As light rain fell from a dull gray sky onto the crowd bracing against the Arctic blast just down Main from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza Friday, I became depressed at the caliber of craven I'd encountered so far on the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Apart from a sprinkling of "LBJ Did It" signs and $5 pamphlets hawked by men ill-dressed for the cold, I'd not yet seen the spit-flecked apostles of conspiracy.
A stylish, silver-haired Aussie palmed me a flier bearing an image of the Kennedy half dollar, with a gaping bullet hole leaking blood down the slain president's likeness. "Free the files. Find the truth."
"I'm not satisfied with what the Warren Commission, the mainstream media and the government have said," David McLean of Newcastle told me. "It's a bit hard to be specific, but it's hard to believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."
This well-dressed, reasonable-sounding gentleman left me enormously deflated. The mind recoils at the idea of an isolated, former Marine sharpshooter shattering the handsome head of the leader of the free world with a $20 mail-order rifle. I grant him that. It also balks at the idea of a vast conspiracy that has kept its secret for more than half a century. I turned and watched the live feed projected on a screen above Main Street, where shorting speakers fitfully broadcast the bagpipers' sorrowful tune, recalling the caisson's slow procession to Arlington National Cemetery.
The sound of it never fails to bring a tightness to my chest, but it was soon dispelled. There was a commotion further up Main. I skirted the outer edge of the crowd and spotted a scrum of cameramen and police officers bearing down on the ceremony. I saw Alex Jones, the paranoiac firebrand who runs InfoWars.com, speaking into a microphone in indignant tones about oppression, though the cops looked more like they were escorting than obstructing him.
He bulled his way to the front, flanked by a group that included a man in a cape, frilly shirtsleeves, soul patch and tricorn hat, and another with a "Don't Tread On Me" flag tied around his neck like a cape, holding aloft a bumper sticker that read "OBAMA WAR PIG."
A middle-aged woman with a bullhorn and a Guy Fawkes mask perched atop her head, swallowed in a baggy hoodie emblazoned with "YOLO," said, "Alex's mission is to protest the fact that we're being kept out of Dealey Plaza. I'm here because of the fact that I've researched the Kennedy assassination and it's bullshit what they're saying. The CIA and the mafia killed Kennedy."
She leaned in, conspiratorially. "I don't personally trust Alex myself. I think everybody works for the CIA."
Before long, the InfoWars contingent was storming back across the street to the corner of Market and Main in a phalanx of alienated white males, some in full-length, black leather trench coats.
Jones, now wreathed in supporters, shouted into not one, but two bullhorns. "By not resisting, we lose. Resistance is victory! No more lies! No more lies!"
The crowd chanted with him, including a cardigan-wearing puppet.
"We're not dead yet, New World Order trash!" Jones roared to cheers. The rally devolved into bumper-sticker slogans that had little to do with Kennedy, and everything to do with Jones' conviction that an authoritarian global government conspires to rule all.
"End the Fed."
Update: We had to post this video from InfoWars of a scuffle between Dallas County Sheriff's deputies and Jones' protesters. Stick around for the 1:25 mark and see my former colleague Robert Wilonsky getting manhandled by a deputy.