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Back in 1999 I was invited to join Steve Sailer’s HBD email group, where I encountered all sorts of interesting people. The participants were mostly intellectuals or journalists having sharply heterodox views about racial differences, especially those involving IQ and crime, and this was reflected in the somewhat euphemistic title, which stood for “Human Bio-Diversity.” A reasonable sense of the controversial roster is that less than a year earlier a founding member named Glayde Whitney had contributed the Foreword to David Duke’s 700 page opus My Awakening.

Although the discussions were intended to focus on scientific matters, it sometimes seemed that half the heated arguments revolved around immigration, and on that highly contentious topic, I was invariably outnumbered around 99-to-1, with even the handful of self-proclaimed liberals regularly ranging themselves against me. Despite such apparently long odds, I regarded myself as always victorious in all those endless debates, though I would have to admit that 99% of the audience probably would have disagreed with my verdict.

Particularly contentious was the question of Hispanic immigrant crime rates, which I claimed were roughly the same as those of whites, a position that virtually all those professors and authors denounced as utter lunacy. That particular dispute went on for so many years that eventually I no longer even bothered to argue the case, but just every now and then provided some satirical jibes on the topic.

As it happens, the late J. Philippe Rushton, longtime professor of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, was a very occasional participant, and one of my jokes happened to catch his eye. Being a bit on the humorless side, he failed to comprehend that my remarks were actually tongue-in-cheek, and after three or four explanatory exchanges, I was finally forced to state my position as explicitly as possible: “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age.” He found my claim totally astonishing, saying that it contradicted absolutely everything he had learned about the topic and even threatened to overturn his entire ideological world-view, which he had so painstakingly built up over his previous thirty years of scientific investigation into human racial differences. Therefore, he said I couldn’t possibly be right.

Now Rushton was then widely regarded as being the world’s foremost White Nationalist academic scholar, and he was basically saying that he would eat his own hat if my contradictory racial analysis proved correct. Such an intellectual challenge was just too tempting for me to resist, so I took a brief hiatus from my ongoing software project to work out the crime numbers.

Sure enough, the quantitative results came out exactly the way I knew they would, and I was quite pleased with my resulting cover story “The Myth of Hispanic Crime” that ran in the March 2010 issue of The American Conservative. Not only did my detailed analysis eventually win over Prof. Rushton and most of my more thoughtful critics, but it also sparked an enormous Internet debate, and probably had widespread influence. I was puzzled at the time that such simple calculations had not previously been undertaken by America’s vast army of pro-immigrant academics and journalists, and could only wonder whether they had deliberately avoided investigating the issue for fear that the claims of their anti-immigrant opponents would prove entirely correct. Regardless of the cause, for years afterward whenever I Googled “Hispanic Crime” or “Latino Crime”, the search engine would turn up many tens of millions of web pages, but my own article was generally listed in the top five or six results, quite often in the top two or three. Even today, nearly a decade later, copies of my article still rank remarkably high in such searches on Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.

Was my controversial analysis actually correct? Well, when I moved to Palo Alto in 1992, neighboring East Palo Alto had America’s highest per capita murder rate, which obviously made people here rather nervous. But then over the next 25 years, a vast flood of Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, swept into the region, and the city became overwhelmingly Latino and immigrant. Perhaps coincidentally, the homicide rate fell by some 99%, with the last two years marred by only a single killing, a murder-suicide involving a couple of elderly white lesbians, while all other crime rates have also plummeted. Palo Alto is home to the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Apple, and numerous other leading tech companies, so perhaps rightwing activists should be less than totally mystified why their anti-immigrant zealotry has generally fallen on rather deaf ears within the Silicon Valley business community.

 

Although immigration and Hispanic crime were perennial topics in that HBD group, for a few years after the 9/11 attacks the latter issue was almost entirely displaced by feverish exchanges on Muslim terrorism and the accompanying Clash of Civilizations. Once again, I was invariably on the short end of a 99-to-1 divide, with nearly all the others in the group claiming that destruction of the World Trade Center conclusively proved that we needed to close our borders to foreign immigrants. I pointed out that since the Arab hijackers involved hadn’t been immigrants, but had generally entered our country on tourist visas, maybe the “War on Terrorism” should be renamed the “War on Tourism,” and we should protect America by completely closing our borders to the horrifying risks of the latter. Yet everyone ignored my sage advice.

The 9/11 attacks themselves had astonished me as much as everyone else on the HBD list, but aside from carefully reading the developing story in the New York Times and my other morning newspapers, I was too busy with my work to otherwise follow the topic. At first, everyone seemed certain that there would soon be a wave of follow-up attacks by the dozens or perhaps even hundreds of other Islamic terrorists remaining in our country, but nothing like that ever happened. After a few weeks had gone by without any further explosions, even small ones, I told the other HBD listmembers that I now strongly suspected that every last Al Qaeda terrorist in America had probably died in the suicide attacks of September 11th, and there wasn’t a single remaining operative left behind to commit further mayhem. Many of the others disagreed with me, but as the months and years went by, my surprising hypothesis turned out to be correct.

There was one important exception to this pattern, but it actually served to confirm the rule. As I wrote a few years ago in my original “American Pravda” article:

 
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Reason Magazine and Holocaust Denial

A few years ago I somehow heard about a ferocious online dispute involving a left-leaning journalist named Mark Ames and the editors of Reason magazine, the glossy flagship publication of America’s burgeoning libertarian movement. Although I was deep in my difficult programming work, curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to take a look.

During the Immigration Wars of the 1990s, I’d become quite friendly with the Reason people, frequently visiting their offices, especially during my “English” campaign of 1998, when I’d located my own political headquarters in the same small Westside LA office building they used. As my content-archiving software project began absorbing more and more of my time during the early 2000s, I’d gradually lost touch with them, but even so, the 40-odd years of their magazine archives had become the first publication I’d incorporated into my system, and I was now pleased to discover that both sides in the ongoing feud had put my system to good use in exploring those old Reason issues.

