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Oswald's Ghost


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This coming fall, PBS will air a documentary titled "Oswald's Ghost," made by filmmaker Robert Stone. Yesterday, quite by accident, I learned that "Oswald's Ghost" was being previewed at the "Museum of Television and Radio" in Beverly Hills (formally called, the Paley Center). So, on less than two hours notice, I stopped everything I was doing and made plans to attend. Present would be the director, Robert Stone, who was unknown to me, and former Senator Gary Hart, of the Schweiker-Hart subcommittee of the Church Committee. Moderating would be Josh Manckewiez, son of Frank Mankiewicz, and now an NBC-TV "Dateline" reporter (those who follow these matters may remember that he did a program featuring an interview with Oswald's brother). The auditorium had only 150 seats, I was informed, and so I should be there early. My first impression, on entering the very modern aluminum and glass building, and then buying my tickets (I attended with a friend), was how much time had passed, because I saw Senator Hart emerge from a door, and he had completely white hair. Then, we took our seats, about 5th row center, and waited a good 40 minutes for the show to begin. I noticed that those in attendance were mostly in their 40s and 50s (and 60s). This was no "Generation X" audience—not at all.

In a brochure, the program was described as follows:

OSWALD's Ghost—Special Advance Screening with Discussion

Acclaimed director Robert Stone. . . offers an unprecedented deconstruction of the myths and controversy surrounding the most debated murder mystery of all time—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Stone uses a wealth of archival material—and interviews with Gary Hart, Tom Hayden, Mark Lane, and others—to chronicle America's forty-year obsession with the defining event of a generation. . . This film is scheduled for broadcast on American Experience during the 2007 – 2008 season.

In person: Robert Stone, Director, Producer, Writer; Gary Hart, Former U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate.

* * *

The program started with Josh M. explaining that he was only 8 years old when JFK was assassinated, and that it was the first time he saw his father cry. He also said that, as a young journalist, he had covered the HSCA "acoustics" hearings, in 1978, which would make him, at the time, about age 23.

Then Robert Stone took the microphone, and gave a very brief introduction to his film. Stone, at first, was very hard to read. He is very lean, has a big bald head, and looks somewhat like a younger version of James Carville. He said that it was not his purpose—at all—to present any conspiracy theory, but to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture. At the end of his brief introduction, he mused that someone had said his film really didn't have a "point of view," and he remarked that he was surprised anyone would say that, "because I do have a point of view". He made the remark with some emphasis, but a bit enigmatically.

Naturally, I was curious as to just what his "point of view" might be; and as the lights dimmed, I looked forward to seeing this film, about which I knew nothing, with an open mind. After all, I have been working on this case for some four decades, am the author of Best Evidence, which was published in January, 1981, and was in print—for 17 years—through a series of four publishers—and have been working for years on Oswald.

Before reading further, be warned: the following narrative is highly subjective, and reflects my own views of the Kennedy case, my own personal reaction to this film, and my own experiences—during the Q and A which followed. At that time, I interacted with the film maker from the audience, and then spoke with him later, in the lobby. It is also my own account of what happened, in general, in the audience—for unknown to me (at least at the outset) was a most pertinent fact: that (as established by a subsequent show of hands) at least 85% of the audience didn't believe the Warren report, and believed there was a conspiracy. Furthermore, this film maker very definitely DID have a point of view—and the film's purpose (which seemed pretty obvious, after awhile) was simply this: to ridicule those who believe in a conspiracy, selectively pick and choose among the conspiracy data the worst and most easily refuted arguments, and then to proceed from there to argue that America's problem with the Kennedy assassination arises not from any issue of evidence, but rather is one of psychology—i.e., we are all hung up because of psychological problems of dealing with "Oswald's ghost", not because of any genuine problem(s) with the evidence. This was not at all obvious at the beginning, but became apparent as the film unfolded.

The key people interviewed for this film, and they appeared repeatedly as the 90 minutes unfolded, were Josiah Thompson, Edward Epstein, Norman Mailer, Priscilla McMillan, Dan Rather, Mark Lane, Hugh Aynesworth, author Robert Dallek, Tom Hayden, and Todd Gitlin.

The Screening – 6/12/07

The film opened (as I recall) with a ground up shot of the Oswald window, and immediately I said to myself: "No point of view"? Then, within seconds, appeared the face of Josiah Thompson, who—in my opinion—provided the filmmaker's spokesperson for conspiracy (although Mark Lane also served that function, and quite credibly, I might add). In any event, Thompson began "the narrative thread"—if I may call it that—by recounting, from his personal experience, what it was like—decades back—to hear that JFK was assassinated in right-wing Dallas, and then to find that the accused was a supposed Marxist, a juxtaposition that simply made no sense, or at least appeared not to, back when it was first announced.

Good archival footage soon appeared showing Oswald, proclaiming his innocence (including the "I'm just a patsy" quote)—and it was some of the best available. "I didn't shoot anybody, no sir,"; "I'm just a patsy". I recently had to work with this same footage—it was well done. Also well done was the presentation of Henry Wade and Curry, making their statements that Oswald was the assassin. They seemed then—and still seem to me to be now—buffoons from another era.

At some point, the Zapruder film was shown—and it was clear (and became even more apparent, as the film unfolded) –that the film, while showing the head-snap, was not showcased to really make the point, as strongly as it could be made. And there were one or two occasions in which, remarkably, the head-snap was actually edited out—just as it is done at the Sixth Floor Museum. (A few years back, Gary Mack explained to me that this was appropriate, and was done to make it more acceptable for "family viewing". Well, I happened not to agree with that, but, in any event, I am all grown up now, and I don't appreciate such editing on a program prepared for national broadcast on PBS).

In fact, the head-snap was most effectively illustrated by Josiah Thompson, shown mimicking JFK's motion backwards, during his own interview.

But there was no detailed discussion of the issue—no physicists to argue this point of view or that, no one to argue the meaning of the enormous red blob—supposedly indicative of a bullet exiting—that suddenly appears in the film, and then disappears, or what that might mean, etc. No detailed discussion of the serious issues presented by the Zapruder film (such as the fact that some 60 witnesses believed the car stopped, faltered, or almost stopped, etc., whereas the Zapruder film shows no such thing). As was made clear later in the Q and A, the producer had no interest in "the forensics"—repeatedly saying that arguing about that was like arguing "theology." Rather, he was here to demonstrate why we all have this hang-up, why we won't let Oswald's ghost rest.

In connection with the head-snap, some genuinely new footage appeared (at least, I had never seen it before)—that of Dan Rather, narrating the Z film on 11/25/63. As many know, Rather managed to get exclusive access (I believe I know how) and proceeded to give a completely false report, to the nation, over the CBS radio network (on 11/25) that the Presidents head "moved forward. . violently forward. . no doubt there" (from memory). Stone edited this, somehow (I would have to review this on a DVD to see how he managed to do it) to minimize Rather's awful reporting, and possibly even omit "no doubt there." The way Stone put it together made it almost appear excusable, understandable. It is neither.

No footage was presented, and much is available, of witnesses who thought the shots came from the front—i.e., no footage of witness Sam Holland, or the other people on the overpass. It was as if none of it even existed. Again, this was in line with the filmmaker's apparent philosophy—in effect, "I'm not here to discuss the forensics, but the public's psychological problem."

