ACCESSORIES AFTER THE FACT

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THE WARREN COMMISSION, THE AUTHORITIES AND THE REPORT BY SYLVIA MEAGHER

INTRODUCTION

In 1965 Sylvia Meagher produced her Subject Index to the Warren Report and Hearings and Exhibits, which may someday be remembered as the only index to have altered the history of U.S. politics. If she had written nothing else, she would have been remembered for the way this index drew order out of chaos, defined a subject matter for serious scholarship and invited anyone who cared to drive a wedge between the findings of the Warren Report and its own twenty-six volumes of published Hearings.

Two years later, with Accessories After the Fact, Ms. Meagher showed how effectively this analysis of published documentation challenged not just the conclusions of the Warren Commission, but also the methods of distortion, suppression and apparent intimidation, which were used to arrive at untenable conclusions. She was not the first to labor in these Augean stables, and she herself freely acknowledged the invaluable help and support she had received from other early researchers. But, like Linnaeus in the age of the great botanical voyagers, Sylvia Meagher, in her second book as much as in her first, brought a new degree of order and method to the vast tracts of previously unmanageable detail. The nearly encyclopedic scope of this task produced a book that, like any encyclopedia, is coherent in particular sections rather than its entirety. Its coherence and importance lie in its method: its demonstration that, in the great welter of irrational rumor and falsehood, rigorous analysis is both fruitful and urgently needed. The first press response to her book confirmed her charge that important elements of the media had taken over the defense of the indefensible Report.

Of the six reviews quoted in Book Review Digest, only one can be called favorable. The New York Times dismissed the book as a "bore" without "any important disclosures"; it predictably did not mention her disclosures about The New York Times (cf. infra. p. 458). John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, writing in the Times Literary Supplement of London, dismissed Ms. Meagher as a "demonologist" with a "gift for innuendo" and deplorable vituperation, "ready to sling at the authorities any stone and any mud that presents itself." These were revealing charges from a don who readily admitted that he had "not had time to study" the book. Despite such reviews, and with no promotional campaign to correct them, the book managed quietly to sell out within three years. Since that time it has proliferated in bootlegged Xeroxed copies, while searchers for the original have driven the second-hand price to fifty dollars or more. In all these years the reputation of the Warren Report has continued to sink, and that of Sylvia Meagher's critique to grow...

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