Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Have We Learned This Past Week?

The past week we in the United States - at least many of us- recalled the events leading up to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy 50 years ago Friday. As with previous commemorations (25th, 30th, 40th) , the way the lead up and final day were dealt with disclosed a lot about who we are as a people.  Most critically, the spotlight shone bright on our media culture and the political class.

For myself, it was especially useful to look back at the media from previous commemorations to see what was portrayed compared to the monumental 50th occasion. What I saw, on looking back at old 30th, 40th anniversary tapes, wasn't too appealing.

It mainly showed that much of the media perspective has been lost, or otherwise totally distorted. For example, only once  in all the news segments dealing with the event did I hear a media maven (Charlie Rose) use the words "alleged assassin" to refer to Oswald. Whether this has been intentional I can't say. However, if the media culture - mainly corporate- takes its cues from the political class, it is perhaps understandable. As we know, one of the most shocking early disclosures this year - certainly shocking to those of us in the JFK assassination research community - is that the National Archives refused to release key files on the assassination, and in the 50th anniversary year.  See:

The records were originally requested by the nonprofit Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), will now remain secret until at least 2017, when the 1992 JFK Records Act mandates public release of all assassination files in the government’s possession. 

Interestingly, The Archives’ decision came as two former CIA officers went public with the unsubstantiated (and nonsensical)  conspiracy theory that Cuban leader Fidel Castro had advance knowledge of JFK’s assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. In a piece published in the Daily Beast the week of June 15th, retired CIA officer Glenn Carle claimed that “the Cuban dictator knew of Lee Harvey Oswald’s intention to kill President Kennedy.” Carle also defended a deceased CIA colleague, David Phillips, from allegations of JFK conspiracy theorists that he conspired in JFK’s death. Of course, I quashed Carle's gibberish and disinfo in my two blog posts (last month) on the Framing of Lee Harvey Oswald. I also skewered author Philip Shenon whose absurd new book is based on this flatulence. See e.g.

According to Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia (who also published a book about the impact of JFK’s assassination) referring to the National Archives:

This is a deeply disappointing decision that deprives everyone of a fuller understanding of the JFK assassination The 50th anniversary of that terrible event is the perfect opportunity to shed more light on the violent removal of a president. This adds to the widely held public suspicion that the government may still be hiding some key facts about President Kennedy’s murder.”

But my point here is that the corporate media may well have taken their cue from this and decided to go all out on the way they portrayed the assassination.

Anyway, here are some of my takeaways from this past week:

1)The nation still hasn't come to terms with the reality of the assassination, and how it undermined civil, democratic society while hyper-empowering the military-national security war state. At the heart of this is what James Douglass has called "denial" and the "unspeakable".

Douglass presciently wrote in his landmark  book (JFK and the Unspeakable) 6 years ago [1]:

“Our collective denial of the obvious, in the setting up of Oswald and his transparent silencing by Ruby, made possible the Dallas cover-up. The success of the cover-up was the indispensable foundation for the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy by the same forces at work in our government – and ourselves.

Hope for change in the world was targeted and killed four times over. The cover-up of all four murders, each leading into the next, was based – first of all –on denial. Not the government’s but our own- and the unspeakable was not far away.”

Douglass held all of us accountable (including himself) to the extent we have contributed directly or indirectly to the zeitgeist of entrenched denial, spinning and subterfuge and worse, dignifying the Warren Commission as the default perception. He referred to this behavior as being part of the “Unspeakable”.  This term was first coined by monk, Thomas Merton,  to describe: “an evil whose depth and deceit go beyond the power of words to describe”.


To me, this evil was evident in almost every frame and soundbite in nearly every media program I beheld - whether documentary or film - about the assassination:  from History's  'The Definitive Guide' to the National Geographic's 'Killing Kennedy' to dozens of media segments that aired either as part of the morning news offerings or the nightly news.  The contributors to it ranged from Mo Rocca - trying to paint Dallas as not nearly as wretched as it actually was back in 1963, to  Bill Maher, trying on his 'Real Time' to insist conspiracy thinking was akin to "belief in God" and being "unable to accept a random event" (see (3) below) to ABC reporter Byron Pitts - essentially punking Jean Hill (who was 21' from JFK when he was struck by the kill shot and always maintained she heard up to 6 shots). While his segment allowed Hill's relatives to have their say Pitt ended by noting they held to Jean's belief "despite a Blue Ribbon Commission" that found Oswald guilty. Of course, that Commission was actually a pig in lipstick as I already showed in the FAQ Parts 4 (a) and (b).

2) The media has essentially boiled its POV down to one note: Oswald did it, case closed. This was sounded repeatedly all through the week with nary ONE single skeptical-conspiracy POV broadcast, other than short (2-3 min.) segments like Byron Pitt's when he ended up punking the person (Jean Hill) featured. This was in contrast to 2003, for example, when the History Channel broadcast the BBC 6- part series 'The Men Who Killed Kennedy' - which at least provided some strong counter narratives to the Warren Commission claptrap.  How is it the series wasn't shown this year?  According to Wikipedia:


