“In 1989 I covered the opening of The Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas Schoolbook Depository building, from where Oswald supposedly shot at the motorcade. I asked then-project director Conover Hunt why there was so little emphasis on conspiracy theories. ‘We are not here to solve this crime,’ said Hunt … That statement struck me as odd. Shouldn’t a museum that promotes this crime of the century be at least mildly interested in all aspects of the case?”
~Kevin James Shay, from Death of the Rising Sun (2017)
I had been looking into the various attempts on JFK’s life when I came across an incident that was news to me. In May of 1963 JFK landed in Nashville. During a stop-over at a local high school he was approached by a man carrying a gun obscured by a paper sack. The man (whose identity was never released) was apprehended by Secret Service agents, and then (inconceivably) released. No further mention was made by the authorities of either the man, or the incident. The incident was supposedly suppressed in order to prevent any future copycat attempts. I could only find two brief mentions of this episode on the internet. One of them was in this book.
So I went to the Amazon page where the book is listed and clicked on the link that says “Look Inside”. I read the introduction. I was impressed.
Whenever I encounter a book about the JFK case I quickly scan it to determine if it has been packaged by a shill. If it has, then I don’t read it. Because there’s nothing more painful than having to suffer through a book about the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy which has the Good Housekeeping Shill of Approval on it.
The first thing I did was consult Shay’s index—but mostly the footnotes—to view the author’s citations (there are many, many sources listed in the footnotes which you won’t find in the index). The sources he mentions are as qualified as they come: Garrison, Lane, Talbot, Douglass, Mellen, Newman, Marrs, Crenshaw, Morley, Brussell, DiEugenio, Russell, etc. He’s familiar with The Education Forum, John Simkin, Martin Hay, Gil Jesus. He’s familiar with the Fletcher Prouty Reference site.
But mainly I was looking for certain names in particular: Gerald Posner, John McAdams, the late Gary Mack and Vincent Bugliosi, and others who make up the Wall of Shame. I was pleasantly surprised. Only one mention of Mack. Posner and Bugliosi mentioned only a scant few times. Same with McAdams.
I felt the coast was clear—no murky water, no swamp monsters present—so I dove in.
Why did the introduction impress me?
Mr. Shay does not proclaim to be an “expert,” or a “researcher”. He is just a regular citizen who sensed that all was not kosher with the Official Government Explanation. He expressed natural human concern—the type most of us are born with—but which some heartless, corrupted souls are incapable of ever possessing. So he decided to look into the matter. The title of the book reflects this. It was his own personal search for the truth. The death of President Kennedy—and all the promise he represented—signified the death of a rising sun. He wanted to be able to answer his children’s questions honestly.
As anyone who has ever looked into the Kennedy murder will tell you, it can be a complex and often daunting maze to navigate through. There are hundreds of books out there, and just as many websites and You Tube videos. It’s not unusual for one to develop myopia by focusing on one particular aspect of the crime over another. But those of us who were born with that natural human sense of right and wrong I mentioned earlier, which is what led us to this case in the first place, were simply responding to a basic, primal instinct: something smelled. And it’s equally important that we never lose sight of the outrage and disgust we first felt, and of how that disgust kept growing once we realized just how far the case has devolved into an outright mockery.
Having said all that, here’s the catch.
Mr. Shay decided to look at this case “from both sides”.
… I am some 75% certain that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. In that vein, Oswald could have been an actual conspirator, patsy or government-hired asset who attempted to monitor and even stop the plots. I leave the door at least one-quarter open that the lone-assassin theory is correct. That’s not much, relatively speaking. But I have lived long enough to know that nothing is certain, not even death (life could continue after physical death), and taxes (see Donald Trump’s decades-long nonpayment of income taxes) … Whether he was a patsy or actually fired his rifle at Kennedy is more up in the air. If he was a shooter, he had help, and if he was trying to infiltrate and stop the plot as a government informant, he obviously didn’t do enough. But then, no one did enough.
