JFK conspiracy theories that can't be just laughed off

In this thread, t-keela gets a lot of disdainful replies to what seems to have been a fun, tongue-in-cheek OP about the JFK assassination. Not one person seems to think it worth the trouble to actually discuss the claims made. (I would think that on a board like this, there would be nothing that isn’t worth discussing.)

t-keela does have a good point when he protests that some conspiracy theories, right or wrong, should be considered and not just ridiculed. Conspiracies, including political and military conspiracies, definitely do exist – if you accept Tom Tomorrow’s definition of a conspiracy as two or more people agreeing to cooperate and not tell anybody (which happens every day in the coffee break room). When conspiracy theories, especially dealing with JFK, are rejected out of hand without any serious attempt at rebuttal, that makes me suspicious. I tend to think, “Hey, why are they afraid to debate those claims on their merits? What have they got to hide? Methinks they doth protest overmuch.”

Do you see what I’m saying? Conspiracy debunking by ridicule, as opposed to conspiracy debunking by facts, only tends to feed conspiracy theories. That’s why I like SKEPTIC Magazine so much: until they published their JFK issue (circa 1998), I had not seen anything that credibly answered the critics of the Warren Report. Lots of invective, lots of calling Oliver Stone a liar, but nothing to explain the “magic bullet” to me.

So, Dopers, here’s my challenge, even if you believe in the “lone nut” finding: are you willing to admit that any JFK conspiracy theory deserves a closer look?

And if there is a theory that deserves further examination, shouldn’t we (our society, our government, our investigative and law enforcement agencies) do so?

If you believe that there are absolutely no JFK conspiracy theories worth considering or answering, then you are in the wrong thread. For one thing, you are saying that a House Sub-Committee was full of loons.

FYI, the so-called “magic bullet” has been explained, and it’s even possible by the known laws of physics! (Afraid I don’t have a link right now… Can someone else supply it?)

And I see what you’re saying; it’s just that the evidence simply doesn’t stack towards a conspiracy at the moment. If any of the plausible conspiracy theories had panned out any evidence upon modern-day investigation, I’m sure we would’ve heard of it by now. :slight_smile:

But bottom line: the current evidence says Oswald, and nothing’s come up to contradict that. Maybe it’s out there, so that part of your point is well-taken, but no one’s found it yet, so for now, Occam’s Razor.

Any extraordiary claim needs extraordinary proof.

If there is nothing to back up a theory other than “it could have happened” or “it doesn’t make sense that it happened that way,” then dismissing the theory is logical.

You’re approaching the question backwards. The thing to do is to examine the evidence and determine what they show. In this case, the overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president from the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. No other scenario fits the available evidence.

And if you’re dealing with something really wacky like the claim that George Bush killed JFK, it’s appropriate to laugh it off and tell the other guy to prove his case.

Oh yeah: The Single Bullet Theory explained, from this excellent assassination resource.

There was a story a couple of years ago about a real scientist (not a tinfoil hat) who analyzed the dictaphone belt recording from a nearby police motorcycle that had it’s radio left on “talk”. Anyway, the gist of it was that through rigorous analysis (something that was not correctly done during the WC investigation), it was determined that there WAS a shot from the grassy knoll area, in addition to the shots fired from the TSBD. This story was published in a scientific journal and reported in mainstream news sources (I saw it in the Wash. Post, IIRC). The story promptly sank with no followups or explanation (It was THEM again).

I thought that this finding was actually something significant; perhaps someone here knows about the rest of the story.

The rest of the story. (Conclusion: The guy was wrong.)

We’ve gone over the ‘magic bullet’ theory plenty of times. There’s no magic about it. Governor Connelly sat much farther inboard and much lower than the common ‘conspiracy’ drawings suggest’. If you line them up they way they really were, the bullet traces pretty much a straight line.

In fact, a company a few years a go did a ‘backwards’ simulation where they placed Connolly and Kennedy in their right spots in the vehicle, then traced a line back through their wounds to see where it went. It went straight through the 6th floor window of the Texas Book Repository. As Posner would say, “Case Closed”.

OK, thanks for the “magic bullet” and “tape recording” resources. Now would someone clear up these other points for me?

*exit wounds indicating a shot from the front

*tree supposedly in between TSBD and the target

*firing rate of a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle

*suspicious deaths–in '63: Rose Cheramie, Lee Bowers, Buddy Walthers, L.H. Oswald, J.D. Tippitt, etc. etc. – in '78: Giancana, Traficante, etc.

