When it comes to the subject of JFK's assassination, the U.S. mainstream media has a terrible track record. When the Warren Commission issued its report on September 27, 1964 stating that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone, it was immediately hailed as the last word on the case by the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS. The very day the report was published, a New York Times editorial gushed, "The Commission analyzed every issue in exhaustive, almost archaeological detail...The facts, exhaustively gathered, independently checked and cogently set forth, destroy the basis for conspiracy theories that have grown weedlike in this country and abroad." Not mentioned in the editorial was the simple fact that none of the evidence upon which the Warren Report was ostensibly based was then available and, therefore, independent evaluation of the Commission's conclusions was impossible. Two months later, when the 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits were released, journalist Anthony Lewis assured the public that the totality of the evidence proved the Commission's conclusions to be correct. Of course, Mr Lewis could never explain how he had managed to make his way through more than 50,000 pages in a single day - clearly an impossible feat.
Ultimately, one can either bow down and marvel at the unparalleled speed-reading abilities of the press or one can accept the reality that Lewis, like the rest of his media cohorts, understood that dissent was not allowed and had chosen to get with the programme. Researching the facts of the case was clearly an indigestible prospect for those who had decided it was best to go along to get along. A couple of years later, when a small band of private citizens who had taken the time to actually study the record began writing works critical of the official story, they were roundly attacked and labelled as "scavengers" by these same media assets who were either embarrassed by their own lack of courage and diligence or else in the pocket of government agencies.
Flash forward to the early 1990s and the reception afforded Oliver Stone's masterful movie, JFK. The sheer volume of editorials, op-eds, letters and articles which appeared, condemning the film and its director, was almost as staggering as the savagery with which some of them were written. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these attacks is that they began some eight months before the movie was released, and while principle photography was still taking place! On May 14, 1991, without even having seen the script for himself, Dallas Morning News reporter Jon Margolis wrote, "There is a point at which intellectual myopia becomes morally repugnant. Stone's new movie proves that he has passed that point." Months later, New York Newsday complained of "The Blurred Vision of JFK," Newsweek labelled the movie "propaganda" and "Twisted History," and the Chicago Sun Times opined, "Stone's Film Trashes Facts, Dishonors JFK." Stone himself was understandably stunned by the establishment's continued refusal to permit reasonable questions be asked about that day in Dallas.
It would be nice to think that times have changed, that today American journalists have the courage and integrity to question the edicts of officialdom, dig into the evidence, and accept the truth in front of their eyes. Alas, reviews and commentaries on Stone's new follow-up documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, tend to suggest otherwise. Case in point: the review written for Variety by Owen Gleiberman, which comes across (to me at least) as little more than the written equivalent of a child closing their eyes, sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling "La la la! I'm not listening to you!"
The international press, having fewer hang-ups about the assassination, is doing a slightly better job. In a piece for The Independent, Scottish film critic Geoffrey Macnab writes, "Even [Stone's] fiercest detractors will find it hard to dismiss the evidence he has assembled about the JFK assassination in the new documentary. Once I'd seen it and heard him hold forth, I came away thinking that only flat-earthers can possibly still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy all on his own." Yet Gleiberman demonstrates how easy it is to dismiss the mountain of facts disproving the official fairy tale if you simply deny its importance. He writes obliquely of how Stone "holds a magnifying glass up to certain inconsistencies in the evidence that will probably never be resolved" and assures his readers that the "ultimate looking-glass scenario" is how "one sick little man like Lee Harvey Oswald" could "commit an act so horrifically monumental." If your eyes just rolled into the back of your head when reading that last bit of "wisdom," trust me, you're not alone.
Of course, one should not expect any better from someone like Gleiberman who admits that his own view of the assassination was shaped by the likes of Case Closed author Gerald Posner. This, of course, is the same Gerald Posner who committed perjury before a congressional committee in 1993, claiming that when he interviewed JFK's pathologists, Dr James J. Humes and Dr J. Thornton Boswell, both agreed that they had been mistaken about the location of the entrance wound in Kennedy's head. Yet, when contacted by assassination expert Dr Gary Aguilar, both pathologists vociferously denied making any such statements. In fact, Boswell denied ever having spoken to Posner at all. Dr Aguilar gave a tape recording of his conversations with Humes and Boswell to the Assassination Records Review Board and, as a result, it contacted Posner, asking him to substantiate his testimony. Obviously, Posner could not produce evidence of interviews that had never taken place to begin with so he stonewalled the board. "The Review Board's initial contact with Posner produced no results," the ARRB noted in its final report. "The Review Board never received a response to a second letter of request for the notes." If this is the calibre of "expert" on which Gleiberman chooses to rely, it is little wonder he has nothing but nonsense to offer on the subject. Garbage in, garbage out.
In any case, Gleiberman doubles down on the Krazy Kid Oswald narrative, dismissing the question of why Oswald would have chosen to break the law and mail-order a rifle under an assumed name, instead of just popping into any one of his numerous local gun sellers and picking one up without leaving a paper trail, by stating, "...because he was a sick puppy who was mentally ill enough to want to shoot the president." The fact that no evidence that Oswald was "mentally ill enough to want to shoot the president" has ever been produced is, I'm sure, of little consequence to someone like Gleiberman. Pointing out that Oswald's Marine Corps records revealed no signs of mental abnormality, or that psychiatric evaluations conducted a few short years before the assassination concluded that he was "not dangerous to other people" and there was "no sign of psychotic phenomena," (see Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 244) seems almost as redundant as noting that Oswald was known to have been an admirer of President Kennedy. After all, Gleiberman can dismiss these facts easily enough with the one-size-fits-all argument of "holding up a magnifying glass to something that will probably never be resolved."
When Gleiberman does make an attempt at countering specific items of evidence, he ends up achieving little more than highlighting his own ignorance. For example, Oliver's Stone's 1991 movie placed great emphasis on the fact that JFK's head was sent hurtling "back and to the left" in an apparent response to a shot from the grassy knoll. Gleiberman's response to "That infamous movement" is to suggest that it "was long ago dissected by ballistics experts." For what it is worth, I know of only two "ballistics experts" to have tackled the issue and they do not even agree with one another. One of these specialists, Lucien Haag, wrote a piece for the AFTE Journal - the peer-reviewed publication of The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners - in which he relied upon the "jet effect theory" originated in the 1970s by physicist Luis Alvarez. Dr Alvarez had fired soft-nosed hunting rounds (not full metal jacketed bullets as supposedly used in the assassination) from a rifle of much greater velocity than the type Oswald was alleged to have used into melons weighing far less than a human head and claimed he had found the answer to Kennedy's "retrograde motion." Of course, he had also shot at a variety of other objects that did not fly backwards but those results were kept out of his published papers. (see Josiah Thompson, Last Second in Dallas, pp. 123-129)
The other ballistics expert to have confronted the problem, Larry Sturdivan, was less enamoured of Alvarez's theory. After having taken part in experiments wherein the actual rifle and ammunition Oswald is alleged to have used was fired into at least ten rehydrated human skulls filled with brain simulant, none of which flew backward, Sturdivan concluded that "The jet effect, though real, is not enough to throw the president's body into the back of the car." (Sturdivan, The JFK Myths, p. 164) Instead, Sturdivan offered the suggestion that the head shot had created an enormous downward rush of neurologic stimuli to all efferent nerves in Kennedy's body and, because the back muscles are stronger than the abdominals, this caused the president's body to arch dramatically backwards. But as Dr Donald Thomas wrote in his brilliant book on the JFK forensic evidence, Hear No Evil, "Sturdivan's postulate suffers from a patently anomalous notion of the anatomy...Neither the erector spinae, or any other muscles in the back are capable of causing a backward lunge of their body by contraction." (Thomas, Hear No Evil, p. 341)
So, of the two ballistics experts to whom Gleiberman presumably refers, one relied on a physicist who had rigged his experiments and cherry-picked his results, and the other offered a theory that was anatomically impossible. Of course, there is one other explanation for "back and to the left" that does not rely on such sophistry or chicanery: a shot from the grassy knoll. And, in fact, this explanation is supported by the autopsy X-rays that show a trail of bullet fragments in the top of the skull that could not have been left behind by a full metal jacket Carcano bullet entering low down in the back of the head, as per the official story. Perhaps it is just as well that Gleiberman's article is, as he writes, "a movie review, not a forensic dossier."
Not that Gleiberman fares any better on non-scientific issues. For example, he spectacularly fails to understand the importance of eyewitness Victoria Adams in establishing the likelihood that Oswald was not on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the assassination. As the Warren Commission admitted, a maximum of 90 seconds after the shooting, Oswald was seen in the second floor lunchroom by police officer Marion Baker, looking cool, calm and collected. Baker had run into the depository building, believing the shots may have been fired from its roof, and was on his way up the stairs when he spotted Oswald inside the lunchrom and confronted him, demanding that he identify himself. After Oswald's boss Roy Truly confirmed his status as an employee, Baker continued his ascent. It has long been understood that Oswald had precious little time to make this encounter and, in its re-enactments, the Commission did everything it could to speed up Oswald and slow down Baker. (see Harold Weisberg, Whitewash, pp. 85-89) But more often overlooked is the fact that Vicki Adams and her friend Sandra Styles - who had watched the assassination from a fourth floor window and made their way down to the first floor approximately 15 to 30 seconds after the last shot was fired - were on the depository steps at the very time Oswald would have had to have run down them and neither saw nor heard any sign of him.
Gleiberman responds to this by suggesting that Oswald might have heard Adams and Styles on the stairs "and hung back for ten seconds," seemingly oblivious to the fact that hanging back for any length of time would have made it impossible for Oswald to have been in the lunchroom when Baker arrived there. Perhaps more importantly, Gleiberman has somehow missed out the third lady in the equation, Dorothy Garner. Ms Garner had left the fourth floor window with Adams and Styles but, rather than descending the stairs with her colleagues, had gone to a storage area by the stairway. She stayed there long enough to see Baker coming up the stairs after his encounter with Oswald on the second floor. What she did not see in the intervening seconds was Oswald descending from the sixth floor. And if Oswald did not walk down those stairs in between the time Adams went down and Baker came up then he could not have been on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination. So, despite Gleiberman remarking with derision that Stone's new film "treats it as a seismic revelation," that is precisely what the Adams/Styles/Garner story is.
Ultimately, his inability to grasp the significance of the above underscores the biggest problem with having someone like Gleiberman review a documentary about the Kennedy assassination: he has no idea what he is talking about. The media has so actively avoided learning the truth about the case that it cannot possibly hope to adequately assess, let alone rebut something as illuminating and ground-breaking as JFK Revisited. It is little wonder, then, that the many thousands of documents released by the ARRB that form the basis for Stone's new film have yet to be looked at or reported on in any meaningful way by any establishment media outlet.
And little wonder that Gleiberman shut his eyes, popped his fingers in his ears, and doubled down on denialism.