Friday, November 23, 2007

Anniversary Circus


About 300 people, including history buffs, conspiracy theorists, two Elvis impersonators (you read right), and artists working on a peace exhibit gathered in Dealey Plaza yesterday to mark the 44th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in a loosely organized ceremony that was part memorial and part circus.

On hand were Beverly Oliver (who claims to be the ‘Babuska Lady,’ prominently featured in a number of photographs of the 1963 event), who sang the national anthem and signed autographs; members of the “Coalition on Political Assassinations,” who held aloft a banner bearing the name of its organization; people wearing T-shirts that said "Who shot JFK?" on the front and "Not LHO" on the back; and of course Robert J. Groden, the self-proclaimed photo expert who has been hawking his 11 books and glossy magazines on a daily basis from a table top near the grassy knoll for the last 12 years.

Groden spent his 62nd birthday (yes, his birthday is on November 22nd) talking to the curious and the ever present media about the case that has dominated his life.
“The public still wants to know the truth and they know they don't have it,” Groden told the Dallas Morning News. Ironically, Groden himself has proven to have an aversion to the truth.

He believes the shooting was the result of an "unholy alliance" between the CIA and organized crime and that eight to 13 shots were fired that day, with several coming from the grassy knoll and the parking lot behind it. Yes, Oswald had plenty of help.

Is it any wonder that many onlookers said they didn't think Oswald acted alone in Kennedy's assassination and thought he was set up?

Asked what he thought of “Oswald’s Ghost,” the new Robert Stone (no relation to Oliver Stone) documentary (scheduled for broadcast on PBS Jan. 14) which explores the growth of the conspiracy industry and hucksters like himself, Groden responded, “ ‘Oswald's Ghost’ is a horrible, horrible piece of crap.”

Gee, what a surprise.

Groden was equally dismissive of Vincent Bugliosi’s book “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” (calling it a “good doorstop”) and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza’s exhibit which gives no credence to conspiracy buff claims like Groden’s.

Jacquielynn Floyd, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, observed this week, "Too often, on Nov. 22, people have gone to Dealey Plaza in a genuine and respectful spirit of remembrance, and have found an embarrassing, exhibitionistic carnival…the date has become a high holy day for conspiracy cranks, a swap meet for oddballs to peddle their strange obsessions. The grassy knoll isn't just a magnet for people who want to bend your ear ad nauseam about the Warren Commission report; now it attracts people waving banners extolling such offensive sentiments as ‘9/11 = INSIDE JOB.’ ”

Ms. Floyd wrote how David Flick, another Dallas Morning News columnist, ventured down to Dealey Plaza on the observance of the 40th anniversary four years ago and discovered a similar circus atmosphere. The plaza was packed with at least 5,000 people, Flick reported, some of them apparently expecting a formal program. Instead, there were noisy crackpots and publicity seekers, including the headliner, former Minnesota Govenor Jesse Ventura, who bellowed that he was the “only elected official who had the courage to come here today.” A marching drum band showed up unannounced. Conspiracy theorists set up microphones. TV helicopters buzzed overhead. Festive pranksters popped open umbrellas on a prearranged signal in a "flash mob" event.

“If the date and place had attracted only genuine mourners and historians,” Ms. Floyd wrote this week, “it might have been a moving, spontaneous observance. The cranks and partiers made it silly and disrespectful. That was the assassination's 40th anniversary; round numbers have powerful appeal. If the scene was this tawdry for 40, what do you suppose 50 will look like?

“Here's a promise: A lot of people are going to show up, whether there's an official observance or not: camera crews, trinket vendors, mourners, tourists, conspiracy theorists, attention seekers and possibly street jugglers and reality-show contestants.

“In the absence of any other consistent tradition, this is the one that seems to be taking hold. The way things have been shaping up in recent years, 2013 will be a major blowout for the wackos.

