I. Big Press Antecedents
It is perhaps obvious to those familiar with Vincent Bugliosi’s massive book that its title was chosen to suggest that the reason an overwhelming majority of Americans believed there was a conspiracy in the assassination of JFK was because the narrative of those events was hijacked by reckless conspiracy theorists, robbing their unsuspecting public of their “true” history, which now, thanks to the author, would be reclaimed for them.
The fiftieth anniversary coverage of the tragic event by the MSM, the movie release of Parkland, documentaries, Dallas and the Sixth Floor Museum, all these societal forces widely pushed the lone assassin scenario. This pattern of mainstream bias and willful neglect of stories that weaken the Lone Nut explanation has gone on since the assassination itself except for the preliminary “Castro was behind it” spin which was vetoed early on. The Church Committee and HSCA conclusions that impeach much of the Warren Commission’s work, the Antonio Veciana allegations that connect the CIA’s David Phillips directly with Oswald, the Clay Shaw revelation that he was in fact a well-paid CIA contract agent , the Lopez Report about Oswald and the Mexico City charade, and the ARRB releases showing an orchestrated torpedoing of Jim Garrison: these are but a few of the stories that have been virtually ignored by Big Press.
The publication of well-researched, highly revealing books such as JFK and The Unspeakable, The Devil’s Chessboard, Oswald and the CIA and many others are given the cold shoulder by mainstream media when compared to Case Closed, Reclaiming History and A Cruel and Shocking Act. When a researcher or producer gets noticed, such as Mark Lane or Oliver Stone, smear campaigns are unleashed.
The revelations about CIA’s Operation Mockingbird during the Church Committee go a long way in explaining the waning power of the traditional press. Jim DiEugenio’s Reclaiming Parkland chronicles Hollywood’s subservient ties with this influential outfit. More recently, the obituary of Charles Briggs Sr. underscored the CIA’s links with the Sixth-floor Museum in Dallas: a shrine for the lone assassin representation of events.
There is no question that the Fourth Estate’s freedom of expression, so instrumental in putting an end to the Vietnam War and exposing, to a certain degree, Watergate, has been compromised. But not without paying a price in lost readership, sales, market value and credibility, while weakening one of the key pillars of US democracy.
This harm to society is perhaps mitigated by the fact that, as flaws are exposed, more of us are finding new sources of information, choosing not to consume what is being sold, or believing what we are being told.
But what about those among us who do not have the option to change the channel? Like the students who are part of a captive audience in their history class and are forced to read the history book the school or teacher selects, and expected to answer exam questions according to what they are taught? Some of these students are very young and place their faith in their ”knowledgable” teacher whom they count on for selecting books reflective of the truth and which present history factually. What are they reading in their history books? Is it that the president was assassinated by a lone assassin?
In Part 1 of this article, we will expose what is said in North America’s most popular history books and how their authors respond to questions concerning their rationale and sources, and highlight certain flaws and patterns that seem to prevail. Part 2 will cover sources that have gone mostly ignored by history book authors, and an analysis of how authors are upholding, or not upholding, the values of their profession on this issue. Part 3 will propose a new phase of JFK assassination research that will focus on setting the narrative straight and reaching a wider audience.
II. Marketers, Historians and Youth
In 1994, anti-tobacco crusader, UCSF professor Stanton Glantz received an anonymous package filled with highly revealing documents about tobacco company Brown & Williamson. It shed light on the research they had about the ill effects of smoking, as well as certain marketing tactics used in the industry. In 1996, former vice-president of research and development at B&W, Jeffrey Wigand, became a whistleblower by stating on 60 Minutes that his employer manipulated their products so as to increase the nicotine content. By the end of 1998, Big Tobacco, along with the attorneys of 46 states, signed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, by which they agreed to pay over 200 billion to cover Medicaid costs and fund anti-smoking campaigns, and also to alter their marketing practices, especially those that target youth. The Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive was created in 2002 by the UCSF Library. Internal industry documents from the 1980s highlight the importance they attached to researching, targeting and manipulating youth. Over 60% of smokers were initiated to cigarettes before the age of sixteen.
Some of the proceeds from the lawsuits financed the legendary Truth campaigns which defined an approach called de-normalization (a concept we will come back to in part two). The communication strategy veered away from the typical “smoking is bad for your health” messages and instead broadcast hard-hitting anti tobacco industry campaigns where Big Tobacco executives were portrayed as greedy, predatory businessmen who owed their wealth and status to their acquisition of a youth clientele and the strategic delivery of nicotine. Post-campaign tests proved the strategies to be highly effective.
Up in Canada, health advocacy groups took notice.
That’s when the author’s marketing-communications firm was contacted and eventually asked to adapt the Truth campaigns for Quebec City, first as a test market. The offensive, under the brand name De Facto rocked the industry and the reaction of Canadian Big Tobacco was swift, aggressive and well orchestrated. Threats of lawsuits, PR smear initiatives, lobbying the government–everything they could muster was thrown at the perpetrators of the campaign. These methods, however, simply re-enforced the image of sophisticated Big Tobacco executives preying on kids! As a matter of fact, young students were placed front and center in the press relations. The contrast with industry executives this created earned Big Tobacco no praise. The campaign eventually went province-wide and played an important role in changing the landscape in terms of the perceptions of the tobacco industry, youth awareness, the stricter legal environment the tobacco industry now operates in and the lawsuits they would soon face for damages to health. The campaign received an honorable mention from the World Health Organization.
While one can take pride in playing a role in bettering the prospects of our youth, at times one can also feel like Frodo heading towards Mount Doom when taking on such a powerful opponent. So it is difficult to even imagine what individuals like Jim Garrison, Mark Lane, Fletcher Prouty and many in the JFK research community must have felt, taking on even more formidable opponents.
After a twenty-five-year stint in a marketing career, I joined an excellent college in Quebec City. There I began teaching business administration with a special focus on ethics, surrounded by students aged between sixteen and twenty, who have not been corrupted and are full of enthusiasm about how they can improve society, a notion now being taught as pre-condition to, and symbiotic with, turning a profit.
