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Kathy Shaidle

Media Matters' Lie of the Day: "Right-Wingers" Killed Kennedy — and They're Back

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Posted on September 19 2009 2:49 pm
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
Is this the face of a conservative?

Is this the face of a conservative?

Imagine writing hundreds of words about the death of Abraham Lincoln, without mentioning the name of his assassin.

Or writing about 9/11 but putting the word “hijackers” in scare quotes… (Oh wait: if you endorse that kind of writing, you might actually earn yourself a short lived White House czarship. So scratch that…)

Last night I stumbled upon a post at Media Matters — or, as I like to call it, the George Soros Steno Pool. Media Matters is a leftwing “media watchdog” that monitors conservative talk radio and FOX News, then refutes their daily “lies.”

So Media Matters is supposed to be all about facts and truth and “telling the whole story.” Got it.

Apparently, though, telling the whole story about, say, the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 means leaving out one itty bitty detail that doesn’t fit the doctrinaire Media Matters narrative: the name and political affiliation of JFK’s assassin.

In a typo-riddled post entitled “A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this,” Eric Boehlert bemoans the “increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama,” and the “unvarnished hate and name-calling [sic] passed for health care ‘debate’ this summer.”

Boehlert writes:

The radical right, aided by a GOP Noise Machine that positively dwarfs what existed in 1963, has turned demonizing Obama–making him into a vile object of disgust–into a crusade. It’s a demented national jihad, the likes of which this country has not seen in modern times.

But I’ve been thinking about Dallas in 1963 because I’ve been recalling the history and how that city stood as an outpost for the radical right, which never tried to hide its contempt for the New England Democrat.

Now, Boehlert’s depiction of the hostile atmosphere in pre-assassination Dallas matches those of primary sources I’ve read before: there were indeed “WANTED” posters of JFK and “Impeach [Supreme Court Justice] Earl Warren” billboards around the city. Kennedy really did mutter to his wife that fateful morning, “We’re heading into nut country today…”

Depressing, sobering stuff.

More depressing, however, is what Boehlert leaves out of his post. For instance, large, friendly crowds lined the President’s motorcade route for miles, as now-familiar film footage attests. So much for the notion of an entire city gripped by palpable, murderous “right wing” rage.

So it’s no wonder Boehlert leaves out the identity of Kennedy’s assassin, too. For instead of being gunned down by a “Bircher” or a Klansman or even a garden-variety Republican, history records that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in fact murdered by… “a silly little communist.”

That’s how the President’s widow described Lee Harvey Oswald, the young man charged with killing Kennedy. A former Marine, Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union, married a Russian girl, then moved back to America. He took part in pro-Castro leafleting and “street agitation” (to use his words) and even described himself matter of factly as a “Marxist” on a local tv panel show.

In fact, Oswald had previously tried to murder Major General Edwin Walker, one of the most notorious of all the rabid “right wingers” Boehlert blames for stoking local anti-Kennedy feeling.

There are still those who don’t believe Oswald killed Kennedy. But Oswald’s Communist sympathies, defection to the Soviet Union and pro-Castro activism are all matters of public record.

Even if Boehlert is a conspiracy nut who thinks Oswald wasn’t the killer, even the craziest “buffs” feel obliged to mention the fellow’s name in their screeds, if only to declare his innocence. Not this Media Matters scribe.

And why should he? Last year, James Piereson penned a fine book called Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism. His thesis: liberals were so traumatized by the idea that JFK’s assassin was a man of the left like themselves, that they literally wrote Oswald out of the story by concocting conspiracy theories surrounding the crime.

Piereson blames much of the subsequent turmoil of the 1960s on what I’ll call this “original sin” of omission, and the cognitive dissonance required to keep believing it.

As described in a profile of Piereson by Ed Driscoll:

…the actual causes of liberal disorientation regarding Kennedy’s death and the motives of his killer predate his assassination by several years. It was during the 1950s and early ’60s that that liberal elites declared America’s nascent and disparate conservative movements to be a greater threat to the nation than the Soviet Union, as illustrated by films of the day such as Dr. Strangelove and The Manchurian Candidate. And the subtext of those films was very much based upon “a vast literature that developed in the ’50s and early ’60s about the threat from the far right,” Piereson says, specifically mentioning Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style In American Politics, and Daniel Bell’s The Radical Right. (…)

[Following the assassination], a sense of collective guilt is imposed on the nation through its liberal elites and media. “And this is really the first time that you get on the liberal-left this idea that America is guilty. But this however now becomes a metaphor for the left for everything that happens moving on in the 1960s.”

Boehlert is just sticking with this narrative, decades later. So are the likes of Ed Schultz and Rachael Maddow, who’ve both mused over the airwaves that American conservatives are plotting “assassinations,” and liberal radio host Mike Malloy, who declared after the death of Edward Kennedy that the late Senator’s brothers had been “murdered by the right wing in this country.”

(Which doesn’t help explain why radical leftwing terrorist and Obama supporter Bill Ayers dedicated one of his books to RFK’s killer, Sirhan Sirhan. That must be an example of the “nuance” we right wingers are always being scolded for not appreciating….)

I go along with Boehlert in this respect: the raw truth really is hard to accept sometimes. But for me, it’s the truth about the left and what it’s become that saddens, and yes, even scares me.

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