Notes for a Meditation upon Lee Harvey Oswald as Fortean Man
Part 1: A little Solitaire
Notes for a Meditation upon a Theme of Lee Harvey Oswald as Fortean Man
“Would you like to play a little solitaire? (code for activation of hypnopatsy in Richard Condon’s novel, The Manchurian Candidate)
Millions of words have been written about Oswald, both on the web and in scores of published books. Mighty authors have fallen victim to the sheer weight of material, and I do not intend falling into the trap of writing yet another portmanteau volume full of more lists than a telephone directory.
The theme of absurdity is the one thread that unites each and every stage of Oswald’s life and action. My theme here is the consistency of inconsistency. There are no new facts in this essay; there is nothing that poses as “new evidence” for some “new” approach or other, in terms of a trio of gunmen from Marseilles, death bed confessions from a member of the Luton Girl’s Choir, or Martian involvements. Neither will be found the claim that two rifles not one were “found” in the Book Depository in Dallas, this being surely an inordinate number of weapons for a high street book-trade store, and must be something of a record as far as plot complications are concerned.
The information here can be found in a thousand and one places embedded in voluminous texts.
Rather than add a third rifle to try and correct the orbit wobbles of our modelled plots, I intend an experiment in biography in terms of a re-imaging of atmosphere and character. I hope to bring into sharper focus that which is already known, in the hope to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The same person can be photographed countless times yet one frame will catch something of the soul of a subject, though purely arithmetically speaking it contains no more information than in countless thousands of other frames.
Photographers and workers in daguerreotype, silk screening, or etching, know the feeling well. For a magical instant, light, shadow and atmosphere appear to co-operate, as if these things themselves become consciously alert and aware of a need to produce new perspectives. Often the result is that one face stands out from the many faces of the same person staring up from the contact sheets in the developing dish. The other versions of the same face can be discarded. They are strangers, the masks of people we are not interested in.
In that often plain fact and fiction techniques are useless when we consider human character and actions, Shakespeare certainly would have made Oswald into a second Hamlet. He would have sensed the vast interior monologues, the restless soul, and deep conviction that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Like most assassins Oswald on the surface at least was of almost no social interest or consequence, a “waif” as William Manchester calls him. Yes, we might say, but many a grocer’s assistant has been found with twenty corpses in his basement. But Oswald won’t fit the psychopath or waif formula, and he was certainly no grocer’s assistant, though he might look like one in a certain light. For a man who did not have much going for him, he moved faster through twentieth century history than almost anyone else. Perhaps if he had looked down from his high tight rope, he would have fallen like Icarus. As a monument to the miracle of nerve, the memory of him will last as long as Stonehenge.
Shakespeare would have avoided the fundamental mistake of trying to resolve and explain away the countless inconsistencies in Oswald’s makeup and action. The whole point about Oswald’s life is that the inconsistencies are numberless. Like Hamlet, he simply could not help living and breathing puzzle after puzzle. Almost every hour of every day of his life has been examined in detail by dedicated experts. Each element of time in his amazing adventures becomes rather like that for Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, for whom June 16th 1904 contains infinities of time present and time past.
The “truth” about Oswald is that he was almost incapable of doing anything mundane or predictable. Or if he chose a particular path, (such as more than possibly accepting to becoming a willing CIA and FBI informant) he would not accept it as a path to be followed consistently and responsibly; rather would he action-paint with all the ramifications of such involvements, for all the world as he were a puppet master. He would weave such roles into further webs and nets, conspiracies and plots, disinformation fields, and Fortean anomalies beyond the sun and moon. He was perhaps the first prototypal info-junky; one imagines that a few minutes of conversations with him would thread through vital involvements within the power sectors of criminal, political, and state intrigue.
Therefore those who expect to find a unified Agatha Christie-type single elegant “solution” to the Oswald affair don’t know much about human beings, especially human beings of this Oswald type. Whether in the Welfare queue or on the expensive couch of a shrink, many of such are anarchists by second nature. Human being and dramatic and literary character meet in them, making structures of contradictions and paradoxes into a living art form. The “secret” may well be that Oswald loved to see the world dance to his tune as he laid and destroyed “false” and “true” trails in turn, spreading disinformation, misinformation and conspiracies.
The (possible – it was never proved in a court of law) assassination of a president as a finite crime pales in interest and significance compared with a man whose actions could be put into the Guinness Book of Records. Over nearly a half-century, the assassination of JFK itself has become a pale significance compared to the almost mediaeval quibbles concerning where Oswald was at any one time, who he was with, and what exactly was he doing, and how he existed with money, accommodation, and sustenance appearing from nowhere. We have to ask ourselves would the inconsistencies have continued through a long life, or perhaps fail at some point, rather like a formula for prime numbers? What kind of person would he have become be without the very things that define him?
The face still haunts us after fifty years. He is a reference point for all time, like Coca Cola and Hiroshima, or Charlie Chaplin and Auschwitz. Unlike hundreds of thousands of other far more famous and talented folk, the singularly unaccomplished Lee Harvey Oswald has not vanished beyond recall, and probably never will. Rather has he reinforced his presence through four decades like a prototypal cyber golem manufacturing fresh updated scripts for each and every media & research year, the two now being almost synonymous.
He has the face of a short-order cook, and he rarely exhibited any kind of thought or intelligence in any written form or in any remembered spoken words. Like no other historical figure, Oswald is still very much a live provider for all the world of fascinating images and associations, atmospheres and interpretations. Just like James Dean, it is as if he were still young and alive, but this time hustling Matrix-type scripts to a live-wire but extremely reluctant and doubtful film agent. Or perhaps we should now say sitting before a screen and hacking into metaphor-systems beyond the sun and moon. That’s what he would be doing now we suppose; he can be seen as a drained Keanu Reeves, living above a cheap dunk’n diner, behind with the rent, waiting for Trinity of The Matrix to arrive through the window. Meantime, he has smoked his last cigarette, and is being drive half mad with the gorgeous smells he cannot afford rising up through the floorboards.
With Oswald it is always near existential midnight, and Trinity has still not arrived through the window as he glances nervously at his watch, the only thing left that has not been pawned.
Every minute of his life, this kind of threatening theatricality was never far away. A constant absentee whilst at school, he was described by a school psychiatrist as a “dangerous schizophrenic.” Mentally ill or not, he was certainly one of the greatest performers of history in a play whose final act might well have ended in nuclear annihilation, which is the ultimate hard act to follow.
In this respect, despite the attempts of some of the very best brains of our culture and society, Oswald fits still Winston Churchill’s description of Soviet Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” We cannot say even that he was a notorious murderer and assassin, because it has never proved that was responsible for the death of President John Kennedy. If he did indeed murder an American president, it was under the most unusual circumstances with bullets, trajectories, and with a weapon equally as absurd and impossible as was every stage of his utterly fantastic life.
It appears that Oswald was somehow incapable of living and acting within any kind of 24-hour frame of mundane reference. He kept a diary whilst in Moscow, now judged by some to be entirely false. On the sixth day of his arrival in Moscow, he slit his wrists in his room in the Hotel Metropole (Oswald always chose good-class settings). He said he did this after being informed that his Soviet visa would not be renewed. But again, Oswald may have been acting the whole thing out. KGB Officer Igor Ivanovitch Guzmin told Norman Mailer that it had been decided on the highest levels after the suicide attempt to let Oswald stay, even though some thought his suicide attempt may have been staged. Igor
Ivanovitch Guzmin assigned Stepan Vasilyevich Gregorieff to Oswald, but hundreds of pages later Norman Mailer tells his readers that these names were pseudonyms.
