The J.F.K. Flap

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This essay
originally appeared in the May 1992 issue of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report

The most
fascinating thing about JFK,
as exciting and well-done as it is, is not the movie itself but
the hysterical attempt to marginalize, if not to suppress it.
How many movies can you remember where the entire Establishment,
in serried ranks, from left (The Nation) through Center
to Right, joined together as one in a frantic orgy of calumny
and denunciation. Time and Newsweek actually doing
so before the movie came out? Apparently, so fearful was
the Establishment that the Oliver Stone movie might prove convincing
that the public had to be thoroughly inoculated in advance. It
was a remarkable performance by the media, and it demonstrates,
as nothing else, the enormous and growing gap between Respectable
Media opinion and what the public Knows in its Heart.

You would
think from the shock of the Respectable Media, that Stone’s JFK
was totally outlandish, off-the-wall, monstrous and fanciful in
its accusations against the American power structure. And you
would think that historical films never engaged in dramatic license,
as if such solemnly hailed garbage as Wilson and Sunrise
at Campobello
had been models of scholarly precision.
Hey, come off it guys!

Despite the
fuss and feathers, to veteran Kennedy Assassination buffs, there
was nothing new in JFK. What Stone does is to summarize
admirably the best of a veritable industry of assassination revisionism
– of literally scores of books, articles, tapes, annual conventions,
and archival research. Stone himself is quite knowledgeable in
the area, as shown by his devastating answer in the Washington
Post, to the smears of the last surviving Warren Commission
member, Gerald Ford, and the old Commission hack, David W. Belin.
Despite the smears in the press, there was nothing outlandish
in the movie. Interestingly enough, JFK has been lambasted
much more furiously than was the first revisionist movie, Don
Freed’s Executive
(1973), an exciting film with Robert Ryan and Will
Geer, which actually did go way beyond the evidence, and
beyond plausibility, by trying to make an H.L. Hunt figure the
main conspirator.

The evidence
is now overwhelming that the orthodox Warren legend, that Oswald
did it and did it alone, is pure fabrication. It now seems clear
that Kennedy died in a classic military triangulation hit, that,
as Parkland Memorial autopsy pathologist Dr. Charles Crenshaw
has very recently affirmed, the fatal shots were fired from in
front, from the grassy knoll, and that the conspirators were,
at the very least, the right-wing of the CIA, joined by its long-time
associates and employees, the Mafia. It is less well established
that President Johnson himself was in on the original hit, though
he obviously conducted the coordinated cover-up, but certainly
his involvement is highly plausible.

The last-ditch
defenders of the Warren view cannot refute the details, so they
always fall back on generalized vaporings, such as: “How could
all the government be in on it?” But since Watergate, we
have all become familiar with the basic fact: only a few key people
need be in on the original crime, while lots of high and low government
officials can be in on the subsequent cover-up, which can always
be justified as “patriotic,” on “national security” grounds, or
simply because the president ordered it. The fact that the highest
levels of the U.S. government are all-too capable of lying to
the public, should have been clear since Watergate and Iran-Contra.
The final fallback argument, getting less plausible all the time
is: if the Warren case isn’t true, why hasn’t the truth come out
by this time? The fact is, however, that the truth has
largely come out, in the assassination industry, from books –
some of them best-sellers – by Mark
, David Lifton, Peter
Dale Scott
, Jim
, and many others, but the Respectable Media pay no attention.
With that sort of mindset, that stubborn refusal to face reality,
no truth can ever come out. And yet, despite this blackout, because
books, local TV and radio, magazine articles, supermarket tabloids,
etc. can’t be suppressed – but only ignored – by the
Respectable Media, we have the remarkable result that the great
majority of the public, in all the polls, strongly disbelieve
the Warren legend. Hence, the frantic attempts of the Establishment
to suppress as gripping and convincing a film as Stone’s JFK.

as well as centrists, are smearing JFK because Stone is
a notorious leftist. Well, so what? It is not simply that the
ideology of the teller has no logical bearing on the truth of
the tale. The case is stronger than that. For in a day when the
Moderate Left to Moderate Right constitute an increasingly monolithic
Establishment, with only nuanced variations among them, we can
only get the truth from people outside the Establishment, either
on the far right or far left, or even from the highly non-respectable
supermarket tabloids. And it is no accident that it is an open
secret that the heroic “Deep Throat” figure in JFK is Colonel
Fletcher Prouty, who is certainly no leftist. And one of the outstanding
Revisionist writers is the long-time libertarian Carl Oglesby.

One particularly
welcome aspect of JFK, by the way, is its making Jim Garrison
the central heroic figure. Garrison, one of the most viciously
smeared figures in modern political history, was simply a district
attorney trying to do his job in the most important criminal case
of our time. Kevin Costner’s expressionless style fits in well
with the Garrison role, and Tommy Lee Jones is outstanding as
the evil CIA-businessman conspirator Clay Shaw.

All in all,
a fine movie, for the history as well as the cinematics. There
are some minor problems. It is unfortunate that the founding Kennedy
Revisionist, Mark Lane, felt that he had to leave the movie-making
early, with the result that the film does not bring out the crucial
testimony of Cuban ex-CIA agent Marita Lorenz, who has identified
right-wing CIA operative E. Howard Hunt, Bill Buckley’s pal and
control in the CIA, as paymaster for the assassination. (See the
brilliant new book by Lane, Plausible
.) According to Lane, heat from the CIA during the
filming led Stone to underplay the CIA’s role by spreading the
blame a little too thickly to the rest of the Johnson administration.

As the case
for revisionism piles up, there is evidence that some of the more
sophisticated members of the Establishment are preparing to jettison
the Warren legend, and fall back on an explanation less threatening
than blaming E. Howard Hunt or the CIA: that is to lay blame solely
on the Mafia, specifically on Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, and
Jimmy Hoffa, none of whom are around to debate the issue. A convincing
attack on the Mafia-only thesis was leveled by Carl Oglesby in
his Afterward to Jim Garrison’s book of a few years back (which
formed one of the bases for JFK) On
the Trail of the Assassins
The Mafia simply did not have the resources, for example, to change
the route or call off military or Secret Service protection.

Many conservatives
and libertarians will surely be irritated by one theme of the
film: the old-fashioned view of Kennedy as the shining young prince
of Camelot, the great hero about to redeem America who was chopped
down in his prime by dark reactionary forces. That sort
of attitude has long been discredited by a very different kind
of Revisionism – as tales have come out about the sleazy
Kennedy brothers, Judith Exner, Sam Giancana, Marilyn Monroe,
et al. Well, OK, but look at it this way: a president was
murdered, for heaven’s sake, and good, bad, or indifferent, it
is surely vital to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, and bring
the villains to justice, if only at the bar of history. Let the
chips fall where they may.

happy result of the film was the conclusive Stoneian argument:
if everything is on the up and up, why not open up all the secret
government files on the assassination? It looks as if the pressure
for opening will win out, but once again, phony “national security”
will prevail, so we won’t get the really incriminating
stuff. And some of the crucial material is long gone, e.g., the
famed Kennedy brain, which mysteriously never made it into the
National Archives.


N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian
School, founder of modern libertarianism, and academic vice
president of the Mises Institute.
He was also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
, and appointed Lew as his
literary executor. See
his books.

Best of Murray Rothbard

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