WEIRDLAND: July 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Assassination (2018) by Professor John Koerner

Exploding the Truth: The JFK Jr. Assassination (2018) by Professor John Koerner presents evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate the only surviving son of President John F. Kennedy and considers the motives that many powerful forces had to make sure he never set foot in the White House. Divided into two parts, Part One examines the potential motives the C.I.A. and perhaps even Israeli intelligence, had to eliminate JFK Jr. Part Two systematically dismantles the official version of events, that JFK Jr. crashed his plane due to pilot error, and examines both the evidence of a government cover-up at the crime scene, and the extensive eyewitness reports of an explosion that brought the aircraft down. John Koerner is an author of several historical books and a professor of American History at Erie Community College in Williamsville, New York. John Koerner has also appeared on "America's Book of Secrets" on the History Channel.

When trying to prove the existence of a conspiracy it is essential to systematically dismantle the lies that filter into the accepted versions of historical events. It will be my purpose to logically dispel the notion that John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death was nothing more than a tragic accident, and prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the events of July 16, 1999, were instead a skillfully planned assassination. I consider myself in line with Jim DiEugenio, who recently confessed: "The idea that I have made money off of my research on the Kennedy's case is so polar to the facts that its bonkers." John F. Kennedy Jr. was the publisher of a political magazine, George, the loving husband to a beautiful wife, Carolyn Bessette, and the heir to the Kennedy throne if he ever chose to run for office. Towards the end of his life he increasingly felt the need to get more involved in politics, as confirmed by private discussions with his colleagues about continuing the Kennedy tradition of public service. He also became aware of the powerful forces behind his father’s assassination, and felt obligated to quietly pursue the truth. Was this making him a threat? 

I have written previous books about JFK and President William McKinley, but none of these books have enjoyed the level of national impact that I had hoped. The only book that received a fair level of national media exposure was my book about the Kennedy assassination, titled Why the C.I.A. Killed JFK and Malcolm X (2014). During the research for this book, I learned about the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News who was likely killed by the C.I.A. Like me, Webb was also involved in exposing how the Intelligency Agency was involved in the drug trade. It scared me even further when I found out later that same year in 2014 a movie was released titled Kill the Messenger (directed by Homeland producer Michael Cuesta, starring Jeremy Renner), that chronicled Gary Webb’s research in his book Dark Alliance: The Cia, The Contras. Webb had revealed that a drug ring operating in the San Francisco Bay Area sold tons of cocaine to Los Angeles street gangs and funneled millions in drug profits to the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras, making Oliver North the fall guy during the Iran–Contra affair.

It appears likely that at the end of his life, JFK Jr. was becoming increasingly aware that the C.I.A. had organized or at least greenlighted the assassination of his father. This fact may have been why he chose to become a publisher, to have a platform to expose the truth to the world, and bring to justice for those who planned his father’s execution. Let us first explore the possibility that John F. Kennedy, Jr. was seriously considering running for governor of New York, and eventually President. This, according to his closest friends, was exactly what was on his mind in the last months of his life. His assistant at George magazine, Rose Marie Terenzio, told People in a July 2016 interview that he was eventually planning on running for President. After Republican New York Senator Alphonse D’Amato told Kennedy he should run for mayor of New York City, he apparently laughed it off. After this encounter with D’Amato, Terenzio asked why he would not want to consider it. His answer pointed to a much loftier goal, a shrewd political calculation that would have made his father proud. “Well, Rosie, how many mayors do you know that become President?” Kennedy said to Terenzio. “I was so shocked I didn’t say anything. Then he smirked as if to say ‘That’s not the road you go down.’ The mayor of a city is not a large enough platform to stage a run for the White House. However, the U.S. Senate, or being the governor of a prominent state like New York could have been just the stepping stone that he had in mind to launch his presidential bid, likely in 2004. RoseMarie Terenzio: "Someone once asked me if John were alive, what would he think of Obama being elected president, and I responded if John were alive, Barack Obama would not be the President. John would have come into the presidency by then. He was approached to run for the Senate before Hillary Clinton joined the race. Carolyn knew it was an eventuality. She was nervous about it—”That’s gonna be crazy”—but she understood it would be in her future."

The next election for governor would have been in 2002. John Kennedy Jr. would have faced George Pataki, who at that time was seeking a third term. Most people voting that year did not vote for Pataki, as he garnered an unimpressive 49% of the popular vote. He largely ran on his record of leadership during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. The one candidate who could have counteracted this appeal would have been JFK Jr, a longtime resident of New York City. Kennedy probably would have personally known some of the people who died in the attack, and would have aided in the recovery. There is no doubt that his potential appeal as a candidate would have energized New York State Democrats. A fellow Democrat from New York, Mark Green, mulling over his own run for the Senate, conducted a private poll in 1997 to see who Democrats liked the most within their state. “He was by far the most popular Democrat,” Green said. “He had the highest favorable-unfavorable spread; 65% of Democrats rated him favorably and only 10% rated him unfavorably.” Former New York State Democratic Chairman John Marino said that if Kennedy ever ran for office, “it would have been, goodbye to anyone else.” Such a campaign would have been much like when his uncle Robert Kennedy won his New York U. S. Senate seat by an impressive 10-point margin, 53% to 43%, over incumbent Republican Kenneth Keating in 1964. Assuming Kennedy won the election in November 2002, he would have become New York’s 54th governor on January 1, 2003. Kennedy posed no political threat to Hillary Clinton in 1999 because he had decided not to run against her for the Senate nomination. Hence this fact removes the only motives the Clintons would have had to conspire to murder him. 

Journalist Lawrence Leamer confirmed Kennedy’s reluctance to go against Clinton in his book Sons of Camelot (2011). He said that if Clinton wanted to run he would not fight her, and instead turn his political ambitions elsewhere. “He was too much of a gentleman,” Leamer said. In fact, the whole concept that the Clintons were behind Kennedy’s assassination is more akin to misinformation, deliberately placed in the fringe media to distract attention from the real forces behind his assassination. It is reminiscent of theories for the JFK assassination that Fidel Castro, or the Russians, conspired to kill Kennedy, which have no real basis. Removing the Clintons as conspirators is also helpful to allow us to pin the blame on a much more likely force behind JFK Jr.’s assassination, namely the C.I.A. 

Therefore, let us try to establish that JFK Jr. was in fact researching his father’s death. The most credible source and most interesting lead was brought up by Don Jeffries, the author of Hidden History: An Expose of Modern Crimes, Conspiracies, and Cover-Ups in American Politics (2016). Jeffries pointed out that Meg Azzoni had a lot to reveal about JFK Jr.’s mindset when he interviewed her. Kennedy and Azzoni dated when they attended Phillips Academy in the late 1970s, ironically the same school that the Bush family sent their children to. It was here that the young Kennedy began to show an interest in finding out the truth behind the assassination. Was Kennedy able to obtain the attendance records of young George W. Bush for November 1963? Even later in his life, as an alumnus he probably had enough connections at the school to find out if George W. Bush was at Phillips Academy on November 22, 1963. As a Kennedy, he could have charmed his way to get those records from the administration, or obtained them covertly. Interestingly, his time at Phillips seems to correspond to the time when he began to form an obsession with who really killed his father. This was confirmed when Azzoni published a book in 2007 titled 11 Letters and a Poem: John F. Kennedy Jr. and Meg Azzoni. In it, she writes that as a teenager in the late 1970s, JFK Jr. was beginning to doubt the official version of events, and wanted to seek his own answers. “His heartfelt quest,” she wrote, “was to expose and bring to trial who killed his father, and covered it up.” Jeffries also said that he interviewed “another friend of JFK Jr.’s inner circle, who very adamantly requested to remain anonymous, and who verified that JFK Jr. was indeed quite knowledgeable about the assassination and often spoke of it in private.”

Jeffries also claimed George was set to launch an investigation into the assassination in the very near future: “Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen confirmed that he was scheduled to meet with JFK Jr. the following week to discuss joining George magazine, where his primary focus would be investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.” Which brings us to the strange story of a man named True Ott. Jeffries and Azonni provide ample evidence of Kennedy’s desire to investigate the assassination of his father. The assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. should also be viewed in the prism of a lasting hatred that the C.I.A. has harbored towards the Kennedy family for decades. His death then would just be the latest example of how this agency consistently undermined the Kennedy administration and eventually eliminated JFK, RFK, and even twice targeted Edward Kennedy. For a full explanation of the C.I.A. motives for the Kennedy assassination, look no further than my book Why the C.I.A. Killed JFK and Malcolm X: The Secret Drug Trade in Laos. The rift between Kennedy and the agency began with the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The effort to depose Cuban dictator Fidel Castro completely failed. During the C.I.A.-backed invasion, the agency asked Kennedy to provide air support for the invaders, or stage a mass invasion. The president refused to do so, fearing the political fallout from attacking an unprovoked enemy, as well as a retaliatory response from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the agency felt the president could not be trusted to back their covert operations, and viewed him as soft on communism. 

Privately, the president felt the agency was deliberately trying to provoke him into starting a wider war with the Russians. Kennedy eventually fired C.I.A. Director Allen Dulles, and C.I.A. Director of Operations Richard Bissell. The agency responded by infiltrating JFK’s pet program, the Peace Corps. Agents were pretending to be college students, and then joined the Peace Corps to go overseas to promote war. To this very day, if you were ever in the C.I.A. you cannot join the Peace Corps. After this the president became so angry with the agency that he told an administration official that he was “going to shatter the C.I.A. into a thousand pieces.” The following summer, the president did just that, issuing National Security Action Memorandums 55, 56, and 57. These directives shifted covert operations from the C.I.A. to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to the Department of Defense. Here is what NSAM 55 said: "I regard the Joint Chiefs of Staff as my principal military advisor responsible both for initiating advice to me and for responding to requests for advice. I expect their advice to come to me direct and unfiltered. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have a responsibility for the defense of the nation in the Cold War similar to that which they have in conventional hostilities. They should know the military and paramilitary forces and resources available to the Department of Defense, verify their readiness, report on their accuracy, and make appropriate recommendations for their expansion and improvement. I look to the Chiefs to contribute dynamic and imaginative leadership in contributing to the success of the military and paramilitary aspects of Cold War programs. Any proposed paramilitary operation in the concept state will be presented to the Strategic Resources Group for initial consideration and for approval as necessary by the President." The Chiefs would now be the “principal military advisor,” not the C.I.A., and their advice must be “direct and unfiltered,” implying that the agency had lied to him, and hid information. JFK would now be counting on the Chiefs’ leadership in “paramilitary” operations, an area that had been assigned to the agency. As I said in my book, “This World War Two veteran was seeking to reestablish the model of ‘conventional’ warfare that worked during World War Two when there was no C.I.A., and the president and the Chiefs operated in tandem. NSAM 55 was a severe blow to the power, influence, and role of the Central Intelligence Agency. So was NSAM 57, issued that same day.”  In the 1960s, Laos was one the best places to grow opium. Since the 1950s the C.I.A. had used the cover story of fighting communism in Southeast Asia to provide themselves easy access to the drug trade. The agency would use Air America planes to transport the opium and later convert it to heroin to sell to American GI’s in Vietnam. The agency and the Joint Chiefs consistently pressured the president to commit 60,000 ground troops to Southeast Asia which he resisted at every turn. A massive commitment would mean years of access to the drug trade and a susceptible customer base to sell heroin to. On July 23, 1962, a Declaration of Neutrality for Laos was signed in Geneva which ordered the C.I.A. to leave Laos. It was not long before the agency began to retaliate. On August 5, 1962, less than two weeks after the Laotian peace accords, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her apartment. Instead of following the president’s orders, the agents defied this order, and brought war back to Laos. They assassinated leaders loyal to JFK, all to get him to commit ground forces to win the civil war there. 

Richard Nixon recounted in his memoirs a revealing conversation that he had with Kennedy on April 20, 1961, one day after the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed. “I just don’t think we ought to get involved, particularly where we might find ourselves fighting millions of Chinese troops in the jungles,” Kennedy said. “In any event, I don’t see how we can make a move in Laos, which is thousands of miles away, if we don’t make a move in Cuba, which is only ninety miles away.” Kennedy felt the same way about Vietnam. The Sec Def Conference of May 1963, and another meeting of key JFK advisors in Hawaii in November 1963, both recommended a phased “De-Vietnamization” withdrawal from Vietnam by 1965. To this effect, JFK signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 on October 11, 1963, to recall the first 1,000 advisors of the 16,500 by December 1963. By November 1963 it was clear this president was not interested in any large-scale commitment to war in Southeast Asia which would spell an end to any hope for continued access to the drug trade. Not only that, there was a very good chance there was going to be four more years of JFK, considering his approval ratings, and polling done at the time against Barry Goldwater. A poll conducted in March 1963 of JFK against Goldwater had Kennedy trouncing him 67% to 27%. A second term could not be tolerated by this rogue agency. Proving the C.I.A.’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination is not even all that difficult any longer thanks to the work of many gifted historians, researchers, and investigators such as Jim Marrs, and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. 

Most importantly though are the recent revelations of longtime C.I.A. agent E. Howard Hunt. Before Hunt passed away in 2007, he offered a deathbed confession to his son John that detailed C.I.A. involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Four months after Hunt died, Rolling Stone did an article explaining nearly every detail of Hunt’s deathbed confession regarding the JFK assassination. Much of what he said had been suspected by several researchers for years. Taken from my book, Why the C.I.A. Killed JFK and Malcom X, one of the six key men Hunt identified for the plot to kill the president was C.I.A. Agent David Morales, who died in 1978 before he could be questioned by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Like Hunt, Morales worked on the Bay Pigs Invasion fiasco, and blamed Kennedy for its failure. Another simple way to tie the agency to the John F. Kennedy assassination was provided by Jim Marrs in his book, Crossfire. The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle used to frame Lee Harvey Oswald had ammunition that could be traced back to the C.I.A. According to an F.B.I. document, the 6.5 mm ammunition found in the Texas School Book Depository was part of a batch manufactured on a U.S. government contract by Westin Cartridge Corporation of East Alton, Illinois, which is now a part of Winchester-Western Division of Olin Industries. Is it just a coincidence that on this same weekend exactly 30 years prior there was another Kennedy family party that ended in disaster? July 18, 1969, was when the C.I.A. ambushed Edward Kennedy at Chappaquiddick. Both parties were centered around the late Robert Kennedy; the 1969 party to honor RFK campaign workers, and the 1999 party to celebrate RFK’s youngest daughter getting married. We just noted above how much hatred the C.I.A. especially harbored towards “the little bastard” Robert Kennedy due to his plans to end the Vietnam War, and expose the truth of the JFK assassination. 

The C.I.A. probably planned for JFK Jr.’s body to be recovered on July 18, 1999, the 30th anniversary of Chappaquiddick, in some sadistic twist. The recovery of the wreckage was not a matter of national security, nor a military operation. Three civilians had died. Nevertheless, within hours the C.I.A. was sweeping the area with three KH-11 photographic satellites to find the bodies. In fact, the agency knew that Edward Kennedy would of course be at this wedding party for his niece in the same location as the Chappaquiddick ambush 30 years early. Perhaps the irony was just too much for them to pass up. We can go back further with this date. We noted already how July 1962 was a bad month for the C.I.A. On July 23, 1962, a Declaration of Neutrality was signed for Laos, spelling a potential end to C.I.A. access to the opium market in Laos. Exactly one week before though, on July 16, 1962, the president did something else though that may have angered the agency even more deeply, on a personal level. Late on that Monday evening, Kennedy began an affair with the ex-wife of C.I.A. agent Cord Meyer. Her name was Mary Pinchot Meyer. Michael O’Brien in his book John F. Kennedy: A Biography, briefly discusses the beginning of the affair with Meyer, who was also the sister of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s wife Antoinette Pinchot.

In the months preceding his death, John Kennedy Jr’s magazine ran an article about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister. The article implies that Rabin was the victim of a conspiracy, and that the lone gunman who was convicted of the crime was simply a patsy. The article in question ran in the March 1997 edition of George. It was written by the mother of the accused assassin, and specifically implicated people within the Shin Bet as being directly involved with the assassination, or suspiciously negligent in their protection of the prime minister. Therefore, the motive would be one of revenge against Kennedy, if the Shin Bet were indeed somehow involved in Kennedy’s death. If the motive was revenge, this is a motive based off human emotions that tend to be acted out soon after the wronged party feels victimized. Therefore, if they felt wronged by Kennedy, why let him live for almost two and a half more years? That does not make any sense. Also, logistically speaking, it would be difficult for this group to pull off an overseas operation, since they operate exclusively within Israel. A final point to make to argue against their involvement is what amounts to near definitive proof of the participation of the military industrial complex in the cover up of the crime scene. No doubt this article of George magazine, March 1997, was not well received within the C.I.A. 

It showed John Kennedy Jr’s willingness to support conspiracy theories, and his ability to look beyond manufactured patsies to see the truth, much like with his father’s assassination. One final point we could make is that Mossad and the C.I.A. may have wanted to kill JFK Jr. because they did the same thing to his father. There is speculation that Israeli intelligence conspired with the C.I.A. to assassinate President Kennedy in a support role. Perhaps this article was a sign that JFK Jr. knew of this potential link and might one day expose it. The theory of an Israeli link to the JFK assassination was put forward by Press TV. Dr. Kevin Barrett, a founding member of the Scientific Panel for the Investigation of 9/11, made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV. Dr. Barrett said Israel had a motive to kill Kennedy because the president was opposed to the regime’s nuclear weapons program which he believed could instigate a nuclear arms-race in the Middle East. Kennedy encountered tensions with former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who wanted to develop nuclear weapons, he said. “It seems very likely that indeed the Israelis played a significant role in the assassination as discussed in the Michael Collins Piper’s book, Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy,” Barrett observed. 

John Kennedy Jr. seemed to want to fly mainly for stress relief. It was reminiscent of his father’s love of sailing. Journalist Michael Daly of the New York Daily News did a profile of JFK Jr., aptly titled “Flying Truly Was His Passion” for the Sunday edition, July 18, 1999. In it, Daly discussed how being a pilot allowed him to escape the pressures of his high-profile life. “It gave him the peace he was looking for,” said Kennedy’s flight instructor Ralph Howard. “He got hounded by the paparazzis, and I think he realized this was where he could get away from everything. It was so peaceful up there for him, nobody bothered him. Many others had thrilled at the freedom of flight, but maybe no one ever needed it so much as him.” Howard also put to rest any notion that Kennedy was a reckless pilot. In fact, he was the opposite, especially when loved ones were on board. According to Daly, “On November 25, 1997, three days after the 34th anniversary of his father’s assassination, Kennedy traveled with his wife to Indiana to trade in the Buckeye plane for a two-seater. Howard and his brother Chris noted that Kennedy had become a very careful pilot, always conducting a meticulous preflight check. ‘Every nut and bolt on the airplane,’ Chris Howard remembers. ‘He was very safety oriented.’”

Daly also noted that Kennedy’s love of flying became infectious with his wife. “Chris Howard took Carolyn Bessette Kennedy up for a flight in the two-seater. She threw her arms up and shouted like she was on a roller coaster. ‘She said, ‘I see now why John likes it so much,’ Chris Howard remembers. After landing, she literally was jumping up and down with excitement. She and Kennedy ran toward each other. ‘They just hugged and kissed,’ Chris Howard says. Daly also reported how easily Kennedy got his pilot’s license. “After Kennedy headed back East, he stayed in touch with Ralph Howard by phone and E-mail. Kennedy reported that his wife was asking to go along whenever he went flying. ‘She loved it, and he loved it,’ Ralph Howard says. Kennedy himself sounded as excited as ever when he spoke of taking flight lessons in Vero Beach, Florida. He had no trouble getting the pilot’s license needed for bigger planes in May 1998. ‘John was a natural in flying,’ Ralph Howard says.” Although he obtained his pilot’s license in April 1998, Kennedy had been taking flying lessons for at least 10 years. Arthur Marx, who teaches flying at Martha’s Vineyard Airport, says he gave Kennedy lessons 10 times over that period. “He was a very good pilot,” Marx says. “He wasn’t the least bit cocky.” The NTSB report also noted that he had flown this route many times. “In the 15 months before the accident, the pilot had flown about 35 flight legs either to or from the Essex County/Teterboro, New Jersey, area and the Martha’s Vineyard/Hyannis, Massachusetts, area."

The JFK assassination and the RFK assassination both can be proven to be conspiracies using eyewitness testimony. In both cases, credible people saw more than one person shooting at the crime scene. Although there was no gun involved in the JFK Jr.'s plane crash (that we know of) we can still rely on eyewitness testimony to bring us closer to the truth. Three people heard an explosion in the sky near Martha’s Vineyard on the night of July 16, 1999. This would contradict the official version of events that the plane crashed due to pilot error. The fact that luggage (and possibly other debris) was found scattered miles away from the crash site, indicated that the cabin had been breached by an internal explosion. If eyewitness testimony could back up this claim, there would be no reasonable way to avoid concluding that a bomb brought down the Piper Saratoga. Journalist Lawrence Patterson in the July 31, 1999, edition of the journal Criminal Politics reported the following information. “A report at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, by Shepard Smith of Fox TV, named another of these witnesses of an explosion. In fact, the witness was a guest at the scheduled wedding that J.F.K Jr. and his wife were on their way to attend. The witness was also a friend of Shepard Smith, who is a producer at Fox TV.” In other references, this witness was referred to as a cousin of a producer at Fox News. 

“Several witnesses on the ground that night reported seeing and hearing an airborne explosion in the area where Kennedy’s plane went down, and these were all very credible witnesses,” said Scott Meyers who listed three witnesses to an explosion in the sky. This particular (anonymous) witness “was actually in town for Rory Kennedy’s wedding which was to take place that weekend, the very event John and Carolyn were headed for when their plane went down. These eyewitness stories were widely reported by all kinds of media outlets including United Press International, ABC News, and Fox TV.” I want to highlight how the recovery of the emergency locator beacon proved that the U.S. government was involved in this conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy Jr. The second witness in question was a reporter for the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette who was walking along the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard that night, and just happened to be looking in the right place at the right time. What is important about this witness is that he both saw and heard an explosion. Investigator Don Jeffries had this to say about this “mysterious reporter.” WCVB-TV reporter Steve Sbraccia, who covered the story, wrote in a 2006 email, “I’ve always felt there was something wrong about that crash… from the way the police swept through that beach forcing everyone off – to the way they kept the wreck site closely guarded until they pulled up every bit of debris.” Sbraccia had encountered the enigmatic reporter from the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette, who claimed to have seen an explosion in the air and then seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. In another email to me, from 2012, Sbraccia reiterated, “I can swear in court that man was real – and I reported exactly what he told me he saw.” Researcher John DiNardo had attempted to track down this elusive reporter shortly after the incident, but the paper refused to even furnish his name. I encountered the same resistance, when the present editor, who claimed to have personally covered the story for the paper, informed me that she had no recollection at all of any such reporter.

As well as a follower of JFK, I was intrigued by the path his son would choose. I am sure JFK Jr. could have achieved so much more greatness had he lived. It was somehow surprising to find out JFK's son was a rather decent, loyal guy. How rare is it for someone so famous and handsome to not be a complete brat; instead, he was really an outstanding person, a man who, in spite of his wealth and good looks seemed humble and only wanted to do something to alleviate the ills of his country. As his friend John Perry Barlow recalled in 2016: "John really was a serial monogamist, in spite of the fact that it was very difficult for his girlfriends to believe it, because he was under a continuous barrage of opportunities. Most of those flings reported by the press were fake. They made a lot out of that stuff, you know. Sarah Jessica Parker and John had no relationship, not really, and he had nothing with Madonna, not really. John had a crush on Claire Danes, but he never told her. Claire wrote an essay for George in the October 1996 issue. She was 17 at the time, right around Romeo & Juliet. John had a genuine connection with Molly Ringwald in the late 80s, and he had a serious relationship with Daryl Hannah which lasted five years. But he realized Daryl had been lying to him about her priorities. "I was so enamored of Daryl for a long time, but I don't love her anymore," he said to me in 1995. I really think his wife Carolyn was his true love. John and me talked on the phone two weeks before he died. I asked him, 'Do you remember that conversation we had about being a good man?' And he said, 'Of course, I think about it a lot.' Then I said to him, 'I just want you to know that you have spectacularly achieved that objective. You are a good man, the best man I know."

My mission now was to find a male reporter who began writing for the Gazette in May or June 1999, and then stopped reporting for them in August or September 1999. It would confirm the information from John DiNardo’s interview, and it would give us solid proof that this person did exist. I would like to thank Vanessa Mitchell, librarian at the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room and Government Publications Division at the Library of Congress for making sure I was able to obtain the microfilm I was looking for. I picked up another microfilm at the The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and viewed it at the Grosvenor Room (the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library's Special Collections department) with a second person who wishes to remain anonymous. We began looking at the Gazette in April 1999 and wrote down the names of all male reporters until the September 1999 editions. The process was tedious, but we eventually found what we were looking for. There was a male reporter who began writing for the Gazette in late May 1999, and then once September 1999 arrived, his name no longer appeared. I will not reveal the name of this man who will probably be in his early 40s by 2020. In retrospect, I suppose the Gazette editor wanted to shield this young man from scrutiny or danger. If anyone is interested in finding out his name, you are welcome to look at the microfilm yourself, and verify this through the same process. My advice though if you are going to request this film through interlibrary loan, do not bother trying to get it through any libraries in Massachusetts, go directly through the Library of Congress. 

Eyewitness Number Three: Victor Pribanic, who was also mentioned in The Day John Died (2001) by Christopher Anderson. “The lone fisherman angling for bass off Squibnocket Pond on Martha’s Vineyard looked up to see a small aircraft flying toward the Island. Victor Pribanic, a forty-five-year-old Pittsburg attorney who had been coming to the Vineyard for twenty years, thought nothing of it and went back to his fishing. Within moments there was a loud bang…” Also, Anderson mentioned that Pribanic looked out towards the Atlantic to follow the sound of the explosion. This of course is the opposite direction of Falmouth. All three witnesses heard a single bang in the Atlantic, the opposite direction of Falmouth. Squibnocket Pond is on the extreme western end of Martha’s Vineyard Island. To look at something going on in Falmouth would be impossible from there. He would have to turn around and look across the entire length of the island. Also, the editor said fireworks were going off in Falmouth. None of the witnesses heard fireworks going off. They heard a single explosion. If fireworks were going off over 30 miles away in Falmouth that is an entirely different event from what these witnesses saw and heard. This is how the New York Daily News reported Pribanic’s account in a story on July 21, 1999. “I heard an explosion over my right shoulder,” Pribanic said yesterday in the first interview he has granted since the crash that killed JFK Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette. “It sounded like an explosion. There was no shock wave, but it was a large bang.” Pribanic, who has spent his summers on Martha’s Vineyard for 20 years, pinpointed the source of the sound about 4 miles offshore, near Nomans Island. He said that just before hearing the noise, he noticed a small aircraft flying low over the water toward the island… Pribanic said he fished until 1 a.m., pulling in one large striper before heading home to bed. When he woke up Saturday morning, he heard the initial reports that Kennedy’s plane was missing and felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He immediately phoned the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Officials there put him in touch with West Tisbury police, who relayed his information to the National Transportation Safety Board. United Press International, ABC News and WCVB-TV fully confirmed this story. All was well and the sky was moderately clear… All of sudden as a lightning bolt, Pribanic turned abruptly towards the explosion: “I heard a loud impact like a bomb,” said Pribanic, a skilled trial lawyer from White Oak, Pennsylvania. At first, he thought it could have been the military, exploding one of their bombs off of No-Man’s Island, a small island off the shore. But that couldn’t be, since they stopped that years ago. Where Victor Pribanic had pointed as the location of the explosion is exactly where the Coast Guard recovered scattered items from the blown-up plane and near where other debris from the plane had washed ashore. I asked Mr. Pribanic, who returned my call, if he felt that JFK Jr. and his family was murdered. He said, “Yes, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.”

For a man who was so universally loved and respected by Democrats and Republicans alike for his ability to rise above politics, JFK Jr. is still missed today in our polarized country. He might have been the kind of president to remind us about the value of service not to yourself, but to the greater good of the people. The hope and promise of President Kennedy’s call to service, efforts at racial equality, and struggles for world peace may have lived on in his son, as JFK Jr. faced the challenges of the strife-filled 21st century. JFK Jr. was 38 years-old when he died. JFK had used his brief time in the Congress in the 1950s as the beginning of his path to the White House. A brief sojourn in Albany as governor of New York beginning in 2003 could have put JFK Jr. on a similar trajectory path to the presidency in 2004. John F. Kennedy Jr. would have been 43 years-old on election day that year, the same age that his father was when he took the oath of office on January 20, 1961. JFK Jr. was unique in terms of what he represented in our culture, that's gone, it has not been replaced, and I don't think it ever will be. There was certainly motive on the part of powerful people and groups to kill John F. Kennedy Jr., due to his potential threat as a political candidate, and his investigation into the assassination of his father. The official version of this accident as put forward by the NTSB is counterintuitive. As it's been demonstrated, JFK Jr. was a skilled and careful pilot who knew how to use autopilot. The weather that night was clear. His call in to air traffic control, exactly one hour into the flight proved he was not suffering from spatial disorientation. The only conclusion any logical person would make then is that this crash was no accident. On July 16, 1999, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. was assassinated. This realization has tremendous and painful implications. If we could get to the point where a reopening into this investigation was possible, those responsible of the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. could still be held legally accountable. "Exploding the Truth: The JFK Jr. Assassination" (2018) by Professor John Koerner

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Kennedys' Bill of The Century, JFK Jr., Oliver Stone and Brecht's influence on NBK

John F. Kennedy: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.” Howie Carr’s column, which was printed on July 4th in The Boston Herald, is a nutty litany of the conservative and politically motivated vendetta that is trotted out every time the reactionaries think: “Hey, things have gotten so bad that the public might be reminded of how much progress was made during the Kennedy presidency.” No president before Kennedy ever confronted the civil rights issue as he did. No one was even close. It was the preceding century of near inertia that created the immense problem that President Kennedy faced in 1961. But to his credit, Kennedy pressed the issue from the outset. Finally, the inspiration and support he gave the civil rights movement, provided the opportunity to pass what Clay Risen has called the “bill of the century”. What JFK achieved in three years is quite remarkable, especially when compared to his White House predecessors (Dwight Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt) in thirty years prior. 

