Saturday, February 18, 2012

King's Book - 11/22/63 and the problem with conspiracy theories

I just finished Stephen King’s new book,  11/22/63.   The book was pretty entertaining overall.  It deals with a man that discovers a wormhole in time from the present-day back to 1958.  Each time the portal is used, it takes you back to the same point in time, so that apparently your actions of your previous visits are erased.  When you return, only a blink of an eye has passed, even if you have been gone years. 

Building off this deceptively simple premise, the lead character goes back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy.  In doing so he becomes embroiled in events and people in the past – struggling between having a life there and fulfilling his mission.  History, it would seem, does not want events to change and “resists,” which adds to the tension of the story.  Will the main character stop Oswald?  If he does, what happens then? 

I won’t ruin the book for you but it was pretty good – though I felt the ending was a little abrupt.  This is no shot at King, I’ve noticed a lot of books lately have a climax that lacks the right closure for readers. The book is well worth picking up.     

What intrigued me was that King did his fairly credible research into the Kennedy assassination.  In the book he raised the specter that Lee Harvey Oswald might not have acted alone.  In his postscript, King admits that he is 99% sure that Oswald was indeed the lone gunman – something that gave me a sigh of relief. 

I am not a big fan of conspiracies.  I want to be a fan of them, but what I have found is that there really are very few of them in the real world.  I know a lot of government workers and I doubt that the government really can maintain a true conspiracy on anything.  It is far too difficult to keep big secrets and big secrets are the core of conspiracy theories.   

When I was a kid I liked to believe that the Kennedy murder was a conspiracy.  It wasn’t until I was older that I did my own research into the assassination and changed my mind.  I read the Warren Commission report for myself, rather than other people’s interpretations of it.  On a business trip to Dallas I went to the site the killing and checked it out for myself.  In all of my reading on the matter, I didn’t come across a single tangible credible piece of evidence that pointed to a grand conspiracy. 

The Kennedy assassination has become a cottage industry for people to write books and exploit the dead president’s legacy.  Many of these individuals who wrote such book were simply attempting to insert themselves into the myth of John F. Kennedy and Camelot.  They wrapped themselves in the cloth of denial; of being the people that defy unseen forces in the government or elsewhere that took the President from us.  At best, they are cherry-pick history, corrupting it to fit their needs.  At worse, they are profiting from the death of Kennedy.  The worst of all was Oliver Stone.  His film, JFK, filled the American public’s minds with so many disjointed and ill-aligned misrepresentations of the truth that it was staggering.  The sad part is, most American’s believe Stone’s corruption of history. 

Conspiracy advocates use the lack of tangible evidence as their proof.  The lack of evidence, witnesses, or anything else is proof that greater forces are burying the truth…a truth that they are willing to share. 

If you want to learn the truth – pick up Reclaiming History – by Vincent Bugliosi – the author of Helter Skelter.   With the skill that only a prosecutor and true-crime author can, he dissects every one of the conspiracy theories with something novel – facts. 

We all want to believe in conspiracies because they help explain things.  Conspiracies fill the gaps in logic for us.  In the real world there are not such grandiose schemes, no puppet masters that manipulate governments and people.  That doesn’t do away with our desire for such things.  The thought that seemingly random events have a patter, a meaning, makes things exciting in our minds. While they don’t exist, we all find ourselves desiring them. 

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