The first book I read about the JFK assassination was Crossfire by Jim Marrs–that was many years ago. This was followed by a few other readings on the matter and then Oliver Stone’s blockbuster JFK. After a hiatus of a few years I stumbled on JFK and the Unspeakable by Jim Douglas. This set off a frenzy of book reading, internet surfing and listening to every interview and documentary I could find. And while there is a lot of clutter in the form of false flags, wild claims, faulty thinking, sensationalism and unreliable research, there is also a host of serious researchers to be found who are teachers, lawyers and writers, who have painstakingly combed through documents, reviewed commission findings, interviewed witnesses, attended conferences, and, who have presented their findings in well written, diligently footnoted books, articles and websites, and have also participated in interviews and given seminars that are very accessible. If one makes the effort to look.
I was amazed by how much documentation the ARRB, and other sources, have added to the wealth of material JFK researchers tapped into, that was completely ignored by main stream media, which seemed to have assigned very little in the way of resources to research the crime of the last century. On the contrary, the financing of books and internet anti-conspiracy propaganda was quite intense. And when the fiftieth anniversary came and went, the Lone Nut version of events was front and center.
During the months leading up to the fiftieth, out of curiosity, I asked one of the history teachers at the college how his history book described the assassination: and there it was in black and white: JFK killed by a lone nut. Is that what our students and children are told is fact? How much of a free rein do historians have in youth-filled classrooms? These questions set off my research on how “history books” cover the assassination.
III. What Young Students Are Given To Read
The methodology used to prepare this study was actually quite simple:
By talking to representatives from three of the largest school book distributors in North America (Pearson, Nelson, McGraw Hill) in the fall of 2013, access was gained to many of the American History books used in the U.S. and Canada, including even one French book used in the province of Quebec. The editions were the most recent and/or the ones that would be available for the 2014-15 school-year. Many of these books were said to be among the most popular ones; the others were those that were also favored by the representatives. To these were added other accessible e-books also available in the instructors’ resource centers.
Texts pertaining to the Kennedy assassination were then extracted and their content looked over. In all, nineteen books were analyzed. (Note: coverage of the JFK assassination represents an extremely small portion of the content and does not necessarily reflect the overall quality of the research and writings in these textbooks.)
The history books analyzed were the following:
- America: Past and Present, 10th Edition
- American Destiny: Narrative of a Nation, Fourth Edition
- The American Journey, Combined Volume, 2011
- Out of Many: A History of the American People, 7th Edition
- Give Me Liberty, 2012
- The American Story, 2013
- The American Nation, 2012
- Created Equal, 2009
- America and its People, 2004
- American Stories, 2012
- The American Pageant, 15th Edition 2014
- Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People, Concise Edition, 6th Edition © 2014
- American Passages, Volume II: Since 1865, Brief Fourth Edition
- The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume II: Since 1865, Eighth Edition 2014
- A People and A Nation, Volume II: Since 1865, Ninth Edition 2012
- Discovering the American Past: A Look at the Evidence, Volume II: Seventh Edition 2012
- Experience History, V2: Since 1865, 8th Edition 2014
- The Unfinished Nation, Seventh edition 2014
- Histoire des États-Unis. Mythes et Réalités, Second édition 2006 (French book used in province of Quebec)
IV. How the JFK Assassination Is Portrayed (excerpts have been randomly shuffled)
The French textbook simply states that Kennedy was killed by a lone shooter in 1963.
Oswald, Lee Harvey (1939–1963): Ex-Marine and communist sympathizer who assassinated John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Oswald was murdered two days later as he was being transferred from one jail to another.
Tragedy in Dallas: JFK Assassinated
While visiting Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. Police apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald, and a mass of evidence linked him to the assassination. Before he could be brought to trial, he was murdered by Jack Ruby. An investigation headed by Chief Justice Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and although there is little evidence to support the theory that Oswald was part of a larger conspiracy, many doubted the Warren Commission’s conclusion.
In November 1963, President Kennedy visited Texas to raise money and patch up feuds among Texas Democrats. On November 22, the president’s motorcade took him near the Texas School Book Depository building in Dallas, where Lee Harvey Oswald had stationed himself at a window on the sixth floor. Acting on his own, Oswald fired three shots that wounded Texas Governor John Connally and killed the president. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office as president on Air Force One while the blood-splattered Jacqueline Kennedy looked on. Two days later, as Oswald was being led to a courtroom, Jack Ruby, a Texas nightclub owner, killed him with a hand-gun in full view of TV cameras.
The Assassination of President Kennedy
The assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 sent the entire nation into shock and mourning. Millions had identified his strengths—intelligence, optimism, wit, charm, coolness under fire—as those of American society.
In life, Kennedy had helped place television at the center of American political experience. Now in the aftermath of his death, television riveted a badly shocked nation. One day after the assassination, the president’s accused killer, an obscure political misfit named Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself gunned down before television cameras covering his arraignment in Dallas. Two days later, tens of millions watched the televised spectacle of Kennedy’s funeral, trying to make sense of the brutal murder. Although a special commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren found the killing to be the work of Oswald acting alone, many Americans doubted this conclusion. Kennedy’s death gave rise to a host of conspiracy theories, none of which seems provable.
Kennedy did not live to see his civil rights bill enacted. On November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas, he was shot and killed. Most likely, the assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald, a troubled former Marine. Partly because Oswald was murdered two days later by a local night club owner while in police custody, speculation about a possible conspiracy continues to this day. In any event, Kennedy’s death brought an abrupt end to his presidency.
“LET US CONTINUE”
Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald left the nation stunned, but Lyndon Johnson moved quickly to restore confidence by promising to continue Kennedy’s programs. In fact, Johnson went beyond Kennedy in the struggle for economic and racial equality.
Tragedy in Dallas: JFK Assassinated. While visiting Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. Police apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald, and a mass of evidence linked him to the assassination. Before he could be brought to trial, he was murdered by Jack Ruby. An investigation headed by Chief Justice Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and although there is little evidence to support the theory that Oswald was part of a larger conspiracy, many doubted the Warren Commission’s conclusion.
Kennedy was shot and killed just three months later on November 22, 1963, while on a political peace-making tour of Texas.
In the aftermath of the missile crisis, it appears that Kennedy was moving toward a policy of détente, but his assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, makes this impossible to know. The sorrowing nation assessed the slain president not so much by what he did as by what might have occurred.