In the wake of the sensation caused by the release of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, scores of books were either released or republished in order to capitalize on that publicity wave. Many of these were utterly worthless, but that did not matter to the MSM. Since Chuck Giancana had a famous last name, he got exposure. Chuck was the half-brother of “Momo” Giancana, the Chicago don. Sam Giancana was his half-nephew and they co-authored the book. Therefore, these two collaborators (Sam and Chuck Giancana) were taken at their word, without any due diligence done by the media or any consultation with experts in the field who could give them such analysis. I had little regard for it when I first read it; I have less for it now. In fact, today, not only do I think it is mythological, I think it is scatological. It has the historical value of a Harold Robbins novel. Double Cross also stated that the Outfit owned the contract of Marilyn Monroe. As the esteemed Don McGovern notes in his book on the subject, this is more bunk. McGovern goes on to demonstrate how Double Cross libels Joe Schenck and Marilyn Monroe about both their personal reputations and professional careers. If that is not goofy enough, the book claims that Giancana had Monroe killed on orders of the CIA and they killed her with a rectal suppository. As McGovern notes, Momo Giancana must have had some great chemist working for him, because the type of suppository described in the book was not invented at the time of Marilyn’s death in 1962. (McGovern, pp. 511-514)

I won’t even go into the issues of why the CIA would want Monroe killed or why, of all people, they would contract that assignment out to Giancana. I will say, though, that when Double Cross came out in 1992, there were multi-segment specials about it on the programs ET and Hard Copy. They accepted the book at virtually face value. Thus is the culture we inhabit. Influenced by the work of his sister Eunice Shriver, one of the first things Robert Kennedy did as attorney general was to take a dual interest in the rights of the poor to have attorneys and also the problems and causes of juvenile delinquency. (Edward R. Schmitt, President of the Other America, p. 68) Other times, David Hackett would show RFK the shabby conditions of schools or recreation areas. The attorney general was moved by these and so he invited celebrities—Cary Grant, Edward R. Murrow—to come into those blighted neighborhoods to give talks to the kids who lived there. (Schmitt, pp. 69-70) The attorney general would also attain appropriations to repair some of these facilities. America was sitting on a ticking time-bomb. While everyone was concentrating on the South, Hackett and Bobby Kennedy were examining sociological predicaments elsewhere that could not be solved by an accommodations bill or a voting rights act. In these places, the problems were not simple and the remedy was not as direct. In fact, RFK predicted that riots would erupt soon if nothing was done. (Schmitt, p. 86) He told a Senate committee in February of 1963 that America was “racing the clock against disaster… We must give the members of this new lost generation some real hope in order to prevent a shattering explosion of social problems in the years to come.” 

Needless to say, no other administration had ever gone this far in this specific field. Richard Russell was so worried that he told his colleague Senator Harry Byrd that what he feared if Kennedy got elected was that he would go beyond even the Democratic platform. (Brauer, p. 53) The insight may have originated from Russell’s personal exposure to Kennedy while they were in the Senate. And indeed, that is what the president was doing at the time of his death, before his civil rights bill passed. As the president told Heller at their last meeting on the topic, “Yes, Walter, I am definitely going to have something in the line of an attack on poverty.” (Schmitt, p. 93) To show how interested he was, at his final meeting with his cabinet, President Kennedy mentioned the word “poverty” six times. After his death, Jackie Kennedy took the notes of that meeting to Bobby Kennedy. The attorney general had them framed and put up on his wall. (Schmitt, pp. 92, 96) As Hackett told RFK, the situation America faced in 1962 it was much more complicated than the FDR's New-Deal era. Kennedy was going to face the poverty problem in 1964 in order to transform it into a national issue. He did not plan on starting his program until after the 1964 election. (Bruce J. Schulman, Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism, p. 71) What happened after his death shows how important one man can be in determining the currents of history. Walter Heller met with Johnson the day after Kennedy’s murder. The economist told the new president about the ideas he and JFK had reviewed for relieving poverty. When Heller got back to him with the demonstration projects that were running under Hackett, Johnson almost eliminated the entire program. The new president understood that the civil rights act making its slow way through Congress was really Kennedy’s.

As I have noted, Clay Risen’s book, The Bill of the Century proves that point. But Kennedy’s poverty program had not been formally announced or written up. Therefore, Johnson could present it as his own. A bit over four months later, Johnson would announce the Great Society. Most analysts have differentiated the Great Society from the War on Poverty. The main agency for the latter was called the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). In five years, from 1965-70, OEO was granted 1.5% of the budget for all of its programs. Needless to say, all this hubbub necessitated that the cautious Hackett be retired to the sidelines. Which he was. While Johnson was putting together his package, David Hackett—the man who ran the program for three years, who knew more about it than anyone—was now working on Bobby Kennedy’s senatorial campaign in New York. RFK tried to intervene to no avail. Hackett wanted what he called his “community action experiments” to resemble something like a socialist democratic laboratory. It didn’t end up that way. With unwise alacrity, Johnson sent his program to Congress in March of 1964. As Harris Wofford notes in his book, the choice Johnson made to replace Hackett with as supervisor of his War on Poverty surprised many people. But Johnson couldn’t wholly kill it, since Robert Kennedy was still attorney general. Instead, he added other elements to it: a job training program, a summer jobs program, a work-study program, assistance to small farms and small business, and the aforementioned VISTA program. This brought in other parts of the administration, like the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Office of Education.

Bobby Kennedy had targeted help for pre-school children that would bypass the regular school system. Later, RFK continued in this vein by saying: "The institutions which affect the poor—education, welfare, recreation, business, labor—are huge, complex structures, operating outside their control. They plan programs for the poor, not with them." (Matusow, p. 126) What Kennedy and Hackett were saying was rather simple: How can we trust the same people who allowed these inequities in the first place with the millions meant to cure them? (Schulman, p. 94) Author Schulman then listed a few examples that proved the Hackett/Kennedy warning. By 1967, Johnson had folded his cards on community action. He allowed them to be taken over by the local entities Hackett & Kennedy feared. In the end, LBJ had lost all faith in it and said it was being run by “kooks and sociologists”. (Matusow, p. 270) The beginning of Johnson losing faith started in Watts in the late summer of 1965. To his credit, I have never read anything that states that Bobby Kennedy had his “I told you so” moment at this time, even though, as we have seen, he did predict it. RFK visited Watts in November of 1965. When he returned, he told a couple of his staffers, Ed Edelman and Adam Walinsky, to continue with Hackett’s research, but to take it a step further. He wanted ideas on how to address the entire phenomenon of the urban ghetto and how to structurally transform it. They did so, and in January of 1966, the senator gave three speeches on the subject of race and poverty. (John Bohrer,The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, pp. 255-61) Those speeches marked the birth of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration project.

It was RFK’s answer to Lyndon Johnson and the New Deal. As Michael Harrington said of RFK, “As I look back on the sixties, he was the man who actually could have changed the course of American history.” (Wofford, p. 420) Journalist Pete Hammill wrote RFK before the presidential race of 1968: "I wanted to remind you that in Watts, I didn’t see pictures of Malcolm X or Ron Karenga on the walls. I saw pictures of JFK." One is left to imagine what America would be like today if President Kennedy had lived, and Bobby Kennedy and Dave Hackett had run the War on Poverty. Without Vietnam, and those men in charge, it is even possible that America would not have burned. 

Oliver Stone - Tom Fordy and The Telegraph: With a new documentary and a new autobiography  Chasing the Light coming out, Oliver Stone is once again being met, in advance, by trolls intent on burying the truth of JFK’s foreign policy and his assassination. Fordy is a Warren Commission shill who might as well be writing in 1967. Yet in some cases, he is even worse than that. As everyone knows, the 1991 film JFK was based largely on Jim Garrison’s 1988 book On the Trail of the Assassins. That book was essentially Garrison’s memoir of his investigation into the murder of President Kennedy which he conducted through his position as DA of New Orleans Parish. Stone’s film was so cinematically powerful and its intellectual effect so shocking that it provoked the creation of a new agency of government: The Assassination Records Review Board. That board was in session from 1994–98 and declassified 2 million pages of previously redacted papers; 60,000 documents in all. It then declassified, on a timed-release schedule, thousands more. Fordy's  foot in mouth moment is when he says that Kennedy signed off on an attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. Again, this shows that neither Fordy nor Drinkwater ever read the declassified documents of the ARRB, because, in 1995, the Board issued an unredacted version of the CIA’s Inspector General Report on the plots to kill Fidel Castro. On several pages of that report, one will see the issue of presidential authorization of the Agency plots addressed. In every instance, the reply comes back in the negative. In other words, the CIA had no such presidential authorization from Kennedy or any other president, i. e. Dwight Eisenhower or Lyndon B. Johnson. Source:

In the years since John F. Kennedy Jr's passing, the fascination doesn’t seem to be on the level of Marilyn Monroe/James Dean-like cult, and there are not nearly as many death theories and myths that haunt his father’s legacy. With the exception of Steven Gillon's The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr: America's Reluctant Prince, the rest of published memoirs about him or his wife Carolyn Bessette were sketchy or trashy. However, there is a brief yet good memoir that explains the political icon as a flesh-and-blood man, written by someone who really knew well, his best friend, The Men We Became: My Friendship with John F. Kennedy, Jr. Robert T. Littell first met John Kennedy Jr. while they were both freshmen at Brown University in 1979. Their instant bond grew into a life-long friendship, until Kennedy died at the age of 38. “I felt obligated to stand up for him, frankly,” Littell says. “He bent over backwards just to be a great guy.” JFK talking about his children: "I hope my children live as good people, that they understand that though they have what many don’t, that does not make them better—but that they can do better, they can help make a difference in this land of freedom in which freedom has not been given to all. My hope is that they’re gracious and sensible in their actions. And if politics is their passion, well, I can’t very well argue with that now can I?”