The network was also criticized by Stanley Kutner for airing the controversial series The Men Who Killed Kennedy in 2003. Kutner was one of three historians commissioned to review the documentary, which the channel disavowed and never aired again.[8] On the other hand, programs such as Modern Marvels have been praised for their presentation of detailed information in an entertaining format
Yet the network is quite okay with broadcasting 'The Definitive Guide to the Assassination' with two of the biggest shills and liars to ever appear on the tube. As well as televising inspiring and awesome fare such as  Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men and Pawn Stars . Look, no one says The Men Who Killed Kennedy was perfect and flawless. But it certainly didn't merit being punked because a couple "academics" pitched a hissy fit - yet when presented with the Warren Follies it's all A-ok.  All I am saying is balance was needed, another POV - even if parts might be subject to different interpretations. Hell's bells, have a short discussion period afterwards then, but don't eliminate the POV completely!
Meanwhile, for the 30th anniversary in 1993, Marina Oswald Porter was interviewed on prime time on NBC.  Marina - having vastly improved her English from those dark days in Dallas 30 years earlier- gave Tom Brokaw all he could handle and more. Even as Brokaw incessantly tried to browbeat her to admit Lee's guilt, Marina steadfastly refused. She repeated several times how Lee admired and loved JFK, and would never ever have shot him.  After she warned Brokaw to stop his errant mischief and the blowhard  refused, Marina detached her mic and walked out. I actually had to give a few hand claps to putting the self-styled media maven in his place!
3) Even progressives  don't get it. Including Bill Maher who asserted last night:   "We need conspiracies for the same reason we need God because we cannot accept that things are just random." 
Brit guest Katty Kay also stepped into the heaping pile prepped by Bill when she bloviated how "government distrust" fuels conspiracy theories (it actually does, but FACTS are what we are about in the JFK case, not global warming "conspiracies")  and how we can't accept "some lone, banal loser with a twenty -one dollar rifle (actually it was $12.78) could shoot the President of the United States just seems implausible to people."
Adding: "And if you don't like government at all it's just one more step to saying it's conspiracy"

NO! NO! NO!   At this point I felt like tearing my hair out and hurling a chair at the TV. How could professed liberals be so fucking dumb and uneducated? How could they play into this horse crap? And yet we beheld Steve Kornacki doing it barely 5 days earlier, e.g.
Therein I noted the error in conflating the personal political value of JFK with the value of the assassination. As good as JFK was, in so far as he managed to change from Cold Warrior to peace advocate, his personal political value was relatively low.  The point is that the assassination was the primal event, not John F. Kennedy per se. It was the assassination that altered the arc of American history for the worse. It was the assassination  that had the high political value, since with Kennedy out of the way, many more nefarious initiatives could be undertaken. So, Katty Kay just like Robert MacNeil on Kornacki makes the same stupid error.
As for Maher, I would have thought he had more ability for intellectual discrimination than to compare skepticism of the official story on the JFK hit to God belief. In so doing, Maher disclosed he has absolutely no insight into what happened, and perhaps doesn't care to. As for the event being random, so leading us to conspiracy, why?  That's gibberish. It is also echoing the conspiracy phobia Michael Parenti has noted.
What we do know is, given the basic definition of conspiracy  (e.g. Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary), viz.

A treacherous, surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons
 Then something either meets these criteria or it doesn’t. The definition isn’t rejected because the conspiracy is proven ex-post-facto or its objectives never manifested in reality, or one is erroneously convinced it's invoked as a path out of randomness! If at any time the “plan” condition in the definition was met, however briefly, then it was a valid conspiracy! From this, Watergate was a conspiracy, so was Iran-Contra. Similarly with the JFK assassination, since we have the files, documents track including Oswald's OS-351-164 (office of security), the 201-289248 CI/SIG, and the 74-500.  Has Bill seen any of these, or is it easier simply to talk out of his  ass?  In which case his segment isn't serious but done merely for shits and giggles.
If Maher had taken the time and trouble, he'd have learned for example, that the letter ‘D’ – on the cover sheet of Oswald’s 201 file – indicated CIA Staff D, a SIGINT or signals intelligence operation run in concert with the National Security  Agency or NSA. As pointed out by Peter Dale Scott (Deep Politics Quarterly, Jan. 1994): “In 1961, when William Harvey headed Staff D, he was assigned the task of developing the CIA Assassinations Project, ZR/Rifle”. In other words, Oswald was part of the ZR/Rifle operation. Is this "random"? Not when being part of it also facilitates being set up as the patsy that Oswald proclaimed, see:

Other nominal progressives, like Marilyn Elias in her piece 'Conspiracy Act' , in The Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report (Winter, 2013),  have shown themselves willing to wade into the JFK assassination based on minimal knowledge or research. Hence, despite dubious preparation that'd put a college freshman's term paper to shame, they're ready and willing to tar all those who've shown Jack Ruby's role in Oswald's killing, or the basis for JFK witness deaths, as well as those who've revealed (as I did in my FAQ Part 5 ) that the autopsy of JFK was indeed "doctored".  These conspiracy phobic, reactive progressives give credence to Michael Parenti's criticism of "conspiracy phobia" on the Left - and its basis in superficial or emotional investigation- often citing poor or discredited  sources such as Gerald Posner and Vince Bugliosi.  As I also noted about Elias (see my  Nov. 24th post: 'The Second Assassination') while she goes guns blazing after Richard Belzer for his recent  conspiracy stances and support - including of hyper-conspirator Alex Jones- she remains stone silent about the NSA's much more malignant transgressions against 4th amendment rights. In this sense, she and others of her ilk emerge as civil rights hypocrites: prepared to go after isolated individuals but not stand up to the national security state itself- the selfsame that killed Kennedy.

On the positive side, it appears Tom Hanks' planned 13 -part  extravaganza on HBO (based on Bugliosi's bollocks) never materialized. We can be grateful for small mercies.
Sadly, if we are so lazy, self-absorbed and disconnected that we accept Maher's "random" event take or Marilyn Elias' conspiracy phobia and cherry-picked villains, then we merely become cogs in the wheels of the "unspeakable" and part of the ongoing denial on display this whole week. And if that's the case, this country will never be healed - since the festering pustule left on the body politic 50 years ago will ultimately lead to its downfall.

[1] James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, Orbis Book, p. xvi

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