Bigger Fish to Fry than Who Killed JFK
The Kennedy commemoration is behind us; I have written too much about it. Now I have a confession to make, and I sincerely hope the conspiracy authors and scholars with whom I have been talking over the last year will not take this as a betrayal or a sign of disrespect for their work. But I don't care who killed JFK.
There are far bigger conspiracies right in front of our eyes with powerful impact on our times and the near future. Take, for example, the manipulation of the tax code and government regulatory policy to bleed the American middle class to the bone and siphon its resources into the pockets of job-killing mega-rich.
Take the campaign of massive disinformation designed to mask imminent environmental disaster while siphoning more resources into the pockets of the job-killing mega-rich. Take the incessant marketing of warfare as a profit-center for the job-killing mega-rich. Take the incitement to public cowardice in the face of terrorism that is used to con us out of our most basic rights of privacy and personal liberty.
There is another conspiracy I need to mention, because it's a lot closer to home for me. It's a conspiracy of sycophancy and ellipsis in the dying mainstream media industry — shading things to provide comfort to their last remaining major advertisers and important reader constituencies and leaving things out that might be discomforting. I'm as big a fan of The New York Times as anybody I know, because it's the best I can get, but I must never forget that the Times huckstered the Iraq War to me as the only way to stop Saddam from using his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.
In fact all of the big media with the sole exception of the Knight Ridder Newspapers Washington Bureau sold us that line while proudly showing us pictures of their reporters in full battle dress embedded with the American military. Take that chapter alone, marry it to the revelations of surveillance whistle-blower Eric Snowden, and all of a sudden it is reasonable to assert that the average person in America today is exposed to less truth and subject to more invasive personal spying than ever before in the history of the republic.
Those conspiracies are clear and present, comprehensible and provable. They are massive in their impact on the lives of the living and those yet to be born. There's a whole bunch of money out there devoted to squeezing down what you and I can know about them and expanding what they can know about us, and that is a challenge right in front of our eyes right now in our own times.
It's crazy to think we can find some magic key to an invisible inner universe buried in the sands of the 1960s. And it seems to me that worrying about who shot JFK a half century after it happened is irresponsible where it serves to deflect attention from the here and now.
That's why, if you unearthed a provable JFK assassination conspiracy and laid it out for me piece by piece, my interest would barely rise to the level of nickel and dime novelty. It's just too far gone in time.
Of course by now all of the parties responsible for the 50th JFK commemoration at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas last Friday are congratulating themselves for the seamless passage of the event, especially for its tasteful dignity and the fact that the whole thing went by and we didn't have a ... there was no ... we avoided any kind of a ...
We avoided what? Remind me again what we were avoiding. We assembled enough marching policemen, paddy wagons and high-tech spyware for a full-scale North Korean succession of power. And we were trying to make sure there wasn't a what again?
One of the organizers made the brilliant observation early on in this process that there was not enough security at Dealey Plaza 50 years ago (talk about 20/20 hindsight). I believe the expression was something to the effect that we would not want to allow tragedy to strike again.
What tragedy? Shoot Kennedy again?
Let me tell you two things about the security Friday. It was piss-poor. And it was never intended to prevent a security breach or terror event anyway.
If it was anti-terrorism security, then why was I able to get myself into the pre-party at the Meyerson Symphony Center without going through a metal detector? Had I stayed, then presumably I would have been provided a bus ride with the other hoity-toities, replete with police VIP escort and screaming sirens all the way to Dealey Plaza — wouldn't that have been special? — where eventually I would have been asked to pass through a scanner of some sort before entering the plaza. But because they had warned me of that step beforehand, I think I might have blown up my bus full of toities on the way, had I been so inclined.
And no big problem, apparently, had I made it to Dealey Plaza and not felt like going through the scanner. Conspiracy author Jim Marrs made it right down into the center of Dealey Plaza by using the old wandering trick — just waaandering on out there. Eventually somebody did come up and ask to see his arm band, to which he said something like, "Oh, I forgot it," and, then sure, he had to leave. But he could have taken out half the rich people in the city by then.
Hey, I have seen security where somebody in authority who knows what they are doing is seriously worried about somebody out of authority who knows what they are doing. Nobody wanders into any part of it.
This was not security. It was message management. The most elaborate precautions, like the four-story tall banner hanging from a crane hiding all of Main Street from the plaza, were designed to force visiting media to look at, hear and film only the official choreographed message. By now you know what that was: Dallas is sorry. Dallas has changed. Dallas has repainted Dealey Plaza. Dallas promises it won't happen again.
I don't have any particular quarrel with that message. Fine. It's bullshit, because nobody asked. The event doesn't really belong to Dallas in the way the event seemed to claim. But if Dallas wants to buy ownership of the Kennedy assassination with its purse full of obsequious regrets, then great, go for it. It's a free country.
What was absolutely wrong, lugubrious and obscene was the elaborate effort to prevent anyone from saying or hearing anything that departed from the official program. In that sense, the hero of the day was Austin radio show host Alex "InfoWars" Jones and his doughty band of 150-or-so followers who marched to the barricades shouting "No More Lies." Theirs was the only truth of the day.
Their detractors always describe Jones and his followers as paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists who propound so many conspiracies at once as to make the whole world a conspiracy. But Friday's event was a perfect example of what Jones and his followers are up against — a huge and seamless propaganda machine that masks the streets of real life behind banners the size of buildings.
I spent a couple of hours mingling with the Jones followers and sticking a voice recorder in Jones' face when he spoke to them. Back at my desk, I sifted through the recordings and tried to distill some central message or doctrine, to no avail. If I had to find three qualities to distinguish Jones and his tribe, I would cite a lot of black clothing, a great deal of smoking and probably a lot of ADD.
With the gravelly voiced Jones at their center and urging them on, the black-clad InfoWarriors danced a mad tarantella of ironic eye-rolls and wild arm flinging as they moved in fits and starts toward Dealey Plaza, less like marchers than a circling swarm of crows.
So, yes, I could have taken a seat a block away, watched all of it and come to the conclusion that the official ceremony was dignified and tasteful while the protesters seemed crazy and out of control. But I guess I knew too much.
I knew that The Sixth Floor Museum, as the official propaganda arm for the city on matters JFK, had lied to conceal its role in the repeated illegal ticketing and jailing of a conspiracy author they wanted banned from the plaza. I knew that the word "assassination" had been banned from the event itself, the public instructed to call it merely "The 50th" without reference to what it might be the 50th of. And I knew, of course, that huge amounts of private and public money were being spent to focus the attention of the all too compliant media on the official version of things.
As I watched, I had a great light-bulb moment. Rather than seeming mad or self-serving or especially undignified, Alex Jones looked to me suddenly like Jeremiah, a prophet striving to awaken his doomed people from a spell inflicted on them by false prophets and fake gods. All of a sudden everything about Jones made sense to me. Of course he shouts, if he's Jeremiah!
There is a simple proposition in all of this. If all truth is hidden behind a banner of lies, then all conspiracy theories are true. In fact, the message Jones brought to Dealey Plaza really wasn't about a specific conspiracy, not JFK or the moon landing or a plot to take away our guns. The message I got was a searing, bitter passionate exhortation to skepticism, pleading with us to smash the surface of the enveloping Pleasantville narrative and reveal the scary reality beneath.
That's not a crazy message. That's a sane message. Think about it. What about asking you to refer to the event as the 50th but never say the 50th what? Now that is some serious down and dirty voodoo.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- That's It Then: The Cowboys 2015 Season Gets Put Out of Its Misery
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast