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The Guardian-BBC nexus in defence of the Warren Report


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The Guardian-BBC nexus in defence of the Warren Report

Or: How to get on in British journalism…

Case 1: Mark Lawson, one-time Guardian columnist, now BBC TV and radio critical arbiter:

Mark Lawson, “Stranger than fact,” The Guardian, 4 April 1998, p.21:

As I was walking out of Broadcasting House this week…The second objection is that the great curse of journalism in recent years had been the audience’s increasing refusal to accept any story at face value: to treat every assertion of fact as opinion or irony or obfuscation. This willingness explains both the rise of conspiracy theories and the ease with which public figures escape scandals. What has caused this is the increasing pollution of the fact-pool through rumour and invention…

Pollution of “the fact-pool” – a sort of intellectual soup, I imagine, comprised entirely of Dullesian factoids – soon gave way to something all together.…weirder:

Mark Lawson, “Honestly, there are no conspiracies,” The Guardian, G2, 1 October 1998, p.8:

After spending $40 million and four years on proving that adulterers lie about their actions, the US government has now devoted six years and $8 million to declaring that President Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Although both conclusions are probably true, it’s clear that the public hoped for more original thinking from both the Starr Report and the 290-page Assassination Records Review Board report published yesterday. On a dollar-per-insight basis, the government is being short-changed in these expensive investigations.

The re-examination of the Kennedy assassination – which included the release of 60,000 documents declared secret in 1963 – was prompted by the American public’s widespread rejection of the view that Oswald acted alone or, in the more extreme revisionism, that he was involved at all. As conspiracy culture has escalated in America – fuelled by Watergate, religious neurosis, the approach of the millennium and intrigue-ridden TV series and movies – the average citizen was more likely to believe that JFK was killed because he was about to go public on the cover-up over the landing of extra-terrestrials in New Mexico in 1947.

The problem is that, as anyone could have told the ARRB six years ago, no conspiracy theorist will ever accept the assurances of the government over what happened that November in Dallas. It’s like expecting a vegetarian to be converted by a butcher. Government to conspiracy theorists: we’ve checked everything and it was definitely Oswald alone! Conspiracy theorists to government: yeah, like, sure.

Yet, exciting as conspiracy theories are, I’m increasingly coming round to the continuum theory of history: the which in which events, when viewed from a distance, can be seen to hold accidental but fascinating patterns. There’s a good example in Michael Frayn’s current play Copenhagen, which suggests that, had Hitler not forced brilliant Jewish scientists to flee, he might have built the atom bomb and won the war. Thus his motivating hatred disadvantaged him: not conspiracy, but continuum. Another example is that Richard Nixon, future bogeyman of US politics, happened to be in Dallas on the day that Kennedy was shot. This detail excites the suspicious but is better seen as a case of history’s way with jokey footnotes.

The Lewinsky scandal contains a classic instance of the continuum theory. In November 1995, the Republican leadership in Congress engineered a complete shutdown of the federal government operations as part of their budget dispute with President Clinton. This tactic badly backfired when the electorate sided with the president against Congress. Republican leader New Gingrich’s attempt to bring down Clinton through the shutdown is now taught on politics courses as an example of terrible miscalculation.

And yet. And yet. In his video evidence to the Starr enquiry, Clinton explained that, during the federal government shutdown, most of his staff were prevented from entering the White House: the workforce shrank from 430 to 90. However, interns, because they were unpaid, were allowed to continue working and were reassigned to more important duties. Intern Lewinsky was placed close to the Oval Office and it was there, in November 1995, that she became close to the president.

So Gingrich’s attempt to entrap the president through a shutdown turns out to have worked, although not in the manner intended. Therefore it is the Starr Report rather than the ARRB which turns out to contain the best rebuke to the plotters. Continuum is so often the true story.

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"and the ease with which public figures escape scandals. "

Hard to say: is he talking about Cynthia McKinney or Eliot Spitzer?

I guess George Bush, Cheyney, Clinton, and the other Liebermancrats have escaped one or two! Certaily all has been Mcforgotten for a certain member of the

Keating Five!

Anyone noticing a pattern? Im sure it could be expanded on to fit a larger room.