The 1960s were an especially violent decade in American history. By far the most shocking event, the one that all those of age will remember until their dying day, was the assassination in Dallas of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The tragic event was investigated by a special presidential commission, the Warren Commission, which received testimony from scores of eyewitnesses. Whether the panel reached the correct conclusion about the episode has, of course, been the subject of intense argument. It is a profoundly moving experience to read some of the accounts of Kennedy’s last moments. His wife, Jacqueline, remembered shouting, “I love you, Jack” as she cradled his shattered head in her lap. The evidence and testimony considered by the Warren Commission is published in Hearings Before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kenned, 26 volumes (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964, 26 volumes). Jacqueline Kennedy’s testimony appears in volume 5. An abridged version of the Hearings, entitled The Witnesses (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964) was compiled by the New York Times.
The Kennedy Assassination On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was gunned down while riding in an open limousine in Dallas. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, left few reasons for his murder, and Oswald himself was gunned down two days later while being transported from police headquarters to jail, an event that aired on live television. For four days, the nation collectively mourned its fallen leader. In death, the image of the brash Cold Warrior and the tepid civil rights supporter underwent a transformation to that of a liberal legend, the king of Camelot.
The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
On November 22, 1963, the president was shot dead as his presidential motorcade moved through Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who had accompanied Kennedy to Texas, took the oath of office and rushed back to Washington. Equally quickly, the Dallas police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and pegged him as JFK’s assassin. Oswald had vague ties to organized crime; had once lived in the Soviet Union; and had a bizarre set of political affiliations, including shadowy ones with groups interested in Cuba. He declared his innocence but never faced trial. Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, killed Oswald on national television, while the alleged gunman was in police custody. An investigation by a special commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that both Oswald and Ruby had acted alone.
Kennedy’s life and presidency remain topics of historical debate and tabloid- style speculation. His assassination still provokes conspiracy theories and controversies. Researchers have provided new details about his poor health, reliance on exotic medications, and dalliances with women—all of which were kept from the public at the time.
In late November 1963, John and Jacqueline Kennedy traveled to Texas on a political tour. The 1964 presidential race was approaching, and Texas, which had narrowly supported the Kennedy-Johnson ticket three years before, could not be taken for granted. The Kennedys took a motorcade through Dallas, with the bubble-top of their limousine removed on a warm and cloudless day. Along the route, people waved from ofﬁce buildings and cheered from the sidewalks. As the procession reached Dealey Plaza, shots rang out from the window of a nearby book depository. President Kennedy grabbed his throat and slumped to the seat.
Texas Governor John Connally was wounded in the back, wrist, and leg. The motorcade raced to Parkland Hospital, where the president was pronounced dead. Within hours, the Dallas police arrested a twenty-four-year-old suspect named Lee Harvey Oswald. Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed in the basement of Dallas police headquarters by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner with a shady past. Dozens of theories surfaced about the Kennedy assassination, blaming leftists and rightists, Fidel Castro and the Maﬁa, the Ku Klux Klan and the CIA. The most logical theory, that a deranged man had committed a senseless act of violence, did not seem compelling enough to explain the death of a president so young and full of life.
Few other events in the nation’s history produced so much bewilderment and grief.
(Sidebar) Oswald, Lee Harvey (1939–1963). Alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, he was shot two days later while under arrest.
As in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it seemed unworthy that one misfit was alone responsible. (Reference to James Earl Ray and MLK)
The nation would not learn what sort of President John Kennedy might have become. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy visited Texas, the home state of his vice president, Lyndon Johnson. In Dallas, riding with his wife, Jackie, in an open-top limousine, Kennedy was cheered by thousands of people lining the motorcade’s route. Suddenly, shots rang out. The president crumpled, shot in the head. Tears ran down the cheeks of CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite as he told the nation their president was dead. The word spread quickly, in whispered messages to classroom teachers, by somber announcements in factories and offices, through the stunned faces of people on the street. That same day, police captured a suspect: Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. marine (dishonorably discharged) who had once attempted to gain Soviet citizenship. Just two days later, in full view of millions of TV viewers, Oswald himself was shot dead by shady nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Americans, already in shock, were baffled. What was Ruby’s motive? Was he silencing Oswald to prevent him from implicating others? The seven-member Warren Commission, headed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, concluded that Oswald had acted alone. For four days, the tragedy played uninterrupted on American television.
President Kennedy was assassinated that November in Dallas.
TRAGEDY IN DALLAS
On November 22, 1963, the people of Dallas lined the streets for his motorcade. Suddenly, a sniper`s rifle fired several times. Kennedy slumped into his wife`s arms, fatally wounded. His assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was caught several hours later. Oswald seemed a mysterious figure: emotionally unstable, he had spent several years in the Soviet Union. But his actions were never fully explained, because only two days after his arrest -in full view of television cameras- a disgruntled nightclub operator named Jack Ruby gunned him down.
Nothing illustrated that more clearly than the popular reaction to the tragedy of November 22, 1963. In Texas with his wife and Vice President Lyndon Johnson for a series of political appearances, as the presidential motorcade rode slowly through the streets of Dallas, shots rang out. Two bullets struck the president-one in the throat, the other in the head. He was sped to a nearby hospital where minutes later he was pronounced dead. Lee Harvey Oswald-a young man who had spent time in the Soviet Union and, later in Cuba- was arrested for the crime. Later that day he was he was mysteriously murdered by a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, as he was being moved from one jail to another. Most Americans at the time accepted the conclusions of a federal commission appointed by President Johnson to investigate the assassination. The commission, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, found that both Oswald and Ruby acted alone, that there was no larger conspiracy. In later years, many Americans came to believe the Warren Commission report had ignored evidence of a wider conspiracy behind the murders. Controversy over the assassination continues still.
V. Summary Overview
- Four of the sources simply say that JFK was assassinated;
- One says that he was killed by a lone shooter;
- One only states that “it seemed unworthy that one misfit was involved”;
- Six state that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the president;
- One states that Oswald most likely killed the president;
- Five do mention that some believe in a conspiracy, however all but one of these end up supporting the Lone Assassin scenario. Some of these make conspiracy backers out to be part of a fringe group or simply misguided;
- Two state that there is a lot of debate over the Warren Commission’s conclusions;
- One history book states that Oswald went to Cuba;
- There is one critique of the Oliver Stone movie;
- The only investigation referred to by any of the history books is that of the Warren Commission (seven times).
- History books are therefore clearly skewed towards portraying Lee Harvey Oswald as the Lone Assassin. There exists no evidence of analysis of post-Warren Commission investigations.
