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this is back story and i find out this week in nineteen sixty three john f kennedy was murdered in paris the official story is that his assassin afterglow but fifty years later speculation that there was a conspiracy at work is as strong as ever and when you see how often people in the cia hid things from the warren commission to me it's very hard to believe that they get all of that to hide that's today on the show we're looking at the conspiracies that have the imaginations of previous generations of secret societies that dominated local governments through a powerful cut off trade on innocent young women these days and i will show you something someplace conducting a brothel a history of conspiracy thinking in american major funding for backstory is provided by the national endowment for the humanities the university virginia the joseph and robert corell memorial foundation and an anonymous donor
has been from the virginia foundation for the humanities this is a backstory is this exchange in american history guys chat welcome to the show and that errors and i'm here with the flu and bribe out later at sixty four a man named john smith die published a book called the actors' dan it was something of a conspiracy theorist manifesto and it centered on what nineteenth century americans called the slave power what die in northern republicans by slave power was this a conspiracy of southern slave owners was controlling the entire us government by blackmail and murder so for example in eighteen forty one a william henry harrison died he was the first president to die in office
this is jesse walker author of the book a conspiracy thinking called the united states of paranoia according to die this happened because he told john calhoun and he wasn't sure he was willing to annexed texas which the southerners wanted anti union as a slave state and when he died of pneumonia right after that dies is none and i was actually person that that was at forty one nine years later another president died in office that was zachary taylor like harrison taylor was a wig i like harrison taylor resisted the expansion of slavery in the american southwest so i concluded it was only logical that taylor i care so before him had been poisoned by the slave power at this account of the slave powers machinations got more elaborate from there for instance there was this description of the attempt on the life of president elect james buchanan according to die on february twenty thirteen fifty seven agents of the slave power
cords and all the bulls containing lump of sugar at the national hotel in washington dc the idea here was that northerners drank tea all southerners drink coffee people to drink tea according to die is a luxury car while people who drink coffee is pulverized sugar so by poisoning only the love sugar the slave power ages could wipe out the tea drinking northerners included buchanan while leading the coffee drinking southerners unharmed and so and you can and drank tea and then get very sick and barely a survivor directed he was intimidated by the attempted assassination and quote became more than ever the tool of the slave power that was the theory in fact buchanan wasn't even in dc on the day of the alleged shooter attack and there's no evidence that harrison or taylor were poisoned either but still the others didn't was a huge hit the new york times gave it a
good review the chicago tribune an excerpt of that republican papers in a bunch of cities around pennsylvania new jersey new york praised it even the eastern express which was a democratic paper in pennsylvania called it quote the most powerful book of this century what was the appeal dies book had tapped a vein of thinking that was already why it's spread in the north for decades northerners had been speculating that the slave power and set its sights and the white house lincoln took office as president he received letters from ordinary citizens telling watch what you we watch what you drink they poisoned their taylor they poisoned harrison they could squeeze in egypt's generals harris and taylor came to this sudden and lamentable and by subtle poisons after he was installed in office several taylor lived but a short time after he took his suit you so be careful at the king's table what meat and drink
you take although the facts in the letters were off their warnings were prescient lincoln was ultimately assassinated and by a southern pro slavery conspiracy the plan was to restore the confederacy but killing lincoln and his successors decapitate the federal government after decades of conspiratorial thinking a real conspiracy had finally come to fruition this week marks the fiftieth anniversary of another presidential assassination of president john f kennedy in the years since nineteen sixty three americans have struggled to understand what happened that november day the warren commission offered some answers the following year but its official report card put the questions to rest for decades an alternative accounts of that bandied about suggesting that there may
be more to the story of this year's anniversary triggered a new wave of books about the assassination recent polls reported something like two thirds of americans don't believe that leave harvey oswald that alone why these conspiracy theories continue to hold so much power fifty years later and what did they tell us of their own time it's easy enough to dismiss these theories but my fifty something about conspiracy thinking that is deeply and fundamentally american but first let's return to that book by john smith died we heard about a few minutes ago the theories in that book that they strike me is incredibly wacky and i wanna know why book that was built around so many crackpot theories was so popular in the eighteenth sixties bright great question i would pour to digging into the slave power conspiracy but i'm curious about why the
great concern about the presidency in about petro power peter do you have any idea how passing the buck again well it ends with the american revolution itself you know americans thought that they had destroyed the whole idea of monarchy they were free people they established republican governments but it was the return of the repressed doesn't it came they kind of can't figure out what's important about this is the conspiracy thinking makes sense where one person exercising tremendous power and that prison surrounded by ministers and advisors and maybe with an agenda of conspiratorial agenda maybe they want to kill the king maybe they just what turned him toward their old inn's and that's when an arkansas that happened with george the third why would we have these taxation policies why would we have this systematic campaign to destroy american liberty what's the explanation we had been good and loyal subjects there are things happening
that are not transparent we don't see them happen but we can see the results so we began with this great revolution against a conspiracy to destroy their liberties and then we discover that we have emerging in our own midst aged power sector that's vulnerable to capture by the slave power and the slave power comes up in several different episodes each of which lynch greater credibility which power the first was a war with mexico and eighteen forties when it seems that southern slave holders in a lust for new land are driving the united states despite the will of a white northern majority into it the international war and then right on the heels of that in eighteen fifty the fugitive slave act which is telling white northerners that they have to be the deputies the allies of slave catchers who are fanning into the north to bring back people who repeatedly former st andrews are being crossed that way and i think the pivotal moment
is the dred scott decision making fifty seven in which the supreme court hidden away in chambers walked the english government the fed comes up with a ruling that tells white northerners that it's the federal government that's going to determine who is and who is not a citizen not the states the way that it had been an important thing ms white northerners are not concerned primarily in emilia about the slavery of the south right there concern now that the slave power reaches into north and they will be the ultimate slaves they will be in the control of the self and that's precisely the kind of concern that drove the revolutionaries to break with the british empire and we spent so much time in the twentieth century worrying about northern intervention into the south on civil rights and breaking up jim crow it's just amazing for me to hear all these concerns about us leave power poking its nose where it shouldn't be well beyond slavery in the south into literally defining citizenship in northern
states declaring war on mexico because of this cup ball the self you know what makes it so maddening the white northerners is that fear preponderance in the electoral numbers keep growing the north is getting bigger and bigger and the south still sees be holding on to this and do you power it seems to me that a conspiracy might be at the heart of that brown yeah and and i do think that gets to the essence of conspiracy out i'll go twentieth century again but those people who believed in joe mccarthy in the nineteen fifties they were asking how could a nation so powerful was the united states who just developed the atomic baum who had the only standing industrial base in the world after well what how could we be tied down to a third rate country in korea how could we lose china how could this be well there's only one explanation it must be a conspiracy
it's time for a quick right turn on shadowy trust right to steal young women away in the early nineteen hundreds or listened of backstory we'll be back in a minute it's because banks to pay we're back with a backstory and i'm bigger or if i made errors and i find out today on the show we'll look if the history of conspiracy thinking in america and we return now to the story of a conspiracy that was so convincing it launched a political party we'll begin a smaller yorktown and eighteen twenty six a man named william morgan had teamed up with local printer david miller to publish a scandalous new book morgan had been part of this secret society of the free masons and he planned to make money by publishing the orders secrets problem was morgan had taken a vow of
secrecy and historian ron paul maisano says the masons wanted to make sure he kept that vow local masons tried to burn down david miller is building once printing press and eight failed to do that they are arrested more him on a trumped up charge and then he was spirited by a whole really a stagecoach is well over a hundred miles from the genesee river area near rochester new york to niagara falls and he was never seen again and he was presumed murdered any troubling ones local papers began to report that morgan had been abducted law enforcement mostly made up of masons didn't act of angry citizens asked the governor to intervene but he too was a mason and mason run newspapers just denied the story altogether they poo poohed the story they said all now this ever happened way more in his living happily in