This constant detection of multi-layered stage-fronts of one sort or another is one single uniting factor in the Oswald business from beginning to end.
He then loops the loop by getting the Russians to quickly reverse their decision. Getting Russian stiff-necked bureaucracy to do such a thing was yet another near-miracle. The Russians rewarded the embarrassing suicide attempt by this extremely tricky customer by moving him to Minsk, where he lived a life of luxury by the standards of Russia in 1960.
Oswald almost certainly achieved this status by playing his one protective ace card: offering full details concerning the whole and entire U-2 operation.
“In 1970 Francis Gary Powers wrote in Overflight that he believed Oswald’s defection was related to his being shot down: ‘Oswald’s familiarity with MPS 16 height-finding radar gear and radio codes (the latter were changed following his defection) are mentioned in the testimony of John E. Donovan a former first lieutenant assigned to the same El Toro radar unit as Oswald on page 298 of Volume 8 of the Warren Commission Hearings. According to Donovan: ‘Oswald has access to the location of all bases in the west coast area, all radio frequencies for all squadrons, all tactical call signs, and the relative strength of all squadrons, number and type of aircraft in each squadron, who was the commanding officer, the authentification code of entering and exiting the ADIZ, which stands for Air Defense Identification Zone. He knew the range of our radar. He knew the range of our radio. And he knew the range of the surrounding unit's radio and radar.’ ” (http://www.ajweberman.com/nodules/nodule4.htm)
He then performed a veritable hat-trick unrivalled by all history. Certainly le Compte de Saint-Germain or Fulcanelli the Alchemist would have admired. Oswald, after having a high old time, marries Marina, a Russia girl, who gives him a baby daughter. After this, he decides he has had enough of Soviet life and takes his bags and family back to the United States with as much ease as if he were leaving a holiday camp.
At each intersecting stage of this amazing progress there is maximum ambiguity regarding almost anything and everything. It is almost as if the game had been devised such that the system cannot be entered, or at least not fully. As a system, the Oswald world is a guessing game reminiscent of a short run of translated plain-text filtered from ten-digit Morse blocks snatched from high aerials.
But was he programmed?
This man could no more be programmed than could a healthy chimp with learning difficulties.
To baffle completely each and every process of investigation applied to him over nearly half a century is Oswald’s main achievement. He had only an elementary education, wrote not a single book, did not go to college, and he was hardly mentally or physically gifted in any sense. But few more clever human beings of greater knowledge and sophistication have ever achieved such conscious personal and psychological visibility and invisibility. Moreover he achieved these at one and the same time in the context of a scale of intercontinental actions and possibly apocalyptic consequences for the whole of the human species.
In addition, and almost without trying, he managed to violate the world picture of a steady-state psychology, finite within the skull, and with determined inputs and outputs. He showed that Mind reaches its targets through self-deception and fantasy, confounding all rational expectancy as it does so. He also left behind him the irresistible and marvellously subversive thought that Mind in its wanderings can network with others of its kind, suggesting therefore that Death itself is a state of Mind, being merely a shut-down part of the Matrix. This puts the idea of motivation into a group context operating mainly on image channels which alone confounds all existing intellectual and philosophical ideas. Undoubtedly, Oswald was getting information from a channel we yet hardly recognise.
He thus left behind much more than he ever knew, and long before the words computer and internet were in general use as metaphors.
Therefore one thing is certain: as far as professional killing is concerned, Oswald would be the last person in this world to be considered for a major part in a complicated plot involving possible multiple weaponry, exact timing and complete organization. He was so unstable that he well might ruin such a plan instantly: he simply would not turn up, would fire in the opposite direction required, would betray, inform, confuse, forget things and finally disappear when he was most wanted.
Another question: if multiple gunmen fired from beyond the grassy knoll, how could they be sure that their bullets would not be found? They could not be sure. If one of their bullets had been found, then Oswald would be off the hook instead of being on. Getting Oswald off the hook was no part of anybody’s plan. Better to have him not there in the first place, and get him off the hook good and proper!
Oswald left few written personal records except a highly suspicious diary, and he disappeared almost in a magical puff of smoke only feet away from an entire pantomime assembly of legal, police, and media authority. No death was as public as his. It was recorded live in “real” time (whatever that means) by almost every single piece of technology available at the time. His death was as big in this sense as were the vast social political, criminal and military sectors that hinged on his every action. Not even his killer Jack Ruby appeared to quite know who he himself was, or what he had done. Indeed Ruby appears not even to know much about who he had killed, since according to Anthony Summers, Ruby hardly referred to Oswald or even mentioned his name, either as illustration, justification, or in argument or conversation. That he had murdered a man for a particular crime was never the issue with him. All Ruby ever said (and he said it many times and nobody took any notice, not even the Warren Commission) was that the world was run by a terrible conspiracy and he begged to be taken from Dallas to Washington where he would be safe to tell all.
Needless to say, this invaluable asset was left in Dallas to rot.
On January 3 1967, he died of lung cancer before his second trial could begin. He claimed that he had been injected with cancer-causing drugs.
Oswald volunteered for the Marine Corps on October 27th 1956, and on March 18th 1957, after his basic training, he was sent to Naval Air Technical Training Centre in Jacksonville, Florida In September 1957 he joined Marine Air Control Squadron No 1 at Atsugi Base, Japan. There, after a surprisingly short training period in the United States, Oswald guided in top-secret U-2 spy planes, bombers possibly carrying nuclear weapons, and VIP flights.
Also based at Atsugi were the big four-engine Constellation AWACS aircraft with their massive radar housing above and below their fuselage. They flew long surveillance missions in the Far East, often (like the U-2) infringing Russian air space.
If Oswald did give information to the Soviets that brought own Gary Powers U-2 on 1st May 1960, then it might well have been about the (possibly jamming) vulnerabilities within the semi-computerised management system within this type of AWACS surveillance system. The U-2 was a revolutionary concept, but basically it was a simple single-engine subsonic aircraft, being little more than a powered glider. It needed an ultra-powerful radar and sophisticated integrated management system (the first of its type) to enable it to get in and out of its 70,000 feet operational altitude. Its wide wing could keep it aloft like a bird in a thin atmosphere and its single engine could operate nearly in a near shut-down condition for many hours. At this height no fighter in the world could get near it.
Once at operational altitude, its cameras and various other sensors could monitor virtually any sector of military-industrial interest: nuclear plants, weapons stores, manoeuvres, bases, and where vulnerable transport and manufacturing and testing links came to together.
When we consider that Oswald was a dummy, we must bear in mind that he was an operator at the very centre of a top-secret state-of-the-art Intelligence-gathering system.
Constellation AWACS aircraft
Oswald’s manifest clever practical ability conflicts with many reports describing him as a brainless and confused waif and stray. Anthony Summers in his book Conspiracy describes Oswald doing his radar operating job so well that one of the leading Marines in Oswald’s group commented:
“He had the sort of intelligence where you could show him how to do something once and he’d know how to do it, even if it was pretty complicated.” Another officer wrote:
“I would desire to have him work for me at any time...He minds his business and he does his job well.”
