The world of JFK "research"

    Welcome to the world of JFK "research"! As you study the JFK assassination this semester, you will come into contact with the thoughts of various people who are active in the field. You will find that this field is, to put it mildly, not academia. I write JFK "research" because the great majority of the products being produced these days, and most of those from the past, are not true research in the classical sense. They are created by people who are sincere and well-intentioned but who have not been trained in research and do not possess the tools necessary to study the subject properly. Their methods are flawed enough to make nearly all of their conclusions unsupportable or wrong. I know it is hard to believe such a strong statement about an entire field, but you will see that it is true.
    Most JFK people are ordinary folk. They have been referred to accurately as "citizen researchers." Some have college degrees; some don't. Some have advanced degrees, but extremely few are active researchers with formal academic training in its techniques, and it shows. Many are attracted to the JFK field because they believe that hidden conspiracies run the world, and they see the JFK assassination as representing another of those conspiracies. Many believe in the occult, some to great a great extent. Quite a few also believe in UFOs, but are reluctant to admit the connection between that and their belief that a conspiracy was behind the JFK assassination.
    The common thread that unites all these people is their dedication to finding out who killed JFK. They proclaim their willingness to find the answer wherever it lies. But—and this is hugely important—once the evidence starts to turn them away from the idea of hidden conspiracy, their mind goes blank and refuses to process the information. They simply cannot accept that the assassination may have been the work of a single deranged person acting on the spur of the moment and without a real plan other than to kill and become very important. This blind spot on the part of the "researchers" disqualifies them from being considered true researchers, or what the philosopher Susan Haack calls "genuine inquirers." These researchers are not interested in the answer wherever it lies. They are interested in the answer as long as it fits their world view. They are therefore intellectually dishonest, nothing more or less. I realize that these words are very strong, but again you will find them to be true.
    Of course, broad and general statements like those above cannot hold for every JFK "researcher." Without taking a formal survey, I would say that roughly 95% of them fit the criteria described above. The other 5% are either better trained or more concerned with real truth. As we deal with the different "researchers" and their ideas, it is therefore very important to judge them on their individual merits and give them the benefit of every doubt.

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