Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ill Will: The Sixth Floor Museum

I got a flier in the mail from The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas the other day, alerting me to an event scheduled for the end of this month. The event is called Conflicting Conclusions,and the museum web site has more info. Im not going to link to it.

That flier bills the event as “a riveting conversation between two key figures from” the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination, the two main government-led probes into the assassination of JFK, which reached the titular, opposing conclusions.

Its a crock of shit, of course.

I bear no ill will toward the Sixth Floor Museum. Or I bear a lot of ill will. I cant seem to remember which 

Oh yeah – its ill will, mostly; great gobs of it. Heaps of scorn. Total distrust.

Am I an ingrate? It is true I was once an invited speaker there, after the book that is the subject of this blog appeared. There I am, at left, in all my understated glory, blathering away.

But it is also true that the conspiracy that killed JFK succeeded, to the extent that it did, due to the promotion of confusion and mystery – aided and abetted by media sluts, and by institutions like The Sixth Floor Museum.

Shortly before the above photo was taken, some museum people sat me down with a big stack of my books and had me sign them all. You cant return them once I ink em up, I cautioned. No probleemo, someone replied. Sign.

So I did. Supposedly Praise From a Future Generation is, or was, the sole pro-conspiracy (pardon the phrase) title in the museum bookstore. This little factoid, I think, made some people a little suspicious of me. Fuck em. I dont know whether the museum still carries the book; probably not.

(Since I have never written it elsewhere, Ill take a moment to note that among my Sixth Floor listeners was none other than Bob Jackson, who took the famous photo of Oswald being gutshot. Dont know why he was there; he seemed totally underwhelmed.)

In any case, the Sixth Floor continues to promote confusion and mystery, and The Big Lie. I will never forget or overlook that simple fact.

The late Gary Mack, erstwhile Sixth Floor Museum curator, once scolded me via email for a rather bland commentary I wrote about the museum, and posted to the Internet. I made that post in the late 1990s, about five years after writing it. The comments were copied out of an otherwise forgettable essay I wrote about visiting Dallas for the first time in 1993. 

And now, reminded of it all these years later, I will share here the remarks that irked Gary Mack. What the hell!
From Impressions: The Sixth Floor Museum, circa 1993

For someone who has no doubt there was a conspiracy to murder JFK, there is a lot to dislike about The Sixth Floor museum, where I went the day after the bus tour.

For starters, there is the fact that such a place is housed in the Book Depository, the cradle of the great lie. There is also the fact it is listed in the Dallas section of the AAA Tour Book for Texas, under the heading What To See. This gives The Sixth Floor the stamp of officialdom; the tour book states casually that it is the site from which the shots that killed President Kennedy ... were fired.

The once-cavernous sixth floor is now partitioned, and crammed with exhibits recreating the Kennedy Administration years, as well as the assassination. Like rats in a maze, visitors move from exhibit to exhibit, getting the official story. Many carry Walkman-style tape players, rented for an extra two bucks, which provide a canned narration of events.

It is difficult to view The Sixth Floor as anything other than a monument to the Warren Commission. The few references that are made to the idea of conspiracy – and admittedly, there are several – amount to little more than lip service to the notion; the scales remain heavily weighted against Lee Harvey Oswald.

There are no museum officials on hand to answer questions at The Sixth Floor. Visitors are not allowed to take photographs. Virtually nothing remains as it was on November 22 1963; even the so-called snipers nest in the buildings southeast corner window has been reconstructed.

Security is strangely tight at this museum, like security at an airport. All bags are either checked at the door or run through an X-ray machine. Visitors must step through a metal detector before entering. It is the sort of security one would associate with a live president – not a museum for a dead one.

Photos by Marshall Kelin

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Debate Club

The following is the text of an op-ed I wrote for the "Debate Club," a feature of the US News and World Report web site. The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination. The magazine asked me and four others to comment on the question, "Was JFK's Assassination a Conspiracy?"

I'm not certain, but I think I made an error. Totally my fault. I know enough to fact-check myself, yet relied on memory to boldly cite Newton's Third Law of Motion as proof of a shot fired from JFK's right-front.

Kennedy's back-and-to-the-left reaction is proof of a shot from this direction, but I don't think it's an example of Newton's Third Law. It is, however, elementary physics.

Remarkably, no one called me on it. On this subject, any mistake is almost certain to be used as a blunt object to beat you senseless.

But of course, the facts are on my side. Everything else in this commentary stands.

Was JFK's Assassination a Conspiracy?

Only someone unfamiliar with the evidence would sincerely ask, “Was there a conspiracy to assassinate JFK?” It is easily demonstrable – no thanks to the media.

For all its virtues, the American media has been regrettably complacent, even hostile, in its treatment of both the assassination and independent research into that crime. And so the issue has a serious public relations problem; when researchers are acknowledged today it is usually derisive. “These people should be ridiculed, even shunned,” the New York Times Book Review sneered in 2007. “It’s time we marginalized Kennedy conspiracy theorists the way we’ve marginalized smokers.”

I beg to differ. Independent analysis of the official evidence by “these people” has clearly demonstrated the fact of conspiracy.

The present discussion sets aside the question of culpability; it is restricted to the evidence of Dealey Plaza, where the assassination took place. What that evidence shows is incontestable. As critic Vincent Salandria observed, “Dealey Plaza reeked of conspiracy.”

In its Report, the Warren Commission placed a gunman on the sixth floor of a building along JFK’s motorcade route through Dallas. Such a gunman would have been behind the presidential limousine when the shots were fired. Yet of the 121 Dealey Plaza witnesses whose statements appear in the Commission’s published evidence, fifty-one, by one count, said gunshots came from the right front – that is, from the infamous grassy knoll. Only 32 thought shots came from the building, while 38 had no opinion.

Former Kennedy aide Kenneth O’Donnell, who rode in the ill-fated Dallas motorcade, said he heard two shots from the grassy knoll. He did not tell that to the Warren Commission, but later conceded, “I testified the way they wanted me to.”

The 8mm Zapruder film of the assassination unambiguously shows JFK’s head and upper body slammed back and to the left. Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus the bullet that destroyed JFK was fired from the right front – from the grassy knoll – far from the alleged location of the alleged assassin.

There is much more than this, of course: Dealey Plaza witnesses who saw unidentified armed men in the vicinity. Witnesses whose observations suggest a radio-coordinated hit team. Three Dallas cops who encountered fake Secret Service agents, and one who testified to meeting an hysterical woman screaming, “They’re shooting the president from the bushes!”

It all demonstrates conspiracy – the how of it. The question of culpability, the who and the why, remains; it is all that really matters. It is where the conversation begins. We should expect, even demand, that our media lead the way.

Conspiracy in JFK’s death is a tragic fact. To debate the issue perpetuates the erroneous notion that there is something to debate.

Even after half a century the assassination is not irrelevant. Nor is it too late to act. An early critic named Maggie Field once said that finding the truth about the murder of JFK was of utmost importance. “Until we can get to the bottom of the Kennedy assassination, this country is going to remain a sick country,” she said. “No matter what we do. Because we cannot live with that crime. We just can’t.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

E-book: Praise from a Future Generation

As of today – October 1, 2013 – my book Praise from a Future Generation is available as an e-book.

Praise from a Future Generation is a nonfiction account of the earliest critics of the Warren Commission and its report on the 1963 assassination of JFK.

The book first appeared as a hardcover in 2007, published by Wings Press of San Antonio, Texas. It has not exactly been a best seller – but then, I never expected it to be.

I must admit, this is a case of the shoe being on the other foot. On one of my other blogs I railed against e-books as something just shy of a crime against humanity.

Now, self-interest asserts itself.

This e-book version of Praise from a Future Generation has been a long time coming. Wings first approached me about this more than two years ago and I dutifully began yakking about it here. Then one delay led to another. But...that's all water under the bridge now.

You can find both the hardcover and the e-version on Amazon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Check this out

Here are links to a few things I've developed over the last year or so, relating to the JFK assassination.
Life's three versions: This documents the defunct magazine's role in covering up the assassination.

Fifty: This one gathers a handful of essays on the JFK assassination. I consider them worthy reading, as the fiftieth anniversary of that crime draws ever closer.

Dallas photos: Presented mostly for entertainment purposes. Maybe human interest is a better phrase for it. Anyway, it's a bunch of pictures, most of them by me, of the Dealey Plaza/Dallas area. There are a few curiosities included.

Let me know what you think!

Also, check out my book! And I don't mean from the library.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Deleted Scenes

Praise from a Future Generation, my 2007 book about the first generation critics of the Warren Report, is due as an e-book this fall. I’ve spent part of this summer making a series of mostly tiny corrections to it.

Since its publication, I've only looked at portions of the book. But now, as I slog through it cover-to-cover, I have chanced upon a deletion I was not previously aware of.

It is, admittedly, a rather inconsequential deletion. It was made in Chapter 20, “The Meeting.” The original manuscript has a paragraph or so describing how an early critic named Lillian Castellano telephoned Sylvia Meagher on October 3, 1965, just as a meeting of some East Coast critics got underway in Sylvia’s apartment. “It was quite a coincidence you should have called,” Sylvia said in a letter to Lillian a few days later.

That paragraph is not in the book. When I read the published version recently I didn't even notice right away; I only noticed when spot-checking the end notes. The citation for the Meagher quote above is still there!

Why the publisher chose to make the deletion in the first place is a mystery. I see no good reason for the cut. What it saves in word-count is negligible. Naturally, this discovery has me wondering what else might have been deleted that I never noticed.

If you read my book, you're already in a tiny minority. If you read my book and this blog, you're in an even tinier minority! I don't plan to lobby for any restorations in the e-book. But I would like to at least make a record of the deletion, even if only a handful of people see it.

The deleted material should have been on page 254. (The undeleted citation, erroneously entered as note 27, is on page 526.) Here's a .jpg file of the manuscript:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kennedy Assassination Jokes: A Supplement

Last April I made a post here called Kennedy Assassination Jokes, a whimsical item recounting the lighter side of assassination criticism.

It just occurred to me that I left out one of my favorite examples.

Renatus Hartogs was a New York shrink who examined Lee Harvey Oswald when Oswald was a truant teenager in the 1950s. Though a decade had since elapsed, this was good enough for the Warren Commission to call him as an expert witness. Hartogs dutifully told the Commission that the teenage Oswald was "dangerous," even though his contemporaneous report did not say that.

Cashing in on his Commission appearance, Hartogs co-authored a book about Oswald called The Two Assassins. In it Hartogs said, among other things, that the letters in Oswald's pseudonym, Alek J. Hidell, could almost be re-arranged to form "Jekyll-Hyde." (The pseudonym lacked two instances of the letter y.)

Sylvia Meagher called The Two Assassins "a contemptible piece of garbage." In a published review, she noted that the letters in the name "Renatus Hartogs" could themselves be re-arranged to these phrases: "Trash outrages," and "Strange Authors."

Meagher dreamed up a third anagram, but her editor insisted it be cut: "Thor's Great Anus."

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I want to tell the
Truth, and I can't tell it here.
I can't tell it here.

– Jack Ruby (to Earl Warren)