Robert Littell, who was born in Milwaukee and brought up in Connecticut, had a rough go of it himself. Though he was upper-middle-class and attended prep school, his father, a writer, had committed suicide at 40. His mother had remarried but more for worse than for better. He thinks of his family as “dysfunctional,” and describes himself as a “street-smart Republican.” Although the friendship would seem unlikely, he says this was a good basis for his relationship with Kennedy. “We were both brought up by women,” he says, “and we both lacked a strong father figure. We sort of linked arms from that. We had the exact same experience there. There was a shared trauma between us for not having a dad. I watched his mind develop and mature. He learned how to master his negotiating skills. He already had the focus and the intellect inside of him and he learned how to bring it out and master it over the years.” Littell witnessed this first-hand, during their years together at Brown, and then during their student trips to Europe on the cheap (because of John’s love of being just an average guy). They also shared an apartment together after college, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. 

“John was a bad drinker,” Littell recalls. “He was a two or three-beers guy. He couldn’t have six beers. He was the kind of guy who just wanted to be in control all the time. He really valued his sense of control. He needed to, because he was always ‘on stage.’ He was a modern Renaissance man.” It seemed inevitable that John would go into some sort of public service, like most of his family. However he wanted to do it on his terms. “He was offered to run for office in New Jersey and Rhode Island,” Littell says, “but he wanted to do it in New York. Everyone had expectations but he didn't want to lead as a young man. He wanted to have his youth first. He wanted to give back. He wanted to serve the people–not for recognition. He didn’t need it. He already had it.” Littell married soon after college, and had two children and settled into a life of domestic bliss in Manhattan. “John respected and admired my getting married and having kids,” he says. 

“John was naturally monogamous. When Christina Haag broke up with her boyfriend, he said to me, ‘My future wife is free!’ He wanted to have a nice, stable life. He admired his sister Caroline’s life, and wanted to have that and as soon as possible. After his mother Jackie died, it was a heavy burden, because he was now an orphan. He wanted to have a family of his own.” Of course, his future wife turned out not to be Christina Haag or Daryl Hannah but Carolyn Bessette, who, according to Littell, was “the most empathetic, sensitive person that I’ve ever met. She was my children’s favorite friend. And she wanted to be sensitive. She didn’t want to develop a thick skin. I think her sensitivity sometimes hurt her, but they were soul mates. They loved each other tremendously. When they were together, sparks flew.” John Perry Barlow, another good friend of John Jr. recalled of the Cumberland ceremony: "I remember many odd moments at John's wedding. I was having a languid conversation with Christiane Amanpour and Jackie's old boyfriend Maurice Tempelsman. I had many vivid experiences of that wedding, including John sternly telling me that now she was married, I could no longer leer at his wife Carolyn."

“John made me a much better person by his loyalty, his sense of honor, how polite and graceful he was to everybody,” Littell says. “He related to the underdog. He couldn’t stand the idea of elitism. He was actually a very simple man. He was a camper sort of guy. He liked to ground himself. He was not cynical. He was a really kind guy. He was stubborn and told me again and again: ‘I will never be a cynic.’ He was an innovator for starting George magazine and he had a lot of courage. His magazine began to hemorrhage money and was expected to lose $10 million in 1999. To John’s frustration, George never earned the respect of the journalistic community, which considered it an amateur venture. The fact that he made that decision that he was not going to be cynical, that he was going to rinse himself of that, was really inspirational.” Source:

Bertolt Brecht: Epic Theatre proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the stage. He wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience's reality was equally constructed and, as such, was changeable. One of Brecht's most important principles was what he called the Verfremdungseffekt (translated as "defamiliarization effect", "estrangement effect", or "alienation effect"). "Brecht's work is the most important and original in European drama since Ibsen and Strindberg," Raymond Williams argued. Brecht used his poetry to criticize European culture, including Nazis, and the German bourgeoisie. Brecht's collaborations with Kurt Weill have influence in rock music. The "Alabama Song", originally published as a poem in Brecht's Hauspostille (1927) and set to music by Weill in Mahagonny, was recorded by The Doors, and various other bands and performers since the 1960s.

There's that classic quote from Quentin Tarantino about how "Violence is one of the most fun things to watch" and never before have I seen a movie more thoroughly challenge, and ultimately tear itself to pieces over that statement than Oliver Stone's film, 'Natural Born Killers' (1994). Based on an original screenplay by none-other than Quentin Tarantino, who eventually relented into conceding Stone's unique vision, 'Natural Born Killers' is still one of the most controversial Hollywood movies ever made. Owing to its very graphic violence and frenzied, near subliminal, visual and editing style it is genuinely one of the most unnerving and unconventional films of the 1990's. 

We cut back to the day of the interview, where Mickey gives Wayne plenty of well-composed quotable remarks to fill his program - explaining his motives plainly as being a ‘natural born killer’, thus giving the movie a title - and then a riot goes down in the laundry room which forces the deputies to concentrate their efforts on pacifying the other inmates; giving Mickey an opportunity to take the camera crew hostage and force the release of Mallory from her holding cell - the two having been separated for a year and romantically longing for each other since. The idea Stone wants to present is clear - that media enterprises like those ‘American Maniacs’ is inspired by and represent are deeply immoral and often help aid or indeed validate the actions of those they’re so eager to depict. Meanwhile, Wayne is eager to get this one final interview, primarily because he stands to gain massive ratings and therefore financial compensation for his work. It's the fact that Wayne Gail and the network he represents stands to gain a lot of money by continually making content about people like Mickey and Mallory. There’s a *capitalist* incentive there, rather than one of mere perverse intellectual curiosity. 

There’s a real meaningful interesting point being made here about how the media is a participant in the events it depicts, and it demonstrates this literally by having Wayne Gail and his camera be part of the climax and its action. Wayne is directly responsible for Mickey and Mallory’s escape, by naively playing into their hands, by assuming control because he’s a big media boy with a TV network backing him, and without fully grasping exactly who he’s dealing with. Because of course, the big punchline here is that Mickey and Mallory Knox are both actively, knowingly exploiting their own infamy as a means to escape prison - and just Wayne is the naive conduit for that. In a way, the script aims to comment on exactly that kind of media irresponsibility, and it does it with surprising deftness.

Oliver Stone decided he wanted almost every single shot in the film to use a different lens, a different stock, and a different angle so therefore no single shot can be seen as objective. Not even standard shot reverse has a 1:1 equivalency. We transition to scenes with TV static and brief shots of Coca-Cola commercials as if we’re thumbing through a cable box, occasionally interrupted by subliminal flashes. The scenes themselves are littered with fake rear-projection backgrounds, overlays, and coloured lighting, designed to deliberately highlight the artificiality and unreality of the production, to a positively Brechtian degree. Not a single frame in Oliver Stone’s production goes by without reminding you that you’re taking part in viewing a piece of media and not real people inhabiting a real world. What they’ve done here is an attempt to turn it into a kind of metafilm - what Stone is attempting here is a kind of Bretchian ‘Epic Theatre’, i.e. a production that emphasises the unreality of the production itself.

