Six Seconds in Dallas: A Micro-Study of the Kennedy Assassination – Josiah Thompson

Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK – Gerald Posner

Well, I got a little obsessed around the anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Aside from numerous TV documentaries watched and online stuff read, I came across an Errol Morris film that features Josiah Thompson. After watching it, I rushed to the library and picked up Thompson’s book and I was off.

I knocked it out in about five hours of frenzied reading on the anniversary afternoon, late into that night, and early the next morning. After a couple days of carefully considering what to read next, I settled on Posner’s Case Closed. During this stretch I was carefully watching the Zapruder film multiple times and looking at the autopsy photos online. Probably little wonder I was having dreams about the assassination and one night, when I stayed up until nearly 2:00 AM reading, I was supremely freaked out walking through the dark house to get to bed.

Yeah, I may have taken things a little too far.

These books made for an interesting balance. Thompson is, arguably, the most respected proponent of a multiple shooters theory. Folks like Posner argue with his methods and conclusions, but at least they give him credit for being sane. Thompson’s not terribly concerned with who did it, or why. Rather his prime focus has been to use the available evidence, as he sees it, to prove that Oswald was not alone. To him, there were at least three shooters, with the kill shots hitting Kennedy from the rear and front simultaneously.

Posner, on the other hand, is seen as the man who pushed the conspiracy theorists to the fringes with his careful study of Oswald and his use of (then) new technologies to prove that Oswald did take three shots, and two of them were responsible for all the wounds to Kennedy and John Connally that day. Along the way he debunks just about every major conspiracy theory, pointing out how clear, readily available evidence makes them impossible.

I could literally write for hours about these books. Believe me, it’s been a struggle not to. So rather than going in-depth, two quick points.

1 – It’s kind of amazing how many books there are about the assassination. Thousands of them. There are just enough areas of grayness in the documentation of that day to open up the door for a seemingly endless number of theories that can justify new books. And I don’t think anyone is really persuaded to change their views. If you believe Oswald did it, or there was a broader conspiracy, you’re likely to stick to that view no matter how much evidence someone presents that argues to the contrary.

2 – I was never a true conspiracist. I think I, traditionally, fit into the view Posner presents in his closing argument. As awful as the Holocaust was, he writes, the pure evil of the Nazis gave us some kind of moral balance when considering it. There’s no way to truly account for millions of dead, but knowing it was a pack of deranged thugs who took over one of the biggest, most powerful countries in the world behind it helps us get our minds around it.

But a single lowlife like Oswald taking out the President of the United States? That’s much harder to reconcile. I think I always wanted to believe there was more to it because that just didn’t make moral sense.

I loved the movie JFK. LOVED it. Not that I bought all the theories that Oliver Stone poured into it. But I loved how it, for lack a better term, fucked with your mind. Logic and facts aside, I thought it was a brilliant piece of movie making.

But with 20 years having passed, and having learned more about what we think happened that day, I now lean toward the single-shooter side. I lean that way because it’s been 50 years and we’ve never proven different. Had there been a conspiracy, we would have known by now. I don’t care if it was the CIA, KGB, the mob, Fidel Castro, LBJ, or Barack Obama’s Kenyan Socialist father. Someone would have talked. There is no way to hide all the bodies and not have the truth come out. There’s no way someone on their deathbed would not have spilled the story. You can’t kill the President and keep it quiet. Certainly not for 50 years.

I wish that was not the case. I wish we could blame some group of people that we can slap a label of evil onto, regardless of their nationality and politics, and be done with this. But my view of the evidence says that’s just not logical. Which means it was one, lone nut with a gun who changed history. Something that continues to happen far too often in this country.