VIa. Questions Posed to the Authors
Next, authors responsible for the section covering the assassination (or the JFK period) were contacted by e-mail and asked to explain their writings. Almost every author (sometimes more than one for a given book) answered.
Here is the first question (which varied slightly depending on the exact wording of their texts) which almost every author answered:
... One of the history professors (at our college) pointed out that most history books subscribe to the lone assassin (Oswald) scenario. Many asked what this is based on. In your book, it describes the assassination of JFK as being committed by Oswald (the impression given is that he acted alone)... Many of the people I speak to, some well-read about the subject, disagree with this assertion (especially the alone claim) and last autumn a lot of time was spent debating this point. My question is: On what basis is this presented as historical fact? (i.e. What are the sources that were looked into to support this?)
Thank you for answering.
Then, after receiving an answer to this question, two follow-up questions were asked, with variations dependent on how the first question was answered:
... Some of the critics of the way many history books cover the JFK assassination bring up the following points:
- More weight seems to be given to the Warren Commission`s conclusions (both Oswald and Ruby acted alone), than the HSCA investigation, which concludes that Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. This investigation is the most recent government initiative in resolving the crime, it took a lot more time to carry out than the WC investigation and had a lot more information-leads it could look into. While the acoustical evidence that convinced the committee that there was a second shooter is strongly contested, other findings also seem quite important: Neither Oswald nor Ruby turned out to be loners as they had been painted in the 1964 investigation... Oswald and Ruby showed a variety of relationships that may have matured into an assassination conspiracy (it advanced that members of the Cuban exile community and the mob may have played a role but cleared the CIA of any wrong-doing.); Marina Oswald`s testimony and answers... were at various times incomplete and inconsistent; The investigation into the possibility of a conspiracy (by the WC) was inadequate.
- In 1992 the passage of the President John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act took place and the formation of the ARRB. While there has been a lot of exploitation around the fiftieth anniversary of JFK`s death, there are some serious researchers who have combed through thousands of recently-released documents (even more are becoming available) and create even more doubt around the single assassin scenario... Information that a researcher like Gerald Posner did not have access to when he wrote Case Closed.
In conclusion, critics of how many historians cover the JFK assassination say that the WC commission is given too much importance and the more recent HSCA not enough. And two, the community of historians has not done its due diligence around information made available by the ARRB and other recent developments, which would perhaps change the way the assassination is presented to students of American History.
I was hoping I could hear your comments on these points, and to know what kind of impact these two sources of information have had on your own perceptions of this tragic event.
Thank you and have a great summer,
Again, most authors answered the questions. These answers were then compared to see what kind of research was actually done by the authors, what influenced their writings and how open they were to changing their historical coverage. Note: a few authors participating in writing more than one book which explains why some versions are repeated. (Full transcripts relating authors to answers and textbooks have been made available to CTKA.)
VIb. The Authors Respond
Mon 7/7/2014 2:46 PM
Dear Paul, While I agree with some of the criticism of the Warren report, especially the single bullet theory, I accept the circumstantial evidence that Oswald killed Kennedy. I also believe that he acted alone, but there is still the possibility that he had help. But if so, I wonder why his accomplices did not help him escape? I also find the various conspiracy theories unconvincing–the Mafia, Castro, Texas oil barons, the CIA, the Soviets, etc. I doubt that we will ever know with certainty all that happened that sad day in Dallas, but for now I go along with the Warren Commission. Sincerely,
Mon 6/30/2014 8:12 PM
Here is the reason: in the 50 years since Kennedy was killed, no one has adduced credible evidence of a conspiracy that is not simply circumstantial. The American government is notorious for not being able to keep secrets. To think that it could have kept a secret that big that long, boggles the mind. At least it boggles my mind. That's why I don't believe in the conspiracy theories.
Needless to say, other people do. But it is up to them to produce the evidence. I'm still waiting.
Wed 7/2/2014 7:58 AM
Disproving conspiracy theories is always impossible. So there will be no end to the theories.
The Warren Report was hurried and imperfect. But in the fifty years since, no one has produced solid evidence that anyone besides Oswald was involved. It is easy to raise questions - about the lone gunman theory or anything else - but hard to produce evidence.
I am willing to change my mind, but only when I see evidence.
Mon 6/30/2014 2:06 PM
Dear Professor Bleau,
Rather than engage in an extended and speculative discussion, I encourage you to read Philip Shenon's new book, A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT. Shenon, a longtime investigative reporter for the NY TIMES, has forcefully outlined what may be the most plausible scenario so far, though it, too, has some unproven assertions. Namely, he dissects the Warren Commission more thoroughly than anyone else, and he provides a strong, if mostly circumstantial, case that Cuban officials, via Mexico, may have at least provided some encouragement or guidance to Oswald. This is not quite the Big Conspiracy that some (i.e., Oliver Stone) hypothesize, but it certainly has caused me to rethink MY summary sentence on the matter: "There is little solid evidence to suggest that Oswald was part of a wider conspiracy" I've nearly completed my revision of the book for the fifteenth edition (to appear on January 1, 2015), and I am changing this sentence to reflect Shenon's work. Rather than offer a summary statement, expressing my opinion, I intend to add some of the facts that Shenon has uncovered and let readers draw their own conclusions.
I hope this helps!
Tue 7/1/2014 2:04 PM
I think, briefly, that the WC is hopelessly flawed, that the HSCA had some real problems, and that all previous research has been significantly superseded by Shenon's work: if there was a conspiracy, however the term be defined, I think the best sources for it will be found within the Cuban government. I hope that, sometime, we get some stronger information from those sources. If none surfaces within the next twenty years, then the argument for conspiracy will be weaker.
Mon 6/30/2014 2:20 PM
I just checked a wikipedia site that states that a 2013 Gallup poll found that 30% of people in the US think that Oswald acted alone and that 50% think he was part of a larger conspiracy. Presumably a lot of the 50% have seen Oliver Stone's movie JFK.
The most thorough investigations and evaluations of competing claims are Gerald Posner, Case Closed, and, even more, Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, which is a massive exploration of the evidence and refutation of conspiracy claims. I find it persuasive.
Conspiracy claims, of course, are almost impossible to refute to the satisfaction of believers. However, there is adequate evidence of what Oswald did, which consists of a series of actions by a lone misfit, versus chains of suppositions about what might possibly have happened. If nothing else, the principle of Occam's razor suggests the likelihood that the simple lone assassin explanation is correct absent actual evidence to the contrary.
