Big news over the weekend. We finally got an answer to that who killed John F. Kennedy thing that’s been bothering us for nearly 50 years. Reelz — the network that’s the future home of Hollywood Hillbillies and, according to Wikipedia, runs a program called Movies That Deliver, which Domino’s sponsors — claims to have proven what Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone and millions more believe: Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t kill JFK. Oswald shot the president, Reelz says, but the fatal shot came from the gun of Secret Service agent George Hickey, who accidentally killed Kennedy.
Reelz will explain this in an upcoming documentary, JFK: The Smoking Gun. The claims about Hickey, who died a few years ago, aren’t new. A 1992 book made the argument but Hickey sued. Two years ago, Bill James championed this idea in his Popular Crime book, although others pointed out some of the flaws in the argument.
Salon’s Laura Wilkerson wrote: “To believe this theory one must believe that no one else in the vehicle with Hickey, which included seven other Secret Service agents and JFK’s personal aide, David Powers, and aide Kenny O’Donnell noticed an Ar-15 rifle going off in their car.”
Does the world need another JFK assassination show? Maybe not, although an argument could be made that when it comes to the killing of a president, there is no such thing as overkill. No matter the evidence, I can’t believe this new show will really change the debate or anyone’s mind, and not just because it’s airing on a network that’s still unknown to many. If the millions of words and thousands of hours that have been devoted to the subject haven’t altered people’s minds, what will one more program do?
If forced to testify in front of a commission, I’d say I think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I’ve read more books and watched more specials that convinced me of that instead of the various alternatives. But who knows. And JFK conspiracies still intrigue me, a rarity for conspiracy theories. In the past decade I’ve grown to loathe pretty much all conspiracy theories. These days they pop up 24 hours after a major event, and that’s only if it takes a whole day to create a doctored YouTube video. 9/11 Truthers, presidential Birthers, Sandy Hook, Boston Bombing, the conspiracy theories get way too much play in today’s media, written about under the guise of “Well, we don’t really believe this but we just have to report that there are some people who do.”
And I suppose a lot of it traces back to JFK’s death, so maybe I should blame people’s searching for the truth in that event for the proliferation of conspiracy theories we see today. Yet somehow the JFK plots seem almost more…fun? No, not the right word — again, this is the death of a president, a traumatic event that scarred a nation. Maybe it’s simply about the passage of time.
Imagine someone making an entertaining movie about the conspiracy theories surrounding Sandy Hook. Impossible. But Oliver Stone did just that about JFK’s death, mixing in absurdities with true tidbits in creating an epic film, if not a historical document. Shortly after, one of the famous phrases — back, and to the left — became a catch phrase thanks to the most popular sitcom of all time. Weird thing to happen to a line that’s describing the head of a president almost being blown off.
One of the first JFK events I became interested in came in 1986, when Showtime — which had just arrived in the Fury household — aired the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. Yes, the defendant had been dead for 23 years. Yes, it was very strange. Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi — who had previously put Charles Manson away and would later write a good book arguing that Oswald acted alone — put the alleged shooter on trial while defense attorney Gerry Spence argued for his deceased client. (Oswald was found guilty. That didn’t quiet the skeptics, huh?)
My most recent immersion in the case occurred while reading Stephen King’s superb 11/22/63, about a man who goes back in time to stop Oswald from pulling off the assassination — if it’s actually Oswald pulling the trigger.
When November comes we’ll get inundated with stories about JFK’s death. Many of the stories will focus on what actually did happen — the lead-up, the day in Dallas, the aftermath and LBJ’s presidency. But many stories will still debate who actually murdered Kennedy. It might simply have been one man, with one gun. Or maybe it was a tragic accident involving a Secret Service agent. No matter the evidence the conspiracy theories will continue. It’s a 50-year-old American tradition. And one that will last at least another 50 years.