Conspiracy theories are popular because they are at once exciting and unnerving. 9/11, Princess Diana, Jimmy Hoffa, etc. all provoke certain theories, to the point that whether or not they are true becomes somewhat irrelevant. Modern History classes in my HSC high school years were devoted to the Arab Israeli conflict, The Romanovs, and the JFK assassination. Although none of us were forensically embedded in the mystery, it did prove so intriguing and unnerving that we scarcely doubted that the assassination was a governmental cover-up. All complexities aside, we seemed to be convinced by asking just exactly who would have the ability to assassinate an American president. Political motives around the Vietnam War, too, proved too convincing to ignore. Pro-Vietnam Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in the same day as Kennedy’s death.
The assassination has been referenced throughout popular culture; L. Fletcher Prouty, a former Washington insider who wrote the book JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy (1992), inspired the character Mr X. in Oliver Stone’s film JFK, while also working as Stone’s technical advisor throughout the film. The book itself is thorough and compelling, detailing Kennedy’s involvement and subsequent aim to withdraw from Vietnam. Stone’s film, at over three hours long, is equally compelling, not least because of the ominous and suspenseful music throughout. But it nevertheless manages to articulate the events and theories in exhaustive detail, and the superb acting on behalf of Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon and in particular Gary Oldman (as patsy Lee Harvey Oswald) doesn’t hurt.
The assassination has also been incorporated in other fields of popular culture: In Seinfeld’s ‘The Boyfriend’, Jerry, Kramer and Newman re-enact the Magic Bullet theory as seen in JFK, to investigate a spitting incident, while popular online book retailer Book Depository borrows its name from the infamous building that was claimed to have been the location that Oswald shot Kennedy from. More recent (and popular) theories claim that the shots came from the grassy knoll. Yet former detective Colin McLaren argues, in a new documentary that airs on SBS tonight, that the fatal shot came by accident from Secret Service agent George Hickey, in the car behind Kennedy’s. JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013), follows four and a half years of McLaren’s research into the assassination. McLaren, an Australian detective, has used ballistic and forensic evidence to prove his claims. Infamously, the investigation into Kennedy’s death was grossly mishandled. Many of the witnesses at the autopsy were asked to leave and were sworn to silence. Evidence of a second shooter was covered up. And the Kennedy Assassination records, compiled by the Warren Commission and held in the National Archives in 1964, initially weren’t expected to be released until 2039. However, thanks to Stone’s film which brought to light (and the public) these records, the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 saw the gradual release of many of the unseen documents. Between 1994 and 1998, most of the commission’s findings were released, but over five million pages are still concealed, set to be made public in 2017. McLaren’s documentary is airing first in Australia, before being released in the US. Reviewers of the doco say it is highly convincing in its research and theory. McLaren’s book of the same name, published this month by Hachette Australia, coincides with the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The book is said to prove: ‘once and for all, who did kill the President.’
The documentary airs on SBS, tonight at 8:30.