Billy had just turned 16 when the Cuban Missile Crisis terrified America, and students throughout the U.S. — especially in large metropolitan areas like New York City, where Billy was raised — practiced “Duck and Cover” drills, to try to protect themselves from an atomic bomb.
Billy was 17 when JFK died, and the world learned that Lee Harvey Oswald had all kinds of connections to Cuban organizations and had been to Russia. It seemed absurd that he was able to do the unthinkable: To buy a World War II rifle, find a place to fire it, and kill an American President.
Then before Billy had a chance to find out why Oswald did it, he watched Oswald die, too.
Again, he was only 17. I was not born until three years later, but I wonder, now, how the events of November 1963 would have impacted young Americans like Billy. Something so shocking, so painful must have impacted how he processed information as he later looked back and researched the events that took place while he was in high school.
Chances are you are quite familiar with Billy and his work, although you know him by his middle and last name: Oliver Stone.
Nearly 30 years later, Stone’s movie, JFK, rattled the country, and increased our national skepticism toward the findings of the Warren Commission: That Oswald had acted alone, and fired all of the shots that killed JFK, without talking to anyone in Dallas about his plans.
Although critics used words like “dubious history” and “one of the most appalling travesties of history you’re ever likely to see,” declared the Guardian in 2011. “…veering erratically between misconceptions and outright lies in a determined effort to avoid the facts.”
Despite the strongly-worded rebuke, most Americans, according to a recent poll, are more likely to agree with Oliver Stone.
“Definitely a conspiracy. An inside job,” said the high school girl at the grocery checkout counter.
The majority of Americans think she is right.
“Most People Believe in JFK Conspiracy Theories,” reads the 538.com, in announcing its findings, that roughly 2/3 of Americans believe in some sort of conspiracy theory. And unlike most polls, in which people of differing race, gender, age, race and political views poll at different numbers, this poll is almost universal.
You may remember that it was 538 that told us the first week of last November, that despite what just about every one else told us, Donald Trump had a 25-35 percent chance of winning the election. Nate Silver and 538 were strongly criticized for their polling methods.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination, I wrote about why I believed Oswald acted alone. Several people shared thoughtful comments about why they disagree. I imagine this column will garner a similar response.
I don’t hear anyone criticizing 538 about the JFK conspiracy polls.
Oliver Stone is important in this poll and this story because it was his 1991 move, “JFK,” that revived assassination conspiracy theories. Despite being called out for several historical inaccuracies, and despite Kevin Costner’s awful attempt at a New Orleans accent, the movie had a huge impact. So huge, in fact, that it motivated Senator John Glenn, the astronaut, to introduce a bill that would eventually require the release of all previously secret JFK files and documents in 25 years.
Well, that 25 years is up.
And most of us — most of you, anyway, according to 538 — still believe that Oswald either is the scapegoat, or had some kind of help to kill JFK.
And while I look forward to reading the documents being released this year, I doubt they will cause many of us to change our minds.
See the newly-released documents online HERE.