Apparently, the libertarians grouped around Reason had successfully been making political inroads into Silicon Valley’s enormously wealthy technology industry, and had now organized a major conference in San Francisco to gather together their supporters. Their left-leaning rivals decided to nip that project in the bud by highlighting some of the more unsavory ideological positions that mainstream libertarian leaders had once regularly espoused. Perhaps Ron Paul and other libertarians might oppose overseas wars and drug laws, and support cutting taxes and regulations, but they and their Republican Party allies were unspeakably vile on all sorts of other issues, and all “good thinkers” should therefore stay very far away.

The debate began in rather mundane fashion with an article by Ames entitled “Homophobia, Racism, and the Kochs” denouncing Reason for sharing a platform with a high-ranking Republican Congresswoman of Christian conservative views, as well as the magazine’s reliance upon Koch funding and its alleged support for Apartheid South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. The response by the Reason editor seemed quite persuasive, and he rightfully dismissed the guilt-by-association attacks. He also outlined the gross errors and omissions in the charges regarding South Africa, and ridiculed Ames as a notoriously error-prone “conspiracy theorist.” Surely few outsiders would have paid any attention to such a typical exchange of mudslinging between rival ideological camps.

But then things took a very different turn, and a week later Ames returned with a 5,000 word article bearing a title sure to grab attention: “Holocaust Denial.” He claimed that in 1976 Reason had published an entire special issue devoted to that explosive topic.

Surely everyone on the Internet has encountered numerous instances of Holocaust Denial over the years, but for a respectable magazine to have allotted a full issue to promoting that doctrine was something else entirely. For decades, Hollywood has sanctified the Holocaust, and in our deeply secular society accusations of Holocaust Denial are a bit like shouting “Witch!” in Old Salem or leveling accusations of Trotskyism in the Court of the Red Czar. Progressive Sam Seder’s Majority Report radio show devoted a full half-hour segment to the charges against Reason, and Googling “Reason Magazine”+”Holocaust Denial” today yields thousands of hits. This substantial explosion of Internet controversy was what caught my own attention at the time.

My initial reaction was one of puzzlement. Reason had been the first periodical I had digitized in my system a dozen years earlier, and surely I would have noticed an entire issue promoting Holocaust Denial. However, I soon discovered that February 1976 had been excluded from the supposedly complete set the magazine had shipped me for processing, an omission that itself raises serious suspicions. But Ames had somehow located a copy in a research library and produced a full PDF, which he conveniently placed on the Internet to support his accusations.

 

Carefully reading his article and then glancing through the contents, I decided that his accusation was technically false but substantially true. Apparently the actual theme of the issue was “Historical Revisionism” and except for a couple of paragraphs buried here and there among the 76 pages, Holocaust Denial never came up, so characterizing it as a Holocaust Denial issue was obviously a grotesque exaggeration. But on the other hand, although few of the authors were familiar to me, it seemed undeniably true that they were numbered among America’s more prominent Holocaust Deniers, and most of them were deeply associated with organizations situated in that same camp. Furthermore, there were strong indications that their positions on that topic must certainly have been known to the Reason editors who commissioned their pieces.

The clearest case comes when Ames quoted the explicit statements of Dr. Gary North, a prominent libertarian thinker who had served as one of Ron Paul’s earliest Congressional aides and later became his longtime partner in politics and business:

Probably the most far-out materials on World War II revisionism have been the seemingly endless scholarly studies of the supposed execution of 6 million Jews by Hitler. The anonymous author [Hoggan] of ‘The Myth of the Six Million’ has presented a solid case against the Establishment’s favorite horror story—the supposed moral justification for our entry into the war…The untranslated books by the former Buchenwald inmate Prof. Paul Rassinier, have seriously challenged the story…A recent and very inexpensive book in magazine form, Did Six Million Really Die?, appeared in 1973, written by Richard Harwood.

A later issue carried a thousand word letter by Prof. Adam Reed of Rockefeller University, a past Reason contributor, strongly affirming the mainstream Holocaust narrative by quoting from standard works, and taking Dr. North to task for his citation of Holocaust Denial works of doubtful quality. But North firmly stood his ground:

“The second point, that about 6 million Jews really did die in the concentration camps, is one that will be open until the records of the period become fully available. I am not convinced yet, one way or the other. I am happy to have Dr. Reed’s interpretation of the data, but until the publishing companies and academic guild encourage the re-examination of the data, I shall continue to recommend that those interested in revisionist questions read The Myth of the Six Million and Did Six Million Really Die? as reasonable (though not necessarily irrefutable) pieces of historical revisionism. If a person can’t make up his mind, he should do more reading.”

Dr. James J. Martin was the lead contributor to the February Revisionism issue, and the preceding January issue had featured an extended Q&A by the editors, with one of the queries directly addressing the controversial topic:

 
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Around 35 years ago, I was sitting in my college dorm-room closely reading the New York Times as I did each and every morning when I noticed an astonishing article about the controversial new Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir.

Back in those long-gone days, the Gray Lady was strictly a black-and-white print publication, lacking the large color photographs of rap stars and long stories about dieting techniques that fill so much of today’s news coverage, and it also seemed to have a far harder edge in its Middle East reporting. A year or so earlier, Shamir’s predecessor Menacham Begin had allowed his Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to talk him into invading Lebanon and besieging Beirut, and the subsequent massacre of Palestinian women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps had outraged the world and angered America’s government. This eventually led to Begin’s resignation, with Shamir, his Foreign Minister, taking his place.

Prior to his surprising 1977 election victory, Begin had spent decades in the political wilderness as an unacceptable right-winger, and Shamir had an even more extreme background, with the American mainstream media freely reporting his long involvement in all sorts of high-profile assassinations and terrorist attacks during the 1940s, painting him as a very bad man indeed.

Given Shamir’s notorious activities, few revelations would have shocked me, but this one did. Apparently, during the late 1930s, Shamir and his small Zionist faction had become great admirers of the Italian Fascists and German Nazis, and after World War II broke out, they had made repeated attempts to contact Mussolini and the German leadership in 1940 and 1941, hoping to enlist in the Axis Powers as their Palestine affiliate, and undertake a campaign of attacks and espionage against the local British forces, then share in the political booty after Hitler’s inevitable triumph.

Now the Times clearly viewed Shamir in a very negative light, but it seemed extremely unlikely to me that they would have published such a remarkable story without being absolutely sure of their facts. Among other things, there were long excerpts from the official letters sent to Mussolini ferociously denouncing the “decadent” democratic systems of Britain and France that he was opposing, and assuring Il Duce that such ridiculous political notions would have no future place in the totalitarian Jewish client state they hoped to establish under his auspices in Palestine.

As it happens, both Germany and Italy were preoccupied with larger geopolitical issues at the time, and given the small size of Shamir’s Zionist faction, not much seems to have ever come of those efforts. But the idea of the sitting Prime Minister of the Jewish State having spent his early wartime years as an unrequited Nazi ally was certainly something that sticks in one’s mind, not quite conforming to the traditional narrative of that era which I had always accepted.

Most remarkably, the revelation of Shamir’s pro-Axis past seems to have had only a relatively minor impact upon his political standing within Israeli society. I would think that any American political figure found to have supported a military alliance with Nazi Germany during the Second World War would have had a very difficult time surviving the resulting political scandal, and the same would surely be true for politicians in Britain, France, or most other western nations. But although there was certainly some embarrassment in the Israeli press, especially after the shocking story reached the international headlines, apparently most Israelis took the whole matter in stride, and Shamir stayed in office for another year, then later served a second, much longer term as Prime Minister during 1986-1992. The Jews of Israel apparently regarded Nazi Germany quite differently than did most Americans, let alone most American Jews.

 

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Around that same time, a second intriguing example of this quite different Israeli perspective towards the Nazis also came to my attention. In 1983, Amoz Oz, often described as Israel’s greatest novelist, had published In the Land of Israel to glowing reviews. This book was a collection of lengthy interviews with various representative figures in Israeli society, both moderate and extreme, as well as some coverage of the Palestinians who also lived among them.

Of these ideological profiles, one of the shortest but most widely discussed was that of an especially hard-line political figure, unnamed but almost universally believed to be Ariel Sharon, a conclusion certainly supported by the personal details and physical description provided. Near the very beginning, that figure mentioned that people of his ideological ilk had recently been denounced as “Judeo-Nazis” by a prominent liberal Israeli academic, but rather than reject that label, he fully welcomed it. So the subject generally became known in public discussions as the “Judeo-Nazi.”

That he described himself in such terms was hardly an exaggeration, since he rather gleefully advocated the slaughter of millions of Israel’s enemies, and the vast expansion of Israeli territory by conquest of neighboring lands and expulsion of their populations, along with the free use of nuclear weapons if they or anyone else too strongly resisted such efforts. In his bold opinion, the Israelis and Jews in general were just too soft and meek, and needed to regain their place in the world by once again becoming a conquering people, probably hated but definitely feared. To him, the large recent massacre of Palestinian women and children at Sabra and Shatila was of no consequence whatsoever, and the most unfortunate aspect of the incident was that the killers had been Israel’s Christian Phalangist allies rather than Israeli soldiers themselves.

Now rhetorical excess is quite common among politicians and a shroud of pledged anonymity will obviously loosen many tongues. But can anyone imagine an American or other Western public figure talking in such terms, let alone someone who moves in higher political circles? These days, Donald Trump sometimes Tweets out a crude misspelled insult at 2am, and the American media is aghast in horror. But given that his administration leaks like a sieve, if he routinely boasted to his confidants about possibly slaughtering millions, we surely would have heard about it. For that matter, there seems not the slightest evidence that the original German Nazis ever spoke in such ways privately, let alone while a journalist was carefully taking notes. But the “Judeo-Nazis” of Israel are another story.

As near as I can recall, the last even slightly prominent figure in American public life who declared himself a “Nazi” was George Lincoln Rockwell during the 1960s, and he was much more of a political performance artist than an actual political leader. Even as marginalized a figure as David Duke has always hotly denied such an accusation. But apparently politics in Israel is played by different rules.

In any event, Sharon’s purported utterances seem to have had little negative impact upon his subsequent political career, and after spending some time in the political wilderness after the Lebanon disaster, he eventually served five years as Prime Minister during 2001-2006, although by that later date his views were regularly denounced as too soft and compromising due to the steady rightward drift of the Israeli political spectrum.

 

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I recently published a couple of long essays, and although they primarily focused on other matters, the subject of anti-Semitism was a strong secondary theme. In that regard, I mentioned my shock at discovering a dozen or more years ago that several of the most self-evidently absurd elements of anti-Semitic lunacy, which I had always dismissed without consideration, were probably correct. It does seem likely that a significant number of traditionally-religious Jews did indeed occasionally commit the ritual murder of Christian children in order to use their blood in certain religious ceremonies, and also that powerful Jewish international bankers did play a large role in financing the establishment of Bolshevik Russia.

When one discovers that matters of such enormous moment not only apparently occurred but that they had been successfully excluded from nearly all of our histories and media coverage for most of the last one hundred years, the implications take some time to properly digest. If the most extreme “anti-Semitic canards” were probably true, then surely the whole notion of anti-Semitism warrants a careful reexamination.

All of us obtain our knowledge of the world by two different channels. Some things we discover from our own personal experiences and the direct evidence of our senses, but most information comes to us via external sources such as books and the media, and a crisis may develop when we discover that these two pathways are in sharp conflict. The official media of the old USSR used to endlessly trumpet the tremendous achievements of its collectivized agricultural system, but when citizens noticed that there was never any meat in their shops, “Pravda” became a watchword for “Lies” rather than “Truth.”

Now consider the notion of “anti-Semitism.” Google searches for that word and its close variants reveal over 24 million hits, and over the years I’m sure I’ve seen that term tens of thousands of times in my books and newspapers, and heard it endlessly reported in my electronic media and entertainment. But thinking it over, I’m not sure that I can ever recall a single real-life instance I’ve personally encountered, nor have I heard of almost any such cases from my friends or acquaintances. Indeed, the only persons I’ve ever come across making such claims were individuals who bore unmistakable signs of serious psychological imbalance. When the daily newspapers are brimming with lurid tales of hideous demons walking among us and attacking people on every street corner, but you yourself have never actually seen one, you may gradually grow suspicious.

Indeed, over the years some of my own research has uncovered a sharp contrast between image and reality. As recently as the late 1990s, leading mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times were still denouncing a top Ivy League school such as Princeton for the supposed anti-Semitism of its college admissions policy, but a few years ago when I carefully investigated that issue in quantitative terms for my lengthy Meritocracy analysis I was very surprised to reach a polar-opposite conclusion. According to the best available evidence, white Gentiles were over 90% less likely to be enrolled at Harvard and the other Ivies than were Jews of similar academic performance, a truly remarkable finding. If the situation had been reversed and Jews were 90% less likely to be found at Harvard than seemed warranted by their test scores, surely that fact would be endlessly cited as the absolute smoking-gun proof of horrendous anti-Semitism in present-day America.

It has also become apparent that a considerable fraction of what passes for “anti-Semitism” these days seems to stretch that term beyond all recognition. A few weeks ago an unknown 28-year-old Democratic Socialist named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored a stunning upset primary victory over a top House Democrat in New York City, and naturally received a blizzard of media coverage as a result. However, when it came out that she had denounced the Israeli government for its recent massacre of over 140 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, cries of “anti-Semite” soon appeared, and according to Google there are now over 180,000 such hits combining her name and that harsh accusatory term. Similarly, just a few days ago the New York Times ran a major story reporting that all of Britain’s Jewish newspapers had issued an “unprecedented” denunciation of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, describing it as an “existential threat” to the Jewish community for the anti-Semitism it was fostering; but this apparently amounted to nothing more than its willingness to sharply criticize the Israeli government for its long mistreatment of the Palestinians.

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One plausible explanation of the strange contrast between media coverage and reality might be that anti-Semitism once did loom very large in real life, but dissipated many decades ago, while the organizations and activists focused on detecting and combating that pernicious problem have remained in place, generating public attention based on smaller and smaller issues, with the zealous Jewish activists of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) representing a perfect example of this situation. As an even more striking illustration, the Second World War ended over seventy years ago, but what historian Norman Finkelstein has so aptly labeled “the Holocaust Industry” has grown ever larger and more entrenched in our academic and media worlds so that scarcely a day passes without one or more articles relating to that topic appearing in my major morning newspapers. Given this situation, a serious exploration of the true nature of anti-Semitism should probably avoid the mere media phantoms of today and focus on the past, when the condition might still have been widespread in daily life.

Many observers have pointed to the aftermath of the Second World War as marking a huge watershed in the public acceptability of anti-Semitism both in America and Europe, so perhaps a proper appraisal of that cultural phenomenon should focus on the years before that global conflict. However, the overwhelming role of Jews in the Bolshevik Revolution and other bloody Communist seizures of power quite naturally made them objects of considerable fear and hatred throughout the inter-war years, so the safest course might be to push that boundary back a little further and confine our attention to the period prior to the outbreak of the First World War. The pogroms in Czarist Russia, the Dreyfus Affair in France, and the lynching of Leo Frank in the American South come to mind as some of the most famous examples from that period.

 

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In 1991 Cambridge University Press published The Jew Accused by Albert Lindemann, a noted scholar of European ideological movements, and his book focused on exactly that era and those sorts of incidents. Although the text is quite short, running less than 300 pages, Lindemann built his discussion upon a huge foundation of secondary literature, with his footnotes drawn from the 200 works included in his extensive bibliography. As far as I could tell, he seems a very scrupulous scholar, generally providing the multiple, often conflicting accounts of a given incident, and coming to his own conclusions with considerable hesitation.

 
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Although I always had a great interest in history, I naively believed what I read in my textbooks, and therefore regarded American history as just too bland and boring to study.

By contrast, one land I found especially fascinating was China, the world’s most populous country and its oldest continuous civilization, with a tangled modern history of revolutionary upheaval, then suddenly reopened to the West during the Nixon Administration and under Deng’s economic reforms starting to reverse decades of Maoist economic failure.

In 1978 I took a UCLA graduate seminar on the rural Chinese political economy, and probably read thirty or forty books during that semester. E.O. Wilson’s seminal Sociobiology: The New Synthesis had just been published a couple of years earlier, reviving that field after decades of harsh ideological suppression, and with his ideas in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help noticing the obvious implications of the material I was reading. The Chinese had always seemed a very smart people, and the structure of China’s traditional rural peasant economy produced Social Darwinist selective pressure so thick that you could cut it with a knife, thus providing a very elegant explanation of how the Chinese got that way. A couple of years later in college, I wrote up my theory while studying under Wilson, and then decades afterward dug it out again, finally publishing my analysis as How Social Darwinism Made Modern China.

With the Chinese people clearly having such tremendous inherent talent and their potential already demonstrated on a much smaller scale in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, I believed there was an excellent chance that Deng’s reforms would unleash enormous economic growth, and sure enough, that was exactly what happened. In the late 1970s, China was poorer than Haiti, but I always told my friends that it might come to dominate the world economically within a couple of generations, and although most of them were initially quite skeptical of such an outrageous claim, every few years they became a little less so. The Economist had long been my favorite magazine, and in 1986 they published an especially long letter of mine emphasizing the tremendous rising potential of China and urging them to expand their coverage with a new Asia Section; the following year, they did exactly that.

These days I feel tremendous humiliation for having spent most of my life being so totally wrong about so many things for so long, and I cling to China as a very welcome exception. I can’t think of a single development during the last forty years that I wouldn’t have generally expected back in the late 1970s, with the only surprise having been the total lack of surprises. About the only “revision” I’ve had to make in my historical framework is that I’d always casually accepted the ubiquitous claim that Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward of 1959-61 had caused 35 million or more deaths, but I’ve recently encountered some serious doubts, suggesting that such a total could be considerably exaggerated, and today I might admit the possibility that only 15 million or fewer had died.

 

But although I always had a great interest in China, European history was even more fascinating to me, with the political interplay of so many conflicting states and the huge ideological and military upheavals of the twentieth century.

In my unjustified arrogance, I also sometimes relished a sense of seeing obvious things that magazine or newspaper journalists got so completely wrong, mistakes which often slipped into historical narratives as well. For example, discussions of the titanic 20th century military struggles between Germany and Russia quite often made casual references to the traditional hostility between those two great peoples, who for centuries had stood as bitter rivals, representing the eternal struggle of Slav against Teuton for dominion over Eastern Europe.

Although the bloodstained history of the two world wars made that notion seem obvious, it was factually mistaken. Prior to 1914, those two great peoples had not fought against each other for the previous 150 years, and even the Seven Years’ War of the mid-18th century had involved a Russian alliance with Germanic Austria against Germanic Prussia, hardly amounting to a conflict along civilizational lines. Russians and Germans had been staunch allies during the endless Napoleonic wars, closely cooperated during the Metterich and Bismarck Eras that followed, while even as late as 1904, Germany had supported Russia in its unsuccessful war against Japan. Later, Weimar Germany and Soviet Russia had a period of close military cooperation during the 1920s, the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 marked the beginning of the Second World War, and during the long Cold War, the USSR had no more loyal a satellite than East Germany. Perhaps two dozen years of hostility over the last three centuries, with good relations or even outright alliance during most of the remainder, hardly suggested that Russians and Germans were hereditary enemies.

Moreover, throughout much of that period, Russia’s ruling elite had had a considerable Germanic tinge. Russia’s legendary Catherine the Great had been a German princess by birth, and over the centuries so many Russian rulers had taken German wives that the later Czars of the Romanov dynasty were usually more German than Russian. Russia itself had a substantial but heavily assimilated German population, which was very well represented in elite political circles, with German names being quite common among government ministers and sometimes found among important military commanders. Even a top leader of the Decembrist revolt of the early 19th century had had German ancestry but was a zealous Russian-nationalist in his ideology.

Under the governance of this mixed Russian and German ruling class, the Russian Empire had steadily risen to become one of the world’s foremost powers. Indeed, given its vast size, manpower, and resources, combined with one of the world’s fastest economic growth rates and a natural increase in total population that was not far behind, a 1914 observer might have easily pegged it to soon dominate the European continent and perhaps even much of the world, just as Tocqueville had famously prophesized in the early decades of the 19th century. A crucial underlying cause of the First World War was Britain’s belief that only a preventative war could forestall a rising Germany, but I suspect that an important secondary cause was the parallel German notion that similar measures were necessary against a rising Russia.

 
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About a decade ago, I happened to be talking with an eminent academic scholar who had become known for his sharp criticism of Israeli policies in the Middle East and America’s strong support for them. I mentioned that I myself had come to very similar conclusions some time before, and he asked when that had happened. I told him it had been in 1982, and I think he found my answer quite surprising. I got the sense that date was decades earlier than would have been given by almost anyone else he knew.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to pinpoint when one’s world view on a contentious topic undergoes sharp transformation, but at other times it is quite easy. My own perceptions of the Middle East conflict drastically shifted during Fall 1982, and they have subsequently changed only to a far smaller extent. As some might remember, that period marked the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and culminated in the notorious Sabra-Shatila Massacre during which hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered in their refugee camps. But although those events were certainly major factors in my ideological realignment, the crucial trigger was actually a certain letter to the editor published around that same time.

A few years earlier, I had discovered The London Economist, as it was then called, and it had quickly become my favorite publication, which I religiously devoured cover-to-cover every week. And as I read the various articles about the Middle East conflict in that publication, or others such as the New York Times, the journalists occasionally included quotes from some particularly fanatic and irrational Israeli Communist named Israel Shahak, whose views seemed totally at odds with those of everyone else, and who was consequently treated as a fringe figure. Opinions that seem totally divorced from reality tend to stick in one’s mind, and it took only one or two appearances from that apparently die-hard and delusional Stalinist for me to guess that he would always take an entirely contrary position on every given issue.

In 1982 Israel Defense Minister Ariel Sharon launched his massive invasion of Lebanon using the pretext of the wounding of an Israeli diplomat in Europe at the hands of a Palestinian attacker, and the extreme nature of his action was widely condemned in the media outlets I read at the time. His motive was obviously to root out the PLO’s political and military infrastructure, which had taken hold in many of Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee camps. But back in those days invasions of Middle Eastern countries on dubious prospects were much less common than they have subsequently become, after our recent American wars killed or displaced so many millions, and most observers were horrified by the utterly disproportionate nature of his attack and the severe destruction he was inflicted upon Israel’s neighbor, which he seemed eager to reduce to puppet status. From what I recall from that time, he made several entirely false assurances to top Reagan officials about his invasion plans, such that they afterward called him the worst sort of liar, and he ended up besieging the Lebanese capital of Beirut even though he had originally promised to limit his assault to a mere border incursion.

The Israeli siege of the PLO-controlled areas of Beirut lasted some time, and negotiations eventually resulted in the departure of the Palestinian fighters to some other Arab country. Shortly afterward, the Israelis declared that they were moving into West Beirut in order to better assure the safety of the Palestinian women and children left behind and protect them from any retribution at the hands of their Christian Falangist enemies. And around that same time, I noticed a long letter in The Economist by Shahak which seemed to me the final proof of his insanity. He claimed that it was obvious that Sharon had marched to Beirut with the intent of organizing a massacre of the Palestinians, and that this would shortly take place. When the slaughter indeed occurred not long afterward, apparently with heavy Israeli involvement and complicity, I concluded that if a crazy Communist fanatic like Shahak had been right, while apparently every mainstream journalist had been so completely wrong, my understanding of the world and the Middle East required total recalibration. Or at least that’s how I’ve always remembered those events from a distance of over thirty-five years.

During the years that followed, I still periodically saw Shahak’s statements quoted in my mainstream publications, which sometimes suggested that he was a Communist and sometimes not. Naturally enough, his ideological extremism made him a prominent opponent of the 1991 Oslo Peace Agreement between Israel and the occupied Palestinians, which was supported by every sensible person, though since Oslo ended up being entirely a failure, I couldn’t hold it too strongly against him. I stopped paying much attention to foreign policy issues during the 1990s, but I still read my New York Times every morning and would occasionally see his quotes, inevitably contrarian and irredentist.

Then the 9/11 attacks returned foreign policy and the Middle East to the absolute center of our national agenda, and I eventually read somewhere or other that Shahak had died at age 68 only a few months earlier, though I hadn’t noticed any obituary. Over the years, I’d seen some vague mention that during the previous decade he’d published a couple of stridently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist books, just as might be expected from a hard-line Communist fanatic, and during the early 2000s I started seeing more and more references to these works, ironically coming from fringe sources of the anti-Semitic Far Right, thereby once again proving that extremists flock together. Finally, about a decade ago, my curiosity got the better of me and clicking a few buttons on Amazon.com, I ordered copies of his books, all of which were quite short.

 

My first surprise was that Shahak’s writings included introductions or glowing blurbs by some of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, including Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said. Praise also came from quite respectable publications such as The London Review of Books, Middle East International, and Catholic New Times while Allan Brownfeld of The American Council for Judaism had published a very long and laudatory obituary. And I discovered that Shahak’s background was very different than I had always imagined. He had spent many years as an award-winning Chemistry professor at Hebrew University, and was actually anything but a Communist. Whereas for decades, Israel’s ruling political parties had been Socialist or Marxist, his personal doubts about Socialism had left him politically in the wilderness, while his relationship with Israel’s tiny Communist Party was solely because they were the only group willing to stand up for the basic human rights issues that were his own central focus. My casual assumptions about his views and background had been entirely in error.

 
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Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

Supporting that strong impression, these sources hardly seemed to hide some of the uglier aspects of the conflict and its aftermath, such as the notable brutalities visited upon pro-Nazi turncoats following the Liberation of France in 1944. Pierre Laval, head of the puppet Vichy government and quite a number of his fellow quislings were tried and executed for their treason, and even Marshal Petain, the renowned French World War I hero who in his dotage had sadly lent his name to the hated regime as its head of state, was condemned to death, though his life was eventually spared. Less prominent collaborators suffered as well, with my books often carrying photos of some of the hundreds or thousands of ordinary French women who for fear, love, or money had become intimate with German soldiers during the four years of occupation, and as a consequence had their heads shaved and were marched through the streets of their towns or cities in parades of shame.

Such excesses were obviously unfortunate, but wars and liberations often unleash considerable brutality, and these spectacles of public humiliation obviously did not begin to compare with the vicious bloodshed of the years of Nazi control. For example, there was the notorious case of Oradour-sur-Glane, a village involved in Resistance activities, in which many hundreds of men, women, and children were herded into a church and other buildings and burned alive. Meanwhile, enormous numbers of Frenchmen and others had been deported to wartime Germany as slave-laborers, in total violation of every legal principle, producing an uncanny parallel to Stalin’s Gulag and underscoring the similarity of those two totalitarian regimes. This, at least, had always been my limited impression of that very unfortunate era.

Eventually, major cracks in this simple picture began appearing. I have previously written of my discovery of John T. Flynn, one of America’s most prominent liberal public intellectuals throughout the 1930s, who was then purged from the mainstream media and eventually forgotten for his discordant views on certain contentious issues. From the early 1940s onward, Flynn’s books only found a home at the Devin-Adair Company, a small Irish-American publishing house based in New York City. Somehow or other, perhaps six or seven years ago I became aware of another book released by that same press in 1953.

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The author of Unconditional Hatred was Captain Russell Grenfell, a British naval officer who had served with distinction in the First World War, and later helped direct the Royal Navy Staff College, while publishing six highly-regarded books on naval strategy and serving as the Naval Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Grenfell recognized that great quantities of extreme propaganda almost inevitably accompany any major war, but with several years having passed since the close of hostilities, he was growing concerned that unless an antidote were soon widely applied, the lingering poison of such wartime exaggerations might threaten the future peace of Europe.

His considerable historical erudition and his reserved academic tone shine through in this fascinating volume, which focuses primarily upon the events of the two world wars, but often contains digressions into the Napoleonic conflicts or even earlier ones. One of the intriguing aspects of his discussion is that much of the anti-German propaganda he seeks to debunk would today be considered so absurd and ridiculous it has been almost entirely forgotten, while much of the extremely hostile picture we currently have of Hitler’s Germany receives almost no mention whatsoever, possibly because it had not yet been established or was then still considered too outlandish for anyone to take seriously. Among other matters, he reports with considerable disapproval that leading British newspapers had carried headlined articles about the horrific tortures that were being inflicted upon German prisoners at war crimes trials in order to coerce all sorts of dubious confessions out of them.

Some of Grenfell’s casual claims do raise doubts about various aspects of our conventional picture of German occupation policies. He notes numerous stories in the British press of former French “slave-laborers” who later organized friendly post-war reunions with their erstwhile German employers. He also states that in 1940 those same British papers had reported the absolutely exemplary behavior of German soldiers toward French civilians, though after terroristic attacks by Communist underground forces provoked reprisals, relations often grew much worse.

Most importantly, he points out that the huge Allied strategic bombing campaign against French cities and industry had killed huge numbers of civilians, probably far more than had ever died at German hands, and thereby provoked a great deal of hatred as an inevitable consequence. At Normandy he and other British officers had been warned to remain very cautious among any French civilians they encountered for fear they might be subject to deadly attacks.

Although Grenfell’s content and tone strike me as exceptionally even-handed and objective, others surely viewed his text in a very different light. The Devin-Adair jacket-flap notes that no British publisher was willing to accept the manuscript, and when the book appeared no major American reviewer recognized its existence. Even more ominously, Grenfell is described as having been hard at work on a sequel when he suddenly died in 1954 of unknown causes, and his lengthy obituary in the London Times gives his age as 62. With the copyright having long lapsed, I am pleased to include this important volume in my collection of HTML Books so that those interested can easily read it and decide for themselves.

 

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• Category: History • Tags: American Pravda, France, Germany, World War II 
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Although my main academic focus was theoretical physics, I always had a very strong interest in history as well, especially that of the Classical Era. Trying to extract the true pattern of events from a collection of source material that was often fragmentary, unreliable, and contradictory was a challenging intellectual exercise, testing my analytical ability. I believe I even contributed meaningfully to the field, including a short 1985 article in The Journal of Hellenic Studies that sifted the ancient sources to conclude that Alexander the Great had younger brothers whom he murdered when he came to the throne.

However, I never had any interest in 20th century American history. For one thing, it seemed so apparent to me that all the basic political facts were already well known and conveniently provided in the pages of my introductory history textbooks, thereby leaving little room for any original research, except in the most obscure corners of the field.

Also, the politics of ancient times was often colorful and exciting, with Hellenistic and Roman rulers so frequently deposed by palace coups, or falling victim to assassinations, poisonings, or other untimely deaths of a highly suspicious nature. By contrast, American political history was remarkably bland and boring, lacking any such extra constitutional events to give it spice. The most dramatic political upheaval of my own lifetime had been the forced resignation of President Richard Nixon under threat of impeachment, and the causes of his departure from office—some petty abuses of power and a subsequent cover-up—were so clearly inconsequential that they fully affirmed the strength of our American democracy and the scrupulous care with which our watchdog media policed the misdeeds of even the most powerful.

In hindsight I should have asked myself whether the coups and poisonings of Roman Imperial times were accurately reported in their own day, or if most of the toga-wearing citizens of that era might have remained blissfully unaware of the nefarious events secretly determining the governance of their own society.

 

Since my knowledge of American history ran no deeper than my basic textbooks and mainstream newspapers and magazines, the last decade or so has been a journey of discovery for me, and often a shocking one. I came of age many years after the Communist spy scares of the 1950s had faded into dim memory, and based on what I read, I always thought the whole matter more amusing than anything else. It seemed that about the only significant “Red” ever caught, who may or may not have been innocent, was some obscure individual bearing the unlikely name of “Alger Hiss,” and as late as the 1980s, his children still fiercely proclaimed his complete innocence in the pages of the New York Times. Although I thought he was probably guilty, it also seemed clear that the methods adopted by his persecutors such as Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon had actually done far more damage to our country during the unfortunate era named for the former figure.

During the 1990s, I occasionally read reviews of new books based on the Venona Papers—decrypted Soviet cables finally declassified—and they seemed to suggest that the Communist spy ring had both been real and far more extensive than I had imagined. But those events of a half-century earlier were hardly uppermost in my mind, and anyway other historians still fought a rear-guard battle in the newspapers, arguing that many of the Venona texts were fraudulent. So I gave the matter little thought.

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Only in the last dozen years, as my content-archiving project made me aware of the 1940s purge of some of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, and I began considering their books and articles, did I begin to realize the massive import of the Soviet cables. I soon read three or four of the Venona books and was very impressed by their objective and meticulous scholarly analysis, which convinced me of their conclusions. And the implications were quite remarkable, actually far understated in most of the articles that I had read.

Consider, for example, the name Harry Dexter White, surely unknown to all but the thinnest sliver of present-day Americans, and proven by the Venona Papers to have been a Soviet agent. During the 1940s, his official position was merely one of several assistant secretaries of the Treasury, serving under Henry Morgenthau, Jr., an influential member of Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet. But Morgenthau was actually a gentleman-farmer, almost entirely ignorant of finance, who had gotten his position partly by being FDR’s neighbor, and according to numerous sources, White actually ran the Treasury Department under his titular authority. Thus, in 1944 it was White who negotiated with John Maynard Keynes—Britain’s most towering economist—to lay the basis for the the Bretton Woods Agreement, the IMF, and the rest of the West’s post-war economic institutions.

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Moreover, by the end of the war, White had managed to extend the power of the Treasury—and therefore his own area of control—deep into what would normally be handled by the Department of State, especially regarding policies pertaining to the defeated German foe. His handiwork notably included the infamous “Morgenthau Plan,” proposing the complete dismantling of the huge industrial base at the heart of Europe, and its conversion into an agricultural region, automatically implying the elimination of most of Germany’s population, whether by starvation or exodus. And although that proposal was officially abandoned under massive protest by the allied leadership, books by many post-war observers such as Freda Utley have argued that it was partially implemented in actuality, with millions of German civilians perishing from hunger, sickness, and other consequences of extreme deprivation.

At the time, some observers believed that White’s attempt to eradicate much of prostrate Germany’s surviving population was vindictively motivated by his own Jewish background. But William Henry Chamberlin, long one of America’s most highly-regarded foreign policy journalists, strongly suspected that the plan was a deeply cynical one, intended to inflict such enormous misery upon those Germans living under Western occupation that popular sentiment would automatically shift in a strongly pro-Soviet direction, allowing Stalin to gain the upper hand in Central Europe, and many subsequent historians have come to similar conclusions.

Even more remarkably, White managed to have a full set of the plates used to print Allied occupation currency shipped to the Soviets, allowing them to produce an unlimited quantity of paper marks recognized as valid by Western governments, thus allowing the USSR to finance its post-war occupation of half of Europe on the backs of the American taxpayer.

Eventually suspicion of White’s true loyalties led to his abrupt resignation as the first U.S. Director of the IMF in 1947, and in 1948 he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although he denied all accusations, he was scheduled for additional testimony, with the intent of eventually prosecuting him for perjury and then using the threat of a long prison sentence to force him to reveal the other members of his espionage network. However, almost immediately after his initial meeting with the Committee, he supposedly suffered a couple of sudden heart attacks and died at age 55, though apparently no direct autopsy was performed on his corpse.

 
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A strong dam may hold back an immense quantity of water, but once it breaks the resulting flood may sweep aside everything in its path. I had spent nearly my entire life never doubting that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy nor that a different lone gunman took the life of his younger brother Robert a few years later. Once I came to accept that these were merely fairy tales widely disbelieved by many of the same political elites who publicly maintained them, I began considering other aspects of this important history, the most obvious being who was behind the conspiracy and what were their motives.

On these questions, the passage of a half-century and the deaths, natural or otherwise, of nearly all the contemporary witnesses drastically reduces any hope of coming to a firm conclusion. At best, we can evaluate possibilities and plausibilities rather than high likelihoods let alone near certainties. And given the total absence of any hard evidence, our exploration of the origins of the assassination must necessarily rely upon cautious speculation.

From such a considerable distance in time, a bird’s-eye view may be a reasonable starting point, allowing us to focus on the few elements of the apparent conspiracy that seem reasonably well established. The most basic of these is the background of the individuals who appear to have been associated with the assassination, and the recent books by David Talbot and James W. Douglass effectively summarize much of the evidence accumulated over the decades by an army of diligent assassination researchers. Most of the apparent conspirators seem to have had strong ties to organized crime, the CIA, or various anti-Castro activist groups, with considerable overlap across these categories. Oswald himself certainly fit this same profile although he was very likely the mere “patsy” that he claimed to be, as did Jack Ruby, the man who quickly silenced him and whose ties to the criminal underworld were long and extensive.

