Thinking Critically About the Kennedy Assassination
Debunking the Myths and Conspiracy Theories
Thinking Critically About the Kennedy Assassination uses the tools of critical thinking, historical research, and philosophical inquiry to debunk the many myths and conspiracy theories surrounding JFK’s shocking and untimely death.
As we approach the 60th anniversary of the violent public assassination of President John F. Kennedy, over half of all Americans surveyed continue to believe that he was killed by a conspiracy involving multiple assassins. Through its reasoned and detailed analysis of the content and evolution of JFK conspiracy narratives, this book also serves as a comprehensive case study of paranoid reasoning and modern mythmaking. The book’s opening chapters lay out the "official" academic consensus concerning the Kennedy assassination (better known as the "Lone Gunman Theory") and discuss the origins of popular interpretations of Kennedy’s life and death, such as the nostalgic myth of "Camelot," the unsympathetic "Irish Mafia" narrative, and the many conspiracy theories critical of both. Subsequent sections scrutinize the alleged motives of leading conspiracy suspects, the ballistic, forensic, and medical evidence related to JFK’s murder, and the most popular "proofs" of an enduring government cover- up. The book concludes that no clear evidence exists to suggest that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy and ends with a discussion of the causes and consequences of paranoid thinking in contemporary public discourse.
This volume will appeal to students of history, politics, psychology, and cultural and media studies, and to a broader audience interested in American history, critical thinking, and conspiracy thinking.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Knowledge and Conspiracy Theories
PART I: MYTH AND COUNTER MYTH: Will the Real JFK Please Stand Up?
2. Three Dead in Dallas: The "Official Story"
3. The Kennedy Mystique: From Irish Mafia to Camelot
4. Case Never Closed: The Evolving Conspiracy Narrative
PART II: MOTIVE: "Like Caesar, He Is Surrounded by Enemies…"
5. The Anti-Civil Rights Movement: Right Wing Racists, Nixon, and the FBI
6. "Double Cross! Double Cross!": The Mafia and Jack Ruby
7. Spooks and Nukes: The CIA and its War on Cuba
8. Dominoes and Dictators: The Pentagon and the War in Vietnam
9. "A Damned Murder, Inc.!": LBJ and the Warren Commission
10. "I’m Just a Patsy!": Lee Harvey Oswald’s Life and Motive
PART III: MEANS: "It’s Gonna Be a Turkey Shoot!"
11. The Shooting Gallery: The Motorcade and Dealey Plaza
12. The Man in the High Window: The Evidentiary Case Against Lee Harvey Oswald
13. Going Ballistic: Of Missing and Magic Bullets
PART IV: OPPORTUNITY: "We’re Through the Looking Glass Here!"
14. The Secret Cleaning Service: Did JFK’s Bodyguards Cover Up a Conspiracy?
15. Of Missing Wounds and Fake X-Rays: Was JFK’s Autopsy a Fraud?
16. Crop Marks on My Face: Were Lee Oswald’s Backyard Photos Doctored?
17. America’s Bloodiest Home Video: Is the Zapruder Film Authentic?
18. Conclusion: Why Conspiracists Rewrite the Past
Michel Jacques Gagné teaches courses in critical thinking, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics in the Humanities Department of Champlain College Saint- Lambert, a junior college (CÉGEP) located near Montreal, Canada. He has an M.A. in History (Concordia University, Canada, 2005), with a thesis on civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the 1960s, and undergraduate degrees in Education (McGill University, Canada, 1999) and History and Political Science (with joint-honors, McGill University, Canada, 1995). He has published articles in Skeptic , the National Post , the Encyclopedia of Religion and Violence , and History Studies: The History Society Journal at the University of Limerick. He is also the creator and host of the Paranoid Planet podcast, which discusses conspiracy theories and related phenomena. He resides with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.
"So much has been written about the JFK assassination and the numerous conspiracy theories about it. What remains undiagnosed is the motivation not of Oswald (or any other purported assassins) but of the conspiracy theorists themselves. What’s in it for them? The short answer is power. The long answer is in this book, the most important contribution to the literature to come along in a generation. Michel Gagné is reflective and thoughtful in both his thinking and his writing".
Michael Shermer, Ph.D. Publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific American, Presidential Fellow of Chapman University, USA, and author of Heavens on Earth , The Moral Arc, The Believing Brain, and Why People Believe Weird Things
"Michel Gagné is skeptical of JFK conspiracy theories, and he is also a teacher of logic. Thus he recognizes in conspiracy arguments fallacies that are not peculiar to the JFK case, but crop up in all sorts of debates. His volume is a cogent and incisive treatment of the whole assassination landscape, with particular attention to recent conspiracy arguments not dealt with in earlier volumes from people like Posner and Bugliosi".
John McAdams, Ph.D.† Formerly Professor of Political Science, Marquette University, USA, and author of JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think about Claims of Conspiracy
"Michel Gagné tackles the problem of conspiracism head on. He considers the many reasons why people believe in conspiracies. He systematically, critically, and successfully analyzes the most prominent interpretations of the assassination of JFK, the actors involved, and their respective motivations. Thinking Critically About the Kennedy Assassination offers a contemporary application of critical thinking to a controversial and hotly debated subject".
Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D. Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore, USA
Podcasts and Interviews:
http://www.ryanraysr.com/inside-the-war-room/ (Episode 100)