… whether knowingly or not.
The Big Problem With Calling People “Conspiracy Theorists”
What happens when smart writers choose to simply fall in line?
By Josh Ozersky
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker’s resident sage and polymath, dilated at some length on the cultural legacy of JFK’s assassination. The piece was uncharacteristically lazy and weak-minded, a rare but complete relaxation of Gopnik’s usually vigorous mind. Gopnik is about as smart as they come, but the piece is dumb, little more than one long scoff. Insofar as it engages in the debate over JFK’s demise at all, it relies on a handful of weak debate points you’ve heard many times before. And there’s a reason you’ve heard them before. They were all originally crafted for public use by the CIA.
Gopnik, like nearly all of his fellow archons in the journalism business, has an unshakable faith in the consensus view of JFK’s assassination. As far as he is concerned, the facts of the case are in plain view and that only “conspiracy theorists” would think otherwise. His breezy, shallow essay urbanely hectors “the world of conspiracy buffs.” No argument on his part is required; these “obsessives” discredit themselves. If they were legit, he seems to think, they would have free run of The New Yorker’s pages, instead of lurking in “assassination forums and chat rooms.” Brilliant though he may be, Gopnik is in this respect every bit as dumb as any hedge fund manager or surly celebrity; like them, he thinks his place at the top is a testimony to his influence, rather than the cause of it. (His two essays in this issue amount to 11 full pages.) Big-bore public intellectuals tend to think of themselves as floating above the fray. But really, they’re no better or worse than the bloggers and cranks they despise. They only think otherwise because, as another, more cynical New Yorker writer, George Trow, put it, “the referee always wins.”
Take JFK’s murder. Gopnik mentions Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman’s exhaustive study of the assasination, Legacy of Secrecy—a gigantic tome utterly devoid of drama, style, or speculation. The book is rigorous in its research and citation, but Gopnik just just shrugs it off. The fact that Legacy of Secrecy presents a sustained argument supported with hundreds of White House, FBI, and other documents attained via the Freedom of Information Act, not to mention countless interviews of living persons, just doesn’t matter. Waldron and Hartman are “conspiracy theorists,” too, and so not worth paying attention to.