One of the most widely accepted conspiracy theories in the US remains the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Just last week I heard someone suggest that Oswald didn’t act alone. Statistics show that more than half of US residents agree with this statement, and are convinced to this day that Oswald was a patsy, silenced by Jack Ruby a few days after the assassination.
For many, many years I was one of those people. I read several books on the subject, I watched every documentary, I even went to Dealey Plaza once simply to stand next to the spot where Kennedy was shot. In many ways the assassination of JFK was the lynchpin for all of my conspiratorial thinking; it was the first conspiracy theory I had ever heard, it was the most solidly defensible of any of the many popular conspiracies that cropped up later (so much so that even the US government has agreed there was a conspiracy, contradicting the findings of its own commission that investigated the assassination) and once I was led to question that theory, my belief in all those other theories also crumbled.
Why shouldn’t they, when they didn’t even have a magic bullet to hide behind?
The trip to reality was long and arduous for me. It started about the time I started writing this blog, and continues to this day. Every single thing I read these days sends me off looking for corroborating sources and counter-arguments, just so that I can be sure I’m dealing with real facts and not some fever dream of the magical thinking majority.
I wish I had access to Case Closed when I was a young man looking for facts on the JFK assassination. The depth of investigative research that Gerald Posner has gone to is unequaled amongst the many different authors on the subject. Here is an interview with Posner from 2013, discussing the mountains of evidence linking Oswald to the killing, and detailing the kind of man Oswald was.
If Case Closed had been available to me when I first started looking into this subject, I never would have started down that rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking in the first place. Would have simply come to the conclusion ah, Oswald shot Kennedy and left it at that. But I didn’t have access to that book back in the 70’s when I was into the subject. I don’t even remember the titles of the books I did read; but I do remember The Men Who Killed Kennedy documentary being something I watched and rewatched many times, as well as the Oliver Stone film JFK which I remember receiving quite credibly.
Except for one thing. The repeated mantra back and to the right which Stone puts in Garrison’s mouth in the film. I actually went back and reviewed the Zapruder film because of this, and discovered that the motion he insists is there really isn’t there at all. The film clearly shows the headshot coming from the back and above, just as Posner says in the video.
But I didn’t have Posner. Never ran across his book until recently, while listening to back episodes of the SGU (like so many good skeptical habits I have picked up) what I had was my own inability to ignore evidence when it is presented to me. What I stumbled across was this re-enactment (one of several) proving that the magic bullet was nothing of the kind. That the trajectory of the bullet is mappable and repeatable given an accurate reproduction of the events of that day.
First off is The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy clips of which are assembled here;
The second source of video was a very detailed recreation of the exact poses of the victims taken from Zapruder film footage, that were mocked up by Anatomical Surrogates Technologies for the documentary JFK: Beyond The Magic Bullet . (full video available in three parts here) While the shot does appear to strike too low, the trajectory is almost identical to the bullet on that fateful day.
Lastly we have the recreation of the headshot showing that the direction that Oswald fired from was indeed the only direction where the damage seen to the President’s head can be replicated. For those who simply aren’t convinced by the replication of the magic bullet’s trajectory.
Conspiracy theorists will of course come up with reasons why this proves nothing. Personally I see no reason to continue pretending that Oswald did not kill Kennedy. If you feel the forensic tests are simply not enough evidence, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of Case Closed. If none of this suffices, then I suggest you look to your own mental barricades. If your beliefs cannot be falsified, it says as much about your failings as a critical thinker as it does the indefensibility of your opinions.
New this year, the long derided photo of Oswald displaying the same model rifle as the one that killed Kennedy has been scientifically analyzed and found to be genuine.
As Dr Novella goes into on his blog entry, conspiracy theorists attempt to discredit evidence that would seem to destroy their preferred fantasies by picking apart the details of the evidence, looking for the slightest anomaly that they can then use to discredit it.
Having watched The Men Who Killed Kennedy I remember the attempts to discredit this photo and the autopsy photos quite vividly. I remember wondering at the time why anyone would go to such lengths to hide evidence, marveling at the scale of the conspiracy required to perpetrate such a massive hoax.
It is with a wry chuckle that I remember my own gullibility on the subject. The understanding of the scale of the conspiracy should have been my first clue as to the implausibility of the conspiracy itself. That understanding would take years to mature, though.
The computer simulation embarked upon to validate this photo is as much of an over-the-top effort to show the solidity of the evidence for Oswald being the shooter, as the series of videos I linked above was. In the study linked here, you can see the many points of data used to determine if Oswald is actually standing in a stable position, and that the shadows in the photo match the shadowing that would have been present at that time of day and season of the year.
This is the kind of thorough analysis that is required to refute the claims of conspiracy fantasists who continue to insist that it simply wasn’t possible for such a insignificant little man to have killed the most powerful man in the world single-handedly. At least the computer modeling techniques showcased here can be used for many other instances of questionable photographic evidence, so that their validity can also be certified.
Originally posted here, radically enlarged and embroidered here, I’ve copied this to the day it should have been published on, and will be published on in the future if the wild hair suits me. Conspiracy fantasists are getting on my nerves these days, and I don’t feel like cutting them any slack.