Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'JFK': Stone's Docufantasy Distorts History

The Tulsa World
Ken Neal

JFK,” the movie, is rip-roaring entertainment. It is also an infuriating revision of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by a paranoid director trapped in his own Vietnam time warp.

Oliver Stone’s docufantasy presents his theory of the assassination, which is that nearly every part of U.S. officialdom participated in the murder of Kennedy. Those who didn’t help plan it helped cover it up. 

The cover-up continues to this day, through the writings of the U.S. media, presumably right through this column. 

We all somehow are either willing confederates or dupes of the ephemeral “they” who killed JFK. 

And further, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are parts of the same gigantic plot. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson, who benefited from the JFK assassination, seems to have been a willing partner in the plot.

JFK, Stone’s movie says, planned to pull the U.S. out of Vietnam. “They” wanted this war to make millions out of munitions so “they” killed him.

But “they” also wanted him dead because JFK planned to make peace with communism. And restore relations with Fidel Castro.

The theory is at best bizarre. If JFK planned - as some of his political friends later claimed - to get out of Vietnam, he failed to bring his secretary of state and secretary of defense in on the secret.

Johnson fought the entire Vietnam war with the active advice and urging of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, both Kennedy appointees.
LBJ lost his presidency because he couldn’t extricate the United States from the war. It is not an exaggeration to say that his anguish over the war shortened his life by years.

The theory that JFK’s assassination was a conspiracy is not exactly new. The conspiracy idea was pursued by investigators both in and outside the government from the very beginning.
And no one has ruled out the possibility that there was a conspiracy.

The Warren Commission, appointed by LBJ to investigate the assassination, finally concluded that the preponderance of the available evidence best supported the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed the president. 

“JFK” trots out all the by-now familiar questions and inconsistencies in the lone gunman theory. How could Lee Harvey Oswald have gotten three shots off in the sequence shown in the now-famous Zapruder home movie of the assassination?

Stone says repeatedly no one could do it. But Oswald didn’t have to fire three shots from the time of the first shot. He had plenty of time to lock on the target for the first shot. He had only to get two rounds off in the remaining time set by the Zapruder film. 

In the almost endless analyses of the Warren Commission findings at the time, several re-creations of the situation showed that Oswald’s shooting wasn’t that difficult to duplicate.

And Stone leaves out of his movie the fact that the rifle involved had been purchased by Oswald and that Oswald was seen the morning of the assassination carrying a long package that he described as curtain rods.

Stone makes much of the familiar forward-then-back movement of Kennedy’s head when the president was hit by the killing shot. Stone has no problem. He made his own film and had the actor almost leaping backward. Never mind that the Zapruder film showed a spray of blood and brain matter to the front of the president.

The use of the fake Zapruder film to exaggerate elements Stone wants emphasized and the use of countless little black-and-white segments posing as film taken at the time constitute downright dishonesty on the part of the filmmaker. He tells us he is going to produce the truth and then uses documentary film completely unsupported by evidence.
Some search for truth.

The “single bullet” theory adopted by the Warren Commission is laughed off by Stone. But experts before both the Warren Commission and the House Assassination Committee hearings said it was not unbelievable. The unscathed bullet that is believed to have wounded Texas Gov. John Connally is a problem, no doubt about it. But it does not support the fantastic leaps that Stone makes. 

The holes and outright misstatements of fact are so numerous in the Stone movie that it is clear that Stone simply bought the conspiracy theories wholesale and then set out to find (or fabricate) the facts he wanted to support them. 

That of course is the opposite of what is expected of skillful investigators trying to determine what happened in any criminal situation. Conclusions should be compelled by evidence, not the other way around.

In short, “JFK” is full of suppositions, “what-ifs” and outright misstatements of fact, most of which are readily seen by anyone who followed the assassination and the events following it.
The really sick part of this movie is that Stone is making an open pitch to “young people” to ascertain the truth.

He implies that he is offering truth that they” have suppressed and continue to suppress. There are even plans to provide “study guides” for use of the movie in schools. Any school official who elects to use this movie except as an example of a clever and unscrupulous way to warp history ought to be fired on the spot.

Young people of course should seek the truth. But they should also learn early in life that truth is sometimes elusive and that the detailed truth of an event or situation cannot always be ascertained. 
An unwillingness to accept that the details of the Kennedy assassination might never be determined with certainty perhaps is what bedevils conspiracy and non-conspiracy buffs alike.

There are questions and coincidences in the JFK assassination.  But veteran investigators and prosecutors know that life is full of coincidence. And that making up monumentally paranoid scenarios to explain gaps and coincidence is irresponsible. Unless, of course, like Stone, you are a member of a very real conspiracy. That conspiracy is one admitted by everyone connected with the film. It is first of all to make movies that are profitable. To be profitable, they have to be entertaining. Who would have gone to see “JFK” if it had been a rather stodgy straightforward film that held to the establishment view that the president was gunned down by a crazy half-wit who got lucky?

Anyone going to the movie ought to follow Stone’s own admonition. In any crime, first ask yourself who profits?

And Stone has an even stronger motive than money. A Vietnam veteran, he struggles with the futility of war, especially the Vietnam struggle. In past movies about the war, he has done a great job in proving what anyone already knows: War is hell.

Stone can’t seem to shake the war. Everyone can sympathize with that. But he appears driven to not only condemn the war but to constantly relive it as if there can be some national expiation if only everyone remotely connected with it will confess the sin.

In “JFK,” he has found the savior who would have averted the suffering if only “they” (or is it “we”) had not murdered him. Maybe the film will be the great catharsis Stone so badly needs.

But for many of us, it is a revisit to a terrible event that will never be fully explained. Nevertheless, it is far more likely that Kennedy was the victim of one lunatic than a whole country full of them.

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