Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 59 percentof Americans still believe it was the work of a conspiracy. I was once among them. Back in the early 1970s, as a high school senior and college freshman, I read Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment, Richard Popkin's The Second Oswald, Penn Jones' Forgive My Grief, and other tomes, some of them best-sellers, that argued the case for a dark plot.
Then, one day, I looked up the footnotes in those books, most of them leading me to the multivolume hearings of the Warren Commission. I was shocked. The authors had taken witnesses' statements out of context, distorted them beyond recognition, and in some cases cherry-picked passages that seemed to back their theories while ignoring testimony that didn't. It was my first brush with intellectual dishonesty.
There's no space to launch a full rebuttal of the conspiracy theorists. (It took 1,632 pages for Vincent Bugliosi to do that in his 2007 book Reclaiming History.) But it's worth recounting the conspiracy buffs' arguments that I found most persuasive—and why they collapse under scrutiny.