How anyone who has read the definitive body of material Shay has and still arrive at a figure of there being a 25% possibility that Oswald was the shooter is, frankly, baffling. My own likelihood of Oswald being the shooter would be closer to 0%. It might be higher had I never read a shred of critical information and based my opinion solely on the Warren Commission findings. And to base my opinion on the Warren Report would be silly. It’s because of our refusal to swallow such silliness that we’re all still talking about this case today. To his first point, that Oswald was somehow involved, I would venture that all of us would concur. It’s quite plain based merely on Oswald’s associations with a myriad of key players that he was up to something.
As per Shay’s claim that he’s committed to looking at and considering the case from both sides … I, respectfully, don’t buy a word of it. I think he knows better. There are indeed two sides to this case. One side is facts. The other is deception. For him to include anything ever offered by Posner is a waste of everyone’s time. So why would he include it at all? Same with Bugliosi and the others. Similarly, for him to offer anything ever offered by Hugh Aynesworth is a compounded waste of everyone’s time. Especially when Shay later illuminates Aynesworth’s many intelligence ties, and the unscrupulous, deceitful manner by which he participated in the destruction of Jim Garrison’s case against Clay Shaw. Again—why? If I were writing a book called The Search for Truth about Who Raided My Chicken Coop at Night, I certainly wouldn’t consult the family of nocturnal weasels who lived under the shed.
There’s an important fact about Kevin James Shay that you need to be aware of.
He lives and works and writes in Dallas.
Before he wrote the above passage he provided the following:
While I haven’t been as dogged in pursuing the truth behind the JFK assassination as Penn Jones Jr., Jim Marrs, Earl Golz, Jim Garrison, David Talbot, and some others, it remains the most important and defining story I have chased in my almost four-decade journalism career. It haunts me today as much as it did in 1978. It’s more than a detective story with high-level political stakes. To truly study the Kennedy assassination and pursue the truth, you have to suspend the truth about everything you have been taught about this country, international politics, and who the good guys and bad guys are.
You have to risk your career, reputation, and sometimes even life. You have to shuck off the laughter and ‘tin-foil hat’ comments, ignore the threats. You have to walk down a slippery slope. You have to take up a missionary’s cause without thought of monetary reward, fame, or even redemption. You have to trust no one, not even yourself. You have to reach deep within yourself to find reasons to hold onto the hope that the sun, will indeed, rise in the morning.
One of the newspapers Shay has written for is the Dallas Morning News. I visited the Twitter page of another man who also writes for this newspaper. Not only does this man receive messages and updates from the Sixth Floor Museum, but he also provides readers the link to John McAdams’ web page.
Then again, If I were forced to function in a mysterious and shady atmosphere, like that which continues to fester in Dallas to this very day, I might be tempted to leave the door open 25%, too. Especially if I ever hoped to work again.
Shay lays out most of his book in a point-counterpoint fashion. He’ll describe the “official” version of a particular event … then bash it to pieces with facts. Well, sometimes. But not always.
I do understand that he set out to write this book from the perspective of both sides. But I found this style to be a head-scratcher, and often frustrating. Simply because, and I reiterate, when someone has accumulated the knowledge that Shay has, why even bother mentioning Marina’s testimony in the first place? Or Brennan’s? We know beyond any and all doubt that so many Warren Commission testimonies were either altered, contrived, fabricated, or arrived at through coercion, witness-leading, coaching, or outright threats, to the point that almost none can be relied on as a documentation of anything that ever really happened. The same applies to the medical evidence. The same applies to the x-rays. On and on.
The recent Houston mock trial proved what a colossal, well-crafted diversion the WC was and is. The prosecutors prefaced so many of their questions with, “Now, according to the Warren Commission,” that it literally gobbled up hours of precious time. By the time the witnesses were able to move past how their evidence or testimony compared to the Warren Report to please the prosecutors there was hardly time for anything else. If the Warren Commission report is anything at all, it’s the perfect tool for any zealous prosecutor intent on sidetracking an evidentiary proceeding, onto an off-ramp filled with red herrings, based on dubious facts that are based on a false premise, and straight into a drainage ditch.
And yet the book still works. The farther you read, and the more he bashes the official versions to bits, the more you get a distinct whiff of just how ridiculous the official version is. He doesn’t have to hit you over the head with it. He allows you to hit yourself over the head.
Factually, the book is pretty sound. He sprinkles in an extraordinary amount of information gleaned from a multitude of the many different go-to books that we all have in our personal libraries, as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. It is here where the author is at his finest. The breadth and scope of what he’s compiled is quite riveting and expansive. Although he does admit that he’s not an expert and may have left a few things out. Where the book stumbles is when he offers descriptions of what the “other side” considers facts. Simply stated, those “facts” are not facts. They come from the Warren Report, Commission lawyers, or shills—many of whom have intelligence ties. Had he not included this “other side” nonsense he might have had a huge, important bestseller on his hands. But, more likely, the book would never have been published.
There is one error that I felt was particularly egregious. It’s in the chapter about Cuba. He outlines how the CIA continually misled John and Robert Kennedy. He says both Kennedys were on board with the Cuba shenanigans, if to a lesser extent. Then JFK dies. Shay then quotes Johnson as saying that “those Kennedy boys” were running a goddamn murder incorporated in the Caribbean.
Um, excuse me, but not only was Johnson not referring to the Kennedys when he made that comment, he never mentioned their names. Shay also gives the impression that Johnson made the comment directly after JFK was killed, implying that JFK’s alleged militancy against Cuba rebounded back to cause his own death. When in fact, Johnson didn’t make his comment until years after JFK’s death. (See, for instance, this article)
The main reason why I am recommending this book is … because it’s out there. It’s on the shelves. It is not just researchers who buy books about the JFK assassination. Regular, everyday people buy way more copies of the same books—most of whom have no idea whatsoever about the ground-breaking progress that’s been achieved over the last fifty-four years. Zip. Zero. All they know is the false cover story they’ve been fed on TV, films or newspapers. Dutifully served up by the shills—like slop from a soup kitchen—and gift-wrapped by the morally indigent corporate media. They’re unaware of official records being destroyed, or corpses being hijacked, or autopsies being rigged, or brains going missing, or intelligence agencies blocking investigations, or bullets being switched, or Black Ops, or hit-pieces against researchers, or witnesses mysteriously dying. All they know is that a disgruntled misfit named Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy with a high-powered rifle, thereafter killing a police officer.
It is for those reasons that I would much rather they bought a book like this one, than, say, one by Bill O’Reilly—or whoever the “other side’s” designated shill happens to be this week. This is why I began my article speaking about shills. Because that’s the real hurdle. We’ve laboured for over fifty years like a horde of diligent worker ants. We’ve uncovered a warehouse full of facts and information. But a gag order has been carefully and masterfully applied on a largely unsuspecting public. And they can’t even tell they’re gagging on it.
And speaking of gags, Shay talks about how John McAdams was caught at a conference using a phoney name. Shay writes, “McAdams claimed the debunking was a ‘hobby’ for him that should be ‘fun’. Many noted that was an odd thing for a political science professor to say, since you’d think he would be interested in setting the historical record straight in such a pursuit, not having ‘fun’. McAdams also once responded to charges that he was paid by the CIA with this: ‘Those people think the CIA cares about them. It does not!’ … That led to another question: If McAdams was not associated with the CIA in some way, how did he know for sure the CIA did not care about Warren Commission critics?”
In the Appendix he commends the people that influenced and inspired him the most. They include (among others) Jim Marrs, whose course about the JFK assassination the author attended at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1988; Mary Ferrell; Gary Shaw and the late Larry Howard (who kept the JFK Assassination Information Center going for years as a counter to the Sixth Floor Museum), and Abraham Bolden. And finally …
There should be a special place in heaven for Jim Garrison, who went through Hell attempting to prosecute the only criminal case brought against an alleged member of a plot. Garrison’s investigation wasn’t perfect and he took some excesses, but it was amazing what he was able to uncover about a plot in the late 60s with the bulk of the government and media against him. If he had just a smidgen of help from those in powerful places, he and the staff may have broken the case wide open.
Would it have been preferable if Kevin James Shay boldly hopped off of the fence and stopped pretending that he was just a little bit pregnant? In a perfect world it would.
Then again, that’s easy for me to say. I’m not the one who has to live and work in Dallas.
This baby must largely be read between the lines. Don’t throw it out with the bath water.