Via NY Transfer News Service 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683 from _Lies_Of_Our_Times_ (LOOT), S
Via NY Transfer News Service 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683
from _Lies_Of_Our_Times_ (LOOT), September 1991
WHO KILLED JFK?
THE MEDIA WHITEWASH
By Carl Oglesby
Oliver Stone's current film-in-progress, "JFK," dealing with the
assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is still months from theaters, but
already the project has been sharply attacked by journalists who ordinarily
could not care less what Hollywood has to say about such great events as the
Dealey Plaza shooting of November 22, 1963.
The attack on Stone has enlisted (at least) the _Boston_ _Globe_
(editorial), the _Boston_Herald_, the _Washington_ _Post_, the _Chicago_
_Tribune_, and _Time_ magazine, and several other outlets were known to have
been prowling the "JFK" set for angles. The intensity of this interest
contrasts sharply with 1979, when the House Assassinations Committee published
its finding of probable conspiracy in the JFK assassination, and the mass
media reacted with one day of headlines and then a long, bored yawn.
How are we to understand this strange inconsistency? It is, of course,
dangerous to attack the official report of a congressional committee; better
to let it die a silent death. But a Hollywood film cannot be ignored; a major
production by a leading director must be discredited, and if it can be done
before the film is even made, so much the better.
"JFK" is based chiefly on Louisiana Judge Jim Garrison's 1988 memoir, _On_
_the_Trail_of_the_Assassins_ (New York: Sheridan Square Press), in which
Garrison tells of his frustrated attempts to expose the conspiracy that he
(and the vast majority of the American people) believes responsible for the
murder at Dealey Plaza.
Garrison has argued since 1967 that Oswald was telling the truth when he
called himself a "patsy." He believes that JFK was killed and Oswald framed by
a rightwing "parallel government" seemingly much like "the Enterprise"
discovered in the Iran-contra scandal in the 1980s and currently being
rediscovered in the emerging BCCI scandal.
The conspirators of 1963, Garrison has theorized, grew alarmed at JFK's
moves toward de-escalation in Vietnam, normalization of U.S. relations with
Cuba, and detente with the Soviet Union. They hit upon a violent but otherwise
easy remedy for the problem of JFK's emerging pacifism, Garrison believes, in
the promotion by crossfire of Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
Stone hardly expected a movie with such a challenging message to escape
notice, but he was startled to find himself under sharp attack while "JFK" was
still being filmed. "Since when are movies judged," he said angrily, "sight-
unseen, before completion and on the basis of a pirated first-draft
The Ignorant Critics
The first out of his corner was Jon Margolis, a syndicated _Chicago_
_Tribune_ columnist who assured his readers in May, when Stone had barely
begun filming in Dallas, that "JFK" would prove "an insult to the
intelligence" and "decency" ("JFK Movie and Book Attempt to Rewrite History,"
May 14, p. 19). Margolis had not seen one page of the first-draft screenplay
(now in its sixth draft), but even so he felt qualified to warn his readers
that Stone was making not just a bad movie but an evil one. "There is a
point," Margolis fumed, "at which intellectual myopia becomes morally
repugnant. Mr Stone's new movie proves that he has passed that point. But then
so has [producer] Time-Warner and so will anyone who pays American money to
see the film."
What bothered Margolis so much about "JFK" is that it is based on Garrison,
whom Margolis described as "bizarre" for having "in 1969 [1967 actually]
claimed that the assassination of President Kennedy was a conspiracy by some
officials of the Central Intelligence Agency."
Since Margolis and other critics of the "JFK" project are getting their
backs up about facts, it is important to note here that this is not at all
what Garrison said. In two books and countless interviews, Garrison has argued
that the most likely incubator of an anti-JFK conspiracy was the cesspool of
Mafia hit men assembled by the CIA in its now-infamous Operation Mongoose, its
JFK-era program to murder Fidel Castro.
But Garrison also rejects the theory that the Mafia did it by itself, a
theory promoted mainly by G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the House
Assassinations Committee (HAC) of 1978 and co-author (with HAC writer Richard
Billings) of _The_Plot_to_Kill_the_ _President_ (New York: Times Books, 1981).
"If the Mafia did it," Garrison told _LOOT_, "why did the government so
hastily abandon the investigation? Why did it become so eagerly the chief
artist of the cover-up?"
More important, Garrison's investigation of Oswald established that this
presumed leftwing loner was associated in the period just before the
assassination with three individuals who had clear ties to the CIA and its
anti-Castro operations, namely, Clay Shaw, David Ferrie, and Guy Banister.