Also, of course, there could have been a conspiracy but I'm willing to wait until a smoking gun other than Oswald's is found.
Wed 7/2/2014 10:52 AM
The one respected academic historian that I know of who has developed a conspiracy theory analysis is David Kaiser in The Road To Dallas. He develops the CIA/Mafia connection. It generated substantial comment in history discussion sites when it came out, with predictable arguments pro and con. Those who thought the HSCA findings were flawed were not convinced by Kaiser.
Bugliosi's book (2007) did have the opportunity to evaluate all of those findings and theories.
The sheer number of possible conspirators makes me very skeptical and indicates that people are casting about for any theory that fits their political agenda. Was it Cubans, the CIA, the Mafia, Lyndon Johnson, the Federal Reserve . . . many of the villains contradict each other? It is certainly possible to find circumstances and connections that may have matured into an assassination conspiracy, but lots of things might have consequences and never do (Brutus might have had second thoughts after talking with Cassius).
Part of the energy behind the continued interest is the larger myth that Kennedy was about to lead the US in an entirely different direction (e.g., about to pull out of Vietnam) and that this new dawn was destroyed, leading the nation into the disastrous mid-1960s. An examination of Kennedy's record on civil rights and foreign affairs does not support this–he was, in fact, a convinced cold warrior and a reluctant civil rights advocate (LBJ is the real Washington hero for that cause).
Wed 7/2/2014 12:04 AM
Thank you for your question. As you know, the official verdict of the Warren Commission was that Oswald acted alone. Many have challenged that verdict in the years since, from a variety of perspectives and with a ride range of theories. We may never know the full story. What we know, of course, is that Kennedy was assassinated.
Our author team will discuss the possibility of expanding on this very brief statement when we revise the text for the 5th edition..., whether we wish to mention the Warren Commission and to include anything about Oswald, his arrest and murder, and the controversies that still surround the assassination. We have many difficult decisions about what to include and what to leave out, given the massive scope of American history and the small number of pages available to us as authors. If we decide to expand the discussion of the Kennedy assassination, we will need to make other decisions as well: what to remove to make room for this expanded discussion, and what interpretation we decide as a team to include in the text.
On behalf of all of us, I appreciate your raising the question, and we all appreciate your interest in our text.
With best wishes,
Wed 7/2/2014 11:19 AM
Thank you for your thoughtful response. My own personal opinions are of course not the same as my scholarly knowledge, and like many Americans I still wonder what really happened. I have not read all the reports that you mention, but if our author team decides to move forward with a longer section on the assassination, we will need to cover these documents. Given the complexity of the situation, and the remaining uncertainties about who and how many people were involved, I would be inclined to urge my colleagues that we not get into it. As you note, there is nothing in our text about the Warren Commission or any other report, and no indication of who killed JFK or why. It is an interesting and important question, of course, but in terms of the historical outcomes of the assassination, it is the impact of his death, rather than who was responsible, that is most critical for what followed. Of course it matters, but for our purposes it is not clear that it would strengthen our text to take more space to discuss the reports and the ongoing controversies. But we may decide to mention that controversies still swirl around the assassination. When we next meet as an author team, I'm sure this question will come up–and on behalf of all of us I thank you for raising the issue.
Mon 6/30/2014 4:55 PM
Dear Paul, if I may,
Was there more than one gunman? Almost certainly not. With the acoustical evidence discredited, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that there was more than one shooter.
Was Oswald the instrument of an orchestrated conspiracy, who was placed in the book depository to shoot the president? No. When Oswald was hired, no one knew that the President would visit Dallas or what his route might be.
Does this mean that there was no conspiracy? Not necessarily.
Don DeLillo's novel Libra offers a fictional scenario in which Oswald is the patsy that he claimed to be. DeLillo portrays Oswald as a highly manipulable figure who various groups sought to use for their own ends.
This is anything but Oliver Stone's master conspiracy theory, but it is an imaginative, if wholly speculative, reconstruction of the train of events. To many readers, it offers a plausible account.
Still, the most likely sequence involves a conjuncture of man and events: A violent individual who fantasizes his own historical importance, plus the accident of a presidential procession right outside his workplace.
But what is important, I think, for students to understand is how the events surrounding the assassination lay bare aspects of the Cold War that had previously been obscure, above all, government efforts to overthrow the Cuban government, but also Soviet and U.S. fears of espionage, the assassination of Diem, the slowly mounting opposition to Cold War policies, and the complex relations between organized crime, anti-Castro Cubans, and those elements in the federal government seeking to topple Fidel Castro.
In writing a textbook, it is a challenge to:
- give each topic appropriate, but not excessive, attention. Given the expanding number of years since 1963, there are limits to how much space can be devoted to the Kennedy assassination.
- not reinforce myths and misconceptions. Lincoln's assassination was certainly the result of a conspiracy, but textbooks don't devote much attention to that because other aspects of the era must receive more attention. (Somewhat similarly, the evidence seems to indicate that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one child by Sally Hemings, but textbooks don't pay much attention to that, and not simply out of reticence.)
- not project preoccupations of one generation upon another. Is the most important aspect of the Kennedy presidency the manner of his death? I don't think so.
Even today, the circumstances surrounding President Kennedy's assassination remain unclear. That makes the assassination a subject appropriate for historical inquiry on the part of the students, using a range of primary sources. But it a difficult subject for a textbook to tackle. While I think the evidence indicates that Oswald was the lone gunman, it would take a lot of space to (a) summarize the various conspiracy theories; (b) explain why many Americans embraced conspiratorial explanations; and (c) assess the evidence that supports or questions the notion of a conspiracy.
I hope this gives you a sense of my own thinking on the subject.
All the best,
Mon 6/30/2014 2:57 PM
Hi Prof. Bleau,
Thanks for your question about the conspiracy theories related to the JFK assassination. The Oswald/lone assassin claim is the widely accepted story within the historical community and there of course has been no definitive proof, or, and this is more important, no plausible counter-narrative produced to overturn it. If you look at nearly all of the standard historical textbooks, which I assume you have, they all agree on this point. The standard work is Gerald Posner's CASE CLOSED. And if you read the standard overviews of the period, they all admit to flaws in the Warren Report and the existence of many conspiracy theories, but they do not propose or even identify alternate counter-narratives. James Patterson's GRAND EXPECTATIONS offers an excellent overview.
