A Filmmaker’s Fiction Distorts the Facts About JFK

On this 54th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, history once again confirms the truth of the uncertainty principle. That is, the study of history is like the study of quantum mechanics in which there are limits to precision. There is only so much we can know—there is only so much we will ever know—about some things that are more a matter of reluctant acceptance than rigid belief.

There comes a time when physics yields to metaphysics. Now is the time to answer those who deny the explicable, because of their insistence on the inexplicable.

Here is my response: Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed JFK. He also murdered Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit.

Some may not like that fact—and it is a fact—because of mankind’s preference for order. We hold certain truths to be self-evident, provided they conform to our worldview. When the truth is simple yet unsatisfactory, when it is revelatory yet insufficiently revolutionary, when it is conclusive yet anticlimactic, we feel obliged to invent new truths. Coincidences then become circumstantial proof, where there is no room for chance and no chance, in this instance, that Oswald acted alone.

Every photo, phone call, and letter, therefore, is part of a puzzle where all the pieces must (and, of course, do) fit together. Thus do otherwise irrelevant degrees of separation become ominous points of connection. Thus do the conspiracy theorists, in the ultimate act of suspension of disbelief, make Oswald both a patsy and a plotter. Thus does disagreement about almost every aspect of the assassination nonetheless result in agreement that Oswald was, in his own way, essential to the killing. Thus do the Cubans, the communists, and the CIA, as well as the mafia and the military-industrial complex—no matter the cause—find common cause in the same individual.

Of all the dupes, hobos, and drifters, of all the players on the world stage, with their exits and entrances, with their many parts and acts of seven ages—only this man, Lee Harvey Oswald, was right for this role.

He was chosen to commit this crime, which means he never chose to do this deed. That story has no holes, no history of contradiction, no harmless matters of happenstance.

Such is history with no inconvenient truths. Such is the collision of Hollywood and history, where a filmmaker’s fiction continues to distort the facts. It is how Oliver Stone’s “JFK” came to malign how we memorialize this day.

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is the fruit of Stone’s poisonous tree. The final report of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) cites his film with the passage of the law.

And so President George H.W. Bush signed a good law for a bad reason. He was the final accomplice in this bipartisan sacrifice of standards, where propaganda triumphed over principle. Stone was an agent who used lies, not creative license, to all but indict one president in the murder of another, whose movie has scenes about forgeries that never happened and meetings that never occurred.

Stone says things he cannot substantiate. He ascribes motives to many without regard to means or opportunity. He uses this opportunity to libel those he dislikes by trying to discredit events he would rather dismiss. He wastes our time with innuendo in lieu of intelligence, with speculation in lieu of solid evidence.

President Kennedy was not the victim of a conspiracy.

His death was the product of a lone gunman, not hired guns. His murder was a crime of treachery, not treason, despite the desire to make him a man for all seasons and a martyr for peace.

His killer was a Communist.

A loser on behalf of a lost cause, Lee Harvey Oswald was a man without a country. He had nothing to lose when he shot JFK and wounded the nation’s heart. In so doing, his infamy made him famous.

He assassinated the 35th president of the United States.


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22 responses to “A Filmmaker’s Fiction Distorts the Facts About JFK”

  1. “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. it had to be some silly little Communist.”

    –Jackie Kennedy

    Stone never let the facts interfere with a good story. His film version of “Born On The Fourth Of July” can best be described as Rather Loosely Based On The Book.

    • Hollywood makes entertainment. Oliver Stone cannot escape this fundamental feature of the business he is in. However, Stone did not invent any facts for ‘JFK’. If you think the facts were invented, they were invented by others, specifically Mark Lane and Jim Garrison. No doubt, Stone wanted to tell a compelling story and used the information provided by these authors’ works to create a narrative that he thought would be compelling. I think it worked, others are free to disagree. It is, without a doubt, a work of propaganda, and I do not think that Stone would argue that it is not. But, because something is ‘propaganda’ does not mean that it is a lie. The Vatican’s casual definition of ‘propaganda’ as ‘the truth told from a particular perspective’ applies. Whether the authors Stone relied upon for his ‘facts’ actually proffered ‘facts’ really depends on how one weighs the value of testimony versus documentation.

      The aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination was poorly handled by the authorities, of this there can be little doubt. Given the magnitude of the event, this poor handling of the evidence and investigation (such as it was) created the uncertainty around the explanation of the causal factors leading to the death of a United States President while in office. The American people — and John Kennedy — deserved better service from their officials than they received. Whether this was this failure to properly handle evidence and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation was the result of conspiracy or incompetence is one each person has a right to answer for themselves.

      • The jury acquitted Clay Shaw in 54 minutes. Perhaps Stone missed that little datum.

        Your point, um, isn’t one. If someone wanted to make a movie based on, say “The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion,” would you defend it as entertainment since the bogus story is in a “book” albeit a clear forgery whacked together by the Czarist secret police?

        One can find fault with just about ANY official investigation after even *minor* crimes; this circumstance is of no moment when considering Stone’s offering. Read Bugliosi’s book, or, if you don’t have 2 days to put into it, read Posner’s.

      • Actually, Stone does show that Shaw was acquitted pretty quickly. Most of what I said about ‘JFK’ was in terms of the relationship between the source material (Marrs/Garrison) and the movie itself. As for defending the source material, I didn’t. Like Garrison and Marrs, Bugliosi and Posner have their detractors and critics. Nor do I think I defended ‘JFK’ solely on the basis of it being ‘entertainment’, I simply pointed out that Stone did not, as the author of the article suggested that Stone distorted ‘the facts’. My point was that ‘the facts’ Stone used were not his, but that of the source material he used. If the author of the article wants to impugn Stone’s ‘facts’, it would be better if they made it clear that they were not Stone’s but Garrison’s and Marrs.

        As for whether one might find fault with any investigation, you are probably correct. But the issue will always be whether the faults were of sufficient substance to merit questioning the conclusions. Some feel that such is the case with the investigation into the death of President Kennedy, others, such as yourself, do not.

  2. There is an excellent scene in one of the final episodes of “The World at War”, I believe “Pincers”, where off camera a German woman relates her mother listening to a radio broadcast by Joseph Goebbels, circa April 1945, where Goebbels promises Berlin will be saved, Vienna will be German again, etc., und so weiter. The mother says “thank God”. The daughter informs her mother that nothing Goebbels said was true, that the war was lost, and the mother says “do you think at this time Goebbels would tell a lie”.
    There was a society with absolute trust in the government. Here is a society with no trust in government and instead all trust in whomever can tell the most contradictory conspiracy theories. People were gullible then. People are gullible now. People do not change.

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  3. So you believe this guy Oswald went to work, shot JFK from his place of work during his lunch hour and then went to see a movie? This has got to be the WORST COVER STORY EVER. They say they didn’t see the shooter, but somehow got the rifle, fingerprinted it and made the arrest THE SAME DAY. That has to be the fastest criminal investigation in Dallas History. Dallas also just happens to be the hometown of LBJ, whose open hatred of the Kennedy’s is still talked about Today.
    There are conspiracies. Collusion and Lies is ALL THE GOVERNMENT SEEMS TO DO NOW.

    • Johnson was from The Hill Country just west of Austin, 4 hours south of Dallas…get your facts right

  4. Hogwash. For a writer who claims he “seeks to express the truth through his work,” he shows little curiosity.

    Stone made a bad movie, but for some reason this Malibu writer doesn’t want to read the wealth of evidence related to the assassination.

    • I thought ‘JFK’ was a good movie. It wasn’t exactly ‘entertainment’, but it was engaging. So far as I can tell, it stuck to ‘the facts’, but, like any narrative, sought to place those facts into a particular interpretive framework. One can argue with the interpretation, but ‘the facts’ such as they were presented — so long as one distinguishes between testimony and documentation — were pretty non-controversial.

  5. I am 72 years old. In 1963 I was a just-turned 18-year old airman in the US Air Force based at Amarillo AFB, Texas. Another airman, someone I didn’t know, stopped me on the sidewalk and told he JFK had been shot. I immediately said a prayer of thanksgiving. I did not care then and do not care now who shot him, the point is he was dead. As it turned out, Lee Harvey Oswald is the most likely culprit. Whoever did it killed a serial sex abuser and corrupt politician who has been turned into an idol by the media. Of course, LBJ was just as bad as he was.

