(My first piece ever at that grand old group blog The Mitrailleuse, November 2014. With an intellectual background like the one below, no wonder I wrote a novel titled Sanity…)
The first reference to Occam’s Razor I ever saw, age 12, was in Robert Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel, which sent me to the encyclopedia (and yes, I’m that old), because who could read the mysterious words “Occam’s Razor” and not be dying to know what it was?
I began reading about the assassination of President Kennedy when I was 14, my interest sparked by Josiah Thompson‘s book Six Seconds in Dallas, which I found through the proven technique of a random walk through the public library stacks, scanning spines for anything that caught my eye and grabbing it. Who knows why or how these fascinations begin, but by the time I finished Thompson’s well-written and reasonable book I was hooked, leaning toward the “second gun” theory, and on the prowl for more of the seemingly endless supply of fact (and especially, fancy) on the events of November 22, 1963.
Had I drawn The Razor, then, I would have been a lot more skeptical, but the follies of youth are endearing and mostly harmless. For the next ten years I read books on the assassination in bursts, three or four at a time, with fallow periods between. Some of the books, especially earlier works like Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgement and Edward J. Epstein’s Inquest, made at least semi-plausible efforts to raise reasonable doubts about the conclusion of the official “Warren Report” that Lee Oswald was the shooter, acting alone.
Those books may have read like Oswald criminal defense briefs, but as I worked my way farther into the labyrinth, they came to seem the very image of sanity. I won’t inflict upon you, Gentle Reader, the titles and authors of all of the following, but they stated collectively, that perhaps, just perhaps:
There was a second gunman on the infamous “Grassy Knoll,” there was a second (or third) gunman in the Dal-Tex Building, a second or third gunman came up from the sewer and shot JFK with a pistol, a (“magic”) bullet that hit Kennedy and Governor Connolly would have had to make a double turn in mid-air, Oswald was a lousy shot, Oswald’s rifle couldn’t have made the shot, Oswald’s scope was off, Oswald was a CIA agent, Oswald was a KGB agent, Oswald was a double agent, Oswald wasn’t even there, there was a second Oswald, Woody Harrelson’s father the hitman was there, E. Howard Hunt was there, Richard Nixon was in town the night before, Oswald hung out at Jack Ruby’s strip club, Ruby was in the Mafia, the Mafia killed JFK because RFK was prosecuting their members because J. Edgar Hoover wouldn’t because they had pictures of him in drag, and Ruby killed Oswald for the Mafia to silence him, except the CIA killed JFK because he was going to “break [it] into a thousand pieces” or because he wouldn’t approve airstrikes at the Bay of Pigs, except that Castro was behind the assassination because Kennedy and the CIA and the Mafia tried to kill him, but no, anti-Castro Cubans did it because he abandoned them and started breaking up their training camps and Oswald even staged a fake fight with some of them in New Orleans to misdirect everyone, except Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vice-President of the United States, actually arranged the assassination because he had a burning ambition and, cui bono?, except that radical right-wing millionaires and possibly billionaires killed the President because he was soft on Communism and wanted to get out of Vietnam, which threatened Military-Industrial Complex profits, and anyway, after Kennedy was dead “they” altered the scenery on the Grassy Knoll by moving trees around, planted a palm print on the rifle found in the Book Depository, killed Dallas police office Tippet with the revolver that was found on Oswald when he was arrested, altered the wounds on JFK, switched coffins and/or bodies sometime before, during or after the slain President was placed on Air Force One, altered or forged the autopsy results, reports and photos from Bethesda Naval Hospital and maybe, just maybe, stuck in a substitute for the President’s brain.
Periodically immersing myself in all of this was quite enlightening (especially in parallel with my investigations of UFOs during these same years). It was a slow-motion mystical journey similar to the quest for the Great White Whale, a quest for the Key to Everything “they” had been withholding from “us” over the whole history of the Republic, the real meaning of the symbols on the dollar bill and the goings-on in Ivy League secret societies and the Jekyll Island Duck Hunt and, probably, the aliens on ice at Wright-Patterson.
For some very intelligent people, proving that the “official version” of the assassination was false would explain a great deal of what seems to be wrong with the country, and the world. Mere stupidity, greed, lust, chance and human error are not enough to account for the fallen state of humanity. Are they? If so, what’s the way out? On the other hand, if the Puppet Masters can pull off the JFK hit in broad daylight, what could They do if they just used their scary occult powers for Good? Why, every man Jack could be directed and manipulated to be healthy, wealthy and wise!
Alas for me, the shine of the conspiracies wore off after the 40th or 50th book. I was now in my mid-twenties and had more experience of the world, and greed and chance and human error loomed larger in my lens. Also, I stopped smoking marijuana and started drinking martinis. But above all, Occam and good sense took over. Sure, it was possible that a Grand Conspiracy involving tens, hundreds or thousands had killed JFK, but given human nature as it is, did that seem likely? I became not 100 percent, but 99.99 percent sure that Oswald done it, on his own. That’s pretty amazing, and mystifying, in itself. The UFOs weren’t crewed by extraterrestrials, either. I suppose I’d summarize it as going sane. By the time I saw Oliver Stone’s excrescence of a film JFK, I was able to enjoy it, a little, as fiction.
On September 11, 2001 the first plane hit the north tower at about 4:46 a.m. in Alaska, where I was living at the time. At about 5:30, I was awakened by a call from a friend. The first thing she said was, “They’re attacking New York with airplanes.” Of course, I and my housemates and later, I and my boss at work, barely left the television for the next 16 hours. After a few hours I turned to my chief of staff and said, “By the end of the day there will be people saying that the US government, the CIA or the Jews were behind this and the Muslims were just pawns.”
I didn’t say they’d claim the buildings were blown with explosives, though. A sign of my sadly limited imagination. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.