 

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An unusual chain of events provided some of the strongest evidence of CIA involvement. Victor Marchetti, a career CIA officer, had risen to become Special Assistant to the Deputy Director, a position of some importance, before resigning in 1969 over policy differences. Although he fought a long battle with government censors over his book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, he retained close ties with many former agency colleagues.

During the 1970s, the revelations of the Senate Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations had subjected the CIA to a great deal of negative public scrutiny, and there were growing suspicions of possible CIA links to JFK’s assassination. In 1978 longtime CIA Counter-intelligence chief James Angleton and a colleague provided Marchetti with an explosive leak, stating that the agency might be planning to admit a connection to the assassination, which had involved three shooters, but place the blame upon E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA officer who had become notorious during Watergate, and scapegoat him as a rogue agent, along with a few other equally tarnished colleagues. Marchetti published the resulting story in The Spotlight, a weekly national tabloid newspaper operated by Liberty Lobby, a rightwing populist organization based in DC. Although almost totally shunned by the mainstream media, The Spotlight was then at the peak of its influence, having almost 400,000 subscribers, as large a readership as the combined total of The New Republic, The Nation, and National Review.

Marchetti’s article suggested that Hunt had actually been in Dallas during the assassination, resulting in a libel lawsuit with potential damages large enough to bankrupt the publication. Longtime JFK assassination researcher Mark Lane became aware of the situation and volunteered his services to Liberty Lobby, hoping to use the legal proceedings, including the discovery process and subpoena power, as a means of securing additional evidence on the assassination, and after various court rulings and appeals, the case finally came to trial in 1985.

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As Lane recounted in his 1991 bestseller, Plausible Denial, his strategy generally proved quite successful, not only allowing him to win the jury verdict against Hunt, but also eliciting sworn testimony from a former CIA operative of her personal involvement in the conspiracy along with the names of several other participants, though she claimed that her role had been strictly peripheral. And although Hunt continued for decades to totally deny any connection with the assassination, near the end of his life he made a series of video-taped interviews in which he admitted that he had indeed been involved in the JFK assassination and named several of the other conspirators, while also maintaining that his own role had been merely peripheral. Hunt’s explosive death-bed confession was recounted in a major 2007 Rolling Stone article and also heavily analyzed in Talbot’s books, especially his second one, but otherwise largely ignored by the media.

 

Many of these same apparent conspirators, drawn from the same loose alliance of groups, had previously been involved in the various U.S. government-backed attempts to assassinate Castro or overthrow his Communist government, and they had developed a bitter hostility towards President Kennedy for what they considered his betrayal during the Bay of Pigs fiasco and afterward. Therefore, there is a natural tendency to regard such animosity as the central factor behind the assassination, a perspective generally followed by Talbot, Douglass, and numerous other writers. They conclude that Kennedy died at the hands of harder-line anti-Communists, outraged over his perceived weakness regarding Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam, sentiments that were certainly widespread within right-wing political circles at the height of the Cold War.

While this framework for the assassination is certainly possible, it is far from certain. One may easily imagine that most of the lower-level participants in the Dallas events were driven by such considerations but that the central figures who organized the plot and set matters into motion had different motives. So long as all the conspirators were agreed on Kennedy’s elimination, there was no need for an absolute uniformity of motive. Indeed, men who had long been involved in organized crime or clandestine intelligence operations were surely experienced in operational secrecy, and many of them may not have expected to know the identities, let alone the precise motives, of the men at the very top of the remarkable operation they were undertaking.

We must also sharply distinguish between the involvement of particular individuals and the involvement of an organization as an organization. For example, CIA Director John McCone was a Kennedy loyalist who had been appointed to clean house a couple of years before the assassination, and he surely was innocent of his patron’s death. On the other hand, the very considerable evidence that numerous individual CIA intelligence officers and operatives participated in the action has naturally raised suspicions that some among their highest-ranking superiors were involved as well, perhaps even as the principal organizers of the conspiracy.

 
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About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.

Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.

Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison—presumably fictional—whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories.”

Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F. Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.

Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history—why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant?—one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.

Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.

Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

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The Talbot book especially impressed me, being based on over 150 personal interviews and released by The Free Press, a highly reputable publisher. Although he applied a considerable hagiographic gloss to the Kennedys, his narrative was compellingly written, with numerous gripping scenes. But while such packaging surely helped to explain some of the favorable treatment from reviewers and how he had managed to produce a national bestseller in a seemingly long-depleted field, for me the packaging was much less important than the product itself.

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

 
RonUnz1
About Ron Unz

A theoretical physicist by training, Mr. Unz serves as founder and chairman of UNZ.org, a content-archiving website providing free access to many hundreds of thousands of articles from prominent periodicals of the last hundred and fifty years. From 2007 to 2013, he also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, and had previously served as chairman of Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a financial services software company which he founded in New York City in 1987. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, and is a past first-place winner in the Intel/Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was born in Los Angeles in 1961.

He has long been deeply interested in public policy issues, and his writings on issues of immigration, race, ethnicity, and social policy have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Nation, and numerous other publications.

In 1994, he launched a surprise Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson of California, running on a conservative, pro-immigrant platform against the prevailing political sentiment, and received 34% of the vote. Later that year, he campaigned as a leading opponent of Prop. 187, the anti-immigration initiative, and was a top featured speaker at a 70,000 person pro-immigrant march in Los Angeles, the largest political rally in California history to that date.

In 1997, Mr. Unz began his “English for the Children” initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California. He drafted Prop. 227 and led the campaign to qualify and pass the measure, culminating in a landslide 61% victory in June 1998, effectively eliminating over one-third of America’s bilingual programs. Within less than three years of the new English immersion curriculum, the mean percentile test scores of over a million immigrant students in California rose by an average of 70%. He later organized and led similar initiative campaigns in other states, winning with 63% in the 2000 Arizona vote and a remarkable 68% in the 2002 Massachusetts vote without spending a single dollar on advertising.

After spending most of the 2000s focused on software projects, he has recently become much more active in his public policy writings, most of which had appeared in his own magazine.


Personal Classics
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Hundreds of POWs may have been left to die in Vietnam, abandoned by their government—and our media.
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
Talk TV sensationalists and axe-grinding ideologues have fallen for a myth of immigrant lawlessness.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.