Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

JFK, Lincoln, and Conspiracy Theories

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

JFK, Lincoln, and Conspiracy Theories

Article excerpt

THE assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 shook the country to its emotional roots. Now, nearly 30 years later, passionate doubt, suspicion, and speculation have been revived by "JFK," a money-grubbing flick masquerading as fearless truth.

Like the killing of Abraham Lincoln, the Kennedy tragedy has generated a conspiracy industry, amplified manifold by today's mass communications. And because it has many more loose ends, the shooting in Dallas may reverberate even longer than the Lincoln murder. This raises questions that should disturb the people, their government, and even the film industry.

President Lincoln was shot in the head as he sat in a box overlooking the stage at Ford's Theater in Washington on April 14, 1865. There was never any doubt about the killer's identity. He was John Wilkes Booth, one of the foremost actors of his day and a fervent supporter of the Confederacy. Hunted down 12 days later, Mr. Booth was shot dead by a Union soldier in an Army patrol. And then the dispute began, releasing a flood of conspiracy speculation that continued for a hundred years.The Army was in complete charge of the case against Booth's alleged co-conspirators. Much of the pertinent information remained in its secret files until the 1930s. Meanwhile, public suspicion grew. The Lincoln and Booth autopsies were hastily, inexpertly done. Vital papers were lost or destroyed. The military court was accused of rushing to judgment, hanging four accomplices to keep them from talking.

"The Web of Conspiracy," published in 1960, begins, "The War Department's failure to protect Lincoln on the night he was murdered in the nation's capital remains one of the best-kept secrets in American history. And one of the blackest." The author implicates a camarilla of Lincoln-haters in Washington. Other writers have pointed the finger at Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

The urge to make money from the tragedy produced what must be an absolute low in gruesome comedy. …

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