November 22, 1963 – November 22, 1917

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This day in history:

John F. Kennedy was murdered by assassins as his motorcade rolled down Elm Street in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. Doctors who examined his body found that bullets entered his throat, his back, and the right front portion of his head. The shot to his head blew his brains and pieces of his skull out onto the trunk of the convertible he rode in. Years later, James Files said he fired the shot that killed Kennedy, but many people either do not know of him, or doubt the truth of his statement.

Two days after President Kennedy died, Jack Ruby shot Lee Oswald in the basement of a Dallas police station. Ruby claimed he shot Oswald because Oswald killed Kennedy, but few believed him. Instead, Oswald’s assassination at Ruby’s hand made observers think something fishy had just occurred, both on November 22 and and November 24. The new president, Lyndon Johnson, appointed a commission to explain away blatant fishiness, but the idea did not work. The commission’s report only confirmed people’s skepticism.

Fifty-four years later, the CIA prevented release of documents that would show Lee Oswald was a U. S. intelligence asset. Once you know that about Oswald, several other mysteries about his life – and his death – make sense. Once you know the CIA used Oswald, and I mean used him, you no longer have to wonder why Kennedy died. To learn more about Oswald, and other characters in this unhappy story, read James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

How to publish falsehoods in the most natural way

Look how natural and factual the Washington Post makes its fifty-fourth anniversary assassination story appear, as it opens with these words:

At 12:21 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine turned onto Main Street in downtown Dallas. More than 150,000 people turned out along the motorcade’s 10-mile route, including one man, rifle in hand, perched beside a sixth-floor window overlooking Dealey Plaza.

The shots rang out nine minutes later, striking Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally and sending the open-air limo speeding toward Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Couldn’t have done it better myself. Report the time and date, the place, the number of people, the length of the president’s motorcade route. Throw in trite phrases like, “the shots rang out,” and well, the whole second paragraph is a cliche. Before that, though, the writer remarks, with casual mendacity, that out of 150,000 spectators that day, “one man, rifle in hand, perched beside a sixth-floor window overlooking Dealey Plaza.” Yes, members of the kill team took up advantageous positions near Dealey Plaza. They knew someone would get a good shot.

You want to post these sentences for your introductory rhetoric class: How to Deceive Your Unwitting Reader, topic to be discussed in latter part of the course. Significantly, no mainstream media source admits this account is false, or even in doubt. That’s the way it happened: Walter Cronkite said so. In fact, that is the next line in the article: a reference to Walter Cronkite’s television announcement at about one o’clock Friday afternoon that Kennedy was dead.

Good work, Post editors. Now you have published the obligatory anniversary article, try to publish something truthful for once. Perhaps an even better use of your time would be to figure out how to publish a correction in, say, Novembver 2063, the hundredth anniversary. By then no one will care.


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