Today is the 57th anniversary of the JFK assassination. There will be articles, TV shows, blog posts (like this one) and tweets about his life, and his death. There will be arguments about conspiracy theories and whether Oswald was the lone gunman. And, there will be people bemoaning the fact that there are more JFK assassination documents to be released.
There are two things we should do today. First, take some time to remember JFK, his life and his Presidency. JFK brought hope to many people within the United States and to many people around the world. It was a time for optimism. Boy, have times changed.
Debates about the assassination have also changed. There was a time when it was all about the evidence - in particular the 26 volumes of exhibits and testimony of the Warren Commission. But, since the advent of postmodernism in the 1980s, there, are now claims that every piece of evidence has been altered, faked, or planted. How on earth can we even have a discussion under these circumstances?
The HSCA addressed many of the issues raised by the critics in the sixties. Since then, the literature has taken on a disturbing tone -- one that rejects any piece of evidence contrary to findings of conspiracy. If the autopsy X-rays and photos show evidence of a single head- shot from the rear, well, they must be fakes.  If the wounds on Kennedy's body are consistent with a single-gunman, well, the body must have been altered.  If the neutron activation analysis shows the single- bullet theory to be correct, well, the evidence has been tampered with.  And, if you do not like the conclusions of a professional panel, well, they must have ties to the government.  One could go on and on. This is extremely dangerous. "This development is exactly opposite to the legitimate process of theory-building and testing. In the clash between evidence and theories, theories have to be discarded. It's true that evidence is often weak and open to multiple interpretations, but to argue that evidence is fraudulent is to undermine the possibility that any theory might turn out to be "true". . . To argue in such a style is to cause the collapse of the entire empirical edifice of assassinology. However weak, evidence could at least refute theories; now the evidence can't even do that."
We can thank Jim Garrison for some of this. He manufactured evidence when he couldn't find it. And, most Warren Commission critics went along with him. There were notable exceptions like Sylvia Meagher, David Lifton, and Paul Hoch. Harold Weisberg eventually saw the light, and Anthony Summers became increasingly skeptical of Garrison. I've published some of Meagher's memos which indicated she was most concerned about how the public would look at her fellow critics after Garrison.
And, Jim Garrison went way beyond manufacturing evidence. He intimidated and bribed witnesses. His reckless behavior ruined lives and harmed reputations. Putting a conspiracy theorist into power proved to be toxic. So, perhaps we can also take some time to remember the people who were bowled over by the Garrison steamroller.
As we all know, one of the greatest miscarriages of American jurisprudence occurred on March 1, 1967 when a gay man in New Orleans, Clay Shaw, was charged with conspiracy to assassinate JFK. Garrison had no evidence to support the charge other than the recollections of a witness who had been interviewed after being injected with sodium pentothal, a so-called truth serum, and then questioned three times under hypnosis. His recovered memory – that he had been at a party where participants had loosely discussed JFK’s murder – was enough to ruin Shaw’s life.
Shaw was acquitted two years later, but Garrison then charged him with perjury, and it took another two years for that charge to be quashed. Shortly afterward, Shaw died of cancer, ruthlessly deprived of not only the best years of retirement but most of his savings too.
Garrison did not stop at Clay Shaw. Ten months after he charged Shaw, he indicted a Christian radio promoter, Edgar Eugene Bradley, with conspiracy without any indication of how or if the two conspiracies were linked. Garrison staffer Tom Bethell asked, “Had two entirely separate gangs opened fire simultaneously in Dealey Plaza?” Garrison tried to have him extradited from California to face charges, but when he couldn’t produce any evidence tying him to a conspiracy, Governor Ronald Reagan refused the request. The damage had been done – Bradley was all over the news as a co-conspirator, and his life was never the same.
He also targeted three anti-Castro activists in New Orleans. Sergio Arcacha Smith, who had moved to Dallas, was hounded by Garrison’s men and he feared for the safety of his children. He lost his job when his story hit the newspapers. Carlos Bringuier stood up to Garrison and even took a lie detector test. But his wife was so worried about his possible arrest that she suffered a miscarriage. Carlos Quiroga was threatened with arrest unless he took a lie detector test. Then he was intimidated with threats of incarceration if he did not change his story. A major Garrison witness, in a drunken stupor, threatened his life.
Kerry Thornley, a Marine buddy of Lee Harvey Oswald, was indicted for perjury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He faced a felony charge and he was put in jail until he posted a $3,000 bond. It took him years to get the charges dropped.
And, there was one forgotten victim, Louis Bloomfield, a corporate lawyer from Canada. A communist-controlled Italian newspaper, Paese Sera, charged he was the leading shareholder of a company in Rome, CMC, that was really a CIA front organization funding right-wing extremists.. Clay Shaw was on the board of the CMC, although he never attended any board meetings.
The articles traveled through the communist press and ultimately found their way into western newspapers and magazines. There was no truth to the charges - and this was proven by his papers which are housed in Ottawa. In 1967, Bloomfield wrote the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) because he feared for his physical safety after accusations that he ran an assassination bureau surfaced in a Lyndon LaRouche publication. To this day, his biography is still polluted by accusations of conspiracy.
Here is a picture from a Lyndon LaRouche publication.
Even in death, Shaw was still hounded. Oliver Stone’s film JFK made him the heart of a conspiracy. Stone hired heartthrob Kevin Costner to play a heroic Jim Garrison and Tommy Lee Jones a villainous Clay Shaw. The film also made a huge deal out of Shaw’s homosexuality - a gay rights group said JFK was “as homophobic as films get.”
And, then there is the story of Larry Crafard, a young man who helped managed Jack Ruby's strip club. Journalist Ron Rosenbaum interviewed Garrison in the early 1970s and asked him if he would name the gunmen. Garrison said there were four gunmen, and he actually gave Rosenbaum a name - Larry Crafard. Rosenbaum did not include his name in his article because might have still been alive. In the 1980s, Crafard was mentioned in book about the mob and the assassination. His wife then became paranoid, their marriage broke up, and he lost his job. He died in 2011.
So, on this anniversary of JFK’s assassination, let’s commemorate his life. And, please, my advice to everybody - please don’t bring your conspiracy theories to the office.