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John Ridley

John Ridley

Posted: November 27, 2007 12:41 PM

The Death of Oswald, the Birth of Conspiracies


Consider this slightly post-dated, but I feel it's still worth mentioning.

This just passed 24th of November was the day way back in 1963 some no-name clip joint operator named Jack Ruby walked into the basement of a Dallas police station and popped some no-name nutcase named Lee Oswald who'd whacked Jack Kennedy. And Ruby with his loose mob ties, and Oswald with his loose commie connections could not possibly have done what they'd done without a huge apparatus pulling their strings. And with Oswald's death the era of conspiracy was mid-wifed by paranoia and cynicism into existence.

I won't waste breath -- or risk carpal tunnel syndrome -- trying to debunk the Kennedy/Oswald/Ruby conspiracy because the great thing about conspiracies is that they are completely un-debunkable.

In fact, I'm obviously on the payroll of some trilateral commission that's into the anti-conspiracy agitprop anyway.

And there is an upside to Kennedy/Oswald/Ruby. Some would say the moment Kennedy took a bullet is when America lost her innocence. I say that a nation stolen from her native people, built on the backs of slaves and coolies was never innocent. Instead, the 24th of '63 is when America's populace became self-aware of its own inequity. It made the public ready for and intolerant of true conspiracies: the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra. The inept machinations of glorified civil servants.

The problem is that for the less than shrewd Kennedy/Oswald/Ruby has made them anxious to the point that they fear the monster under the bed when there isn't even a bed in the room. Any and every national tragedy is greeted with the belief that it is not just horrible happenstance, but in fact some fabulous government implemented Rube Goldberg-type device that self-executes with the precision of Canadian pairs figure skaters.

This despite the fact our government cannot either get out welfare checks or invade other countries without making an utter mess of things. They can, however, activate the hundreds if not thousands of people necessary to kill a president or destroy levees or topple twin towers without a single one of those duty bugs deciding they'd like to write a book about their part in the plan and pitch it on Oprah.

As a coping mechanism, or as a way to make a little hard count by shilling demons in the shadows, I try not to belittle the thought process of the conspiracy theorists. As a cocktail waitress in Vegas once schooled me: never get down on anybody else's hustle.

But I do believe there is a true downside to obsessing on conspiracies: it tends to obfuscate issues of greater importance. When people are focusing on who blew up the levees they're not focusing on the horrendous response of government agencies at the municipal, state and federal levels. When they are looking for who planted the bombs in Building Seven, the are not paying attention to the fact the government had every indication a terrorist attack was imminent and was too inept to do thing one about it.

It does no good to believe in what does not exist to the point one cannot focus on what is real. That would be the greatest tragedy of any "conspiracy."

If there's anything to be taken away from Kennedy/Oswald/Ruby, it's that it's all right to be paranoid. As long as you don't think the government's out to get you.