The Warren Report comments of Oswald at this time:
“He was thought to be an intelligent person, somewhat better educated and more intellectually oriented than other men on the base. A few of the men thought it more accurate to describe him as someone who wanted to appear intelligent. He had a pronounced interest in world affairs, in which he appears to have been better informed than some of the officers, whose lack of knowledge amused and sometimes irritated him; he evidently enjoyed drawing others, especially officers, into conversations in which he could display his own superior knowledge.”
In other words inside the mind of the competent NCO at the radar screen there was a cauldron of transcendental dissatisfactions looking for a devastating point of application. At this point in many a young life Jesus Christ and/or aliens may appear at any time.
Oswald chose the rather disappointing and inferior alternative of Karl Marx.
Or at least he said he did.
Trouble began at Atsugi when in November 1957 Oswald somehow managed to shoot himself in his elbow with his privately owned Derringer (a small handbag pistol). For this he was court-martialled, and yet another court-martial followed when he picked a fight with a sergeant and was jailed from July 27th to August 13th 1958.
After his trouble military service in Japan, he was returned to El Toro Marine Base in December 1958. He spent some eight months there carrying out menial tasks prior to an honourable discharge. Here, his comically humourless intense preoccupation with Communism was noted by people such as Kerry Thornley, who had just joined the Marines. Oswald became one of Thornley’s buddies and was known to his fellow grunts as "Oswaldskovitch."
Back at El Toro, metaphysical realms were waiting for him. This was another dimension. His already extended and holistic personality had not dipped its toes into these waters before. Without even trying, Oswald extended himself into the literary dimension, for Thornley began writing a novel based on his early disillusionment with life in the Marine Corps.
After hearing that Oswald defected to the Soviet Union after his discharged, he transformed the book, (called The Idle Warriors), into the Oswald story as he saw it. He thus made himself the only person to write a book about Lee Harvey Oswald before the fatal day of 22nd November 1963 in Dallas.
Further, Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate was published in America in 1959. Though Richard Condon didn’t know Oswald, his Manchurian Candidate had previously predicted Oswald as a character. Thus by 1959, the man himself was already part of two contemporary narratives; Thornley’s account was drawn from knowledge, Condon’s purely speculative, though it is the Oswald story with the Chinese “brain washing” theme attached.
For Oswald the classic non-achiever who looked like nothing and indeed was practically nothing, that is some achievement. He was already being prepared for legend before he became legend. As an anti-hero, that takes some beating. Caught between different kinds of texts, it gives us the eerie feeling that he was being manufactured by a process beyond his means, comprehension, and personal resources. The eerie feel of the presence and operation of such a “lost” channel is reinforced in that the same could be said of the murderers of Robert Kennedy (Sirhan Sirhan), Martin Luther King (James Earl Ray), John Lennon (Mark Chapman).
Every single one of these men was a back bedroom hero born in urban desolation. They arose not out of the wiring harnesses and bubbling baths of Dr. Frankenstein, but were sculptured out of countless B-feature film images, junk TV, countless manipulated advertisements, and the worse diet in the world. They seem hardly born of woman as they step out of their cartoon frame, and pull their tin and paper triggers. None attempt to escape. Whilst being handcuffed, they were all strangely passive, as if wondering what had happened to the next cartoon frame. At their feet lay a much more significant cartoon figure, either dead or injured. Arthur Bremer who attempted to kill Governor Wallace in May 15, 1972, was described by his “defence” as being “incapable of understanding anything at all.” Formed by a family life devastated and wiped out by junk TV, we are not surprised.
The media theme is the thread, not real politic. Reagan was shot in 1988 by John Hinckley Jr. The motivation? To impress the young actress Jodie Foster. He is still in a mental home in 2004. Whilst appreciating Jodie’s qualities, this is a hard way to get a date. Hinckley might have settled for joining Jodie’s fan club and getting signed Christmas cards and special offers for club cinema seats had he not seen the cult film Taxi Driver starring Robert de Niro and Jodie Foster. Chapman in turn was careful to get John Lennon’s autograph before he shot him.
In that these people are more like cut-out Simpsons characters than anything else, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Homes would be puzzled. For the most part, modern assassins don’t come from the Bath and Wells horticultural society they are sculpted by media, theatre and performance arts more than economic, political, national, or moral structures
As such, it is not much use looking for complex aspects of their world-connectivity. Their hold on the world is so tenuous they are almost virtual, like the junk-media their very bones have absorbed.
The trouble with mechanical researchers in may cases as soon as they hear the word “media” often they get angry and dismissive. They prefer finding lost socks from second cousins. Even forty years after Marshall Mcluhan’s Understanding Media and Andy Warhol’s theories in Series and Singles became known, media is still far from being understood as a social construct on a par with say so-called “real” economics or “real mathematics” or “real scientific facts.” As soon as people “get serious” they abandon arts culture and media almost completely. Such things are reduced to non-functional prettiness, and are playthings to be pushed aside when “real” matters come up.
Ignoring media, such researchers experience a crisis in the field of explanations such as we have in the Oswald research field. It is not yet realised that the image world can change things just as can any “real” hammer blow.
How does this channel work?
Before we sleep, perhaps we remember a, b, and c, these things having initially nothing to do with one another. We wake, and a, b, and c have joined up together during the night showing image-relations between them, whole architectures we could hardly have guessed. We have been re-programmed against out will as surely as if we had been hit by a hammer. More important than a hammer blow is that our new abc relationship is alive in the form of what can be called non other than a questing information-animal that will start to breed, reach out beyond itself for info-breeding partners in the manner of any animal looking for a mate.
The next night perhaps our elementary animal, our amoeba-like intelligence BIT will be joined by elements d, e, and f. That is if we recall such things at all. The stuff we don’t recall say g, h, and i, is beyond all calculation. If we multiply our original abc animal by a purely arbitrary factor of a thousand, we begin to get an idea of how complex are our image-associative areas of perception.
Moreover, these image clusters are autonomous, intelligent and powerfully organised but only partially by any kind of conscious linear cerebral process.
They are also quite beyond our control.
A friend (we will call her Silvia) once told me that upon waking one morning she recalled that she had produced a complete full-scale Broadway musical in her head, starring out-of-era-phase characters, such as Doris Day and Michael Jackson. A few microscopic dots of active bio-paste within her skull had organised such an incredible thing within the brain of a woman who admitted to not being clever at all in any way. Though hardly interested in such things, she had nevertheless produced and directed and cast all its possibilities, to reveal an utterly fantastic level of autonomous unconscious organization.
She felt that the songs were beautiful, lengthy and quite original, and she was sad that they remained so vague. Like Coleridge and his dream-recall of the Ancient Mariner, she could recall only fragments and snatches or the performances and songs of her dream-show. Some years later Silvia visited a show in which she was astonished to hear about eight bars of one of the songs she had heard in her dream. Marcel Proust’s septet of Vinteuil comes to mind, a private drama which seeps out by a mysterious alchemy into the outer world:
“Proust's recurring metaphors prefigure or anticipate actions and emotions before they occur. Vinteuil's music is linked with Swann's love for Odette, the Bois de Boulogne with Odette, hawthorns with Gilberte, and the sea with Albertine. Marcel realizes the linkage when, through the power of association, the first image recalls the second.”