With the goal being to make the audience confront what their reality actually is - because according to Brecht, once you know how all of this works, or is made to work, you can speculate on what it could be. So this gharishness is essentially a type of ‘deliberate estrangement.’ NBK is a quintessential Generation X movie. The critical response was negative in general, seeing his satire as 'too blunt.' However, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, "Seeing this movie once is not enough. The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "Oliver Stone's vision in Natural Born Killers is impassioned, alarming, visually inventive, characteristically overpowering." Sticking with the Brechtian influence on Stone's filming tecniques in NBK, you could even argue that this film reframes the story as "Two B-movie action heroes are constructed for public consumption, they become aware they are a part of a media construct, and manipulate their media construct in order to destroy it, and thus attain freedom". -"The Social Construction of Nature and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers" (2012) by Jeremy Withers

Sunday, July 19, 2020

John F. Kennedy Jr.'s legacy

Had President John F. Kennedy's son lived, friend and historian Steven M. Gillon believes John would have made it to the White House just like his dad. "John would have been president of the United States and I think the tone of our politics would have been completely different," says Gillon, a professor of American history at the University of Oklahoma whose biography The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr: America's Reluctant Prince, is now out in paperback. "John would be a force for healing and bringing people together. John thought he could inspire people — so I think about it often, how much better off our country would have been had John not made the foolish decision to take his plane up on the hot humid July evening," Gillon says. He and John met when Gillon was John's teaching assistant at Brown University, and the two struck up a friendship lasting more than 20 years. “He said he was two people,” Gillon remembers John telling him once. “He said he played the role of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., the son of the president. But at his core, he was just John.”

"John spent his whole life trying to figure out who he was and what his relationship was going to be to his father's legacy and for most of his life, he ran away from it," Gillon says. "And he ran away from it, because he wanted to find out who he really was, separate from the unique burden of his family." Gillon continues: "The other layer to the tragedy is that, by 1999, he figured out who he is. And what he discovered is yes, he wants to go into politics. He wants to be his father's son. But he dies just at the moment when he discovers who he is. The one thing John will always share with his father is this sense of what might have been." From the moment in 1963 when young John saluted his father's casket, "all the unfulfilled hopes and expectations transferred to him," says Gillon. 

But John wrestled with those expectations for many years. "At first he needed to find himself," Gillon says. "At first, he ran from his father's legacy and he ended up running in circles. At the end of his life, he wanted to embrace his father's legacy." Gillon recalls that "John said, 'What people need is hope, realistic hope and they need to know that tomorrow is going to be better than today.' That's what his dad did as well since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John understood that." Gillon adds, "John had the best instincts of anyone I ever met. He could read a person, read a room — the instincts you have to have as a politician. You cannot discount his impact on people, what happened when he walked into a room," says Gillon. "John inspired memories. For an older generation, he represented the unfulfilled possibilities of his father. For a younger generation, he represented a new style of leadership. I don't think you can discount the emotional connection that John had with the American public. He understood that power. For most of his life, he tried to avoid it but if it came to the point where he was running for office, he knew how to use it."

In his biography of John, Gillon recounts a haunting comment John once made to one of his closest friends, Robert Littell: "They were watching the inauguration of Bill Clinton and he said 'I want to go home.' For him, going home was the White House. And by 1999, he's actively talking to people, finding the opening — what office he's going to run for and actively strategizing how he's going to make his next steps into politics." Indeed, friends say that before his death John had begun exploring the idea of running for New York governor. "The John who would have been elected president would have been different than the John that founded George magazine," says Gillon. "I'm perfectly aware of his limitations," Gillon adds. "John wasn't ready at the age of 38 to be president, and he wouldn't have been at 42, the age his father was elected. But he would have been, if he had continued the same process that he had shown over the past 15 years of his life." The world will never know what would have been. "With John's death came the end of Camelot," says Gillon, referring to the halo of his father's approximately 1,000 days in the White House, before the 1963 Kennedy assassination.

"A lot of the family mystique revolved around his father, the emotional connection that the public had to John's father," Gillon says. "John was his father's son. John was the only one who could have carried his family legacy into the future. All the expectations for that were placed on him. John's father is frozen in time," says Gillon, "and now John is too. We can't see how he would have evolved." Or what might have been, "John had the potential to unite a nation that has become so divided," his friend says. "It would have been a huge undertaking and a reasonable person would say no one person could have done that, even someone whose name was John F. Kennedy Jr. But those of us who knew him think that he could have made a big difference." Pollster Daniel Yankelovich noted that trust in government declined from 80 percent in the late 1950s to about 33 percent in 1976. More than 80 percent of the public expressed distrust in politicians, 61 percent believed something was morally wrong with the country, and nearly 75 percent felt that they had no impact on Washington. Source:

John F. Kennedy Jr.'s marriage to Carolyn Bessette being in turmoil before his plane crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard was one of British journalist Annette Witheridge's scoops, which was loosely informed by mostly anonymous sources and published as a column in The New York Post in November 1999: The report is based on interviews with members of Kennedy's close-knit circle of friends and associates of Carolyn, including two people who have signed sworn affidavits — John F. Kennedy Jr.'s marriage to Carolyn Bessette suffered from cyclical arguments, reciprocal jealousy, and drugs. Even so, John Kennedy Jr. didn't seem to suspect that a distraught Carolyn had once called a divorce lawyer, and that private investigators were trailing him around the clock. "When Carolyn first moved into John's Tribeca apartment, he was convinced she would be able to cope with the pressures of his fame. And in the early days Carolyn seemed to be coping," said a friend close to the couple. "But after their marriage, she changed. Everything fell apart in the months following the honeymoon. Suddenly she was Mrs. John F. Kennedy Jr. and not just the lively girlfriend, and she mostly reacted like a frightened deer caught in car headlights." No one will ever know exactly what happened on that fateful July flight, but insiders say their trip to Rory Kennedy's wedding was a clear indicator of a possible reconciliation.

One of John's (anonymous) friends reckons: "John was terribly upset about his marriage. He wasn't one to talk about his problems, but he was worried when Carolyn stormed out of a joint therapy session in July, 1999. He truly loved her, and when they married, he honestly believed it would be forever. But Carolyn was convinced he was sleeping with another woman." Carolyn initially had approached high-profile divorce lawyer Raoul Felder. Felder declined to comment. According to a friend of Carolyn, the former Calvin Klein publicist then had turned to lawyer Bob Cohen in February, 1999. The friend said Cohen hired private detectives to trail John Kennedy's steps. Cohen said the private eyes came up empty. "On one occasion - believe it or not, it was Valentine's Day, she even manufactured a row with John and stormed out of a restaurant. She knew the private detective was watching and, in her paranoid state, believed that if she left, John would go off with some other woman. He ended up eating his appetizer alone, trying to put on a brave face. He then went to another bar where he met a male friend. And at 1:45 a.m. he looked at his watch and went home alone in a taxi. Carolyn was befuddled when she discovered her ruse hadn't worked. In that regard, John Jr was the anti-JFK." 

Another friend, who had known the normally stoic Kennedy for more than a decade, said he was stunned by the admission of turmoil. "John sort of threw his head back and tried to discreetly wipe the tears from his eyes. He was terribly embarrassed." Kennedy then began to pour his heart out, relating how upset he was. "John broke down and in the course of many conversations over several weeks he told me Carolyn had moved out of the marital bed. At that point they weren't having sex, and it was taking a toll on him because he was so hooked," said the friend. "It's staggering to think that he put up with it. He could have had his pick of beautiful women but he chose to remain true to Carolyn. I was stunned when he told me, 'She says she wants children but she's moved into the spare room. I tried joking with her, saying you have to make babies, they aren't delivered by the stork." Kennedy finally persuaded Carolyn to join him in marriage counseling, but their weekly sessions often ended in screaming matches and sulking fits. Carolyn's sister Lauren called to John's office at George and asked to meet with him. They spent two hours closeted in his office at George magazine discussing the state of the marriage. "Lauren was acting as mediator. Carolyn had big psychological problems, as well as a cocaine habit and a dependency on anti-depressants, that made her paranoid."

At that point, both John and Carolyn were taking anti-depressants. Eventually Lauren offered to accompany them to Martha's Vineyard. She said she would stay there while John and Carolyn continued on to Rory's wedding at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. John, who was sick of making excuses about Carolyn's constant absences to his cousins, eventually agreed." Kennedy's friend said he decided to speak out because "John would have wanted me to." This friend claims he had known Kennedy through his high-profile romances with actresses Daryl Hannah and Molly Ringwald. "John almost married Daryl. But she was a very needy sort of person. She used baby talk to speak to John and constantly returned to Jackson Browne. Daryl refused to be exclusive with John even when he indicated his desire to be. He was faithful in his early relationships (Meg Azzoni in the late 1970s, Christina Haag and Sally Munroe in the 1980s). And, of course, John's mother, Jackie, didn't approve of Daryl because she was a Hollywood star." John and Carolyn dated exclusively shortly after his breakup with Hannah. Robert Littell, probably John's best friend, recounted: "John fell in love with Carolyn because she really was a very kind, sweet woman beneath her party girl fa├žade and I think John developed a saviour complex with her. There's no doubt in my mind that Carolyn deeply loved John, too. They were a volatile couple, but after a row, they apologized to each other and enjoyed the making up." 

Carolyn's associates call it a story of an insecure woman who thought her Prince Charming would solve her emotional problems. On his part, John looked for an accomodating partner for his future political prospects. One friend of John says: John liked to relax over a beer in the evening. Carolyn was becoming too frightened to leave the apartment and he was hanging out in bars with his buddies until the early hours of the morning. Carolyn felt he was immature - I was there once when he begged her to be more supportive like other wives - and she screamed back at him: 'How can I support someone who acts like he is 15.' John looked hurt and dejected. But she just turned on her heels and stormed out. When John finally told me what was happening I was stunned. Carolyn gave up her job just before the marriage but afterwards she became paranoid and anxious. Before she met John she was known somehow as a party girl, climbing within the fashion set. But she continued with her cocaine habit and John didn't approve. John hated her doing cocaine and often complained she was high. Once, when we were alone, John told me: 'The only thing worse than her being high is her not being high. Carolyn in a downer phase is not a pretty picture. I'm worried about how she'd react if I tried to stop her.'

The sexual thing was the most puzzling. In her dreams Carolyn wanted John only to herself, she didn't want him going to work. She wanted them to live in Connecticut in a house with a brood of children. But then she refused to have sex with John. I was with him on many occasions when I saw he had the opportunity to stray. Many beautiful women would throw themselves at him but he simply wasn't interested. His days of playing the field were long over. John also wanted to address his political plans. John was seriously planning to run for the Senate in the year 2000. He had always secretly planned to follow in his father's footsteps, and he intended to begin as the senator for New York. His uncle Teddy Kennedy, whom he considered to be his surrogate dad, was delighted.

John had formed a committee in March to weigh the pros and cons. He also toyed with running later in 2004," the friend remarks. "Carolyn's attitude worried him a lot. She made it clear she didn't want him to run and John's political plans were the cause of some of his biggest arguments with Carolyn." Kennedy's friend admitted the whole drama caused much grief for the couple and they were in the process of healing their marriage. "It breaks my heart to think how much they suffered in their final months."

Daryl Hannah: "Well, one thing that I experienced while I was dating John Kennedy Jr. was getting to witness the family tradition in the Kennedy clan, of really instilling the responsibility to be of service, to choose something at an early age that they're interested in and engaged in, that they champion to that as a part of their life. That everybody in the family was expected to take on some form of social service. And I think that's something that our culture has sort of forgotten, that it's a big element of us feeling complete and whole. It's being a part of a community and feeling like you're giving back that actually brings you so much more joy and happiness than what you put out. It keeps a person healthy and happy, it keeps a person connected to the world. I really respect that's something that they instill in every member of their family. It was quite a beautiful thing to see."

"The world saw them as the American prince and princess," says Matt Berman, the creative director of George magazine, "but they were the most real and engaging people I've ever known. John's favorite band was The Rolling Stones. He would listen to You Can't Always Get What You Want on a loop. His favorite film was Fincher's The Game." "John and Carolyn were magic together," says their mutual friend Ariel Paredes. "She had an earthiness and a gentle fierceness. The same attributes as John." In 2000, Lynn Tesoro, a fashion assistant who had worked with Carolyn Bessette at Calvin Klein, recalled that she saw Carolyn the Wednesday within the week before her death and thought she looked quite happy and very much in love. John Perry Barlow, John Jr.'s close friend, slammed Edward Klein's sensationalist book "The Kennedy Curse" (2003) in the August issue of Vanity Fair magazine. John Perry Barlow: "I think Sybil Hill is a fraud and she was not John's type at all. No offense, but she is not an attractive woman and she made up a story to promote her husband's paintings. Steven Gillon disregarded Sybil's allegations of a romance with John as unreliable. I think John wouldn’t have ever married a famous woman as Daryl Hannah, since Daryl had her own name and fame, and John always wanted her wife had to rely on him, maybe a male ego thing.

Hence why he had some flings with famous women but pursued relationships with more regular women. If what Michael Bergin wrote about Carolyn miscarrying John's baby is true, he shouldn't have mentioned it in the first place. These are not manners of a gentleman to be talking about such a sensible subject. And it's telling all the sources in Ed Klein's book, all of them with scurrilous information attached to them -- are unnamed. I mean, I could write a book trying to prove that Richard Nixon had been a child molester with unnamed sources and it would be just as valid as Klein's. I think that probably the author's motivation is economic. But I think that there are other organizations, notably Fox or Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, who have a political motivation, which is to slime anybody who is on the leftist spectrum to bring them down. For example, a passage from The Kennedy Curse pulls a quote from John as though he had said it ominously. "I want to have children, but when I raise the subject, Carolyn refuses to have sex with me." Well, this is actually a quote of some unnamed friend who said this to someone else, supposedly. It's not a quote from John Kennedy. It may not even be a quote from the unnamed friend. And it's cited by a third party as though it were the real deal. The sourcing is thin, to say the least."

"True, John himself said he loved having drama in a relationship to keep things 'spicy,' but he was not an addict to drama to the degree that Ed Klein implies. John's sister Caroline was indifferent to Carolyn's personality, but once Carolyn got on Caroline's nerves when she went with John to the beach and Carolyn spent the entire time sitting under an umbrella to preserve her pale complexion. John enjoyed meeting regular people far more than he liked palling around with the rich and famous. However, his sister Caroline is a Democrat, but actually not a democrat. John lived in Tribeca when Tribeca was still counterculture; whereas Caroline lived on Park Avenue. John rode the subway frequently and happily. Instead, Caroline avoided it. John started a magazine whose intention was to popularize politics. Caroline was about the only one of John’s relatives who didn’t appear in his magazine at any point. I could see John having a beer with regular factory workers. Caroline would have looked for some hand sanitizer."

"Ed Klein criticizes Carolyn's shopping sprees, but unless John had married a wealthy woman, any wife of his was going to spend a good chunk of his money. Besides John liked when her wife was pampered on his dime, I think it probably made him feel like a big shot," Barlow concludes. Steven Gillon (author of The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr: America's Reluctant Prince): "Although John and I had an unspoken arrangement that we would not talk about our private lives, he confessed to me once in the spring of 1999, while we were sitting in the steam room at the New York Athletic Club, that he had “blue balls.” I honestly did not know what the expression meant and was afraid to ask a follow-up question that would sound stupid. Only later I realized that he had been denied sex from Carolyn that his balls were figuratively turning blue." Historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in The New York Times: “The news that John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette are missing at sea and presumed dead has struck such a crippling blow to my generation. John F. Kennedy Jr. was the moral leader for the next generation of young Americans.” Source: