4 out of 4 stars
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"The JFK assassination has become a metaphor for politics. You can tell lies; you can spin incredibly ridiculous stories; you can make outlandish claims that are grounded in complete falsehoods, and there will still be people who believe and quote your every word. But, truth matters. Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK. There was no conspiracy. End of story."
This claim, made by Fred Litwin in his book I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, is enormous. Most people on the planet would be aware of US president John F Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. And more than half of them still believe his death the result of a dark conspiracy of men, with many suspicious elements: a change of motorcade route, shots fired from the grassy knoll, the "magic bullet," and Kennedy's head-snap in the Zapruder film ("back and to the left"). Having spent my entire life on the side of these conspiracy theorists; having read New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's book; having seen Oliver Stone's film JFK, I read this book to see if one man could change my mind on decades of suspicions. Like most people, the one thing I had not done was my own independent research to see if I could debunk any of these conspiracy theories. Well, now you don't need to. Having read Fred Litwin's book, I am 100% convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. All of the verifiable scientific evidence points in that direction and no other. "End of story."
Litwin's book is laid out in a logical order. It references plenty of the "factoids" about the assassination, which are pieces of supposedly factual information used by conspiracy theorists to push a false narrative. He discusses the 888-page Warren Commission Report of the investigation into the assassination, plus its 15 volumes of testimony from 500 witnesses and another 11 volumes containing 3,154 exhibits. This comprehensive investigation found no evidence of a conspiracy in the assassination. He also details the people who have their own copies of these 26 books and their own reasons for thinking the assassination a conspiracy. Litwin sets out his case methodically, debunking conspiracy theory elements piece by piece using the real science and facts of the investigation to convince his reader of the truth about the assassination. Bear in mind, even while reading this book, I still wanted to believe in a conspiracy. It's what I've believed in all my life. However, as a rational person, presented with all the evidence, I had to concede that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
The book debunks the farcical Jim Garrison investigation and wrongful prosecution of homosexual man Clay Shaw, and the Oliver Stone film which took Garrison's insane theory about a conspiracy of homosexuals murdering a president and presented it to the world, winning two Oscars in the process. Don't get me wrong - I loved the film. Great acting, plenty of drama and suspense. Unfortunately, almost none of it was factual. When you stop and think about it rationally, the idea of a "cabal" of homosexual sadists "thrill-killing" JFK, the entire premise for the film, is patently ridiculous. In the 1960s, homosexuals were still being demonised as "evil" people, which would have provided the impetus for Garrison's misguided "investigation." Also, lacking factual evidence, the screenwriters for the movie JFK "filled in the blanks" for inflammatory characters such as David Ferrie with lines that worked with their assumptions about a conspiracy, rather than the truth. They worked backward from a lie, filling in the blanks with more lies to try to convince their viewers.
As for factual and scientific evidence, Litwin includes enough to convince anyone who is unsure which way to think about the Kennedy assassination. Only the most hardened and obstinate conspiracy buffs will be able to resist the logic of this book, and only by continuing to delude themselves about the truth. Litwin features a huge bibliography of factual sources and references the work of experts in the fields of ballistics and forensic pathology. His presentation of factual scientific evidence includes photographs, diagrams, and copies of official government documents which are now declassified. He addresses the major issues such as the "head-snap" of Kennedy "back and to the left" and the "magic bullet," which didn't actually travel the crazy zig-zag seen in the movie JFK to cause multiple wounds; Kennedy and Governor Connally were just lined up that way in the limousine. He discusses Kennedy's autopsy results, which verified the two bullets which hit Kennedy were fired from the Texas School Book Depository behind the presidential motorcade. He also addresses false claims of Oswald's "poor marksmanship," disproved by an officer in the Marines who called him an "above average" marksman, and a page from his Marine Corps rifle score book, where he scored 49 out of 50 in a sitting position, firing rapidly, with no telescopic scope, at a range of 200 yards. The shot that killed JFK was from only 90 yards.
Litwin also summarises the tests conducted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) on JFK. These include authentication of the autopsy X-rays and photographs, forensic and photographic panels, handwriting and fingerprint panel, and ear-witness analysis, where only 4 out of the 178 people interviewed believed they heard shots coming from more than one location in Dealey Plaza. Further, the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle tests for the gun Oswald used to shoot Kennedy all proved it was possible to fire 3 shots in the 8.31 seconds of the assassination, and the analysis of the bullet fragments themselves found that they matched the rifle, which had Oswald's fingerprints on it. All of these tests concluded that the evidence was consistent with a single shooter, Oswald, in the Texas School Book Depository, with just two of the three bullets fired causing the wounds to both Kennedy and Governor Connally. Litwin even includes a photograph of Oswald taken by his wife Marina in his own backyard, holding the rifle. Conspiracy theorists have claimed these photographs are fake, that the shadows don't match up, indicating Oswald's head pasted on someone else's body, and similar nonsense. Looking at the photograph myself, it looks completely genuine. The shadows work fine for me, and I highly doubt such photographic fakery would have even been possible in the 1960s, let alone as convincing as this.
As for negatives, I found a few minor errors in this book, but not enough to detract from its overall rating. The editing was generally excellent, with the correct use of punctuation and italics. I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak gets a well-earned 4 out of 4 stars. I cannot stress enough how deep-rooted my belief in a JFK assassination conspiracy was before reading this book, and how convincingly it has changed my mind. As I said, I am now 100% certain that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the murder of President John F Kennedy. All of the real, verifiable scientific evidence points in that direction and that direction alone. Anyone interested in the truth about the JFK assassination must read this book. The problem is that when something huge happens, like JFK or 9/11, people want to believe in some massive, Machiavellian conspiracy. This is because the event itself is so incomprehensible that they believe its cause must have been bigger than what was originally reported. However, the truth is, sometimes one man is all it takes to change the world. And sometimes, evil wins.
I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak
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