Chapter 19c: Mr. Holland's Colossal Blunder
Example 2b... Max Holland
Mr. Holland's Colossal Blunder: (A Case Study of a Pet-Theory-Gone-Wild, and a Dissection of the National Geographic Program JFK: The Lost Bullet)
by Pat Speer
On 2-19-07, long after I completed my initial study of the eyewitness and earwitness evidence (and believed I'd demonstrated to everybody willing to pay attention that the first shot did not miss) the presumably sane journalist/historian Max Holland published an online article proposing that the first shot rang out when President Kennedy's limousine was completing its turn onto Elm Street, and missed. Holland placed this shot, moreover, at a place in time 1.4 seconds before Abraham Zapruder even started filming the limousine. As Holland's placing the first shot at such a time was fueled in part by his desire to provide the presumably rusty Oswald with as much time as possible to fire the three shots attributed to him, whilst simultaneously explaining how the bulk of the earwitnesses could hear shots two and three closer together than shots one and two, Holland's theory appeared at first to be a desperate attempt to make some otherwise problematic facts fit the single-assassin theory. As a consequence, it was not taken seriously by many of those researching the assassination.
On November 22, 2007, however, the New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Holland further pushing this theory. In this piece, Holland wrote:
"In May 1964, with the help of surveyors, the Warren Commission first considered the idea that a shot could have been fired before Zapruder restarted his camera. The commission later heard testimony that included references to what the staff labeled “Position A.” It did not appear on the Zapruder film, but represented the “first point at which a person in the sixth-floor window of the book building ... could have gotten a shot at the president after the car had rounded the corner.”
If the commission had followed up this insight, it would have conceivably been able to describe the duration and intervals of the shooting sequence: that Oswald fired three shots in approximately 11.2 seconds, with intervals of 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the shots."
In February 2008, on Nation Public Radio, moreover, Holland was back at it, telling a nation of radio listeners: “It’s always been a presumption, which I think turns out to be unwarranted, that the whole assassination was captured on the Zapruder film, because it is so gruesome to watch the second and third shots that people naturally thought the first one must be on it also. In fact I believe that the first shot occurred just before Zapruder started filming. That means three shots in a little over 11 seconds which relatively speaking is all the time in the world that he needed.”
This latest statement by Holland spurred single-assassin theorist Dale Myers to respond, via his online blog: "Of course, it’s never been a presumption, as Max Holland claims, that all three shots were fired while Zapruder’s camera was turning. There is just no credible evidence that any shots were fired before the first frame was exposed, despite Holland’s past and present claims. I agree with (former Senator Daniel Patrick) Moynihan’s sentiments – ‘You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.’ When it comes to an early, pre-Zapruder film shot, Mr. Holland has offered up a spade full of supportive facts – all of his own making."
On this point, Myers and I are in full agreement. The fact that virtually every prominent single-assassin theorist had joined virtually every prominent conspiracy theorist in decrying the silliness of his theory, however, did little to dissuade Holland. In November, 2008, on his website, he returned with another installment, 11 Seconds in Dallas Redux, once again pushing his pet theory. In this one, he cited the recollections of three Secret Service Agents, Ready, Hickey and Bennett, and compared these recollections to the actions of these men in the Zapruder film. He then concluded the first shot was fired long before anyone had previously believed.
There was a problem with this, however: the statements of these men failed to support Holland's analysis. Ready says he turned to the right after the first shot; Holland decides instead that he turned to the left after the first shot, and did not turn to the right until after the second shot. Hickey also says he turned to the right after the first shot. Holland decides instead that he too looked to his left after the first shot, and did not turn to his right until after the second shot. And, finally, Bennett says he looked to his left after the first shot and saw the impact of the second shot on Kennedy's back, immediately followed by a third shot striking Kennedy's head. Holland decides instead that, unbeknownst to Bennett, Bennett had looked away from Kennedy between the second and third shots, and that, as a consequence , the third shot Bennett thought immediately followed the second shot was not actually fired for 5 tension-filled seconds.
Holland then defended his re-interpretation of the three agents' statements: "Human beings are not recording machines. An eyewitness to a crime is being asked “to be something and do something that a normal human being was not created to be or do.” Recollections are frequently imperfect to begin with, no matter how vivid. Subsequently, they are prone to being subtly influenced by what others think and say, as well as information learned after the fact. If a person is in a responsible position, such as Ready and Hickey were, recollections can be edited unconsciously.The only approach that makes sense is to examine each recollection carefully and weigh it against the totality of the ballistic, forensic, visual, and aural evidence gathered. A witness can offer one critical detail that is accurate and get almost everything else wrong. Another person’s recollection, like that of Glen Bennett, may prove accurate in every important respect, although even Bennett failed to note that he was briefly distracted, after the second shot, away from his concentration on the president."
While Holland seemed strangely sure of himself, we must ask how this can be? Far from examining "each recollection carefully and weighing it against the totality of the ballistic, forensic, visual, and aural evidence gathered", as claimed, Holland had twisted a few statements into supporting an otherwise unsupportable scenario, and then willfully ignored the statements of dozens of witnesses contradicting his twisted version of events. If this is what it takes to become a successful journalist/historian, respected by the mainstream media, and published in the New York Times, please count me out.
Unfortunately, that appears to be the case--that I've been counted out. In early 2011, I was approached by an historian in contact with the National Geographic Channel. He said they were looking for new theories to test, and that he would send them my recommendations. I sent him my recommendations, which he forwarded to his contact at the channel. I never heard back. It was to my sheer horror, then, that, many months later, when the channel broadcast its new documentary on the assassination, JFK: The Lost Bullet, I discovered that the theory they were testing was Holland's silly theory--a theory not supported by a single long-time student of the assassination, on either side of the conspiracy/no conspiracy divide.
As if to add insult to injury, moreover, the program was chock full of deceptions and lies, many of them revolving around its star witness, Amos Euins.
A summary of Euins' role in the program is presented below.
1. The program begins its segment on Euins by noting that he hadn't spoken publicly since 1967. It then shows an excerpt from a 1967 interview in which Euins is asked how many shots he heard. He answers "Well, I heard three." Well, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Excerpts from this interview were broadcast on 6-25-67, as part of CBS' 4-part special on the Warren Commission. And yet, Euins said nothing about hearing three shots in that broadcast. Perhaps for good reason. In 1964, when testifying before the Warren Commission, Euins said he'd heard four shots.
Well, this suggests one of two possibilities. Either CBS opted not to show the footage of a still-teen-aged Euins contradicting his previous testimony, or his response to CBS was taken out of context in JFK: The Lost Bullet. Perhaps Euins had said "Well, I heard three...or so I've been told", or some such thing. In either event, the producers of JFK: the Lost Bullet were negligent in broadcasting Euins' claim he heard three shots without noting that he'd testified to hearing four.
And this is just the beginning of some highly questionable decisions on the part of the program's creators... The program then cuts to a 2011 version of Euins standing in Dealey Plaza, at the approximate location where he'd been standing on 11-22-63.
(While consistent with Euins' claims to CBS in 1967, the location depicted on the east side of the fountain was almost certainly inaccurate, as the Martin film shows someone looking quite like Euins on the west side of the fountain.)
