The Fog of History

The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination is fast approaching. As a history buff and JFK fan, I’m an avid consumer of stuff about the assassination. I saw a swell program on the National Geographic Channel calledThe Lost JFK Tapes.They’re not really lost tapes, but unnoticed ones. Much of the 90 documentary uses local Dallas teevee new coverage, which has probably been on a shelf in a store room for half a century. They’ve structured the film to unfold as if it were live coverage, which it once was.Tick tock tick tock.

Of particular interest to me were the mistakes the local reporters made along the way. They had a *really* hard time with Oswald’s name, He was repeatedly called Harvey Lee Oswald and, my personal favorite, Lee Harold Oswald even after his identity had been established. The Dallas anchors also informed us that security was very tight right before jack Ruby plugged poor ole Lee Harold. In the immortal words of a certain Texas Governor not named John Connally, “OOPS.”

The anchor’s reaction to Ruby’s identity was priceless. He did a double take when handed a slip of paper with his name on it. I got the feeling he knew who Jack-o was and was perhaps even a habituee of the Carousel Lounge, Ruby’s strip club. If so, he was in good company: the joint was a favorite spot for Dallas cops, wise guys, bidnessmen, and hustlers alike.

It’s often said that journalism is the first draft of history. This neat little film is a reminder of the vagaries and fogginess of live teevee coverage. It’s gotten faster but it hasn’t gotten more accurate since the imperative is to get the story fast, first, and furious.

The Lost JFK Tapes is showing On Demand and will pop up again later in the week on TNGC. It’s worth a look see. Here’s a clip:

4 thoughts on “The Fog of History

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. The weeks surrounding the assassination were so surreal to me, a lot because I was too young to understand at the time.
    Plus, the problems with the names are an excellent reminder of those who want to take minor inconsistencies in the reporting at a time when the reporters are running around like gerbils on meth trying to approach a firehose of evolving information and choose what to report. The information was evolving and there’s no conspiracy between LHO’s or JR’s name – the known information was evolving (although a lot of other things provide plenty of feed for conspiracy theories.)
    No matter which way, Kennedy provided such a strong pivotal figure leading into the 60s. He truly shaped history.

  2. BTW – one of the biggest DVD Rental/streaming services has The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination as a 2009 National Geographic. But your link sounds like it is current airing with the next date Nov. 14. So I’ve put it on my rental list.

  3. I set the DVR to record “Killing Kennedy” the other night. All the while thinking to myself, “that title sounds curiously familiar”. When it dawned on me that it was the spawn of Bill O’Reilly, I hit the “Delete” button. Conversely, PBS’ American Experience is running a very good two-parter (last night and tonight) on JFK.

  4. As assassination porn goes, that was good. I caught the things you did, especially the long bit about how secure the basement was and the armored car they planned to use. Ruby was a major oops. Cops thought he was their buddy. FBI and Secret Service each thought he belonged to the other.
    I was 10 and vividly remember that day and the ones following.

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