“LBJ killed John F. Kennedy.”
“Yup, I just have a gut feeling, look at his smug face.” That’s commentary from the Mrs., but could be from any one of thousands of JFK conspiracy theorists. Depending upon your preferred flavor of Kool-Aid, you can find public support for any number of conspiratorial story-lines; the Mob, the CIA, the Secret Service, the “Shadow Government,” the Federal Reserve, the Israeli Government, the Russians, the Cubans, J. Edgar Hoover, LBJ, and even J.D. Tippit (or, as Oliver Stone has suggested, maybe they all did it!)- every one of them makes for a compelling tale of deception and murder, evidence to the contrary be damned.
To satisfy the public’s hunger for the “truth,” the conspiracy machine fires back up annually, ready for business…and business is good. Almost 40,000 books have been written about John F. Kennedy, thousands of which speculate specifically on the assassination. November in Dallas, and even after 50 years, public interest has not waned when examining the darkest day in our city’s history.
Human nature is funny…our propensity to “believe” or “not believe” is fairly predictable, and can actually be accounted for when planning to deliver a message – no matter what the message is. You can be safe assuming a minimum of 20% of those listening will be resistant to what they hear. If their doubts are left unfettered, that segment of resistance grows like a virus throughout the impacted population – 20% becomes 40%, 60%, or even higher. A lone gunman becomes a conspiracy, simple becomes difficult, obvious becomes shadowy, and printing presses heat up.
And that, my friends, is where the Warren Commission made a grievous error in judgment. Not (as conspiracy theorists will proclaim) by providing a lack of credible information to support its findings – the amount of evidence incriminating Lee Harvey Oswald is overwhelming; no, the error was in assuming that a logical conclusion would prove adequate to those sitting outside of the “inner circle.” The Commission held private hearings; no press, no public oversight, no daily transparency ~ and it was that way for ten months. In terms of communication vacuums, ten months is a lifetime. This committee of seven, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, supported by an additional 28 legal and administrative staff, produces a 889-page document based on almost a year of research and sworn testimony – yet somehow creates more suspicion.
Witness the creativity of the human mind when left to its own devices. It becomes easier for people to believe a conspiracy encompassing hundreds of people than it is to believe a single demented megalomaniac could kill our President.
Have you been part of a corporate merger? The people making the decisions are often guilty of the same faulty thinking. An “announcement” describing the logical reasoning for the merging of companies does very little to address the fear and uncertainty felt by the masses impacted in the decision. We get caught in the trap of withholding information to somehow “protect” those impacted, when in fact we breed contempt and suspicion. Without serial communication efforts designed to educate, inform, and reinforce the message, the true message will be lost.
Instead, you will have innuendo. Guesses. Theories. Rumors. Gossip. And yes, whispers of conspiracy. Logic and reason are easily replaced by fear and mistrust when uncertainty prevails. It can be impossible to reverse the momentum of bad information, even 50 years later.
There’s an over-used mantra used during times of disruption and change (probably because it makes so much damn sense); “Don’t just communicate, OVER-communicate.”
People demand an explanation; in lieu of that, they are happy to develop another narrative to fit the information they piece together in their own minds…usually followed by a Best-Seller.