Saturday, 05 October 2013 20:47

Ron Rosenbaum Won't Shut Up

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Ron says "that all is uncertainty, that we'll never know who killed Kennedy or why to any degree of certainty." Well, with Ron leading the way that is probably true. ... To people who know something about the JFK case, and the ARRB declassified files, it is Ron who is the wingnut theorist. The idea that JFK was killed as a result of a high level plot is not a theory. It is a provable fact. End of story, writes Jim DiEugenio.

Way back in April of this year, Ron Rosenbaum restarted his decades old effort to cover up the Kennedy assassination. In Slate, he tried to revive an effort he had previously stopped doing. That is, the idiotic idea that somehow James Angleton had not been snookered by British double agent Kim Philby. He had first started this piece of malarkey back in 1983 in Harper's. In the nineties, for the New York Times, he dropped it. This was after Tom Mangold's fine biography of Angleton, Cold Warrior, revealed with first hand evidence-the kind that Rosenbaum had avoided in his 1983 piece – that Angleton was undoubtedly gulled by Philby. This year, he revived this piece of disinformation. For what end? Who knows? But it's interesting that it coincides with the 50th anniversary of JFK's murder and that researchers and writers like John Newman (Oswald and the CIA) and Lisa Pease (The Assassinations) have now closed in on Angleton's probable role as the ultimate control agent for Oswald. And even worse, that Angleton was very likely the maestro of the Mexico City charade that guaranteed that the murder of John Kennedy would not be actually investigated. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, Chapter 16)

As anyone who has followed Rosenbaum's career can tell, he began to really become an irresponsible and pernicious force on the JFK scene in 1983. This was when he wrote a truly awful hatchet job for Texas Monthly. In that long essay, entitled "Still on the Case," he set out to ridicule and belittle anyone still investigating the JFK murder. The problem was that he showed himself to be the wrong person to supervise any kind of survey of the case. Because he committed a series of howlers that any new student of the JFK case would recognize immediately. For instance, he said that Oswald's housekeeper at his Beckley apartment, Earlene Roberts, died before she gave her testimony to the authorities. This is ridiculous and it showed that Rosenbaum, who tried to come off as being a superior know it all, didn't even know some of the basic facts about the JFK case. (See my earlier expose of Rosenbaum. )

My intuitive feeling that Ron's long dormant interest in the JFK case was being revived because he wanted to try and put the kibosh on the critics for the 50th anniversary is now confirmed. For he has written another article, this time for Smithsonian magazine. It just happens to be packaged in the October 2013 issue. It is entitled, "What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?" Let us end any pretext of suspense. With Rosenbaum writing the piece it's obvious what the answer will be: it tells us nothing. But the surprise about the essay is not really Rosenbaum. We know what his agenda on the issue is. No, the surprise is who his collaborator is. It is none other than distinguished documentary film-maker Errol Morris.


Morris is especially surprising in light of three of his works. In 1988, Morris made The Thin Blue Line. This was a memorable documentary which, among its several achievements, helped free an innocent man from the clutches of the Dallas Police. That man was Randall Adams and he had been framed for the murder of a policeman. (Sound familiar Errol? Hint: J. D. Tippit.) It was actually one of the first popular works which began to expose just how horrendous that organization was under DA Henry Wade. We know today, through the efforts of current DA Craig Watkins, that the Dallas Police Department was the worst in the nation in its record of false arrests and framing people on phony evidence. In fact, their cumulative record in that regard was even worse than some states. (James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pgs. 172-74)

But that is not all. In 2003, Morris made The Fog of War, a documentary about the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Both in the film, and in the outtakes on the DVD, McNamara said some interesting things about Vietnam and how it related to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In 2012, in a book called A Wilderness of Error, Morris addressed the infamous Jeffrey McDonald homicide case. As in the Adams case, Morris concluded that an innocent man was convicted of murder. He said about that case, "What happened here is wrong. It's wrong to convict a man under these circumstances, and if I can help correct that, I will be a happy camper."

All of this would seem to indicate that Morris would be an ideal candidate to actually be a truth-teller on the JFK case. But the problem is there is another side to Morris. He is a quite successful and prolific maker of TV commercials. He has worked for companies like Apple, Nike and Toyota. He also has made short films for the Academy Awards shows. Finally, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times online edition.

It was this last which provoked Rosenbaum to interview the acclaimed documentary film-maker. For in 2011 Morris created a short film for the Times. Entitled The Umbrella Man, it featured an interview with Josiah Thompson. Thompson discussed the phenomenon of the figure of a man in Dealey Plaza who incongruously raised an umbrella at the time Kennedy's limousine was approaching the kill zone. He is in close proximity to a dark complected, Latin-looking man – perhaps a Cuban – who raises his fist at around this same time. After the shooting, while everyone is either hiding or running around trying to find the killers, these two do something strange. They sit on the curb next to each other for a few minutes. They then walk off in opposite directions. If all of that is not puzzling enough for you, there is this: In some pictures, it looks like the Latin has a walkie-talkie in his rear pocket.

Needless to say the Warren Commission never noted any of this in their 888 page report. Just like they never noted Kennedy's rearward motion in the Zapruder film. But some people did notice it. To any curious investigator, which excludes the Commissioners, it was clearly arresting. Consider what Michael Benson says about it in his encyclopedia on the case, Who's Who in the JFK Assassination. He calls the pair "two of the most unusual characters" on the scene. And he adds that there appears to be evidence that suggests the Latin looking man is talking into the walkie-talkie. (Benson, pgs. 485-86)

When the HSCA began to set up, they ran newspaper photo ads asking whom the person raising the umbrella and pumping it up and down was. They then asked if he would come forward. A man named Louis Witt did so and testified to the HSCA. He said that he was the man with the umbrella. He said that the reason he had the umbrella was that he did not like Kennedy. The umbrella was to remind everyone that Kennedy's father, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, was too sympathetic to English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the man who tried to appease Adolf Hitler. In Thompson's interview with Morris for the Times he essentially recites this HSCA testimony. Thompson says that this is just wacky enough to be true. And he ends up saying that this was a cautionary tale about thinking up sinister explanations for seemingly malignant occurrences. (For more on "Umbrella Man" and the "Dark Complected Man," see this YouTube video.)

Before proceeding further, let us note something that, inexplicably, neither Morris nor Thompson mentions: the presence of the Hispanic looking man. As noted, this man has what appears to be a walkie talkie in his pocket, and he appears to speak into it after the assassination. Further, he calmly stood next to the man the HSCA says was Witt, and while Witt was raising the umbrella, this man raised his fist upward. They then sat next to each other on the curb for a few minutes after the shooting. Here, the Latin looking man appears to talk into his radio set.

Why would anyone ignore all of this? Maybe because it would be too difficult to explain the proximity of two strangely behaving men being right next to each other just before and after President Kennedy got his head blown off? Further, one would have to ask: Why did neither the FBI nor the Dallas Police in 1963, nor the HSCA in 1977, locate this other man? (For that matter, why didn't the DPD nor the FBI find Witt in 1963?) Neither Thompson nor Morris asks that question. And since Morris either does not know about this man, or does not include information about him, the viewer who is unfamiliar with the case cannot ask it either.

But beyond that, when Witt did appear, his sworn testimony had some real problems to it. Witt testified that just before the shooting, he was walking toward the motorcade trying to get his umbrella open and therefore did not actually see the murder. (HSCA Vol. IV, pgs. 432ff) This is simply not true. The man was standing still at the time, with the umbrella open well above his head; so he had to have seen what was happening in front of him. Yet, in spite of this fact, Witt specifically denied that he saw the shooting because his view of the car was obstructed by the umbrella. Wrong. He was not moving as the umbrella was raised, and the umbrella does not obstruct his view. He then said he ended up standing on the retaining wall, which again, he did not do. (ibid, p. 433)

Another curious point is that Witt testified that he got to Dealey Plaza more or less by accident. He said that he just went for a walk at lunch and did not know the actual motorcade route. He just knew the route would be through the center of town and so he followed the crowds. (ibid, p. 431) But further, much of what he describes as occurring during the shooting of Kennedy is not recorded on any films or photos of the scene. He says that "there was the car stopping, the screeching of tires, the jamming on of brakes, motorcycle patrolman right there beside one of the cars. One car ran up on the President's car..." (ibid, p. 433) Finally, Witt said he never knew who the Latin looking man was or if he had a radio device with him. He only recalled that afterwards, the man said, "They done shot them folks." (ibid, p. 441)

What is striking about Witt's HSCA testimony is that no one seriously challenged him on any of these quite dubious points. No one tells him that what he describes himself as doing is not what the photographic evidence says he did. No one tells him that what he said happened during the shooting is not on the Zapruder film or any other film. And no one on the HSCA even checked to see if the umbrella he brought to the hearing was the same one he raised in Dealey Plaza. (Ibid, p. 447) He said it was. But as researchers who have done comparisons between the two have found, it is not the same one because the number of spokes are different. But apparently, Thompson, who for a time afterwards actually bought into the work of the HSCA, found all this credible. And Morris, who never brings up any of these other points, agrees without fact checking. Which is something understandable from the Times, but not Morris. Frankly, it's hard to figure which of the two comes off worse here. Because if they had examined the actual evidence, the message of the piece would have been quite different. They did not. They accepted what Robert Blakey had sponsored. In fact, in Rosenbaum's article both Thompson and Morris essentially agree with what Blakey produced for the public. Because all three men agree that the Umbrella Man – presumably Witt – came forward and explained himself. Well, Rosenbaum can only say that he "explained himself" by not writing about how he explained himself. Or that Blakey consciously did these kinds of things in order to make the critical community look bad.


Which is where Rosenbaum comes into the picture. For when some people questioned what Thompson and Morris had done in the New York Times, on some of the same grounds I outlined above, Rosenbaum called it "conspiracy theory pathology". Yet, for one example, this author has not outlined any role in any conspiracy by Witt or the Hispanic looking man. All I have noted is why they seem suspicious and how Witt's story does not seem very credible. Rosenbaum won't even do that. In fact, in his entire Smithsonian essay, just like Morris and Thompson, he never even mentions the dark complected man at all.

But Rosenbaum then goes even further. As noted, the title of the essay is "What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us" . Well, the real title should be "What Rosenbaum Says the Zapruder Film Tells Us." Please sit down as I relate how Ron explains the terrific back and to the left motion of Kennedy's body at frame Z 313. He says that the most convincing explanation to him is that "JFK had been hit from behind after the previous frame, 312, slamming his chin forward to his chest, and his head was rebounding backward in Frame 313." Go ahead, read that again. It's a quote. Now go ahead and try it. Slam your chin into your chest and see if you can rocket your entire body backward with such force as to bounce off the back of a chair. Please, if anyone can do it, please video it and send to me. Then I won't think Ron is a complete and useless Warren Commission shill.

Rosenbaum then recites something from the script of Parkland. Abraham Zapruder was so upset by the violence he saw on the film that this is the reason he sold it. And then after Time-Life purchased it, they "decided to withhold Frame 313". It would be nice if Ron would get something right once in a while. But evidently he can't. It's clear that Zapruder sold the film for money, and he knew what it was worth. Just as his family later milked millions from its use. And Time-Life did not just withhold Frame 313. They never officially allowed the film to be shown period. All they did was print certain frames from it. Ron then says that bootleg copies existed and this helped fuel the first generation of "conspiracy theories." This is more Rosenbaumian nonsense. The film was available at the National Archives. And many researchers went there to view it. This is how descriptions of it got into certain books and articles by 1967. The bootleg copies came only after Jim Garrison subpoenaed the film from Time-Life for the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969.

Rosenbaum now mangles some more history. He says that the first public showing of the Zapruder film on ABC in 1975 helped create the Church Committee in 1976. Since the Church Committee was initially set up in early 1975, this cause and effect scenario is ridiculous. What provoked the creation of the Church Committee was a number of things, including the disclosure by the New York Times in December of 1974 of James Angleton's illegal domestic programs. Which included mail interception. The TV showing of the Zapruder film actually provoked the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Rosenbaum then brings up the reply by film director and author Alex Cox to the original posting of the Thompson-Morris video on the Times web site. In the Morris film, Thompson called the late Robert Cutler a "wingnut" for postulating that the umbrella could have been used as a launcher for a poisoned flechette. Alex noted that these things should not be dismissed as "wingnuttery" because, as he showed in his reply video, the CIA actually did have such weapons at the time.

Predictably, Rosenbaum used this to close out the discussion. But not just of this particular issue, but of the entire issue of Kennedy's assassination. He reduces it all to a flechette out of an umbrella from a Thompson proclaimed "wingnut". Recall, Thompson was the same guy who tried to portray Jim Garrison as something as a kook in 1967 because Garrison had called Kennedy's assassination a coup d'etat. Thompson then added there was precious little evidence for that at the time. Even though LBJ had reversed Kennedy's foreign policy and committed over 500,000 combat troops into Vietnam; in another Kennedy reversal, as many as a half million members of the PKI, Indonesia's communist party had been slaughtered in the CIA coup of Achmed Sukarno; and in still another reversal Air America was flying heroin into the USA from Laos. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 380-81)

Ron then says that what all of this means is "that all is uncertainty, that we'll never know who killed Kennedy or why to any degree of certainty." Well, with Ron leading the way that is probably true. After all, he has been peddling this same line of "conspiracy theorists are not worth listening to" for 30 years. To people who know something about the JFK case, and the ARRB declassified files, it is Ron who is the wingnut theorist. The idea that JFK was killed as a result of a high level plot is not a theory. It is a provable fact. End of story. It was the Warren Commission that was one giant theory. And it was made up for political expediency by men who were well versed in subterfuge i.e. Allen Dulles, John McCloy, Gerald Ford and J. Edgar Hoover. And when one examines today what these men did, it seems even worse now than it did then. Somehow, Rosenbaum and Morris cannot bring themselves to discuss that point with Thompson. Or perhaps they knew the Times would never let them print that part of the interview.

And if that is so, it tells the whole story about who Rosenbaum is and what he is up to. The dying MSM needs people like Ron, and apparently, he needs them. If there were no MSM, and if we had a truly democratic media, Rosenbaum would be exposed as the tool that he is. That's right: Not a fool, but a tool.

Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 19:38
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and Reclaiming Parkland (2013/2016), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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