Perhaps the best performance—I thought—was turned in by Mark Lane, because of its very understandable human interest quality: a mother defending her son, and asking a lawyer for assistance. He described how he first became involved in the case, how Lee's mother contacted him; and there was footage showing him with Marguerite Oswald and of Marguerite Oswald's statements about her son being falsely accused—and that she believed him to have been a U.S. agent, who was framed for this crime. Of all the statements Marguerite made, the filmmaker deliberately chose the worst—her statement, made on camera, that Lee Oswald had done a "service" for America. I have no idea what she meant by that—because she clearly thought her son was innocent. Possibly she was referring to Lee's trip to Russian, and his 27 month stay there, because its clear—from her testimony, and her private papers—that she believed he was on an intelligence assignment. Participating in the attack on Marguerite's character was Hugh Aynesworth. My point here is not that she didn't say what she is shown saying, but that there is much to choose from, when it comes to Marguerite Oswald, and Stone's purpose seemed to be not to inform, but to ridicule.

A similar point can be made in connection with Ruby. Knowledgeable people know there is a film clip of Ruby, when he was quite healthy and appearing of sound mind, saying there was more to the case than appeared on the surface, that there was a conspiracy, that it went to the top of the government etc.—but that no one would ever know. Instead of airing that clip, Stone chose instead to air Ruby's "deathbed denial," when he was all drugged up and within hours of his death. I'm sorry: I appreciate the problem posed by this "deathbed denial," secretly recorded by Larry Schiller, but doesn't the film maker have the obligation to inform the audience about the other one, too?

Of course, this all comes down to bias, and the choices one makes in "connecting the dots"---particularly when it comes to a case as complex as the JFK assassination.

All of this became quite obvious when it came to Garrison, who is quite easy to ridicule, because of his reliance on Perry Russo, who's account I do not find particularly credible. A considerable number of minutes were spent on exposition of "the code"—i.e., PO Box 19106, etc. At this point, the film maker has a grand old time with the evidence at hand—he had a tape of the doctor who hypnotized Russo, in the act of actually hypnotizing him, and while that was playing, he showed a time piece on a chain, swinging back and forth like a metronome, intercut with a large hypodermic needle, slowing being emptied of its liquid contents. In other words, Garrison was attacked as someone who used hoked up evidence to charge Clay Shaw.

Intercut into this presentation was author Ed Epstein, who's account was used to narrate the episode of "the code," and some very amusing news footage of Senator Long, attempting to explain "the code," on a TV program. As I recall, this section ended with even Mark Lane laughing at Garrison's use of "the code."

Finally, as I recall, this portion of the film ends with Josiah Thompson explaining that he was so discouraged by all this that he left the JFK case for many years. (I remember this quite well, because I was in touch with Thompson off and on during some of this period).

All very well—but if the film maker has the time for all this, how about a minute explaining the evidence that the JFK autopsy notes, along with a first draft of the autopsy, were burned? But. . not a chance.

The "net" of all this, I thought, was to spend valuable time in this film attempting to use one of the weakest and most easy to ridicule ideas, to then ridicule, by association, all work and analysis that indicates a conspiracy in this case, and so not deal with more serious issues.

Throughout, explanations that reeked with pop psychology and pop sociology were provided by the filmmaker, to "explain" the controversy. Interviews used to "explain" the controversy (or to "explain Oswald") came from Norman Mailer, Epstein, and Priscilla McMillan. A lot of the political commentary—particularly comments by Gitlin and Hayden—were very interesting, and quite valid. But, in my opinion, the film makers bias was so heavy handed that it showed right through, and spoiled what might have been an interesting and thoughtful presentation. After all, it doesn't take that much intelligence, after a while, to see a hatchet job. One knows the difference between something that is newsworthy, and something that belongs on the Op-Ed page.

At issue throughout the film, at least implicitly, is whether there is "reasonable doubt" about the official findings. The filmmaker's position, in effect, is that there is not. At some point, the film shows all the books that were written on the case, slowly wafting off, against a black background, towards a cinematic vanishing point, akin to a black hole. It was at this point, that it became obvious (to me, at least) that something was terribly peculiar about this film. For as I watched pictures of Inquest (1966), Rush to Judgment (1966), Six Seconds in Dallas (1967), Ray Marcus's self-published The Bastard Bullet (1967, all about 399), Weisberg's WHITEWASH (and perhaps WHITEWASH II, both from 1965-66) slowly fly away towards a black background, I kept thinking—"Well, here, any second, is going to be a photo of Best Evidence, which was published in January, 1981. After all, Best Evidence certainly contributed to "the culture." It was a book of the Month Club selection, was number 1 on both the UPI and AP best seller lists for weeks, and was on the NY Times list for some three months, rising to the # 4 position. Whether one agrees with my work or not, Best Evidence was an important book. Stanhope Gould, the TV investigative reporter who did much of the Watergate coverage for Cronkite, at CBS (circa 1974) and who later did a documentary based on Best Evidence for KRON-TV, in San Francisco, told the press that my book provided "courtroom quality evidence' that JFK's body had been intercepted and altered. And Doug Horne, of the ARRB, who designed the depositions for the autopsy doctors, is a strong supporter of my work. There are national network reporters who speak with me privately, and who have told me of the importance of my work, and how it affected their own thinking on this case. So naturally, I expected Best Evidence to at least be mentioned.

BUT. . no such luck. . .Best Evidence wasn't shown at all. Instead, as the books traversed through space towards the black background, I glimpsed a picture of Were we Controlled?, by the pseudonymous author Lincoln Lawrence, a truly lightweight piece of fantasy, and other assorted items.

At this point, it seemed to me, the agenda was pretty obvious—and this was commented upon during the subsequent Q and A. This film maker was playing with a stacked deck. He was not going to deal with serious issues of evidence—whether it was the medical evidence, or who Oswald really was; or his trip to the USSR, or his trip to Mexico, etc.; rather, he was going to provide his own highly subjective view of "Oswald's guilt," and then couple that with the "psychology" and "sociology" of the controversy. He was apparently intent on being some combination of Dr. Phil and Freud, with offices on the Grassy Knoll, assuaging our fears, and explaining our "problem."

After Garrison, and some narration and clip selection designed to indicate that he was paranoid, came some minutes spent on Oliver Stone, and on his own philosophy of film making. Stone is shown, on one of his sets, next to the Plexiglas mock up of JFK's body that was used in the autopsy scene in his movie. Quotes were chosen carefully so as to make him the basis for ridicule—that he was akin to a Jackson Pollack of film, just throwing a bunch of stuff together, which really didn’t mean all that much, and hoping that the composite would be effective. Also shown was Robert Groden, complimenting Stone on his film making prowess (note, Groden, not a credentialed film maker of the stature of the late Ebert, who loved the movie JFK) and then another shot of Groden, selling his JFK materials on the grassy knoll.

A number of times, shots of activity in Dealey Plaza were shown, to make the case that the activity in this case was not to be taken seriously, but was the work of a bunch of kooks, who then sell their defective "theories" on the grassy knoll.

No mention is made of the fact that, whatever one may think of Stone, and of JFK, his film led to the historic JFK Records Act, and the creation of the ARRB, and the subsequent release of tens of thousands of pages—perhaps millions of pages—of documents. And just as an example: no mention is made –in this film—of one of the genuine factors that produced the situation the film maker was addressing: the burning of the original autopsy notes, and an earlier draft of the report; the "order not to talk" given to the autopsy doctors and autopsy technicians; the original attempt to lock up the records for 75 years, the subsequent battle for declassification, which has gone on for years; and finally the ARRB, which, finally, led to the release of so many records starting around 1994. Rather, implies this filmmaker, the emergent controversy has all resulted from the country's psychological inability to deal with "Oswald's ghost."

Finally, on the subject of Oswald, Priscilla McMillan was utilized to present her view—as set forth in "Marina and Lee"—that Oswald murdered the President alone and unaided, was perfectly capable of doing so, and had motive, means, and opportunity. But the main person who carried the narrative, in this area, was Norman Mailer, who—as we know from his 1995 book "Oswald's Tale"—now believes (because he certainly didn't back in 1966, when he wrote scathing article on the Warren Report) that Oswald did it, and did it alone. So Mailer, intercut with McMillan, and along with Epstein, with a dab here and there of Robert Dallek, carried the narrative in that area.

The filmed interviews with Tom Hayden and Gitlin were good—very good, I thought—and contained excellent content explaining how these assassinations (I stress the plural, because by this point in "Oswald's Ghost," we are talking about JFK, MLK, and RFK) led to a sense of powerlessness, and to the unrest at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. Finally, I must say that Mark Lane came off very well.

AFTERMATH

When the lights went on, after about 90 minutes, Senator Hart, Robert Stone, and Josh Mankiewicz all went up to the podium, and took their seats (seated left to right in that order).

Before the Q and A began, Gary Hart spoke—and at some length. I have always admired Gary Hart for the role he played during the Church Committee investigation. But I must say I was surprised to hear him (too) catering to the lone assassin hypothesis, only raising the point that there might be "others behind Oswald." He spoke at length, prior to the Q and A, and it was all about Judith Exner, the Church Committee's discovery of the JFK phone calls to Exner, and then the appearances of Rosselli and his subsequent murder; and the attempt to call Giancana, and his murder. All this could be explained quite briefly, and cogently. But Hart carried on at quite some length. It seems obvious to me that he believes the Mafia was involved in the JFK assassination, a belief seemingly grounded in the suspicious murders of Roselli and Giancana, and the fact that JFK and Gianca were sharing the same girl friend (Exner). Not once did he mention the more serious aspects of the Schweiker-Hart work, which concerns Castro, and RFK, and the Califano and Valenti reports of LBJ personally promoting the idea that Castro was responsible—and that surprised me.

Then, a Q and A began.

At first, I wondered whether it would be proper to participate in the Q and A. I say this because, as an author of a best selling book on the subject which was obviously (and very deliberately) ignored in this project, and someone who worked closely with the ARRB during its existence (many of the autopsy witnesses called were directly from Best Evidence, and in one case, I actually filmed the witness first, and then communicated with the ARRB, and then they took an affidavit) it was obvious that the film maker made a very obvious decision to ignore my work, and to instead address the issue of conspiracy in what I call the "1967 framework."

Let me explain. Generally speaking, prior to Best Evidence, there was no way to explain how it was possible for the Dallas doctors to report the President was struck from the front, yet the Bethesda doctors to find not a trace of frontal entry. Prior to the publication of Best Evidence, it was not possible to reasonably explain how, if bullets were fired into the President's body from the front, they were not recovered at autopsy. My discovery, in October 1966, of evidence that the body had been altered marked a conceptual breakthrough—that the focus should be not on the autopsy report, per se, but on the body itself. The discovery that two FBI agents who attended the autopsy reported that the body arrived with an "additional wrapping" around the head which was "saturated with blood" and further, that upon the removal of that second wrapping, it was "apparent" that there had been "surgery of the head area, namely, in the top of the skull," was important. A former Warren Commission attorney, Wesley Liebeler, thought it was sufficiently important enough to make it a major topic in a November 1966 memorandum that went to all the Warren Commissioners, the White House, and Robert Kennedy.

Further, by the time my research was complete, years later, I had developed a complete case—from the existing records—that (1) the body had been intercepted, (2) the wounds had been altered, and (3) this situation was in fact recognized at the outset of the autopsy.

One can choose to deal with all this, or not deal with it. This film maker chose to ignore it. Instead, he chose to showcase Josiah Thompson's "1967 view" of the case—i.e., (and now paraphrasing), "I think there was a shooter over here, and another over there, and another one from the Records Building."—to describe the "conspiracy," along with "I don't believe the single bullet theory". Now that is one way to deal with "conspiracy"; OR, one can address the fundamental issue: fraud in the evidence, at the level of alteration of the body (which, of course, is the answer to why there are no bullets from "other guns" in this case, and why the Bethesda autopsy exam disclosed no evidence of frontal entry).

Fraud in the evidence is what one deals with when one addresses such issues as bullets being removed from the body prior to autopsy; or wounds being altered prior to autopsy. It is the territory of Best Evidence. It is also the issue one addresses when one deals with the autopsy photo data indicating that alteration of the body was hidden because the autopsy photographs in this case are not the originals—or that the camera produced, years later, as the one that took the photographs (as the ARRB's Doug Horne discovered) could not have been the one that took the pictures in evidence.

But all these point come under the umbrella of "forensics"—which the film maker was adamantly claiming was not his subject area—and so I wanted to stay within the ground rules of the evening.

But then, the Q and A started, and it was shortly thereafter that I changed my mind.

There were one or two questions that clearly indicated that the audience was not all that happy with this filmmaker, or his project. But there he was, up on the stage, almost sneering, and drinking a glass of wine ("only in West L.A.")

Because of the opening question or two, questions that indicated skepticism, someone (perhaps it was Stone, but I'm not sure) now asked for a show of hands. How many have read the Warren Report, he asked? How many believe the conclusions? Etc. It quickly became obvious that perhaps 85% of those in the room did not believe the Warren Report—either before, or after his film; and the great majority believed Dallas was the result of a conspiracy. The whole attitude of this film maker—and some of it was verbal, but partly it was body language (he tended to grin, and sneer inappropriately)—was that of an arrogant shrink who tells the patient that "the problem" is in his head, when there really is evidence of a serious physiological problem to be addressed. But, instead of dealing with that, the shrink says, "OK. . but why does that bother you?"

Stone made clear that he didn't want to address "the forensics", which he repeatedly referred to as "theology". No, he insisted; that wasn't his purpose. Not at all. His purpose, he said—almost explicitly—was to address our pre-occupation with this controversy, which he apparently saw as "Oswald's ghost."

Finally, I stood up, and spoke from notes I made as I watched all this unfold. I was recognized, and handed a microphone, and spoke along these lines.

I identified myself as the author of Best Evidence, and said that all editing involves "making choices". So he, as a filmmaker, had to make choices. All very well. But if he was dealing with "the culture," I asked, I did not understand how he could leave out any mention whatsoever of the existence of a book that had been a NY Times best seller, was number one on so many lists, and was in print for 17 years through four publishers, and which addressed the validity of the evidence itself. I also didn't understand how he could fail to address the issue raised by facts sufficiently important that a former WC attorney had, upon being shown evidence of wound alteration, sent out a warning alarm of sorts in the form of a memo (November, 1966) to the Justice Department, other WC attorneys, etc. spelling out the problem. Furthermore, that following this memo, the Office of White House counsel actually suggested a limited reopening of the investigation (just as Liebeler's memo called for) but President Johnson, who said that would not be good for the country, rejected that.

