Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jonathan Kay: How JFK’s assassination 50 years ago gave rise to a nation of Conspiracists

The assassination of John F. Kennedy stands as the single most-studied non-religious instant in human history. By one estimate, more than 2,000 books have been written about the killing. As scholar James Piereson has noted, Americans’ enduring obsession with the event, their speculation about how history might have played out had JFK survived, and the mind-boggling array of theories put forward to explain the murder all serve to demonstrate that “the assassination was never fully digested by the generation that lived through it.”

Given that JFK’s killer was a Marxist and a vocal supporter of Fidel Castro, one might have expected that the president’s assassination would have generated a backlash against socialism, and the left more generally.

But many American leftists dealt with the emotional agony of JFK’s murder — exacerbated as it was by the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy five years later — by convincing themselves that, in some cosmic sense, it wasn’t actually a fellow traveller who was responsible, but rather some fundamental defect in the United States itself. The New York Times editorial board, for instance, wrote of “the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down President John F. Kennedy.

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