Thursday, September 04, 2008

How Conspiracy Theories Proceed Not From
Evidence, But Rather from a 'System of Belief'

Last month, we brought you word of yet another book that hopes to finally lay to rest all the swirling conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. A few days ago, we happened to notice a brilliant articulation of why those theories will continue to rage, and why they resist all evidence to the contrary. In the excellent but too-little-known publication Book Forum, an author named Gus Russo makes the point that facts and the true historical record can't compete with the powerful images from the paranoid Oliver Stone movie about the case. "Indeed, later studies, such as Gerald Posner’s Case Closed (1993), all but demolished any myths of a domestic conspiracy (a foreign version remains the lone lingering possibility). But even then, it was too late: Millions of Americans had seen the sinister Mob- and spook-enabled cabal with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the damning snippets of testimony evincing all manner of grandiose, if absurd, plotting. Posner might have just as effectively published a renunciation of the Virgin Birth; he was bringing a legal case against a system of belief, rather than a set of empirically verifiable suppositions about the nature of a vast political plot to kill a president." Nicely said, we thought. We hope you'll look around Book Forum a little. You can learn more about Gus Russo here.


At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Particularly liked the closing quote from Ambrose Bierce, “God alone knows the future, but only an historian can alter the past.”

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Russo responds to criticism with a couple of paragraphs that reminded me of some of your fiery editorializing. These lines could be framed and placed in an art museum, they are razor-sharp and are absolutely delightful.

"Since the 1993 airing of the PBS Frontline episode, Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, an astounding amount of half-truths and misinformation has made the rounds concerning yours truly. Until now, I had no desire to respond to these "critics," since the old maxim "consider the source" more than clarified this flow of lunacy to anyone who had evolved beyond the homo erectus stage. However, one recent diatribe is so alarming it must be dealt with post haste. I refer of course to an article that appeared in the January-February 1999 issue of an anti-government rag with a richly-deserved microscopic circulation. That piece of claptrap is entitled Probe, and purports to be the mouthpiece of a group who call themselves the Committee to Investigate the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA). (Many believe the title Probe is actually a thinly-veiled reference to a device that is employed by a cult with a fondness for proctological exams. I myself would never believe such a thing. But who knows?)

The guru of the "Probers" is an unrepentant Jim Garrison apologist who goes by the name Jim DiEugenio, and in this recent issue he authored an article ("Who is Gus Russo?") that is more error-ridden than the 1965 New York Mets."


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