Lone nut ideologues (and yes, there are still a few around besides Bugliosi) like to dismiss all JFK conspiracy researchers as whack jobs. And yes, it must be said that the field does draw its share of impassioned partisans, some of whose thinking definitely tilts in unsound directions. The other day, when I was a guest on Pete Wilson’s KGO radio talk show in San Francisco, one caller wanted to share his conviction that both Kennedy brothers were suicide victims — certainly one of the more novel theories floated about the Kennedy assassinations. But in my experience, most JFK conspiracy researchers are sober-minded people who stick to the facts as they sort through the mountains of information about these crimes.
In my opinion, the two best Web sites for information and discussion about the JFK assassination are the Mary Ferrell Foundation and the Education Forum. The Mary Ferrell site, named after the late JFK research pioneer, is run by a talented Massachusetts software expert-turned-Kennedy archivist named Rex Bradford. The site is an oasis of calm and orderly rationality whose deep well of resources appeals to everyone from student novices to hardcore buffs. Bradford has amassed more than 400,000 documents on the site, including many invaluable declassified government papers. And his video archive — including not only the infamous Zapruder film but a number of other more obscure home movies taken in Dealey Plaza — vividly bring that day to life. Other videos — including TV interviews with JFK and the stunning live broadcast of Lee Harvey Oswald being gunned down by Jack Ruby — also make this history seem powerful and immediate.
The Education Forum, a sprawling complex of chat rooms covering a broad spectrum of history subjects, was created by an enterprising British scholar named John Simkin. Its many discussion threads on the Kennedy presidency and its violent end are provocative and refreshingly free of the obsessive nuttiness and flame-throwing that characterize many online Kennedy circles. Simkin’s forum has attracted respected JFK researchers like Anthony Summers and Larry Hancock, as well as dozens of serious amateur historians well worth talking with, and even the occasional aging source with some firsthand information about the case.
The Mary Ferrell Foundation and Education Forum sites are both shining examples of communal learning and research — exactly what the Internet was intended to do, in all its democratic glory.
David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.” He is now working on a book about the legendary CIA director Allen W. Dulles and the rise of the national security state.More David Talbot.