We have thus multiple dramas in our heads with their own agendas. After a particular show is over, like Jack Ruby, each assassin then relapses into passive caricature as if exhausted by the process, indeed not knowing what the process was or if there had been a process at all. They pollinate like bees rather than “act.”
But most researchers are rationalists. They pride themselves on this set of shining data-base tools and set about any and every problem rather like engineers. The whole and entire education system is geared to scientific rationalism. It gives prestige, it makes money, gather praise and honours, destroys the environment, tortures countless animals to death, and it pleases mums and dads. Needless to say, it gives hardly a clue as to how the world “works.”
“Objective” scientific rationalism cannot connect the blasted heath of King Lear with the political landscape, no more than it can connect media images with the kind of motivations previously described. We are dealing here with shape channels of vital inspirations, not “facts.” We have here analogues of performance as causation, and as yet, neither science nor psychology has any kind of language for such things.
This means that as a society, we cannot connect the equally blasted heath of Iraq with storms, earthquakes and spouting volcanoes in one month with the disturbed national condition of America. We have lost the language for this, and such cannot be remodelled like a circuit diagram. As a culture we have forgotten how to read the old track of image, symbol and metaphor. Therefore Mind and Nature have become separate. To understand Oswald we must learn to read again the lost language of the old subtexts and move in between the grey shades between those two troubled approximations of Fact and Fiction synthesising as they do in the manner of an Escher drawing.
The problem is that the Oswald business creates one of mankind’s great fears: that the merest scrapes of information and experience do not reveal simple harmonious structures, but greater and greater complexity. This is a great change from the late Victorian idea that science “advances” into a railway-line future adding to a fixed “store” of knowledge and therefore time reveals some kind of final truth.
Certainly conventional legal, moral, and psychological terms do not fit the assassins any more than they fit the Nazis. The assassins are living cartoons more than being in any way photographic. In this sense we can hardly call any of them common criminals. Expecting consistent realism of a figure such as Oswald is to expect of Picasso or Dali. We have no problem at all in understanding the bizarre juxtapositions of such painters. However, when such juxtapositions step off and out of the canvas, in order to manage, we stick such things back on the gallery wall. There they become passive things, provide amusement and interest rather than beings discursive investigation tools.
Albert Goldman, the author of The Lives of John Lennon (1988), describes David Mark Chapman watching TV without cease for three solid weeks before he shot and killed John Lennon, often “bursting out in rage at people who were successful, like rock stars.” Goldman continues:
“During this period he had two hallucinations which he interpreted as divine messages. Walking past a plaque on his wall listing the Ten Commandments, Mark saw the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ leap forward. Another day, while watching a cartoon, he suddenly spied the same phrase on the screen.”
Often with such people, as with the UFO visionary George Adamski, the arrival of a man from Venus is the least you can expect. The only trouble is that when we put them down as losers, they often jump through many more hoops than can more sane, intelligent and well-balanced folk.
This visionary channel is indeed a source of power worth investigation
The higher disturbance it represents belongs to a higher class of inspirations than mere criminality. This is sordid, brutal, and usually miserably plebeian; offenders in this area are usually simple-minded morons who want money, sex, power, or simple revenge or momentary fame. The major American assassins of the twentieth century wanted nothing of these things. Even their political identities, if the exist at all, are pale transient things, swinging from Left to Right at the drop of a hat. They do not want anything at all in the gross physical respect of fleshy objectives. Certainly they are not driven by profit or gain, or even fame or notoriety; like the modern suicide bomber, they are motivated alone by a need to annihilate a set of complex symbols in the full knowledge that such destruction will effectively end their life. None try to escape from the scene; none have the criminal mind to prepare escape routes, accomplices, or hiding places full of weapons, tools, vehicles and communications equipment.
In this sense, their objective is never military, political, or technological. They are not saboteurs in pursuit of concrete objectives. Like the suicide bomber again, they are possessed by a much higher class of inspirations than the plebeian criminal need for girls, money, and alcohol.
They are brought to the target not by their own cerebral plot or plan, but by a process that uses their inevitable fumbles and blindness as a channel. This technique as a technique has a rational basis – we just don’t expect them to come that way. The management process is image-association as a language between images and information forms of conscious intelligent life, and all that means as such. Whether bounded by skulls, or on screens and tapes, the images talk to one another rather analogue computers.
The strike is sufficient in itself. After that has been achieved, assassins appear psychologically and physically exhausted, as if the deadly poison they have delivered has in itself led to their own annihilation in the form of an inexplicable loss. They have been betrayed. They have been used for a single highly specialised mission just as a bee inadvertently carries pollen. But the transfer of destructive energy has wiped them out; their lives have no meaning at all beyond the single kill. As soon as the message is delivered, the messenger self-destructs almost on cue. This hardly appears to matter to them since their mission has been accomplished. There is no point in them living beyond this point. Indeed their young lives appear not to have been designed for life in the fullest sense. After the strike, the assassins become limp and disposable as the throw-away packets of the junk culture they have absorbed. With the exception of Oswald (who is an exception to almost everything that can be thought of), most assassins are blown away by history, fading rapidly like an old commercial break.
Though the assassins are men often regarded as daft as the proverbial brush, in avoiding body guards and massive security they just happen to jump through ten more hoops than anyone else, and they are never shot down themselves. This gives us the idea that they belong to a plot structure that gross mechanical materialism has ignored. Their power comes from reading a hidden subtext written in a language of cartoon and symbols and shapes and patterns a kind of Disneyland hieroglyphic of pop and media, advertisements and glamour. This language is far more powerful than objective rationalism. Against it, lists of facts are passive and powerless. As tragedians, both Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy knew an older version of this channel, but lacking all metaphysics, the West lost it and only hears it now like noises from old workings long thought closed down.
The entire Oswald story leaves us with the creepy feeling that mundane explanations about shut down systems are decoys.
The 1962 film of Condon’s novel, The Manchurian Candidate followed Oswald as if it were his shadow. Now he had not only a novel but a full-feature film faithfully mimicking his fell shadow as it moved towards President Kennedy. The novel and the film of course inspired many other metatexts, and it inspired Thornley himself. He was living in New Orleans when John F. Kennedy was killed, hanging out, according to his own recollections (which some friends suspect Thornley invented) with a curious cast of characters. Among them were some unfortunates caught in New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation into the JFK assassination. Garrison thought Thornley might have been part of the conspiracy as a “second Oswald.” The two men looked quite similar, and there was a weird series of coincidences linking them. Finally, with Thornley testifying before the Warren Commission, the world becomes one vast transcendental story machine.
These metatexts of films and revivals of films and novels continue today in terms of yet more fabric of association and synchronicity, techno-mythology and intrigue. As far as the Oswald business is concerned we really don’t know now whether we are on or off the page, in or out of the web, or on or off tape, film strip or compact disc, what is invented or whether indeed all and everything is a certain kind of invention in the Postmodern sense.
Perhaps the synchronous image-association field is the psi channel we have been looking for so long. We use this channel to move through one another’s inventions like visiting ghosts.
Even in death Oswald played games with past and future. Like George Adamski again, though dead, he could not resist writing and directing his own drama. Here in a previously unknown photograph of his corpse in the Dallas morgue, he chose obviously Tommy Lee Jones to play him, even though Tommy Lee Jones was in short pants at the time.
Oswald’s motto might well have been:
“Someone somewhere is living my life for me”
(Luigi Pirandello Six Characters in Search of an Author)
End of Part 1
“The noise in the system is where the sub plots hide”
Look at him perform! Though death is near, he has no inkling of it. As soon as the microphone appears, his eyes light up, and he becomes star-stuff like a Chinese flower dropped into a glass of water. He almost smiles as if he is a rock star being interviewed after a concert. He knows that for all intent and purpose his life has come to an end, but all that matters to him is that he is on air to the nation. Death is irrelevant. Prime time is what is important. If you are not on Television, you are nobody. At this very moment, Oswald knows that he is now a Star for all time, and he is going to get far more than Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of 15 minutes of fame, more like 1500 years of limelight if humanity lasts that long.
Photographs like this are rare. This depiction is of someone just hours away from becoming an immortal, a pure piece of media structure to which corporeal death and decay belong to the very lowest levels of corporeal perception. In becoming a Star, Oswald he has changed the rules behind all explanations.
But at home and school he always did change the rules. Later in life he changed the laws of relationships and ambitions. He deceived far more clever men with ease, and he ran rings around the most dangerous and powerful organisations in the world. For a hat-trick he challenged our entire explanation system of time and personality, body, mind and spirit.
Not a bad performance for a zero person who had not much at all going for him.
He had certainly what Charles Fort called a “wild talent.” Like Toad of Toad Hall, Oswald could not be held down. He was designed and built for escapes of all kinds, not only from fixed determined background and psychology but the very space and time that contained him. He could not help violating such things any more than Saint Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663) could not help levitating many times on communal occasions when such a violation of Nature was both embarrassing and uncalled for.
In that he could walk through twentieth century walls at will, Oswald was a threat to mankind long before he took the path he did. His performance as a gun-toting assassin, is not nearly of so much interest compared his demonstration that the goalposts are far less stable than we ever thought.
He was dangerous because he utterly violated the rules of the world of appearances. Long before his arrest, most people who knew Oswald suspected that there was something unusual about him. If the world of appearances was to mean anything at all, by all common expectation, there should be hardly anything behind this rather doll-like face, the face of a short order cook from a gay salad bar, although Oswald was nothing of the kind. It is the face that these days would be in need of “support” from counsellors of all kinds, yet this mask now sits permanently in the modern unconscious, like the strontium 90 in every piece of flesh and bone of the post-nuclear world.
Oswald’s face always had a certain suspicious bland perfection. There is not much wear and tear in it, no weathering of lines and creases, no wrinkles of the habits of thought, no estuaries of puzzlement, curiosity, or etched character. Like the murdered six-year-old mannequin Jonbenet Ramsey, he looks rather like some consumer product, but on a second look there is something of the robot-doll or golem about this face, arousing a most specialised form of fear, more intellectual than physical. Certainly there is something in the sallow features that does not add up. Like a manic researcher suddenly discovering a manufactured series of phoney explanations, we realise that the face is intended to make us go away, lest we discover the veritable furnace of networking plots, agendas and conspiracies behind it.
Perhaps we fear that if we penetrated this reassuring blandness we would see almost inconceivable creatures scurrying around under a lifted garden stone. Because we do not want the roof of our universe torn off in such a manner, we would prefer to leave Oswald strictly alone, with his hint of a Gioconda smile, older perhaps than the rocks upon which he sits. Certainly as a nondescript loser, he left behind him a trail of devastation great than that of Attila the Hun. After he had gone from us, we could not fit the world together again. He left behind ruins, each piece of which did not appear to belong to any other piece.
Oswald’s face in this sense is like one of those models of the Eiffel Tower made of clock and watch parts. But instead of springs, toothed gears, and dials, Oswald was made of plots and information arrays rather than flesh and blood. Certainly he accomplished what finite flesh, blood, and psychology would have found difficult to accomplish if consciously attempted.
dog 10That he had unconsciously discovered how to receive and process information in a way that we have forgotten in a manner than science has dismissed.... He is unconsciously reading the chatter of countless sub-texts that protect him that took him by the hand and led him through twentieth century walls. He had the knack of letting the images within him talk to one another. He connected them up, gave them a common language. He is networking in a manner that is at the present time almost inconceivable to us.
Certainly Oswald won’t be defined by atoms and molecules or applied rationale of facts and figures, dates and places. We only start to get somewhere with him when we replace atoms and molecules by flow and counter flow of information. Or rather should we say replace the mechanistic idea of “flow” by the idea of changing states of information, and thus distance the idea of information flowing through some media (ether, wires) from point to point in space.
Like Marilyn Monroe and like indeed Adolf Hitler, we have to deal with Oswald in terms of images. Being (for better or for worse) three of the greatest performers of all time, as human beings plus something else, all three quite defeated factual makeup which become rather like a shorn snakeskin as soon as they stepped onto a world stage to become pure media, a matrix of advertisements, suggestions, rehearsals, image displays, and performances of many kinds, not facts. The use of the past tense here is significant, for all three still stalk the midnight battle of Elsinore, so to speak. Each ghost still whispers of unspeakable things rotten in the state of Denmark. Holistic means...the border of life and death are obscure...
Offstage of the world or studio, neither Oswald nor Monroe had strong physical presence. They lacked all cerebral substance, they had no educational dimension, and factually speaking they were such waifs and strays as to be almost of no substance proper to speak of. But once they were lit and produced, they became powerful management systems for mounting and processing endless series of performance-states, leaving the much-vaunted intellectual faculty far behind in the Darwinian culture dish of evolving images.
Like Michael Jackson, both Oswald and Monroe were shaman-figures by default. When such figures leave the stage lights and the cameras, courts and prisons, disaster, corruption and death await them. Neither Jackson nor Oswald or Monroe or a few hundred others of the same type were built for Apollo. They fall and die like mayflies, fluttering their wings as darkness comes. But once on stage again, once reborn within the cycles of shamanistic regeneration, Dionysus returns, transcendental stuff gets into action, and anything can happen.
In vein do we try to scale such figures down, make into them into ordinary folk who happened merely to undertake pathways which ended in evil or good. Such psychic scaling, like endemic scepticism, is of course concept-control. Like Hitler, we try to make Oswald into an ordinary dolt, but he (and others like him) won’t be contained by our attempt to reduce him to mundane proportions.
Concept-control architecture is built of explanations. This structure evolves according to prevailing conditions. Human beings have to reduce and simplify these explanations for control purposes. We navigate mentally and construct what we call the “real” by reducing states of information to abstractions. This means that we are required to strip situations of all rich complexity and of all ambiguity and paradox until we reach the stage where our mundane equations become operational, and then we have a theory that “works.” We then equate this system to what we term the “real.” In this sense we reduce a right-angled triangle of fried sausages, say, to abstract lines in order to get the theorem of Pythagoras to “work.” Such are the roots of sceptical objectivity. Fried sausages of course are, like the UFO, far too complicated things for mathematics to deal with. The stripped-down “real” continues to satisfy until it grows old and dies, shot-through with anomalies. It is then put on the shelf in the museum of all history curiosities, along with the horn of a unicorn, a bottled mermaid, and a two-headed penis.
But star-stuff cannot be put on a shelf. It is not made of railway time tables, Baedekers full of facts, conserved momentum, pushes and pulls, or the nail-biting input-output equalisations of Mechanical Person. The more noise in a star-system the better the signal. Star-stuff forms in the area where finite flesh and blood transform themselves into pure information. This is a border area where human beings become signalling systems, image clusters, dialogues networked between symbols and metaphors.
