18 February 2008

JFK: Believe It or Not

The report of the release of a "transcript" of a dialogue between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby in a "trove" of JFK assassination memorabilia has me hoping against hope that people will not suddenly take this as new proof of a conspiracy. This report has the most extensive excerpt from the transcript, so you can judge its likelihood for yourself.

What we have seems to be only a fragment, either of an acutal conversation or of a movie script. The quality of the dialogue (bad) along with my resistance to conspiracy theory on this particular subject, leads me to believe that we're looking at a page of script. Maybe its author realized how bad it sounded and stopped right there. Were it a transcript of an authentic conversation, we might expect to find more documentation attached, e.g., when the talk took place, where Ruby and Oswald were at the time, etc. We might also want to know how such a transcript, if it were real, was acquired. I expect we would know by now if either Oswald or Ruby were wiretapped. It is plausible in either case, since Ruby had mob ties and Oswald was a vocal, public supporter of Fidel Castro. But in either case, the record would probably have come to light years ago.

Nevertheless, people still want to believe that shadowy powers dictated the death of Kennedy. Oliver Stone inadvertently made their reasoning plain in his conspiracy movie; the believers can't stand the thought that an "angry little nut" actually changed the course of history. Oswald's own death makes his responsibility doubly unacceptable, since it violates the believers' logic of "who benefits." In any event, they take a larger view. They presume that someone benefited from the decisions taken by Lyndon Johnson regarding Vietnam, and perhaps other matters, or that someone benefited from Bobby Kennedy leaving the government, and that therefore one of these someones had to have willed the assassination, or had more will in the matter than Oswald did.

I'm slowly working my way through Vincent Bugliosi's massive tome on the assassination, which promises a complete demolition of all conspiracy theories, but to be frank, I've always been satisfied with Stanley Kubrick's account of the event. In Full Metal Jacket, the drill sergeant cites both Oswald and Charles Whitman (the prototypical modern mass murderer, to keep on topic) as examples of what a motivated Marine can do with his rifle. I've also seen enough demonstrations or recreations of the assassination to believe that the shooting was within Oswald's competence. And if we've learned anything since then (and we're still learning this very month, as recent posts will remind you), Americans do a pretty good job of motivating themselves to kill without help from conspiracies.

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