What about a medium legnth scandal, though? Why was Cynthia and Eliot well-done in two days but the others remained the Beneficiaries of doubt over a period of say twenty five years?

Is there no medium length scandal? If not what does it say of the species?

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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The Guardian-BBC nexus in defence of the Warren Report

Or: How to get on in British journalism…

Case 1: Mark Lawson, one-time Guardian columnist, now BBC TV and radio critical arbiter:

Case 2:

Mark Lawson’s bizarre “continuum theory” had precedent. On 13 March 1996, the Old Harrovian biographer of Karl Marx (and BBC radio regular), Francis Wheen, treated Grauniad readers to an equally impressive Grand Unified Theory of career-advancement in a Wheen’s World column modestly entitled: “A theory to end all theories,” G2, p.4. Read on, and weep, most likely with laughter:

Alarming news: the Americans may be losing their appetite for conspiracy theories. Oliver Stone’s film, Nixon, which alleges that Tricky Dicky and the FBI boss J Edgar Hoover were accessories to the murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, was a box-office flop in the United States. A new book from the investigative reporter Dan E Moldea, hitherto something of a hero to conspiracy buffs, concludes that Bobby Kennedy was actually killed by Sirhan Sirhan, acting alone, as the authorities have maintained all along. Meanwhile, the Conspiracy Museum in Dallas, Texas, has offered a $1 million reward for the “real killers” of President Kennedy to come forward; but there are few takers, according to the museum’s manager, Ron Rice. “Believe it or not, we haven’t had any crank calls,” he tells me. We were bracing ourselves for people to say, ‘I did it, send me the cheque,’ but no one has.

In his brilliant study, The Paranoid Style In American Politics, Professor Richard Hofstadter argues that the paranoia of the conspiracy theorist isn’t a psychological abnormality of the sort that Nicholas Soames has diagnosed in the Princess of Wales. “I use the term,” he explained, “much as a historian of art might speak of the baroque or the mannerist style. It is, above all, a way of seeing the world and of expressing oneself.” The freelance obsessives who devote their lives to the JFK saga are not fruitcakes – well, not all of them. They are artists, working on a vast canvas which can never be completed.

Rice, for instance, is convinced that the assassination of President Kennedy (not to mention Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King) was organised by some of the most prominent figures in America. “Allen Dulles of the CIA chose the city, J Edgar Hoover set up Oswald as the patsy, Carlos Marcello of the Mafia got the guns, the Texan billionaire H L Hunt financed it, and LBJ covered the whole thing up. At least, that’s my theory. I’m writing a book about.”

Tommy Bowden, the director of the Conspiracy Museum, goes further, claiming that the gang which bumped off the Kennedys also arranged the death of Mary-Jo Kepechne (to keep Edward Kennedy out of the White House) and the shooting down of the Korean Airlines flight 007 (to keep the Cold War going). Just as Casaubon thought he could find the key to all mythologies if only he persevered, so the serious conspiracy-artists hope that by collating enough names and places they will eventually produce a grand unifying theory which explains every crime and scandal of the 20th century.

It is easy to mock these amateur sleuths. (“People want us to have an exhibit on ‘Is Elvis really alive?’ but we don’t have the money to cover everything,” Rice admits sadly.) Nevertheless, they do at least adhere to that essential rule for any diligent truth-seeker, “only connect”. The alternative is a variation on Margaret Thatcher’s old line about there being no such thing as society, only individual men and women and their families; there is no such thing as a conspiracy, only lone gunmen and cock-up merchants.

Elvis may not be alive, but Richard Nixon did indeed try to conceal the truth about Watergate, and Ronald Reagan did trade arms for hostages. Anyone who doubts that conspiracies exist should be forced to read the Scott report – and should then send a small donation to the Conspiracy Museum, to save an endangered species from extinction.

One sees at once why Wheen was considered sound BBC material.

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"and the ease with which public figures escape scandals. "

Hard to say: is he talking about Cynthia McKinney or Eliot Spitzer?

Nat, you've still not got the hang of this conformity business. I hereby sentence you to a life-time's subscription to The Nation. Condign, I know, as punishments go, but you did ask for it.

Paul

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Sorry. Just processing the rationality.

Apology declined. You're manifestly as guilty as sin of refusing to be guided by your "liberal" elders and betters. Shame on you. Have you no room for Hofstadter in your heart? Or Chomsky?

I don't know, where will it all end? In an informed populace making up their own minds? The very thought!

Paul

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"and the ease with which public figures escape scandals. "

Hard to say: is he talking about Cynthia McKinney or Eliot Spitzer?

Nat, you've still not got the hang of this conformity business. I hereby sentence you to a life-time's subscription to The Nation. Condign, I know, as punishments go, but you did ask for it.

Paul

--------

Paul stop your envy or our Extra-Loyal Oppostion! Surely you would not suggest that American historians and the American Political Science Association would not risk all for the truth? Why the attack on their official magazine of record? How would they know when to make their eyebrows do the wave? It would be chaos, sheer windsock in small midwestern airport!

Here a pol can work for MoveOn AND the Columbian Death Squads. If you are jealous of this broadmindness of the American character, it is clearly another

case of Big-Tent-Envy!

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The Guardian-BBC nexus in defence of the Warren Report

Or: How to get on in British journalism…

Case 1: Mark Lawson, one-time Guardian columnist, now BBC TV and radio critical arbiter:

Mark Lawson, “Stranger than fact,” The Guardian, 4 April 1998, p.21:

On 15 November 2003, Lawson the crazed obsessive returned to give the presidential corpse another good kicking in a column entitled “Still Crazy about JFK” (p.23), in which readers were treated to sound reasons to thank the powers-that-be for his premature demise:

But the most obvious outcome of that Dallas day – or at least the Warren Commission’s attempt to explain it – is a general tendency to distrust the official version and assume the worst, which now keeps even radio phone-ins in the UK supplied with callers who insist that Princess Diana and Dr David Kelly were murdered.

If Jack had survived, Oswald and/or anon’s bullets, he would have been 86 today. Except that there would be no such birthday because we now know that he carried an assassin inside his own body: his failing kidneys. It is even possible that he might have died of natural causes during a second term.

Perhaps a transplant or newer steroids would have saved his life, but they would have ruined his reputation. Though Oliver Stone insists that Kennedy would have saved America from Vietnam, it’s hard to see how he would have resisted the visceral anti-communism of the military.

A politician whose appeal so depended on promise and possibility could only have lived out a long disappointment. If he had survived, he would surely have ended up telling a priest through the confessional mesh or over the tennis net that he now often considered suicide.

Charming.

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The Guardian-BBC nexus in defence of the Warren Report

Or: How to get on in British journalism…

Case 1: Mark Lawson, one-time Guardian columnist, now BBC TV and radio critical arbiter:

Lawson arrived at the Grauniad as a fully paid-up member of the CIA-serving fiction service. In June 1995, Picador published his alternative history satire, Edelweiss, which posited JFK’s survival of the Dallas visit thanks to the death by chicken-bone of would-be assassin Oswald; and his second-term turn, in no particular order, to the German-American Bund, Father Coughlin, and the National Gentile League in a desperate attempt to shore up domestic support for his pre-emptive nuclear strike on Vietnam and the forced sterilisation of non-Catholics.

The ex-President, driven into mittel European exile by a coalition of concerned patriots led by a reluctant Allen Welch Dulles, is compelled to pass along a reverse “Rat Line” disguised, among other things, as a singing nun, chiefly to escape the attentions of Fraser, that rarest of American things, a genuine lone-nut bent on avenging JFK’s genocidal south-east Asian assault. Kennedy takes refuge in the Vatican, where he is given a face change, speech therapy and a new career – as a French ventriloquist, Pierre Latrine – before becoming the victim, during the “events” of May 1968, of a Paris diplomatic protection team’s Citroen as its occupants desperately hunt Fraser.