Stone's response was not exactly all that satisfactory. He made some superficial remark that "you're just jealous because you weren't in the film" or some such thing; and he even made some allusion to how much money I made, and then he completely misstated my work. "This man is saying that in the 12 hours following the murder, someone sewed up the President's head. . " etc. etc. I was really surprised at the extent of his misstatements.

At this point, it became obvious—both from his sneering attitude, and his attempt to have it both ways—that (to me, anyway) that this fellow's entire approach was completely superficial, and that he was a mental lightweight, and even irresponsible, at that.

In other words, faced with a time-line concerning the JFK controversy that extended from November 1963 to the present (that's 43 years later), and included a number of major events in the investigatory and book publishing areas, he chose to "cut it off" at around 1968, with a "postscript" of sorts to 1976-79 (the HSCA investigation), and then to ridicule the JFK researchers by presenting Josiah Thompson (and his view of Dealey Plaza) and Priscilla McMillan (with her view of Oswald) and using that as the state of the debate. Who was he kidding?

Does Stone really maintain that it is a matter of "theology" that the Dallas observations of the head wound are entirely different from the Bethesda observations? (If so, what temple does he attend?)

Does Stone really maintain that it is a matter of theology that the trach incision made in Dallas ("2-3 cm" according to what Dr. Perry told me, in October, 1966, which was corroborated by Dr. Carrico) grew to "7 – 8 cm" by the time the body reached Bethesda, according to the Warren Commission testimony of the autopsy doctor, Commander Humes?

Does he really believe that it is a matter of theology that the Dallas exit wound, at the back of the head, described as being "35 sq centimeter" grew to a size 400 % larger, 170 sq. centimeter, as shown on the diagram drawn at autopsy? And documented even further, in 1996, when Doctor Boswell appeared before the ARRB and, under oath, drew the contour of the wound on a medical school skull?

Does he really believe that the report of two FBI agents who reported that there was "surgery of the head area, namely in the top of the skull" can be ignored?

Does he really believe that he can dismiss a work which presented—both based on telephone interview, and via video—the fact that JFK's body arrived in a body bag at Bethesda? Or that documents document an interception, because they show distinctly different times for the arrival of two coffins at Bethesda—6:35 pm for the shipping casket (when the body first arrived); 7:17 when the empty Dallas coffin arrived; and 8pm when the Dallas coffin (now with the body back inside) was returned to the morgue, this time under the official escort of the tri-service casket team?

Well, the apparent answer is that he really doesn't have time for such complexities; and so he doesn't know, and/or could care less.

Consequently, holding his glass of wine, in one hand, he completely mangled my work, misinforming the audience about what my book stated. When I pointed out that I had also produced a video that had national distribution (some 50,000 copies) and had witnesses to support my major thesis, he said, "Yes, I saw that film, you had only one witness. . "—another false statement. So where was he getting this information from—the Honorable Josiah Thompson? The Best Evidence Research Video—which sold around 50,000 copies—was given an A rating in several national magazines., and has some six witnesses to the events being described.

What Stone was saying was pure drivel. He not only had no intention of dealing with the forensics—he didn't even know the forensics.

Here's how I ended my own "question" (everyone who stood up had a combination of "speech + question"). I said: "Sir, if you do not deal with the issue of fraud in the evidence; if you do not deal with the work of the ARRB, and Doug Horne, who interviewed the doctors, and believes the body was altered. . .and finally, if you then base an "Oswald narrative" on this falsified evidence, then, with regard to Oswald, you aren't engaged in doing history; you're engaged in character assassination."

Then I sat down. I noticed that Senator Hart cast his eyes downward, as I made these remarks; and then, it seemed, the floodgates opened, to a much more aggressive questioning. As other questioners fired away at the film director, it really started to get a bit heated, and I noticed that Gary Hart took out a large pair of pinkish-red Ray Ban sun glasses, and donned them. The questioning proceeded from there—Hart, on the left, wearing these pink-red Ray Bans and looking like he was out of the Sopranos, Stone, in the center, holding his glass of wine and looking like a sneering James Carville; and Josh Mankiewicz on the right, trying to keep the peace.

It was, to way the least, a most interesting affair.

* * *

AFTERMATH - - Part II

When the Q and A was over, quite a few people came over to shake my hand, "You said what had to be said," etc. Also, during this period, it became clear that two assassination researchers were there—Pat Speare and Clint Bradford. So we all shook hands and spoke briefly. A number of people came over and wanted to talk. It was obvious that a substantial percentage of this audience were not friendly---or at the very least, highly critical—to the filmmaker and his product.

AFTERMATH: --Part III (the lobby)

Note: See attached photo of me talking with Stone (Stone, on left; me, on right)

Picture taken by Clint Bradford

Tall person with white hair (with "purple eyes") is Pat Speare

When I exited the auditorium to the lobby, there was Stone, surrounded by people, firing questions at him, as to his presentation. So I wandered over to that group, and listened. Mel Stuart, surely now in his late 70s, who had produced Four Days in November (the "Oswald did it alone" documentary, circa, 1964) was there, explaining to anyone who would listen that Jack Ruby was just a nut, and one of the audience was talking to Stone, on some point of evidence. When I got near him, he threw out his hands and said, "I give up! You already won!"—returning to his point of view that the JFK researchers had succeeded in altering he public's state of mind, and his film was simply addressing that issue, and not the evidence.

I came away from the evening—my "night at the museum"—with these thoughts:

I'm pleased that the American public will see the footage of Oswald saying he was innocent. That is important; and decades ago, that kind of video was not available, as it is today. (Kudos to Gary Mack, at the Sixth Floor Museum, for organizing this material, and making it available).

I'm pleased that the public will see the Zapruder film (once again) projected.

I'm pleased that the public will see Dan Rather's false and inaccurate narration, even if that has been edited to tone down the egregious nature of what he did.

I'm glad that the public will see Mark Lane at his best---I think he presented himself quite well.

I'm sorry that the filmmaker never pointed out the critical connection between the film JFK and the JFK Records Act. (Did I miss that? If so, my apologies. But I don't remember that.)

I'm sorry that the film maker never pointed out the importance of the evidence indicating the autopsy was falsified, and the connection between that concept, and the invalidity of evidence indicating Oswald's alleged guilt. I'm glad the film contains Oswald's statement "I'm just a patsy," but its most unfortunate, and shows Stone's bias, that he didn't see fit to include what Oswald told his brother Robert, on November 23, 1963, when Robert visited him in jail. When Robert challenged Lee, asking what the devil was going on, Lee responded, "Do not believe the so-called 'evidence.'" That goes way beyond "I'm just a patsy." That shows a man perfectly aware that he is being framed.

I'm sorry that the film maker, who essentially demonized Oswald, didn't present anyone who could present a view of Oswald that would rebut what Mailer and Priscilla McMillan (both of whom accept Oswald's guilt) were saying—so what we have here, in 2007, is a recycled view of Oswald, from 30 years ago (in the case of McMillan) and 14 years ago (in the case of Mailer). I happen to respect Priscilla, with whom I've exchanged emails over the years, and who has been very kind to me—but that doesn't absolve the filmmaker from the responsibility of presenting the "other" point of view. There is excellent footage from 1990—because I filmed it—of Marina Oswald talking about how much Lee "adored" Kennedy, but none of that is in this film. Again, this was the filmmaker's choice.

At one point, one of the "experts" said that Lee admired Adolph Hitler—what kind of nonsense is that? (Does that come from Lee's merely having read Mien Kampf? So what?)

I'm sorry that no one dealt with the issue of Sylvia Odio, or of Oswald's behavior on his trip to Mexico. None of these matters were explored, at all. Does the filmmaker think that Oswald's trip to Mexico City, just seven weeks prior to Dallas, and his behavior at the Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate, were the result of neurosis? (He probably does!)

Finally, I am sorry that –in terms of the Dealey Plaza shooting itself—the film shows Josiah Thompson, who proposes a false hypothesis, carrying on with all his supposed "angst" about "the conspiracy". Here is an author who, in his 1967 book, Six Seconds in Dallas, made one of the biggest blunders in this case. Thompson failed to note the major difference in dimension between the head wound at Dallas and the wound(s) at Bethesda. And so he analyzed the situation as follows (quoting now from his book, Six Seconds):

"From the Parkland doctors we get the picture of a bullet that struck the right front of the President’s head. . . . ranged backward causing massive damage to the right brain hemisphere, sprung open the occipital and parietal bones, and exploded out over the rear of the limousine. From the Bethesda surgeons we get the picture of a bullet entering the rear of the President’s head and driving forward. . . Putting the two pictures together we discern outlines of the double impact."

Of course, one should not be "putting the two pictures together," because, as I wrote in Best Evidence (1981), to do so represented a serious analytic error:

"Putting the two pictures together” was incorrect. Both pertained to the same body, but to different times. Six hours separated those two observations." (See Best Evidence, Chapter 13).

Indeed, that is the heart of the matter, because what happened in those six hours holds the key to the Kennedy case.

In fact, what these two "pictures" actually represent are the "before" and "after" view of the head—the head as it appeared in Dallas, at the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room (12:40 – 1:20 PM, CST), versus the head as it appeared at Bethesda, at the time of autopsy (8 P.M., EST). To make the point more directly: if photographs existed at both locations of what these two groups of doctors described, in their reports and testimony, then any schoolboy would immediately see the anatomic difference(s), and, furthermore, appreciate the significance of those differences. No one would attempt to "put the pictures together"; rather, seeing the divergent photos of a body that was obviously not in the same condition at these two different points in time, a person would ask: "Hey, what's going on here? Who altered these wounds? Who altered the body?" But Josiah Thompson didn't see it that way (and, clinging to his 1967 theory, apparently, still doesn't). Consequently, he persists in this false view and so still, in 2007, is engaged in promoting a fallacious analysis based upon "putting the two pictures together."

The late Wesley Liebeler is the UCLA Law professor who served on the Warren Commission, and to whom (in October, 1966) I brought my discovery of the first evidence that the body had been altered (See Best Evidence, Chapter 9, describing what happened on October 24, 1966, when I first showed him the FBI report that said there had been "surgery of the head area, namely, in the top of the skull). In the years following, and after Thompson's book was published (1967), Liebeler thought it quite ironic, even comical, that a philosophy professor would make such a significant error. Paul Hoch, in assessing Best Evidence years later, has told me on more than one occasion that my work was the first to take into account "the parameter of time."

Thompson's entire view of the case, circa 1967, is grounded in this false analysis, yet he has never had the courage to admit his error—not after Best Evidence was published in 1981, and not to this day. He continues to promote the notion that nothing is amiss, and that his analysis represents some sort of "state of the art." This he always presents along with his terrible angst, stemming from his days as a philosophy professor, before be came a private detective, at being unable to resolve the mysteries of the Kennedy assassination (which is why I have dubbed him the Prince of Uncertainty). I think Thompson's failure to address this issue is outrageous, and just plain ridiculous.

The issue is important, in 2007, because of the way filmmaker Stone uses Thompson, in his movie, as a key spokesperson for conspiracy. The basis for Thompson's entire analysis is false. But by recycling this 1967 view, and making Josiah Thompson the spokesperson for "conspiracy," filmmaker Stone's Ghost of Oswald has chosen someone with a weak (and in fact false) hypothesis, a way of viewing the case that was perfectly appropriate in 1967, but is no longer valid. Consequently, Oswald's Ghost indeed has a ghostly quality—the quality of going back to the period of 1967 (intellectually, the "Jurassic Park" version of the medical evidence) and evoking the state of the controversy as it was some 40 years ago, when the issue of conspiracy turned on the matter of the "number of shooters," and not on the validity of the evidence (i.e., the integrity of the body at the time of autopsy). Yet the issue of authenticity, and fraud in the evidence, is exactly where the emphasis ought to be placed. And that issue—the serious problems with the medical evidence, not some psychological hang-up—is the root cause of the problem in the JFK case.

As I have often said: if the autopsy in this case is valid, along with the ballistic evidence (bullet 399, plus the two large fragments found in the JFK limousine that evening), then Oswald shot the President. In that case, the shots came from the sniper's nest, and JFK's death was the result of his body being struck by Oswald's bullets, fired from his mail-order rifle. But if the body was altered, then that is a false appearance; and in that case, one must go one step further, and address the Kennedy assassination at a more fundamental level—i.e., as to whether key evidence was falsified to mislead the investigative apparatus of the U.S. Government as to what happened in Dallas earlier that day. One must understand that creating that false appearance was integral to the plot to murder JFK. There's a simple choice here—either one faces this issue, or one does not. There's no "in-between." Indeed, the covert interception and alteration of JFK's body –and not the Tippit murder—is the Rosetta Stone to the Kennedy assassination.

My final comment: enjoy the film for the good archival footage, but keep in mind that it provides an excellent example of how a biased film maker has "connected the dots" in a most contrived way to pursue his own agenda; further, how he employs weak arguments he can shoot down, and avoids critical issues, to create a film about "the controversy."

The ghost of Oswald will not rest, not because American's have a psychological problem, but because there are real problems with the medical evidence in this case, and it all comes down to the body—specifically, to the integrity of the body at the time it was received for autopsy, on the night of the President's murder. In short, the key issue is whether the body, at autopsy, provided an accurate diagram of the shooting of President Kennedy, or whether its false condition constituted a medical forgery contrived by those who took the President's life.

That's what this case is all about, that’s why Oswald's ghost will not rest, and filmmaker Robert Stone never deals with that issue.

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Here is an author who, in his 1967 book, Six Seconds in Dallas, made one of the biggest blunders in this case. Thompson failed to note the major difference in dimension between the head wound at Dallas and the wound(s) at Bethesda. And so he analyzed the situation as follows (quoting now from his book, Six Seconds):

From the Parkland doctors we get the picture of a bullet that struck the right front of the President’s head. . . . ranged backward causing massive damage to the right brain hemisphere, sprung open the occipital and parietal bones, and exploded out over the rear of the limousine. From the Bethesda surgeons we get the picture of a bullet entering the rear of the President’s head and driving forward. . . Putting the two pictures together we discern outlines of the double impact. (underlining added).

Thompson's entire view of the case, crica 1967, is grounded in this false analysis, yet he has never had the courage to admit his error—not after Best Evidence was published in 1981, and not to this day. He continues to promote the notion that nothing is amiss, and and that his analysis represents some sort of "state of the art." This he always presents along with his terrible angst, stemming from his days as a philosophy professor, before be came a private detective, at being unable to resolve the mysteries of the Kennedy assasination (which is why I have dubbed him the Prince of Uncertainty). I think Thompson's failure to address this issue is outrageous, and just plain ridiculous.

