Monday, 30 July 2018 18:25

Plaza Man: Robert Groden vs. the City of Dallas

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We’ve lost. They’ve won. Everywhere except in the court of public opinion. It’s sort of like watching a heavyweight prize-fight and having the guy who was knocked out declared the winner. The Power Elite says, “The public be damned! Who cares what they think?” Well, we do. And so does Bob Groden, writes Frank Cassano in this review of the 2014 documentary film about his battles with the City of Dallas and the Sixth Floor Museum.


When a scribe sets out to write a review he hopes to be inspired by the topic under discussion. Inspiration makes the effort fun, even poetic. The people who end up reading the review will pick up on the good vibes and we all have a swell day. I was inspired by the documentary film Plaza Man. But not by the topic. The topic of the film is really the power and influence of the Sixth Floor Museum; and, by extension, the pernicious influence of the Power Elite in the JFK case. Pretty difficult to be inspired about that kind of subject matter. Even more difficult to be inspired by the Sixth Floor’s official hit man, the late Gary Mack.

But odd as it may seem, I was inspired by Plaza Man, a film released in 2014 by Dutch director/ writer Kasper Verkaik. And I was inspired by the continuing fight and struggle of Robert Groden. Groden is the lonely protagonist of the film, opposed to the titanic forces that make up the awesome power of the Sixth Floor Museum. That awesome force is, of course, the Power Elite of Dallas. They are the ones who always tried to deny that Dealey Plaza, the site of JFK’s assassination, was the number one tourist attraction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. When they could deny it no longer, they then talked of razing the Texas School Book Depository building—where from, as the Warren Report told us—Lee Oswald fired at President Kennedy. When that provoked a loud public outcry, they then pooled county funds with private and corporate money in order to buy the building. In 1989, when something called the Dallas County Historical Foundation opened the renovated site as the Sixth Floor Museum, it became a monument to the—oxymoron here—efficacy of the Warren Commission. And there has been no let-up in that message since. In fact, it was after visiting this spurious museum that the late actor Bill Paxton, and author Stephen King decided to launch film and literary projects on the JFK case. (For a review of the latter, see “Stephen King and J. J. Abrams Lay an Egg”; Paxton’s brainstorm turned into the movie bomb Parkland.)

It’s a funny thing, this JFK case. We’re almost sixty (!) years along since the disturbing event of the President’s removal; one which literally changed the world. For the worse.

It’s almost like watching a movie. You witness some diabolical villains concocting a murder plot. You watch as a man gets murdered. You see the politicians and the media scurry about to ram home the cover-up. You watch as their paid lackeys twist the facts and rewrite documented history. You see official investigations being hijacked by men in dark suits. Everybody can smell a rat, yet they just stand by and let it happen. Then the movie ends. Whew, you think. Thank goodness that could never happen in real life!

But it has happened. And in just that way. What makes the whole thing even more unsettling is that it’s not just some fictional saga you could turn off as you rush to get back to your happy-go-lucky “all is right with the world” philosophy.

This is an old story, one we’ve been over countless times; a broken record. Regardless of all our efforts, we’ve essentially been relegated to being helpless spectators; at the mercy of a diabolical evil. All we can do now is watch, in muted disgust, as they continue to make a mockery of principles we once held dear. We still believe in those principles, but they’ve become an anomaly before our very eyes. They no longer apply to real life. As much as we do not like to admit it: We’ve lost. They’ve won. As Groden notes in this film, prior to 1963, he believed in the old Western movie paradigm: the guys in white hats vanquished the guys in black hats. But that did not happen in the JFK case.

Why was that the result? Well, they have the money. They have the power. But most of all, they control the media. As Jim DiEugenio showed with the work of CBS employee Roger Feinman, the MSM wants to preserve the cover up. Even when some of their employees wanted to do otherwise, those employees were either intimidated into knuckling under, or bought off. And management then lied about it. In the face of that level of secrecy, lies and power, there’s very little the rest of us can do about it.

