Tom Pittman's WebLog

(or something like that)

2003 November 17 -- Conspiracy Theories

This week (5 days from now) marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. I didn't realize it until I happened to check out the video JFK (starring Kevin Costner) portraying the conspiracy theory of the assassination, for viewing this past weekend. They had an impressive array of apparently actual film coverage, plus a lot of re-enactments done in black&white to make it look like actual film coverage... It's a sorry state when you cannot tell what is fact, and what is fiction masquerading as fact. I am assuming that the re-enactments were the higher quality images -- especially when they contained the modern actors who also appeared in the main (color) story sequence, but that is only an assumption; the film did not tell us that.

Assuming there are no outright lies in the film (I doubt they could get away with that), it's pretty obvious that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have shot and killed the President from the book depository. The home movie of Kennedy getting hit showed his head getting knocked back, but the depository was behind him, not in front. Somebody else, positioned in front of the President's car fired that fatal shot. If the Warren Commission did not bring that out, then there was some hanky-panky going on. Whether it was the "Military-Industrial Complex" as the film suggested, or some other other conspiracy, I cannot say, but it does look bad when all the witnesses die a premature death. They say all the witnesses to Clinton's shenanigans also met early deaths. Hmmm.

Conspiracy theories are fun, and they help deflect attention away from our own failings and culpability, but are they credible? After hearing Chuck Colson's favorite Easter message on Breakpoint some 20 years ago (also reprinted recently in Christianity Today), I no longer believe them. If the ten most powerful men in the world cannot keep a cover-up secret for three weeks when their jobs and reputation depended on keeping it, how can a dozen rag-tag peasants keep a cover-up secret for the rest of their lives -- when their lives would be saved by spilling the beans? Costner made the same point in the movie. Well, in the case of JFK, the truth is out: Oswald didn't do it, and he was killed to prevent that from coming out. Maybe killing potential witnesses will help keep a secret, but the Eleven Disciples were not being killed to keep them from telling what they knew, they were being killed because they had nothing else to say.

A more modern conspiracy theory is broiling over the James ossuary, the bone box inscribed with the Aramaic label "Jacob [James], son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box and lettering are in the 1st century style, and most ossuaries do not mention the deceased's brother unless the brother was significantly more important than the deceased himself. There were lots of Jacobs, Josephs and Jesuses in the 1st century, but only one Jesus a lot more famous than his brother James, and that James did happen to be the son of Joseph. The Israeli Antiquities Authority wants to make the lettering out to be a hoax, but they are unwilling to expose their analyses to public scrutiny, nor even to appear on a scientific panel in which the opposition is present. If anything is a hoax, it's the IAA's smear job.

Closer to home, one of my relatives is getting on in years, and her children are trying to enable her to live out the rest of her life in comfort and safety without overly imposing on her freedom. She sees it as a conspiracy. There is no conspiracy, but sooner or later we all will reach the point where we do not have full control of our faculties, and somebody else will make those decisions for us. And because we are (by then) non compos mentis, we won't agree with the decisions being made on our behalf. Is that a conspiracy? Maybe. Or maybe it's just people trying to do the right thing when the beneficiary of their actions cannot fully understand what is going on. I myself don't believe this woman has reached that point, but some of her children are convinced she's already over the edge. When I get to be that old, I hope people will tell me honestly -- but somehow I doubt they will. When I get to be that old, I hope I have the grace to accept what they are doing to me. sigh