More than a grassy knoll links the recent attack on a politician in Bowling Green with the ancient but recently-rehashed attack on a president in Dallas.
In both instances, initial narratives demanded that the public ignore the glaring coincidence of the villain’s extremism clashing with the victim’s opposition to his attacker’s politics in favor of alternative explanations flattering to the tellers’ outlook.
Rene Boucher, who tackled an oblivious Rand Paul as he mowed his lawn last week, tweeted such messages as “May Robert Mueller fry Trump’s gonads” and “Impeach Trump, Impeach Pence, Keep Impeaching.” Might the tic that compelled him to overshare over-the-top opinions resulted in Rene Boucher, if for a few brief seconds, becoming Lawrence Taylor?
The New York Times played on stereotypes of libertarians as quirky individualists with little regard for others in a story on the assault that left Paul with six broken ribs: “The senator grows pumpkins on his property, composts, and has shown little interest for neighborhood regulations.” Brian Dickerson, considering it weird but perhaps possible that a senator mows his own lawn, wrote at the Detroit Free Press that “cynicism inclines me toward another explanation, which is that Paul is the sort of fellow who wants to be known as a self-mower, and to be seen driving a John Deere around his own yard.” Newsweek reported that “slowly, details are coming out that cast Paul as the villain in this neighborhood soap opera.”
Translation? Rand Paul deserved it.
When does the guy receiving six broken ribs in response to the offense of minding his own business morph from victim to villain? When he’s a Republican, that’s when.
Paul’s chief strategist explained that the first conversation in years between Paul and Boucher came immediately following the attack. A woman on the neighborhood association reported a complete absence of problems, involving lawn trimmings or otherwise, between the two doctors.
“I have never heard Sen. Paul speak an unkind word about anyone, let alone become physically violent, which makes it all the more shocking that a next-door neighbor of many years who has not so much as exchanged an email or spoken word with Rand in several years, would race downhill and pummel Rand from behind,” homeowner Alicia Stivers told the Washington Examiner.
“Their lawn is always mowed,” neighbor Dan Renshaw told the publication. “It’s such a lame excuse.”
As journalists feverishly seek to persuade that blades of grass rather than political intolerance motivated one assault, stories abound in the wake of the release of documents pertaining to John Kennedy’s assassination that cast the Communist murderer of the president as a dupe framed by right-wing elements. Like the blame-the-victim narrative that emerged in the aftermath of the attack on Paul, the 54-year-old conspiracy theories birthed immediately after the Kennedy assassination owed their origins to ideologues seeking to incriminate anyone — CIA agents, Texas oilmen, the mafia, etc. — but one who shared their outlook.
The documents released by the National Archives show Lee Harvey Oswald corresponding with leading American Communists in 1963, phoning the Russian embassy in Mexico City less than two months prior to the murder, and seeking upon his arrest to gain representation by the chief consul to the Communist Party USA. The FBI noted the “excited” state of Arnold Johnson and Irving Potash, two party honchos, and Communist Party USA chairman Gus Hall’s reluctance to report to party headquarters for fear of reprisals, at a meeting between the bureau agents and the foreign agents.
The conspiracy theories familiar to every American started immediately, without a Zapruder film or any actual evidence to lend them support, following the assassination. A released FBI document cites “Who Really Killed Pres. Kennedy?,” literature issued by the Communist Party of Illinois, dated December 1, 1963, which claims that “only the Ultra Right and the Southern Racists” benefitted from the assassination. “Dallas is the stronghold of the Ultra Right” and “the John Birch Society,” the flier noted.
A December 8, 1963, FBI document noted a meeting of Communists in, of all places, Wheeling, West Virginia, in which Arnold Johnson, the Communist leader who had earlier corresponded with Oswald, pushing the idea that the right-wing assassinated the president. The memo reads:
Arnold [Johnson] explained that since Oswald was considered a Communist then a wave of hysteria was about to explode against the C. party of America but by the time the re-actionaries were getting started it was announced that it had been disclosed that it seemed like the extreme right had been active. This was bore out by the declaration of Russia that it was not the C. party that had done it because Kennedy was a friend of the Working class but the work of the extreme right or almost a fascist act. This seemed to sober the masses that it was the same caliber of people who had insulted [Adlai] Stevenson only weeks before in Dallas, Texas…. Arnold Johnson further stated that no real Marxist Could do such a thing. There is not much doubt about that since the Soviet Union expelled him by not giving him Citizenship to the Soviet Union because they thought him to be an Agent of Fascism.
One could say “the rest is history,” except that it isn’t. It’s spin, seeking to erase the inconvenient truth that, in the words of Jacqueline Kennedy, “a silly little Communist” assassinated the president. And a silly little socialist Pearl Harbored Kentucky’s junior senator. So, naturally, a propaganda campaign ensues to convince the public that apolitical motives, such as an unkept lawn, catalyzed the violent assault on a U.S. senator shot at by a similar crazy just a few short months ago.
Politics, like psychosis and lysergic acid diethylamide, inspires delusions. When inconvenient truths clash with a flattering narrative, those under the influence of ideology choose the latter. This is a kind of insanity.
A Communist killed the president 54 years ago this month and a left-winger assaulted the senator last week. It flatters some to believe otherwise, so some believe otherwise. And if 54 years, and the release in the past month of thousands of documents, cannot unravel conspiracy theories surrounding Dallas, then the likelihood of journalists and others ideologically committed to an alternative telling of a much more minor event in Bowling Green accepting the truth appear slim — and Slim’s in Texas (presumably on the grassy knoll near the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza).
Reason cannot persuade the unreasonable. And surely people who offer rebuttals by tackling or shooting their political adversaries, to say nothing of those who take up their cause, do not fall into the camp of the reasonable.