2. When the 2011 version of Euins is asked about the location of the limo at the time of the first shot, for that matter, he responds "About the time they got right over there below that sign," (Euins then points in the direction of a modern highway sign stretching out over Elm, which correlates to the location of Kennedy's limousine around frame 165 of the Zapruder film. This frame was taken about 1.7 seconds after Zapruder started filming the limousine at frame 133, and about 3.1 seconds after Holland proposes the first shot was fired. This is shown below.)
3. He then continues: "then some shots started to ring out, and that's when I got down, behind this." At this, he ducks down behind the concrete pedestal on the east side of the fountain.
4. The narrator then tells the viewers a bit of Euins' back-story. As he does this, however, Euins and Max Holland are discussing (at a greatly reduced audio level) the limo's location at the time of the first shot. (The location Euins points to is shown below. The Kennedy stand-in in the limo is about 15 feet back from the sign Euins had previously pointed to. By rough estimate, then, this puts him in the position of Kennedy around Z-150, an image created about 2.3 seconds after Holland proposes the first shot was fired.)
5. The narrator then claims: "Euins has lived most of his life outside the media spotlight, but his story remains the same--that all three shots, including bullet C, came from the sixth floor of the book depository, not from the grassy knoll." (Well, hold it right there. As we've seen, there is a HUGE problem with this. Euins had told the Warren Commission he'd heard FOUR shots, not three! Holland, who fancies himself a "scholar" on the assassination, was almost certainly aware of this. The program's initial failure to mention this might have been excusable, but it's subsequently declaring it never happened wreaks of an orchestrated lie, and is much harder to comprehend.)
6. Much later in the program, after a thoroughly deceptive demonstration of the single-bullet theory (discussed at the end of this chapter), the program returns to Euins, and claims "He's one of the few who can recall where the President was when he heard the first shot." Euins is then asked if he is pointing to the location of the limo at the time of the first shot and he responds in the affirmative. He is shown pointing to the location he'd pointed to before, at a point correlating to Kennedy's limo's location circa Z-150. This is, in fact, the same footage previously shown in the program. (This is shown below.)
6. The program then cuts to a shot taken from behind Euins, showing directly where he is pointing. He is pointing to the location of the very front of the limo in the previous sequence. But this is an alternate take. A crowd is now on the sidewalk. The limo used in the program is no longer just back of where Euins is pointing, for that matter, but is back in a location proposed by Holland as its location at the time of the first shot. This is approximately 30 feet east of where Euins is pointing. (This is shown below.)
7. Max Holland's voice then interjects "He places it at a specific point in time just as the president passed a black and white sign." Well, hold it right there. Euins' 11-22-63 signed statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department declared: “I saw the President turn the corner in front of me and I waived at him and he waived back. I watched the car on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot." Euins had said the shot rang out when the limo was nearing a black and white sign, and Holland was now claiming he'd said it rang out when it was passing the sign. It's subtle, but the difference is enormous.
As Holland misrepresents Euins' statement, moreover, the program shows Euins and Holland looking at the limo in the location Holland proposes as its location at the time of the first shot. In this location, the president's stand-in is just passed a black and white sign. There is no way to read this, IMO, except as a deliberate deception on the part of the program's creators. Euins had just shown the audience that he believed the limo was well past this location at the time of the first shot. And now they were misrepresenting Euins' earliest statements and trying to make the audience believe he said the limo was at the location favored by Holland. (This is shown below.)
8. The program then shows Holland asking Euins "What sign was that?" and Euins responding "right there" while pointing to the vertical Highway 80 sign where Holland places the limo at the time of the first shot, about 30 feet east of where Euins had just been pointing. Euins then mumbles something like "It was telling you which highways was which." To which Holland asks "U.S. Highways?" and Euins responds "Yes, sir." A close look at this sequence, moreover, shows that the limo is barely visible above the far edge of the fountain, and is not right in front of this sign, as one would assume based upon the image shown seconds before of Euins and Holland looking at the Highway 80 sign, but 30 feet or so down the street from the Highway 80 sign, in the location where Euins had previously told Holland it was at the time of the first shot. (This is shown below.)
9. Holland then asks Euins if "this is approximately the position it was." Euins responds: "Right. It was right there at the embankment right there. It was about where it is now when the first shot sounded out. That's where the first shot, it speeded up, and then more shots came out." (This is shown below.)
Despite Holland's best efforts, then, Euins had held his ground, and had insisted that the limo was not where Holland proposed it to have been at the time of the first shot.
Amos and the Missing Sign
As subsequently acknowledged by single-assassin theorists Dale Myers and Todd Vaughan in their blistering article Mr. Holland's Opus, however, Holland and the producers of JFK: The Lost Bullet had attempted to pull a fast one, with Euins, and the American public, as their dupes. (If my own experience is to be taken into account, for that matter, they had effectively pulled this fast one. I initially believed they'd successfully coerced Euins into saying the first shot was fired as the limo passed the Highway 80 sign, and only came to realize they had been unsuccessful in doing so upon subsequently viewing the program.)
I mean, just look at the image below...for a third time. Only this time notice Euins' left hand. It overlays a lamp post. Well, what if I told you there used to be a sign by that lamp post? Would it not seem obvious, then, that the sign by that lamp post was the sign to which Euins had referred in his original statement? I mean, does it not make more sense for him to claim the limo was getting "near" a sign 10 yards or so in front of it, than one 10 yards or so in back of it?
And no, I'm not kidding. There really was a sign by that lamp post on November 22, 1963: the Thornton Freeway sign. Here it is in a photo taken just days after the shooting. Note the Highway 80 marker on the right pole.
And here it is again, in a photo taken by Malcolm Barker on May 24, 1964, the day of the Warren Commission's re-enactment of the shooting. (Note that the sign is just past the white pillar on the north side of Elm Street, the very same pillar Euins pointed past when pointing out the location of the limo at the time of the first shot.)
So, Myers and Vaughan are correct to be suspicious of the program's failure to re-create the sign for the program... or even mention the sign in the program...
For Euins to support Holland's theory the first shot rang out before Zapruder began filming the limousine, after all, Holland and the producers of JFK: The Lost Bullet needed Euins to say the first shot rang out when the limo was passing the signpost back by the traffic light. They simply couldn't afford for him to shut them down and say "Uhh, no, the limo was nearing the next signpost. Sorry, your show is based on a faulty premise. Bye."
So what did the producers and Holland do? Well, as discussed by Myers and Vaughan, they re-created a black and white Highway 80 sign where they wanted Euins to say he saw the limo at the time of the first shot, but failed to re-create a black and white Thornton Freeway sign (with a Highway 80 sign on its pole) further up the road where one used to reside. This selective re-creation, then, almost certainly fooled Euins into believing the only black and white sign he could have been thinking of (or perhaps the only Highway 80 sign he could have been thinking of) had been the one almost directly across the street from where he'd been standing. He then pointed out this sign--a sign far to the east of where he'd originally claimed to have seen the limo at the time of the first shot--to Holland, as the sign nearest the limo at the time of the first shot. David Copperfield (the magician, not the Dickens character) would have been proud.
But that's not the end of the program's deceptions. No, it's more like the beginning. Four eyewitnesses to the shooting were interviewed for the program. All four told Holland and the program's producers that the first shot rang out when the limo was considerably past where Holland's theory held the limo was located. And yet the program raced through and mangled what these witnesses were telling their audience, kinda like an addled senior at a farmer's market...or a coked-out debutante...on her way home from a nightclub.
Next up after Euins is Patricia Ann Donaldson (formerly Lawrence), who is reputed to tell "the same story" as Euins. She is shown standing where she says she was standing on 11-22-63 while looking at the limo used in the program, and tells Holland the limo is "approximately" in the location of Kennedy's limo at the time of the first shot. (This location is shown below.)
A different angle of the camera, however, reveals that she is standing just a few feet from the Highway 80 sign. For Holland's theory to hold water, then, Donaldson would have to have told him the limo was right in front of her at the time of the first shot. And yet she, as Euins, has told him the limo was well past her at the time of the first shot! (This is shown below.)
Now, Donaldson, much as Euins, appears to be mistaken as to where she was standing on that fateful day. She has been identified as one of those standing on the sidewalk directly in front of the school book depository (around 40 feet back in the direction her left hand is pointing in the image above), but in The Lost Bullet she's shown standing on the island separating the segment off Elm running along the front of the building that heads into a parking lot, and the segment of Elm that winds down under the overpass, where the vast majority of witnesses were standing.
Now, okay, I know that last bit is more than a bit confusing. So, let me show you what I mean. Behind Donaldson, just out of frame, is a lamp post. This lamp post is at left in the image below. (We are now looking east with the Northeast corner of Houston and Elm just to the right of the streetlight.)
Well, that building on the left, (which is across a street named, confusingly enough, Elm St., that leads to a parking lot), is the school book depository, where Donaldson, then-named Lawrence, worked.
Now, here's the thing. Lawrence can be ID'ed in the Wiegman film, standing out in front of the depository building, on the other side of the crosswalk depicted in the image above.
So, no, she wasn't where The Lost Bullet claimed she was, and no, her recollections did not support Holland's theory. Not one bit.
Now, back to the program. Donaldson continues: "And when I heard the first shot fired, I turned to my left and looked up at the building. I knew it came from over my head and from that building. And then I turned back around and there was two shots rapidly and I saw that – that Kennedy was hit." Holland then asks her if the second two shots were closer together than shots one and two. She responds "Oh, yes. The first shot, and there was a a pause, and then there was Bam-Bam.”
Well, this brings us back to why Holland believes what he believes. As a student of the assassination, he knows full well that most of the witnesses to comment on the timing of the shots felt the last two shots were bunched together. And this, to his mind, can not be unless...unless...the first shot was fired before Zapruder started filming.
The program then cuts back to Euins, and has him concur with Donaldson. When asked to describe the shots, he declares: "There were three altogether. Like pow...pow pow." Well, first of all, this is strike 3; it's the third time the topic of Euins and the shots has come up, and it's the third time the program has failed to tell its viewers that Euins testified to hearing four shots. And second of all, well, drum roll please... The shooting sequence Euins recreates lasts less than 4 seconds. This thoroughly undercuts Holland's theory holding that the shooting sequence was in fact much longer than previously believed, and was more like 11 seconds.
But the program will not go there. Nope, not doing it. Instead, it follows Holland down his own private rabbit hole. He wonders how a first shot fired so early in the limo's trip down Elm Street could miss the limo completely, and wonders if maybe just maybe the bullet didn't hit a traffic light hanging over the street.
It then cuts to witness James Tague, claiming the first shot sounded like a firecracker, and that the "crack crack" to follow sounded like two rifle shots. As Tague was wounded by a chip of concrete kicked up by a bullet or fragment hitting the curb near where he was standing on the far side of the plaza, his recollections are vital to Holland's theory the first shot was fired much earlier than believed, and was deflected across the plaza to injure Tague. Now, Tague, for decades, had told anyone who would listen that the one thing he felt absolutely certain about was that he was not wounded as a consequence of the first shot.
So of course this goes unmentioned in the program.
Holland then endeavors to explain how Kennedy could be in line with the traffic light for a shot fired from the sniper's nest. This leads him to consult with Tina Towner Pender, who filmed the assassination when but 13 years-old. Her film is purported to show the limo at the left side of its lane, whereby Kennedy would be in direct alignment with the traffic light for a shot from the sniper's nest. Now, Pender has long held that the first shot was fired after she stopped filming, and Holland's theory holds that the first shot was fired while she was still filming.
So of course this goes unmentioned in the program.
Tague's and Pender's disagreement with the program's premise weren't exactly secrets, moreover.
Within a few days of its airing, Tague and Pender were publicly outed as skeptics regarding Holland's theory. First, James Tague, in a widely-circulated email to a researcher, said Holland was "full of crap." Second, Dan Sullivan, a photo analyst who'd worked on JFK: The Lost Bullet, admitted, in a KXAN article on Tina Pender's appearance in the program, that "The first bullet was actually shot way before they thought," with Tina being one of the "they."
This wasn't the only damaging admission by Sullivan, however.
He then told KXAN: "Consequently, we went back, looked at images of the traffic light, sure enough there was a hole.'"
Now, how, exactly, was this damaging?
It's subtle, but pretty compelling when you think of it. Although the program pushed that the first shot had been deflected by a traffic light, and Sullivan claimed they'd found a hole in a traffic light, Holland had, in the final program, only claimed a "white spot" was visible on images of the traffic light. Hmmm...
So why was Holland so careful with his language? Was he trying to have it both ways--let his audience think a bullet had hit the traffic light, without actually claiming the white spot on the images was a hole in the traffic light? What? Did he have reason to doubt that what Sullivan said was a hole...was in fact a hole?
As it turned out, YES. A technical report was added to Holland's Washington Decoded website on 11-20-11, the day JFK: The Lost Bullet was first broadcast. In this report, Holland admitted that in June 2011 the producers of JFK: The Lost Bullet had obtained and studied a traffic light identical to the one Sullivan claimed had been hit by a bullet on 11-22-63, and had concluded: "After hanging the exemplar light and viewing it from roughly the same perspective as the USSS (U.S. Secret Service) training film, the view through the drilled “bullet” hole showed that the intervening base lip, that was presumed to form a deflection surface, obscures the view. The viewing also revealed that a gap opening exists in the corner between the right and bottom back plates and produces a visible unobstructed hole in the same location as the “possible bullet hole” that was observed in the USSS training film. Consequently, the hole was eliminated as a possible bullet hole."
But that wasn't all. The report then admitted that in September 2011 the producers had contracted with the HP White Laboratory to fire shots from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle at the traffic light to see if it was possible a bullet had been deflected by the light without leaving a hole. This was their conclusion: "All three test firings revealed that an exemplar Eagle signal could deflect a bullet from its flight path, but could not do so without sustaining very visible damage. It appears that if Oswald’s first shot had been deflected by the Eagle signal, the damage to the traffic light would have been easily observable from a street level position. It surely would have been noticed in the wake of the assassination."
Holland's theory had thus been shot to pieces, both figuratively and literally, weeks before the program pushing his theory had aired. And by the very producers of the program pushing his theory! And yet they'd failed to tell this to their TV audience...Or even those who'd worked on the program, like Sullivan, who'd thought they'd helped prove a bullet had hit the traffic light.
