Morton Kondracke displays some funny logic. My commentary is in italics.
I didn’t read or watch every observation of the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (who could?) but the ones I did gave short shrift to his signal accomplishment — saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
Could it be because JFK played a provocative role in the nuclear confrontation in the first place? And other observers are more informed and realistic about this? The fact that JFK managed to back out of a nuclear crisis that he helped start is a “Signal Accomplishment”? Just a thought, Morton. Credit is due, Kennedy did act honorably, and skillfully, this is true. History records that. It’s been explored by scholars ever since. But let’s not pretend Kennedy swept in and saved the world.
The other view is that Kennedy brought the USA to the brink of a global nuclear war, then successfully avoided it. That might be the reason others haven’t touted it as a signal accomplishment.
His cool restraint during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — resisting many advisers who were calling for bombing Soviet missile sites in Cuba — ought to earn him the top-of-the-heap public approval ratings he enjoys (90 percent in a CNN poll).
I doubt the ratings are based on that, though. His celebrated grace, glamour, wit, eloquence, inspiration of a generation to public service, his (belated) support for civil rights, the Camelot myth created by his widow — and, above all, his martyrdom — most likely are the major factors.
Grace, glamour, wit, eloquence…morbidly brazen womanizing, medical dependence on steroids and regular injections of powerful amphetamines to mask grave health problems….and recklessly bringing the USA to the brink of nuclear war. Okay, got it. Glamorous.
Historians rate him lower than the public does. If you look at the excellent Wikipedia site, Historical Rankings of Presidents of the United States, he rates in the middle-upper tier in a dozen surveys of historians — 14th in a 2002 Sienna College survey.
Records Commission Was Created To Gather, Release Evidence In 1990s
In the wake of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a member of a board that collected records on the assassination in the 1990s talked about its process and findings.
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Columbia University history professor emeritus Henry Franklin Graff was one of five members of what was called the Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
He said all the evidence indicated that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Lee Harvey Oswald and the ACLU
Jarrett Stepman writes: Although conspiracy theories abound as to who orchestrated President John F. Kennedy’s murder 50 years ago, there is little doubt regarding who actually pulled the trigger and shot the 35th president: left-wing radical Lee Harvey Oswald.
This fact escapes most of the liberal media members who often attribute Kennedy’s death to conservatives or “right-wing hate.”
For instance, the New York Times recently published an article called, “The City With a Death Wish in its Eye,” in which the author, James McAuley, called Dallas the “city of hate,” a city that “willed the death of a president.”
This bizarre and un-factual conclusion has been peddled for many years, especially by left-wing politicos that attempt to paint every conservative political movement as a diabolical conspiracy to kill liberal politicians.
Daniel Pipes writes: In three main ways, the JFK murder still has repercussions for Americans and the world. It also has a unique place in my life.
First, had the assassination attempt not succeeded, arguably neither the Vietnam War nor the Great Society expansion of government would have afflicted the United States as they did. The Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived project concludes that “JFK would have continued to resist a US war in Vietnam. Even though the Saigon government, weak and corrupt, was destined for the dustbin of history, he would have resisted those calling on him to send US combat troops to Vietnam. He might have ended all military involvement.”
As for government expansion, American historian Don Keko writes that Kennedy “lacked Lyndon Johnson’s legislative abilities which would have doomed much of what became known as the Great Society. . . . Without the Great Society, the nation does not experience massive budget deficits and the economy would have been stronger.”
Second, Kennedy’s assassination profoundly impaired American liberalism. James Piereson’s 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution (Encounter) establishes how liberals could not cope with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist, murdered Kennedy to protect Fidel Castro’s control of Cuba. Kennedy died for his anti-Communism; but this wildly contradicted the liberals’ narrative, so they denied this fact and insisted on presenting Kennedy as a victim of the radical Right, reading Oswald out of the picture.
Walter Cronkite announcing the death of U.S. president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
See 5:00 for the significant part.
(November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009)
CBS News Anchor (April 16, 1962 – March 6, 1981)
1. Camelot. The brief Kennedy years represent for many in the media their own golden moment. JFK was their royalty, their idol, their ideal, their handsome and rich young war hero. Jackie Kennedy was their queen. And then it was all cut short, like a Shakespearean tragedy or fairy tale. The mythic Camelot fell to lust. The American Camelot fell to an assassin. For those of us who grew up after JFK, it’s all so much history. I grew up around Dallas and heard about the assassination any time I visited anywhere else as a child, and later on I visited the Sixth Floor Museum. It’s haunting but it’s history. For many in that generation, which was mostly born after World War II and then ended up losing Vietnam, JFK provides a meaningful anchor point, or at least a point that they have infused with meaning. Don’t bring up his womanizing or how the Kennedy patriarch behaved toward the Nazis. None of that has any place in the myth.
2. It provides them a chance to bash handy villains they already hate: Dallas, Texas, and the South. Not a JFK anniversary goes by without the New York Times publishing at least one piece blaming the assassination on Dallas, and more broadly on Texas and the South. The fact is, while Dallas had its share of mainstream Kennedy-haters, none of them fired a shot. Texas went narrowlyfor Kennedy in 1960. Dallas citizens actually turned out on November 22, 1963, to greet the Kennedys warmly. Even the horrible Zapruder film shows happy, cheering crowds lining the streets in Dealey Plaza just to get a glimpse of the First Couple.
One lone nut can change all that, and did, which is unsettling to the point of horror. But Dallas was not and is not to blame, any more than Ford’s Theater is to blame for Abraham Lincoln’s killing. Texas is not to blame. The South is not to blame. But many on the left would rather blame their preferred villains than look at the truth.
3. The truth is more horrible than the fiction. The truth is, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is the killing of one of life’s genetic lottery winners by a small-time loser. If JFK was larger than life, his killer was much smaller than life. The JFK assassination could have been a conspiracy, but it probably wasn’t. The evidence points directly at one man whose ideology, coupled with his combination of grandiosity and mediocrity, led him to kill the president in order to elevate himself.
Useful suggestions from Althouse. On reflection, I have violated least half of these rules–did I mention that I was in Dallas in 1963? While true, perhaps Althouse is right and it’s become a cliche–and will probably violate a few more by the time November is over. But since it’s Friday Nov. 22, and I’ve included a lot of coverage of Kennedy this month, Althouse’s list of 10 rules is a welcome addition.
Althouse writes: It’s coming up next Friday, and I’d like to help with that op-ed or blog post you might have in the works.
1. Don’t repeat the cliché that everyone who was around at the time remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.
2. Don’t tell us — especially don’t tell us as if it were not a big cliché — what youhappened to have been doing and how you’ve always remembered that. After 50 years, can you not finally see that it doesn’t matter?
3. Don’t even attempt to say that the assassination had a profound effect on people. There is no new way to say that. We know!
4. Don’t make up alternate histories of what would have happened if Kennedy had not been killed. Everything would have been different; we would all have been different. If you’re American and under 50, you can assume that you would never have been born.
5. Don’t recount the conspiracy theories. Here‘s Wikipedia’s article on the subject. If you’re into that sort of thing, enjoy it some day in your spare time, but don’t lard your 50th anniversary writings with that. It’s tawdry and undignified, and we’ve heard it all a thousand times. And by “all,” I don’t really mean all. What’s the one about the Federal Reserve? I just mean, if that’s what you’ve found to talk about, just shut up.
6. Don’t connect the story of JFK to Obama. I know it seems as though everything is about Obama, but resist. It’s cheap and inappropriate.
7. Don’t tell us about other Kennedys. Don’t drag in the recent news that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s son Jack appears to have reached adulthood in nonugly form and has grown a large head of hair and is therefore presumptive presidential material. That’s annoying and off-topic.
8. Don’t commemorate murder. A man managed to kill the President. He’s already gotten far too much press. He doesn’t deserve our endless attention. I’m sick of “celebrating” a death day. We don’t make anything of Lincoln’s death day. We celebrate his birthday, like Washington’s, because he was such a great President. We don’t celebrate JFK’s birthday — I don’t even know what it is — because he was not great enough. We celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, not the day he was assassinated. Why? Because of his greatness, and because we don’t want to direct our attention toward his murder. So why do we focus on Kennedy’s death day? It must be because he was not great enough, and because of points #1, #2, and #3, above. It’s about ourselves. A man died and we morbidly relive it annually, for some reason that must make little sense to those under 50.
9. Do write to end the annual ritual of death commemoration. Nail down the coffin lid and give the dead President some peace. Inspire us to move on to modest acknowledgements of the date at 10 or 25 year intervals up until 2063, when we — those of us who survive — can go big for the centennial.
10. Do make it — if not original — short.
Rich Lowry writes: For all these years, they’ve hidden the truth about the Kennedy assassination.
It didn’t require a conspiracy. It just took repeating a falsehood until it was accepted as conventional wisdom. The myth about the Kennedy assassination is that President John F. Kennedy, at great personal risk, traveled to Dallas a.k.a. the City of Hate, and was somehow murdered by an atmosphere of intolerance. The truth is that he was shot by a communist.
[The 2nd in a 3-part series on JFK this morning]
Warren Mass writes: As the nation pauses to reflect on the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the respectful and civil recollection of this horrific act is already being marred by those who seek to politicize Kennedy’s killing to serve their own agenda.
With the passage of 50 years’ time, it becomes more and more doubtful that we will ever learn the entire truth behind the assassination. However, since some members of the media have already started to rearrange the events of 50 years ago to divert blame from a self-described Marxist — Lee Harvey Oswald — onto those they like to label as (variously) “ultra-conservative,” “archconservative,” or simply “right-wing,” a sane and sober look at these claims is definitely called for.
Leading the charge against the “ultra-conservatives” is Scott K. Parks, who penned an article for the Dallas News for October 12 headlined: “Extremists in Dallas created volatile atmosphere before JFK’s 1963 visit.” Parks lamented that following November 22, 1963, “Dallas became known to the world as the city of hate, the city that killed Kennedy.”
Parks proceeded to assign blame for exactly who was responsible for manufacturing this “hateful” atmosphere in Dallas, and — lest anyone miss his point — his explanation falls under a subheading, “John Birch Society HQ.”
Christopher Harper writes: The media coverage of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has overwhelmed the American public, with books, documentaries, made-for-television dramas and journalistic memorials.
“Many of these specials, and there are dozens, are as preoccupied with the images and bereavement of baby boomers as they are with the slain president,” Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote recently.
I couldn’t agree more. We baby boomers like to revel in our story. Nearly all of us remember precisely where we were when we got the news. But more and more Americans — those born after 1963, which is generally considered the last birth year of the baby boomer generation — have little interest in the Kennedy legacy. Most of this exhaustive media coverage failed to note Kennedy was a mediocre president. His record of less than three years provides little support for his place in many polls as one of the best presidents in history. A recent survey ranked Kennedy as the most popular president in the past 50 years.
Within a month after Kennedy’s assassination, his widow, Jacqueline, started to sculpt the myth in cooperation with author Theodore White, who wrote a glowing article in Life magazine comparing the Kennedy administration with the Camelot of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
The years Kennedy’s assassin spent in Minsk only deepened his isolation, biographer Peter Savodnik says.
Heather Maher writes: To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a wave of books has been published in the United States covering everything from Kennedy’s legacy to alleged new details about his death. One new title examines the Soviet chapter of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot Kennedy. Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and spent two and a half years living in Minsk before he grew tired of the adventure and returned home. In The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union, Peter Savodnik looks at why Oswald fled America, his life in Minsk, and what ultimately led him to climb to the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas and aim a rifle at Kennedy’s head on November 22, 1963. An interview with the author follows:
You write that Lee Harvey Oswald’s decision to defect to the USSR was part of an unhappy pattern that existed throughout his entire life and was established by his mother.
Peter Savodnik: Before joining the Marines [at the age of 17] and leaving home, Oswald moved 20 times with his mother. And each move was precipitated by some failure on her part—a failed relationship, a lost job, or some rupture or crisis. The point is that Oswald never has, throughout his childhood or adolescence, anything akin to a home, a sense of rootedness. And if you view the Soviet foray through this prism, then it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that the whole point of going there—even if Oswald wasn’t aware of it—was to find some sense of permanence, a place to call home. Read the rest of this entry »
Two lives change forever after a brush with Lee Harvey Oswald
Quin Hillyer writes: One of the few men who ever interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald ended up renting my old room for about four years. Another man, one of the few innocents who lost their jobs due to the Kennedy assassination, wrote feature stories for me when I was managing editor of the New Orleans weekly Gambit. The reverberations from that assassination a half century ago altered not only the course of a nation but also the course of numerous private lives, in ways poignant and deep.
For the two men I knew, Ed Butler and Jesse Core, August 16, 1963, was a fateful day. It was then that Lee Harvey Oswald was passing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, outside the International Trade Mart in New Orleans. Core was the Trade Mart’s publicist; as Oswald started causing a commotion, Core tried to shoo him away to avoid bad publicity for the Trade Mart. Core promptly reported the incident to the FBI. Five days later, Butler, as the head of an anti-Communist outfit called the Information Council of the Americas (INCA), joined a Cuban exile and two local reporters on WDSU radio to interview, or debate, Oswald.
Hauntingly, it is one of only two readily available recordings of Oswald before the assassination. It was Butler who helped goad Oswald into proclaiming that he was a Marxist — an admission that the late U.S. representative Hale Boggs, who served on the Warren Commission and who greatly admired INCA, thought was highly important in establishing Oswald’s motives. Read the rest of this entry »
Alec Baldwin: ‘If the show dies, its fate ends up being no different than the vast majority of start-up TV programming’Posted: November 17, 2013
My MSNBC Show Might Not Return
“Whether the show comes back at all is at issue right now,” the 30 Rock star wrote on his Huffington Post blog, adding: “But if the show dies, its fate ends up being no different than the vast majority of start-up TV programming, and so be it. We do take a small amount of pride in knowing that we beat CNN in the ratings each of our nights. (I forget who they had on at that time.)”
Baldwin had been under fire for hurling gay slurs at a photographer during a confrontation earlier in the week that were caught on camera and widely circulated online. Read the rest of this entry »
Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist who idolized Castro and hated America
James Pierson writes: It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was cut down on the streets of Dallas by rifle shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-described Marxist, defector to the Soviet Union, and admirer of Fidel Castro. The evidence condemning Oswald was overwhelming.
The bullets that killed President Kennedy were fired from his rifle, which was found in the warehouse where he worked and where he was seen moments before the shooting. Witnesses on the street saw a man firing shots from a window in that building and immediately summoned police to provide a description. Forty-five minutes later a policeman stopped Oswald in another section of the city to question him about the shooting. Oswald killed him with four quick shots from his pistol as the policeman stepped from his squad car. He then fled to a nearby movie theater where he was captured (still carrying the pistol).
Yet opinion polls suggest that 75% of American adults believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. Most of the popular books published on the murder have argued for one or another conspiracy theory, with the CIA, FBI, organized crime or right-wing businessmen cast as the villains. Why does the Kennedy assassination still provoke so much controversy?
Sterling Beard writes: CBS has not invited former longtime anchor Dan Rather to participate in its coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy — despite the fact that a much younger Rather covered the event for the network and will even be featured in archival footage for CBS’s broadcast.
“Looking back on it, they were trying to airbrush me out of their history, like the Kremlin,” Rather said, before wondering if CBS would remove him from other monumental stories.
“What’s next – I’m airbrushed out of Watergate coverage? Vietnam? Tiananmen Square? 9/11? Where does this lead?” he asked.
Rather left the network in 2006 following his 2004 60 Minutes report on Texas National Guard memos that indicated President Bush had received special treatment during his service — the documents turned out to be fake. Read the rest of this entry »
While the nation was still grieving JFK’s assassination, she used an influential magazine profile to rewrite her husband’s legacy and spawn Camelot
Few events in the postwar era have cast such a long shadow over our national life as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy fifty years ago this month. The murder of a handsome and vigorous president shocked the nation to its core and shook the faith of many Americans in their institutions and way of life.
Those who were living at the time would never forget the moving scenes associated with President Kennedy’s death: the Zapruder film depicting the assassination in a frame-by-frame sequence; the courageous widow arriving with the coffin at Andrews Air Force Base still wearing her bloodstained dress; the throng of mourners lined up for blocks outside the Capitol to pay respects to the fallen president; the accused assassin gunned down two days later while in police custody and in full view of a national television audience; the little boy saluting the coffin of his slain father; the somber march to Arlington National Cemetery; the eternal flame affixed to the gravesite. These scenes were repeated endlessly on television at the time and then reproduced in popular magazines and, still later, in documentary films. They came to be viewed as defining events of the era.
“I always tell people I’m not a bookworm. I’m a book anaconda,” John Judge says, as he turns sideways and carefully maneuvers his large frame down a narrow staircase into the main library of the Coalition on Political Assassinations, a nonprofit dedicated to researching the killings of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Carved deep into a hill in Penn Branch, a quiet, leafy community in Southeast Washington, the room might otherwise be a basement, were the house not inhabited by a man who for the past 45 years has been obsessively reading and researching every facet of the Kennedy assassination.
He scans through hundreds of books, carefully pulling from the shelves some of the foundational texts of the assassination canon: Mark Lane’s best-selling Rush to Judgment, the first book he ever read on the case, and Robert Groden and Harrison Edward Livingstone’s High Treason: The Assassination of JFK & the Case for Conspiracy. Judge gestures to 26 hardcover volumes of the Warren Commission report, the official government investigation that fingered Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman. On a shelf beside him sits a self-satirical bumper sticker: “Humpty Dumpty was pushed.” Judge, who has wavy silver-white hair and a goatee that fans out beneath his chin, smirks, “I tell people you can call me a conspiracy theorist if you call everyone else a coincidence theorist.”
More Americans believe that a shadowy conspiracy was behind a president’s death 50 years ago than know who Joe Biden is
This is a guest post by University of Miami political scientists Joseph Uscinskiand Joseph Parent. This article is based on portions of their forthcoming book “American Conspiracy Theories” (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Conspiracy theories are conquering the country, leading us into a dark age of cynicism. Americans are bombarded by a growing barrage of outlandish tales, aided and abetted by a polarizing media, and amplified by the echo chamber of theInternet. While all sides indulge in conspiracy theories, Republicans andconservatives are particularly prone to them. Such inflamed rhetoric divides nations and destroys deliberative democracy.
Actually, there is not much truth in any of the above. Journalists have been quick to proclaim a “new age of conspiracy theories.” The only problem is that “new age” is typically just a synonym for “now.” For example, see 2011, 2010, 2004, 1994,1991 and 1964. Fortunately, we have a much better sense of where conspiracy theories come from and why so many people believe them.
Kennedy assassination nostalgia reveals the deeply engrained generational arrogance of the baby boomers. After 50 years, let’s hope the fever is breaking.
Nick Gillespie writes: If there’s one November tradition less digestible and more shart-inducing than Thanksgiving dinner (sorry, Mom!), it’s the seasonal and ritualized fixation over the assassination and broad legacy of John F. Kennedy.
Each fall since November 22, 1963, regular programming is pre-empted and whole rainforests are clear-cut to bring us books filled with the latest minor (and often delusional) variations on who killed Kennedy and why; the supposedly transformative effect of the “Camelot” years on contemporary geo-politics and, more plausibly, the hat-wearing habits of the American male; and counterfactuals about just how awesome—or awful—JFK’s second term would have been.
Readers know this is subject I’m covering, and will continue to cover, in the weeks leading up to the historic anniversary of JFK’s assassination. In the wake of the resurgence of left-wing propaganda about Dallas in 1963, its a topic that deserves honesty, legitimate pushback, and clarification. Stay tuned for updates. , I welcome The Weekly Standard‘s Mark Hemingway commentary, and include it here.
Mark Hemingway writes: The fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is nearly upon us, so one would expect America’s public intellectuals to be gearing up to present a series of sober and illuminating reflections about the tragedy’s cultural and political legacy.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. Any misty-eyed resonance that can be wrung out of JFK’s death is already being exploited by our elite media gatekeepers to advance a political agenda.
To start things off, the New Yorker‘s George Packer has filed a dispatch about the “the potent brew of right-wing passions, much of it well organized and well funded—Bircher anti-Communism, anti-Catholicism [and] racism” that is apparently to blame for JFK’s death. This is nonsensical on many levels. Racism is, of course, described as a “right-wing passion” though it is conveniently forgotten that at the time of JFK’s assassination this odious legacy was exploited and enforced primarily by the Democratic party. And yes, Dallas may have been suffused with “Bircher anti-Communism” but that seems very much at odds with the identity of JFK’s assassin who had spent time in the Soviet Union under mysterious circumstances.
George Packer of the New Yorker Doubles Down on Stupid: believes Dallas’ collective right-wing-extremist “invisible magical spirit forces” assassinated John F. Kennedy (instead of a doomed Marxist leftist, Lee Harvey Oswald)
Left-wing Fantasy Projection: “From Dealey Plaza to the Tea Party”
Here we go again. This is too stupid to seriously contemplate, but just as predicted, the Left is actually trying to forge a link between Kennedy’s assassination, and the grassroots elements of the current Republican party. Desperate, you say? Absolutely.
This utter nonsense has been thoroughly debunked [see Society is to Blame: When Liberalism Lost its Way, Dallas, 1963] and revealed for what it is–self-serving propaganda and revisionist historic fantasy.
“…The authors describe the potent brew of right-wing passions, much of it well organized and well funded—Bircher anti-Communism, anti-Catholicism, racism (Dallas was the last large American city to desegregate its schools), Kennedy hatred—that suffused many people in Dallas with the spirit of dissension and incipient violence during the early sixties, including some of its leading citizens: elected officials, Baptist ministers, the billionaire oilman H. L. Hunt, the right-wing zealot General Edwin Walker, even the publisher of the Morning News, Ted Dealey. During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the state’s most powerful politician, and his wife, Lady Bird, were spat upon in Dallas; Adlai Stevenson, J.F.K.’s Ambassador to the United Nations, was assaulted there just a month before the assassination. “WELCOME MR. KENNEDY TO DALLAS …,” ran the headline of a black-bordered, full-page ad in the Morning News on the morning of November 22, 1963, with a bill of particulars that stopped just short of accusing the President of treason. Kennedy had warned his wife, “We’re heading into nut country.”
Oswald was an avowed Marxist, which might seem to absolve the city’s right wing of any responsibility. But “Dallas 1963” places the assassin in context as a malleable, unstable figure breathing the city’s extraordinarily feverish air. Judge Sarah T. Hughes, who administered the oath of office to Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field, later said, “It could have happened anywhere, but Dallas, I’m sorry to say, has been conditioned by many people who have hate in their hearts and who seem to want to destroy.”
This item by George Will is notable because it bypasses the current political drama and looks into the history of 20th Century Liberalism with a wider lens, and sweeps into a moment in time that bears thoughtful reflection. It’s an event that continues to influence post 20th-Century liberal thought, in ways that we have to live with, like it or not, every day.
If you don’t read anything else this week, read this one.
I also found it timely because I found myself listening to news on NPR yesterday, something I only do when I’m in my car, and was shocked to be reminded of a strain of Liberal thought that’s always troubled me: the theory of ‘collective’ crime, or collective guilt. Collective repentance. Collective salvation. But until this NPR segment, I hadn’t connected it the contemporary grievance culture all the way back to 1963.
I learned, contrary to common sense and written history, that President Kennedy wasn’t killed by an assassin with a rifle. Turns out (according to NPR) he was killed by a “climate”. Dallas did it. Society murdered JFK. It was the ‘climate of hate” that permeated Dallas Texas, in 1963. Apparently, this ‘stew’ (as the NPR reporter called it) of “hyper-patriotism, anti-semitism, racism”, etc., that was simmering in Dallas, reached a boiling point. The invisible brain-waves of anti-Kennedy hatred moved through the air in Texas, affecting anyone in that climate-stew, and concentrated itself in Dealy plaza, until President Kennedy’s head exploded, spontaneously, just from the pressure of all that collective hatred.
There goes the single bullet theory.
Liberals really believe this, too. Not that JFK’s head exploded spontaneously. But that Dallas killed Kennedy. That the city was so full of hatred for the President, so full of bitterness and bad thoughts, that the concentrated hatred assembled itself in the person of one unhinged individual, Lee Harvey Oswald (leaving aside conspiracist’s claims of additional gunmen) who acted upon this pent-up rage. The unavoidable fate–the Kennedy-death wish–had to be unleashed, and realized.
So, shots were fired. Resulting in the ghastly murder of the President, executed on society’s behalf. According to this narrative, the collective dark urge had to find expression. It was wound too tightly, had to be released. It wasn’t Owsald’s fault. It was Dallas’ fault. It was society’s fault. It was America’s fault.
How potent was this Kennedy vitriol, in Dallas? Well, you can clearly see, in photos, and newsreels, all those people waving and smiling as the motorcade passes. The moms with their babies, the kids with American flags, the civilians, soldiers, policemen. The crowds with cameras, eager to glimpse the President. Don’t let their happy expressions fool you. Those smiles and waves? They were masking deep, murderous, collective hatred.
Update: Tim Graham at PA Pundits has a much more informed report on NPR’s original segment (of which I caught the tail end of, or the following day’s listener mail) and quotes sections of the NPR interview with author Bill Minutaglio, who peddles this “right wing hysteria” fantasy:
BLOCK: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, a new book dives deep into the city where the murder took place. “Dallas, 1963″ explores the swirling forces of right wing fanaticism at work in the city during the three years leading up to JFK’s assassination. By this account, Dallas in the early ’60s was a stew of super-patriotism, fueled by anti-communist paranoia, fierce racism and anti-Semitism.
Reading Tim’s account, it appears that historians and authors on the Left not only still dust off and promote this toxic mythology, they’re doubling down on it. Or at least Bill Minutaglio is, in his new book. And, I’m sure, ties it to the Tea Party, casually and dishonestly mislabeling it as a racist, radical pro-white, ‘hate’ group. Identical to those “right wing fanatics” in Dallas who collectively killed Kennedy, dragging America with it. Good grief. Who is the paranoid one here?
Besides George Will, I hope other rational reviewers take Minutaglio’s book apart, and expose it for what it is. Paranoid Left Wing Fantasy. Reason-free, heartfelt, self-affirming propaganda. Other historians are sure to agree. It hits all the right notes, in harmony.
As Tim notes:
Among the book blurbs for Minutaglio is one of the liberal media’s favorite historians/hysterians, Douglas Brinkley:
“Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis’s DALLAS 1963 is a brilliantly written, haunting eulogy to John F. Kennedy. By exposing the hatred aimed at our 35th president, the authors demonstrates that America–not just Lee Harvey Oswald–was ultimately responsible for his death. Every page is an eye opener. Highly recommended!”
I really thought that by 2013 the “mass-Dallas-fanatic-hysteria” narrative would have withered under the bright light of contrary evidence. (as most of the other muddled assassination conspiracy theories inevitably have) It appears the narrative is even stronger than I realized, like a virus that’s mutating, adapting, poised to inform new generations of readers.
There’s so much to say about this. About the conflict between those who accept individual sovereignty, individual morality, individual responsibility, individual accountability, individual salvation, vs. those who believe in collective morality, group rights, group entitlements, tribalism, class-warfare, social justice debts, and collective guilt. The dreamlike romantic notion that we’re all part of an invisible web of interconnected thoughts and feelings, and the actions of an individual are really nothing more than a necessary expression of a larger unspoken wish. These are drastically different world views. And from this tainted collectivist narrative came the post-1960s Liberal grievance culture. As George Will explores in the following article.
Make no mistake, I do believe that a climate of hatred can afflict a culture. And that a society that tolerates crime and violence, tends to breed more crime, invite more violence. And that a system that enables corruption to flourish, reaps what it sews. And so forth. Yes, these things can have a corrosive effect on individuals in society.
But the notion of collective guilt that emerged from this historic miscarriage signaled a complete change of direction for the post-war Liberal project. And the sour, scolding, reactionary tone of postmodern Liberalism can be traced back to the aftermath of the events in Dealy Plaza, and the Left’s efforts to reconcile them.
From this poisoned well sprang the liberal historians’ deranged lie that “right-wing fanaticism” killed America’s beloved President. Even Barry Goldwater was somehow implicated. Why? Because for the Left, the truth was too disturbing to confront. That Kennedy was murdered, not from the right, not from random invisible hate-brain-waves, not by shadowy, clandestine, fanatical forces, but from the left.
Stripped from all the mythology, the uncomfortable truth remains: A radicalized Marxist crackpot with a cheap Italian rifle, acting–almost certainly–in solitude, completely disinterested in the social “climate” in Dallas that day, shot JFK. For his own reasons. Not society’s.
Next: George Will’s column: