Now if you had asked me, during this period, to explain why I thought Oswald shot the President, I would not have been able to articulate an answer. Because truth be known, I hadn’t studied the issue at all. I would have said something like, “I don’t know. I don’t really believe in conspiracy theories, I guess.”
Because at that time I thought of JFK conspiracy theorists like most people regard Loch Ness Monster folks or Bigfoot people or moon hoax guys. I thought that they were nuts, or at least eccentric and worth ignoring.
It actually embarrasses me to admit this. You see, I started studying philosophy at quite a young age – and one of the central tenets of any decent philosophy, as we learned from Rene Descartes, is to doubt things that you are told. And I did. I doubted the nature of reality. Still do. But I had been so propagandized that until I actually studied the matter (as the result of being hired to write a screenplay about conspiracy theories), I didn’t blink. Assumed everybody who thought different was bonkers.
But then I read some things. And then, like Saul on the road to Damascus, I experienced a conversion, albeit an intellectual one.
I started with two books. One was Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane. The other was Harvey & Lee by John Armstrong. (By the way, I recommend that no one begin their study of the JFK assassination with Harvey & Lee. It is a worthy book, but vastly confusing for a beginner.) Anyway, one book led to another, and eventually it became clear that almost nothing was certain about the assassination except that I was 100% positive that Lee Oswald didn’t do it. Incidentally, if there is one fact that everyone should be able to agree upon, regardless of how one falls in this debate, it is that absent a confession or judicial shenanigans, the State had little chance of getting a conviction.
HOW WE BELIEVE
We all learn certain things growing up, and then unlearn them bit by bit as we grow older. (Or not. Sometimes those beliefs stay with us our whole lives.) In my case, I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, became an altar boy up until sixth grade. But I always had difficult questions for teachers, and my dad was a professor and he used to direct me to read certain books when I asked him those same questions. So I discovered Plato, then Antony Flew, and then Bertrand Russell and by the time I was 12 or 13 I was an atheist, armed with arguments.
That’s more or less the way it works. We get taught about George Washington and the cherry tree and the wooden teeth and that he was the first president, and none of those are true.
That is, good citizenship in this open democracy depends upon propaganda. The State likes to promote certain myths about itself in order to keep everybody in line, and this is to be expected. We don’t attend school and learn about any “myths” about, for example, the United States smuggling Nazis into the country after World War II. We aren’t taught that the same guy who wrote the Pentagon’s official history of WWII was one of Hitler’s official historians of the Reich. We certainly aren’t taught that Nazi scientists were given free reign over the NASA space program. Because for one thing, those aren’t myths; for another, the State has no interest in giving the citizens that sort of education. If the general public knew that NASA was literally run by a bunch of Nazi engineers they might start to question what the hell they were really up to all those years.
But that’s another story.
For now, what I am trying to get to is this: There are people who claim to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, and that they were converted to this belief by Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, or Gerald Posner’s Case Closed, or some other such book. In other words, they claim to have been a “conspiracy theorist,” but then they had their Saul-at-Damascus conversion the other way. One cropped up in the Dealey Plaza UK facebook site today, which is what inspired this little piece. He got banned (quite rightly) before I could ask him this question, which is why I am asking y’all, to indulge the Texas vernacular.
Nobody grows up learning in school that JFK was killed by a conspiracy. So in order to be a converted lone nutter, you must have started out believing that, then been converted to a conspiracy theorist, then subsequently re-converted back to being a lone nutter.
So, if you’re currently a lone nutter, and a former conspiracy theorist, I have two questions. (1) What was your specific theory? What piece of evidence made you doubt that Oswald shot the President? (2) What convinced you otherwise? What fact refuted your former belief?
I’d love to hear about it. Because that should be a remarkable story.