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Historians and the JFK Assassination


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#16 Dawn Meredith

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 05:16 PM

Another issue worth discussion is why so many historians, e.g. most of Kennedy's biographers, who are obviously intelligent persons, have adopted the Warren Commission lone nut scenario.  Robert Dallek comes to mind because I just read his very brief adoption of the WC findings in his "JFK: An Unfinished Life."

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I was really enjoying Dallek's book this time two years ago, great writing, then, about 2/3 rds the way thru, I jumped ahead to the brief part on Dallas. I could not finish the book after that.

He has JFk telling Jackie "we're heading into nut country today. But Jackie if someone wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about i?". What evidence is there that JFk actually made such a comment?

I think mainstream historians are very leery at being judged by the media who devours anyone who is labled by them as a "conspiracy believer". Easier for historians to go along with the hoax than go for the truth. Certainly easier to get a publisher.

Dawn

#17 Dawn Meredith

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 05:23 PM

Does anyone know what the most popular high school or college textbooks say about the assassination?

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When my daughter, Christa, (now 33) was growing up I used to check with her on her history class every single year. It was either not dealt with at all, (history pre-JFK), or else with just one sentence "JFk killed by LHO". Never a word about any controversey, never the world "alleged" before Oswald's name. I doubt this has changed.

Dawn

#18 Nancy Eldreth

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Posted 21 June 2005 - 12:35 AM

Perhaps this way in Elem. and High School but in Colleges at least the one closest to me I also checked with them. They have two teachers one to teach Lone nut and the other teacher teaches conspiracy theory. So yes, in some schools mostly to your college level have it only one way. At least they don't do this to more advanced level of student giving them a chance to voice their own opinions.

Also they use many books to work on these theories, not so much a textbook from what I am told. So it is open to any form of discussions.

Most Colleges allow speakers to come in and give conferances on this topic as well.

#19 John Simkin

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:18 PM

I should add that the publication of Gerald D. McKnight’s Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (2005) to the list of historians who have argued that John F. Kennedy was killed as a result of a political conspiracy.

I have also just read Michael R. Beschloss’s “Kennedy v. Khrushchev: The Crisis Years: 1960-1963”. Beschloss is considered to be the most well-informed historians today writing about JFK’s foreign policy. In the final section of the book Beschloss considers the possibility of JFK being killed as a result of a conspiracy. Understandably he dismisses the idea that JFK was killed by the KGB or Castro. Beschloss points out that JFK’s death was a terrible political blow to both Khrushchev and Castro.

Beschloss argues that if it was a communist plot it would have originated in China. After all, the Chinese government, like right-wingers in America, were very concerned about the successful negotiations that were taking place between the United States and the Soviet Union. Beschloss points out that the only places where school children applauded when told of the JFK assassination, was in China and Dallas. He quotes Henry Brandon of the Sunday Times who visited the Soviet Union a month after the assassination and was surprised to find the mourning was “almost more intense in Moscow than in Washington”. Time and time again he was asked, “do you think Johnson organized the assassination?”

Beschloss clams that documents released since the fall of communism conforms that senior figures in the Soviet Union believed that JFK had been “murdered by the CIA, which could not forgive him for the Bay of Pigs and the Soviet détente”. These sources also show that the Soviets considered LBJ to be “reactionary” and “inflexible” and a more doctrinaire Cold War warrior than JFK. It of course made no sense for them to kill JFK.

According to his son Sergi, Nikita Khrushchev believed LBJ and Texas oil and gas interests were behind the assassination.

Beschloss also considers the way the CIA attempted to cover-up its links to the Mafia and anti-Castro exiles. He says it is not surprising that people have concluded that the CIA had “something more sinster to hide.”

However, Beschloss does provide evidence that others might have been involved in the assassination of JFK. Beschloss does believe that JFK was considering dropping LBJ as vice-president. One of the main reasons was that private polls showed that LBJ no longer was a electoral asset. This was especially true of the Deep South who had been angered by LBJ’s comments about civil rights. At the same time, LBJ was not trusted by liberals and would not help JFK get their votes in 1964. JFK therefore considered replacing LBJ with another Southerner, Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. Beschloss also points out that this information was leaked to LBJ in an effort to get him to “toe the line”.

