Created on: March 06, 2013 Last Updated: March 07, 2013
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, is one of the key events of the 1960s. It is also one of the most discussed and dissected moments since World War Two. The modern proliferation of conspiracy theories on subjects ranging from celebrity deaths to climate change really begins with Kennedy.
The reasons for the conspiracy theories
Although three presidents had been assassinated before Kennedy, it just did not seem credible that a lone man could pull off a crime of that magnitude in the age of spy planes and communication satellites. It was an event that shook people’s belief in the world they lived in; the phrase ‘America has lost its innocence’ was popular in the wake of the assassination. If not even the President was safe, then who was?
A conspiracy theory about something as shocking as an assassination can be comforting. It gives the event meaning, and implies that someone was in control. It is notable that most of the conspiracy theories have American agencies – often the C.I.A. or organized crime – carrying out the murder. In the Cold War era, with its worries about Communist infiltration, it may have been encouraging to think that, if someone had to kill the President, at least it was not a foreigner.
There was plenty to be suspicious about. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered live on T.V. in front of a mass of police and journalists by a figure with links to the Mafia. Tales have emerged over the years of evidence ignored or witnesses silenced; of photographs and films tampered with; of suspicious deaths of people who may have known too much. Not all of the stories are terribly convincing, but there are enough reasons to believe that the official, Warren Commission-stamped version may not be the full story.
Although there are dozens of suggestions about what really happened that day, and why, there are a few prominent theories that are worth looking at.
It was Lyndon Johnson
A popular theory, this looks at who had the most to gain from the removal of Kennedy. The theory generally has it that he feared he would be dropped from the ticket in the 1964 election, and arranged for Kennedy to be killed to allow him to take the presidency. A shadowy cabal of business interests may also have been involved. Kennedy’s widow Jackie allegedly believed this theory.
It was the C.I.A.
Kennedy had a strained relationship with the C.I.A. and threatened to severely curtail its powers. Following
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