turkey smeared a turkey for some reason that was there for a lot of their favorite joys of working this forward disappeared too citizens organize committees across western new york to investigate the mysterious disappearance some suspects were arrested but may sunny judges and juries just let them go get the light sentences protesters were convinced that morgan had been killed and were covered a conspiracy and ron foreman sciences probably more for health care are those who think that history is a conspiracy and they're immense there are conspiracies and history and this was a conspiracy it was a conspiracy that hit a nerve in eighteen twenties america start with the fact that masonry was a secret fraternity so in the republic everything should be open in a democracy anything that secret is
automatically suspect and then one one gets involved in breaking the law and in the minds of many people this just confirmed their worst fears now some people than one on to imagine the dark deeds said satanic rituals to many americans it seemed like a conspiracy at the very heart of the us government for decades politicians at all levels to be part of the masons from founders like george washington had been frightened to them because politicians of the day like andrew jackson and henry clay so there was only one thing to do put not masons empower protestors formed a new political party called the qt masons and took over politics and western new york the party ticket the man or a progressive causes like abolition and spread to states across the north like pennsylvania vermont both of which elected anti mason governor appeared to mason's never drop your conspiracy a story about william
morgan's murder twenty six you have and anti masonic convention in may and at thirty four tv the narrative of years before as if it happened yesterday the masons obsession with the william morgan conspiracy might seem well a little irrational why keep our po one mysterious disappearance from one small town four years before madonna says to understand the appeal of conspiracy thinking you have to understand its roots but the interesting thing about conspiracy thinking is that at least one historian has described it as an outgrowth of the rationalism of the alignment that conspiracy thinking actually replaced magical thinking in other words bad things don't happen because the hand of god back things happen because
of individuals making decisions and in a way that's empowering idea if the root of political problems was not providential but bad people conspiratorial people will other people could also fix those problems the anti masons wanted to do just that save american democracy by exposing my sauna corruption truth and the facts became their rallying cry all we need to do is get the facts out there in print and we will make converts and they did they made so many converts that masons had trouble recruiting be sonic collages clues throughout the tree which meant the thread of conspiracy subsided by the eighteen forties the at the masons petered out but these great reformer stuck around and other parties becoming judges senators even president millard fillmore got his start as an eddy mason sorted lincoln's secretary of state and political coffee dob william seward so within a generation that the young man who jumped into
politics to root out the conspiracy of insiders became the ultimate insider's thanks to run for the sauna for helping tell that story is a professor of history at the university of kentucky now to a story about another conspiracy that gripped the imaginations of americans this one takes place in the early twentieth century it was then that americans began to worry that a nefarious international conspiracy was attacking its cities the idea was that a cabal of foreigners usually jews were working with american attempts to kidnap young girls and forced them into lives of prostitution one hyperbolic american writer claimed that seventy thousand young girls were sacrificed annually to conspiracies and death and disease dealing machinery another explained a girl in the clutches of any one of them has practically no chance of escape
since the agents of all of them are on the lookout their eyes are everywhere in upon every girl you know black and no secret organization of any kind is more silent and insidious it and more ruthless reza reformers were especially worried about this white slavery conspiracy they were convinced that red light districts a major cities were controlled were shadowing vise trust with tentacles reaching from cd bra falls to the city council in their minds the vice trust not only threaten innocent american girls a corrupted democracy itself in the years between nineteen oh nine and nineteen fourteen these anxieties inspired a whole sean of books and films they had names like the house of bondage in traffic and souls mark here is an historian at oxford who's written about office i asked you to walk me through the typical white slavery party oftentimes it was a story about a young girl going into this city taking a train
starting conversation with a older woman or a man who is nicely drastic the big flashy but she wasn't sophisticated enough to be concerned about the blue near in his lapel you would she would say well where do i go how we're going to find a place to stay and they said well get off at this station and i will show you some place but of course the someplace would end up being a brothel and she would have her clothes taken away or maybe she would be seduced and then abandoned and sold to a madam who would then make her buy new clothes off and lingerie and say that for the room and for the clothes you are now and get it to me and you have to work off this debt iran and of course i will tell you the way to work just a stat so tell me who was behind the white slavery trust in the popular imagination so it was most obviously a most visibly the pimps in the matter and to the dive keepers and they were you know
considered to be horrible human beings but in the progressive writings even more horrible where the people who are high eating behind them who maintained a facade of respectability that they were the shadowy higher ups such as the landowners in the real estate agents or as you know to go completely over the top and chicago writer robert harland called the komodo trust he sold lingerie at exorbitant prices to keep the prostitutes indentured ah but it was this idea that it's not just the people you can see you doing the actions it's that hidden people who are profiting from that better than most guilty was there any truth to these fears about white slavery in this conspiracy behind it where are you no truth such a hand committees difficult of a story about a true that such a subtle wishy washy
or it's not wishy washy on to be wishy washy on i think the thing that's really important is that that people wanted it to be true they didn't want to think that the labor market's were such that you know if a woman get seven dollars a week working in a department store she did get seven dollars a night working in a decent brothel or even a half decent brothel and so they they didn't want to look at those economics and so a story of enslavement is much more appealing i think to middle class sensibilities i think the way they were not accurate about that was that it was not a trust that the market structure was very entrepreneurial it was very diffuse if a person owned a venue whether male or female they may be owned at most three than yours it wasn't until the districts were closed down until prohibition that in fact vise went from being
commercialized to be organized so we you know do we get this conception of the vise trust from if in fact the actual situation was entrepreneur or perhaps two or three brothels known by people what is the most what is this idea of a feist trust come from i think it was strategic on the i think it was used to survive rouse iyer to make people upset to want to change the ways in which the red light districts were working basically americans were concerned about business consolidation and they were concerned about how really big companies such as us steel or such as standard oil could set any price they want for their products and crude set any wages they wanted for their workers and so they saw this control by these very big organizations as essentially undemocratic so tell me about these
reformers what it's at what they do in response to devise trust as you call it well the most famous and the most notorious piece of legislation was the mann act and even now we hear about the mann act of taking someone across state lines for immoral purposes on how say if you know someone when you're politician goes down to dc and as a prostitute go for state lines they can be brought up on charges on the mann act this is coming out of this period and the mann act was modeled on the sherman antitrust act which was to break up big combine set business and he used the commerce clause within the constitution which said that the federal government has the right to regulate businesses that were multi state and so by framing the man out and framing the white slave free trade as something that was national and
something across state borders it meant that it was within the purview of the federal government not just the local communities words if there hadn't been a genuine belief that this was larger than local but this was at least a national conspiracy there would have been no basis for a national legislation right yet my it's part of their concern up our white slavery really had to do with american fears of business trusts in the size of business did the end of white slave free correspond with a kind of acceptance of big business and corporations do you see that parallel as well no i don't bomb it doesn't disappear at the fear of larger organizations doesn't disappear but as the market for
prostitution change and particularly with probation and the growth of organized crime it becomes a different set of concerns and indeed with prohibition and with organized crime though worst fears of the progressive reformers happen to be one of the unintended consequences and one of the great ironies of all his advice trust rhetoric was that there was a change from an entrepreneurial structure market structure with small business owners mom and pop shops if you will become run and owned by the massey up by organized criminals by the torrijos capone gang so one of the ironies is that indeed by closing down by going so far in terms of pre hitting vice and prohibiting set in world trade performers a loss to control the things like licensing gave the
mark here is a historian at oxford university her book is for business of plush red light districts and the regulation of fights in the united states eighteen ninety to nineteen thirty three if you're just tuning in this is back story and we're talking about the long history of conspiracy thinking in america so what happened to come in on a web site guy's shane who's a high school teacher writes my students repeatedly fixate on the same few stories did fdr know about pearl harbor allege a pair attack on purpose is there really an area fifty one is is there evidence of aliens was nine eleven cared about the us government or with the knowledge of the us government what are the masons of the big eye and pyramid are many hits that must mean something sinister right one session to me he says is that they're all about distrust of government and yet
they seem to have a strangely contradictory sense of government as both bumbling at all knowing so brian attic there was his twentieth century seems to me that the popular was just sort of this i do think that certainly since world war two the government is seeing as all knowing no surprise there i this is when the cia is created right after world war two after nine eleven this is why and we created the department of homeland security we devote an extraordinary amount of resources in the government to knowing everything and who could argue that the government is not bumbling because much of what congress has done certainly since the late sixties in mid nineteen seventies is really feel our pots by the american government cuts that failed clues that were not successful and i don't think it's surprising that
exactly when the government begins a huge expansion from world war two onward conspiracy theories become more and more focused on the government as opposed to other parts of society but i wonder whether the government was the object of conspiratorial thinking back in the nineteenth and the eighteen century patronage will bear bryant the federal government did not loom in my period that it will work for us that those were our people it's also a government that identification of the people with their government that's democracy conspiracies were all against it that self government because the whole world was rigged against us that is all the king's all the aristocrats all the autocracy the catholic church all these powerful institutions which are hierarchical and therefore anti american which could pull strings as the thing about the american government began to pull strings behind the scenes
because it's us and because there is transparency we can see what's happening what you know great institutions like the catholic church when you have emerging institutions like the great banks when you have the rothschilds would have the bank of england would you have these powerful individuals who control great wealth and who are not responsible to us than threats are coming from everywhere and anywhere accept from us the idea that the threats are from within that's a very modern idea and precisely because the federal government is seen as so weak it creates the conditions for all other positives it really secular shrouded hills of the body in charge so if the pope was to come in and take over the country who's gonna stop and that's such a good point head because i know at the very beginning of the twentieth century many people would explain the rise of the more powerful national government as a way to deal with in essence a conspiracy by the trust by the large moneyed
interests to monopolize business in the united states to control the railroads and it's really the only the government that can step in to counter so as an effect the recognition of dangerous vulnerability conspiracies out there and the big world that requires the us government to to become like the things it fears that we fear so we've invented the early states national security state in order to protect our liberties that of course and dangers our liberties it's time for another short break that don't go away when they get back a journalist parties in getting to the bottom of the jfk assassination is still fifty years later you're listening to back story and we'll be back in a minute this is backstory i'm brian balogh
and it airs and i'm peter enough we're marking the fiftieth anniversary of the jfk assassination with a look at the history of conspiracy thinking in america in the nineteen forties researchers claimed they found an effective weapon against tooth decay especially in children their solution was simple we just needed to add a little bit of fluoride to everybody's drinking water public health officials eagerly embrace a strategy so you do in fact that some people began to worry why were those public health officials from russia and what's the rush to put this stuff in the water was the stuff even healthy after all there were plenty people who knew the fluoride to be toxic when it was taken in larger doses so as a cold war gathered steam a few americans start to ask some of the very unsettling questions there is business have you received a common one
you may recognize a scene from stanley kubrick's nineteen sixty four dr strangelove order to fill general jack reacher he served with the communist island fast for it credibly on this isn't a partial sums of the most precious metal influence about the knowledge of individual certainly without any choice passed away hardcore conlee works suppose it sounds ridiculous but cooper it was satirizing a theory real fear and your case is a historian at michigan state line and briggs college he told me that by the nineteen fifties anxieties about a communist conspiracy or helping to fuel backlash against florida so in a typically for there is a bill that introduced into congress that never really gets out of committee and the proposal would have banned federal state a
municipal authorities from introducing for compounds into water are white women that testifies in that hearing as woman in gold a franzen who is a seven sisko housewife and also a leader of an anti fluoridation movement such as in california but in other places as well and he really lays it out in this hearing misha says quote i know the ford issue the calmness came frankly the master plan i can't prove it doesn't form they cannot testify they would be liquidated if they did and it's a form of pressures liquidation and they you know and then inside that quote mean is it sort of catches lots of elements of conspiracy thinking you know there's a master plan or will supplant revealed a master plan and there's lots of forces at work some of which you can see in many which you cannot how did notions of economists were putting fluoride in the water sipped was larger
concerns about communism at the time it is the notion of mass medication right so something apply regardless of individual choice and a lot of times for a compound were added to public water supplies at the behest of the city council all our local leadership without a popular referendum and sort of experts from public health from university scientists would say this is the way to go about it because they would lose oftentimes when i went to a popular referendum in the fact that the public health service and local officials were proceeding with fluoride ahead of public acceptance of fluoride these it into this kind of realm of the state moving against the will of its people and i think it's a slippery slope towards such a buzzword isn't and yes so how do we get from referenda aware least one argument is this is a communist plot
to stanley kubrick making fun of this in nineteen sixty four and dr strangelove what happens when does a lot of things that happen in it becomes dangerous in some ways to be to have these sorts of ideas about for either about communism and literally become absurd and that's what that's the crew workers calling out the absurdity of fluoride and look what it could lead to recruit is driven mad by his obsession with foreign enough to launch the doomsday plan right and what could be more absurd than that than a man consumed by his own fatah leader fears and putting the world at risk as a result was like if i could just add joe mccarthy the famous anti communist crusader turning on the us army and undermines whatever genesee he has in many argued at the time in the nineteen fifties actually undermined america's ability to stand up to communism episode so the fight if i understand
correctly you're saying that conspiracy theory kind of put fluoride on the map recently got a lot of attention in the nineteen fifties and then associating for eid with right wing groups took it off the map that investors say that by painting it in a corner of red painted in the corner crowd's it becomes the most absurd thing and then you see a huge increase in the number of four of referenda and states passed mandatory for additional other than connecticut is the first one in the early nineteen sixties and over the course of the nineteen sixties nineteen seventies the percentage of american water supplies that are afforded gradually increases over time and yet i gather there were so i'm concerns totally unrelated to communist conspiracy a merging in the mid to late nineteen sixties about for eid could you tell me about those yes a lot of things that i've i've tracked isn't a work of a naturalist
at a ford issue its natural anti as unsound these are folks that did not deny that fluoride was an important part of the body's health they reject fluoride want artificially produced an artificial intelligence into our water supplies and one of the things that we see is you know people with more education and your last sort of isolated from american political life begins to take on the anti forties and since late nineteen sixties early nineteen seventies and their response to this notion of choice that if i won for riding my body like a habit i should it shouldn't be applied broadly speaking to the entire population now andrew you're talking about educated people now a question and for eid they couldn't possibly be susceptible to conspiracy thinking could they they think this is the thing is that there is a you know conspiracies have a way of running across the political spectrum know i was if you swap out the communists lingo that's very nineteen fifty four arm and look at the way it's described as a collusion about co op and the us public health
service mr alcala i didn't see that coming how does elko a year enter the picture here so the sodium fluoride is out as a byproduct of aluminum production so i'll close also one is selling the ford compounds to municipal water supplies to live at them find a profitable use for what would otherwise be a waste product and it's worth mentioning that aluminum manufacture almost by definition is a monopoly or old cowboy right how could they know there are many alcoa's out there competing with each other right right and there's i don't remember all the details but you know there's other former co executive who you know is on so and so canadian that the pieces all kind of fit together all as always as huge as you would suspect so the natural center for additional sea floor as part of a bigger organization of big businesses and big science they're trying to put this material in our water and also continue to cs certain types of food that if archie for a fortified would be really bad so are refined grains as sugars
high ceo of that so we can keep eating all the jones exactly exactly and the ripples of course is you know why would the american dental association want to put something in your water that in theory means that we would go to the dentist last rites is is one of the riddles that is ever really well answered and the bigger story is is that you know florida really was a progressive public health idea on the forties and fifties about giving children regardless of their socioeconomic background the access to good dental health and that's what the progressive dentists of the states were really interested in the nineteen fifties and i take those folks at their word that they were part of course as part of me being a part of the conspiracy and all made defending it i'm at a state university part of that land grants systems but of course expect some good news yes it's exactly what i would expect andrew thank you for joining us on backstory and i want to remind our listeners that under the
affordable health care act they will be able to keep their own floor on absolutely absolutely and that information does and the case is an instructor in history at the london bricks college at michigan state university is close as of this year an estimated forty thousand books have been written about the presidency of john f kennedy we be sure that a good percentage of them have at least address the question of kennedy's assassination but it was one film that has had arguably the largest impact on americans' understanding of that day in dallas and that's the nineteen ninety one blockbuster jfk it portrayed a vast conspiracy to kill the president they involve the cia fbi mafia and even white house players in an attempt to address the public motion that follow the film's release congress passed what's
known as the jfk records act it mandated that the classification of all government records relating to the assassination that really became a point at which i began to go to the national archives and read systematically through the new material and try to understand what was the story that had not come out before this is jefferson morley at the time he was working as a reporter for the washington post since then he's become an assassination maven of sorts i sat down with him to talk about what drew him to the story in the first place by that time i really sort of have a fear and loathing of theories and i decided i would never write about jfk assassination theories and i never have but rather that i would always try and just report new facts and so i decided to focus very narrowly on the cia and a classic kind of investigative reporters question what did the cia know about the harvey oswald and when did they know it and in fact what the records that i found showed is that the cia will have been
watching the rv oswald very closely for four years before president kennedy was killed from when he defected to the soviet union in october nineteen fifty nine until you return from mexico city in october nineteen sixty three and that if it had been known in november nineteen sixty three just how closely senior cia officers had been watching oswald a lot of people would have lost their jobs at the cia it was a remarkable intelligence failure by very high ranking cia officials and is that good big takeaway from your research from your perspective massive intelligence failure or is there more it's very hard to tell was there intelligence failure a matter of negligence and or was it a matter of reckless disregard and i i i think we don't have enough information to ensure that question a lot of cia files have been destroyed but there still are eleven hundred cia documents related to the assassination that have never been made public and so it's possible that in that
material we will get some decisive new insights into the causes of the assassination so let me ask you who killed kennedy you know i don't know tom and i get in trouble with my conspiracy minded friends for saying yo i say there's a lot of implausible theories but who killed kennedy and the notion that one man killed kennedy for no reason is one of them i think it's more likely that kennedy was killed by his enemies within his own government which is something that bobby and jackie kennedy thought that something that fidel castro thought it's not an irrational or crea easy way to look at it and you know if you had to put money on it it's your bet that that is the case that there was a conspiracy to kill kennedy that came from within the government i'm i mean i'm genuinely not sure but you know i mean i i think that's more than fifty percent likely how
much more over fifty percent it varies from day to day sometimes i go up to eighty and sometimes i go down to fifty point five percent if you go up to eighty i mean when you see the official malfeasance that followed the assassination when you see how often people in the cia hid things from the warren commission people the fbi destroyed evidence to me it's very hard to believe that they did all of that to hide buffet yes that the counterargument people so jack another secretive agency they were just they were hiding the fact that they were embarrassed you know i really i think you know when people go to that length when they risk you know destroying evidence that that's obstruction of justice where people risk a felony they're doing that to hide nothing important it as a reporter i i'm skeptical jeff we are in the midst of a disastrous rollout of the affordable health care act and the government it would appear can't even build a website
that works my question about this has always been how could a conspiracy from within the government be carried out so efficiently and then covered up so affectively perfectly you might say for fifty years now well i wouldn't say that that it's been covered up perfectly because after all most people think that there was a conspiracy and they think that because of the evidence that they've seen about you know the government's handling of the investigation it's just you and i mean you yourself really don't know what happened when i say perfectly i mean if somebody like you can't tell me who killed kennedy then well nothing's perfect but it seems pretty near perfect well what we what we have is we have a lot of evidence in front of us and tom if you think of evidence as bricks in a wall and proof is the wall you know we don't have a wall of proof in the kennedy
assassination but we do have these stacks of bricks which tell us one household was the object of close and constant attention yes to the people who are paying attention to him were not surveillance personnel they were operations officers and so their job was to mount covert operations and covert operations as one cia man famously said were secret from inception to eternity and along with that it sounds like you are almost more concerned with in a cover up that followed a whatever reasons kennedy was assassinated for and then the assassination itself yeah i think that i mean the cover up is is is what matters to us today from the intellectual authors of kennedy's death if there were any besides oswald are all dead so there's not going to be a criminal trial tom one thing that's very striking about the consensus is that if you look at americans' confidence in
government over time it's very high but from the end of world war two and it begins to decline in about october nineteen sixty four when the warren report is is this is when it declines that's exactly right and it and it goes down and it hasn't really recovered and i think i am clearing the air i think historical reconciliation around this would be a way of re gaining confidence in our collective purpose jeff thanks so much for joining us on backstory to pay glad to be here thank you jefferson morley moderates the website jfk facts that work he's the author of our man in mexico winston sky and the hidden history of the cia as business but we'll be waiting for you online messages of the backstory about org and let us know what a
conspiracy theory best represents our current moment as always you can find a lot of other backstory actors are facebook twitter and tumblr pinterest and backstory radio don't be a stranger back stories for this fight and the field testing the boats in the netherlands and andrew parsons in which are not as a research report later and jamal no more back stories detective producer is andrew when major support for that story is provided by the national endowment for the humanities the joseph glauber cornell memorial foundation university of virginia weinstein company's an anonymous donor and the history channel history made everything brian balogh is professor of history at the university of virginia peter on earth is professor of history emeritus at a and senior research fellow at the cello and ayres is president and professor of history at the university of richmond that story was created by andrew denton for the virginia foundation for the humanities
Grassy Knolls: Conspiracy Thinking in American History
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On November 22nd, 1963, 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was killed while riding in a motorcade in Dallas - a tragedy that inspired conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Why have alternative assassination theories proven so resilient over the years? And why do other conspiracy theories persist in public memory? This episode takes a look at conspiracy thinking throughout American history, and finds a long tradition stretching all the way back to the Founding. From a political party formed to combat the secretive power of Freemasons, to whispers of a "slave power" conspiracy in the 19th Century, to an outcry over a criminal network fostering "white slavery" in the early 20th Century, and, of course, an abundance of Communist conspiracies during the Cold War - the Guys and their guests discover that while conspiracy theorists might sometimes be on the fringes of American society, conspiracy thinking has always been mainstream.
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Producing Organization: BackStory
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Duration: 00:52:04
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Chicago: “BackStory; Grassy Knolls: Conspiracy Thinking in American History,” 2013-00-00, BackStory, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 1, 2023,
MLA: “BackStory; Grassy Knolls: Conspiracy Thinking in American History.” 2013-00-00. BackStory, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 1, 2023. <>.
APA: BackStory; Grassy Knolls: Conspiracy Thinking in American History. Boston, MA: BackStory, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from