No, instead of coming clean in a program watched by millions, they'd decided to let the truth slip out on a website read by thousands...at best. The National Geographic Channel then re-broadcast this program numerous times, most tellingly in November 2013, without mention of the producers' last minute discovery that--Eegads--the central theory pushed in their program (that the "lost" bullet had hit a traffic light) had been debunked.
Well, by gosh, shouldn't there be a law against this--deliberately deceiving the public?
In any event, having his pet theory shot to pieces had little effect on Holland. Yes, the failure of the tests did not, as one might expect, lead Holland to abandon his belief a bullet hit the traffic light, but to wonder if the bullet hadn't instead hit the mast arm to the traffic light--on a five foot section of the mast arm obscured by signage in 2011.
It soon came to pass, moreover, that Holland was able to study this mast arm. Although he couldn't find any evidence it had been hit by a bullet--ever--he somehow convinced himself the possibility it could have deflected a bullet was evidence that it did in fact deflect a bullet, and similarly convinced Newsweek to publish an article pushing his new and improved theory as the final solution to the assassination. This article--unsubtly sold as "The Truth Behind the Assassination"--was published in Newsweek's 11-28-14 issue. It was far worse than expected in that it didn't present Holland's pet theory as a new credible theory (which it most certainly was not), but as a finally discovered "fact."
Here is an image from the article, in which some 1963 Secret Service re-enactment photos are blended together, presenting this "fact."
Note that in spite of Tague's objections, Holland and Newsweek claim it was this first bullet--this 'lost" bullet found by Holland--that kicked up the concrete and injured James Tague on the far side of the plaza. Now think about this for a second. Look at the angle. How likely is it that a bullet descending at such an angle--at 2,000 feet per second, no less--would change direction so dramatically after hitting a traffic mast 20 feet or so above the ground, that it would not hit the ground for another 327 feet or so? Not likely, I suspect. If the bullet hit the traffic mast flush, or nearly flush, it would lose nearly all its energy upon impact, and land in pieces nearby. And if it was barely deflected, whereby it still had the energy to fly 350 feet in a different direction, well, then, it would almost certainly have hit the street in the vicinity of the limo. You can't have it both ways. Think of a sled. If you're racing down hill and you hit the edge of a boulder, it might deflect you a bit to the side, but it wouldn't make you turn sharply to your right. There's just too much forward momentum.
At the very least, one should test such a thing, to make sure it's even possible, before touting such a scenario as a fact on the cover of Newsweek. An admission by Holland is relevant here. In the article, he reports that they did indeed fire upon the mast arm, and that "In three of the four tests, bullet strikes close to the top center line of the mast left deep indentations, and the bullets shattered upon impact. In one test firing, however, a bullet strike far from the top center line produced a ricochet while removing the paint and leaving a slight indentation barely discernible to the touch." He takes from this, of course, that a bullet could have struck the mast arm, and left such a small indentation that it's no longer discernible 50 years on.
But look what he leaves out. He makes no mention of the direction undertaken by this "ricochet." As he reports that they had to strike the round mast arm "far from the top center line" in order to create this "ricochet", moreover, it seems readily apparent that this bullet continued moving forward in the direction it was traveling and did not make the sharp right turn Holland claims for the first shot fired at Kennedy. Holland's tests disproved his theory, or at least called it strongly into question. And yet he chose to keep on pushing and claim it as a 'fact."
On 5-7-15, moreover, Holland was allowed to present this new-found "fact" to an audience at The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. And this, even though the museum's curator, Gary Mack, had previously been quite critical of his theory. (It turns out that Mack was still quite critical at the time--critically ill. He succumbed to cancer on 7-15-15.)
Max at the Museum
When speaking at the Museum, moreover, Holland made matters worse.
Yes, while discussing the lack of eyewitness support for his theory, Holland intimated that he'd recently discovered an interview with assassination eyewitness Pierce Allman in which Allman claimed the limo had been passing a lamp post at the time of the first shot. Holland then declared that this lamp post was only three feet from the location of the sign Amos Euins had pointed out to him, as the sign Kennedy was passing at the time of the first shot. Holland then garbled "So I was able to establish at least some eyewitnesses corroborated a shot that occurred before the Zapruder film."
Like hell, he did. A look at the interview of Allman, found on youtube, proves Holland was blowing smoke, thick noxious smoke. You see, when Allman claimed the limo was passing a lamp post at the time of the first shot he wasn't just standing anywhere. No, he was standing in Dealey Plaza, in front of the steps by the fountain across from the school book depository. And he wasn't just doing anything. No, he was pointing out the lamp post by which the limousine was passing at the time of the first shot. And guess what? He wasn't pointing to the small lamp post directly across from him where the Highway 80 sign used to reside. No, he was pointing sharply to his left, down the street, at the first lamp post along the street, by the location where the Thornton Freeway sign used to reside...at a location repeatedly identified as Kennedy's location at the time of the first shot.
So, yikes! Not only did Holland's new star witness not corroborate his theory, he actively undermined it, and exposed it for the nonsense it is.
Not that Holland will admit this, of course. Within a few days of my first pointing out the problem with Allman's pointing out which lamp post he was talking about, and it not being the lamp post Holland claimed he was talking about, Dale Myers and Todd Vaughan published yet another article attacking Holland's theory, in which they similarly pointed out where Allman was pointing. Jeff Morley, on his JFK Facts website, then asked for a response from Holland, and got one. Holland replied: “I have no doubt whatsoever that the lamppost is correctly identified in my presentation. I confirmed as much with Mr. Allman before my presentation, and he was also in the audience during the presentation.”
But that was just weak sauce. No one asked if Holland had any doubt. That, in fact, was the problem, He should have had doubt. Allman's earliest statements made it quite clear the limo had passed him before the first shot, and Allman quite clearly pointed to a lamp post down the road from where he was standing in the video cited by Holland. So how could Holland get up and claim Allman as a witness supporting a theory in which the limo was directly across from Allman at the time of the first shot? Even if Allman, now in his 80's, had told him so? And wait a second...if Allman had told him so before the presentation, as claimed by Holland, then why the heck didn't Holland mention this in his presentation? Or get Allman to say it on camera? Or get Allman to put it in writing? Methinks me smells some bull nonsense.
On 6-18-15, a few days later, moreover, Morley posted a second response from Holland. Holland wrote: “This is a still taken during the 2011 filming of NatGeo documentary. When I showed it to Allman he identified lamppost circled in red as the lamppost he referred to during his 2013 Dealey Plaza interview. You can also note how close the lamppost was to the black and white sign referred to by Amos Euins. (We had to construct a mock-up because B&W sign had long since been removed; but the evidence of where it was in the ground was still there and that’s where we placed the mock-up)." (This still is shown below.)
Well, heck, there it was. Holland was pretending Euins had claimed the limo was by the Highway 80 sign and lamp post at the time of the first shot, when Euins had repeatedly told Holland the limo was in fact a good 30 feet or more past this location at the time of the first shot. Holland was using his misrepresentation of Euins' statements, moreover, as corroboration for the accuracy of what was almost certainly a misrepresentation of Allman's statements.
And Holland wasn't the only one twisting the truth into a pretzel. You see, in their otherwise excellent take-down of Holland, entitled Holland's Deflection: Ballistics and the Truth, Dale Myers and Todd Vaughan had done some twisting of their own. After discussing how Allman had actually pointed to a different lamp post in the video than the one indicated by Holland, they wrote: "The lamppost that Allman is referring to is located at the former location of the R.L. Thornton Freeway sign. Gee, what a coincidence. Allman places the limousine at the same location indicated by Holland's two other star witnesses – Amos Euins and Patricia Ann Donaldson; the moment after the limousine passed under the traffic light mast pole but before it passed under the Live Oak tree branches."
Feel free to read that again. Myers and Vaughan actually claimed that Allman's words did not support Holland's theory the first shot was fired as the limo passed under the traffic light mast, but supported their own theory the first shot was fired before the limo passed under the branches of the oak tree. What malarkey! As shown on the Max at the Museum slide above, the lamp post pointed out by Allman, (and the Thornton Freeway sign next to it), were on the far side of the oak tree from the sniper's nest. A shot as the limo was passing this sign undermined their theory as well as Holland's. So BOO to Myers and Vaughan for deceiving their readers.
Or rather boo to Myers and Vaughan. BOO, as it turns out, is far too excessive. In the 2013 video cited by Holland, Allman said that at the time of "the first shot they were right about with the lamp post." Now, this is annoyingly vague. It's impossible to tell from this whether Allman meant that they were even with the lamp post on the street, as I'd assumed, or passing the lamp post from his perspective, as presumably assumed by Myers and Vaughan.
So then why the boo for Myers and Vaughan? Well, if one has to ask that, one should read or even re-read chapters 5 through 9 of this website with not only an eye out for witnesses suggesting that the first shot missed, but an eye out for witnesses whose statements, when taken as a whole, suggest Kennedy continued waving to the crowd after the first shot was fired. While one might find a few vague statements supporting such a scenario, one will also find far more statements--and far more credible statements--suggesting the first shot was fired when the limousine was much further down Elm than as proposed by Myers and Vaughan.
So a respectful boo for Myers and Vaughan.
And a half-hearted hooray for Holland. Well, sort of. (I told you it was half-hearted.) While Holland is living proof that 1) supposedly credible historians can be every bit as wacky and obsessive as the wackiest conspiracy theorists, and 2) when pushed by those with impressive credentials, bat-shit crazy theories at odds with all the evidence can receive huge amounts of attention from newspaper publishers, magazine publishers, radio programmers, television producers, and even museum curators, and prevent far more credible and deserving theories from ever reaching the public, he is also responsible for one of the most deceptive documentaries ever made on the assassination.
And, yes, I know that's saying a lot.
But before we dive into a more detailed discussion of the awfulness that is JFK: The Lost Bullet, we have an important update. In 2016, Max Holland and his embarrassing theory re-surfaced in a 26-page article in the Journal of the Association of Crime Scene Reconstruction. Thankfully, this article described the many tests performed on the traffic light--and added in some newly concocted calculations suggesting the bullet could have been deflected as claimed--but avoided the incredible distortions of the eyewitness evidence at the root of Holland's theory.
Well, almost. While citing "facts" associated with the first shot that led him to develop his theory, Holland claimed that "A witness standing in the vicinity of the traffic signal light structure reported seeing something bounce off the pavement in the lane left of the president’s limousine at the time of the first shot." His citation for this "fact" refers to the Warren Commission testimony of Virgie Baker. Well, in claiming his theory better explains Baker's testimony than other theories, Holland concealed that Baker's testimony is actually 100% in conflict with his theory. Although she was standing a few yards away from the limo at the time Holland claims the first shot was fired, Baker testified that the limo was down by the Thornton Freeway sign at the time of the first shot. And that's just the beginning. She also claimed the "something" she saw bounce in the street bounced "behind" the limo, and marked the location where she saw this "bounce" on Exhibit 354. Well, her mark is roughly 100 feet further down the road from the location of the limo at the time Holland proposes the first shot was fired.
And Baker was not the only witness so victimized. Without noting James Tague's public denouncement of his theory, Holland concluded: "The slight injury to Tague, who was standing between the curb and underpass column, was likely caused by a concrete fragment from a bullet core strike to the column rather than from a particle of debris from the core strike to the curb, where curb damage was minimal. In addition, his injury was to the left cheek—the cheek closest to the column."
Well, let's pause right here. Tague would almost certainly have disapproved of this new addition to Holland's theory. Tague always claimed he was watching the motorcade when the first shot was fired. And that he'd been standing by a manhole cover more than 10 feet in front of the support column, facing the opposite direction. It seems unlikely he'd accept Holland's proposal his left cheek was hit by debris from this column.
Or even that his left cheek was hit. That's right. Holland's got the wrong cheek. Here's Tague, on his website, shortly before his death: "40 some years ago while being interviewed on film, I was asked about my minor injury and without thinking I motioned to my left cheek for some reason. Actually I had been sprayed with debris on the right cheek."
It's a shame, then, that Tague passed on before he could denounce Holland's new-but-not-improved nonsense. His near-certain rejection of Holland's theory could have instigated a flame war, which the media may have actually stopped to notice.
There was certainly no respect coming Tague's way from Holland. Let's return to Holland's article. He continued: "Tague was uncertain about whether his injury was linked with the first, second, or third shot. But in his testimony under oath before the Warren Commission in July 1964, he recalled that he heard a shot or shots after he suffered his injury. This means that he did not sustain his injury from the third shot, because it was the final shot. And because the second bullet fired lodged nearly intact in Governor Connally’s thigh, Tague could not have been harmed by it. Based on Tague’s sworn testimony, the injury to his left cheek can only be associated with the first shot."
It's astonishing how Holland, who had metaphorically taken a dump on Baker's sworn testimony, claimed to find Tague's sworn testimony so revealing, and then took an even bigger dump on it. In his testimony, Tague was asked which shot hit him. He replied: “maybe the second or third shot, I couldn’t tell you definitely.” He was later asked how many shots he'd heard after he'd been hit. He responded: "I believe it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterwards." In direct opposition to Holland's representation of his testimony, then, Tague never said he heard "a shot or shots after he suffered his injury." This was a total fabrication on Holland's part, almost certainly designed to create the illusion Tague was open-minded about being hit by the first shot. This is even worse than it seems. In both his testimony and subsequent statements, Tague made it clear he was not hit by this shot. Here is what he wrote in Truth Withheld (2004): "One thing that I have always been positive of is that the first shot was not the shot that hit the curb near me."
Holland's pretending otherwise is an insult to Tague's memory and a cause for great concern, IMO.
Has he completely "lost" it? Or has he merely "found" it--with "it" being a built-in excuse for routinely deceiving his readers?
The Last Crusade With Holland, Stone, and the Narrators of the Lost Bullet
While director Robert Stone is probably equally responsible for the semi-buried mess that is JFK: The Lost Bullet, the program makes no bones about its being a presentation of Holland's theories regarding the assassination. It only seems appropriate, then, to discuss the deceptive presentation of the single-bullet theory in the program in the context of Holland's other theories.
This segment of the program begins about half-way through. The narrator announces: "Now, Max Holland's team puts Bullet B, the magic bullet, to the test." At this point, Holland is shown discussing trajectories with former Secret Service Agent John Joe Howlett, who'd studied the Zapruder film and possible bullet trajectories back in 1963. Howlett is at this point hooked up to an oxygen tank. No, really. The man is actually hooked up to an oxygen tank.
1. The program then shows a man in a surveyor's costume stretching out a tape to an X painted onto the street. It seems apparent from this he is establishing its accuracy. This is shown below.
2. It then shows Max Holland crouched on the ground and helping HSCA wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan (another member of "Holland's team") line up the replica limo used in the program, so that "Kennedy" is directly over this X. This is shown below.
3. The narrator then relates: “The team places a camera where Abraham Zapruder was standing and they compare that image to the enhanced frames of the Zapruder film to position the replica limousine in the precise location where bullet B hit the President.” As he says this, moreover, the program shows Max Holland personally lining up the limo on the street. This time, however, he is standing. This is shown below.
4. While studying the Zapruder film, Sturdivan then announces: "So we can use that as a reference. If we come straight down that tree, just to the left of Roy Kellerman, right at the corner of the windshield. And that’s what I’ll line up." He is looking at the frame below. (This is frame 218.)
5. The program then cuts to Larry Sturdivan and a young Marine marksman up on a platform lifted up in front of the sniper's nest window. This is shown below.
6. It then cuts to some more men in surveyor's costumes. They are on a radio, telling Sturdivan that "The shooter needs to move to his right." This is shown below.
7. Sturdivan then declares how this is all a little eerie. The program then cuts to a view of the marksman from below. The narrator exclaims: "It’s an unsettling site, even if the sniper is just shooting a laser." This is shown below.
8. The program then switches over to the perspective of the sniper. The camera follows the limo as it turns onto Elm Street. The narrator informs "Now, with the limo at the location for Bullet B, he takes aim at his target." The limo then disappears beneath an oak tree. This is shown below.
9. The program then cuts back to Sturdivan, now on the ground and standing by the replica limo. While pointing back to the sniper's nest, he assures: "We have a laser beam. It is pointed at exactly the same..." (This is shown below.)
10. "...trajectory that the bullet would have come down from the sixth floor...". As he says this, moreover, the director inserts a shot of the sniper, now in close-up, taking aim at the street below. This is shown below.
11. As he finishes "of the depository", the program returns to Sturdivan. He then points out the impact location of the laser on the back of the JFK stand-in. He assures "And that laser is striking John Kennedy at the back, at the base of his neck." This is shown below.
12. At this time the camera cuts to John Joe Howlett, to whom Sturdivan is talking. This is shown below.
13. Sturdivan then concludes: "Now, we’ll ask Jack Kennedy to move out of the way, and we see the spot hitting in exactly the place where Governor Connally was struck. That's the infamous magic bullet." This is shown below.
14. Sturdivan and Howlett then discuss their demonstration. Sturdivan is shown reacting to Howlett's comments. This is shown below.
15. Howlett then concludes "With the President sitting higher than the Governor, and the seat being six inches inside..." At this, the program cuts to an overhead view of the limo. This is shown below.
16. Howlett continues: "...and you have the decline in the street here, all these angles change...what a lot of people didn't understand." (Howlett, of course, was incorrect in claiming the seat was six inches inside.) Howlett's appearance at this time is shown below.
17. The program then shows Holland in a studio declaring "One of the biggest misnomers of all is calling the bullet the magic bullet. Because the real magic bullet would have been one that hit President Kennedy in the back, and came out right around his Adams's Apple, and disappeared. Because that is what you have to believe if you don't believe that it went on to hit Governor Connally." And then finally, as the camera moves in on the X shown at the beginning of the segment, the narrator asserts: "So Holland has shown how Bullet B could hit both men, but only if it came from Oswald’s location in the book depository...But one mystery remains: the lost bullet of the Kennedy assassination." This angle on the X is shown below.
Well, from watching this one might think that Max Holland and the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet had performed a scientific and exacting study of the single-bullet trajectory, and had demonstrated that it works.
But they were simply blowing smoke.
The following slides record my September 2015 dissection of this smoke.
X Marks the Spot...Or Not
Let's begin with what is startlingly obvious...
As demonstrated on the slide above, the shots of Holland lining up the limo with the X on the street were shots of him lining up the limo with its location at the time of the head shot. Now, I have no idea why the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet pretended this X marked the location of Kennedy at the time he was first hit. Perhaps it was bad editing. Or perhaps they had problems with their re-creation of the shooting, and wanted it to look as official and scientific as possible.
The Other X
I suspect the latter. The heart of this segment is its use of lasers to demonstrate the validity of the single-bullet theory. After this demonstration, as former Secret Service Agent John Joe Howlett talks to former HSCA wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan by the limo, an X is visible beneath a tripod in the background. While the limo in this image appears to be closer to the white wall in the background than when they were placing the limo over the X, and while this appears to be a different X than the one shown at that time, the existence of this second X is never explained in the program.
So, what are we to believe then of this X? If we are to assume this X represents the location proposed by others for the first shot, well, then why did the limo end up well forward of this location? Was the X on Elm at the location of the limo circa frame 190, when the HSCA proposed the first shot was fired? I'm skeptical. The vast majority of those proposing a location for the first shot striking Kennedy propose it occurred circa frame 224 of the Zapruder film. In JFK: The Lost Bullet, Sturdivan is shown lining the limo up with frame 218 of the film. Well, from this it seems possible they tried out the trajectories at 218, found it didn't work, and then rolled the limo forward to a location where they thought it would work, somewhere in the early 230's perhaps.
Or not. While my best guess tells me the X beneath the ladder corresponds to the location of Kennedy during frames 220-224 of the Zapruder film, I could be wrong. It could be that the X was placed to correspond with the Warren Commission's claim the shot was fired as early as frame 210, and that the limo was rolled forward from there to the location of Kennedy circa Z-224.
This leads us to another question, however: why is there no mention of the location of the limousine at the time of the laser demonstration? And, come to think of it, why is there no shot from the sniper's nest showing the audience this location?
The Lost Shot
I think I know the answer to that question. At one point in the program, they slipped up and showed, from the perspective of the sniper's nest, the replica limo heading under the oak tree out in front of the school book depository. This tree has grown quite a bit since 1963, and the replica limo completely disappeared under its branches.
Hmmm...that might explain everything.
Eagle-Eye on the Cherry-Picker
Yes. When one looks back at image 12--showing the response of Agent Howlett to the laser demonstration--one can see that the arm of the cherry-picker previously shown holding a young Marine aloft in front of the sniper's nest (the young Marine purportedly aiming the laser)...is actually down on the ground.
Well, this suggests to me that there was no laser beam coming down from the sniper's nest window when the laser demonstration was performed, because there was no one shooting a laser beam down from the sniper's window when the laser demonstration was performed.
Now, one might offer that the reaction of Howlett was filmed sometime after the laser demonstration to which he was supposedly reacting, and the director added his facial reaction into the middle of the demonstration strictly for dramatic purposes. That would explain why the cherry-picker was down on the ground when it was supposedly up in the air. It might even be true.
But, in light of what I noticed next...I doubt it.
Oak and in the Way
Well, maybe not everything. But when one compares photos taken from the sniper's nest in 1963 with the footage presented of the sniper's view in JFK: The Lost Bullet (2011), it becomes incredibly clear that the location on Elm Street where Kennedy was first hit was not visible from the sniper's nest on the day The Lost Bullet was filmed.
We have good reason, then, to suspect the laser demonstration featured in the program...was faked.
But is there any other evidence suggesting as much, beyond my contention one couldn't see through the tree?
The Trouble With Trimble
Now, as we've discussed, when I first took a closer look at the images of Agent Howlett discussing the laser demonstration, I noticed something behind him: an X on the ground beneath a yellow tripod. Wow, I thought, that's interesting. I wonder what that means.
And then, as we've discussed, I took another look, and noticed something even further behind Agent Howlett--a cherry-picker arm on the ground at a time it's supposed to be stretched up high.
Well, call me Mr. Observant, if you like, because it was then and only then that I started wondering about the obvious...what the heck is that object on the tripod?
You see, I'd assumed it was a movie camera. But upon repeated viewings of the segment, I realized that no shots were taken from that angle. I then asked a friend who'd been in the movie business if he thought it was a camera, or if maybe, just maybe, it was a laser. He responded fairly quickly: it was a surveyor's station. He even gave me the brand: Trimble.
I then did some digging and found it was an S5. A little more digging and I realized that among its many functions an S5 could serve as a laser pointer. Still more digging and I realized an S5 could be controlled via a remote. And still more digging and I realized that Trimble uses green lasers in its products.
Well, heck, this was the same color as the laser beam hitting "Kennedy" and then "Connally"!
I then began to wonder why I'd failed to notice this object on my previous viewings of the program.
I re-watched the program from the beginning. This was something I hadn't done in years. And it was an entirely different experience. Instead of spotting things I thought were sloppy, I now spotted things I thought were lies, and not just lies, but deliberate lies inserted into the program to deliberately deceive its audience.
To be specific, I came to realize that a number of camera shots and sequences had been added into the program for the specific purpose of making the viewers believe the sniper's nest was readily visible from the location Kennedy was first hit, and that, by extension, the laser demonstration at the heart of the program was legit.
One of these fake shots showed the sniper aiming his rifle at the camera. This was presented on more than one occasion. While the narrator never claimed this was a view of the sniper from the location where Kennedy was first hit, this was the impression one would get from watching the program. But it wasn't true. This shot appears to have been taken from further down the street, possibly from the southernmost of the three lanes on Elm.
Two other fake shots involved a man dressed up as a surveyor. Early in the program, just after the narrator goes on about how "cutting edge technology" has been used to investigate the assassination, this "surveyor" is shown looking through the surveyor's station while it's pointed up at the sniper's nest. But there are some problems with this. First is that the eyepiece for the surveyor's station is facing the camera, and the man shown squinting one eye while presumably looking through an eyepiece is really looking at a digital display designed to be read by two eyes. Second is that the limo is visible behind this "surveyor", which strongly suggests he's "looking through" the station when the station is on the X marking the location where Kennedy was first hit. Well, as we've seen (or couldn't see), this location could not be seen from the sniper's nest on the day this segment was filmed. So he was looking at nothing. Acting.
This "actor" makes a return appearance later in the program. This time, however, he has the station facing the other way. He is pretending to line-up the sniper in front of the window. And he is once again doing this from a location from where the sniper couldn't be seen.
Still, as brilliant as he was in his performance, the surveyor was merely a warm-up for Larry Sturdivan. Just before he performs the laser demonstration, Sturdivan points up towards the sniper's nest and announces "We have a laser beam. It is pointed at exactly the same trajectory that the bullet would have come down from the sixth floor depository." We are then shown a close-up of the sniper, taken from below. Tellingly, we are never shown where Sturdivan is actually pointing. And for good reason. As we now know, he was pointing up at the branches of a tree.
The Laser That Lied
Now, in retrospect, I should have suspected the demonstration was fake upon first viewing. All previous studies of the single-bullet trajectory had concluded it was possible should Governor Connally have been slid over on his seat, and turned to his right, when hit. And here was this program that would not even tell us where the limo was located during their demonstration, telling us Kennedy and Connally were in perfect alignment while Connally sat straight in front of Kennedy. In retrospect, then, this smelled to high heaven. (While I would normally think it odd to smell things in retrospect, in this case it somehow seems appropriate.)
Now, I remember dismissing the re-enactment in the program upon first viewing, but can't recall exactly why. I suspect it was the positioning of "Kennedy" in the limo. Sturdivan has Kennedy leaning over the side of the car, slightly to the right of Connally. This is standard for all re-creations of the single-bullet trajectory. The problem is that Kennedy swings his upper body to the right as he heads behind the sign in the Zapruder film. And that Sturdivan has the limo lined up for a shot after he heads behind the sign. Well, you can't have it both ways. You can't say you're demonstrating the trajectories for shots fired on a limousine at a specific place and time, and then put the limo in its place at one time, and the "victims" in their positions at another.
The more I thought about it, moreover, the more I felt certain that someone, somewhere, had already tested this trajectory...using a laser...
The Imitation Game
It finally hit me. The creators of The Secret KGB JFK Assassination Files had used a laser to test the shooting trajectories back in the nineties. I re-watched the program, which I hadn't looked at in years. I was horrified to find that a number of sequences from The Secret KGB JFK Assassination Files had been replicated in JFK: The Lost Bullet. There was a surveyor using a surveyor's station to line up the shots. There was a mark placed on the street where Kennedy was purportedly first hit. There was a shot from the sniper's nest that wasn't really from the sniper's nest, but was as close as they could get, etc.
There were some notable differences, however. In this program, they acknowledged that the location where Kennedy was first hit was no longer visible from the sniper's nest, and actually showed the City of Dallas bring in a cherry-picker to pull back some limbs, and make their laser study possible.
Their conclusions were also different. While the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet presented Connally's armpit directly in front of Kennedy's back wound at the time they were presumed to have been hit, this earlier program, while shooting a laser back to the sniper's nest from a Kennedy dummy in the limo, demonstrated that this bullet would have been heading sharply downward and right to left within the limo.
As this last fact--that a bullet fired from the sniper's nest would have been heading right to left within the limo at the time Kennedy was first hit--is something universally agreed upon, even by the staunchest single-assassin theorists, moreover, it seems clear that, in time, both sides of the JFK debate will come to agree that the laser demonstration in JFK: The Lost Bullet was a hoax.
It really makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking.
Perhaps the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet had recently watched Groundhog Day and thought anything was possible...if you re-did it over and over and over again...until you got it "right."
So, yeah, instead of sitting on my hands back in 2011, when JFK: The Lost Bullet was first broadcast, I should have clapped to get everyone's attention, and cried bloody murder. The program was not merely bad and inaccurate, as I had initially believed, but aggressively bad and inaccurate. One should not give the producers and creators and stars of deceptive TV programs the benefit of the doubt again and again and again. Particularly when a pattern is involved. In the case of JFK: The Lost Bullet, there were clear deceptions regarding the first shot proposed in the program, clear deceptions regarding the second shot proposed in the program, and clear deceptions regarding the third shot proposed in the program.
Oh, wait, I didn't tell you?
