Republished as part of our ‘Best Of’ series, revisiting some of OffG’s Pre-Covid editorials – either because they help remind us of important realities easily overlooked nowadays, or because they take on added significance in a ‘post-covid’ world.
The assassination of JFK has been a deeply personal issue for me since I was very young, only eleven, but it spoke to me on a level I could appreciate but not yet understand or verbalise. It was an awakening, a realisation about the nature of our political world. It was waking up from a dream.
When the centenary of JFK’s birth came around, and with a new platform at my disposal, it wasn’t a question of if I would write something to mark it, but what I would write (and how much).
I decided to focus on an angle not much discussed by the scholar and journalists who came before: “why?”. Not why he was killed, but why he was killed in right in front of our eyes.
I wanted to discuss the double-purpose of the JFK assassination, the physical attack on the man, and the psychological attack on us.
* * *
“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”John F. Kennedy – Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963
If the bullets hadn’t flown, John Fitzgerald Kennedy might have been one hundred years old today. Granted, it’s not likely, but definitely possible. If the parade route hadn’t been changed, and the roof taken off the limousine, and the secret service ordered to stand down, the world would likely be a very different place.
If the man had safely negotiated the last 54 years, and was still breathing today, what would he make of this mess?
A war on heroes
“The American conscience died with Robert, Martin and John” Perry White, Batman vs. Superman
America, a country on the rise in 1963, is now an Empire in decline. Not just a decline in prestige and power, but a decline in intelligence and quality. Even the thin patina of pretend values has tarnished, as America’s ruling class now lack the imagination to even play-act morality. Even their dreams are limited by their own smallness of mind.
Where once we had educated men giving speeches about the nature of peace (see above), about aspiration for the future, or citing Aeschylus to balm a nation’s grief. We now have freeze-dried harpies hurling abuse across the floor of the UN, knuckle-dragging cowboys staggering over basic idioms, entitled lunatics demanding recognition for qualities they barely understand, let alone possess.
Semi-literate presidential addresses, in 280 characters or fewer.
Nixon, for all his paranoia and corruption, at least understood the world he lived in whilst Hillary Clinton was, and is, dangerously out-of-touch with reality. Ronald Reagan was a senile fool, a glorified advertising mascot for mega-corporations, but Trump makes even him seem a polished and educated statesman.
Is this decline deliberate? The acting out of a policy, by unspoken powers, to limit public intelligence, education and discourse? Are we deprived of political heroes to engender apathy? Maybe.
Or maybe it’s a simple byproduct of a corrupt system that encourages stupidity and stamps out individual thought. Where the worst among us are artificially raised above the level of their ability, character and intelligence.
The decline is not just in the people or character of politicians, but understanding and conversation. Political debates are now little more than slanging matches. Morality broken down from a societal set of concrete values, to a relative abstract. Acts are right or wrong depending on who does them, and how, rather than the act itself. Wars of words are fought across the internet, by volunteer forces armed with little more than labels.
The very nature of truth is under threat. The scientific method as a pursuit of truth is abandoned, as science is converted into a quasi-religion. A broad set of consensus truths, the public understanding of which is limited and flawed, but adherence to which is mandatory. Enforced under penalty of banishment.
An empire is falling, and under the weight of a collapsing tyrant, words themselves crumble. College campuses ban speakers in the name of freedom. We are lectured by paid propagandists on the “tyranny” of Free Speech, the “unfairness” of direct democracy. Fascist. Sexist. Racist. Words deprived of meaning and impact by overuse, while true fascism – the unimpeded cooperation of business and state – goes unchecked in practically every corner of the Western world.
This can all be traced back to the systematic removal of our heroes. That war is still carried out in attacks against every man, woman, party or group that tries to speak up for high-mindedness, encourage societal cooperation, or place people higher in priority than profit.
