FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

When Conspiracies Meet: Donald Trump and the JFK Files

It seems the perfect recipe, a union of minds and fates.  A case, long disputed, deliberated over, conspired over, meets a modern US president who favours the notion of birther theories, rigged systems, corrupt elites and corrosive establishments.  As President Donald Trump announced over the weekend, “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

Having himself been seen as a conspiracy theorist with some clout, Trump fittingly finds himself releasing files that are supposedly meant to shed light on the period in US history known as Camelot, along with its rude and violent conclusion with the slaying of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Trump has himself been, as he continues to be, an inspiration for the conspiracy aficionados.  These tend to come in all political shades in a country where the paranoid strain, as Richard Hofstadter identified with forensic accuracy, nags and convinces.[1]

Be it Senator McCarthy’s claim in June 1951 of communist infiltration on vast scale; the assertion by leaders of the Populist party in 1895 that treacherous “gold gamblers” had forged an impoverishing conspiracy in 1865-6; or the inroads of Papal influences in the White House in the 1850s – all have left their mark on the traumatised psyche of US political unease.

The current set of conspiracies regarding Trump is becoming bibliographic in nature.  Is he brain damaged or permanently impaired, the basis to rationally explain his frequent lapses into infantile effusiveness and sporadic bullying? Is he really an out-of-the-closet Russian operative singing and swinging to the score sheet of the Kremlin and strong man figure Vladimir Putin?

One particularly enduring one, even if its legs seemed terribly wobbly, was the claim that he was Hillary Clinton’s true standard bearer, holding the false flag for the Clinton campaign even as he was debunking every campaign tactic in the electoral rule book.  Once that particularly flag caught fire, there had to be other explanations: Trump as avenger, vengeful exterminator of the Democrats.

The central problem to the conspiracy advocate is a system of permanent and impervious irrefutability, fuelled by the smallest kernels of truth.  Nothing presented is empirically credible to alter convinced minds.  For Trump’s own view, the Zeitgeist of the moment is Fake News writ large, a point that is only laughable to a point.

Any cursory understanding of news gathering and dissemination entails an understanding of mechanisms of self-censorship, the restrained (or planted hysterical) voice, the fiction of objectivity.  Fabrication is impossible to divorce from news cycles, however stable.  Not all news is counterfeit, but much of it is distorted by the lenses of power, decision and editorial consideration.

All evidence obtained can only point to affirming the conspiracy, rather than challenging it.  In this context, the view of John Maynard Keynes – that changing facts duly changes opinions – is not only ignored but deemed impossible.

The legend of Camelot has had a decidedly devastating effect on the sober appreciation of US government institutions. The Kennedys were the US variant of the Royal Family and even more to the point, seemed photogenic, intellectual, glamorous.

The Kennedy family was itself the architect behind the faux aristocratic fantasy, the fiction, if you like, of an administration awash with shiny competence and brain heavy awareness.  In truth, it was essentially piloted by a medically challenged and heavily medicated figure who suffered, amongst other conditions, Addison’s disease.

President Kennedy’s rocky stewardship, as Robert Dallek notes in considerable detail, was marked by anti-anxiety agents, sleeping pill popping, stimulants, and pain killers.  The public image of a formidable, robust Cold War warrior was itself an elaborate fantasy, padded by its own conspiracy of deception.  As if realising the implications of his medical burrowing, Dallek had to reiterate the point that Kennedy was still functioning and capable and was at no risk of cocking up during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.[2]

The Kennedys were successful enough, be it through their army of ideological acolytes and publicists (think of the unquestioning pen of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.), to create the impression of knight-like purity, intellectual sagacity and calm.  To kill, then, what is noble, became an essential American trope: JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Behind each had to be a gargantuan conspiracy, an establishment puppeteer.

The Kennedy files that are promised for release are hardly going to rock the boat, alter the world, or change a single mind.  Historians will be able to bring out modestly updated versions of old texts; official accounts might be slightly adjusted on investigations, locations and suspects, but the conspiracy set is bound to stick with grim determination to ideas long formed and re-enforced by assumptions that refuse revision.

Notes.

[1] https://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/17/us/in-jfk-file-hidden-illness-pain-and-pills.html

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
David Rosen
Say Goodbye to MAD, But Remember the Fight for Free Expression
Nick Pemberton
This Is Heaven!: A Journey to the Pearly Gates with Chuck Mertz
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Julian Assange
Rose Ramirez – Dedrick Asante-Mohammad
A Trump Plan to Throw 50,000 Kids Out of Their Schools
David Bravo
Precinct or Neighborhood? How Barcelona Keeps Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Global Capital
Ralph Nader
Will Any Disgusted Republicans Challenge Trump in the Primaries?
Dave Lindorff
The BS about Medicare-for-All Has to Stop!
Arnold August
Why the Canadian Government is Bullying Venezuela
Tom Clifford
China and the Swine Flu Outbreak
Missy Comley Beattie
Highest Anxiety
Jill Richardson
Weapons of the Weak
Peter Certo
Washington vs. The Squad
Peter Bolton
Trump’s Own Background Reveals the True Motivation Behind Racist Tweets: Pure White Supremacy
Colin Todhunter
From Mad Cow Disease to Agrochemicals: Time to Put Public Need Ahead of Private Greed
Nozomi Hayase
In Crisis of Democracy, We All Must Become Julian Assange
Wim Laven
The Immoral Silence to the Destructive Xenophobia of “Just Leave”
Cecily Myart-Cruz
McDonald’s: Stop Exploiting Our Schools
Louis Proyect
Parallel Lives: Cheney and Ailes
David Yearsley
Big in the Bungalow of Believers
Ellen Taylor
The Northern Spotted Owls’ Tree-Sit
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
Jonathan Cook
How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David
William Hartung
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
John G. Russell
The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President
Judith Deutsch
Psychology Stories: Children
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail