AN ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESIS

ROBIN RAMSEY Lobster Magazine

In this essay I offer some informed speculation on the assassination of John Kennedy. I have called this a new hypothesis, but in fact it is the elaboration of a hunch about the case - but an interesting hunch, I think.

I take as proven that there was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy and a wide-ranging cover-up of the facts about the case. But I am not inclined to search for a gargantuan conspiracy. American politics are profoundly conspiratorial, but the evidence suggests a jostling mass of groups, lobbies, temporary alliances, rather than the great over- arching conspiracy apparently perceived by some of those who have studied the case. Not that the idea of a meta-conspiracy isn't attractive. Faced with a cover-up extending across the intelligence services, the mass media, and the political establishment, many of the JFK researchers made the not unreasonable assumption that it was co-ordinated, and that its purpose was the concealment of the identities of the real assassins. (In some versions the cover-up is presumed to be the work of the group which organised the assassination.) The closest anyone has come to identifying such a meta-conspiracy is Fletcher Prouty. In his book The Secret Team. 1he described a loose alliance of individuals centred round the upper echelons of the CIA, with members elsewhere throughout the Federal bureaucracies, and with ramifications out into the media, publishing and the academic world. Prouty appears to believe, and encourages his reader to infer, that this 'secret team' arranged Kennedy's death and the cover-up.

The force of Prouty's general claims is hard to resist. He knows at first hand whereof he speaks; and some of his thesis has indeed been confirmed in the post-Watergate revelations of CIA links with the media, the Agency's use of journalists, and the existence of 'detailees' - CIA agents working within the domestic US government.2 But Prouty has no evidence for his belief that this 'secret team' murdered Kennedy (or has declined to offer it), and there is one major difficulty with his (and similar) suggestions: namely, why would a group with the kind of power attributed to a 'secret team' ever have concluded that the best (or only) way to deal with Kennedy was to shoot him down in the street? A public execution is risky and messy - its success impossible to guarantee. The string of failed attempts on de Gaulle by the OAS had demonstrated that long before 1963.

It may just come down to how one sees the world. I see conspiracy everywhere - conspiracy is normal politics. But I also see incompetence, internecine squabbling, and accident - a world in which Murphy's Law (what can go wrong will go wrong) has near universal application. A giant conspiracy asks us to credit a solitary area of extraordinary competence amidst the raggedy muddle of the rest of human (and political) affairs. What a contrast the apparently super-efficient execution and cover- up of the Kennedy assassination makes with the farce and chaos of the CIA's attempts to do the same to Castro. Were there no plausible alternatives to the giant conspiracy view one would have to accept it. But a view of either Oswald the 'lone nut' or some meta-conspiracy is false. The absence of a decent investigation, the on-going cover-up, and the murder itself can be explained without the need to posit a meta-conspiracy...

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