How Conspiracy Theories Proceed Not From
Evidence, But Rather from a 'System of Belief'
Last month, we brought you word of yet another book that hopes to finally lay to rest all the swirling conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. A few days ago, we happened to notice a brilliant articulation of why those theories will continue to rage, and why they resist all evidence to the contrary. In the excellent but too-little-known publication Book Forum, an author named Gus Russo makes the point that facts and the true historical record can't compete with the powerful images from the paranoid Oliver Stone movie about the case. "Indeed, later studies, such as Gerald Posner’s Case Closed (1993), all but demolished any myths of a domestic conspiracy (a foreign version remains the lone lingering possibility). But even then, it was too late: Millions of Americans had seen the sinister Mob- and spook-enabled cabal with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the damning snippets of testimony evincing all manner of grandiose, if absurd, plotting. Posner might have just as effectively published a renunciation of the Virgin Birth; he was bringing a legal case against a system of belief, rather than a set of empirically verifiable suppositions about the nature of a vast political plot to kill a president." Nicely said, we thought. We hope you'll look around Book Forum a little. You can learn more about Gus Russo here.