Beschloss concludes that the destruction of evidence and the “unverifiable information and disinformation” that has been “generated by the intelligence services and other groups” makes it impossible to solve the mystery of who killed JFK. However, he adds: “What is consistent with virtually every major serious explanation of who killed the President is that he was murdered, to one degree or another, as a result of his public policies.” Beschloss clearly does not believe the findings of the Warren Report.

#20 Tim Gratz

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 09:55 AM

Query how many history professors agree with the "lone nut" theory of the assassination that is apparently popular in history books?

#21 Gerald McKnight

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 12:25 PM

Why do professional historians avoid the JFK case like the vampire avoids holy water? I am sure there are a congeries of reasons for this neglect. My own experience tells me that young members of the professoriate-those who are just starting out and are focused on tenure-do not want to get into this subject because they fear being labelled as "not serious," "conspiratorialists, etc.by senior professionals. I think there has been a cloud over this subject in academia largely because the "Who Killed JFK" seems to attract all kinds of people who think that history is all conspiracy.

I don't subscribe to this view at all. I am convinced that, in time, professional historians, political scientists, and others with a serious interest in the history of this poor perishing republic will be forced one day to come to terms with Dallas. This is, to my mind, the beginning of America's slipping into the Dark Ages and if we want to make some sense about what brought about this decline and fall we will have to face up to the forces and motives responsible for the murder of JFK.

Another factor that must be given weight is the sheer volume of the documentation. The NARA in College Park holds 4 to 5 million pages of documents. Not all are directly relevant, of course, but still this is a daunting challenge for any single researcher. Then there is the stuff that has never been turned over and has either been commited to the "memory hole" or is hidden away in "not to be filed files."

I just reviewed a MS by Michael Kurtz that will be coming out this year under the University of Kansas Press label. His Introduction speaks to your question better than I have above and I recommend you keep your eye peeled for it.

#22 Bruce Cormier

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 02:58 PM

Why do professional historians avoid the JFK case like the vampire avoids holy water? I am sure there are a congeries of reasons for this neglect. My own experience tells me that young members of the professoriate-those who are just starting out and are focused on tenure-do not want to get into this subject because they fear being labelled as "not serious," "conspiratorialists, etc.by senior professionals. I think there has been a cloud over this subject in academia largely because the "Who Killed JFK" seems to attract all kinds of people who think that history is all conspiracy.

I don't subscribe to this view at all. I am convinced that, in time, professional historians, political scientists, and others with a serious interest in the history of this poor perishing republic will be forced one day to come to terms with Dallas. This is, to my mind, the beginning of America's slipping into the Dark Ages and if we want to make some sense about what brought about this decline and fall we will have to face up to the forces and motives responsible for the murder of JFK.

Another factor that must be given weight is the sheer volume of the documentation. The NARA in College Park holds 4 to 5 million pages of documents. Not all are directly relevant, of course, but still this is a daunting challenge for any single researcher. Then there is the stuff that has never been turned over and has either been commited to the "memory hole" or is hidden away in "not to be filed files."

I just reviewed a MS by Michael Kurtz that will be coming out this year under the University of Kansas Press label. His Introduction speaks to your question better than I have above and I recommend you keep your eye peeled for it.



#23 Bruce Cormier

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 04:15 PM

The historians' avoidance of this quick sand is understandable. Those working in the area have been caricatured and marginalized. The task is daunting, with virtually every aspect of the case a lightning rod for controversy, often over the authenticity of evidence. Then consider the incompleteness of the historical record, with the CIA alone reportedly sitting on one million pages of yet to be disclosed documents pertaining to the murder. The cost/benefit here is not good, at least at this point, for the professional historian.

This is largely the fault of the US government, which has yet to conduct an adequate investigation, and the journalistic community, which whiffed on the story of the century. So it is not surprising that first rate historians like Beschloss have taken a pass.

#24 John Simkin

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 07:27 AM

Why professional historians avoid the JFK case like the vampire avoids holy water. I am sure there are a congeries of reasons for this neglect. My own experience tells me that young members of the professoriate-those who are just starting out and are focused on tenure-do not want to get into this subject because they fear being labelled as "not serious," "conspiratorialists, etc.by senior professionals. I think there has been a cloud over this subject in academia largely because the "Who Killed JFK" seems to attract all kinds of people who think that history is all conspiracy.

I don't subscribe to this view at all. I am convinced that, in time, professional historians, political scientists, and others with a serious interest in the history of this poor perishing republic will be forced one day to come to terms with Dallas. This is, to my mind, the beginning of America's slipping into the Dark Ages and if we want to make some sense about what brought about this decline and fall we will have to face up to the forces and motives responsible for the murder of JFK.

Another factor that must be given weight is the sheer volume of the documentation. The NARA in College Park holds 4 to 5 million pages of documents. Not all are directly relevant, of course, but still this is a daunting challenge for any single researcher. Then there is the stuff that has never been turned over and has either been commited to the "memory hole" or is hidden away in "not to be filed files."

I just reviewed a MS by Michael Kurtz that will be coming out this year under the University of Kansas Press label. His Introduction speaks to your question better than I have above and I recommend you keep your eye peeled for it.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gerald D. McKnight for his great book, Breach of Trust. I am fully aware that it takes a historian a lot of courage to write about the Kennedy assassination. It is true that historians are very concerned about being called “conspiratorialists”. Yet, anyone who knows anything about history at all, will be aware that the past is full of examples of how those in power use whatever means they have to keep their secrets from the public. The longest running conspiracy concerns the way democracy has been undermined over the last 300 years. There is no doubt that historians and journalists have let us down in this struggle for the truth.

By the way, I assume that this is the same Michael Kurtz who wrote "The Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's Perspective"? If so, does he still think it is possible that the Soviets were involved in the assassination?

#25 Gerald McKnight

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 10:45 AM

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gerald D. McKnight for his great book, Breach of Trust. I am fully aware that it takes a historian a lot of courage to write about the Kennedy assassination. It is true that historians are very concerned about being called “conspiratorialists”. Yet, anyone who knows anything about history at all, will be aware that the past is full of examples of how those in power use whatever means they have to keep their secrets from the public. The longest running conspiracy concerns the way democracy has been undermined over the last 300 years. There is no doubt that historians and journalists have let us down in this struggle for the truth.


I couldn't agree more with you. Historians have been co-conspirators in their persistent avoidance of the question or, what is even worse to my mind, subscribing to the Posner "Case Closed" version without troubling to acquiant themselves with some of the facts in the case.

My own personal experience was such that my colleagues at Hood College were supportive of my work with the assassination. Had I been at some mega-university I know I would have been regarded as some kind of crank.

Until or unless the JFK assassination is regarded as a legitimate area of scholarship I dont see much reason to think things will change.

Thanks for the kind words about "Breach." Thanks to the editor-in-chief (Mike Briggs) at Un. of Kansas Press for the opportunity of seeing that the ms became a book. The people out there are special.



By the way, I assume that this is the same Michael Kurtz who wrote "The Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's Perspective"? If so, does he still think it is possible that the Soviets were involved in the assassination?


The Kurtz I mention is the one you suspected. But from his ms that I reviewed for the Kansas Press he is now of the view that JFK was a victim of CIA or rogue US elements. However, while he does not believe Oswald shot JFK, he does deem it probable that Oswald shot Tippit. Go figure.

#26 Francesca Akhtar

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 07:47 PM

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gerald D. McKnight for his great book, Breach of Trust. I am fully aware that it takes a historian a lot of courage to write about the Kennedy assassination.


John , I totally agree. It makes a refreshing change to see a book that has been well researched and isn't just another Posner.
I am a few chapters into the book and I think its excellent. The amount of information in it is impressive and I like the way it is written from an objective view focusing on the failings of the WC as can be proved by the evidence.
In the book it says that at the time the FBI report on the assassination was not released to the public.
Has it been released in full since? Or only parts?
Thanks

#27 Duke Lane

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 11:51 PM

Why do professional historians avoid the JFK case like the vampire avoids holy water? I am sure there are a congeries of reasons for this neglect. ... I think there has been a cloud over this subject in academia largely because the "Who Killed JFK" seems to attract all kinds of people who think that history is all conspiracy.

I don't subscribe to this view at all. I am convinced that, in time, professional historians, political scientists, and others with a serious interest in the history of this poor perishing republic will be forced one day to come to terms with Dallas. This is, to my mind, the beginning of America's slipping into the Dark Ages and if we want to make some sense about what brought about this decline and fall we will have to face up to the forces and motives responsible for the murder of JFK. ....

As a corellary to my signature-jingle below, I would add that there are often deep thoughts to be found in even the shallowest of media.

Take, for example, the television show '24' in which the current POTUS has apprently been complicit in several activities that could have had - and in some cases, such as the assassination of his predecessor, actually did have - dire consequences for the nation. Clearly, he doesn't want his involvement in these things known, and, while admitting to "mistakes," defends against disclosure of these incidents because "it would cause people to lose faith in their government" and undermine if not destroy its very legitimacy.

For that reason alone, the truth will officially be denied and obfuscated at least for our lifetimes. Regardless of who killed Kennedy or who was behind it or why it was done, quite simply it was the government - through a commission appointed by, reporting to and, when all was said and done, endorsed by its chief executive - that prosecuted, promulgated and propagated what is surely the world's most expensive work of fiction.

The government - together with our "fourth estate" - that has steadfastly and emphatically denied any other possibility than the lone-Oswald theory for forty-plus years can scarcely afford to tell the world that, "heh-heh, we were only kidding" about its investigation into and solution of the murder of its own chief of state. Every word spoken in support of the Warren Report only cements their inability to ever extract themselves from the morass.

Everyone may know that the emperor is naked, but only a few have the nerve - or little enough to lose - to fail to admire his new clothes. Besides, why belabor the obvious? And so I think it is with historians as well as lawyers: if you know you can't win the argument, at least have the good grace not to start it. Your work will not only go unheralded (no matter how true it may be), but you will be ridiculed by those who have no choice but to perpetuate the lie they'd foisted on you, if only to maintain their own credibility and seeming integrity, without which they could not survive.

In 1963, close on the heels of the Cuban Missile Crisis (and the "accession to Communist demands" with the ceding of missile sites in Turkey - which is, after all, what we objected to, "guns" aimed so close to our own heads), in the midst of the Cold War and the Red Scare, not long after the witch hunt that was the McCarthy era (a good idea gone wrong?), there seems little doubt that many people considered JFK to be a real threat to the national security who unfortunately - and misguidedly - enjoyed the support of a majority of the American people because of his youth and charisma. If Truman and Eisenhower were "witting tools of the Communist conspiracy," what could the perception of people who believed that have been of Kennedy?

You can also toss in the "Negro situation," the imbroglio over steel prices and oil depletion allowances, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs and myriad other misguided, "unamerican" programs and initiatives represented by JFK, and you have a sure recipe for "disaster" - after all, people (and especially institutions) do not like change - and a wider spread of support for removing the "threat" by whatever means available. God knows, we could not have depended upon the American people - the "average Joe" does not know what's good for him - to have done so at the polls in 1964, so a more dependable solution had to be found to ensure that the country would continue on the "right" course.

In 1963, it was "good for the country." If later it was a "mistake," it was nevertheless done, and no "good" could have come out - or could still come out of - admitting the error: we cannot and we will not. When a government admits its wrongs, its effects are far-reaching. Consider why nations don't often "apologize" when they can instead "regret" incidents, or why the Catholic Church - a nation-state itself - does not apologize for or admit to to the things it's done that seem glaring errors (to be generous) now, but may not have been at the time they were committed (the Inquisition being a good example, as might be the Pope's acquiescence to - if not downright collaboration with - Nazi Germany).

The historian must recognize this historical fact, replete with vast precedent, and in recognizing it for what it is, cannot sensibly refute the "official truth" because it would mean that he's learned nothing from his profession and therefore loses credibility - not only for being a "conspiracy theorist," but for attempting to buck the system that cannot be bucked.

#28 Brian LeCloux

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 06:28 AM

What about the scholarship of Emeritus Professor of History David R. Wrone of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point?

Wrone co edited (with DeLloyd J. Guth) the massive and definitive (1980) The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: A Comprehensive Historical and Legal Bibliography, 1963-1979. In the preface he gives maybe the most powerful scholarly critique of the failings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation.

Wrone also edited The Freedom of Information Act and Political Assassinations: The Legal Proceedings of Harold Weisberg v. General Services Administration. (1978)

Wrone's 2003 book The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassination exemplifies what a historian can do on this case to bring sober, scholarly treatment to a subject matter rift with speculation. This book was endorsed on the back cover by Michael Kurtz and Douglas Brinkley.

Wrone has written an excellent analysis, severly critical, of David Belin. Read it here:

karws.gso.uri.edu/JFK/the_critics/wrone/Belin.html

Wrone has also lectured widely and appeared at JFK forums around the country for example at McKnight's event at Hood College, in Pittsburgh at Wecht's conference and on C Span with McKnight discussing the failings of the Warren Commission.

For many years Professor Wrone taught classes on assassinations at UW-SP. In 1976 he hosted a dynamite forum at UW-SP with Harold Weisberg, James Lesar, and the excellent Howard Roffman whose own book on the case is a classic destruction of the official fiction that is the Warren Report.

Finally Wrone has written many articles and book reviews about the case. So, for example, his devastating analysis of Gerald Posner's book is here:

www.assassinationscience.com/wrone.html

I've always considered Professor Wrone along with Professor McKnight as the top two professional historians on this case. No one else has their mastery of the evidentiary base. I wouldn't put the Canadian poet anywhere near in the same league with Wrone and McKnight. While I enjoy reading Peter Dale Scott, he makes unsupported connections and is prone to speculation.

#29 John Simkin

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 07:49 AM

What about the scholarship of Emeritus Professor of History David R. Wrone of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point?

Wrone co edited (with DeLloyd J. Guth) the massive and definitive (1980) The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: A Comprehensive Historical and Legal Bibliography, 1963-1979. In the preface he gives maybe the most powerful scholarly critique of the failings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation.

Wrone also edited The Freedom of Information Act and Political Assassinations: The Legal Proceedings of Harold Weisberg v. General Services Administration. (1978)

Wrone's 2003 book The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassination exemplifies what a historian can do on this case to bring sober, scholarly treatment to a subject matter rift with speculation. This book was endorsed on the back cover by Michael Kurtz and Douglas Brinkley.

Wrone has written an excellent analysis, severly critical, of David Belin. Read it here:

karws.gso.uri.edu/JFK/the_critics/wrone/Belin.html

Wrone has also lectured widely and appeared at JFK forums around the country for example at McKnight's event at Hood College, in Pittsburgh at Wecht's conference and on C Span with McKnight discussing the failings of the Warren Commission.

For many years Professor Wrone taught classes on assassinations at UW-SP. In 1976 he hosted a dynamite forum at UW-SP with Harold Weisberg, James Lesar, and the excellent Howard Roffman whose own book on the case is a classic destruction of the official fiction that is the Warren Report.

Finally Wrone has written many articles and book reviews about the case. So, for example, his devastating analysis of Gerald Posner's book is here:

www.assassinationscience.com/wrone.html

I've always considered Professor Wrone along with Professor McKnight as the top two professional historians on this case. No one else has their mastery of the evidentiary base. I wouldn't put the Canadian poet anywhere near in the same league with Wrone and McKnight. While I enjoy reading Peter Dale Scott, he makes unsupported connections and is prone to speculation.


Thank you for pointing this out. Do you have his email address? It would be good to have him discuss his book on the Forum.

#30 JL Allen

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 11:36 AM

Part of the management of the great power and control which has been amassed since the assassinations of the 60's - is the blatant ignorance feigned by the Mega-media and the well-chosen "historians" who are allowed to broadcast and disseminate their "lone nut" interpretations and opinions of the killings. There must be an absolutely overwhelming pressure to keep the lid on the case - as the alternative is unacceptable - discovering the truth of what occurred and connecting subsequent "dots" - jeopardizing all of the changes and alterations which have been made to the nation in the interim. The issuance of the truth could cause Americans to want to return to the America that once existed - the America that was much closer to the one which was originally conceived of and the one we grew up believing in. What we have now is an empty shell - controlled completely by the wealthy and systematically stripped of our worth, standing and importance as citizens and human beings.
No serious revelations which indicate possible complicity and collusion will ever be widely disseminated because that would completely go against the original purposes of the murders in the first place - to establish that major redirection of the country and the world. The original conspirators are aided by the current breed of politicians - who would never "rock the boat" to such an extent - endangering their ride on the "gravy train" - setting their own wages - designing their own benefit packages - getting dressed up in a nice suit and pontificating on some poorly devised, useless and wasteful program or policy...

Edited by JL Allen, 28 April 2006 - 12:02 PM.





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