Lawson’s mastery of detail particularly impressed one Hugo Barnacle, who reviewed the book – subsequently turned into a film starring Christopher Plummer as Von Trapp Deux, veteran Nazi-hunter, and the man who thwarts Fraser’s best shot at revenge – in The Independent, Lawson’s employer prior to his departure for the more BBC-rich pastures of Farringdon Road:

”…much of the writing is remarkably careless. On page 65, we are told the flaky Fraser is obsessed with time, but not “time in the sense of clocks – the police who bring him in will note that he does not even wear a wrist-watch.” Cut to the chase on page 275, and as the cops close in on him, ‘The suspect looks at his watch…picks up his bag and turns right, walking fast…’

One of the cops, hurt in an explosion, doesn’t want to miss the arrest and keeps his arm across the bloodstain on his jacket, so his partner ‘will not see that he is injured’. This is odd, because four pages earlier his partner has seen the blood and told him, ‘You’ve been hit.’ The two cops, Jean-Paul et Sebastian, conduct philosophical dialogues throughout the book; on page 46 Lawson makes the classic error of forgetting which character is speaking, and Jean-Paul answers his own Foucaltian gambit with a nonchalant Derridarian put-down,”

“Whatever happened to JFK?,” The Independent, Weekend section, 24 June 1995, p.7

Earlier, Barnacle had skewered the central political lie at the fiction’s heart:

The central premise, that Kennedy would have made as big a mess of Vietnam as Johnson did, is a piece of received wisdom that no longer has much ironic bite and never did have much foundation: just before he died, JFK announced his intention to quit Vietnam and began ordering home the troops.

If we live long enough, we might, just might, see a serious piece in the Guardian acknowledging precisely both long-obvious facts.

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The tone of the Guardian articles is interesting. They do not deal with the evidence. Instead they mock. In fact, I would argue they exhibit an anti-Americanism. For example, Mark Lawson argues:

“As conspiracy culture has escalated in America – fuelled by Watergate, religious neurosis, the approach of the millennium and intrigue-ridden TV series and movies – the average citizen was more likely to believe that JFK was killed because he was about to go public on the cover-up over the landing of extra-terrestrials in New Mexico in 1947.”

Yet Guardian journalists are willing to accept conspiracies in British politics. See for example their work on the BAE and Labour donation scandals.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=6382

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=9094

I used to work for the Guardian and built up a lot of contacts at the newspaper. Whenever any new important evidence emerges I send them the material but it is never published. I thought I arranged for David Talbot’s book to be serialized but my contact changed his mind after discussing it with the editor. The book was not even reviewed by the newspaper.

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The tone of the Guardian articles is interesting. They do not deal with the evidence. Instead they mock. In fact, I would argue they exhibit an anti-Americanism. For example, Mark Lawson argues:

“As conspiracy culture has escalated in America – fuelled by Watergate, religious neurosis, the approach of the millennium and intrigue-ridden TV series and movies – the average citizen was more likely to believe that JFK was killed because he was about to go public on the cover-up over the landing of extra-terrestrials in New Mexico in 1947.”

Precisely.

In more than a decade working for the BBC, I soon discovered that a series could be called "Conspiracies" but it would only be broadcast if it debunked "conspiracy theories". Programmes attempting to prove that a conspiracy theory was true would simply not be commissioned (unless it was a tiny & meaningless conspiracy, along the lines of a politician cheating on their expenses...)

The only MP willing to raise these issues in the House of Commons is Norman Baker, the MP for Lewes. When his book on the death of Dr. David Kelly was published he was interviewed by Jeremy Vine on BBC radio. He was accused of being a "conspiracy theorist" and was not treated with the respect he deserved. Yet he is treated very differently when he is talking about the way MPs have been fiddling their expenses. The same goes for the Guardian. They gave his book a very unfair review and concentrated on minor issues without addressing the evidence that appears in his book.

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In more than a decade working for the BBC, I soon discovered that a series could be called "Conspiracies" but it would only be broadcast if it debunked "conspiracy theories". Programmes attempting to prove that a conspiracy theory was true would simply not be commissioned (unless it was a tiny & meaningless conspiracy, along the lines of a politician cheating on their expenses...)

