5 The Unofficial Version

So far we have looked at how the Kennedy assassination has been represented in a cluster of mainstream and government works, which together have come to be seen as the official version of events. This chapter will concern itself with a whole variety of'unofficial' versions, from conspiracy theories to forms of popular memorialisation of the event. There is a vast literature on the Kennedy assassination, with over two thousand books, countless newspaper and magazine articles, along with novels and films, not to mention the dozens of journals and websites devoted to the topic. The overwhelming majority develop a conspiracy theory of one stripe or another. Over the past four decades, the public both in the US and elsewhere have come to distrust the official lone gunman version, entertaining instead a host of alternative conspiracy scenarios that have become increasingly complex and allencompassing. Every aspect of the event has been obsessively scrutinised for clues by 'amateur' historians who refuse to accept the orthodox account, and whose detailed knowledge of the case often far exceeds that of'professional' academic historians. For many people the Kennedy assassination is the linchpin in a whole chain of conspiracies that have shaped the postwar world. Opinion polls consistently report that at least three quarters of Americans distrust the official version (see DiLouie 2003), and conspiracy theories in general have increasingly come to occupy a less marginal and more mainstream position. Depending on one's political outlook, the Kennedy assassination led either to a powerful grass-roots challenge to the establishment, or to a descent into paranoid fantasies and the politics of disenchantment.


Initial Reaction

In the immediate panic of the assassination, government officials had little idea about what was going on, and many feared that the shooting was part of a larger plot. Some suspected that Kennedy was the victim

-75-

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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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