The following review appeared in THE NORTHLAND READER WEEKLY
(10 May 2001), p. 25.
Murder In Dealey Plaza
Edited by James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.
Catfeet Press ($19.95)
Reviewed by Mike Nardine
I feel about this book a bit like an atheist must feel when he comes
face to face with some remarkable teleological evidence of God like
Duluths own Lake Superior: he recognizes it as a magnificent piece
of work, and as an argument for the existence of a divine being it is
irrefutable by any argument he might have, but he still cant believe
in a God! Well, I am equally impressed with Murder In Dealey Plaza,
and I wouldn't presume to argue the facts of the Kennedy assassination
with any of the authors in this book who have obviously spent much of
their lives researching the matter. But I still don't believe that John
F. Kennedy was the victim of a government conspiracy.
As to whether that shows a weakness on the part of the book or this
reviewers mind, that decision is best left to the reader.
Because the book is hard to put down. Its a polemic, but a rational
one and only occasionally do you notice a lack of balance that spoils
the argument. The editor, a professor at UMD and a contributor of note
to the pages of our own READER WEEKLY, prides himself on his
command of what he terms critical thinking. His prologue to Murder In
Dealey Plaza demonstrates his logical approach by slowly and precisely
laying out what he considers the Smoking Guns in the Kennedy assassination
which would lead one to believe in a government conspiracy. Then, with
the help of the other contributors to the book and his own incisive editorial
comments, each Smoking Gun is taken apart and reassembled with
considerable attention to detail.
Perhaps the most interesting and controversial Smoking Gun, at least to
this reviewers mind, was Smoking Gun #8: Diagrams and photos of a brain
in the national archives are of the brain of someone other than JFK. For
real? You ask. Yes! At least according to the exhaustive writings of two
M.D.s I've never heard of.
That last comment was not meant to discount the professors contributing
experts. I haven't thought seriously about JFK's assassination since
the funeral (which, by the way, I watched most avidly and tearfully,
even though I'd campaigned for Nixon as a teenager), and M.D.s
Livingston and Aguilar may indeed be world authorities on the matter.
But all I know about the assassination came from Murder In Dealey Plaza
and perhaps I'm simply trying to keep my own critical processes from
being overwhelmed by the volumes of evidence produced by this book.
Paradoxically in fact, the one expert in the book whom I had heard of,
the justifiably famous British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand
Russell, is the one name to which I am least likely to give credence.
However great the mind of the younger Bertrand Russell, by the time of
the assassination he was into his tenth decade and the once keen mind
amounted to little more than a prop dragged across Europe to lend
credence to the anti-American dog and pony shows put on by the far left.
I doubt at the time he could have done the critical thinking, much less
the writing of the piece now included in Murder In Dealey Plaza.
Ralph Schoenman, one of his handlers for example, could do
Russells signature to perfection.
Putting the epilogue aside (every editor is allowed one indiscretion,
just as every reviewer is allowed one rant), the book piles fact upon fact
and argument upon argument until the bewildered readers mind threatens to
collapse under the load and you still keep on reading. Its not just a
polemic, its a history at a raw (there are some gruesome pictures of
Kennedy from the hospital and morgue) and personal level with details of
lives and incidents that flesh out little-known but important individuals
like J.D. Tippit, the policeman killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Apparently
patrolman Tippit had been having an affair with a waitress at a Dallas
drive-in and the morning of his death had asked his wife for a divorce.
Alive patrolman Tippit was nobody; dead, he's immortal and forever part of
what could be seen as a 1960s morality play. And how about the Secret
Service agents still drinking in a Dallas bar at two a.m. in the morning
before their boss is killed by a sniper? Between their own guilt and the
never ending scrutiny of researchers like Vincent Palamara, one of the
contributors to Murder In Dealey Plaza who details their careers and lives,
those lives must have become pure hell. The major players like Kennedy,
Johnson and Connally have always had their stories told, this book seems to
tell everyones story, the high as well as the low, and brings back the
tenor of the times about as well as any book I've ever read.
The last section of Murder In Dealey Plaza (just before the lamentable
epilogue by Bertrand Russell) discusses The Silence of the Historians.
Editor Fetzer describes the article by David W. Mantik as a reflection upon
the apparent incapacity, unwillingness, or even cowardice of professional
historians to come to grips with the assassination. While this reviewer
has certainly made no study of the question, it strikes me that the
professors pessimism might be unwarranted. Reading this review before
publication, my own daughter chided me for my failure to agree with the
books hypothesis. She informed me that one of her favorite tenth-grade
history teachers had taught the conspiracy thesis, and that her own close
study of the X-Files had convinced her that Lee Harvey Oswald was a
government patsy executed by another government patsy, Jack Ruby.
To return to the slightly strained analogy concerning the atheist and
myself that began this review, let me now compare my feelings on this book
to what an atheist might feel about the bible: he can appreciate it as a
work of literature without believing in it as divine writ; just so do I
appreciate Murder In Dealey Plaza as a great vehicle for returning to a
focal point in history that the old 50s Walter Cronkite show And You Were
There might have described as a moment that altered and illuminated our
time. Buy it. You don't have to believe in it to enjoy it!