Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Song Remains The Same


If you haven’t been paying attention to the Kennedy assassination debate lately, don’t worry. You’ve heard it all before.

Two months ago, Zapruder film alterationists (the miniscule few who believe Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm film of the Kennedy assassination is an altered fraud) squared off against the Zapruder film genuinists (those who accept the Zapruder film as an unaltered photographic record of the assassination) proving – if nothing else – that silliness rules when it comes the events of Dallas 1963.

Initially touted by the conspirati as “proof” of conspiracy (Kennedy’s head could only have been driven backward by a bullet fired from the front, right?), the iconic Zapruder film became the target of a few of the more fanatical members of the conspiracy crowd when some in the general ranks began to acknowledge (gasp!) that the film actually squared with the physical evidence (both firearms and medical) that showed Kennedy was struck only from behind.

Of course there is a lot more to this story than that, but frankly it’s all a big yawn.

The recent fracas surrounded the decade-old claim by former advertising photographer and conspiracy believer Jack White that – get this – eyewitness Mary Moorman was actually standing in the street (and not on grassy infield as seen in the Zapruder film) when she took her famous Polaroid photograph of Kennedy slumping in the arms of his wife.

This silly claim is one of the center points of the argument among the mentally challenged that the Zapruder film has been photographically altered to hide the truth about the assassination.

Why on Earth would Moorman’s position in Dealey Plaza need to be altered? Conspiracy advocate and author David S. Lifton (Best Evidence) believes it was to hide yet another inconvenient ‘truth’– the limousine came to a complete stop just before the fatal head shot.

Those familiar with the case know that some eyewitnesses said that the limousine came to a stop at the time of the head shot in contradiction to the Zapruder film which shows that the limousine did not come to a stop but only slowed before speeding away. Lifton explains it all this way:
“If Mary Moorman were to be ‘right next to’ the car (as she basically said she was, in her earliest media interviews) and if that should become ‘official’ because of her placement in just that manner [and] was verified on the Zapruder film, then she would become a ‘star witness’, perhaps ‘the closest person to the president when he was shot,’ etc., etc., and if she THEN testified about the car stop, it would magnify the importance of that, and immediately focus even more attention on that issue.

”Can you imagine some lawyer on the staff of the Warren Commission, arguing that the car could not have stopped because ‘the film doesn’t show it’, when the person right next to the car said it did? And talked of an extended time frame of the shooting that was completely at odds with what the film showed?

”What I’m saying is that had Moorman testified to these matters as ‘facts,’ and if the film showed her poised right next to the car but with the car-stop removed (assuming that could have been done, optically), then the top of what is really a Pandora’s Box of interrelated issues could easily spring open.

”The way to minimize all this is to minimize the impact of Mary Moorman’s
account, and the way to do that is to simply put her up on the grass, having her ‘innocuously take’ the photograph she did.”
Huh? How in the world would altering the Zapruder film (removing the alleged limousine stop and moving Moorman onto the grass a few feet away) fundamentally change anything?

Moorman would still be one of the closest eyewitnesses to the car at the time of the fatal head shot and, more importantly, her claim that the limousine stopped would still be contradicted by the film which shows that the limousine only slowed. Altering the film to move Moorman accomplishes nothing.

And before we stumble any further into this world of nonsense, let’s take a moment for a reality check. The notion that Zapruder’s 8mm film was photographically altered to the extent conspiracy buffs claim is rubbish.

For those of you born into a world already steeped in computer technology, here’s a history lesson relevant to the conspiracy argument.

In 1963, the ability to manipulate images using computer technology did not exist. It was nearly ten years before color pixels could be manipulated (SuperPaint, created in 1972, was the first digital computer drawing system to use a frame buffer – a special high-speed memory – and the ancestor of all modern paint programs), and twenty-four years (1987) before John Knoll invented Display (the forerunner of Photoshop) which allowed the ability to manipulate photographic images digitally.

So, when it comes to the idea that the Zapruder film could easily have been altered in 1963 using computer technology, forget about it.

How do the alterationists believe it was done? They claim that standard photographic manipulation techniques available in 1963 were sufficient to do the job.

But ladies and gentlemen, this is crazy talk. The size of the original film (8mm) and the images contained on that film (Kennedy and Connally’s image would fit on the head of a pin) would have precluded the kind of manipulation necessary to achieve what the alterationists claim was done. Enlarging Zapruder’s 8mm film to a larger format to perform the alterations (as some alterationists claim) solves some of the problems associated with the size issue but introduces a whole host of additional problems introduced by the enlarging and subsequent reduction process.

And remember, the alterations alleged to have been performed in 1963 by believers in this nonsense remain undetectable by modern methods forty-five years later!

The argument that the Zapruder film is a photographic fraud is laughable with a capital ‘L’.

Finally, consider this: Those who promote the idea that the Zapruder film is a photographic fraud have been unable (and/or unwilling) to prove their hypothesis by duplicating the process they believe took place. Why? The answer is obvious; they can’t.

I’ll go even further. I don’t believe that they could produce an altered Zapruder film using even today’s computer technology and have their alterations go undetected. I’d love to have someone prove me wrong. Any takers?

And even if someone were successful in creating undetectable alterations, what would it accomplish? Their technological efforts would only support what I’m saying – the Zapruder film as we know it could not have been altered in 1963 in the manner and to the degree alterationists believe.

No, I’m afraid (for the alterationists) that the Zapruder film is genuine and they’re stuck with it.

While it’s refreshing to see conspiracy advocates like author Josiah ‘Tink’ Thompson (Six Seconds in Dallas) hoisting the flag of common sense with his rational, logical, and very graphical four-part argument (“Moorman-In-The-Street”) against White’s goofy theory; it seems to me to be a complete waste of time trying to convince the few pinheads who buy into this trash that their thinking beanies are a bit skewed.

Shades of Specter

Then there’s the recent defection of Senator Arlen Specter to the Democrat Party which gave Warren Commission doubters a chance to take shots at the single bullet theory, which Specter has taken credit for co-authoring while a counsel for the Commission in 1964.

The idea that the single bullet theory was pulled out of thin air to cover-up the truth about the shooting of Kennedy has (unfortunately) become a matter of rote among most Americans. Few understand that the single bullet theory was and is the obvious solution to a perplexing question: What happened to the bullet that entered Kennedy’s upper-right back and exited his throat? Instead of dealing with the firearms, medical, and trajectory evidence surrounding this question, detractors and spin doctors have been conjuring up ridiculous zigzagging bullet diagrams that supposedly reveal the stupidity of the Warren Commission’s theory for the better part of a half century. Believe me it’s taken its toll.

Today, the vast majority of otherwise clear thinking Americans have chucked common sense and embraced a zigzagging bullet theory that is far more magical than the straight-line bullet trajectory proposed by the Commission. It’s a weird world, isn’t it?

The two most outrageously inaccurate articles about the single bullet theory to pop up in recent weeks both appeared on the OpEdNews website, a self proclaimed “left wing site with a left wing perspective” which encourages progressives everywhere to post their thoughts, especially those which are “tough on right wing lies, corruption, corporatism, cronyism and stupid white man BS like neo-redneckism, racism, hate, fear-mongering and greed.” Naturally, there are plenty of like-minded individuals willing to exhibit their talent for ignorance.

First, there is David Spangenburg, a freelance wordsmith who brags that he survived the “acid tests and the be-ins” of the late 60’s and 70’s “with just minor brain loss.” I beg to differ.