John Crawley, “Obituary: Donald Milner – Scoop by serendipity,” The Guardian, 3 February 1994, p.13:

“Donald Milner, who has died aged 71, was one of the old school of BBC radio journalists…While covering the civil war in the Congo from 1961, he got what he called his ‘scoop by serendipity’. Aiming to go to Elisabethville, capital of the rebel state of Katanga, he missed his plane, flew to Nairobi, thence to Ndola on Katanga’s border – where he was the only correspondent on the spot to report the death in a plane crash of Dag Hammarskjold, UN Secretary-General. This was a reverberating story, since Hammarskjold was on a peace-making visit to President Tshombe in Katanga, and suspicions of sabotage were reported (though discredited).”

Richard Norton-Taylor, “First for MI6 as former senior agent goes public,” The Guardian, 20 November 1963:

“Baroness Park, a member of the Thatcher Foundation and former BBC governor, has been authorised by MI6 to appear in a BBC Panorama programme on the agency’s activities…Lady Park was MI6’s agent in the former Belgian Congo during the independence crisis when the CIA plotted to kill the country’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba…She was one of the BBC governors who suppressed a programme on Zircon, Britain’s first spy satellite, in 1987. The programme was broadcast, without cuts, a year later.”

John Sweeney, “There is nothing like a dame, sings spook,” The Observer, 21 November 1993:

“Dame Daphne..dwells a little on her time as ‘our woman in Hanoi’ in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam war. Despite repeated promises to the contrary by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Dame Daphne passed on information to the Americans: ‘The way I was helping them was..to give them an idea of the climate, the personalities, of the general operational situation. Not intelligence…”
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Politics

Spies and their lies

David Rose

Published 27 September 2007

British intelligence has long used clandestine "deniable briefings" to release information real and false to tame hacks including David Rose...

My secret life began, as if scripted by P G Wodehouse, with an invitation to tea at the Ritz.

The call came at the end of the first week of May 1992. I was the Observer's home affairs correspondent, and at the other end of the line was a man we shall call Tom Bourgeois, special assistant to "C", Sir Colin McColl, the then chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. SIS (or MI6, as it is more widely known) was "reaching out" to selected members of the media, Bourgeois explained, and over lunch a few days earlier with McColl, my editor, Donald Trelford, had suggested that I was a reliable chap - not the sort, even years later, to betray a confidence by printing an MI6 man's real name.

Would I like an informal, off-the-record chat? You bet I would. "I make no apologies for the cliché," Bourgeois said, "since we do need a way to spot each other. I will be in the lobby, with a rolled-up copy of the Times."

Surely a rolled up copy of The Guardian or The Observer? Anyway, what follows should in no way be misconstrued as remotely connected with any suggestion of spook outreach or information flow. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances. At all.

Francis Wheen, “finds the missing link in JFK’s assassination...Where’s Wally?” The Observer, Life section, 4 December 1994, p.6:

Who killed President Kennedy? Thirty-one years on, and after at least 100 books on the subject, we are still waiting for a conclusive answer. Two weeks ago, however, a young arts impresario named Giri Tharmananthar told me that he had cracked the case. In a converted warehouse near King’s Cross station in north London, he was presenting ‘the first ever public showing in the UK of leaked video footage of the Kennedy assassination’. The video, he boasted, ‘reveals without doubt that the driver of Kennedy’s car turns and shoots the fatal blow. Explaining why Mrs. Kennedy launched herself out of the rear of the car...’

Alas, the revelations and explanations did not quite live up to their billing. The ‘leaked video footage’, which turned out to be an image from the famous Zapruder film, was so blurred that one could scarcely see the driver, let alone alone witness him swivelling on his seat to take a pot-shot at the president. Still, Tharmananthar’s cunning stunt achieved its main purpose, by luring customers in to see a play that he was promoting in the same warehouse.

More than 30 years after the event, the shooting of President Kennedy still ‘has legs’, as they say in Hollywood. Look at the cover headline on the December issue of Vanity Fair: ‘JFK CASE REOPENED. New evidence on the death of a President. Oddly enough, the driver of the presidential car doesn’t earn a mention in the magazine’s 21-page article, but plenty of other suspects are rounded up – the Mafia, the KGB, the CIA, the FBI, and, for good measure, Fidel Castro.

