4 The Official Version

In the battle lines that have been drawn up since the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, critics of many different stripes have challenged what has become known as the 'establishment version' or the 'official version'. That version is in fact made up of a number of monumental investigations and reports commissioned and conducted by various branches of the federal government, not all of which are in agreement. This chapter will recount the history of the political manoeuvres that led to the establishment of each of the inquiries, before going on to analyse their main findings as well as their strategies of representation.


Warren Commission Report

The first and still the most significant of the official versions is The Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1964), popularly known as the Warren Commission Report. It concluded in essence that Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected loner, who in turn was murdered by Jack Ruby, who likewise acted alone. It also made a series of recommendations for improving presidential security. This chapter focuses on the Warren Report above all others, because virtually all subsequent representations of the Kennedy assassination are in dialogue with it, either as a monument of truth, or the rotting corpse of government lies. The future president Gerald Ford, a member of the Commission, was convinced at the time of publication that 'the monumental record of the President's Commission will stand like a Gibraltar of factual literature through the ages to come' (cited in Summers 1998: 88). But just thirty years later, Norman Mailer compared the Commission's work to 'a dead whale decomposing on a beach' (Mailer 1995a: 351). Either way, the Report is one of the most remarkable documents of twentieth-century American culture. It is very well known – though few have actually read

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The Kennedy Assassination
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Series Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Journalism 9
  • 3: History 23
  • 4: The Official Version 42
  • 5: The Unofficial Version 75
  • 6: Literature 105
  • 7: Visual Culture and Film 133
  • Conclusion 162
  • Further Reading 165
  • Bibliography 167
  • Index 175
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