Letters to Jackie, But What About Jack? How to Avoid the Heart of the JFK Assassination

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When it comes to the biggest and most troubling stories of our time, corporate-owned and conventional public news outlets have a tendency to do an end run around the controversy and go straight to the most emotionally satisfying but least consequential aspects.

Take the assassination of the 35th president. Recently, the media were full of accounts on a book about condolence letters to Jackie K. Here’s the New York Times:

For a new book, “Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation,” released by HarperCollins, Ellen Fitzpatrick, a historian, culled through the archives. Now she has published about 250 letters, most for the first time, from people around the country who felt compelled to write to Mrs. Kennedy.  The letters, many of them eloquent expressions of grief – from a priest in an Eskimo village, schoolchildren in Texas, a middle-class family in California, a widow in Pittsburgh, a Louisiana woman with a fourth-grade education – provide a window into Americans struggling with poverty, fighting for civil rights and trying to comfort themselves and others in the face of the president’s death. “The lights of the prison have gone out now,” wrote Stephen J. Hanrahan, Prisoner 85255, from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. “In this, the quiet time, I can’t help but feel, that my thoughts and the thoughts of my countrymen will ever reach out to that light on an Arlington hillside for sustenance. How far that little light throws his beam.”

It’s all very poignant, but what about the assassination itself? How much effort does The Times make to keep its readers posted on developments in research about how and why the President died? Well, almost none. The paper of record almost uniformly avoids covering what has been for many years a steady stream of investigative breakthroughs on the issue. And while it did find space for “Letters to Jackie,” it did not even mention, much less review,  James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable, Jefferson Morley’s Our Man in Mexico, or Family of Secrets (by yours truly), nor dozens of other carefully-documented and footnoted books by skilled diggers that suggest the Warren Commission’s version of events is, well, totally wrong on virtually every count. (In the case of Morley, he was actually mentioned in a Times article, which began with the remarkable clause, “Is the Central Intelligence Agency covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Probably not.” The article actually managed to refer to Morley as an author researching Kennedy’s death without ever citing the title or substance of Morley’s book. David Talbot’s Brothers was reviewed, but put up against a book by a prosecutor contending that Oswald acted alone.)  

Not to pick on The Times-this is the norm with most U.S. news organizations, including public radio and television.  The foreign media, however, is much less reticent about the JFK story. And therein lies the real question-Why can this country’s media establishment not touch this transcendent domestic tragedy and timeless mystery?

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

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5 responses to “Letters to Jackie, But What About Jack? How to Avoid the Heart of the JFK Assassination”

  1. artemis6 says:

    She is truly a great artist.

  2. Litchfield says:

    So glad to see a mention of James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable and thus to know that Baker has taken this truly magisterial work on board. Baker exhorts us to read, to inform ourselves and arm ourselves against the continual onslaught of propaganda and triviality. This is, IMO, THE book to read on the macro-level background to the assassination, the micro-level details of how the plot went down, AND the ethical and existential issues raised by the country’s failure to face the truth of why Kennedy was rubbed out, and the significance these events and the forces behind them have for us now. In a certain sense the truth is in plain sight. Douglass’s book is the only one I have read on JFK’s assassination. It makes sense of that event, and so much more. Then add Baker’s Family of Secrets, and you have a pretty good picture of real recent USA history. To round it out, treat yourself to Colin Woodard’s American Nations. This startling and compulsively readable account of American history will provide an invaluable perspective on the regional, material, and value-based conflicts that have motivated the USA and its strategies and state policies from the colonial period down to the present day.

  3. Erick Tippett says:

    All this about Mr. Kennedy goes on and on and on! Most don’t
    want to admit that the core of American psychology has been
    replete with racism, violence, assassination, domestic intrigue,
    and political stealth. If what I understand Robert Prechter to
    mean in his newly fashioned ‘Socionomic Theory’ domestic
    and world events are shaped in their character by changes in
    public mood, albeit unconsciously. It takes a particular mind
    set to provide the fertile soil for such events to take place and
    we must remember that in some southern schools children
    cheered when they heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination!
    And one must also be aware that at a deeper level of mind Mr. Kennedy’s own death wish as expressed in his obsession with death in ever increasing frequency in the weeks and days
    before his murder in Dallas Texas was a part of the equation
    that allowed this very tragic and highly fated event to manifest.

    • Litchfield says:

      Very good points, and relevant to my own post regarding James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable. I urge you to read it.. In particular, regarding what you call JFK’s “death wish.” Douglass points out that JFK had lived very close to death all of his life, because of his own serious chronic health issues, and also war injuries, and therefore was not afraid of it. He knew he was a marked man. But he continued on the path he had chosen.

  4. jmach says:

    the key to the JFK hit was that J. Edgar Hoover was in on the

    plot .. and, when you have the top cop on your side … no

    matter who else … you’re probably going to get away with it.

    Ditto for 9-11… for Silverstein and his Mossad helpers .. there was no better ally than Dick Cheney .. who could get the dunce out of the way, insure no interference and suppress any attempt at a real investigation ……. neat, eh, what??? let that be a lesson:
    it’s not what happened that matters…it’s what your allies can convince people ……….. so if you’re going to demolish buidlings with thermite and cover that over with airplane strikes, pick your conspirators well …
    Hire the Fox guy, with a Harley T-shirt, for example: to say:
    …the fire was just too intense… hohoho….