David Kaiser: Should Harvard University Press have published his JFK conspiracy book?





Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.


Let’s put that sentence on the chalkboard and underscore the anthropologically interesting aspects of the situation, shall we? Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

Within the continuum of any given culture, there is what the structuralists used to call the combinatoire – the underlying grid of distinctions and exclusions, an implicit directory of what goes with what (and, just as important, what doesn’t). So the appearance of The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by David Kaiser counts, arguably, as something more than a piece of publishing news. That, too. But we may be talking here about something like a mutation in the cultural genome.

That said, the book’s argument does not exactly qualify as a paradigm shift. Kaiser, who is a professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College and the author of two earlier books published by Harvard, argues that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger as a result of machinations within “a complex network of relationships among mobsters, hit men, intelligence agents, Cuban exiles, and America’s Cold War foreign policy.” To make this case, Kaiser examines an enormous mass of documents that have been declassified since 1992. “Hundreds of books on the Kennedy assassination have appeared,” he writes, “but this is the first one written by a professional historian who has researched the available archives.” Perhaps, but it is also a variation on certain familiar themes....

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