*Mexico City photo of “Oswald” that doesn’t look like him – backyard photo that supposedly doesn’t have Oswald’s chin

*other suspicious Oswald background: defection and easy refection with bride in tow

*suspicious associations/motivations of Jack Ruby

I’m not saying these points are valid, but I would like them answered. Thank you in advance for your links and debunks.

Richard Belzer wrote a pretty neat book about the JFK assassination. He even had me almost believing he was serious until he got to the chapter about the moon hoax, which has been quite thoroughly debunked including by the SDMB’s own The Bad Astronomer.

As far as what actually happened to JFK, I’m inclined to believe there’s more to what happened then what we’ve been told, but I’m not ready to break out the tinfoil hat. Could there have been a conspiracy? Could be. Was there? I’m nowhere near ready to declare that.

The problem, tclouie, is that there has been lots of debunking of JFK conspiracy theories with facts and well-reasoned argument–which hasn’t made a dent, it seems, in the propagation of those theories. At a certain point, rational debate ends (namely, when it’s clear that the tinfoil hats are impervious to reason), and ridicule begins.

I can handle a few of these, though I don’t have handy cites. I’m recalling from a PBS documentary.

If you’re referring to the front of JFK’s head blowing out, the exit wounds do not indicate a shot from the front. In fact, they confirm a hit from the rear. This has been duplicated in testing, and shown on film by a bullet hitting a skull filled with paint from the rear: the front of the skull explodes, driving the skull itself backwards.

Several years after the assassination, CBS duplicated Oswald’s shooting with the same type of rifle, in the same amount of time, from a platform of the same height, hitting a target moving at the same speed as JFK’s car. Two marksmen hit with two shots; one with three. There’s nothing about the rifle, or the time in which Oswald shot, that rules out a lone gunman.

OK, I’ll take this one…

Entrance wounds tend to be small and neat while exit wounds tend to be large and gapping. JFK had a large gapping wound in the rear/right quarter of his head. Exit wound right? No. If it’s an exit wound then there would have to be an entrance wound, and there wasn’t. No doctor found anything that could possibly be an entrance wound.

The explanation is that the bullet entered at almost the exact center of the back of the head and exited just above the right ear, clipping off a lot of the bone and tissue in between and leaving a gapping wound. That wound is both the entrance and the exit.

(Put one finger on the back of your head and one over your ear, it isn’t hard to imagine what happened.)

For hansel: the front of JFK’s head did not explode, a lot of blood did move in a forward direction and that is what tests have confirmed.

Thank you, then, for repeating the debunking here and not assuming that everyone has the same information sources as you. It’s not as if JFK were a very frequent GD topic – not like Israel or the nefarious Bushes, anyway.

Notice how I’m accepting everyone’s recollections of the facts without resorting to the obnoxious cry of “CITE??”

True. In fact, it probably deflected Oswald’s first shot. It would not have obscured shots 2 and 3.

Nonsense. People die. Shit happens.

Mislabeled surveillence photo of the Soviet embassy.

Taken by Marina Oswald, who confirmed its authenticity.

Nothing unusual. The guy never effectively renounced his American citizenship, so we let him back in the country after a year or so of bureaucratic wrangling.

So what?

Poke around the site I linked for you earlier. These are not exactly new questions. Or better yet, buy a copy of Posner’s Case Closed.

Jeez, maybe that’s why you’re a conspiracy nut? :stuck_out_tongue:

FTR, I am not a conspiracy nut. Asking for information does not make me a conspiracy nut. Merely bringing up the subject of conspiracies does not make me a conspiracy nut. One of my main motivations in starting this thread was that I objected to the disrespectful treatment accorded to people who have done nothing more than bring up certain subjects, and you seem to be illustrating my point for me. Since you are wasting a lot of your own time on someone you believe to be a “conspiracy nut,” I cannot help but think that you are motivated by the urge to put people down. I find you to be very supercilious, rather insulting and extremely intolerant of people who ask for information – which is what I thought this board was all about.

You’re also a selective post-reader: would a “conspiracy nut” read and like SKEPTIC Magazine, which is the debunkers’ Bible?

Geez, I can just picture you as a college professor, or worse, a grade school teacher:

“What? You’re asking me THAT question? Well, I suppose that’s typical thinking for someone who thinks like you. You know, that information has been available on the Web for years now, but I guess someone like you wouldn’t know that. (snicker)”

Half your students would go home in tears the first day. Not too good for the fight against ignorance.