Perhaps we should place more trust in metaphors than facts. Facts will not tell us that the Oswald region and the Kennedy region (both made of our star-stuff) were two Camelot systems approaching one another like battle fleets.
In the Marines, our cartoon figure Oswald began his impossible cartoon journey. He became no less a hands-on radar operator with scores of lives and millions of dollars of aircraft weaponry in his hands, and nuclear weaponry at that. Again, despite his loud pro-Communist views, he was given a top secret job guiding in equally top secret U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Anyone who has seen the two-inch-thick manuals of intensive military electronic courses that have to be absorbed before they become qualified radar operators with such responsibilities, looks again at Oswald’s wan milk-bar waiter face and becomes alert.
In vain would our simple minds like an Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes “solution,” but our times are very different to hers; the butlers have gone, and the potting sheds are now infinite in extent full of fast-breeder media events which do not belong to not finite or enclosed systems. We inhabit therefore a very different cosmos where the more information we gather, the more complex the situation becomes.
Unlike the Victorian railway station, we catch a Matrix train and we are likely to finish up anywhere. Neither Agatha Christie nor Sherlock Holmes would have liked this situation. They would perhaps like to stay with the predictable courses of the pre-Relativistic billiard-ball atoms, a fixed social structure and the idea of a Nature which lay quite still whilst being examined.
Oswald worries us not because he might have attempted to kill Kennedy, but because he denies that which is fundamental to our preconceived ideas about the “correct” operation of modern consciousness. If, after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Freud, it turns out that the cosmos “works” by rules which have absolutely nothing to do with the work of any of these men, then we have a problem with the very forward motion of our conscious as regard technical advance, moral improvement, and just about everything else.
From the point of view of core cultural politics, we would therefore like to “explain” Oswald as a confused early 1960s young man, a victim of home, circumstance and various aspects of American society, a kind of James Dean wannabee. Once so explained we have him pinioned, a struggling fly dying on the very small table top of our superficial satisfactions. In this sense “explanations” are pure war, and far more important than guns tanks or bombs. They are part of a struggle to change the software of the great Imagination, this being the main objective of the kind of Dark Rider agendas encountered in Ufology.
It is astonishing that after nearly a half-century of the most intensive research ever undertaken, humanity still cannot put the hours of this single week in Dallas in 1963 together in a coherent framework. No matter how we try, as in the 1977 film Eraserhead (David Lynch) the perspectives blur and flicker, splinter and disintegrate. Proud of our sophisticated rational faculties, we are disturbed by the idea that the extraordinary character and life of Oswald still refuse to be brought into rational focus. His life and his actions consisted of a stream of anomalies in which paradoxes, inconsistencies, and contradictions follow one another in an endless stream. According to the most sober and meticulous researchers, like the Scarlet Pimpernel of Baroness Orczy, Oswald is here, there, everywhere at once involved in inexplicable behaviour involving doubles, intercontinental travels, and every single aspect of techno-military industrial political and scientific intrigue. He crosses political, language, and cultural lines with ease, and often it appears by default. For a show-piece he then reverses his journeys as easily as he could swing from left to right in his political opinions and affiliations, risking torture, imprisonment, death, and much worse as he walks through twentieth century walls at will. He defeats American military and civilian Intelligence, he even defeats America civilian officialdom and defeats with aplomb also the officialdom of the Soviet Union, a thousand times more fierce.
He enters and leaves the Soviet Union as if it were a holiday camp, waving a “tourist visa” of all things, a method of entry almost unheard of in those days. He brought back to the USA a pregnant Russian wife: he then topped this by obtaining a “no interest flag” from the FBI. Moreover, he is not debriefed, interrogated, or even interviewed. The paperwork, the monstrous bureaucracy, the Intelligence systems of both the Soviet Union and the United States he ate for breakfast. He passes through their combined nets of informers, their turning aerials, their filing systems, their agents on the ground with the same ease as he slit his wrists in a Moscow hotel a few days after his arrival. The Soviet authorities (not know for liberal charity) rewarded Oswald by giving him a well-paid job in Minsk.
To anyone who is at all familiar with the state of relations between the Soviet Union and the United State at this time, the appearance of a green-tentacle alien from a flying saucer would be a less astonishing wonder compared to this utterly fantastic progress. Oswald’s travels between continents and Western cities with wife and baby, or alone, or with some of the most dangerous characters around at this time, are a modern mythological journey in which he encountered perils and initiations worthy of the Grail legends or the fourteenth-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
His tax and social security records make no sense, and neither does his erratic behaviour in Dallas, Mexico City, New Orleans, or Moscow. There is no time line which connects the myriad sighting reports of what appear to be duplicate Oswalds. As well as trailing numerous look-alikes, as a hat-trick, he acquired that unique thing essential to a proper twentieth identity: a TV and radio interview. He thus became a media star, and hence a living bundle of every advertisement we can think of. True, his fame didn’t last long in mundane time, but stardom does not belong to this time. Like some forms of the most powerful kind of radiation, the half-life of stardom is very long. Death in such a context becomes a mere self-healing break in a fabric infinite in extent.
Perhaps never has there been a human being quite like Oswald. Perhaps he was a kind of Darwinian spin-off, some experiment in symbiosis. Certainly in this respect, every single part and parcel of his entire dimension of existence has been investigated in depth for over forty years and still hardly a single piece of it fits together. Even a theory of deliberate confusion would never account for such a mess. We still have no explanatory apparatus to account for the orbit-wobbles of the constellated ranges of questions and answers concerning himself and his life.
Oswald certainly gives conventional psychology some problems. Rather than having well-understood motivations and conditioning, he appears to be made up of pure media and dramatic rehearsals of pieces of plays of pieces of other plays, with no repeated whole performances available. Without thinking, he could produce coincidences, echoes, synchronicities salted with all with his own confusions and muddle thinking to create a primal dust in which not even the stubs of his library tickets quite add up. There is no end to this. His entire social security record appears to have been falsified, and as for his job applications, visas, and photographs, all are now in doubt.
Yet there appears to be design, if only in that there is maximum obscuration at each and every intersection of the structure of the complex body of the Oswald experience. With a detectible precision, a tailor-made mass of confusions is put exactly in the right place at the right time and does what it is designed to do: provide skunk-smoke for processes and agendas that are using Oswald as a catalyst.
Oswald’s actions are always at the seam where the explicit conspiracy meets the implicit. Where the doings of men meet the image-plots and network as if in symbiosis. This is not entirely new to us as a thought. In any play of Shakespeare, whenever there is a character talking alone onstage there is always present a second invisible persona: the system. Thus human beings are always accompanied by a shadow play of forces of destiny. We have to remember that Desdemona lost her handkerchief at the only time it mattered, and von Stauffenberg’s briefcase full of explosives just happened to be moved behind the leg of the map table in the Wolf’s Lair bunker otherwise Hitler would have been killed, not just injured.
This leads us to the thought that we may not be dealing just with Oswald. We may be dealing with a group mind that got him over and under the torpedo nets so to speak. Though none of them knew one another, every single one of the major American assassins belonged to a well-defined group, and were subject to the same kind of disturbance and were probably unconsciously networking.
Of course acceptance that we are far from being the sum of our finite parts, breaks all the rules of 150 years of modern social psychiatry and classical psychology from Freud onwards.