  6. Mr. Hamilton’s dismissal of those who disagree with him is egregious and unworthy of American Greatness. His comments also lack intellectual rigor, or even a basic understanding of the topics on which he declaims. For example, physics concerns the phenomenal and metaphysics the numenal. Strictly speaking, all theory is metaphysics, including Heisenberg’s ‘uncertainty principle’ which really isn’t a principle at all but a claim about the limits of information available about very small material particles. It is a claim about what we can know (epistemic) not about what is (ontological).

    Invoking ‘quantum theory’ is fashionable in some circles, especially among those persons that have little understanding that there is no one ‘quantum theory’. There are a number of ‘theories’ proposed to attempt explain why the equations of quantum mechanics work. For the purposes of physicists and engineers, it matters only that the equations successfully model the behaviors they are intended to model and that they have predictive value with regard to those behaviors. Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful physical models ever devised but even the creators of these models do not agree on the why they work or what they mean.

    What all of the ‘conspiracy theory’ surrounding the death of President Kennedy tells us is that, if human beings look at any complex event, they will often find more complexity…and more uncertainty. Just a close examination of the known, documented and verifiable aspects of Lee Harvey Oswald’s personal history is enough to give one pause, independent of whether (a) Oswald assassinated the President and (b) whether he was worked alone in doing so.

    In the final analysis, the JFK assassination ‘conspiracy’ theories are based upon the simple fact that the authorities did poor job of investigating the assassination of a sitting President both in the immediate aftermath — including failing to protect the life of the alleged perpetrator — and subsequently with the many inadequacies of the Warren Commission. Whether this poor job was the result of a complex conspiracy or simple incompetence, these failings created the conditions for the theorizing that followed.

    • So if the constabulary failed to properly catalogue a blade of grass that one of the Dealey Plaza “tramps” stepped on, and/or Oswald’s childhood Bronx address was recorded erroneously in his school records, the public or an opportunistic filmmaker would be justified in concluding that JFK was killed by Venusians with a death ray, or by Don Drysdale with an errant fastball.

      • The so-called magic bullet has been explained with eminent plausibility, IMO. Oswald had tested 212 (sharpshooter) for the Marines.

        I had a friend in HS whose dad had been a doc in the Bronx who set an arm frracture which Oswald sustained as a kid. Now *there’s* a movie for you. ;)

      • I seem to recall reading something about Oswald’s childhood injury.

        As for your claims about the ‘magic bullet’, I would love to get a reference.

        Is there any ‘conspiracy theory’ that you think is plausible about any controversial event? BTW, this is an honest question, not an attempt to bait you.

      • Bugliosi and Posner (“Case Closed”) on the so-called “magic bullet”… in amazing detail, almost nauseatingly so in Bugliosi’s case.

        The conspiracy to get Nazi/pro-Nazi war criminals away from the Allied authorities and either to South America, or, in some cases to the US was, depressingly, most real. See “Alois Hudal” and “ratlines.”

        Ditto the conspiracy to overthrow Mossadegh… Operation Ajax, in US history. Dunno if this qualifies as a full-fledged conspiracy. since the CIA was behind it, and it actually served US interests at the time.

        Some Germans most certainly conspired to kill Hitler; they just failed, though they got close. Stauffenberg faced the firing squad for that one.

  7. Dear Mr. Hamilton,
    You write that you seek to express the truth through your work–excellent!
    You also write, “We hold certain truths to be self-evident, provided they conform to our worldview.”
    May I offer you, in a helpful spirit, a friendly thought about what makes a truth self-evident?
    Here is how Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist 31:
    “there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.”
    So self-evident truths are fundamentally different from the truth “beyond a reasonable doubt” we seek in judicial proceedings and in matters such as the murder of JFK.
    In Federalist 31, Alexander Hamilton used with precision the American founders’ understanding of “self-evident”, the understanding we see in the Declaration of Independence and elsewhere in the founders writings and speech.
    Hamilton and the other founders were following the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Reid. According to Reid, there are “certain principles…which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them.” These “first principles” or principles of common sense are self-evident: “and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd.”
    With best wishes on this Thanksgiving Day…

  8. Distortion is their Alma Matter. It’s what they do and Americans, well some of them, are Woke.

  9. I have no doubt Oswald was involved. As to the rest, “Cui bono?” Short answers – LBJ, Castro and the mob.