For the last twenty odd years there’s been the equivalent of a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the JFK case. Very few people are aware of it outside the city of Dallas. In 1995, Bob Groden left his home, wife and family in Pennsylvania. Alone, he moved to Dallas from the small town of Boothwyn. His objective was to give the Warren Commission critics a voice against the Sixth Floor Museum’s unalterable promotion of the Warren Report. By that time, the Museum was well on its way to its current status of treating hundreds of thousands of people per year, at sixteen bucks a crack, to what Michael Morrissey once called the Biggest Lie of the second half of the twentieth century: namely, that Oswald killed Kennedy. When Groden arrived is when the battle was joined. This gunfight has taken place at the intersection of Houston and Elm Street. Gary Mack was firing a bazooka, tossing out grenades, scorching the earth, using psychological warfare, setting boobytraps and snares from his walled fortress with its drawbridge and moat at the museum.

On the other hand, Robert Groden was sitting out across the street on the legendary Grassy Knoll. He was exposed, out in the open, armed only with his books, magazines and DVDs. Talk about bringing a pea shooter to a gunfight. Bob Groden showed up armed with nothing but a deck chair, a folding card table and his research, which showed that just about everything that Mack and The Sixth Floor stood for was wrong.

I doubt that’s where Bob thought this would all lead: a David (Groden) vs. Goliath/(Mack) mismatch. After all, as depicted in this film, he and Gary used to be friends. In fact, at one time, he considered Gary his best friend. They went on vacations together and he stayed at Gary’s home. But something happened. That something was two offers of employment. Both by the Sixth Floor. One was to Groden. He was offered the directorship from a man named Robert Hayes. The salary was $235,000 per year to start. There was one qualification. Bob had to stop saying anything about that conspiracy that killed Kennedy. Bob said, well, I can’t do that. So he did not get the job. Gary Mack was offered the opportunity to replace Conover Hunt as curator. That job did not pay as much as the one offered to Groden. But it didn’t matter to Mack. He had no reservations about reversing field on just about everything he had previously said about the JFK case. So now, the former friends became enemies. As the film shows, this went as far as the Sixth Floor having the police arrest and ticket Groden many, many times. It was a Battle Royale.

A Battle Royale? Why should it be a battle to want to know why President Kennedy was removed, or to find out why the truth continues to be so aggressively suppressed at all costs?

Why should it be a battle to want official documents released?

Why should it be a battle to want to allow free, open, and wide distribution of books, articles, and documentaries? Isn’t that what democracy is all about, the free flow of information? For as Groden tells us, this is something that the Sixth Floor will not do. You will not find any of his books for sale there, or for that matter, any pro-conspiracy book.

And this phenomenon extends outward from Dallas to New York. With very few exceptions, major publishers won’t touch the topic with a ten-foot pole. Yet they will readily green-light books written by the likes of Vincent Bugliosi, Gerald Posner, and Bill O’Reilly. An outright ban of critical books would be far too obvious. So “they” have done the next best thing—they’ve herded us outward to the farthest margins of the desolate wilderness. Way out there—where you’re free to wail away to your heart’s content—but where nobody will ever hear you.

Do you feel you want to get the good word out? Go ahead! With very few exceptions (e.g., Robert Kennedy Jr.), here are the choices available to you: vanity presses, self-publishing, or signing with a teeny-tiny, microscopic publisher. This means no marketing, little distribution, no strong shelf presence, no inclusion on best-seller lists, no major reviews, and no major TV appearances to plug the book. But, hey, at least you can brag that you have a book out!

Unfortunately, few will ever read it. And it’s pretty much the equivalent in other media. Same with movies. Same with documentaries. Same with articles. All pretty much blocked from public scrutiny. And without even breaking a single law. It was not always like this. As Groden notes in this film, back in 1989—the year the Sixth Floor opened—he and Harry Livingstone wrote a book called High Treason. That volume sold quite well. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks, rising officially to number two. But as time has gone on, the Power Elite has pulled out all the stops to make sure something like that does not happen again.

“Look,” they yell from their fortified garret: “How many times do we have to tell you people before you get it through your democracy-loving, thick heads. YOU MUST NOT PUT THIS STUFF OUT! PERIOD!!!!!!”