Of Myths and Men
Yes, the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet lied about the head shot as well. Unlike the elaborate deceptions regarding the first and second shots proposed by Holland, however, their lie about the third shot proposed in the program, the head shot, was relatively short and sweet. They showed Larry Sturdivan pointing out the bullet trajectories on the actors in the limo, with Jackie conspicuously positioned behind JFK. They then showed a shot from the Zapruder film, with Jackie behind JFK. As they showed this, moreover, Sturdivan dismissed that a shot was fired from the picket fence due to the fact a bullet on such a trajectory was likely to have hit Jackie.
Well, this hid from the viewers that Jackie was actually in front of her husband, and out of line with a shot from the picket fence when the fatal bullet was fired. No, that's backsliding on my part. They didn't hide this fact. They lied by presenting the opposite as the truth.
And it wasn't even an original lie. Three years earlier, Sixth Floor Museum curator Gary Mack told essentially the same lie on the Discovery Channel program Inside the Target Car. Now, Mack took a lot of heat for his lie. And he ultimately admitted his mistake. But, apparently the heat Mack took wasn't enough to prevent Sturdivan from repeating this lie, er, mistake.
Now, let me be as clear on this as I possibly can be, which unfortunately may not be very clear. I have real trouble with this. I have real trouble believing that the creators of TV shows--even shows as deceptive as Beyond the Magic Bullet, Inside the Target Car, and The Lost Bullet--set out to deceive their viewers. I have met Robert Stone, the director of JFK: The Lost Bullet, and have similarly met Max Holland, its star. And I have exchanged emails with both Holland and Larry Sturdivan. All seemed earnest in their belief Oswald acted alone.
And yet, it is clear to me that witnesses were misled and misrepresented in JFK: The Lost Bullet. And it is equally clear to me that the laser demonstration in the program was faked. This program pushed the theories of a prominent journalist/historian; it was directed by a successful director; and it was broadcast on a popular and respected television channel. But it was as fake as professional wrestling. Perhaps even more fake... Professional wrestlers, after all, perform a dance of sorts that some appreciate knowing full well the violence is pretend. JFK: The Lost Bullet, on the other hand, was a straight-up con job. Few watching it would have watched it if they'd known it was deceptive by design.
So, what am I saying, exactly? Am I saying that the director and producers of this program deliberately deceived their audience, and that Max Holland and Larry Sturdivan were either the instigators of this deception, or willing collaborators? Yes, I'm afraid so. In the words of St. Groucho, you bet your life.
So...if we were lied to (and we were), and those telling us these lies appear to be earnest (and they do), what are we to believe but that earnest people can justify deception by convincing themselves it is all in the service of some higher truth?
And that the creators of JFK: The Lost Bullet were on a Last Crusade, of sorts?
Apparently, when one subsists on a faith-enriched, low-fact diet, one can plop out a program like JFK: The Lost Bullet without as much as batting an eye.
So, hmmm...This brings us back to a question raised a few chapters back--why so many supposedly rational people in the media embrace the work of these irrational theorists.
I have a theory on that.
2 + 2 = 3
Well, no, it doesn't. Or does it? The thought occurs that much of the disconnect between the thinking of the vast majority of the public, and that of mainstream journalists and historians, comes not from what information they've been exposed to, but from how they process that information.
To put this in mathematical terms...it seems quite clear to me that most Americans, for better or worse, look at the assassination of President Kennedy with the expectation things add up. They look at the evidence Oswald killed Kennedy, and see that this evidence amounts to, let's say, 1.6 out of a possible 2. They then look at the evidence Oswald acted alone, and see this, let's say, as a 1.5 out of a possible 2. They then add these numbers together and get 3.1, which is NOT 4. They therefore suspect a conspiracy.
Now contrast this with the thinking of most mainstream journalists and historians. They look at the evidence Oswald killed Kennedy, and score this as a 1.6 out of a possible 2. They then look at the evidence he acted alone, and see this as a 1.5. Now, these were the same numbers provided by most Americans. And yet they come to a totally different conclusion.
Here's why: they round up. Yep, it seems clear to me that PROFESSIONAL journalists and PROFESSIONAL historians have it in their heads that, since the truth is either 1 or 2, they can't conclude 1.6 or 1.5. They feel they have to pick. So they round up. So 1.6 becomes 2, and 1.5 becomes 2, and 1.6 + 1.5 = 4, and the muddy case suggesting Oswald's sole guilt becomes the presumed truth until proven otherwise.
It seems likely, moreover, that many members of the media dismissing the possibility of conspiracy do so for personal reasons. Members of the media who left the story behind to tell other stories, for example, can take solace that they didn't miss out on the biggest story of the century. They can get on the ride at Disneyland and sing "It's an Oswald, after all" between refrains of Handel's "Hallelujah!" chorus, and not look back with discomfort. Similarly, mainstream historians, who take tremendous pride in their status as "professionals" and "recognized experts", can take comfort that the wacky amateur sleuths and wanna-be "Quincys" of the conspiracy research community were wrong. The single-assassin theory promotes the belief that the government's experts were right, after all, and that we should, therefore, have more faith in "experts," including, by extension, professional historians. While this is dime store psychology at a discount, I have little doubt this is a factor in the widespread acceptance of the works of Posner and Bugliosi, et al, by those who should have known better.
Should this proposal sound ludicrous, and should one assume the competitive nature of the mainstream press would have led to the discovery of any hidden truths about the Kennedy assassination, should any truths be hidden, one should consider the wise words of Walter Lippman, one of the most respected journalists of the twentieth century. In 1920, in a detailed study published in the New Republic, Lippman argued that the New York Times, and by extension all the mainstream press, was biased in its coverage of the Russian Revolution. He reported that articles on the Revolution written by American journalists were "dominated by the hopes of the men who composed the news organization" and had inaccurately reported 91 times that the revolution was on the verge of collapse, while citing events that never happened, and atrocities that never took place. He summarized that "In the large, the news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see" and that, in their pushing what they wanted to see on the public, these men were guilty of a "boundless credulity, an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions a downright lack of common sense."
One can only assume then that the failure of the mainstream press to accurately report Kennedy's death was no surprise to Lippman. In fact, although Lippmann, in the days after the assassination, voiced his support for President Johnson, and later voiced his support for the Warren Commission's conclusion Oswald acted alone, he later told his biographer Ronald Steel that he had never ruled out a conspiracy.
And he may not have been the only journalism icon to privately harbor such doubts... There is an intriguing passage in A.M Sperber's 1986 best seller Murrow: His Life and Times that leads me to suspect legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow shared Lippman's concerns. Sperber relates that when Murrow, who was at that time working for Kennedy as head of the U.S. Information Agency, first heard Kennedy was wounded, he tried to reassure his wife, but that "When the word from Dallas changed to assassinated, he grew silent and wondered about Johnson." Wondered about Johnson, not worried about Johnson... My, what an interesting choice of words! In any event, Sperber then relates that Murrow, who was seriously ill at the time, almost immediately lobbied congress for more money so that his agency could "explain to the rest of the world that the government of the United States would continue," and further convince them that the assassination "was not the beginning of World War III." He then relates that LBJ's style had long-grated "on Murrow like a fingernail run across a blackboard," and that Murrow resigned from his position--and not because of his health, although it may have been a factor--on December 19, 1963, less than a month after Johnson assumed office.