A failed quest
(Draft, 11 November 2000)

      There comes a time when we have to call a spade a spade. That time has come for the continuing critical investigation of the JFK assassination. For 37 years a steady drumbeat of critics has told us that the Warren Commission was wrong and that the assassination was the work of a conspiracy. They told us that they had proved it (by using strange definitions of prove), or that they were about to blow the case wide open, or that the newly declassified documents would provide the long-sought proof. They have mocked the Warren Commission, its sympathizers, and anyone who independently reached the same conclusion.
     
And yet they have utterly failed to produce anything solid. As Allen Dulles said so long ago, they have not yet named names or brought anyone forward. To be sure, names have been floated about for many years, but always with the loosest of connections to the crime. Self-proclaimed perpetrators have confessed to the crime or to helping with it, but these stories have either been discredited or found to be discreditable. Either way, they cannot be accepted. The beat goes on; the beat goes on.
     
In any other field of endeavor, the plug would have been pulled on these people long ago. In the business world they would have lost their venture capital after two or three years because they failed to produce either a product or a proof of concept. In the academic world their grants would not have been renewed beyond five years or so because they did not provide any results resembling those they promised. But since the critics are largely self-funded, except for the lucky few who manage to deceive a willing public with lucrative books, they can continue as long as their meager funds hold out. But let us be clear that that is the only kind of support their work has managed to garnerómore of their own resources being poured in.
     
If anyone has any doubt about how little has changed in the critical community, just go back and read the early works of the critics and compare them with todayís writings. The grassy knoll popped up within weeks of the assassination. Chimerical gunmen were being placed there just as early. Lee Harvey Oswald, the person to whom all the physical evidence points, was being absolved of guilt from the instant Jack Ruby shot him. Phantasmagoric plots were hatched back then and have remained to the present even though they have never been justified as anything other than the product of overwrought imaginations. The wheel turns and returns, and turns again.
     
The time has come to call a failure a failure. After 37 years of intense scrutiny and overheated rhetoric, no one has produced a single piece of solid evidence for conspiracy. Other than being buried under a bigger mountain of inconsequential evidence, nothing is different now than then. The quest for conspiracy has failed.
     
How can I be so sure of this strong conclusion? Easy. Just travel to Dallas each November and attend the two conferences of the faithful. Behind their pseudoacademic trappings lies the ever-present declaration of war on the powers-that-be and their cover-up. Weíre going to win this thing, their leaders say, and the faithful repeat it after them. Weíre almost there. Weíre going to carry the day and show the American people what really happened in Dallas. Some go further and say that conspiracy is already historical fact, but the American people just donít get it. But take a step or two back and ask why they continue to meet and pump up the troops if they have found the conspiracy. The answer is obviousóthey havenít found it. If they had, the world would know it and the meetings would turn into celebrations of victory. They arenít celebrating because they havenít found the prizeóthere is no conspiracy to show the world. Their mission of 37 years has failed. They are in no major way closer now than 37 (or 36, or 35; I donít care) years ago. It has failed. Itís over. Its time to accept reality, pull the plug, and move to something new.
     
But canít something good come from all this effort? Yes. We can learn some sobering lessons on how not to think about difficult problems. We can analyze the criticsí writings and speeches and see where they went wrong. Their mistakes can help prevent the new generation from doing the same in their new and challenging areas. Everything important we are likely to learn about the JFK assassination has been available for 20, 25, 30, maybe even 37 years. Now it is up to us to learn from it. Itís been a great run, as they say in show business, but now itís time to strike the tent and move on.