Garrison did not draw a conclusion from Oswald's ties to these men. Rather
he maintains that their presence in Oswald's story at such a time cannot be
presumed innocuous and dismissed out of hand. The Assassinations Committee
itself confirmed and puzzled over these ties in 1978, and even Blakey, a
fierce rival of Garrison, accepts their central importance in the explanation
of Oswald's role.
Lardner Grinds His Axe
The most serious attacks against the "JFK" project are those of the
_Washington_Post_'s George Lardner, perhaps the dean of the Washington
intelligence press corps. Lardner covered the Warren Commission during the
1960s, at one point ran a special _Post_ investigation of the case, and
covered the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s.
Lardner's May 19 article on the front page of the Sunday _Post_ "Outlook"
section, "On the Set: Dallas in Wonderland," ran to almost seven column feet,
and by far the greater part of that was dedicated to the contemptuous
dismissal of any thought that Garrison has made a positive contribution to
this case. Stone must be crazy too, Lardner seemed to be saying, to be taking
a nut like Garrison so seriously.
And yet Lardner's particulars are oddly strained.
Lardner wrote, for example, that the Assassinations Committee "may have"
heard testimony linking Oswald with Ferrie and Ferrie with the CIA. Lardner
knows very well that the committee _did_ hear such testimony, no maybes about
it, and that it found this testimony convincing. Then Lardner implicitly
denied that the committee heard such testimony at all by adding grotesquely
that it "may also have" heard no such thing. Why does Lardner want unwary
readers to think that the well-established connections between Oswald, Ferrie,
and the CIA exist only in Garrison's imagination?
Lardner stooped to a still greater deception with respect to the so-called
"three tramps," the men who were arrested in the railroad yard just north of
Dealey Plaza right after the shooting and taken to the police station, but
then released without being identified. Lardner knows that there is legitimate
concern about these men. For one thing, they were in exactly the area from
which about half of the Dealey Plaza eyewitnesses believed shots were fired.
For another, they do not look like ordinary tramps. Photos show that their
clothing and shoes were unworn and that they were freshly shaved and barbered.
But Lardner waved aside the question of their disappeared identities with a
high-handed _ad_ hominem_ sniff that, even if the police had taken their
names, those who suspect a conspiracy "would just insist the men had lied
about who they were."
Lardner next poked fun at the pirated first-draft version of Stone's
screenplay for suggesting that as many as five or six shots might have been
fired in Dealey Plaza. "Is this the Kennedy assassination," Lardner chortled,
"or the Charge of the Light Brigade?" As though only the ignorant could
consider a fifth or even, smirk, a sixth shot realistic.
But here is what the House Assassinations Committee's final report said on
page 68 about the number of shots detected on the famous acoustics tape: "Six
sequences of impulses that could have been caused by a noise such as gunfire
were initially identified as having been transmitted over channel 1 [of police
radio]. Thus, they warranted further analysis." The committee analyzed only
four of these impulses because (a) it was short of funds and time when the
acoustics tape was discovered, (b) the impulses selected for analysis
conformed to timing sequences of the Zapruder film, and (c) any fourth shot
established a second gun and thus a conspiracy. All four of these impulses
turned out to be shots. Numbers one and six remain to be analyzed. That is,
the acoustics evidence shows that there were at least four shots and perhaps
as many as six.
Lardner's most interesting error is his charge that "JFK" mis- states the
impact of the assassination on the growth of the Vietnam war. No doubt Stone's
first-draft screenplay telescoped events in suggesting that LBJ began
escalating the Vietnam war the second day after Dallas. Quietly and promptly,
however, LBJ did indeed stop the military build-down that JFK had begun; and
as soon as LBJ won the 1964 election as the peace candidate, he started taking
the lid off. Motivated by a carefully staged pretext, the Gulf of Tonkin
"incident," the bombing of North Vietnam began in February 1965. It is
puzzling to see such a sophisticated journalist as Lardner trying to finesse
the fact that Kennedy was moving toward de-escalation when he was killed and
that the massive explosion of the U.S. war effort occurred under Johnson. In
this sense, it is not only reasonable but necessary to see the JFK
assassination as a major turning point in the war.
Strangest of all is that Lardner himself has come to believe in a Dealey
Plaza conspiracy, admitting that the Assassinations Committee's findings in
this respect "still seem more plausible than any of the criticisms" and
subsequently restating the point in a tossed-off "acknowledgment that a
probable conspiracy took place."
The reader will search Lardner's writing in vain, however, for the
slightest elaboration of this point even though it is obviously the crux of
the entire debate. My own JFK file, for example, contains 19 clippings with
Lardner's byline and several _Wash- ington_Post_ clippings by other writers
from the period in which the Assassinations Committee announced its conspiracy
findings. The only piece I can find among these that so much as whispers of
support for the committee's work was written by myself and Jeff Goldberg ("Did
the Mob Kill Kennedy?" _Washington_Post_ Outlook section, February 25, 1979).
If the Warren critics were a mere handful of quacks jabbering about UFOs,
as Lardner insinuates, one might understand the venom he and other
mainstreamers bring to this debate.
But this is simply not the case. The _Post_'s own poll shows that 56
percent of us -- 75 percent of those with an opinion -- believe a conspiracy
was afoot at Dallas. And it was the U.S. Congress, after a year-long, $4
million, expert investigation, that concluded, "President John F. Kennedy was
probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."
The Reluctant Media
So what is it with the American news media and the JFK murder? Why do
normally skeptical journalists reserve their most hostile skepticism for those
who have tried to keep this case on the national agenda? What is it about
Dealey Plaza that not even the massive disbelief of the American people and
the imprimatur of the Congress can legitimate this issue to the news media?
As one who has followed this case closely and actively for nearly 20 years
-- and who has often heard the charge of "paranoia" as a response to the bill
of particulars -- I find it increasingly hard to resist concluding that the
media's strange rage for silence in this matter presents us with a textbook
case of denial, disassociation, and double-think. I hear frustration and fear
in the reasoning of Lardner and Margolis and their comrades who constantly
erect straw men to destroy and whose basic response to those who would argue
the facts is yet another dose of _ad_ hominem_ character assassination, as we
are beholding in the media's response to Stone and Garrison:
--Frustration because the media cannot stop Stone's movie from carrying the
thesis of a JFK conspiracy to a global audience already strongly inclined to
--Fear because the media cannot altogether suppress a doubt in their
collective mind that the essential message of "JFK" may be correct after all,
and that, if it is, their current re- lationship to the government may have to
And perhaps a touch of shame, too, because in the persistence of the
mystery of JFK's death, there may be the beginning of an insight that the
media are staring their own greatest failure in the face.
First Sidebar: About Clay Shaw
It is true that Garrison could not convince the New Orleans jury that Shaw
had a motive to conspire against JFK. This is because he could not prove that
Shaw was a CIA agent. Had Garrison been able to establish a Shaw link to the
CIA, then JFK's adversarial relationship with the CIA's Task Force W
assassination plots against Castro would have become material and a plausible
Shaw motive might have come into focus. But in 1975, six years after Shaw's
acquittal and a year after his death, a CIA headquarters staff officer, Victor
Marchetti, disclosed that Garrison was right, that Shaw, and Ferrie as well,
were indeed connected to the CIA. Marchetti further revealed that CIA Director
Richard Helms -- a supporter of the CIA-Mafia plots against Castro -- had
committed the CIA to helping Shaw in his trou- ble with Garrison. What the CIA
might have done in this regard is not known, but Marchetti's revelation gives
us every reason to presuppose a CIA hand in the wrecking of Garrison's case
George Lardner is not impressed by the proof of a CIA connection to Shaw.
He responds dismissively that Shaw's CIA position was only that of informant:
Shaw, he writes, "was a widely traveled businessman who had occasional
contacts with the CIA's Domestic Contact Service. Does that make him an
assassin?" Of course not, and Garrison never claimed it did. But it certainly
does--or ought to--stimulate an interest in Shaw's relationship to Oswald and
Ferrie. Is it not strikingly at variance with the Warren Commission's lone-nut
theory of Oswald to find him circulating within a CIA orbit in the months just
ahead of the assassination? Why is Lardner so hot to turn away from this
How fascinating, moreover, that Lardner should claim with such an air of
finality to know all about Shaw's ties to the CIA, since a thing like this
could only be known for a certainty to a highly placed CIA officer. And if
Lardner is not (_mirabile dictu_) himself an officer of the CIA, then all he
can plausibly claim to know about Shaw is what the CIA chooses to tell him.
Has George Lardner not heard that the CIA lies?
Reprinted with permission from _Lies_Of_Our_Times_, September 1991,
copyright (o) 1991 by the Institute for Media Analysis, Inc. and Sheridan
Square Press, Inc. Subscriptions to LOOT are $2year (U.S.), from LOOT, 145 W.
4th St., New York, NY 10012.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1991 19:18:29 CDT
Source: Rich Winkel
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank