Friday, November 08, 2013

JFK books: How to tell the crap from the candy

As one might have predicted, the JFK assassination book everyone in the mainstream media is talking about is drivel. I haven't spent much time (yet) with A Cruel and Shocking Act, by New York Times writer Phil Shenon, but I got a good whiff. The smell reminded me of what comes out of my dog Bella's hindquarters after she has sneaked off with a piece of over-ripe pork.

Basically, Shenon's work seems to be an update of Legend, another JFK book that received rapturous praise from the mainstreamers who normally sneer at this topic. Written by Edward Epstein (a.k.a. the Mouth of Sauron), Legend presents James J. Angleton's preferred theory of the assassination: Oswald acted alone, but he did so under orders from the KGB.

That's pretty much what Shenon serves up.

Toward the end, Shenon tries to give new credibility to a long-exposed tale told by right-wing Mexican writer Elena Garro. (Her 1997 NYT obit talks about her link to Borges but doesn't mention that she was the Ann Coulter of her time and place.) She claimed that she met Oswald at a party in Mexico City, where he received orders to kill JFK from a thin "red-haired negro" working for Castro. The same "red-haired negro" (are we supposed to be thinking Malcolm X?) appeared in an exactly similar story told by a fellow named Gilberto Alvarado. But Alvarado turned out to be a spook; his handler was David Atlee Phillips of the CIA. Since Alvarado's story is provable CIA disinformation -- he eventually admitted that he had lied -- and since the details match the Garro story, then we know that both stories were part of the same disinfo scheme. (As if Oswald and Garro would be at the same party!)

So the only question is: Why is Shenon trying to resurrect an Angletonian fairy tale in this day and age?

David Talbot, author of Brothers (an excellent dual bio of JFK and RFK) lightly skewers the Shenon volume and recommends seven genuinely worthwhile investigations of the Kennedy assassination. Talbot's first choice is a book that deserves loud and hearty applause:
1. “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” by James W. Douglass. Written by a deeply thoughtful Catholic peace activist, this book portrays Kennedy as a Cold War martyr – a leader who sacrificed his life to save the world from the nuclear holocaust that was being threatened by his national security team. Douglass draws together much of the best research about the Kennedy administration, and the tensions that finally tore it apart.
There are a few volumes which I would like to add to Talbot's list: Jim DiEugenio's masterful recent revision of Destiny Betrayed, his brand new Reclaiming Parkland, and Joan Mellen's revised Farewell to Justice.

Oh -- and there's a brand new work that I would add to the list. It was written by a friend to this very blog: The Grassy Knoll Report, by Joe Williams (a.k.a. Trojan Joe). I can assure you that Joe knows his stuff. And at only 6 bucks, his work constitutes your best dirt-cheap introduction to this complex topic.

A couple of other recommendations:

If you are interested in the Mexico episode (which really is the key to the solution of this crime), and you don't mind diving head-first into a complex tale of how spies spied during the Cold War, check out the newly-released fourth chapter of Bill Simpich's State Secret. It's free.

I have not read film historian Joseph McBride's Into the Nightmare, but he gives a very intriguing interview. First go here and then go here.
Comments:
I picked up the ebook of 'Destiny Betrayed' a while back because of your recommendation, but at the time I couldn't get into it. I'm not sure why, because I started it again yesterday -- and I've been blowing off responsibilities ever since: I can't put it down! Yes, it makes me think for the umpteenth time I should hang up my shingle as free-lance editor to self-published authors, but once you look past the non-sentences and occasional redundancies, it's a solid, consistently impressive read. I'm not sure why we're seeing a mini-flood of 'What the Warren Commission Got Wrong' books when this one already exists: I find it hard to believe anyone could better DiEugenio's steady and ruthless gutting of the Commission's bias, methodology, thoroughness, and, ultimately, conclusion. Many thanks for sticking it up there in the corner where, several hundred impressions later, even I couldn't continue to ignore it.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Maz, I quite agree.

If I had properly reviewed the book, which Jim asked me to do, I probably would have ribbed him about his writing style. His quirks became more prominent as he aged -- as often happens to writers.

Truncated sentences can be effective. Even dashing.

But to pull off that trick, you need to know how to do it right. And Jim has forgotten how. To do. It right.

Also, he likes long-ish paragraphs.

I don't.

Otherwise, the book is astonishing.

The Joe Williams book is a bit different. The research is state of the art, but, boy, the guy is concise. He packs more into one sentence than most writers get into a paragraph. For younger readers, this approach may be ideal.
 
Maz, I quite agree.

If I had properly reviewed the book, which Jim asked me to do, I probably would have ribbed him about his writing style. His quirks have become more prominent over the years -- as often happens to writers.

Truncated sentences can be effective. Even dashing.

But to pull off that trick, you need to know how to do it right. And Jim has forgotten how. To do. It right.

Also, he likes long-ish paragraphs.

I don't.

Otherwise, the book is astonishing.

The Joe Williams book is a bit different. The research is state of the art, but, boy, the guy is concise. He packs more into one sentence than most writers get into a paragraph. For younger readers, this approach may be ideal.
 
It's all very, very simple.

The Warren Commission didn't round up Communists for the assassination of JFK. It rounded up Anti-Communists. The House Select Committee on Assassinations said the evidence trail didn't point to a Communist conspiracy or to a Cuban conspiracy but it did point to conspiracy. No shit.

It is, what it looks like : an Anti-Communist conspiracy. Oswald was lead around and positioned by Anti-Communist tied groups foreign and domestic. All of the names hooked into the plot, they were Anti-Communists.

The fact that we all have to sit here and watch the same liars get up on TV and tell the same worn out old Commie lone nut lies that we have been hearing year after year after year is pretty pathetic. But the reason why is very simple...

Criminals get away with shit that Cowards allow them to get away with.

End of story.
 
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