The murder of John Lennon, another liberal icon, in the first year of a new decade that closed the door on the chaos of the counterculture, would be a death undignified by any larger meaning. From Charles Manson to Jim Jones, these were the mad horrors spawned by a damaged culture where the monsters and madmen were suddenly the only ones who understood the rules.
Kennedy was killed in a more innocent time when it was still possible to deny that the wave of change was not ushering in a brave new world, but the destruction of a culture that had kept the worst human instincts in check. The Cult of Camelot sought a deeper meaning in his death because the alternative would have been to recognize that the world was not an orderly place and could not be made so by planning. And it sought to disguise the truth about his murder.
JFK was not killed by some miasma of right-wing hatred, by a confederacy of Cuban exiles, CIA agents and Sicilian mafia bosses.
The directions in which the JFK conspiracy theories point reveal what they are trying to hide. John F. Kennedy was not murdered by a miasma of hatred on the right, but on the left. Before liberals became leftists, leftists had a propensity for killing liberals. And Lee Harvey Oswald was as far to the left as you could go.
There was never really any disagreement about Lee Harvey Oswald’s politics. The media has avoided the issue by not talking about it while characterizing him as a screwball who wasn’t happy anywhere. That much is true, but Lee Harvey Oswald was a militant Socialist screwball who defected to the Soviet Union and plotted the murders of people he considered “right-wing”.
The piles of conspiracy theories shove him to the side as an excessively convenient killer. But Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a continuum of left-wing terror in America. The murder of JFK was a bridge between the explosions of violence in the twenties by anarchists and by the Weathermen in the seventies. Oswald was part of the leading edge of left-wing violence in America.
Like so many radicals, Oswald was bored and shiftless. The reality of the Soviet Union with no revolution, just factories to work at, did not appeal to him. Instead he drifted back to America, a weapon in search of a target. The actual murder may have shocked the nation, but it would not be very long before left-wing violence would once again become part of life in America.
All this is far more consistent and far more dangerous than any of the alternative explanations. Worse still, it’s simple. And even worse, it’s obvious. Which means that it can’t possibly be true.
JFK was not killed by a military-industrial complex or a vast right-wing conspiracy. No group of men in suits sat around a table plotting his death. The forces that killed him were the same political ideas of the left that led young American men and women to cheer for the Viet Cong, plant bombs and wage war against their own country.
To understand why JFK died, you must understand the Weathermen and Leon Czolgosz who murdered President McKinley, you must understand the Atom Bomb Spies and Sacco and Vanzetti and a century of left-wing sabotage and terrorism in America.
It’s much safer to talk about magic bullets, than magical thinking ideologies that promise that a workers’ paradise is only a bomb away.
Conspiracy theories rely on finding the inconsistencies and unanswered questions that can be found in just about any event if enough threads are pulled on and enough experts with magnifying glasses crawl over the evidence. They suspect the simple, even as they replace it with byzantine and the complexity, replacing logical answers with to the unending search for the unanswered question. They stare at the static of the television screen, at the Heisenberg Effect of unanswerable questions, at the details that shift close up, and it becomes their obsession and their faith.
The conspiracy theorist has faith that life has meaning. It is a secular sort of faith and its faith object is not divine, but malignant. The meaning of life is malicious. It operates the way it does because evil people behind the scenes refuse to allow for any coincidences or random chance. No sparrow shall fall because a dozen secret agencies are always monitoring it from space.