Schutze

Can You Say "Assassination?"

Wrong. I said the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination in Dallas would be no big deal. It will be. And it looks as if Dallas, to the delight of many, will step right into the middle of that big deal looking guilty as sin of something or other. The question will be what.

Guilty of complicity in the assassination itself? Or guilty of being stupid? It's my town and by God I love it, so I'm going with the second door.

First of all, Hollywood alone will guarantee major renewed interest in the assassination and in all of the legends, myths, folklore and theory that surround it. Tom Hanks has a movie in production starring Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton, to be called Parkland. The plot is not known, but I'm guessing it's JFK with a serious head injury waiting to be seen by a doctor at Parkland Hospital for 18 hours. We all know how that scenario ends.

Leonardo DiCaprio has another JFKer in the works called Legacy of Secrecy, which is supposed to "blow the lid off what really happened in Dallas," according to some publicity I saw. That poor lid by now, eh?

There's another movie in the works, supposedly, about a documentary filmmaker who gets tied up in a conspiracy to make a dishonest documentary about the assassination. Also, Errol Morris, the internationally acclaimed real documentary maker, is supposed to have something JFK-based in the works. I heard about another documentary being produced locally by some serious talent I can't name yet.

Then last week I had coffee with yet another documentary maker, a European with good credits who was here scouting a film based on Dealey Plaza. I suggested we meet in the Zapruder Cappucino Shop, as I call it, across the street from the Sixth Floor Museum. It's the museum annex gift shop (they have two), where you can sip coffee beneath an endless loop of assassination-related home movies projected on the wall.

I love/hate that place. It's a special intersection of the universe where banality and horror collide head-on. (Banality wins.)

Now, you do realize, I trust, that if all these documentary makers ever get together and make a documentary about a documentary filmmaker making a documentary about a documentary filmmaker making a documentary about the Kennedy assassination, then we will enter the realm of Kennedy assassination documentary quantum physics.

Last March I reported here hopefully that our mayor, Mike Rawlings, had met quietly in Washington with John Judge of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), seeking a resolution of the standoff between conspiracy scholars and a small private committee of mossbacks who have been put in charge of all events during assassination week in Dallas. The mossbacks, with support from City Hall and the police, intend to ban the public from Dealey Plaza for two entire weeks bracketing the November 22 anniversary of the assassination. In fact, they intend to ban the word assassination — I am not kidding — decreeing instead that the event is to be called only "The 50th."

Are we weird enough yet?

They do not like that word. Documents produced recently in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city show that officials of the Sixth Floor Museum began meeting with Dallas police officials in 2010 seeking ways to ban people who go to Dealey Plaza to promote or discuss assassination conspiracy theories. In an email June 28, 2010, Sixth Floor Museum Executive Director Nicola Longford updates her board of directors on the ongoing police crackdown against conspiracy theorists in general and especially Robert Groden, an author about whom I have written in the past.

This is a special form of suppression of free speech, called "content-based." All suppression of free speech is bad, but some of it may be inspired by mistaken or simply stupid notions about speech — that it might disturb the peace, offend somebody, clash with a special party theme like Grease!, or something like that. But using the cops to suppress speech because you disagree with the argument being made in the speech is the worst, the most Soviet, the least defensible. That's what Dallas has been doing to Groden since 2010.

Groden has been ticketed or arrested by the city more than 80 times for lecturing and selling books and videos in Dealey Plaza. Every single ticket and every single arrest has been thrown out by judges who found he had broken no law. He is in federal court now suing the city for abridgment of his civil rights.

But Dallas has its own little home-fried way of working these things out. U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. recently dismissed the city from Groden's lawsuit on some very Alice-in-Wonderland grounds. Groden's lawyers had demanded the city answer 38 "discovery questions" aimed at finding out who in particular had ordered the crackdown on Groden. You and I know from the emails I mentioned above that specific police and park department officials met with Longford and then began cracking down.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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