Tag Archives: media analysis

JFK, Mass Media, and the Origins of ‘Conspiracy Theory’

Prefatory Note on Censorship in Academe

This study was written in 2013-14 as part of my academic research as Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. I have had numerous papers addressing news coverage of historical events published in academic journals over the past two decades. However, this was the first attempt to offer a scholarly treatment of a research object related to a conspiracy–how the news media “framed” New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s JFK assassination inquiry.

When I presented the paper at the Association For Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Montreal Conference in 2014 the panel respondent congratulated me on what he deemed to be a very well-researched and written manuscript. He further remarked that it was at most a draft or two away from submission for editorial review at a scholarly journal. I was also confident the study would eventually achieve publication. 

The paper was subsequently rejected by five journals out-of-hand. The editors refused to even send the paper out for review, which never occurred to me before. Notably, each editor provided a different reason for not wanting to give it further consideration. What is more, three of the venues had published my work in previous years. The paper nevertheless offers a timely contribution to understanding the historical origins of the term “conspiracy theory” and its development from perhaps the most momentous event in 20th century American politics.

This helped me to further realize how despite celebrated notions of unbridled inquiry and academic freedom, certain subjects so historically central to the nation’s history in fact remain taboo among academics–those entrusted by society to research such matters–vis-á-vis their counterparts in professional journalism, with both camps still proceeding in tacit agreement to police the boundaries of permissible discourse and thought. -JFT


Introduction

“It appears that certain elements of the mass media have an active interest in preventing this case from ever coming to trial at all and find it necessary to employ against me every smear device in the book.” –Jim Garrison (Playboy 1967)

The news media’s failure to interrogate and question the “the lone assassin” theory by the 1964 Presidents Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, otherwise known as the Warren Commission, should be recognized as one of the greatest episodes of journalistic misconduct in US history. The mass media have played a pivotal role in the coverup of the Kennedy (JFK) assassination that they unabashedly practice to this day. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation of the November 22, 1963 event was the first substantial challenge to the official narrative. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) countered Garrison’s efforts by calling upon its media assets to directly attack, defame, even sabotage the inquiry.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

From this episode the CIA developed one of its most potent psychological weapons against political dissent: the “conspiracy theory” label. Over its 50-year lifespan the label has time and again demonstrated its effectiveness in policing the public sphere by calling into question the credibility and even the sanity of journalists, academics, or any other public figure that dares question authorized myths for the masses.

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New York Truck Attack: A Hoax for Halloween

By Vivian Lee

Another day, another fake attack – this time a “vehicular” terror attack perpetrated by one Sayfullo Saipov, a native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, who supposedly mowed down bicyclists and pedestrians in a rented Home Depot truck on a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017. This “Halloween massacre” is billed as “the deadliest terror attack on New York City since September 11, 2001.”

Sayfullo Habibullaevic SaipovSayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov. Image: New York Daily News.

The crack team of investigators from the NYPD and FBI figured the whole thing out in a matter of hours, helped by evidence provided by Sayfullo himself: his alleged cries of “Allahu Akbar,” a note found on the ground with language associated with ISIS (“It will endure”), and the 90 videos and 3,800 images on his cell phone, which of course the FBI recovered. Or, uh, we seem to have TWO cell phones left at the scene by Saipov, according to some reports.

NPR truck frontThe rented Home Depot truck that Saipov allegedly used to mow down cyclists and pedestrians in New York, although there is no trace of blood anywhere on the vehicle. Image: NPR.

The cell-phone videos reportedly show ISIS fighters killing prisoners as well as instructions for making an “explosive device.” The images include shots of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of ISIS. Saipov is said to have been inspired by one video in which al-Baghdadi “questioned what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.”

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