Trying to find the logic of this investigation is like playing an exhaustive and exhausting game of consequences. The mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, for instance, used to know a corrupt lawyer who was ‘linked to’ a crime operation run by the New Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello. One of Marcello’s oldest friends was Nofio Pecora, who, three weeks before the assassination, was telephoned by Jack Ruby who later shot Oswald dead in the Dallas police headquarters. What does it all add up to? Search me. But Vanity Fair feels sure that it must mean something.

‘Only connect’ is the conspiracy theorists’ guiding principle. Back in the 1960s, some of them even found a sinister synchronicity between JFK’s death and the assassination of President Lincoln 100 years earlier; both men were shot in the head, on a Friday, in the presence of their wives; their alleged murderers were both killed before coming to trial; both Lincoln and Kennedy were succeeded by Southern Democrats called Johnson. Like Casaubon, who thought that a lifetime of research would eventually yield up ‘the Key to All Mythologies’, assassination buffs are convinced that by doggedly collating every scrap of fact or speculation they will one day solve the mystery of who did what in Dallas on 22 November 1963.

‘When you have eliminated the impossible,’ Sherlock Holms used to remind Dr Watson, ‘whatever remains,however improbable, must be the truth.’ But the whole point of conspiracy theory is that nothing is impossible. What remains is everything, and so everything must be true: Shakespeare’s plays were written by Francis Bacon, aided by four monkeys with typewriters; John Major is really an alien invader from the planet Vulcan. Like most journalists, I am often contacted by people who assure me they are being persecuted by a cabal led by the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Special Branch and the Princess of Wales; many of them also believe that MI5 has planted tiny transmitters in their skulls. ‘I’m not paranoid, you know,’ they say – and their menacing manner makes it clear that disagreement would be inadvisable.

In his excellent study of The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Professor Richard Hofstadter suggested that the paranoia of the conspiracy theorist isn’t necessarily a psychological abnormality. ‘I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but burrowing a clinical term for other purposes,’ he explained. ‘I use the term much as a historian of art might speak of the baroque or the mannerist style. It is, above all, a way of seeing the world and expressing oneself.’ Just so. The amateur detectives and freelance obsessives who devote their lives to the JFK saga are not fruitcakes – well, not all of them. They are artists, and the canvas they have painted is as vast and teeming as a crowd scene from Where’s Wally?.

Consider the following facts. One of President Kennedy’s lovers, Mariella Novotny, was a protégé of Stephen Ward, the man who introduced John Profumo to Christine Keeler. Profumo was a minister in the government of Harold Macmillan. Macmillan’s wife, Dorothy, was the lover of Lord Boothby, who was an associate of the Kray twins. Another chum of the Krays was the Labour MP Tom Driberg, who wrote an authorised biography of the KGB agent Guy Burgess. Eugene Ivanov, the Soviet diplomat who had an affair with Christine Keeler, was also a KGB man. Between 1959 and 1962, Lee Harvey Oswald lived in Moscow, where it has been reported, he was recruited by the KGB.

Only connect? We’ve hardly started. Another of Kennedy’s alleged mistresses, the actress Suzy Chang, was a friend of Lord Snowdon – who in turn was an old friend of Jeremy Thorpe. The scandal which forced Thorpe to resign as leader of the Liberal Party was, according to Harold Wilson, orchestrated by the South African intelligence service BOSS. Wilson also believed that he himself was the victim of a plot by both BOSS and MI5 to smear him as a KGB agent. And he may have been right: in September 1963 the Soviet defector Anatoly Golitsyn told John McCone, the director of the CIA, that Wilson was working for the Russians. McCone owed his job at the CIA to...John F. Kennedy.

Sooner or later, if the conspiracy artists stick to their task, the picture will include almost every crime or scandal of the 20th century. You want to prove a ‘connection’ between the Kennedy assassination and the Nazis. No problem. One of the earliest revisionist studies of JFK’s murder, Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment, had a preface written by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. This is the same Trevor-Roper who, some years later, verified the bogus Hitler diaries on behalf of Times Newspapers. Before the Second World War, the Times was an advocate of appeasement. So was the American ambassador in London – a certain Joseph Kennedy, father of you-know-who...

Yes, yes, you will say, but where’s Wally? Where’s the smoking gun? Nobody has yet spotted it; and nobody ever will.

Not if The Guardian and The Observer can help it.

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