Thank you David for your analysis of Oswald's Ghost.

I assume you are not a regular reader of this forum, but Josiah Thompson made an important announcement on this forum in September 2005.

Thompson Quote ON: Fetzer claims I want to return things to their 1967 basis. This, of course, is nonsense. Let me rebut it by pointing out a major mistake I made in "Six Seconds."

I measured there that JFK's head moved forward about two inches between Z312 and Z313. This forward movement followed by the obvious left, backward snap suggested to me that he had been hit in the head from the rear and then, almost instantaneously, from the right front. Within the last few years, Art Snyder of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory, was able to show me how this involved a serious mistake in measurement.

As you all know, Z312 is quite clear while Z313 is smeared from movement of the camera. Using fairly complicated math, Snyder was able to demonstrate to me that I was measuring the smear on frame Z313 and not the movement of Kennedy's head. That socalled "two-inch movement" was an illusion; it came from the smear.

David Wimp and Joe Durnavich came to much the same conclusion. Wimp, however, has gone futher. He has shown that JFK's head begins moving forward about Z308 and that everyone else in the limousine... Kellerman, Greer, Jackie, Mrs. Connally, John Connally... also begin a moderate movement forward at that time. After Z314, JFK flips backward and to the left while all the rest continue moving forward. The explanation: When Greer turned to look in the back seat at circa Z302 his foot tapped the brake, decelerating the limousine and throwing forward all the limousine's occupants. There is no longer any clear evidence in the Zapruder film of Kennedy being hit in the back of the head. (I say "clear" because there may be some evidence of a hit from the rear at Z327/328) The Z312-Z317 sequence... the bowling over of JFK to the left rear.... is the unambiguous result of a shot from the right front. Quote OFF

This is wonderful progress by careful research. Because of it, I am delighted to admit... even proclaim... that I made a mistake in 1967.Quote OFF

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.ph...=5018&st=30

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Thanks for the advance warning.

I'll save myself the blood pressure rise I inevitably get when I view establishment anti-conspiracy BS.

As for myself, I'm sorry that noone has been able to put together a major motion picture that deals with, on a point by point basis, all of the "Best Evidence" available, of which there is much, that would raise such an uproar it would finally force the Justice Dept. to do what it whould have done in 1963...investigate the crime, produce suspects, living or dead, and actually try the case in a court of law.

It depresses me every time I realize that our Justice Dept. has done absolutely NOTHING about the MURDER of JFK.

The reality then sinks in... They never will.

We're on our own. And that thought scares the hell out of me.

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This film is proof that CTs can agree on something (see my comments in the other thread on the movie). For that I guess we should thank Stone.

Seriously, if this film was shown in theaters to uninformed audiences, I suspect it would create more CTs than LNs. Looking at Oswald's reaction to being charged on a large screen really made an impact, at least with me. I just can't believe that his look of discouragement and disgust is manufactured, nor that he did it but thought he'd get away with it. Oswald was smarter than most--the movie is at least fair on that point--and there is no evidence of insanity presented in the movie. The argument that because he tried to shoot Walker (when Walker is admittedly a right-wing wacko) it makes sense he'd kill Kennedy (when Kennedy was widely perceived as being a dangerous leftist) simply doesn't fly with most rational people.

If someone tries to kill Rush Limbaugh should they be a prime suspect in an attempt on Michael Moore?

Edited by Pat Speer
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Guest James H. Fetzer

Now let me get this straight. Thompson has relinquished the single most important contribution of his 1967 book, a proof that there were two shots to the head (for which we have separate medical evidence). This is not the enormous blunder concerning the massive head wound that Lifton is discussing here, I presume you understand. And you think "That's great!"? If both mistakes are granted, I cannot see what SIX SECONDS has contributed to the debate. Were it not for other, better research, such as Lifton's, it would carry us back to even BEFORE 1967! Thompson may be good at turning a lemon into lemonade. But this is really not much in the way of a defense in response to my observation. Lifton's review is brilliant. Your commentary is not.

Here is an author who, in his 1967 book, Six Seconds in Dallas, made one of the biggest blunders in this case. Thompson failed to note the major difference in dimension between the head wound at Dallas and the wound(s) at Bethesda. And so he analyzed the situation as follows (quoting now from his book, Six Seconds):

From the Parkland doctors we get the picture of a bullet that struck the right front of the President’s head. . . . ranged backward causing massive damage to the right brain hemisphere, sprung open the occipital and parietal bones, and exploded out over the rear of the limousine. From the Bethesda surgeons we get the picture of a bullet entering the rear of the President’s head and driving forward. . . Putting the two pictures together we discern outlines of the double impact. (underlining added).

Thompson's entire view of the case, crica 1967, is grounded in this false analysis, yet he has never had the courage to admit his error—not after Best Evidence was published in 1981, and not to this day. He continues to promote the notion that nothing is amiss, and and that his analysis represents some sort of "state of the art." This he always presents along with his terrible angst, stemming from his days as a philosophy professor, before be came a private detective, at being unable to resolve the mysteries of the Kennedy assasination (which is why I have dubbed him the Prince of Uncertainty). I think Thompson's failure to address this issue is outrageous, and just plain ridiculous.

Thank you David for your analysis of Oswald's Ghost.

I assume you are not a regular reader of this forum, but Josiah Thompson made an important announcement on this forum in September 2005.

Thompson Quote ON: Fetzer claims I want to return things to their 1967 basis. This, of course, is nonsense. Let me rebut it by pointing out a major mistake I made in "Six Seconds."

I measured there that JFK's head moved forward about two inches between Z312 and Z313. This forward movement followed by the obvious left, backward snap suggested to me that he had been hit in the head from the rear and then, almost instantaneously, from the right front. Within the last few years, Art Snyder of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory, was able to show me how this involved a serious mistake in measurement.

As you all know, Z312 is quite clear while Z313 is smeared from movement of the camera. Using fairly complicated math, Snyder was able to demonstrate to me that I was measuring the smear on frame Z313 and not the movement of Kennedy's head. That socalled "two-inch movement" was an illusion; it came from the smear.

David Wimp and Joe Durnavich came to much the same conclusion. Wimp, however, has gone futher. He has shown that JFK's head begins moving forward about Z308 and that everyone else in the limousine... Kellerman, Greer, Jackie, Mrs. Connally, John Connally... also begin a moderate movement forward at that time. After Z314, JFK flips backward and to the left while all the rest continue moving forward. The explanation: When Greer turned to look in the back seat at circa Z302 his foot tapped the brake, decelerating the limousine and throwing forward all the limousine's occupants. There is no longer any clear evidence in the Zapruder film of Kennedy being hit in the back of the head. (I say "clear" because there may be some evidence of a hit from the rear at Z327/328) The Z312-Z317 sequence... the bowling over of JFK to the left rear.... is the unambiguous result of a shot from the right front. Quote OFF

This is wonderful progress by careful research. Because of it, I am delighted to admit... even proclaim... that I made a mistake in 1967.Quote OFF

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.ph...=5018&st=30

Edited by James H. Fetzer
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I thought this should be added to this thread.

I attended a showing of the film tonight at the William S Paley Museum of Radio and Television in Beverly Hills. The name of the place was appropriate as the film took a turn in its second half (the first half was very good) and took an incredibly wrong turn at the end. (Paley was of course the guiding light behind CBS' shoddy investigations in the 60s.) Bottom line (mouthed by a seemingly senile Norman Mailer): Oswald acted alone because he wanted to become famous and welcomed a trial so he could represent himself and preach to the world. (OH yeah, then why did he try to get away and fight cops afterwards, taking a chance he'd get killed? That's sure a strange way of welcoming a trial.)

Afterwards there was a discussion featuring the director Robert Stone and former Senator Gary Hart, moderated by Josh Mankiewicz, son of Frank Mankiewicz. Josh said he likes the movie so this probably means he's a recent convert to the LN cause. The director's stated purpose: to show how conspiracy theories have been an incredible distraction for the left, and have kept the sixties generation from achieving its promise. Senator Hart said he found the timing of the CIA/Mafia collaboration against Castro, and the subsequent timing of the deaths of Giancana and Rosselli (although he got the order of their deaths wrong) suspicious, and that as a result he could never be satisfied that Oswald acted alone for purely personal reasons. After the director chimed in that the HSCA confirmed the findings of the WC exactly, but that they'd been confused by the dictabelt evidence, I pointed out that this was not true, and that Stokes told Face the Nation the dictabelt evidence only confirmed what they'd already suspected due to Ruby's proximity to organized crime. I also pointed out that Rosselli had connected the assassination attempts on Castro with the Kennedy assassination shortly before he was murdered. A number of other nay-sayers followed, including David Lifton, whose presence in the audience and objections to the film caused the film maker to laugh. He was actually pretty rude to Lifton, telling Lifton "I'm well aware of how much money you made off your book" (or something like that) after Lifton mentioned that his book was a best seller. Thereafter, a history teacher chimed in that he liked the movie and found all the conspiracy theories off target, and the director of the 1964 film Four Days in November chimed in that Oliver Stone's film was a lie from beginning to end. I'd say that 20 people spoke from the audience, 12 complaining, and 8 applauding.

Outside in the lobby, after the showing, Lifton and I tried to talk sense to Stone and point out that he overlooks a lot of the evidence. He said "you win" and "My film is not about the assassination, it's about the effect the assassination has had on our society." I tried to be conciliatory and agreed that since the film is called Oswald's Ghost, and features Norman Mailer, I suppose he had to end with Mailer's conclusions, but that he should have said something at the beginning or end, such as "Based on Oswald's Ghost by Norman Mailer." He quickly corrected me, however, and insisted that the conclusions of the film are purely his own. Since he'd opened up his discussion with the standard Bugliosi ploy "How many of you believe in the Warren Report?" (to which no one raises their hand) followed by "How many of you have seen JFK?" (to which everyone raises their hand) and then asked "Now how many of you have read the Warren Report?" (To which a good 30 percent of the crowd raised its hand and shocked the heck out of him) I turned the tables and asked him if he'd read anything from the last twenty years, in particular books based on the recently released documents such as Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked. He said no and smirked a little and expressed no interest in Larry's book. He looked at me like I was the most pathetic creature on Earth. At this point Lifton pointed out that he didn't have anything about the critics post Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas (the film does nevertheless get a dig in at Groden, and shows him selling his stuff on the knoll, with a close-up of money changing hands). Stone responded by reiterating that his movie is about how the assassinations of the sixties, along with the misguided conspiracy theorists, helped cripple the left. As far as he was concerned, the investigation of the assassination stopped when Jim Garrison spewed some nonsense about Jack Ruby's phone number, and everything since has just been a distraction.

If you're a CT who wants to avoid the agony of watching old men spewing nonsense, you might want to avoid this movie.

I find it most interesting that PBS is pushing this film at the same time that HBO is getting behind Bugliosi. There's definitely something in the air and it's not marijuana from Tommy Chong's bong.

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Oswald’s Ghost was shown on BBC television last week. On the surface it did appear to be a balanced documentary. For example, the people interviewed made comments that could be used by supporters and opponents of the Warren Commission. However, I believe the film was a strong defence of the official view that Oswald was the lone gunman.

Robert Stone was being honest when he said that his objective was “to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture.” He also admitted that he did have a “point of view”. Of course, every artist as a point of view about the subject he is addressing. The expression of that point of view can take many forms. Stone’s style is very different from that of Vincent Bugliosi. That is why Stone’s film is far more dangerous than Bugliosi’s book.

One way that a documentary maker gives the impression of balance is to use an equal number of people being interviewed who appear to be providing evidence for both sides. For example, at different times in the film Josiah Thompson, Edward Epstein, Norman Mailer, Mark Lane, Tom Hayden, and Todd Gitlin said things that could be interpreted as supporting a conspiracy theory. On the other hand, Priscilla McMillan, Dan Rather, Hugh Aynesworth, and Robert Dallek appeared to be supporters of the Warren Commission.

As a conspiracy theorist, the only one I was comfortable with was Mark Lane. If Stone wanted to make a balanced film he would have included recent researchers who have written about the case such as Larry Hancock, Gerald McKnight, Lamar Waldron, David Talbot, Vincent Palamara, William Law, etc. They would have also used expert witnesses like Doug Horne and David W. Mantik. But this did not happen: instead they used authors who had written about the case a long time ago. There was a good reason for this. Stone’s main objective was to explain why the vast majority of Americans believe that Oswald was not a lone gunman. This is what Stone means when he says the objective of the film was “to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture.” This is a major problem for filmmakers like Stone. The majority of those watching the film will believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. Therefore, the film has to begin with that stance. This is why the early part of the documentary features the testimony of authors who wrote early conspiracy books such as Rush to Judgement (1966), Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth (1966) and Six Seconds in Dallas (1967). This establishes the idea that the documentary maker is being fair to conspiracy theorists. It also explains why such a high percentage of the population doubt the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

It is also noticeable that there is little reference to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The fact that the HSCA also came up with a report that suggested that a conspiracy had taken place was highly inconvenient to the motives of Stone. The documentary then moves on to Oliver Stone’s JFK that it blames on the increase in the number of people who believed in a conspiracy during the late 1990s.

Robert Stone uses an old trick employed by professional boxers. They keep their best work until the end of the round. This is based on the idea that the judges take far more notice of the last minute than the previous two minutes.

In the last section of the documentary, Mark Lane drops out of the film. Josiah Thompson and Edward Epstein remain but only to say that they have lost interest in the case or to admit they have changed their mind about Oswald’s guilt. Tom Hayden and Todd Gitlin are used to highlight the political reasons why people wanted to believe in a conspiracy.

The final segment is devoted to Norman Mailer. He then attempts to explain the psychological and cultural reasons why people still believe that Oswald did not act alone. This is important as it reassures those who up to this point still believe in a conspiracy. Stone knows that the evidence alone will not move the viewer from being a CT to a LN. However, a carefully made film can persuade the viewer that their response has been emotional rather than intellectual.

The message of this section of the film has almost become a cliché of anti-conspiracy documentaries. It is as if they are working from guidelines produced by Operation Mockingbird. The message is that it is understandable that people still believe that the Warren Commission got it wrong as they find it impossible to grasp the fact that an insignificant person such as Oswald was able to kill a president, who is all powerful and well-protected, on his own. However, it is argued that in this case, this is just what did happen.

I fear that most of the people who watched “Oswald’s Ghost” would have ended up by being convinced by the Stone/Mailer thesis. Of course, films like this have no effect on those who know a great deal about the case. But these people are in a small minority. This film was not made for people like us.

