Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lecture outline: JFK The Assassination in Context

JFK: The Assassination in Context

I. JFK and the Popular Imagination

The JFK assassination seen as one of history’s greatest and best-remembered events.

JFK as first celebrity president, last beloved president, inspiring intense feelings all over world.

Postwar popular culture & the origins of JFK’s lasting appeal
  • Youth
  • WWII veteran, hero of PT109
  • Young, idealized family man.
  • President as “sex symbol”
  • Media celebrity: Won first TV debates .
  • Camelot: Kennedys as royal family in era of American empire, associated
Kennedy’s political image: challenged voters and youth to service and sacrifice
  • Profiles in Courage
  • 1960 Campaign: New Frontier, “Getting this country moving again.”
  • Best-loved Kennedy programs: Peace Corps, moon program.
  • JFK’s image as a liberal crusader: civil rights.
  • Contrast with conservatives & failures who followed him as president
II. The Myth of St. Jack, Liberal Martyr

Conspiracy theories as stories with characters, plot, motivation. Role of liberal myth in JFK theories.

A part of 1960s culture: “Abraham, Martin, and John”; “He Was A Friend Of Mine”

C.t. of Oliver Stone & others:
JFK tried to end the Cold War, stop Vietnam. He threatened the “military-industrial complex” & was murdered for it by the CIA, FBI, military, munitions industry, Cuban exiles, oil men, Mafia, &/or LBJ.

Reasons to doubt the liberal martyr myth:
  • Concern for southern support, poor civil rights record.
  • JFK as Cold Warrior: friend of Joe McCarthy, campaigned as stronger anticommunist than Nixon in 1960, Inaugural Address, Bay of Pigs, firing of Allen Dulles, assassination attempts against Fidel Castro in cooperation with Mafia. “Blowback”?
  • JFK and Vietnam: destabilization of Laos, NSAM 263, CBS interview, overthrow of Diem, NSAM 273.
Argument that was JFK moving to end the Cold War:
  • American University speech, June 1963
  • Limited Test Ban Treaty took effect October 1963.
III. The Assassination

Pre-campaign trip to Dallas, TX, where JFK appeared to be very unpopular.

Motorcade route through Dealey Plaza.

Background of the Zapruder Film.

Lee Oswald, Young Communist, and not without reason