Lee Harvey Oswald: Still History's Patsy


Last night, on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Frank Rich of The New York Times reminisces about

the walk up to the [JF] Kennedy assassination, [when] there was all this hate talk about Kennedy, and then there was the John Birch Society, they were worried that the government was going to fluoridate the water and poison the country…it always seems to happen when there's a new liberal group taking over…it's not coincidence that the militias started up again in the 1990s or when Kennedy came in…

As Matt Welch and Jesse Walker and others at this site have been pointing out, loose analogies between between angry, sputtering citizens at town hall meetings and Nazis street thugs and political assassins are pretty damn lame. As important, they are almost inevitably the result of a strange ideological lesion that precludes inclusion of inconvenient facts. A propos of the above: JFK was not assassinated by a right-wing crank, but by a demonstrably pro-Castro defector to the Soviet Union who tooks shots at a rising right-wing freakazoid not long before shooting the president (yes, Oswald done did it). And, you might remember, that revolutionary (coff, coff) violence that wracked the '60s and early '70s was the result primarily not of out-of-control Barry Goldwaterites but by groups on the left.

Precisely what relevance any of this has to the current moment is far from clear. Maddow seemed most freaked out by a recent Arizona incident in which people toted guns to a rally near where President Obama was speaking. The incident has been revealed (on CNN) as a stunt pulled by radio show host and longtime Libertarian Party activist Ernest Hancock, not the nefarious workings of a secret army of camo-wearing zombies mad over mandatory UNICEF collections.

But any accounting of sporadic political violence in the past 60 years or whenever should be even-handed as a starting point of analysis, not used as a way of delegitmating a totally different set of dissenters. That is, folks upset at Obama's health care and other domestic policies, and Congress, and politicians more generally.