Hope this helps,
Tue 7/1/2014 1:51 PM
I guess all I will say is that, for those of us who do not study the minutiae of this particular episode, we are waiting for serious professional historians to come up with plausible alternatives that help explain the case. I would also venture to guess that serious professional historians are turned off from doing so because there are so many cranks and conspiracy theorists out there using the case to pursue one line of thought or another often using only partial evidence or intuition. Until a serious professional historian culls the evidence and proposes not just holes in the current interpretation but a solid counternarrative, I think you're going to find that we'll be slow to alter our textbooks. I'm always reminded of the headline in the comedy newspaper, The Onion, which read something like: JFK ASSASSINATED BY CIA, FBI, KGB, MAFIA, LBJ, OSWALD, RUBY, IRS, DEA, DEPT OF ED, DEPT OF COMMERCE AND MORE! That about sums up the feeling from professional historians about those proposing we rethink the JKF assassination.
Hope this helps!
Mon 6/30/2014 2:27 PM
Please see the excellent book by Gerald Posner, CASE CLOSED, which I believe definitively lays to rest any conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination.
Hope that helps,
Tue 7/1/2014 11:22 AM
... passed your email along to me since i did the first draft on the KENNEDY era–and wrote the film feature on JFK.
although i recognize that mine is a distinctly minority view among professional historians, OLIVER STONE's movie remains one of the better non-academic speculations about the KENNEDY assassination. It does go horribly wrong with its emphasis on the silly GARRISON prosecution and somewhat astray by purporting to offer a specific "solution" to KENNEDY's murder. but the better parts of the movie adroitly set forth the case for concluding that the "official explanations" capture neither the depth nor the breadth of what likely led up to 11/22/63. Hopefully, the brief essay on the movie in LEP suggests this.
And if it hadn't been for JFK, the movie eliciting such a massive popular response, powerful public and private figures might not have been moved to mount such a broad-based effort to preserve valuable source material–including enhanced versions of the ZAPRUDER film–about this crime.
Moreover, as an essay in VANITY FAIR by JAMES WOLCOTT ("Chronicle of a Death Retold" that is referenced via a link) suggests, the saga of KENNEDY's death overlaps–and blends into–other popular sagas about the SIXTIES. in this sense, the myriad of stories about JFK's life and death have always–and will likely always–transcend the boundaries of both popular and academic "history." http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2013/11/jfk-assassination-anniversary-books
Finally, I recall that earlier editions of LEP contained slightly longer discussions of the assassination, including mention of the HSCA's conclusions. But the onrush of time has necessitated cutting back on this material in order to produce new LEPs of that weigh less than 20 pounds, and my reading of recent studies suggests that the better methods now available for evaluating acoustical evidence have largely undermined the HSCA's factual claims about the shooting scenario.
Even so, i see the committee's general claim for a conspiracy that went beyond LEE OSWALD as remaining viable.
i hope this helps. And thank you for seeing LEP's discussion as aiming for a more nuanced treatment than the "OSWALD DID IT!" story found in some of the texts that compete with LEP.
Tue 7/1/2014 4:20 PM
good questions. let me reply, briefly, to them–and, then, i'll add a somewhat jumbled set of related thoughts:
1-i agree that the work of the HSCA has received too little attention and that of the WC too much deference from members of the historical profession. As suggested below, the WC REPORT now seems little more than a quickly assembled "prosecutor's case" (heavily influenced by the late Arlen Specter as JFK the movie notes) in favor of OSWALD's "guilt." this is apparently what LBJ expected WARREN and company to produce–and they did. The WC REPORT is simply not much of a nuanced attempt to explain the broader context of 11/22/63
2-i also agree that that there has been a lack of "due diligence" (to use your phrase) from the same profession about the "deeper and broader story" of the Kennedy assassination
Now, the related thoughts:
+ an older–even older than my own–generation of professional historians were wary of being accused of engaging in "conspiracy theorizing" and thus tended to line up with the WC rather than the HSCA, let alone with those others who propounded (some, admittedly, truly zany) "conspiracy theories."
+ the background to this wariness about crediting, or even exploring possible, "conspiracies" is complex, but the consequences have been, in my view, significant–and have seldom operated to produce broadly based understandings about the past. it's so easy to highlight one-to-one relationships that seem "causal"–such as lone assassin OSWALD kills heroic PRESIDENT or STOCK MARKET CRASH causes GREAT DEPRESSION–than to look more widely at a broad range of possible relationships in which direct and immediate causal relationships are highlighted rather than looking at very complex linkages that form over time.
+ to take a contemporary issue, look at how quickly the historical backdrop to the current mess in IRAQ comes down to (a) the BUSH administration caused the present mess because it invaded in the first place and botched the transition from SADDAM during the early 2000s vs. (b) the OBAMA administration caused the present mess since about 2010 because _________ (here, the "causes" that have been cited already are too numerous to mention)
+ in my view, then, too much historical writing follows the "who did it" (or caused it) framework borrowed from the "guilty/innocent" paradigm of ANGLO-AMERICAN legal thinking about crimes. (actually, of course, the ANGLO-AMERICAN legal process does not declare "innocence," but only hands out "guilty" vs. "not guilty" findings in criminal cases. As some critical legal observers would have it, the "truly innocent" rarely, if ever, enter the picture. thus, i'm dubious of claims that OSWALD was simply an "innocent patsy." he seems clearly involved but how????)
+ in relation to the culpability of OSWALD, moreover, was there not was so much sloppy investigating (including that by the WC) that most any competent attorney (or historian) should have been able to produce a "not guilty" verdict for KENNEDY's alleged killer in a court of law, under stricter rules of evidence than those adopted by the WC?
+ too few historical studies, especially those involving allegedly criminal activities, however, break free from this either/or frame. whether or not OSWALD can be proven "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" by historians, then, is too limited (but not entirely irrelevant) frame within which to begin historical (or legal) work.
+ in my view, the really interesting questions about 11/22/63 involve–as the JAMES WOLCOTT piece from VANITY FAIR tries to explore–the larger social-political-cultural-constitutional forces that have helped to produce the immediate–and the continuing, ongoing–fascination about KENNEDY's murder?
