Conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy have proliferated for more than a half-century since the murder of the U.S. president on November 22, 1963.
In his latest book, I was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, Ottawa author Fred Litwin recounts how he became interested in conspiracies surrounding the assassination and how he eventually came to the realization that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin and that there was no cover-up. He also writes about how the “left and right have used the JFK assassination to drive home myths about power in America.”
In an interview with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Litwin said he first became interested in JFK conspiracy theories after watching an episode of Geraldo Rivera’s TV show, when the Zapruder film – one of the most complete films of Kennedy’s assassination – was shown for the first time.
When Litwin saw the film, he recalled noticing that Kennedy’s head went “back and to the left, which was sort of indicative of a shot from the front,” which inspired him to conduct research at the library.
At first, the only books Litwin could find on the subject were “conspiracy books and the Warren Commission Report.” But in 1975, Litwin received JFK autopsy X-rays and photographs from two doctors, John Lattimer and Cyril Wecht, both of whom concluded that Kennedy had been shot from behind, and his head may have jerked forward because of a “neuromuscular spasm causing involuntary muscle movement.”
“Eventually I started reading more of the evidence of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and that convinced me that there was no conspiracy and Oswald acted alone,” Litwin said.
One chapter in Litwin’s book deals with Oliver Stone’s film, “JFK,” which Litwin says is “the most homophobic film in history.” The movie was based on the trial of Clay Shaw, a gay man who was prosecuted by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison for supposedly being involved with the CIA in a plot to kill Kennedy. According to Litwin, the case took two years to go to trial and “within 50 minutes the jury found him innocent, but it ruined his life.” Stone’s film painted Shaw as the villain and Garrison the hero.
Another chapter discusses “Who Killed JFK?” a 1983 documentary shown on CBC-TV’s “The Fifth Estate,” which Litwin called “horrible and a huge mistake.” Litwin says the film got several basic facts wrong about the assassination, interviewed sources with no legitimate connection to the event, and resurrected an old document written by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as “proof” of a government cover-up.
“The document was actually written by an aide of Lyndon B. Johnson, saying that they didn’t want people rushing to the conclusion that it was all a Russian conspiracy because that could mean war between the U.S. and Russia,” Litwin explained.
Litwin said both sides of the political spectrum have used Kennedy’s assassination for their own purposes. For those on the right, Litwin said the JFK conspiracy plays perfectly into the “deep state” conspiracy theory, which – in its current form – posits that government and military officials are conspiring to take down current U.S. President Donald Trump.
For those on the left, Litwin said there is a common misconception that Kennedy was killed because he wanted to end the Vietnam War and stop the Cold War, even though, Litwin points out, “he was actually a cold warrior.”
While Litwin said he believes it’s always good to “question the official narrative,” he said the problem with conspiracy theorists is that “they are very critical of the official narrative, but they lose their critical faculties when it comes to the conspiracy, so they end up accepting all sorts of crazy things.
“If they had the same skepticism for these conspiracy theories they would throw them out,” Litwin said.
Litwin was also critical of post-modernists, who he said often reject clear evidence and come to their own conclusions.
“We are living in this post-modern world where objective truth doesn’t matter. But in fact, it does exist and we need to get back to understanding that truth is important, and that in this case, Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy by himself.”
Fred Litwin will launch I was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak at Ottawa Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue) on Tuesday, November 13, 7 pm. Visit https://conspiracyfreak.com for more information.