Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Some Thoughts on the JFK Assassination


"One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Kennedy assassination," writes Jacob G. Hornberger, "is the silence among conservative, reform-oriented libertarians on the national-security state’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What’s up with that?"

I'm not exactly sure what a "conservative, reform-oriented libertarian" is. But I do have some thoughts on why libertarians in general may not be as interested in the JFK assassination as Hornberger is.

And, I should state up front, Hornberger is very interested in the JFK assassination. He's written two books (not an affiliate link) about the autopsy on Kennedy's body. His organization, the Future of Freedom Foundation, has an upcoming conference on "The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination." He frequently examines current events in light of the assassination on his blog.

As you might gather from the opening quote, Hornberger's position on the assassination is that it was a regime change operation carried out by, or at least by elements of, the national security state. And as you might gather from the linked blog post, he considers it still very relevant and is somewhat puzzled that at least some libertarians don't.

My own position on the assassination is as follows:

  1. I find the official account -- "lone nut, from the book depository, with a Carcano Fucile di Fanteria Model 91/38" -- implausible. I've read various versions of that account, from William Manchester's The Death of a President, to the Warren Commission's report, to Gerald Posner's pathetic Case Closed, and it's just not convincing.
  2. Among the alternative theories I've looked into -- from "tragic Secret Service accident" to mob hit to Castro/Kruschev plot -- Hornberger's conclusion seems the most likely. Not so likely that I wouldn't need more evidence as a juror if some specific individual came up for trial, but most likely.
If Hornberger is correct concerning what happened in 1963, why don't libertarians care more about it in 2021? Here are my theories:

  1. The median age in the United States is 37.7. Fully half of Americans (and probably a similar percentage of libertarians) were born 20 years or more after the assassination. To them (and to many more who are less than 58 years of age), it's an historical event, like "54-40 or Fight" or "Remember the Maine" or Pearl Harbor. It doesn't carry the weight for us that it carries for the kid who can remember where he was and what he was doing when Walter Cronkite broke into the day's usual TV programming to tell America the president had been shot.
  2. For that younger generation, even if they agree with Hornberger that the assassination was a national security state regime change operation (and not all of them do, let alone with as much confidence), it's just one more example (if a brutal one) of what, these days, is "business as usual" in American politics. The Deep State runs things and woe betide he who gets in its way, etc. They don't see that that particular example enjoys any particular ... well, utility. They might cite it, but they're not especially exercised over it.
Even a few years ago, I might have expected the defecation to intersect the oscillating blades had irrefutable proof of the regime change theory been presented to the public.

These days, such a thing would still make the front page. It might dominate the news cycle for a week, or even a month. But few would find it surprising or even greatly disturbing. There probably wouldn't be riots, let alone a revolution. The culprits are probably dead (they'll certainly all be dead before the final files are declassified), and the CIA and friends have had more than half a century to come up with ways to throw those culprits' corpses under the bus as "rogue operators."

Or, to put it a different way, no revelations, however sordid, concerning the JFK assassination are likely to change many minds about American politics. Most people will continue to believe what they want to believe about it, because it's what they want to believe about it. Even those who grudgingly acknowledge a challenge to those beliefs will make their excuses and minimize its importance.

Which is not to say I disagree with Hornberger that libertarians should consider it an important episode in the consolidation of the national security state. I do consider it an "inflection point." I'm just not convinced that it's a very useful one for purposes of Preaching the Libertarian Gospel to the Unwashed.

And that's all I have to say about that.


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