According to Mr. Spangenburg’s smear-piece, “Arlen’s Specter,” the Pennsylvania Senator joined the “hastily created” Warren Commission as a junior counsel and immediately set about “threatening, harassing, intimidating and bullying almost all of the eye witnesses who were allowed to testify before the Commission; selectively channeling all of the forced testimony and questionable evidence to the already forgone conclusion of Oswald's guilt.
”[Specter] also co-created the controversial ‘single bullet theory,’ along with David Berlin. This ‘theory’ – (which has since been determined to be not even plausible) pontificated that a ‘single bullet’ – fired downward from an elevated position to the right, struck President Kennedy in the rear of his neck, exited from the front of his neck, changed direction in mid air as it traversed the space between Kennedy and Governor Connally, struck Connally in the right upper back, exited his chest then passed through the Governor's right wrist, finally ending it's convoluted journey by causing a superficial wound in his right thigh. This SUPER bullet was finally discovered (in pristine condition) laying on a gurney at Parkland Hospital in Dallas Texas. Pretty big, tall tale, huh? Ah, well, it was Texas…

”Railroading the ‘lone gunman’ was necessary. So selling this ‘tall tale’ – was critical to all concerned. Without it, one would be forced to assume that there was more than one assassin that day in Dallas. Which, by logical conclusion, would mean that there was (my gosh!) a conspiracy. Considering that 1) both LBJ and J Edgar Hoover had already stated that Oswald was the LONE assassin and, 2) that Lee Oswald had also been conveniently eliminated (so there would be no trial).”
Come now, who buys any of this lunacy? It’s not as if the true facts are hard to find in this digital age, though you won’t find it on Internet websites like those encouraging history lessons from self-proclaimed acid-droppers.

Frankly, Mr. Spangenburg should be taken to the woodshed for his naïve and ignorant comic-book version of American history.

First, the Warren Commission spent the better part of ten months investigating the assassination (they didn’t even call their first witness for two months) and took testimony from a total of 552 witnesses. That’s hardly a Commission hastily created and looking to avoid eyewitness testimony as Spangenburg maintains. Furthermore, while it’s a matter of gospel among conspiracy believers, there is not one bit of believable evidence that Specter threatened, harassed, intimidated or bullied anyone he questioned.

Second, the claim that Arlen Specter co-authored the single bullet theory with David W. Belin is equally false. The question of whether Specter authored the theory alone (or with others) was definitively answered by Vincent Bugliosi in his magnum opus on the case, “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”

Bugliosi writes that “from the first moment that I heard that Specter had come up with the single-bullet theory, it made very little sense to me since the theory was so obvious that a child could author it. And here we were dealing with lawyers on the Commission staff of very high intellect, many of them graduating at the top of their law school classes. Since they all knew that the bullet, fired from Kennedy’s right rear, had passed through soft tissue in Kennedy’s body on a straight line, and that Connally was seated to the president’s left front, the bullet, after emerging from Kennedy’s body, would have had to go on and hit Connally for the simple reason it had nowhere else to go. How could it be that among many bright lawyers earnestly focusing their minds on this issue, only Specter saw it?”

In the end, Bugliosi convincingly demonstrates that the single bullet theory was not authored by Arlen Specter alone (as commonly believed), or co-authored with Belin (as Spangenburg writes), but was the joint effort of many Warren Commission staff counsels including Specter, Norman Redlich, Howard Willens, David Belin, and Mel Eisenberg, who all came to the conclusion that a single bullet best explained the anomalies in the shooting evidence. [Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History, Endnotes, pp., 301-306]

Third, the claim that the single bullet theory has since been determined to be implausible is a Spangenburg fantasy. All of the evidence (firearms, medical, and photographic) is in accord with the idea that a single bullet struck both Kennedy and Connally. Furthermore, multiple trajectory analysis conducted by numerous entities, including my own computer work, demonstrates without question that the single bullet theory is viable. In fact, like it or not, the single bullet theory is the only plausible explanation for what happened to the first bullet that struck Kennedy.

Fourth, Oswald was not shot and killed “so there would be no trial,” as Spangenburg asserts. Oswald was shot and killed by a nightclub owner turned vigilante who took it upon himself to kill the man “who killed my president.” Tragic and stupid? Sure. But the idea that Jack Ruby acted in those split seconds in the basement of police headquarters to prevent a trial, as Spangenburg charges, is silly and contradicted by Ruby’s own testimony.

Finally, the notion that railroading Oswald was necessary to prevent the public from discovering the “big conspiracy” assumes that Oswald was innocent. Spangenburg seems to forget that all of the evidence, and in particular Oswald’s own actions before, during, and after the crime, point to his guilt.

