Oliver Stone's JFK probably represents the high-water mark for public interest in a conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination. It was an enormously successful and influential film, reinvigorating debates about the assassination (see Stone and Sklar 1992), with a populist groundswell of concern prompting Congress to pass the President John E Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992. At one point in the year leading up to the thirtieth anniversary of the event half the books on the New York Times best-seller list were about the assassination.
Although there has been a steady flow of books, television documentaries and the usual sensational revelations, it is unlikely that the Kennedy assassination will ever again command the national interest in quite the same way as it did after the Stone film, or in the agitation for a Congressional re-opening of the inquiry in the mid-1970s, or in the immediate aftermath of the event in 1963. It is remarkable how the event continues to function as a lightening rod for the charged debates about the meaning of the 1960s, yet ultimately it is almost certainly destined to go the way of other historical controversies such as Pearl Harbor and the Lincoln assassination. Both the latter, for example, are surrounded by a thriving subculture of conspiracy theory and revisionist history, along with the usual historical tourism that such controversies generate, but neither can be said to have any real impact on present-day politics (see Rosenberg 2003; Vowell 2005). The Kennedy assassination will in all likelihood slowly fade from being a live political issue to becoming a historical curiosity. It is improbable that there will be a definitive death-bed confession or the discovery of a casebreaking smoking gun that will finally prove the existence of a conspiracy, not least because there have already been so many confessions and revelations billed as such. Nor is it likely that the lone gunman version will suddenly win the day, as conspiracy theories are too deeply entrenched in the public consciousness to be easily forgotten.