In the mid 1980s, at a party in an Amsterdam canal house, a man who claimed to have been a session musician on a couple of Beatles albums handed me a sheaf of grubby typewritten pages and said: “This’ll change your view of the world.”
The much-photocopied document had a title, “The Skeleton Key to the Gemstone File”, and purported to explain who shot – who really shot – President John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
Sixty years on, the question is still being asked, and answered. On Dealey Plaza, the municipal park in downtown Dallas where the fatal bullets were fired, a white-haired hawker of assassination-related literature assures me the shooter was “Black Dog Man”.
He thrusts a magazine at me – “JFK: The case for Conspiracy” – and within a minute is co-opting the assassination into garbled fairytales about “the New World Order,” wind turbines and microchips embedded in our brains.
“Big Brother, they call it,” he concludes affably, offering me a discount on the magazine.
The shooting of the President nearly a lifetime ago is re-inventing itself in the post-truth world of Trump-era America. The myriad conspiracies spawned by the event were the original fake news (my “Gemstone File” pointed the finger at Mafia hitmen hired by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis) and in 2023 they are finding new currents to swim in.
Many people still feel there was so much smoke that a conspiracy remains likely. But the official finding, of the Warren Commission in 1964, concluded that deluded misfit Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy (from the Texas School Book Depository building on the north-east corner of Dealey Plaza) and that his consequent murder by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner with Mafia links, was a similarly random act.