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Something Is Terribly Wrong – BBC Radio 4

Something is terribly wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

Grassy Knolls, second shooters, patsies, conspiracies galore…the 22nd November 1963 was probably the most infamous day in American History til 9/11.  They were both tragic days where violence attacked democracy, they were also days that have sadly developed a wealth of conspiricy theories.

I have nothing against a good conspiracy theory (after all how did Bruce Forsyth get on Strictly Come Dancing if it wasn’t for some Masonic entertainment organization) but sometimes they get in the way of truth, memory and indeed celebration (in the case of the ridiculous Moon landing conspiracies which try to darken the work of some brilliant and brave men).

JFK has become canonized since his untimely death, and whilst he was far from an angel, his charisma and acute political ability made his a popular figure, more so since his death.

Arguably the Kennedy Whitehouse used more wiretaps and buggings than the Nixon presidency, but as history looks back I am not sure I can imagine JFK having quite the same squalid conversations as Nixon had with Dean, Erlichman and Haldeman.

JFK’s ability to ‘get away with it’ was one of Nixon’s main bugbears, but watching and listening to JFK speak one can see why he made such an impact.  He had looks , charisma, confidence and great oratory.  Maybe people just wanted to believe this was the real thing that was going to make everything better.

Don’t forget that this is the early 60’s and the world had spent the last 15 years or so recovering from a terrible war.  The youth of the day was beginning to have it’s own identity, and for a while there was hope of a new future for the world and JFK was of course part of that.

The 6 day war, Bader Meinhof, the Angry Brigade and Vietnam had yet to break the love generation ,so maybe people had the right to be hopeful.

Radio 4 did a great series of programmes on JFK and his importance and this was perhaps my favourite, much against my preconceptions.

Trying to report what happened on that day is not easy.  It’s not just that some of the facts are a little vague, and contradictory it’s mainly the fact we are all ingrained to believe there was a conspiracy.

What Alan Thompson does in this excellent documentary is try to get to get across the story of the day without hyperbole, without opinion – and it is all the more powerful for that.

He let’s the interviews run and often ramble, from the policeman, newspapermen and the only living member of the Kennedy car Nellie Connolly.

Her interview is very upsetting, all the more for the way in which she tells it, a lady clearly still affected by what she saw in those 6 seconds. There are no experts to tell us what may have happened, no second hand stories of shady dealings, no pomposity from a US historian, just very ordinary people in an extraordinary time.

The extraordinary story is followed through to the end as Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald.

It is astonishing to think that Oswald was initially arrested for the callous murder of Officer Tibbet before the station put two and two together and realized here was not just a cop killer.

The murder of Oswald by Ruby is more like a farce than a murder and the various interviews very clearly show what kind of man Ruby was and also how simply he was able to get in a position to shoot Oswald.

It also shows how different the day could have been, if we agree that Oswald fired the 3 shots, his $8 sight performed well, but also he was undoubtedly lucky to get that second shot on Kennedy, Ruby was very lucky to get a lethal shot Oswald.  A few bullets, a few inches difference and a very different day.

If you want scandal and revelation, conspiracy and surprise, then don’t listen to this.  If you want an honest attempt to simply present the day as several different people believe it happened then this is fascinating listening.

At the end of this I am not sure you can doubt the testimony of the eye witnesses, whilst you may doubt whether Oswald worked alone.

But ultimately all the politics and mafia rumours which may or may not have influenced Oswald’s assassination attempt and subsequent murder by Ruby fade when we hears the extraordinary events of those three days.

A compulsive and slightly unsettling programme that answered no questions, but wisely never promised to. I defy anyone not to feel emotion when you hear Nellie Connoly speak or the KLIF radio reporting ‘Something is terribly wrong’.  I had a slight feeling of despair at hearing the events unfold like some Greek tragedy, so many things that may have happened differently and changed history for all of us.

BBC Radio information

Why you shouldn’t question the moon landings.

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