Unlike a lot of post-modern Americans, I hold no great love for President John F. Kennedy. Unlike some of my Conservative compatriots; I don’t consider the man Satan Incarnate either. My sum total opinion of JFK could be stated by “Bones” on an old episode of Star Trek. “He’s Dead, Jim.” And regardless of his political impact, that is a sad, sad thing. But what is more tragic is that he hasn’t been allowed to lie in peace. His assassination was weaponized to maximize its political impact and by extension, it has given birth to the tradition of weaponized American conspiracy theories.
There are some who believe The Single Bullet Theory. Others believe in Camelot. A few believe in both or neither. Sadly, as long as it remains a useful political exercise, there are those who will push political conspiracy theories modeled on what was thrown to the paparazzi swine after the fateful day in Dallas, TX back in 1963. I find this to be a shame – both for The Kennedy Family and for American Democracy.
Whether the alleged killers were the Mafia, LBJ, Al-CIAda, Fidel Castro, Cuban exiles, Big Oil, the KKK, Russia, the military-industrial complex, the secret service, or maybe Mimi Alford’s angry dad, all of these theories are examples of projection. They tell us more about who the believers are afraid of than they do about what happened to an assassinated US President. Professor Barna Donovan explains this phenomenon below.
Conspiracy theories, however evil, make sense of the world and may even help protect people from their fear of death. Belief in conspiracy is the belief that if we just dig deep enough, we can find and destroy the root of all our problems, said Barna Donovan, a communication professor at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey.
Political demagogues of every stripe have seized upon this tendency and have used it to dumb down the level of American politics ever since. The 9-11 Truth Movement was famously hijacked by all stripes of political opportunists. There were those out to get President George W. Bush. There were those who were using it to protest Mr. Bush’s War. In fairness, there were those who hated the Iraq War and George W. Bush, but who were intelligent enough to realize that 9-11 Truthers were either dupes or soul-sucking jerks. Matt Tiabbi exemplifies this below.
There’s not a whole lot of difference, psychologically, between Sean Hannity’s followers believing liberals to be the same as terrorists, and 9/11 Truthers believing even the lowest soldier or rank-and-file FAA or NORAD official to be a cold-blooded mass murderer. In both cases you have to be far gone enough into your private world of silly tribal bull**** that the concept of “your fellow citizen” has ceased to have any meaning whatsoever. It may be that America has become too big and complicated for most people to deal with being part of. People are longing for a smaller, stupider reality.
Sadly, this sordid condition has been exploited by demagogues on the right as well. Redstate.com bans Birthers on sight the way Western farmers used to shoot rattlesnakes for this reason. Tom Fife and his account of “Barack Obama: The Secret Soviet Agent”, probably cost Mitt Romney at least 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012 for its offensive stupidity.
Yet Americans probably have learned nothing from the auto-beclowning that comes to a person when they actually get caught playing the LIHOP or MIHOP game in public. They may have sheepishly deleted the link to The Kenyan Birth Certificate from their browser, scraped the Ron Paul sticker off the Jeep Cherokee and attempted to pretend they were normal. Yet something in America’s national discourse has been damaged by this sordid conspiracy-mongering. That damage occurred when the conspiracies surrounding the Kennedy Assassination became dignified with the attention of our citizens and our media.
Before the Kennedy Assassination, there were conspiracy nuts. FDR supposedly knew about Pearl Harbor in advance, and Thomas Jefferson supposedly fathered a kid with one of his slaves. The nut-jobs were always with us, it’s just that we used to be smart enough to leave them to their isolated loserdom. JFK changed all that. Nothing he did or failed at as a US President makes him deserve so dubious an honor.