I sent Infamy to a friend to ask if he would read it. He remarked in some preliminary comments that the book does not have enough citations to the research on Kennedy or 9/11 to persuade people who accept official accounts of those crimes. Here is an edited version of my response.
So I guess I didn’t know what I was getting into! Correction of mistakes for future editions is great. Thank you. I don’t have an editor other than myself, and I’m a nit-picker like you. The extra trouble is well worth it.
I will not be able to give you satisfaction on the larger questions. You know I read widely, and write widely as well, often to connect specific events and questions to larger themes of political ethics. I rewrite and rethink the essays until they come together in a book.
Having said that, Infamy started out as a bibliographical project for sources on JFK’s murder. I conceived that back in 2011 – it went virtually nowhere. I didn’t have time or energy for it, compared to writing essays. I look at my output, see I have 655 posts at The Jeffersonian, as well as several books that grow from those articles, and I don’t have any doubts about what I like to do. It doesn’t include bibliographical work.
Another friend makes a point similar to yours. She objects that I assume the case is made, especially about 9/11. Here’s my response, built into the book actually, but not that explicit. To an extent, speaking as if the case is already made is a rhetorical move. You don’t want to dismiss the other side, but you also signal clearly that whatever readers find in these essays, they won’t find an effort to persuade based on forensic or narrative particulars. Many, many other books have already done that. I don’t need to repeat their work. If readers are not persuaded by the diligent, careful work other researchers have done, they will not be persuaded by my mine.
Two other points are relevant.
First, I economize with my reading. I’ve read a lot in both areas, but I don’t need to read everything, or anything close to that. One well done piece of research is sufficient to persuade. That’s why I recommend James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters to anyone interested in Kennedy’s murder. After you have read that book carefully, you do not need to read other books to understand the large tapestry of motives and actions in that case. A lot of other books are interesting, but that book is the centerpiece. It is the only book that tells the entire story, as a good attorney would tell it in a courtroom.
David Ray Griffin’s books on 9/11 hold a similar status. The difference is that we know less about 9/11 than we do about Kennedy’s murder. That’s why Infamy pleads for more collaborative research, to do the best we can outside of official channels. All of the valid work on Kennedy came from independent researchers. The same practices of independent research will eventually reveal more about 9/11 than we know now. Infamy dwells on that point a fair amount. I’m not the person to do the research myself. My energy goes toward thinking about work other researchers have done.
I finished Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower recently. She has a lot of notes in the back, but it’s already a big book and I trust her. I don’t check the notes. She’s more famous than I am, so people aren’t going to trust me just because I say I’ve thought about a subject a lot. They likely want evidence I’ve done my homework. I think the evidence is woven into the prose, but I also know that people who disagree with me when they open the book are not likely to agree with me when they finish it.
I decided way back when I wrote about Reagan that persuading people to change their minds about politics is not something I would ever try to do. It is like trying to change people’s minds about God or religion in general, another thing I never try to do. The claim is somewhat disingenuous, of course, because I do write with persuasive purpose. Mostly, though, I just want to persuade readers to have another look at some difficult questions.
Having said all that, I started a Resources page at The Jeffersonian. I would like to add to it. If you have any sources you think belong there, please recommend them. Meantime, I have a lot of books on my shelves that I should list, but it’s not such a high priority project right now.
Thanks again for reading the book!
Invitation: If you would like to review a copy of Infamy at Amazon, let me know in a comment. We can make arrangements for a review copy.
This recording is not directly related to comments above, but it came up in correspondence with my friend: