Manson Family prosecutor Bugliosi (Helter Skelter, 1974, etc.) takes on the endless and various host of JFK conspiracy buffs in this ponderous tome.
By the author’s count, there are nearly 350 organizations and individuals who have been implicated in the conspiracy theories swirling around the president’s murder on November 22, 1963. Most of the buffs advancing them, he growls, are “as kooky as a three-dollar bill in their beliefs and paranoia about the assassination,” and he has a point; one multi-conspiracy advocate, reminded that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not been named as a party in the assassination and cover-up, replied, “Give us time.” The point of this metropolitan phone book–sized volume, it seems, is to dismantle those theories one by one, in sometimes tedious and overladen detail; but given the multiplicity of those theories and the evidence required to dispel them, it is hard to imagine that the book or approach could have been much different. Perhaps the most pervasive argument—apart from the overarching one that Lee Harvey Oswald could not, for various reasons, have acted alone—is that the Warren Commission deliberately acted to suppress evidence of conspiracy, to which one counsel tells Bugliosi, “The one thing I wanted to do was find a conspiracy…. If I could have found…that Oswald didn’t do it, I’d have been the senator from Ohio, not John Glenn.” In turn, Bugliosi examines and then dismisses theories concerning the so-called magic bullet found on Kennedy’s stretcher, the audio reports of a second shooter, the alleged involvement of organized crime, the several charges that Fidel Castro or perhaps anti-Castro Cubans killed Kennedy and the omnibus innuendoes of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which rolled several conspiracy theories into one.
Bugliosi does himself and his argument no favors with his tone of flippancy and dismissiveness, as when he chides conspiracy buffs for failing to admit the possibility that “a nut like Oswald would flip out and commit the act.” Still, this compendium is oddly fascinating, even if it probably won’t change anyone’s mind.