I’m sorry, did the smilie not come through at your end? I mean, I’m seeing it on my screen, but maybe the hamster got tired when it was loading the thread for you.

Of course, if you’re just going to get upset because I gave you the bottom line on each of the issues you raised in that shotgun approach to the case instead of patiently laying out everyting there is to know, well, I’m not gonna apologize for that. If you just want a crash course in the evidence, check out Professor McAdams’ assassination website that I linked in my first post.

:mad: You see a smilie, I see a raspberry.

In the absence of a common glossary for what is implied by a smilie, you have to assume that people will react more to the text next to the smilie: in this case, “conspiracy nut.” I may have became wrathful with you rather quickly, but I have never reacted well to name-calling, even if it was humorously intended.

Back to the evidence:

The McAdams website is fascinating, informative and comprehensive. Here’s my take on some of the subjects it discusses:

The Dictabelt recording. I’m sorry, but I can’t make heads or tails out of the recording. All I hear is static and a trace of a human voice. No way I can distinguish any gunshots. That rock drummer guy must have had some pretty sophisticated sound-mixing equipment to come to his conclusions. Ditto the HSCA. Guess I’ll have to leave this one to the experts.

The single bullet. McAdams does a good job on this. The explanation for the bullet’s relatively undamaged condition – that it had slowed down after passing through JFK’s body – echoes the SKEPTIC article I read. However, McAdams undercuts his own credibility by displaying two different photos of the bullet. The first is the classic “pristine” side view, while the second is a head-on shot that displays a lot more damage. I’m sorry, but they don’t look like the same bullet to me. McAdams’ constant refrain of “Look, and judge for yourself” does not help. I looked, and I judged that the two photos are way different.

Occam’s razor. There are instances in which the lone-gunman advocates, in trying to explain away a conspiracist theory, resort to an explanation that is more convoluted than the one they are debunking. In answer to questions about the hole in JFK’s jacket being lower than the wound, and the address “544 Camp Street” stamped on some of Oswald’s leaflets, the lone-gunman advocates resort to unproven speculation about JFK’s jacket “bunching up” and Oswald wanting to embarrass a Cuban exile leader. In cases like these, Occam’s razor favors the conspiracists.

Witnesses in Dealey Plaza and before the fact. Good job discrediting Beverly Oliver. Good job identifying the hoboes in Dealey Plaza! I’m glad Woody Harrelson’s dad wasn’t one of the shooters. However, McAdams does not deny that Rose Cheramie, unstable and criminal individual that she may have been, may have actually foreshadowed the assassination. He also makes it clear that Julia Ann Mercer was telling the truth when she told about a stalled pickup truck near the Grassy Knoll prior to the assassination, and she consistently stuck to her story about one of the truck’s occupants walking up the hill with a rifle-shaped parcel, despite the presence of the police.

This is Posner’s unproven theory, trying to explain the fragment that hit James Tague. Again, Occam’s razor does not always favor the lone-gunman advocates.

A suspicious cluster of deaths of key witnesses to a crime should not be dismissed with “Shit happens.” McAdams does a good job of explaining the deaths of Bowers and several others, but not all of them. What about the organized-crime hits that prevented some underworld figures from testifying before the HSCA? What about the death of the most important witness of all, Oswald? In any other murder case, the violent deaths of so many witnesses, including the key suspect, would raise red flags. In particular, the motives and prior associations of Jack Ruby deserve more attention than just “So what?” He disposed of and silenced the prime suspect. McAdams admits that he could have killed Oswald two days earlier, and that his was one of the chorus of voices shouting, “Fair Play For Cuba Committee!” at the press conference. What happened in those two days to make him decide to kill Oswald?

So why did the President die instead of being crippled or blinded? The shot was well above the parts of the brain that control the limbic and autonomic nervous systems, and McAdams says the cerebellum wasn’t affected. A blow to the back of the head, just above the neck, is more deadly than a blow to the top of the head. James Brady survived a bullet to the brain. Or was it the neck shot that did JFK in? Is it possible quicker medical attention could have saved him, even as a vegetable?

And so I did. And I’m still not completely satisfied. McAdams does successfully disprove a lot of conspiracist theories, but in my opinion he does not prove that Oswald did it or that there was no conspiracy. (No fingerprints, no gunpowder residue.) Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s impossible to prove the negative, Occam’s razor and all that. However, there are enough nagging questions left to justify further investigation of the possibility of a conspiracy, or at least admit the possibility of a conspiracy. As I’ve said, Occam’s razor sometimes favors the other side.

McAdams does admit that some things are still mysteries, and doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. (He admits that the Warren Commission shot itself in the foot.) Even he must admit that Oliver Stone’s movie did one good thing: it caused a flurry of research in the early Nineties, including the re-interviewing of some key witnesses, which cleared up some nagging questions and inconsistencies. In this respect, Stone did the lone-gunman advocates a favor.

About conspiracy theories:
I was interested in conspiracy theories, in a faddish way, in the mid-Nineties, until two things encouraged me to move past that mindset. One was my continued reading of SKEPTIC Magazine. The other was Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. Both appealed to my mind because they did not belittle or ridicule the conspiracists, or dismiss claims without answering them. Instead, they refuted conspiracy theories with facts, and tried to understand why conspiracy theories are so appealing. (See also Why People Believe Weird Things, written by Michael Shermer, an editor of SKEPTIC Magazine.)

There are several different kinds of naivete. One is the naivete that everything is a conspiracy. The other is the naivete that there are no conspiracies at all, especially not big governmental ones! It is just as useless to be an anti-conspiracist ideologue as it is to be a “conspiracy nut.” Even Carl Sagan admits that the UFO stories were probably fed by a real conspiracy: the cover-up of Cold War military maneuvers.

Who would have ever believed Watergate was possible? Or Iran-Contra, or Enron, or the Tuskegee Experiment, or the CIA’s attempts to kill Castro, or the CIA’s experiments with LSD, or the Fascist coup foiled by General Smedley Butler in the 30’s? These are all documented conspiracies. Why are they plausible, while Area 51, PROMIS software, black helicopters, programmed assassins, and government complicity in 9/11 are all considered totally implausible??? Is it because one set of conspiracies has been proven, and the other hasn’t? Why, then, shouldn’t the second set be thoroughly investigated?

While some mysteries about the assassination still persist, no possible explanation should be simply dismissed or ridiculed without factual refutation.

Guess I’ve answered my own OP.

You have a strange conception of Occam’s Razor. One does not simply apply it to a single bit of evidence and determine whether the simplest explanation for that is the most likely. The point is to look at all the evidence and decide which scenario best fits the evidence. But since yo seem determined to look at a handful of trees instead of the forest . . .

Well damn, that breaks the whole case wide open. That bastard McAdams must be in on it too!

Seriously, man, it takes evidence to make such an assertion, not just “well, they look different to me.” The bullet’s still in the National Archives somewhere. (Unless McAdams and Posner got to it already!) Drop on by and check it out. You might want to let them know you’re coming first.

“Unproven”? Jeez, there’s all kinds of pictures of the coat being bunched up around his shoulders during the motorcade, and it very neatly explains why the entry hole in the jacket appears to be lower than the entry hole in the president. Goodness, if every detail must be proven to your 100% ironclad satisfaction, I honestly don’t see how we’re going to reclaim you from that mountain of speculation you’ve fallen for.


That’s a heck of a fallacy there. A witness is correct about one detail, reported by dozens of people and recorded in the police logs, so she must be right about another, more incredible detail seen by nobody else. Nope, sorry, not buying it.

Huh? What’s your complaint here?

Try not to act so surprised that guys in the mob get killed from time to time. I’d be a hell of a lot more interested in these “suspicious deaths” if somebody had good evidence tying them to the assassination. There is no such evidence, only speculation. But hey, somebody speculated about them, and they’re dead, so add 'em to the list of suspicious deaths of people with some ridiculously speculative or tangential connection to the assassination, and there you go, the list is a little longer.

Killed by a guy named Jack Ruby. Very famous incident. I think it’s mentioned on McAdams’ site somewhere. Or try a Google search.

He was a nut. He flipped. If you have evidence to the contrary, please present it. It’s not like Ruby’s motives and actions haven’t been looked at before. This endless speculation, however, is pointless. (WHAT IF Jack Ruby argued over a restaurant check with Jimmy Hoffa? IS IT POSSIBLE Rose Cheramie was Castro’s mistress? COULD IT BE that the two pictures do not show the same bullet?)

Let me try that Rose Cherami link again. And obviously, ignore the redundant quote of that text.