But little Oswald would have cared about that, even if he had understood what it meant.
In that he lived more in dimensions of performance and suggestibility than the physical world, Lee Harvey Oswald was truly Fortean Man. He lives (and he still lives for us) in a permanently unstable cosmos. Charles Fort postulated that our perception always operates on a sliding scale of fictions, some being strong, others being so weak that we identify them with “objective reality.” Of course we know that such ground will slip eventually from our brief shelter in history and time, and like the idea of the average man, we exist always either side of some theoretical line corresponding to the real.
Episode 3: The Group
Oswald as Fortean Man
Part 3: Accuracy as Myth
In Book Charles Fort talks about something he calls the system...this was the first use of this word in this context...
Assassinations, published in 1976, is a book that Oswald might have loved to read about himself on a long train journey within some possible reincarnation. It shows many awesome brains spinning webs of purely “factual” investigation, and like Babbage’s machine, these writers almost disappearing into a theoretical infinity. This book contains over thirty fascinating articles about the major American assassinations, many by brilliantly astute minds drawn from a wide range of professional disciplines. As these superb analysts (all American) feel along the fault-lines of their vanguard-nation, the impression is of a beautifully constructed masterpiece by absolutely superb technicians of a first-class and frequently quite brilliant intelligentsia, but who are in the grip of a paranoid training which has stripped them completely of any wider perspective. It is an amazing process to watch. Though no doubt they are of course familiar say, with limited formulas in the case of short runs of prime numbers, they will not accept such a system in what they see as “reality.” They are desperate for a single elegant solution which will sum the non-summing parts. And there must be no jokers in the pack. Without the Fortean joker therefore, these writers must cite nothing but facts; they must contribute nothing but evidence; unsupported opinion, speculation, intuition, rumours, and even good guesses, these are all are quite taboo. And of course, metaphor, that most troublesome subversive joker of all, is banned, or at least his presence is denied, or minimised, since in Western legal and scientific terms, metaphor has almost no meaning at all as far as analysis “proper” is concerned. To any such investigators, the idea of a mechanics of metaphor-as-causation as suggested by Fort, would be looked upon as a gross intellectual indecency, going right against their hard-won and bought-and-paid-for education, to be cast to the darkness beyond that circle of camp-fire light called the discursive intellect. None seem aware that the idea of “fact” (as compared to the idea of metaphor) is a fairly recent appearance on the historical stage. Become in our own time more managers, rather than investigators, scientists would like to see the evidence-games given the accuracy of machine-tooling. The world could then be processed and controlled, designed, modulated, programmed, and re-programmed.
But though in this respect what Fort calls “the system” (he was probably the first to coin the phrase), has done a good job on all these writers, coincidence troubles them deeply. They simply have not been trained to ask the kind of question posed by the old tracking language of synchronicities, for example. The best of them suspect that there is a transcendental leakage of information somewhere, a movement of people and materials and a release of energy which do not add up in any sense of pure factual information, but the set paradigms being such, they are verboten to even hint of such things.
Anyone who has ever worked for a large corporation such as the BBC will know the atmosphere. The writers of Assassinations are corporate minds, scuttling about the corridors shoring-up and patching and repairing the great armour-plated leviathan called Acceptance. But as in any soap-opera, the bandwidth has been set long before the script is even conceived: their education has been expensive, their reputations dearly bought, and their responsibilities deeply impressed upon them. They must not let “the system” down.
One could expect such super-technicians as Sylvia Meagher, Peter Dale Scott, and Paul Hoch to enter Hamlet’s Elsinore or King Lear’s castle, and ask the characters to reach rationalised agreements, demythologise themselves, their class, identity, power-structure, relationships, take the democratic view, and hence clear up situations which have become quite unnecessarily too complicated, wholly politically incorrect, and certainly destructive of time, energy, and lives. Perhaps they would ask the characters to look at the “facts” of the situation, and hence try and form a single solution which will combine and resolve all the conflicting elements. Perhaps they would recommend stress-counselling for both Lear and his daughters.
But a proper solution has been in existence for a long time. It was called Tragedy by the Greeks, but today the concept has degenerated to being knocked down by a supermarket trolley full of multi-coloured Facts. Tragedy is avoided because it contains metaphysical assumptions. If he does anything, Fort points us back to these things as trackers. The researchers, have lost the ability to let the track talk to them. As always, intellectuals (and if a scientist is not an intellectual he is nothing), are usually far too well-protected.
As essays in late 20th-century avoidance, the articles in Assassinations are gems of Fortean perfection. Most are works of art in themselves as concerns how to engineer a way around a complex of experience and avoid all metaphysical questions and implications. For that is what these essays are really about - getting round mysteries, rather than solving them. The “facts” are processed, put into a structure, taken apart again, new facts added, the structured re-assembled, looked at from another point of view, some errant facts “corrected,” new interpretations added, this structure joined to others; there is then a re-focusing, new interpretations again added, perhaps more mistakes are found, and the whole progress is up-dated in the light of new information. It is all glossy intellectual product-management to perfection, guaranteed to substantiate and confirm all those impressive bourgeois affectations of hard work, concentration, and commitment to finding the “factual” truth. The book is a monument to the world of the worker-skills of the genuinely gifted intelligentsia, who are, rather like their equally oppressed industrial equivalent, equally forbidden to look up resentfully from their benches full of structured specialisations.
However, unbeknown to them, what they have constructed is a fascinating new genre. Assassinations reads rather like a long novel by Borges, or, perhaps a novel by Charles Fort, if his life had taken quite another turn. Here are some of the finest brains of the mightiest nation, rationalists all to their finger-tips, implicitly subverting themselves and their approach by the wonders they are producing. A literary Jurassic Museum could be constructed to hold these essays. Shimmering planes of facts twist and turn, flutter and dance before being swallowed up by ever-widening penumbras of uncertainty. Such beautifully ironic works could well be a wholly new area of speculative fiction, since each good writer has a strongly developed style, and is also a master of the subject-matter. More powerful and up-to-date compared with equivalent pure “literary” efforts, Assassinations is an unconsciously self-mocking masterpiece, a delight to read in that these superb rationalists have constructed a story in which there does not appear to be a single rational hour of any single rational day in which Oswald (and many other assassins mentioned) do put push the patterns of their fractured lives through the walls of all rational causation.
ii. Oswald as Fortean Man
According to Assassinations, there was so much packed into a typical Oswald week, an innocent observing alien could be excused for thinking that any one week was the first week of All Creation. Oswald proceeds, with his cartoon-mind, rather like Leopold Bloom, through the separate Nightowns of Russia, the Marines, the Mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the Cuban sector, corporate conspiracies, a very strange marriage, an equally strange rifle with badly-behaved rounds, and a death more weird than all those things put together. To assume that any single entity could so time and integrate these somewhat complicated schemes of matter, movement, and motivation, down to a two-shot six-second bolt/action manual/lay framework, is the height of rationalist optimism. The distance between some well-understood (and for once quite rational) overlap between the Cuban émigrés, the Mafia, the CIA, and the strange dynamics of whatever bullet(s) struck President Kennedy, is simply far too great to be tactically managed. Similarly the dimensions of some simple external mechanical plot could hardly extend to complete control of the high degrees of strangeness involving in angles, times, and movements. That this same degree of strangeness accompanies the other major assassinations as concerns rounds, times, and movements makes the Fortean point - that every particle of the social embroyo is a smoking gun. The strange patterns of the last phone calls of Jack Ruby before being arrested, and also the last phone calls of Marilyn Monroe present much the same problem, and in the second case, bringing in a whole creaking stage-apparatus of Bobby Kennedy’s hired helicopter, u-turning ambulances, hospitals which have no records, and the whole seen by other, quite independent observers from other covert networks, shows that the rational view is like the short run formula for primes again: some strands of it work, they indeed continue working, until, like Fred Hoyle’s view of the downfall of Stonehenge as a wound-down clock, they become increasingly inaccurate. Their ticking begins to falter where the rational elements which make up personality meet the interests of the general ideological field and its own separate domains, interests, and developments. Historically, figures who command much attention often die strange deaths. They are close to the much-troubled area where rational elements interface with systems-mythology. Shakespeare had no problem at all with this idea: for him, the “system” is always a dramatis persona whose name is not on the list of players, yet who is tangibly present in ever single scene that is played.
