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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Oliver Stone's Poverty of Imagination

I watched Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, this weekend. It's very typical Oliver Stone -- excellent cinematography, terrific editing and a musical score that would not have been out of place in a feature film. The only thing missing was a coherent argument about the assassination and about American foreign policy since 1963.

The film not only accuses the CIA and the military industrial complex of killing JFK, it also concludes that American foreign policy today is still affected by the assassination. That the United States can only have a proper foreign policy if we uncover the conspiracy.

Perhaps some people will be fooled into believing there is something new here; something that changes the calculus of the evidence. Instead, we are treated to soundbites - tidbits of conspiratorial, well, as John McAdams would say, factoids. It's not only one-sided, it's jejune.

But don't worry. In a matter of months, we will get a longer four-hour exposition, and another "book of the film" complete with annotations that will make it all sound authoritative.

A large part of the film is based on the proposition that only a trial of Lee Harvey Oswald could have established the truth of what happened in November 1963. The big logical leap is that if evidence could have been excluded due to a broken chain of possession, he can conclude with minimal evidence that the bullet CE399, for example, was switched. And thus, Oswald would have been acquitted. Of course, acquittal does not imply factual innocence.

And yet many of the talking heads in the film provide anecdotes that are hearsay and that certainly would have been excluded from a trial:

  • Gerald Ford supposedly told Valéry Giscard d'Estaing that there was a conspiracy.

  • Secret Service agent Elmer Moore told Jim Gochenaur that he pressured Dr. Malcolm Perry to say that Kennedy's throat wound was an entrance wound. Moore also told Gochenaur that the Secret Service was behind the prosecution of Abraham Bolden.

  • Dr. Donald Miller said that Dr. Perry told him that Kennedy's throat wound was one of entrance.

  • Dr. George Burkley admitted to two researchers that there was more than one gunman firing at Kennedy.

  • Robert Knudsen supposedly told his wife and son that an autopsy photograph had been altered.

Some of this information should not be flatly excluded from consideration for the judgment of history but should be treated with some skepticism. I just don't believe Gerald Ford told d'Estaing any such thing, and while there may be some truth in regard to Abraham Bolden, Gochenaur is probably not a very credible witness. I'll be doing a blog post on Gochenaur in the next few weeks.

The film briefly mentions that Clay Shaw was indicted by Jim Garrison for conspiracy to kill JFK. It's a bit rich that while the film bemoans the fact that Oswald did not receive a trial, it does not even mention that Clay Shaw had one, and that he was acquitted. And his acquittal was not based on a technicality like a chain of possession issue, but because the jury quickly recognized that the case for his participation in a conspiracy was not convincing.

Besides the hearsay, is it really necessary to rehash the Oswald backyard photographs? Does the preponderance of the evidence really show that the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository was not Oswald's? Or that Oswald was not even on the sixth floor when the shots were fired? Should we really have a robust debate on the nature of wound in Kennedy's throat?

I could ask many such questions.

Oliver Stone suffers from a failure in imagination. Yes, he can imagine a massive conspiracy and coverup. But he cannot imagine any sort of non-conspiratorial explanations for any of the suspicious pieces of evidence in his film.

And so, once again, JFK researchers will now start to debunk this so-called documentary.

And this is just the beginning. Stay tuned. It's going to be a bumpy ride.


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