Books and Code · A Miscellany

Case Closed, by Gerald Posner (A Review)


I’ve been interested in the JFK assassination since the 90s, probably due in large part to the Oliver Stone movie. (Indirectly. I was pro-conspiracy before actually seeing the film.) I’d read Jim Marrs’ Crossfire, Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, Murder in Dealey Plaza, and others. None of the various conspiracy stories seemed quite right, but it seemed to me that there was enough oddities to the official story that “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” as the saying goes.

Marrs’ book in particular had so much detail that impressed me at the time. Many years later, I discovered to my dismay that Marrs also had similar books about aliens and other crazy conspiracies–Rule by Secrecy and Alien Agenda–which made me begin to question my earlier estimation of the quality of his research in Crossfire.

With the assassination 50th anniversary media blitz, I decided to actually read a book which supported the “lone gunman” view. Case Closed was recommended to me by skeptic Kenneth Feder, one of my professors in college. Posner didn’t disappoint. Not only is the book very well-written and engaging, he covers many of the issues which caused me to lean pro-conspiracy all these years. He does an admirable job explaining, without defending, the missteps and obfuscations of the FBI, CIA, etc. while clearing up a lot of misinformation masquerading as evidence of conspiracy.

In one passage that stuck with me, an interviewee stated that the assassination has become almost a religious experience, complete with relics, sacred texts, and a holy site that people pilgrimage to. I think this comparison is more accurate than he perhaps realized. I’d add that the conspiracy narrative also has a heavy dose of mythic power that resonates with people in the same way that religion does. It is truly an American myth–and with an extremely well-documented event. Can you imagine how easily such myths would overwhelm the truth in history where they cannot be debunked by surviving evidence?

So yes, I now think Oswald acted alone. The government wasn’t co-opted by an evil conspiracy, it was just a bureaucratic rat’s nest of petty infighting and incompetence. sigh