+ in a similar vein, many years ago, the iconoclastic historian CHRISTOPHER LASCH noted that too many historians who were enamored of KENNEDY didn't want to look closely at his death because this would have led to looking more closely at his life: his repeated attempts to assassinate CASTRO, his links to THE MOB, his sexual escapades, his relationship to the FBI, CIA, and top MILITARY figures etc. now that more about all these activities are known–and exploring them no longer automatically signals "CONSPIRACY THINKING"–there are good reasons to avoid re-visiting the case of OSWALD's "guilt" and to head off in other directions. these explorations, ultimately, may well circle back to the role of OSWALD but they should not, as with the WC and even some of the work of the HSCA, begin with it
thanks for your questions–and for indulging my speculations about the relationship between the KENNEDY ASSASSINATION and the politics of writing about it–and about the larger past.
your seminar sounds fascinating–and well worth the time and thought you have obviously brought to it.
Tue 7/1/2014 8:25 AM
Dear Prof. Bleau:
I wish that I had had the opportunity to listen to your remarks on the Kennedy Assassination. I am sure the audiences got a lot out of your seminar. As a colleague, you deserve to know why that event was not covered in the second volume of DISCOVERING THE AMERICAN PAST. There are three reasons for this omission:
- As you could see, DISCOVERING THE AMERICAN PAST is a book of historical problems that the students, like detectives, are required to solve. We provide the clues and try not to influence their answers one way or the other. The editors have limited us to eleven problems for each volume, and we didn't feel we could fit the Kennedy assassination into the post-World War II chapters (four or five at the most).
- You have answered the second question yourself. Simply put, there are not enough "clues" to help the student reach a conclusion...or maybe there are too many "clues." I have not read as many books on this topic as you have, but at the end of each I was as puzzled as I was when I stated reading. After 50 years, I think it unlikely that any significant "clues" will be found. If there has been any kind of "coverup," it has been an exceedingly good one. If Oswald did not act alone (a hypothesis that seems reasonable to me), then who are the others involved? Castro? Mafia? Others?
- Finally, the fiftieth anniversary of this horrible event may well have increased interest a good deal, but I suspect that within a few more years interest will have waned. Most students in these parts don't even know about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., although that may have been a more significant event in the long run. Even African American high school students around here don't even know about that event. And, again, too many "clues" or not enough.
Best wishes to you. If you believe that this event should not be forgotten, then keep your seminar alive. The assassinations of our presidents (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy) is a topic well worth students' time and interest.
Wishing you the very best, I am Yours very truly,
Thu 7/3/2014 9:27 AM
At this point you are way over my head on this topic. At the time I suspected that the Warren Commission report was as much a political document as it was a thorough investigation of the event. But, as you know better than I do, to try to find out who was behind all this has been found to be almost impossible...lots of possibilities, but I haven't seen anything well-documented that establishes what the nature of the conspiracy actually was. And I suspect that records are permanently sealed or destroyed.
The Lincoln assassination clearly was a conspiracy, but Garfield and McKinley seem to have been lone gunmen with no support behind them. But the Lincoln conspiracy was uncovered almost days after his death. President Kennedy has been dead for over 50 years. Would anything surface at this date?
Some time ago I read a novel titled THE THIRD BULLET, which was as convincing as any of the histories. So will fiction tell the story better than historians?
Sun 7/6/2014 7:24 PM
Sorry for the delay in writing you back. I was away on vacation and got behind with emails. We have only 12 topics to cover for each volume and try to introduce students to a diversity of fields in history as well as kinds of evidence. It is always very hard to decide what to cover and what to leave out. If we did cover Kennedy I'd be more inclined toward the election itself or perhaps the Cuban Missile Crisis or the space race. I've not studied the Kennedy assassination in any detail, so won't be the much helpful with your substantive questions. I suppose most historians believe that any larger conspiracy would have been revealed long ago. It is very difficult for most Americans to imagine that one erratic person could so profoundly shape the course of our nation. But it is hardly the first time: think about Lincoln's assassination and what might have been had he lived to oversee Reconstruction. I imagine the most interesting source for students to consider would be the Warren Report, the full text of which is available here: http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report/
Sun 7/6/2014 8:17 PM
I was thinking of using the Warren Commission Report as a basis of student conversation and investigation–they can test the conclusions against the evidence presented (and not presented). Historians of this period would be better able to weigh in on the evidence. I've not read closely enough to say much past that.
Mon 7/7/2014 8:32 AM
The original did not get through so I'm glad you resent it. I think it is fair to say that you know far more about the evidence in the assassination than I do. Many historians wait until someone produces new and compelling evidence that forces us to revisit key historical topics. From my perspective, there are big questions and interesting questions. Big ones would be the origins of the Civil War, the nature of Progressive Reform, Why Vietnam, or the nature of Jacksonian democracy. Kennedy's assassination falls into the interesting category, reflecting why so many historians enjoy reading mysteries. So if I were going to focus on the Kennedy era the question I would take up would either have to do with Civil Rights or whether had he not been assassinated would he have escalated in Vietnam. I consider Vietnam and Civil RIghts the defining issues of the 60s so what makes the assassination so critical is not so much who did it, but the impact of having Johnson as the president who defined the Vietnam and Civil RIghts issues. Now if we learn there was indeed a conspiracy, we'd want to know what motivated the conspirators, especially if Vietnam or CR was involved or if it was organized crime or pro-or anti-Castro Cubans.
Having said all that, I'm sure among the history reading public and college students the assassination topic is the more compelling.
Sun 7/6/2014 5:39 PM
I sent the reply below June 30–let me know if it gets through this time around.
Paul–For support of the Oswald-as-lone gunman argument, see Gerald Posner, Case Closed (1993), which many historians view as definitive. More recently, I have been impressed with Philip Shenon's A Cruel and Shocking Act (2013), a new history of the Warren Commission based on prodigious research and access to many new sources. Shenon's main point is that the FBI and CIA withheld knowledge and information they had about Oswald (the FBI had surveillance on him in Mexico City in the Fall of 1963)...but this was out of fear of being criticized for incompetence. He finds no evidence of foreign conspiracy. I think it is important to distinguish government incompetence, of which we have plenty of evidence for the FBI and the Dallas police, from a larger conspiracy.
To me, what's most depressing is that you find yourself spending so much time in a seminar on JFK dealing with conspiracy theories. Much more interesting and important, I think, to wrestle with the achievements, failures, and contradictions of JFK's presidency. I'm particularly interested in how he evolved in office–pushed by the civil rights movement, chastened by the Cuban missile crisis. Here's a link to an interview I did that gets into some of this:
I find most of the conspiracy mongering to be an avoidance of real history, too much of that "grassy knoll" politics, where we speculate endlessly on what might have been. Oliver Stone is perhaps the worst offender, peddling the sentimental fantasy that the Vietnam War would have never happened if JFK had not been killed by dark forces in the Pentagon, CIA, whatever. Anyway, I don't mean to rant...but next time someone tries to focus on conspiracies, try steering him/her back to history. It's much harder and more urgent to understand.
Mon 7/7/2014 9:57 AM
I've no doubt that the WC contains many holes, some of which were created by FBI/CIA intransigence and incompetence–Shenon's book is excellent on all this. And to be sure, there is a thriving cottage industry out there continually raking this stuff over and it has produced some new information previously unavailable to scholars like Posner. But there is still an awful lot of "might have," "could have," "possibly was," and so on. In the end, as I'm sure you'll agree, one cannot prove a negative–no one can prove there was no conspiracy, or that Oswald had no help. But after a half-century, I still see no plausible, coherent argument, based on evidence, convincing me of a conspiracy. Researchers will no doubt continue plugging away–but as an historian, I think there are just so many more important things to think and write about re: JFK that CAN be based on available historical evidence. I remain skeptical of the motives and perspectives of many of the conspiracy mongers, a dubious line going back to Mark Lane...
Thanks for the invite, and if/when I get to QC I'll be sure to let you know.
Tue 7/8/2014 10:18 AM
I've finally finished Philip Shenon's A Cruel and Shocking Act. It's too long (c. 600pp), but take a look at the final section–"Aftermath"–for a terrific analysis of the Warren Commission report's afterlife, as well as Shenon's own hard won conclusions about how both the FBI and CIA withheld crucial info about Oswald in Mexico City in the Fall of 1963. The important gaps in the WC stem largely from FBI/CIA intransigence, refusal to share info, and efforts to cover up their own bungling. Was Oswald somehow tied up with Castro, in Fidel's effort to strike back at the CIA's attempts to assassinate him? Was Oswald possibly a double agent? Shenon clears away a lot of static–he does not prove or advocate for a conspiracy, but he effectively identifies what we still do not (and may never) know.
Mon 6/30/2014 11:08 PM
Dear Paul Bleau:
To respond to your question, speaking for myself and not for the other authors, let me start by commenting on why our knowledge of the past changes. Our understanding of the past shifts when someone discovers new information. Sometimes it also shifts when the questions that we ask about the past change as our concerns in the present shift. For example, there was little interest in the broad ways in which women helped to shape the political process, beyond the vote, until the 1980s. Now, because of a heightened awareness of women's roles in politics today, historians of the nineteenth century routinely note how the Women's Christian Temperance Union had a strong impact on local and national politics.
Good historians must also sift and weigh the evidence they have. Sometimes, we have to say, the answer is not entirely clear. On the question of what did Patrick Henry say in the House of Burgess against the Stamp Act, we have no record except for a Maryland newspaper's assertion that it was "Give me Liberty or Give me Death." Did he say that? A good historian would say that the only evidence we have leans in that direction, but we ultimately do not know.
In the case of who shot JFK, there are lots of new conspiracy theories. The CIA? A second assassin? Someone associated with Lyndon B. Johnson? etc. The Warren Commission concluded that it was Lee Harvey Oswald and in most textbooks that is the general consensus, but there is growing criticism of the Commission's report. So where does that leave us? Our book argues that it was Lee Harvey Oswald. At some point in the future, convincing evidence may be discovered that will shift that interpretation, and then our account will shift, but at this point we do not find the other arguments and their evidence very convincing.
I hope that this is helpful.
Sun 7/6/2014 8:16 PM
Happy Fourth of July! Your thoughts on the current state of the evidence sound good to me. The Warren Commission is clearly not the last word. There is a possibility that Ruby was influenced by other connections. Perhaps something additional may come out of the Kennedy Records Collection Act. While all your commentsmake sense, do we now have clear evidence pointing to who else may have been involved? Do we have names?
Do we have clear linkages of Oswald to other individuals or organizations? What do you think?
Sat 7/19/2014 10:51 AM
Following the JFK assassination is beyond finding an end. I don't think that the Warren Commission was complete. But I also don't think that the many conspiracies are real.
The one thing I think may be real–that is Oswald came from the USSR to Cuba.
Thanks for writing.
Tue 7/1/2014 3:04 PM
(The email exchanges with the one French author were in French and can be summarized as follows: He based his writing on the Warren Commission conclusion- He says the Stone movie attacks the Warren Commission but accuses vaguely. However he does admit he is not a specialist).
VII. Highlights of the Author Responses
In the answers to the first question about authors’ sources, it is clear that most are influenced by proponents of the lone assassin point of view: five mention the Warren Commission, four Case Closed by Posner, two Bugliosi’s work, and three A Cruel and Shocking Act by Shenon (which states that Oswald was a lone shooter but that he may have received guidance from Castro agents).
The Church, HSCA and ARRB findings, and work by independent authors who present a case for a conspiracy and uncertainty around Oswald’s involvement, these are clearly not referenced. In fact, they are nowhere to be found. Which is a bit surprising, if not startling. For it seems to indicate that these authors do not go beyond the MSM for their information.
One author does not believe the Single Bullet Theory, but nevertheless believes Oswald acted alone.
The two follow-up questions are mostly side-stepped. A few admit to lack of knowledge.
A number of answers state or imply that for the author to change the claim that Oswald was a lone assassin, creating doubt about the Warren Commission’s modus operandi and conclusions is not enough, proving that others must have been involved is not enough. Spelling out the conspiracy is required.
Oliver Stone receives some blame for opinions that go against the lone assassin theory, despite the fact that polls before the movie are far from favorable to the Warren Commission findings. And no one gives him credit for creating the ARRB. Which makes sense since none of these authors seem aware of any of the discoveries of the ARRB.
A few of the authors claim to be open-minded about considering new evidence, but none seem willing to make the effort to read HSCA findings or books that present conspiracy theories.
Five of the authors make statements about the Warren Commission being weak or flawed.
It seems clear here again that neither the Church, the HSCA conclusions nor the ARRB operations have been explored at all or in any depth by any of the history book authors.
Vincent Bugliosi was right; history needs to be reclaimed. He just got the version wrong!