Since 1963, people from all walks of life and political ideologies have been consumed with the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, son of a prosperous family with dubious connections, uniquely charming, and perhaps the last true centrist in US politics. On November 22 of that year, the president’s motorcade strolled through Dallas, TX. As they passed the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD), shots struck the president and his fellow passenger, Governor John Connally of Texas. The scene erupted in bedlam as law enforcement searched for the shooter, reporters resorted to fisticuffs to get their reports in first, and the Secret Service attempted to get the First Lady back into the car as she was reportedly attempting to retrieve a piece of her husband’s head. But the mayhem of the event would pale in comparison to the drama that would unfold as the country sought the truth of what happened that day.
In his new book, Burying The Lead, Professor Mal Hyman of Coker College, Hartsville, SC gives a breakdown of the media’s role in determining what would be accepted as “the truth.” Using research spanning decades, even into the last few years, Hyman draws connections between media figures, including reporters, columnists, editors and owners, and state mechanisms, particularly the military and the CIA as well as Cuban exiles and the mafia. The alliance between capital and state does not spare the bastion of First Amendment freedom in the US.
Despite the government’s hurry to establish the Warren Commission, or perhaps because of it, questions abound regarding the official explanation of the events in Dallas. Why did agents guarding the motorcade insist the shots came from in front of the car rather than above and behind, where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly built his sniper’s nest? Why did several officers claim to have stopped people near the overpass and the grassy knoll who identified themselves as Secret Service, presenting credentials through that agency claimed to have accounted for all agents at the location of the motorcade? Why did the Service not call upon the Army for assistance, as was standard procedure when understaffed? Why had the motorcade been diverted to the TSBD and guards removed from their usual posts on the president’s car? Why did the police first report finding a Mauser 7.65 with no fingerprints but eventually everyone began saying it was a Mannlicher-Carcano, branded “The Humane Weapon” for its terrible accuracy, with prints only discovered a couple of days after it had been in federal custody? Why was Allen Dulles, ex-head of the CIA who had been recently fired by Kennedy in an extremely heated fallout after the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, so desperate to get on the Warren Commission, and why was he allowed so much influence that according to David Talbot, it should have been called “The Dulles Commission?” What was the significance of the web of anti-Castro actions coordinated by the military and CIA with the help of seedy businessmen like Clay Shaw and Jack Ruby, and was Oswald a patriot who loved Kennedy, or a deeply-Red Communist who wanted to send a message, and why did he insist he was a “patsy” if he was ideologically driven? Why did the bullets in Officer J. D. Tippit, who Oswald was said to have murdered after leaving the TSBD, not match the cases found at the scene of his death, cases that supposedly came from a revolver Oswald had at his arrest when revolvers do not eject bullets? Why did Kennedy’s doctor and the lab tech who developed the autopsy X-rays deny the documents the Commission said they had produced? Why the pile of bodies surrounding the investigation, including investigative reporter Dorothy Kilgallen, David Ferrie, and Oswald himself? These questions go far deeper than a few nuts hell-bent on discrediting the US government.
Hyman gives the reader a picture as muddied as any honest investigation would present. Over the decades, documents have been destroyed and suppressed, witnesses intimidated or killed, leads ignored until cold, and a conclusion pushed by respectable outlets to the point where it almost became criminal to ask questions. Only with the release of JFK did many in the country become bold enough to resume questioning.
What Hyman does give the reader, like a compass to navigate the morass of information and misinformation uncovered by the brave journalists, investigators, and citizen researchers, is a brief history of the connection between establishment journalism and the CIA-military intelligence community. Over the twentieth century, journalistic outlets came to rely heavily on official access, often playing the role of stenographers to power. The high cost of mass publications leads to their reliance on wealthy benefactors, both individuals, and corporations. With these two considerations in mind, establishment media, both broadcast, and print, became parrots to the throne. Henry Luce built a media empire with the help of Allen Dulles’s CIA, and it is no surprise that Time-Life reporting has been heavily slanted towards those interests. The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and many other outlets have been guided by the song of “mockingbirds,” assets planted by the CIA in the program to infiltrate the media and control the narrative. Dubbed Operation: Mockingbird, the CIA has guarded the interests at the intersection of corporate and military elites for decades through cultivating close, personal relationships with mainstream journalists. They slipped agents into the halls that are supposed to speak truth to power and leaking propaganda aimed at other countries into the US airwaves. All of these actions were for weaving a mythology of US supremacy. A black-and-white narrative where the US stood as the bulwark of good against a world gone mad as the USSR pushed its sinister agenda.
In addition to highlighting the role of business and military elites, Hyman portrays Kennedy not as a radical, but as a true liberal. Patriot, capitalist, war hero, there wasn’t a Marxist bone in Kennedy’s body, no matter how his opponents tried to smear him. With his heart beating true for the red-white-and-blue, his sin in the eyes of elites was seeking peace rather than annihilating anything that even smelled of communism. Kennedy and Kruschev found themselves sandwiched between the military elites of both their nations, neither of which would accept anything but total victory, even at the cost of worldwide destruction. When Kennedy dared to fire Dulles for using him as a stooge to back up the CIA’s operation in Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, he practically signed his own death warrant.
The ultimate question, who fired the shot, is not answered in Burying The Lead, but by bucking the military and corporate authority of the US and demanding fair play from the most powerful entities in the world, Kennedy was executed by people who had and would continue to burn the world for profit. The CIA, the FBI, the mafia, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the disgraced Allen Dulles, all benefited from his death (cui bono?). While that doesn’t prove any or all of these entities were part of the actual assassination, all of them had a hand in the cover up, and were assisted by the media, both legacy and alternative.
Even left-wing outlets threw mud at critics like Mark Lane, author of Rush To Judgment, a critique of the sloppy investigation by the Warren Commission, in 2006. Max Holland, co-editor of The Nation, did not disclose his CIA connections at the time, but his piece was published on the CIA website, and it followed the formula from a CIA memo on how to counter anti-Commission opinions. The CIA tick is so deeply embedded in the media flesh, it’s almost inconceivable how to burn it out.
Who knows what we lost with Kennedy? Perhaps he would eventually have tired of fighting against the true government of the US, and caved to the cabal of Machiavellian businessmen and military brass perfectly comfortable with mass murder up to and including genocide. Maybe he and his brother, who also found himself at the wrong end of the cabal, would have proven the conscience of the nation and, willing to listen to their enemies including Kruschev and Castro, and even Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was also targeted by the elites, including J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI), would have paved the way for a government that practiced statecraft instead of bullying, corruption, and lies. While the truth probably lies somewhere in between, what we can be certain of losing is the only president in US history to challenge the overreach of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech. Even Harry Truman, in an op-ed to The Washington Post, disavowed the CIA he created, accusing them of becoming “an operation and at times a policy-making arm of the government.” Despite this admission by the creator of an unelected, unaccountable, covert branch of the US government, the media failed to follow up on this scathing assessment of the US intelligence community.
Burying the Lead belongs on bookshelves sandwiched between Manufacturing Consent and The Devil’s Chessboard. Part media critique, part history of covert operations in the US, all scathing indictment of US imperial power, Mal Hyman takes one of the most notable tragedies in US history and all but proves the killer is calling from inside the house. Cold War anti-communism and pressure on corporate media conglomerates to grow unceasingly contributed to what amounts, in Hyman’s opinion, to a palace coup by the elites who run the US puppet-theatre democracy, with the obligatory command we pay no attention to the men behind the curtains.