“Neither Dallas nor The Sixth Floor Museum is obligated to plan an "official" assassination observance, for 2013 or for any other year. Maybe it's better to let Americans observe the sad occasion as they see fit.

“But they might want to think it over. If there's going to be a public gathering, it ought to have some focus and purpose beyond grabbing some free publicity. It ought to have dignity.” [Jacquielynn Floyd, “In the absence of official JFK observance, we get a circus,” Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2007]

Right on. Years ago, I suggested to Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum, that the museum populate Dealey Plaza with “guides” wearing ball caps adorned with the museum logo and matching pressed shirts, who could help answer visitor questions in a respectful and dignified manner if only so that they wouldn’t become prey to the often ratty, unkempt street vendors pushing some twisted version of history. Nothing came of it, but I still think it’s a good idea, and one that should be employed – if not every day, then certainly at every anniversary.

The annual sideshow circus wasn’t limited to Dealey Plaza, of course. The news media offered it’s own brand of anniversary snake-oil.

ABC News headlines read: “44 Years After JFK's Death, New Assassination Plot Revealed.”new revelation, you ask? The sensational headline referred to the story of former Secret Service agent, Abraham Bolden, age 72, who told WLS-TV in Chicago that there was a plot to kill President Kennedy on November 2, 1963, in that city three weeks before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Two paragraphs into the story, ABC News casually mentioned that it was “...a plot that has been mentioned over the years...”

Yea, no kidding. That story is as old as my teeth. The only thing new about it is that the details will be rehashed in a forthcoming book (surprise, surprise) written by Bolden and his wife and due out next spring. Bolden promised that the book will cite another contributing factor in the JFK murder: the on-duty drunkenness of Secret Service agents. (Yawn) [ABC]

Then, there was Fox News, who dignified publisher Tim Miller’s (Flatsigned Press) claim that “...the last living words of former President Gerald Ford fingered the CIA in the orchestration a cover-up of Kennedy's assassination...” with the headline grabber: “Posthumous book claims Ford knew of CIA coverup in Kennedy assassination.”

Yep, you read right. Gerald R. Ford, the last surviving member (who died in 2006) and staunch defender of the Warren Commission and its work for more than four decades grabbed a pen on his deathbed and finally admitted the “truth." Praise Jesus!

According to Mr. Miller, who appeared on Fox and Friends Wednesday, a new book, “A Presidential Legacy and the Warren Commission,” written by Ford before his death, “finally proves once and for all that the CIA, our government, did destroy documents and cover-up many facts that day in Dallas.”

“There was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy," Miller announced in a press release. “There is no doubt that President Gerald Ford knew more about the JFK death. There is no doubt President Clinton knows more. Has he or any other U.S. President since November 22, 1963 ever swore under oath that they know no more?”

According to the press release put out by Miller and Co.: “...In this book, Ford "confirms the role of the CIA in hiding and destroying information regarding the assassination and rebuts critics and conspiracy advocates but contends with interesting specificity that Oswald was the only shooter.” [emphasis added] But his publisher, who argued with Ford over what should be included in this book and who worked minute-by-minute, the many drafts and final, published words along with the late president, disagrees.” [FlatSigned Press]

So, actually, when you get right down to it, it is the publisher Tim Miller who contends that there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy – not Ford. (I’m so shocked.)

What exactly did Gerald Ford write? To find out, you’ll have to shell out $489 for a handsigned copy (or $889 for the signed lettered copy in an oak box “with relics from the grassy knoll!”) of this momentous keepsake. Or you could just buy (or leaf through) the $18 trade edition at your local bookstore. Did I mention that this “final memoir” is actually a reprint of the 1964 Warren Report with a new foreword by Gerald Ford?

It’s a wonder Ford doesn’t reach up from the grave and put a choke hold on this clown Miller. Is there no shame left in the world?

Then there’s the New York Times opinion article: “J.F.K.'s Death, Re-Framed,” by Op-Ed Contributors Max Holland and Johann W. Rush – a shortened version of their unsupported theory that the Zapruder film captured only two of Oswald’s three shots, the first one having been fired before Zapruder began filming.

Holland and Rush floated this theory in an article (“1963: 11-Seconds in Dallas”) that appeared on the History News Network (HNN) website last February. The appalling lack of evidence for their theory was duly noted on this website last June [See: Max Holland's 11 Seconds in Dallas].

The re-publication of the theory in New York Times this week only demonstrates the newspapers’ complete ignorance of the issues being discussed and Holland & Rush’s willingness to peddle their own assassination theories under the guise of historic journalism with the full knowledge that their theory doesn’t have one stitch of genuine supporting evidence. Nice going, guys.

Is it any wonder that we continually see headlines like’s “Nov. 22, 1963: A Magic Bullet, a Grassy Knoll, an Enduring Mystery ? [emphasis added]

Or that the public is bombarded with observations like Wired columnist Tony Long’s: “...Forty-four years on and we're still not entirely sure what happened in Dallas that day. All we do know is that something changed in an instant and America has never been the same country since. It’s a dark line that grows only more pronounced as the day recedes into history...” ? []

Many thanks to all the hucksters, snake-oil salesmen, and self-appointed historians who keep the mystery rolling year after year.

It’s the circus side-show that never ends.



Anonymous said...

More facetiousness....please.

No matter who or what is correct, Tony Long's comments are right on the money.

It is a dark line that becomes more pronounced every year. 100 years from now historians will undoubtedly mark Nov. 22, 1963 as the beginning of the decline of American Civilization, perhaps democracy itself. And the intelligent, questioning people still remaining in this country realize that. And THAT, my friend, is why they continue to show up... every year...unannounced...ceremony or not.

Dale K. Myers said...

"...No matter who or what is correct..." (Huh?) Isn't that the point? The Dealey Plaza circus side show is representative of how destructive the lies spread by the conspiracy crowd have been on the American public and how far we've strayed from the truth. Your posting is a perfect example. Forget about the damning evidence of Oswald's sole guilt, according to Anonymous (BTW, thanks for standing up for what you believe in), November 22nd is now the high-water mark for "the decline of American Civilization, perhaps democracy itself." Please. No one is disputing the reverence the American people have for one of the great tragedies of our time, or mocking their need to share their grief with others at the place where it actually happened. The despicable elementin all this are the charlatans and self-appointed truth-seekers who have bamboozled the public for more than four decades with their self-serving lies and who feed upon an innocent public's appetite for truth and justice. Case in point: Tony Long's comment. Tony wrote, "...Forty-four years on and we're still not entirely sure what happened in Dallas that day." Nonsense. We know exactly what happened. You'd never know it, though, listening to the circus freaks.

Perry said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Dale. I used to be a conspiracy believer, but can at least claim that I never went completely over to the Dark Side. I used to think a conspiracy was more likely than not, but I also noticed that the conspiracy angles usually relied on some pretty hazy "evidence." With me, it was mostly a case of "must be a fire somewhere with all this smoke." But I finally began to realize that there was no fire. Only the smoke, created by some truly expert smoke-blowers.

The real tipping-point for me was Gerald Posner's book. Maybe not perfect, but an incredibly solid job of thrashing the conspiracy angles. Since then, I've only become more convinced that it was Oswald first, last, and only.

I've also come to understand that the conspiracy crowd has no vested interest in ever really solving the "mystery" of JFK's murder. If someone actually solved it, there would be no more books to sell, conventions to attend, discussion groups to join, interviews to do, and so forth. So for them, the question of "Who shot JFK" can never be answered. They can't allow themselves to answer it, ever. The levels of denial they reach as a result is something to behold. And I'm sure you know far more about that than I do.

In any case, I enjoy reading your articles, and appreciate your dedication, and your commitment to actual concrete evidence. There's a lot to be said for simple common sense. And proof to back up a claim.