by Roy Unz, Unz Review:
About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.
Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.
Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison—presumably fictional—whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories.”
Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F. Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.
Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history—why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant?—one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.
Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.
Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.
None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.
I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.