A look at the people who believed JFK was 'Wanted for treason' - Macleans.ca

A look at the people who believed JFK was ‘Wanted for treason’

By Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis


Dallas 1963

By Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

Fifty years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, people are still debating whether the killing was the product of one diseased mind (or more, depending on which story you believe) or an outgrowth of the cultural and political climate of Dallas in 1963. Minutaglio and Davis, two experienced Texas journalists, make a case for the latter view. Told in cold, clear-eyed present tense, their book is a portrait of early ’60s Dallas as a sort of Hellmouth of right-wing activism, a place where you could find John Birchers, all kinds of people who were convinced that Eisenhower and Kennedy were Communists, and that Texas, as fired army general Edwin A. Walker put it, was “a prime target of Soviet attention.” Most people know about the “Wanted for treason” signs with Kennedy’s face on them; now Minutaglio and Davis have given us a picture of the people who believed those signs.

Though framed as a month-by-month chronicle of Dallas craziness from 1960 through 1963, the book often proceeds as an almost random list of horror stories about racists, Birchers and paranoid millionaires. The dominant character in the book is Walker, who was fired by Kennedy for trying to indoctrinate his troops, and became a fanatical anti-Kennedy figure and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in Texas, and himself the target of an assassination attempt. He comes off as a real-life version of Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, and that movie’s sense of dark comedy and menace permeates the real world of Dallas in this era.

What the authors have trouble doing is convincing us that this has much to do with the Kennedy assassination; they note that Oswald is proof that “the radical left is as paranoid as the radical right,” and that he feared the rise of right-wing fascism in Dallas, particularly the way many people had embraced Walker and his rhetoric. But why this would lead to the killing of the right wing’s No. 1 enemy is left extremely unclear. Still, the book is mesmerizing as a snapshot of a city in the throes of transition to modernity; it portrays the split between those who accepted change on race and politics—or who actively fought for it—and those who would do or say anything to prevent it.

Jaime Weinman

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A look at the people who believed JFK was ‘Wanted for treason’

  1. 50 years on…..Texas hasn’t changed.

  2. On November 22, 1963, a coup d’état by Lyndon Johnson and the highest echelons of the National Security State was accomplished with the brutal murder of President John F. Kennedy. Andrew Gavin Marshall has written an excellent and concise online summary article, “The National Security State and the Assassination of JFK,” which compliments the definitive, path-breaking research of author James W. Douglass in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

    The “smoking gun” in the cover-up of the assassination is found in CIA Dispatch #1035-960 (available online). This was the crucial covert directive to the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird elite media assets to vigorously denounce critics of the Warren Commission Report as “conspiracy theorists.” This is when that particular derogatory term of denunciation and disinformation entered the national conversation in an attempt to cut off and stifle informed debate on the president’s murder because the path of evidence would lead directly to those elements behind the sinister cover-up.

    These facts are discussed in detail in Lance deHaven-Smith’s authoritative Conspiracy Theory in America (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press). Dr. Smith is a widely published scholar in peer-reviewed academic journals and is Professor in the Reubin O’ D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University in Tallahassee. DeHaven-Smith has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and other national TV and radio shows.

    There is also another very contentious publication from the period before the president’s assassination I wish to bring to readers’ attention. This is the State Department’s Freedom From War: The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World, Department of State Publication 7277. It was reviled by “far right” conservatives (e. g. the John Birch Society, the Rev. Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade, the American Security Council) with close ties to dissident elements within the military such as Major General Charles A. Willoughby and Colonel Arch E. Roberts. These were also the staunch defenders of General Edwin A. Walker in his confrontation with the Kennedy administration over use of the so-called “Pro Blue” anti-communist educational materials (prepared by Roberts) given to American troops (which contained JBS literature).

    Walker’s case became a cause celebre among these groups. The Kennedy administration went after these groups with a vengeance using the FCC and IRS as political weapons (as directed by leftwing labor leader Victor Reuther in his memorandum to attorney general Robert F. Kennedy).