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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reclaiming History

I have had a long time interest in the history of the Kennedy Assassination. I remember distinctly when it was announced to our grade school class in the 60s. I bought a copy of the Warren Report in the 60s. In the 70s at the University of Pennsylvania a freshman hall-mate had written what must have been one of the first conspiracy books. Now there are over 800 books on the topic. With many hundreds more articles and now blogs. I don’t know how many I have read, but in the 90s I read a few of the conspiracy books and was briefly converted to strong skepticism about the lone gunman. Some 75% of American’s still have that view. In the 90s I saw the movie JFK, and due to the magic of cable a few times since. In the 00s I visited Dallas for the first time, and stood on the grassy knoll.

Now I have read Vincent Bugliosi’s: Reclaiming History : The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Well, OK, I have not read the whole 1,600 page thing, but I read much more than I expected to read when I started. Bugliosi takes the lawyers view. Since we will never know exactly what occurred that day, he looks for the preponderance of evidence, and seeks to refute the hundreds of theories that have emerged since then. He has taken twenty years to do it, and it shows. He has covered just about every variant if every conspiracy theory and puts them all directly in their place. He explains how every natural inconsistency has been twisted and turned to hatch yet another conspiracy theory.

This long book can be read as a set of separate parts. For example the chapter on Oswald stands alone as a insightful view into the character of Oswald and makes it clear that the idea that he was hired as an agent is laughable. A long chapter lays out what we know about what happened during those days, minute by minute. Bugliosi makes the case that there are naturally holes in that narrative, as one might expect, and the conspiracy theorists have spun a theory into every one of them.

Ballistics, rifles, bullets, logistics and strange motives are all discussed in considerable detail. The motives of the CIA and FBI are explored and the politics of the time.

A chapter in the movie JFK lays out why that piece of Hollywood slickness is a particularly dangerous piece of work. It takes the worked of a deranged prosecutor and then twists its weird logic to make it plausible. Yet it is not. A good example is how the case of the ‘magic bullet’, now long debunked, is played out there. This movie was seen by many reviewers as masterful, but can it be if it proposes a lie? Now many people think of it as definitive. This is the part of our history that needs to be reclaimed, making Bugliosi’s title so apt.

So will this movie change anything? Will the 75% be converted back to reality? Likely not. Just read the comments on Amazon. Lots of folks who admit they have not read the book, but have their own theories about what conspiracy occurred, and nothing will convince them otherwise. Even scarier, its starting all over again with 9/11 ‘truthers’.

And, if you have not had enough, there is an included thousand page CD-ROM with lots of readable footnotes. Here Bugliosi adds lots of additional text, including descriptions of some of the wackier theories that have been spun. There are multiple Oswalds, Oswald lovers and conspiracies so vast and convoluted only the desperate can claim them.

There is also something to be learned here about how to think about evidence and truth. In instances where there is no truth we can examine. Will this change as we have more cameras, more recording? I admire Bugliosi’s taking it to this level of detail.

Very good book.

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