Path: ns-mx!uunet!!!!acm
From: (Acm)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies,alt.conspiracy
Subject: Stone's _JFK_ promotes absurd accusations
Date: 19 Dec 91 22:08:26 GMT
References: <>
Followup-To: rec.arts.movies
Organization: University of Minnesota, Academic Computing Services
Lines: 146
Xref: ns-mx rec.arts.movies:50117 alt.conspiracy:9389

                       by Peter Kauffner

     The release of Oliver Stone's movie _JFK_ has allowed at least
one sector of the economy to recover from recession: the
Kennedy assassination conspiracy industry. Polls show that 56
percent of Americans now reject Warren Commission's conclusion that
Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John Kennedy in 1963 on his

     Conspiracy mongers have never allowed evidence or common
sense to get in the way of good theory. If a well financed group
wanted to kill a president, they would presumably hire an expert
marksman with a high-powered rifle, plenty of ammunition, and an
escape plan. In contrast, Oswald was a mediocre shot, used a World
War II surplus carbine, had only four bullets, and did not appear to
have a coherent escape plan.

     Since Oswald is such an unlikely instrument of a conspiracy,
`second gunmen' plots are the most popular type of conspiracy
theory. According to the typical second gunman plot, Oswald is
only a fall guy for a professional hit man who fired from the
`grassy knoll' near Kennedy's motorcade. Oliver Stone's scenario is
even more far fetched. He has gunmen firing from three different
locations around Dealey Plaza for a total of five to seven shots,
as opposed to the Warren Commission's three.

     Stone's theory is based on an audio tape recorded by the Dallas
police and analyzed in a 1978 congressional report. In this report,
the House Select Committee on Assassinations claimed that the
probability that a second gunman fired from the grassy knoll was
`95 percent or better.' There were six noises on the tape that passed
preliminary screening tests as possible rifle shots.

     The report's claims were thoroughly refuted by a 1982 National
Academy of Sciences study. The NAS panel concluded that `the acoustical
analysis does not demonstrate that there was a grassy knoll shot,
and in particular there is no acoustic basis for the claim of 95
percent probability of such a shot.' The part of the tape alleged
to contain the sound of gun shots was actually `recorded about
one minute after the president had been shot.'

     A home movie of the murder, called the Zapruder film, provides
the best evidence that there was neither a fourth shot nor a
second gunman. After each of Oswald's three shots, the camera
shakes visibly. A high powered rifle firing from the grassy knoll
would have made a deafening noise from where Zapruder stood,
according to _Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic
Comparisons of Their Assassinations_ (1980) by John Lattimer.

     Having gunmen at widely separated locations fire in succession
would only make an operation more difficult to coordinate. If the
Secret Service had reacted quickly, the first shot would have
been the assassin's only chance. Why let Oswald fire the first
shot if a professional marksman was available? As it turned out,
the Secret Service failed to react quickly enough to protect
Kennedy. Presumably, this wasn't something potential conspirators
could count on.

     The sort of conspiracy envisaged by Stone would require the
involvement of so many people that someone would have spilled
the beans by now. But about the closest thing to an insider's view
of the conspiracy that we have is the testimony of Charles Speisel.
Speisel was called to testify against alleged Kennedy assassin Clay
Shaw in 1969 by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (the hero of
_JFK_, played by Kevin Costner).

     On cross examination, Speisel confirmed that he had a filed suits
against the New York police, among others, for allegedly torturing him
and keeping him under hypnosis. He estimated that 50 to 60 people had
hypnotized him in order to plant wild ideas in his head.  The jury
acquitted Shaw after deliberating for less than an hour.
     How does Stone maintain Garrison's heroic image in the
face of such a fiasco? Speisel is explained as `one of [Bill] Boxley's
witnesses.' Boxley was a Garrison aid. In _JFK_, he's a double agent
working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Since he is also dead,
he can't sue for libel.

     The murder of Oswald by nightclub owner Jack Ruby helps give
conspiracy theories a certain plausibility. This occurred only
two days after Kennedy was shot and while Oswald was being
transferred out of the headquarters of the Dallas police. Some
have speculated that Ruby was assigned to `shut Oswald up.'

     Oswald's transfer was delayed by 19 minutes. If Ruby planned
the killing in advance he should have been waiting for Oswald
outside the police station. But according to the time stamp on
a receipt he was carrying, Ruby was at a nearby Western Union office
transferring money only four minutes before the shooting. The
fact the Ruby carried a gun with him at all times supports his
claim that he acted on impulse.

     Did Oswald's murder really have `all the earmarks of a gangland
slaying'? Not many mob hit men strike when they are surrounded by
police and sure to be arrested.

     In their zeal to show that Oswald couldn't possibly do what the
Warren Commission claims he did, conspiracy theorists make much of the
low marksmanship scores Oswald got while he was in the Marines. But
according to tests results published by Lattimer, Oswald's score in
the seated position--the position he used when he shot Kennedy--was
excellent. On one scorecard he hit a head-and-shoulders sized target
49 out of 50 times from a distance of 200 yards without telescopic
sights. He shot Kennedy from less than 100 yards and used telescopic

     The Kennedy assassination certainly isn't the first prominent
killing to become the subject of crackpot speculation. `One never
speaks of this assassination without making reckless judgments. The
absurdity of the accusation, the total lack of evidence, nothing
stops them.' That was Voltaire writing about the assassination of King
Henry IV of France in 1610.

     What is unusual about the Kennedy case is the way that doubt and
speculation has increased with the passage of time. When the Warren
Commission report was released, few Americans doubted that Oswald was
the sole assassin. By 1967, two-thirds believed that Kennedy
was done in by a conspiracy.  Each new conspiracy theory makes
headlines.  Careful rebuttals, like the NAS report, are lucky if they
get a few column inches on an inside page.


Lardner, George Jr., `On the Set: Dallas in Wonderland,' _The Washington
Post_, May 19, 1991, p. D1.

Lardner, George Jr., `...Or Just a Sloppy Mess?' _The Washington Post_, June
2, 1991, p. D3.

Lattimer, John, _Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of
Their Assassinations_ (1980).

Moss, Armand, _Disinformation, Misinformation, and the `Conspiracy' to Kill
JFK Exposed_

Stone, Oliver, `Stone's _JFK_: A Higher Truth?' _The Washington Post_ June 2,
1991, p. D3.

Peter Kauffner                      UUCP: {crash tcnet}!orbit!pnet51!peterk
Minneapolis, Minnesota              INET:

Libertarians put freedom first. Vote for Andre Marrou and Nancy Lord in 1992!