We’ve lost. They’ve won. Everywhere except in the court of public opinion. It’s sort of like watching a heavyweight prize-fight and having the guy who was knocked out declared the winner. The Power Elite says, “The public be damned! Who cares what they think?” Well, we do. And so does Bob Groden.

Robert Groden surely did his part. As mentioned, he replied with an emphatic “NO!” when offered the top job at the museum (it would have required that he lie through his teeth). Instead, he wrote books. He spoke out whenever and wherever he could. He got ticketed 82 times. As he relates in this film: He got handcuffed; he got thrown in jail. His commitment to the cause resulted in irreparable damage to his marriage. He wasn’t around to see his small children grow up—little kids who were too terrified to pick up the phone because of constant, anonymous threats. He lost his wife to cancer in the process.

But, as the film shows, the most frightening display of power and intimidation broke out in Dallas in 2013, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of President Kennedy. The Sixth Floor got in contact with city hall. And through Mayor Mike Rawlings—a former Pizza Hut executive—they decided to take pre-emptive action to cordon off Dealey Plaza so people like Groden could not get in. Actually, Groden and like-minded persons could not even get close to the place. In one of the most egregious deprivations of first amendment freedoms in recent history, all of Dealey Plaza was blocked off, along with every street leading into it from at least two blocks away. Gary Mack and the Sixth Floor knew that, at the fiftieth, the media would descend upon Dealey Plaza in droves from all over the world. This would offer a prime opportunity for the actual facts about Kennedy’s life and death to be disseminated by all kinds of people, who they considered heretics, to the furthest reaches of the planet.

Gary Mack and the Sixth Floor were not going to let that happen. No way, no how. They had too much invested, in time and money, in their consecration of Allen Dulles’ fairy tale that Oswald did it. Therefore, any person who wanted to be in attendance that day in the Plaza had to submit his application in advance. His or her identity would then be passed through the Department of Homeland Security for clearance; sort of like being suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda. Only then could one enter the plaza and, at that, only a certain number of people would be allowed in. Mayor Rawlings then set up carpenter’s horses that blocked every thoroughfare going into Dealey Plaza. At every point, those obstacles were backed up by literally dozens of armed policemen. The city paid 200 of them overtime to come in that day. The police were deployed in a variety of ways: on foot, in cruiser cars, and some on horseback to guard if anyone broke through. As the film shows, the effect of watching the speeches that day was that somehow John Kennedy was not killed in Dallas on that dark day in November. All that mattered was his presidency. As if the two were not connected. That is how deep the denial extends in that city. And this is how much the MSM wants a controlled and unified message on this case. Every major broadcast media outlet reported this fabricated façade with no explanation as to how it was created: by the denial of freedom of assembly and speech. When Rawlings was asked if Robert Kennedy Jr. could speak that day, he replied, “as long as he stays on message.”

Throughout all this, Groden never threw in the towel. On the contrary. He would have been throwing in the towel had he accepted the lucrative job which he ultimately refused. Instead, that dubious honor went to Gary Mack, who gladly accepted.

He’s the guy who won.

Groden lost. He’s now on the sidelines with the rest of us who don’t buy the Warren Report. That is, about 70% of the public.

Had this been a real war, being fought to the death on some blood-spattered battlefield, and Groden and I were on the side that was being decimated, soon to be defeated, I would have preferred to go down fighting to the end—with him alongside me. Had someone said to me, “Hey, do you want to come over to the side of the winners? After all, Gary Mack is on that side. He knows people. He is GUARANTEED to win! They’ve fixed it that way!” If that would have happened, I would have spit in his face and prepared for my imminent death—with a wounded Groden beside me in the trenches. That’s what this quiet, understated film is about. But remember, it is only a coincidence that the year Mel Gibson’s Braveheart was released, 1995, was the year Groden moved to Dallas.

Imagine for a moment that all modern-day humans were gone. The humans of a far off, future era are now in charge. Their scientists and archaeologists are looking back at the people of our generation, the same way we look back upon prehistoric cavemen. They’re trying to figure us out, striving to make sense of how we lived, how we thought. They analyze our cities, our food, our clothes, our politics, our economies, our wars, our art. Then they stumble upon the JFK murder, complete with its endless cover-up, and why it was allowed to continue on and on the way it has. What would their best and brightest make of it all?

“Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Those ancient primitives were cowards.”

“They did not possess bravery.”

“Their leaders, organizers, and intellectuals should have stepped forward and protested more vehemently.”

“Shocking that something so contrived, so blatant, could be allowed to occur without anybody intervening.”

And they would have been absolutely correct in their assessments.

But they would not have been referring to the losers—us.

They would have been describing the winners.

Plaza Man would have been a great title for a movie about a super hero; a mighty masked avenger who swoops in and rights the wrongs of society; while everybody cheers him on.

Sadly, what Plaza Man tells us, is that real life has no time—and no place—for heroes. And anybody who dares try and thwart the arch villains will get his wings clipped. In a hurry.

Maybe that’s why Hollywood has gone bonkers with endless movies based on comic books? Maybe we’re at the point where we’re that desperate for a super hero of our very own; one who fights for us, right here in our precious little world.

We’ve witnessed years’ worth of covert political shenanigans, and corporate-sponsored crap of every sort on a daily basis. And while we politely discuss the unfairness of it all amongst ourselves—because, hell, even a two-year old could figure that much out!—we’re helpless to do anything about it. That’s when the fearless Plaza Man would appear out of nowhere and start bopping the bad guys on the head, administering justice, and restoring our hope for humanity along the way. “Yay! Get him, Plaza Man!”

I suppose seeing a fictional comic book hero on a movie screen is better than nothing. And I’m afraid it’s the best we’re ever going to get.

Don’t take my word for it—just take a look at your nearest wall calendar. My, but those pages sure keep flying off, don’t they? Just like in a scene from an old movie. Plaza Man is a filmed tribute to a guy who tried to stop those pages in mid air. And it shows the price he paid for it. It’s a film that could not be made in America. We owe thanks to Dutchman Kasper Verkaik for it being made at all. We don’t agree with everything in the film (for example, the authenticity of the McCone/Rowley memo about Oswald). But that is not what this film is about. This picture is about the maddening hypocrisy of America, its denial of first amendment rights, its refusal to acknowledge high crimes and misdemeanours in the JFK case, and how that brought on the weakening and alteration of democracy. It’s the subject Jim Garrison talked about at the end of his famous Playboy interview way back in 1967. There, he was addressing the complete sell-out by the MSM on the JFK case. And the concomitant muffling of dissent in America. He referred to “the clever manipulation of the mass media” and how it was creating a “concentration camp of the mind” that promised to be very “effective in keeping the populace in line.” The New Orleans DA warned back then that America was developing into what he called a proto-fascist state; in 1980, author Bertram Gross coined the phrase “friendly fascism” and wrote a book on the subject.

For Garrison, the alteration of our democracy would not result in the unfurling of swastikas or the organized spectacle of massive, frenzied rallies glorifying the central government. For him the test was smaller and quite simple: “What happens to the individual who dissents?” He is not physically destroyed, because that would be too obvious, too “unfriendly”. Instead, he is marginalized, harassed, intimidated, caricatured, smeared. Which, as the DA stated, has the same effect as liquidating him.

Plaza Man illustrates just how prescient that 1967 warning was.


View the full-length documentary


Addendum:  several years ago, the Washington Post ran this obituary concerning CIA officer Charles A. Briggs, Sr., which states: “A notable contribution was serving as liaison for the creation of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas”.

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 July 2018 18:01
Frank Cassano

Frank has dabbled with writing all of his life – including songwriting, journalism, a book of humor, comedy bits for radio, and placing articles with several magazines. His interest in the JFK assassination was piqued in 2004 when he discovered BlackOp Radio. He is currently adapting one of his short stories into a novel. The story – called "A Player Cheats The House" – is loosely based on the JFK case.

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