If one concludes that Oswald was framed for the Kennedy assassination, one must also accept that Oswald was an active participant in his own frame-up. How logical is that?

Like most conspiracy theorists who have hijacked the Kennedy assassination for their own political purposes, Mr. Spangenburg’s rant is less about the assassination and the single bullet theory and more about rallying like-minded progressives to join in his denunciation of a political foe.

The second example of outrageous misrepresentations of the single bullet theory posted on the OpEdNews website comes from the pen of well-known conspiracy advocate James H. “Jim” Fetzer, a distinguished McKnight University Professor; founder of the “Scholars for 9/11 Truth,” a 9/11 conspiracy group; and editor of several JFK assassination conspiracy books.

In his article, “Arlen Specter and the ‘Magic’ Bullet,” Fetzer tells us that the earliest reports out of Dallas (e.g., the fatal bullet entered Kennedy’s right temple; and there had been three shots with three hits) were all changed by the Warren Commission when it was learned that there were only two bullets available to account for all of Kennedy and Connally’s wounds.

The commission, according to Fetzer, solved this problem “by simply reversing the trajectories of the shots, so they were no longer coming from in front but were now fired from above and behind, and by ‘relocating’ the wound to JFK’s back.”

According to Fetzer, “there was ample proof that the bullet that hit JFK in the throat was fired from in front rather than from behind.” What is this proof?

Fetzer tells us there are three proofs: (1) Dr. Malcolm Perry told reporters on the afternoon of November 22nd that Kennedy’s throat wound was an entry wound, (2) Dr. Robert B. Livingston heard descriptions of the throat wound over the radio, which he recognized had to be an entry wound from a shot fired from in front, then contacted autopsy pathologist Dr. James Humes before the autopsy to tell him; and (3) Dr. Humes eventually conceded that he had been directed to destroy and rewrite his autopsy report to conform to the single bullet theory.

From this (and other long ago debunked conspiracy claims) Fetzer concludes, “…that the “magic bullet” theory is anatomically impossible, and that the autopsy X-rays have been altered not only implicates the government in a conspiracy to conceal the truth about the death of our 35th president but suggests that the most likely explanation for governmental complicity in the cover-up is governmental complicity in the crime. So if this man, Arlen Specter, really has a ‘passion for truth’, as his book proclaims, why is he saying so many things to the American people that are provably false?”

Never mind that Dr. Malcolm Perry testified to the Warren Commission that he did not know if the throat wound was an entrance or exit wound; or that he never really examined the wound while trying to save the president’s life; or that he was only speculating about the direction of fire while talking to the press two hours after Kennedy died.

Never mind that Dr. Robert B. Livingston’s account of his call to Dr. Humes doesn’t square with the record, or that Dr. Humes denies ever speaking to Livingston, or that Livingston failed to inform authorities about his claims, instead choosing only to write letters to conspiracy theorists in 1992.

And never mind too that Dr. Humes never “conceded” (as Fetzer claims) that he had been “directed to destroy and rewrite his autopsy report” to conform to the single bullet theory. Dr. Humes himself told the Warren Commission that he burned his original autopsy notes stained with the president’s blood after copying them and drafting the autopsy report in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 24th. Why would Dr. Humes become an accessory to the murder of the President of the United States by burning crucial evidence to cover-up the true nature of the crime (as Fetzer and conspiracy theorists charge), then freely admit to the “crime” in open testimony? The conspiracy buffs don’t say; nor do they have an answer to a myriad of other problems created by their irrational reading of the testimony and evidence in the Kennedy assassination.

None of this is new, of course. Conspiracy theorists have long struggled with reconciling their view of history with the truth. That, however, hasn’t deterred them from making false, baseless allegations in the hopes of perpetuating the myth of conspiracy and cover-up in the JFK assassination.

In the early days, it was done through books, magazine articles, and newsletters. Today, conspiracy buffs have the global reach of the Internet at their disposal.

But no matter how the lies are broadcast, the song remains the same.