Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. It also marks the beginning of an era of conspiracy theorizing that continues to thrive to this day.
My first sense of the reach of conspiracy culture occurred while listening to a Woody Allen standup album back in the ’80s. He quipped that he was “working on a non-fiction version of the Warren report.” Though Allen’s comedy never represented the pinnacle of the mainstream, his one-liner was indicative of the general acceptance and shift in attitudes regarding the possibility of a conspiracy behind the president’s death. The album was released in 1968. Imagine if Lenny Bruce, who was followed by the FBI and hounded by legal issues for trumped up obscenities charges, had made the same “subversive” gag prior to his death in 1966. His untimely death would have been even more untimely. Maybe it was.
Remember the dude who used to hang around Lombard in the Marina toting a sign that explained how Stephen King killed John Lennon? Apparently, this was on orders from Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon (who else?!) who communicated to the then-unknown King through magazines. This is according to New York magazine, which could muster little else on the matter besides a side-by-side photo spread of King and Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman (why do assassins always have three names?).
Frankly, a better conspiracy theory would have been that J.D. Salinger was in on killing the Beatle, having written “Catcher in the Rye” specifically to program the impressionable mind of the future gunman to kill the rock star (in real life, Chapman declared the book was his “statement” on the matter). The fact that rock-n-roll didn’t even exist as such in 1951 when the book was first published would be of no consequence to proponents of this theory because Lennon did exist then. He was 11. And had to be stopped.
Define tragic irony? Reagan, the Pope and a musician who invited us to imagine ‘no countries,’ ‘nothing to kill or die for and no religion too’ all got shot within six months of each other. And it’s the musician who dies.