John F. Kennedy, Jr.
John F. Kennedy, Jr. on March 11, 1999. Photo credit: © Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA Press Wire

 — Opinion —  

If you haven’t kept up with the latest developments in QAnon world, then you may have been wondering why hundreds of its adherents poured into Dallas last week, packing Dealey Plaza, the infamous site of President John F. Kennedy’s murder. They were there harboring the fervent belief they were actually about to see the triumphant return of John F. Kennedy Jr., who was supposed to announce a 2024 vice presidential run with Donald Trump. Some even hoped to see the slain president himself. 

Never mind that John Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999 and his father has been dead since 1963.

What has led to the current situation where a fair number of people actually believe that the Kennedys  — Senior and Junior  — are alive and have been hiding from the deep state all these years, waiting for their chance to come out of the shadows and save democracy? 

Although the absurdity of these opinions is easy to laugh off, such beliefs are perhaps not so surprising given the curious reluctance of the federal government to reveal everything it knows about the Kennedy story. When Washington is still actively concealing key documents regarding his murder, which occurred almost 60 years ago, should it shock us that some of our fellow citizens are drawn to fill the vacuum with surreal inventions of their own? 

The Gurus

Much has already been written about the perpetually delayed JFK records. But the consequences of such governmental dereliction of duty are perhaps best captured in a recent Washington Post opinion piece by a couple of data gurus, David Byler and Yan Wu. Although little of the subject really requires a data guru’s expertise, Byler in particular appears to be upset about the very concept that conspiracies could sometimes actually exist, and the Post seems to like to give him a platform. 

Under the title Will you fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? Take our quiz and find out, the authors cite a recent study by a team of academics who surveyed over 4,000 people in the United States about the degree of credence they give to a variety of so-called conspiracy theories. 

A handful of questions from the study are included in the Post’s quiz. The first question asks which of the following four statements is true:  

(a) ​​Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire accused of running an elite sex trafficking ring, was murdered to cover up the activities of his criminal network. 

(b) President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy rather than a lone gunman.

(c) The FBI kept tabs on civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., attempting to find compromising information and damage their reputations.

(d) Regardless of who is officially in charge of the government and other organizations, there is a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together.

While you may be wondering why, just for good form, they don’t include an option to declare multiple answers correct, we are told that only one is: (c ), the well-known fact that J. Edgar Hoover had a vendetta against MLK. The authors also provide helpful explanations as to why the other answer choices are wrong.

Not surprisingly, the Post piece chides anyone who answered “yes” to whether JFK was killed by a conspiracy rather than a lone gunman. The authors state emphatically: “The evidence is clear: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to assassinate President Kennedy.” 

The refusal of the media and academia to question the official story of Kennedy’s murder — in spite of the decades of evidence that casts serious doubt on it — is the height of illogical thinking.

What’s to Hide?

But here’s the rub: If Oswald really did act alone (or at all), then what possible excuse can the government have to withhold full compliance with the JFK Records Act? The argument that various federal agencies need more time to declassify the relevant documents because of staffing shortages due to COVID-19 is much like claiming your dog ate your homework that was due four years ago — and that after already having 25 years to finish it.

Those who support the Warren Commission and its conclusions often defend their position by invoking the philosophical principle of Occam’s Razor, dictating that the simplest explanation is probably the right one. In other words, Oswald did it, and believing anything different is overly convoluted and therefore not logical. They also trust the word of the Commission and its assertion that Oswald was guilty. 

But if things are so cut-and-dried, what possible harm could result from declassifying decades-old documents? Given the fact that all the major players are either dead or long-retired, who actually stands to be injured by consigning the records to historians? Is it possible that agencies like the CIA and FBI have something to hide about Kennedy’s murder? Even if there are no “smoking gun” documents in the trove, there are likely dozens and dozens that raise serious questions about the lone gunman narrative — and may even point to the very agencies fighting to suppress them as somehow potentially complicit in the events of November 22, 1963.

The refusal of the media and academia to question the official story of Kennedy’s murder — in spite of the decades of evidence that casts doubt on it — is the height of illogical thinking.  

Biden Further Delays Release of Kennedy Assassination Papers

The Ministry of Truth

As for why answer (a) is incorrect, the authors write, “New York City’s chief medical examiner concluded that Epstein killed himself, and there’s little credible evidence of an alternative explanation. Still, half of Americans think there’s more to the story.” This is despite the fact that a handful of establishment media, most notably 60 Minutes, took a skeptical look at the medical examiner’s conclusions concerning his hanging in a New York jail cell. 

Although interest in Epstein has waned, there are still many unanswered questions about the mysterious financier, his web of connections to the rich and powerful, especially to US and Israeli intelligence services and, of course, his convenient demise. See WhoWhatWhy’s previous reporting on Epstein’s death (here and here) and look for new insight into the case as part of our coverage of the forthcoming trial of his associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

One of the more disturbing parts of the Post opinion piece and the study it’s based on is that it lumps climate change deniers together with people who have quite legitimate questions about a range of subjects, including 1960s political assassinations, the 2000 presidential election, 9/11, Trump’s relationship with Russia, the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and the strange death of Jeffrey Epstein.  

There is no longer any doubt among the scientific community that the changing climate is an existential threat to civilization as we know it. But, by equating climate change denial with questioning the integrity of the Warren Report, the legality of Bush v. Gore, the Bush administration’s odd relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Mueller report’s conclusions, or the official cause of Epstein’s death… the Post is playing a dangerous game, with truth destined to be the loser. 

The knee-jerk distrust of official government pronouncements is a serious problem — especially during pandemics, where public health is at stake. But, when perhaps the most consequential murder of the 20th century remains unsettled history after nearly 60 years, and there is still a concerted effort by the unelected and unaccountable to conceal important evidence, the people of the United States can be forgiven for being skeptical about anything the federal government claims and does, especially as it relates to war, elections, and pandemics. 

Brian Baccus is a Texas attorney.