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Oswald’s Ghost was shown on BBC television last week. On the surface it did appear to be a balanced documentary. For example, the people interviewed made comments that could be used by supporters and opponents of the Warren Commission. However, I believe the film was a strong defence of the official view that Oswald was the lone gunman.

Robert Stone was being honest when he said that his objective was “to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture.” He also admitted that he did have a “point of view”. Of course, every artist as a point of view about the subject he is addressing. The expression of that point of view can take many forms. Stone’s style is very different from that of Vincent Bugliosi. That is why Stone’s film is far more dangerous than Bugliosi’s book.

One way that a documentary maker gives the impression of balance is to use an equal number of people being interviewed who appear to be providing evidence for both sides. For example, at different times in the film Josiah Thompson, Edward Epstein, Norman Mailer, Mark Lane, Tom Hayden, and Todd Gitlin said things that could be interpreted as supporting a conspiracy theory. On the other hand, Priscilla McMillan, Dan Rather, Hugh Aynesworth, and Robert Dallek appeared to be supporters of the Warren Commission.

As a conspiracy theorist, the only one I was comfortable with was Mark Lane. If Stone wanted to make a balanced film he would have included recent researchers who have written about the case such as Larry Hancock, Gerald McKnight, Lamar Waldron, David Talbot, Vincent Palamara, William Law, etc. They would have also used expert witnesses like Doug Horne and David W. Mantik. But this did not happen: instead they used authors who had written about the case a long time ago. There was a good reason for this. Stone’s main objective was to explain why the vast majority of Americans believe that Oswald was not a lone gunman. This is what Stone means when he says the objective of the film was “to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture.” This is a major problem for filmmakers like Stone. The majority of those watching the film will believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. Therefore, the film has to begin with that stance. This is why the early part of the documentary features the testimony of authors who wrote early conspiracy books such as Rush to Judgement (1966), Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth (1966) and Six Seconds in Dallas (1967). This establishes the idea that the documentary maker is being fair to conspiracy theorists. It also explains why such a high percentage of the population doubt the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

It is also noticeable that there is little reference to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The fact that the HSCA also came up with a report that suggested that a conspiracy had taken place was highly inconvenient to the motives of Stone. The documentary then moves on to Oliver Stone’s JFK that it blames on the increase in the number of people who believed in a conspiracy during the late 1990s.

Robert Stone uses an old trick employed by professional boxers. They keep their best work until the end of the round. This is based on the idea that the judges take far more notice of the last minute than the previous two minutes.

In the last section of the documentary, Mark Lane drops out of the film. Josiah Thompson and Edward Epstein remain but only to say that they have lost interest in the case or to admit they have changed their mind about Oswald’s guilt. Tom Hayden and Todd Gitlin are used to highlight the political reasons why people wanted to believe in a conspiracy.

The final segment is devoted to Norman Mailer. He then attempts to explain the psychological and cultural reasons why people still believe that Oswald did not act alone. This is important as it reassures those who up to this point still believe in a conspiracy. Stone knows that the evidence alone will not move the viewer from being a CT to a LN. However, a carefully made film can persuade the viewer that their response has been emotional rather than intellectual.

The message of this section of the film has almost become a cliché of anti-conspiracy documentaries. It is as if they are working from guidelines produced by Operation Mockingbird. The message is that it is understandable that people still believe that the Warren Commission got it wrong as they find it impossible to grasp the fact that an insignificant person such as Oswald was able to kill a president, who is all powerful and well-protected, on his own. However, it is argued that in this case, this is just what did happen.

I fear that most of the people who watched “Oswald’s Ghost” would have ended up by being convinced by the Stone/Mailer thesis. Of course, films like this have no effect on those who know a great deal about the case. But these people are in a small minority. This film was not made for people like us.

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Robert Stone says his purpose is "to explore the effect that conspiracy theories have had on the culture," which is in direct conflict with exploring the effect political assassinations have had on our society.

The Gerald Ford Presidential Library once announed that it was exploring the idea of creating a center for the study of assassinatons, but after consideration of the consequences, decided that wasn't such a good idea after all.

The answer to Robert Stone's "Oswald's Ghost" is David Talbot's response to such criticism - that the unresolved nature of the political assassinations of the 60s will haunt the American political landscape until they are resolved.

"Oswald's Ghost," like "Reclaiming History" contribute to the choir of voices that hark this fact - and that if JFK was killed by a lone-nut assassin, then there should be no "national security" reasons for continued secrecy and all the records related to the assassination should be released.

It is not the CTs that have affected our culture, but the unresloved nature of the political assassinations of the 60s that still haunt us today, and will continue to affect us until they are resolved.

Bill Kelly

Edited by William Kelly
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John Simkin wrote:

In the last section of the documentary ..... Josiah Thompson and Edward Epstein remain but only to say that they have lost interest in the case or to admit they have changed their mind about Oswald’s guilt.

I have not yet seen Robert Stone's film, but from reading the various comments posted here, it sounds suspiciously like a work of propaganda. If the film does claim that either Epstein or Thompson has lost interest in this case, then this claim can easily be refuted.

Thompson sounded very interested in this case when he addressed an audience of over 1000 persons (mostly lawyers) at the Duquesne conference in November 2003, and he sounded interested when he wrote a very passionate essay on the photograhic evidence, and co-authored an article on CE399, both on the maryferrell.org website. If Robert Stone never even bothered to check maryferrell.org, then his lack of reverence for the truth might well be found to amount to reckless disregard.

I could understand the filmmaker not knowing about Thompson's posts on this assassination forum, but if Robert Stone is truly ignorant of Thompson's renewed activity in this case, (including his well-known efforts to find a publisher for a revised edition of SIX SECONDS which will HIGHLIGHT his revised thinking on the number of head shots), then Stone either did not speak to Thompson at all, or else he has deliberately edited his film in such a manner as to present Dr. Thompson -- and his expert opinions on the JFK case -- IN A FALSE LIGHT.

If Josiah is reading this, Hello Sir: Assuming that this film strikes you the way it strikes others, and assuming you did not consent to your views being misrepresented in this forthcoming PBS documentary, my suggestion is that you consult a Bay Area attorney of the caliber of Mark Sheft.

Since Edward Jay Epstein has never expressed doubts about Lee Oswald's guilt, this cannot be a reference to him. Thompson expressed something along the lines of Reasonable Doubt, and if his doubts have been mollified, I would never have guessed as much from his review of Bugliosi's book. Again, a "false light" issue.

Now let me get this straight. Thompson has relinquished a proof that there were two shots to the head...

That sounds like a fair interpretation of Thompson's "There is no longer any clear evidence in the Zapruder film of Kennedy being hit in the back of the head."

Lifton's review is brilliant. Your commentary is not.

My only commentary was "Thank you David." Please demonstrate how much more brilliantly YOU could have said "thank you David."

If you would like to comment on my views, please feel free to do so on this thread that was started on your behalf:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=10222

And now for a Kennedyesque moment with our very own Bill Kelly:

It is not the CTs that have affected our culture, but the unresloved nature of the political assassinations of the 60s that still haunt us today, and will continue to affect us until they are resolved.

Bill Kelly

Edited by J. Raymond Carroll
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Two more photographs:

Thanks, David, for the pics. I think the photo where I am laughing was taken at the exact moment Stone conceded "You win!"

Pat,

Just off-hand, do you know who the gentlemen on the right of frame is, the man wearing the blue shirt?

James

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