intelligence organisations, or evidence of official assassination plots would have long been vaporised – as happened to Rose Cheramie, David Ferrie, Santos Trafficante, and other various witnesses to history.

  14. Instead of conspiracy theories, I prefer conspiracy hypothesis supported by conspiracy facts, for instance, the impersonation of Oswald in Mexico City, according to the very CIA transcripts of tapped phone calls to the Soviet Embassy and the lack of their respective tapes, although CIA protocol prescribed to preserve them, since the caller was clearly identified as U.S. citizen visiting the Cuban Embassy.

  15. Conspiracy theories aside:
    If Lyndon Johnson was guilt-free and had a shred of integrity he would have recused himself from handpicking the jury tasked with investigating President Kennedy’s assassination. Allowing Lyndon Johnson to control every aspect of his predecessor’s murder investigation is so tawdry and outrageous that future historians will question the very courage and integrity of all 20th century Americans – not just our politicians. Is that the legacy that we want to leave?
    Lyndon Johnson was a man on the precipice of spending years in jail for corruption in the Sol Estes and Baker cases. Subsequent testimony and additional solid evidence implicates him in murder and wholesale thievery from the Federal Government. This is the man who we allowed to control every aspect of the murder investigation of his predecessor.
    All official inquiries to this point have been replete with reams of lost and misplaced evidence, the strange deaths of prima facia witnesses and a full measure of governmental obfuscation.
    Virtually anything can be put to a vote these days; Why not a vote to release all remaining evidence in this case – followed by a citizen’s investigation into what really happened – while living witness, with no more reason to be afraid, still survive?

    1. First, I do believe LBJ had a whole lot to gain from the assassination(although not “the most”). And yes, any living witnesses shouldn’t be afraid, with the deaths John E Hoover, LBJ, Trafficante, Ford, Specter, and others who played major roles in making sure the assassination and coverup went off as hoped(by them).

  16. “A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”

    “It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.”

    “The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see very little. We often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to our judgment is missing – what [you] see is all there is (WYSIATI).”

    “They didn’t want more information that might spoil their story.”

    – Thinking Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman
    (Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology)

    1. What Mantik lists here is precisely the way that the mainstream media works. It has less to do with so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ who in my experience are much more attentive to deep detail and analysis than anything ever presented in the mainstream.
      The mainstream is still stuck on the ridiculous “Lone Nut” meme, that has been thoroughly demolished by the citizen research community.

    2. I think the Warren Commission was given the “what you see is all there is”(from Dr. Mantik’s post)by John Edgar Hoover of the FBI, and, I suppose, LBJ, too. WC Chief Counsel Rankin kept saying to his commissioners “we are here to close doors, not to open new ones”. It’s sad that someone didn’t smell a rat by hearing that. The only rat-smellers were the WC attorneys who quit.

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