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The consensus opinion of independent experts across different fields is that President Kennedy was shot by a single lone gunman, Oswald. Oswald fired off 3 shots in rapid succession. This is based on eye witness testimony, crime scene investigation and physical evidence.
Popular opinion of armchair sleuths (lay people) and other is more divided. This divided opinion is often based on looking at some evidence while ignoring other evidence, as well as misunderstanding the evidence being evaluated.
Why People Think Conspiracy
There are many reasons that intelligent, well read people think there was a conspiracy to kill JFK.
First and foremost, the Warren Commission was in fact flawed. Mistakes were made. When this government report came out some people became critics of the report. Some criticism were right, but others were based on flimsy evidence or misunderstood evidence. Subsequent reports from other independent commissions and experts uphold the conclusions of the Warren Report, even if some of the analysis was flawed. Part of the Warren Report were wrong. But it’s conclusion was right, as confirmed by many other independent researches working with experts.
Oswald fired three shots, which was reported by most eye witnesses. some thought two shots, others thought one. A few thought they heard four. Audio records showed 3 shots. There were reports in the years after the assignation of a fourth gun shot. But the recording actually has what appears to me shots a full minute after the assassination, after JFK was already en route to the hospital. But most people just heard that a recording had four shots, not the analysis that showed it was too late. There were only three shots.
One bullet caused multiple injuries. But people who assumed everyone was sitting in the car like normal people, and not like the president on display, think this is unlikely. People who dismiss this explanation call it the ‘magic bullet’ theory because they think it is impossible. However, they always assume all 4 people are properly seated like they were driving down a highway. Take the scene in the movie JFK which repeats this. But because JFK was not seated and in the middle of the car the bullet did not need to ‘turn left, then right’ in mid-air. The single bullet was able to cause multiple injuries.
Finally, after film of the execution came out people were surprised that JFK’s head seemed to move in a surprising direction. Most people think that the head should have only moved in the same direction as the bullet. This is because we are used to seeing people being shot in action movies and their head’s moving away from the gun in the same direction as the bullet. However, as you die you also have muscle spasms. In the film you can actually see both happen. The instant JFK’s head is hit it starts to move in the direction the bullet was travelling. But as it causes massive brain damage his body spasms his head in another direction. People who expect the head to travel with the bullet are correct: it should and does. But people don’t expect the head to then move in a random direction, which it also did.
People heard things like incorrect reports about the number of shots fired, or ‘common sense’ explanations that are wrong, like how a body should react when hit with a bullet based on Hollywood physics and not biology. Any reasonable person who is not an expert in this things could think things weren’t adding up. But in fact everything was making sense to the experts.
Other things I learned:
Medical personal are experts and taking a damaged body, assessing the damage, and doing what needs to be done to allow the body to heal itself up. But they are not experts in damaging bodies, like forensic investigators. ER room personnel are wrong half the time when trying to tell bullet entry wounds from exit wounds. This reminds of of engineers, who are experts in construction, being wrong when talking about the destruction of building. (Like 9/11 conspiracy theorists.)
Recent research conducted by Viren Swami at the University of Westminster in England found that believers in conspiracy theories “are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular,” writes science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker. “Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.”
“If you know the truth and others don’t, that’s one way you can reassert feelings of having agency,” Swami says. “It can be comforting to do your own research even if that research is flawed,” notes Koerth-Baker. “It feels good to be the wise old goat in a flock of sheep.”