Empires Eat Themselves
“I love studying Ancient History and seeing how empires rise and fall, sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Martin Scorsese
In a sane world, a just world, psychopathic non-entities like Theresa May would never sniff high-office, and would be condemned to live out their days in middle-management positions at insurance companies. As severe and sadistic deputy head-teachers at private schools. Being traffic wardens. Venting their self-limiting malignity on any unfortunate people who happen into their tiny spheres of influence.
Sadly, this world is never sane and only rarely just.
I have written before about the temptation to view great power, and great evil, as a monolith. There is an assumption that direction and movement require cooperation, and that the corridors of power in Langley and the Pentagon hum with the activity of an ants’ nest. A million minds with one thought and one goal, working with unspoken bonds of purpose.
A less flattering, but more accurate, metaphor might be a swarm of rats in a sewer. Yes, they’re all headed in roughly the same direction, and yes they’re all making the same noises, but there’s no organization, no long-term thinking. Temporarily aligned self-interest is not the same as working together. Ruthless opportunism is not the same as a plan. To us it seems a collective, but to the rats it’s a race.
Psychopaths rise to the top of every power structure eventually. In a game with no rules, those with no morals will always have an edge. A man who will do anything to win has a decided advantage over a man with limitations.
That is sadly true, and it’s been used to argue that psychopathy could be the next step in human evolution.
This glamorization of psychopathy is, ironically, a general symptom the degradation of society.
We are encouraged to think of morality as “old-fashioned”, a vestigial remnant of the religion we’ve left behind and are likewise supposed to despise. That a free-thinking man has no need for the false gods of good and evil.
But Psychopathy is more than a simple disregard for morality. Its lack of recognition of other people’s feelings carries with it a lack of understanding of their experience – meaning psychopaths expect to tell, and get away with, absurd lies.
Their inherent narcissism makes them furious when people don’t believe these lies, but unable to learn from the experience.
A pathological need to deceive translates into telling lies, when the truth might be more beneficial.
They lack impulse control, cannot plan in the long-term and tend toward self-destructive behaviour (drinking, gambling, financial recklessness).
They can be superficially charming, but give themselves away with inappropriate emotional reactions.
Think about that list. Take the people described, and put them in charge of society for fifty years. Doesn’t that explain our world?
These are the kind of people in power positions. Barely-there souls driven by malign goals that aren’t even confinable to simple self-interest, pushed forward by a deranged internal drive toward chaos.
Sociopaths and narcissists run the Western world, and have since the US deep-state took a rifle sight to the men that embodied the American conscience, if not before.
Put into this context, the decline of American Empire – both intellectually and morally – makes perfect sense.
A Nation of Hamlets
“We’ve all become Hamlets in our country, children of a slain father-leader whose killers still possess the throne. The ghost of John F. Kennedy confronts us with the secret murder at the heart of the American Dream.”Jim Garrison – JFK
The death of Kennedy is a story that won’t go away, a splinter at the back of the American mind. Driving them mad. If a country can be compared to an individual, then a fallen king can be a dead parent. A father lost before his time. An adolescent trauma, rotting and unconfronted and repressed. Informing every moment, every decision.
The JFK obsession has been dismissed by some as nothing more than a cult of personality, a trite fetishising of the too-soon-departed, equivalent to the worship of Jim Morrison or Marilyn Monroe. But I see it as going deeper than that, somewhere behind the glitz and glamour of “Camelot” there was something more substantial. An idea. “And ideas are bullet proof”.
That, perhaps, explains the cultural push back against both investigation of the Kennedy assassination, and praise of his presidency. The man was killed over five decades ago, but the political establishment still feel the need to assassinate him. Over and over again.
He is portrayed as naive and arrogant for ignoring “experts” and getting involved in Vietnam. A spoilt rich kid whose father bought the election. A womanizing drug addict.
In this Guardian article, for example, published earlier this year to mark the centenary, the author makes reference to Kennedy’s extra-marital affairs, and criticises him for his “secret medical conditions” as if they are somehow relevent to his politics.
The final two paragraphs are then given over to Kissinger’s biographer who proceeds to compare Kennedy, unfavourably, to Donald Trump:
The realities of the Kennedy White House are so extraordinarily scuzzy that Trump is a kind of saintly figure by contrast.”
For years now, from both sides of the right-left paradigm, there has been a steady effort to “fight back” against the “sanctified” picture of JFK. That particular charge has been led by Noam Chomsky, who is keen to paint JFK as just another politician. “Worse than Obama”, he says in this interview.
It’s obviously true that the election of Kennedy didn’t instantly and completely halt any and all military and covert operations, the world didn’t become a Coca Cola advert on January 20th 1961. But to lay that at the feet of the new President, when he was in the process of taking control of a highly secretive framework of machinery designed to promote war and chaos, and compartmentalise information, is disingenuous at best.
Yes, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster – one that Kennedy is routinely blamed for – but that was planned under Eisenhower (even Chomsky admits that). Kennedy’s reticence to turn it into a full-scale war – which the military repeatedly pressured him to do – led to him being labeled “soft on communism”. He beheaded the CIA afterwards, forcing the resignation of Allen Dulles and several others.
And yes, the irresponsible and provocative placing of Jupiter missiles in Turkey led to the Cuban Missile Crisis – but it was Kennedy’s readiness to make a deal that prevented a near-miss from blooming into a mushroom cloud. One wonders how many modern presidents would have resolved that situation peacefully.
And, finally, yes, his administration carried on the Eisenhower era policies of arming the south Vietnamese – but Kennedy was committed to ending that support and to pulling out of Vietnam. This is an established fact. But for his assassination, there would have been no Vietnam war.
As an argument, the idea that Kennedy was nothing more than a proto-Obama, a smiling salesman in an expensive suit, would perhaps carry more weight if he hadn’t been murdered in public. Generally speaking, you don’t need to execute mascots and frontmen.
We are being asked to live in an insane world – one where we are expected to believe that the most influential act of political murder of the last 100 years happened for no reason at all. Kennedy wasn’t important. Kennedy didn’t stand for anything. Kennedy died for no reason.
The massive divergence between the established, allowable consensus and genuine weight of public opinion has driven a wedge into the American psyche. The Jungian collective mind is schizophrenic in America, driven insane by mass-cognitive dissonance. Every poll of the American people ever done on this topic, dating back to November 29th 1963, only a week after the shooting, has shown a clear majority believe in a conspiracy to kill their president. Public support for the “Lone Gunmen” theory has never surveyed at better than 30%.
Less than one in three people have ever believed the official narrative, but is that reality reflected in the media? Never. Films and documentaries and TV productions (with one noteworthy exception) routinely portray the assassination in the absurd terms laid down by the Warren Commission. Attempting to undermine, straw-man or completely ignore any other interpretations.
Whether you view the President as the father of the nation, or the concept of democracy as the father of America, the US citizenry are reduced to a nation of Hamlets. Forced to watch their father die and his killer usurp the power that should, by right, be passed to them.
Cursed with the certain knowledge that their country is poisoned, their society sick. They try to pursue the truth, but are told by every voice they consider authority…that they are mad. To let it go.
Our heroes are stamped out before our eyes, and their ghosts cry out for justice we cannot provide. We want to act, but are deprived of the kind leadership that can coalesce angry people into a movement with direction and purpose. The media muddy the water and sow discord, whilst any voice that tries to rise above the din of distraction, to make us whole and just, is shut out. Locked up. Gunned down.
Of All Sad Words…
“Here we are. Lyndon Johnson, more of the same. Nobody voted for him…It felt for a second like everything was about to change.Pete Campbell – Mad Men
The public execution of John Fitzgerald Kennedy is a watershed moment in the history, not just of America, but the world. Possibly the key moment of the entire 20th century. From that violent wellspring flowed Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
America, the ideal America described in the constitution, died on November 22nd 1963. It’s important to remember: Things could have been so different.
At its heart, the American system of government is one of the fairest ever devised by man, the US Constitution one of most fair-minded and important pieces of legislation ever drafted. But from its founding as a nation America has been in a near-constant state of internal struggle.
In the early days it was Jefferson vs. Hamilton, Democratic-Republicans vs Federalists. The push of central government against the rights of individual states. The idea of a stable cooperative vs the push to nationhood and, inevitably, empire. That same struggle exists in Europe today.
Slowly but surely, over the first two-hundred years of American existence, the ideals of the constitution were knocked back, limited, qualified, in the push for more centralised power and the building of an Empire. States were forced through military might to stay in the Union against their will. It became America’s “manifest destiny” to commit genocide against Native Americans and steal their land.
Over time the American Imperialists fermented into what we call the Deep State. Interconnected families of enormous wealth and immeasurable economic influence, given complete monetary control after the founding of the Federal Reserve, and handed the reins of military and political power when Harry Truman signed the order that established the CIA. Truman declared, later in life:
I think [the creation of the CIA] was a mistake. And if I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have done it…Why, they’ve got an organization over there in Virginia now that is practically the equal of the Pentagon in many ways. And I think I’ve told you, one Pentagon is one too many.
In the decade following that order the CIA backed anti-democratic coups in Guatemala, Iran, and the Congo. Resulting in decades of oppression and millions of deaths. It set a pattern that would repeat right up to the present day.
This gluttonous pursuit of wealth and power was only ever held in check by constitutional safe-guards against out-right tyranny. A rivalry personified in the clash between Kennedy’s administration and the giants of the American intelligence community, Allen Dulles and J. Edgar Hoover.
Kennedy’s assassination ended that rivalry, and ever since that day, the barely controlled Imperialist drive has run rampant.
Consider everything that might have been different if the Kennedy side had won that struggle, if he had made good his alleged threat to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces”.
Firstly, and most obviously, there is Vietnam. The war that drove America mad. The prototype for all American “interventions” since, a war started on an absurd lie, fought brutally and inefficiently by a system more interested in selling helicopters than saving lives.
From Vietnam flows Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Grenada, Iraq, the Balkans, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Libya and Syria. Five decades of Orwellian, perpetual warfare. Millions of lives destroyed.
All started by that first domino, Vietnam.
Outside of overt warfare, there are covert actions. A tamed intelligence service could never have launched military coups in Ecuador, Brazil, Greece, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile and Haiti. Without illegal and punitive sanctions, who knows how countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Libya would have fared.
Who knows what men like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King would have achieved, if an emboldened and all-powerful intelligence community hadn’t gunned them down before our eyes.
Kennedy was in favour of universal health care along the lines of the NHS, he wanted to abandon the space race and cooperate with the Soviets on a mission to the moon. He pushed for black civil rights and de-segregation and signed into law the Equal Pay Act. He argued for nuclear disarmament and pushed the nuclear testing ban.
We’ll never know exactly what kind of world was taken from us all the day American democracy was destroyed and a coup government installed. It may have been not much better than this one, but how much worse could it be?
An Assault on the Public Mind
“Power resides where men believe it resides; it’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”Varys – Game of Thrones
You will have realised by now that, when I discuss the JFK assassination, I talk about it as a deep-state operation. A conspiracy. To me that is the only rational reading of the evidence, and I have thought so ever since, aged 12, I first watched Oliver Stone’s fantastic film JFK.
The evidence all points in one direction, a CIA-sponsored operation using a an intelligence operative as a fall guy, who is then “liquidated” before his trial. To cling to the official story has been insane ever since Arlen Specter proposed the insulting “magic bullet theory”.
Far more interesting, and perhaps important, than the who and how of the case, is the why.
Let’s revisit JFK through the lens of a declining Empire, run entirely by psychopaths. Psychopaths, not just on an individual, but an institutional level.
Battling alphabet agencies competing over influence, all placed under threat by Kennedy’s alleged desire to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds”, can become united in a need to remove said threat, and re-assert their authority.
In that light, the assassination of JFK can be seen as more than the political removal of an inconvenient man. If JFK represented, as he certainly has come to represent since his death, hope for a better society, then what does it say to society at large to blow his brains out in a public square?
There are much easier ways to remove a “difficult” politician than killing him. It’s far better to bring him to heel through pressure, or to buy him with bribes and favours. You can blackmail him with dirt or release the dirt and impeach him, as was done with Clinton.
If he doesn’t respond to bribes, and has no dirt to dish, then you can bring pressure on his party to keep him from being nominated, as was done with Henry Wallace in the 1940s.
You can fix primaries, as was done with Bernie Sanders only last year.
You can perform “soft coups”, hamstringing an administration with bureaucratic resistance whilst leaking sensitive material to a cooperative media – undermining the authority and credibility of the executive branch until it has no choice but to resign. As they did with Nixon and are attempting to do with Trump.
The Falklands War and the Iran hostage situation were both used to secure public support for the “approved” candidates just before and after important elections. The 2000 and 2004 elections were outright fixed.
The deep state has evolved a long list of tactics for controlling who wears the public face of power. Assassinations are at the very bottom of this list. They are hard to do, difficult to cover up, and so damn final.
That there is a general institutional reluctance to utilise assassination as a tool, not on moral but pragmatic grounds, is a logical conclusion based on the rarity of political assassinations in general.
Do not forget that JFK was killed in November ’63, he lad less than a year of his first term left. Unseating him in 1964 would have been difficult, but doubtless easier than covering up a CIA-backed assassination for the next 54 years (and counting).
So why was he killed?
You can reason that his removal was a strong reaction, an almost reflexive autonomic rejection, of what the system deemed a strong, and immediate, threat. That he was, through whatever circumstances, immune to threats, unresponsive to pressure and impossible to bribe. That being the case, death becomes the only recourse.
This reasoning might explain the act, but not the method.
Generally speaking, murders aren’t committed in public. If murder becomes a practical solution to a political problem, there are far simpler means to that end than guns. Kennedy could fall down the stairs of the White House. His car could explode. His plane could crash. He was on pain meds for his back, an accidental overdose or “complication” would be easy enough to arrange.
There would be dozens of times a week when the president was alone but for his security detail…anything can happen.
You could do whatever you wanted to the man in private, behind closed doors, then make up any story you wanted and beam it out on every channel. A horrible accident. A national tragedy. Now let’s invade Vietnam.
If your goal is simply his death, there’s a massive spectrum of possibilities available to you. Most of them offering a higher degree of secrecy than a rifle, all of them requiring fewer personnel.
There’s only one interpretation that fully explains all of this. One that lays open the thought process of the deep-state: The man must be killed for questioning your authority, but he must also be SEEN to be killed, to reinforce that authority.
It can be argued that the assassination was as much a message to the world as anything else. A public execution displays contempt for the victim, and conveys raw power to the witnesses.
Vercingetorix was paraded in chains at Caesar’s Triumph, before his eventual execution. Richard II lay in state after Henry IV had him starved to death. Saddam Hussein’s execution was “leaked” online. Gaddafi publicly raped to death.
Jesus, before his post-mortem PR team ret-conned him into a literal God, was an anti-Imperial rabble-rouser. A political revolutionary nailed to a tree to quieten talk of rebellion.
Power is an ephemeral concept, bestowed by the vast majority upon a tiny minority entirely through the process of belief. The only way to win power is to convince people you already have it. That is most easily done through displays of brutality and the nurturing of public fear.
As medieval monarchs would mount heads on spikes, so do our new rulers terrorise us with the public execution of our chosen leaders.
Behold the head of a traitor, flying back and to the left.