The Conspiracy Theorists and the Lone Nutters

This article is prompted by a friend who, in a recent letter, asked me a series of questions about a particular photograph. He believes the photograph proves Oswald was not involved in the assassination. In my reply, using other photographic exhibits and witness testimony, I pointed out that there might be an flaw in his reasoning. When he replied he didn't provide evidence to counter my opinion but instead he asked me the following:

"I gathered the impression (although not stated in your letter) that you take the position of Oswald being the 'lone assassin.' Is my impression wrong?"

The simple answer is yes, your impression is wrong. My opinion is based upon, among other things, the Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations that said:

"The committee concluded that it is probable that the President was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

No matter, on several occasions, I have been accused of having the opinion that Oswald acted alone and therefore I am a "lone nutter." What I do find interesting is that the charge is usually leveled by someone presenting or believing in a theory about the assassination that I refuse to endorse.

For example, in 1990 the JFK Assassination Information Center operated by J. Gary Shaw, Larry Howard, and Larry Ray Harris presented "evidence" that Roscoe White was the "grassy knoll" assassin. By 1992 I was labeled a lone nutter by some White story supporters because I wrote a paper claiming the story was riddled with inconsistencies. I received the label in spite of the fact that it had been learned some of the exhibits, including White's orders to kill Kennedy and his "diary," were fabricated. More recently, I was identified as a lone nutter by James Files' backers. They claim to have documentation showing it was not White but Files that was the "grassy knoll" assassin. Curiously Files has presented two slightly different versions of his story - one to Wim Dankbaar and the other to Antoinette Giancana. Incidentally, can someone explain what the inclusion, in Giancana's book JFK and Sam, of a strategically cropped photograph of "Antoinette Giancana as she appeared in Playboy in 1988" does to help solve this crime?

I think the present James Frey incident shows a striking parallel. Frey authored the book A Million Little Pieces. It was billed as a "nonfiction memoir of his vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal." The sales of the book took off after a teary-eyed Oprah Winfrey endorsed the work proclaiming, her and her staff "loved the book so much."

Shortly thereafter, the web site The Smoking Gun began investigating Frey's claims. They quickly determined he embellished many of his experiences, interjected himself into events in which he was not involved, and Smoking Gun researchers discovered most of the people who could support his allegations had died. Does this strike a familiar chord? And thanks to The Smoking Gun we now know most of this "memoir" was a fabrication.

So, with respect to the Kennedy assassination, why weren't three different groups with differing assertions about two different "grassy knoll" assassins questioned about the authenticity of their investigations? Why don't their extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof? I submit they expect to be given a pass because they allege they are pro-conspiracy and solely because they are pro-conspiracy nobody should challenge their investigative prowess. And if someone disputes their findings and conclusions they can rant that they are being victimized by a lone nutter.

In my view, these individuals feel their self-interests take priority over the skeptical inquiry into a murder.