by Steven Craig Hickman
Even great spirits have only their five fingers breadth of experience – just beyond it their thinking ceases and their endless empty space and stupidity begins.
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance…
– H.P. Lovecraft
Like many of my generation the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States was the first in many strange events that would spark the great paranoia against the American Establishment that is with us still. As a kid I was watching that fatal Friday Nov 22, 1963 television with my little sister when the news flashed across the screen. Of course at the time I was only eleven years of age so was perplexed about what was actually going on. I remember my mom telling me to take my sister and go play in the backyard. We did. Only later on would I understand what it was all about when my parents sat us down that evening at meal and tried to explain who the President is, what our government is about, and how bad people in the world do bad things.
Now that I’m older of course I look back like many others with questions. Reading about the death of JFK is like reading the Thousand and One Nights of Scheherazade, its like a tale within a tale within a tale with no rhyme or reason, yet one that seems to fascinate us with both official and conspiracy debates in endless reflective scenarios that never give us what we’re seeking: the actual truth of what happened that fatal day. Information, disinformation, the drift of 26 volume official history in the Warren Report, the flotsam and jetsam legitimate and conspiratorial film, novels, histories, essays, speculation…. a world gone awry, helter-skelter, topsy-turvy, tohu-bohu… chaotic and complex to the point that one wonders if history is creating us instead of it providing us a world of facts. Nietzsche would tell us “there are no facts, only interpretations.” Endless sea of interpretations that seem more like a palimpsest of fictions rather than truth. Who to believe? What to believe? Is the “truth” – as the X-Files once playfully surmised, “out there”?
This week I began reading Douglas Horne’s book JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated. Horne served on the staff of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) from August of 1995 through September of 1998, during the final three years of its limited four-year lifespan — and was promoted from a Senior Analyst position on the Military Records Team, to that of “Chief Analyst for Military Records,” halfway through my tenure at the ARRB. The ARRB was an independent federal agency created by the JFK Records Act of 1992; our mission was to locate any and all records that could “reasonably” be considered related to the assassination of the 35th President, and to ensure their declassification (to the maximum extent possible, as defined within our Congressional mandate), followed by their release and subsequent placement within a special open collection (the “JFK Records Collection”) at the National Archives.1
He tells us it was the ARRB’s job to define what constituted an assassination record; to do all we could to ensure that agencies conducted full and honest searches for assassination records; and to review those records which agencies did NOT want released in full. At the end of the ARRB’s lifespan, we had reviewed about 60,000 records that government agencies wanted partially or fully redacted. Our five VIP Board Members, who served part time, voted on the disposition of these 60,000 records that were under dispute, after first receiving and considering the staff’s recommendations; and their votes essentially determined which portions of those disputed records would see the light of day. (KL 59-63)
He’ll also emphasize that during his three years on the staff of the ARRB, and while subsequently researching the manuscript for his five-volume book, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, he became increasingly aware of the broad levels of conflict between President Kennedy and his own national security establishment — those officials within the State Department, the Pentagon, the National Security Council (NSC), and the CIA who helped him to formulate and carry out the nation’s foreign and military policy around the world. (KL 72-75)
In this current book he tells us that he will demonstrate that, by the end of 1962, the national security establishment in Washington D.C., which had quickly come to know JFK as a skeptic during 1961, had come to view him as a heretic; and by November of 1963, the month he was assassinated, they no doubt considered him an apostate, for he no longer supported most of the so-called “orthodox” views of the Cold War priesthood. Increasingly alone in his foreign policy judgments as 1963 progressed, JFK was nevertheless proceeding boldly to end our “Holy War” against Communism, instead of trying to win it. In retrospect it is clear that the national security establishment wanted to win our own particular “jihad” of the post-WW II era by turning the Cold War against the USSR into a “hot war,” so that we could inflict punishing and fatal blows upon our Communist adversaries (and any other forces we equated with them) on the battlefield. It was this desire for “hot war” by so many within the establishment — their belief that conventional “proxy wars” with the Soviet Bloc were an urgent necessity, and that nuclear war with the USSR was probably inevitable — to which President Kennedy was so adamantly opposed. And it was JFK’s profound determination to avoid nuclear war by miscalculation, and to eschew combat with conventional arms unless it was truly necessary, that separated him from almost everyone else in his administration from 1961 throughout 1963, as events have shown us. (KL 88-99)
So was JFK killed by the Secret Establishment as many once feared? Was his battle against the Cold War Warriors of the CIA and the Military-Industrial Complex his downfall? Did the elite power brokers of this secret world hire Mafia hit-men to take out JFK? Will we ever know? Is it all a tissue of surmise and lies, false trails, facts leading nowhere but into the labyrinth of discourse where nothing is connectable to reality anymore: a postmodern shibboleth of pipe dream conspiracy and mad, fringe truthers looking for a way to bring down the American Establishment? Chaos theory? Dark riders on the hidden frontiers of the illuminati bankers, a sort of science fiction for the pop-cultural banglanders? Take your pick, stand in line, have your own say…
Yet, Douglas Horne makes a case out of the actual records that have been buried in the system itself for forty years, so maybe he’s on to something… read the book and think what you will.
Like other works on the history of this event one will need to decide for oneself. What’s interesting for me is that this event brokers for us our indefinable need to know the truth, to know history, to get at reality behind the interpretive filters of discursive fictions that purport to offer us a view onto reality. We seem to be fed a myriad of fictional narratives that all purport to hand us the actual history of the matter. But what is history? What is fact? What are the discursive techniques that help us get at the actual event itself? As I’ve read the spectrum of official and unofficial works on JFK’s assassination over the years I’ve personally come to the conclusion that history like truth is as Nietzsche once suggested when he asked:
What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
We still do not know where the urge for truth comes from; for as yet we have heard only of the obligation imposed by society that it should exist: to be truthful means using the customary metaphors – in moral terms, the obligation to lie according to fixed convention…
‘On truth and lie in an extra-moral sense’
A SHORT HISTORY OF CONSPIRACY
As one conspiracy theory scholar suggested it is the CIA itself who first popularized the use of the term “conspiracy theory” in its propaganda against the conclusions of the Warren Report itself.
CIA’s campaign to popularize the term “conspiracy theory” and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.2
The term “conspiracy theory” did not exist as a phrase in everyday American conversation before 1964. The conspiracy-theory label entered the American lexicon of political speech as a catchall for criticisms of the Warren Commission’s conclusion that President Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman with no assistance from, or foreknowledge by, any element of the United States government. Since then, the term’s prevalence and range of application have exploded. In 1964, the year the Warren Commission issued its report, the New York Times published five stories in which “conspiracy theory” appeared. In recent years, the phrase has occurred in over 140 New York Times stories annually. A Google search for the phrase (in 2012) yielded more than 21 million hits— triple the numbers for such common expressions as “abuse of power” and “war crime.” On Amazon.com, the term is a book category that includes in excess of 1,300 titles. In addition to books on conspiracy theories of particular events, there are conspiracy-theory encyclopedias, photographic compendiums, website directories, and guides for researchers, skeptics, and debunkers. (KL 116-124)
Smith did a detailed analysis on the New York Times archives and discovered the connection between conspiracy theories and various pejorative terms can be tracked with queries in the archives. What he discovered is that attacks on conspiracy beliefs, as limited as it is, has been quite harsh. Conspiracy beliefs are associated with mental illness, including paranoia, obsession, psychosis, insanity, craziness, and being unhinged; with being outside the mainstream, including radical, left-wing, right-wing, fringe, and extreme; with being implausible as in far-fetched; with being antisocial, including crackpots and despicable and bigoted people; and with being fanatical, as in cults, birthers, and truthers. (KL 1875-1879)
He tells us that in 2006 a new term was introduced in a CIA peer-review journal, the concept of State Crime against Democracy (SCAD) to displace the term “conspiracy theory.” I say displace rather than replace because SCAD is not another name for conspiracy theory; it is a name for the type of wrongdoing about which the conspiracy-theory label discourages us from speaking. Basically, the term “conspiracy theory” is applied pejoratively to allegations of official wrongdoing that have not been substantiated by public officials themselves. (KL 201-105)
He describes the SCAD construct is useful in pulling back the curtain so that antidemocratic elite conspiracies can be seen in their larger contexts and studied comparatively. By delineating a general crime category, the construct automatically directs attention to multiple examples that qualify, and of course this helps observers rise above a case-by-case orientation. It also directs our attention to elite motives and behavior and inter-elite rivalries relative to political crimes. It assumes that political elites are capable of committing SCADs but that they usually do so only when in their view circumstances call for it and there is little likelihood of detection. Presumably, political elites are capable of “reading” their own circumstances and the circumstances of others through the others’ eyes, so they are able to recognize how incentives and disincentives are lined up for the relevant players. Consequently, they are likely to check and balance one another by anticipating moves and blocking them or minimizing their effects. (KL 2500-2507)
This new form of research has he tells us come about with the rise of the internet and collective forms of intellectual knowledge making. It is no coincidence that the idea for SCAD research— the idea of looking at political crimes collectively and comparatively— emerged in the past decade. The nation is regaining its vision. It is becoming difficult not to notice the spiraling corruption that somehow came with the war on terror. Each additional unconnected dot placed on the page makes pattern perception more likely. The Internet is also a factor. It not only brings suspicious minds together, but also offers to the average person rapid-search access to vast archives of newspapers and magazines, a resource never before available to anyone except military and intelligence analysts. The U.S. citizenry is increasingly like the people in the story of the emperor’s new clothes. It would seem to be only a matter of time before the electorate sees what it is looking at. (KL 2680-2686)
Maybe in the end our search for the hidden truth behind JFK’s assassination is the need to believe in society, to believe that our governments, our lives, our meanings are based not on a tissue of lies, but on truth; but, if Nietzsche is right, we are already lost among conforming illusions, hallucinatory theories of reality, mixtures of fiction from which we discover all too late that we are implicated in a non-event, a world of lies and counterfeits from which there is little if any hope of extrication. Our governments have become Reality TV studios feeding us nothing but lies and narratives to blind us to the actual dealings of global capitalism and its invasive power and entrapment. Yet, in the end will its own blind systems of power not enclose it in its own fabricated fictional scenario, will the hyperstitional world it has enacted in the neoliberal vision not only deliver it to a global world but also deliver it into its own worst nightmare scenario? Are we seeing the acceleration of a hypercapital fiction, a hyperstition that is creating a posthuman world out of a tissue of lies and conspiracy? Is the very anti-conspiracy agenda itself producing its own opposite effect, a telic dynamic of accelerated fiction that will in the end bring this whole edifice of lies into a dark closure of decadent infestation? Will the very nature of the beast end in collapse?
As Smith tells it the conspiracy-theory label does not try to form a new pattern of thought. It simply tries to and does interfere with a logic that would unfold naturally were it not for the presence of an unnatural impediment. (KL 2705) What is this unnatural impediment if not the real or imagined powers behind the masks of civilized illusions? H.P. Lovecraft might have the last laugh on this:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.4
Horne, Douglas (2014-09-10). JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated (Kindle Locations 51-57). The Future of Freedom Foundation. Kindle Edition.
deHaven-Smith, Lance (2013-04-02). Conspiracy Theory in America (Discovering America) (Kindle Locations 435-437). University of Texas Press. Kindle Edition.
Lovecraft, H.P. (2014-06-21). Complete Collection Of H.P.Lovecraft – 150 eBooks With 100+ Audio Book Links(Complete Collection Of Lovecraft’s Fiction,Juvenilia,Poems,Essays And Collaborations) (Kindle Locations 1105-1109). Ageless Reads. Kindle Edition.
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