The mother of all conspiracy theories is about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Many of its elements have become part of American folklore: the single bullet, the Grassy Knoll shooter, and the mysterious deaths of interested parties.
JFK Assassination Logic shows how to approach such conspiracy claims. Studying Lee Harvey Oswald’s character and personality, for example, doesn’t help determine whether he alone shot the president, and our opinion of bureaucrats can often cloud our judgments. How people view the JFK assassination can be a model for how to (or perhaps how not to) evaluate other conspiracy theories, including those generally considered dubious—such as President Roosevelt’s foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, desert staging of the 1969 moon landing, and U.S. government involvement in 9/11—as well as those based on fact, such as Watergate.
John McAdams addresses not only conspiracy theories, but also how to think, reason, and judge the evidence in these cases. How do we evaluate eyewitness testimony? How can there be “too much evidence” of a conspiracy? How do we determine whether suspicious people are really culpable? By putting the JFK assassination under the microscope, McAdams provides a blueprint for understanding how conspiracy theories arise and how to judge the evidence.
This book puts the reader into a mass of contradictory evidence and presents an intriguing puzzle to be solved. The solution, in each case, involves using intellectual tools. Eyewitness testimony, the notion of “coincidence,” selectivity in the use of evidence, how to choose between contradictory pieces of evidence, the need for evidence to fit a coherent theory, how government works, and basic principles of social theorizing—all provide the elements of how to judge not only the JFK conspiracy but all conspiracies.
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)
John McAdams teaches American politics, public opinion, and voter behavior at Marquette University and has taught at Harvard University. He is the author of several articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Sociological Quarterly, and Law and Contemporary Problems.
"Anyone interested in exploring JFK assassination conspiracy theories should read the Warren Commission Report, the House Select Committee Report, and McAdams’s JFK Assassination Logic. The voluminous literature will fall into place. McAdams gives you a crucial road map—not to decide what you should think, but how to make up your mind in the face of conflicting information. His book is a must read."
Prof. G. Robert Blakey, former chief counsel, House Select Committee on Assassinations
"A useful primer for students and everyone whose skepticism needs refreshing. McAdams does not flatly rule out a JFK conspiracy, but spells out issues that should be considered by advocates of any specific conspiracy scenario—such as, would that have made sense to the conspirators?"
Paul Hoch, JFK assassination researcher
"John McAdams has the distinction of being both a clear thinker and a clear writer. This book takes on a subject many consider one of history’s great mysteries and offers simple tools to dismantle its apparent complexities—and, by extension, many more such mysteries in the world around us."
Dave Reitzes, webmaster, JFK-Online.com: JFK Assassination Resources Online
"Does your favorite Kennedy assassination theory stand up to scrutiny? Or were your views on what happened in Dallas shaped by misinformation from poorly equipped researchers? Professor John McAdams shows how conspiracy theorists have misled the public about this crucial event in American history."
Gary Mack, curator, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza