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Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK”, by Gerald Posner


607 pages, Random House, ISBN-13: 978-0679418252

A few years ago, I saw a copy of Gerald Posner’s book on the JFK assassination, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, in the publisher overstock section of Barnes & Noble and decided, out of simple curiosity, to pick up a copy. I found it entertaining and informative and uplifting, as Posner makes a good case that there was no conspiracy in the killing of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22nd 1963, and casts doubts on the contrived attempts to show that there was. The book is not overlong and is, generally, a good read. While not nearly as exhaustive as Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi (and my first-ever review on An Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge from way back on January 20, 2012), Case Closed is still, nevertheless, an invaluable weapon in the arsenal of common sense in the JFK assassination wars.

Reflecting in the present on the book from a level of much greater knowledge of the JFK assassination, Case Closed leaves something to be desired, as it is not as robust in its arguments as it really needs to be, and rather too glib in places. However, it is silly to make much of the deficiencies of Case Closed, in the same way it is hard to pick on the Warren Report on the JFK assassination: the only problem with both documents is that they didn't make as good a case for themselves as they could have. For example, Posner gave aid and comfort to conspiracy theories by claiming the FBI obstructed the work of the Warren Commission, even though by all evidence the FBI was up to their normal level of professionalism in carrying out tasks assigned to the bureau by the commission (notice who was giving the orders and who was obeying them).

On the plus side, Case Closed is far more sensible than any conspiracy book, and it did a fair job of discussing New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s lunatic crusade to find somebody, anybody, to finger for the assassination, while giving a nice graphical description of the ballistics of the “magic bullet” that hit JFK and Texas Governor John Connally. Posner likewise did a particularly thorough job of dismantling the completely cooked “mysterious deaths” lists that conspiracy geeks like so much, it seems because they can't find any better evidence.

Very notably, Case Closed was one of the first books to debunk the JFK assassination hysteria to make the best-seller lists; had a book like this been a best-seller in the 1960s, it might have helped prevent the JFK conspiracy flying circus from taking off; or example, I believe that one of the big reasons that the 9/11 conspiracy movement faded so much faster was because of the best-selling book that Popular Mechanics published to debunk said 9/11 conspiracy claims. Unfortunately, nobody really put out anything with the same impact to support the Warren Report before Gerald Posner came along.

Not that it matters much now: there was never any convincing reason to think there was a conspiracy in the assassination; clues that suggested a conspiracy were investigated and all went nowhere. After 50+ years, the JFK conspiracy circus has nothing of substance to show for itself; the noise continues, but anyone who simply tunes it out will be given no cause to give the matter further thought. Yes, many Americans say they think there was a conspiracy, but most of them who do only think about the matter when somebody asks them about it; they say whatever pops into their head, and then forget about it again. In another 50+ years, after everyone who remembers November 22nd 1963 is gone, the question will likely produce nothing more than a blank stare.

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