Yet, spurning Tragedy, the writers in Assassinations, like the pre-Copernican astronomers, still stick on further epicycles to previous epicycles in order to discover a single, general objective systems-solution. In The CIA and the Man Who Was Not Oswald a double-Oswald, of all things, is brought in to correct the orbit-wobbles, as if one Oswald was not quite enough for one lifetime. Here, the assumptions about the timing are quite something; knowing how many mistakes can be made in tying a shoelace, we may permit ourselves a Fortean smile when we know that throughout his life, this Marine, this politically-confused (and increasingly schizoid) drifter, had defied any and every attempt to organise himself and his time. In this, he quite defeated the attempts of an American Mother, the United States Marine Corps, and even the entire might of Soviet Russia to organise his day, not a bad achievement in one short lifetime, especially for a person who after he left the Marines voluntarily, could hardly be relied upon to pull on a second sock after he had pulled on a first.
This Mitty-like inability to pull on two socks one after another, was, as it were, Oswald’s Fortean “wild talent.” The world of course, is always looking for two-socked folk, those wearing one sock not usually regarded as being of great account. Walls, borders, laws, are therefore transparent, irrelevant, or non-operative to those who do not obey the rules precisely because they do not see any rules. The grain of the seeing of the many and varied cultural filters is too coarse for the one-sockers; they pass through like minnows through a net, and one thing is certain: the killers of the two Kennedies, Martin Luther King, and John Lennon, and the man who tried to kill President Regan, were all dedicated one-sockers. That is they were back-bedroom heroes who sprang out from their cartoon-frame and pressed the tinsel-triggers of almost cut-out guns.
Trying to fit Oswald into a “real-time” frame is impossible. From a Fortean point of view he is a wall-eyed tapestry-figure; a living Escher-drawing of a human being, we cannot square him off because a dimension is missing; like Walter Mitty, he lives in perspectives which we have long discarded. A true anomaly is a one-sock event.
Oswald is thus a Fortean figure. He illustrates how useful is the Fortean method of analysis. Many of the essays in Assassinations try to reconstruct the basic common-sense “real-time” sequence of his simple physical progress from one week to another; they fail completely. As an ex-marine radar-operator (and dishonourably discharged from the Marine Reserve), he walked into Russia, married a Russian girl, and calmly walked out with her back to America, even managing to avoid being de-briefed when he returned. During this utterly fantastic progress (which very few 20th century characters ever came near to matching), and which must have made him more obvious than any screaming siren, not a single sector of the American Intelligence community admits to having targeted him as a possible threat to anything at all. Here is Anthony Summers giving us some idea of the difficulties of trying to discover some kind of integrated mundane base-line for the Oswald dimension:
“Oswald’s progress is marked by visits to the employment office, the cashing of unemployment cheques, and the withdrawal of library books. Even these are not necessarily valid for charting Oswald’s movements; the FBI was able to authenticate Oswald’s signature on hardly any of the unemployment documents. Of the seventeen firms where Oswald said he had applied for work, thirteen denied it, and four did not even exist.”
Then there are the fake addresses of fake branches of extreme sections of the political spectrum; a series of fake change-of-address cards filed to various mail offices, but the most disturbing of all are the Oswald sightings made before the actual assassination took place. On September 25th, 1963, An “Oswald” walked into the Austin (capital city of Texas) offices of the Selective Service System (the American military draft organisation), and asked if he could have his dishonourable discharge revoked on account of his two years good conduct. The assistant could not help because the name Harvey Oswald was not on her records. Two weeks before the assassination, another “Harvey Oswald” visited a supermarket at Irving, Texas, and tried to cash a cheque in the name of “Harvey Oswald.” Twenty-four hours before the assassination, the FBI received a report that a “Lee Oswald” had behaved strangely (making anti-government remarks) in a Dallas car show room. Of course these three reports are only of interest because they do not line up with the verifiable movements of the so-called “real” Oswald at the times concerned. These examples are drawn from Summer’s book, and he goes on to give many more examples of strange Oswald appearances at shooting ranges, gun-shops, and even the good old YMCA had a visit. But the mighty Oswald defeated even this mundanity; neither his telegrams nor his money-orders could be traced, though witnesses swore that Oswald identified himself by his now famous “library card,” this wretched slip of paper being just about only constant “fact” he ever had anything to do with.
Like Fort’s examples of Princess Caribboo and Cagliostro, Oswald seems to have put anything and everything he ever had contact with under a kind of enchantment: the space-time around the incident of his shooting of patrolman Tippit, seems hardly to be consistent, and the round which killed Tippit is as controversial as the round which killed President Kennedy, though it was of course fired fron an entirely different weapon. It seems that when Oswald pulled a trigger (as when he undoubtedly took a previous pot-shot at General Walker), only one thing seems rationally certain: that is that the whole event will certainly dissolve into a kind of infinity of burlesque.
There are times when Summers, a sober rationalist to the core, appears to be quite overwhelmed by the bizarre nature of the quest for Oswald. As his investigation proceeds, he confesses he just cannot account for the high strangeness he experiences at every turn. Deeper into the system, and yet deeper again, he understands less and less about how it works. Refusing to accept anything but Fact for his guide, in Fortean terms, this superb investigator will understand less and less again.
Assassinations represents a crisis within the great Information Society, a society in which, paradoxically, there is surprisingly very little information available. Given the present situation concerning UFOs alone, nothing less than the validity of the entire rationalist complex is at stake, and rationalism will no doubt shame itself to death, booted off the cultural scene to universal laughter, a fate it has wished upon its flat-earth opponents many a time. In Assassinations, as each and every Oswald hour splinters, lesser investigators than Summers have no problem in introducing yet more clockwork. One article speculates even that there may have been no less than three assassins acting in concert. Here, to resolve our cosmological inconsistencies, we might suppose then, that the possible Oswald “double” acted with the three supposed assassins, at which the entire situation becomes like Fort’s example of the millions of periwinkles scattered all over Worcester in one night by many hundreds of charitable fishmongers. There comes a point when it might as well have been ten further assassins, five more doubles, or some equally fantastic delta-mouth of possibilities involving the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, Max Bygraves, the Washington Monument, or Ryan, the grandson of the assassinated Fergus Kilpatrick, in Borges’ story, The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero.
It this sounds familiar, it is certainly like similar books written in the past thirty years on the UFO phenomenon, also a new genre. The two have several characteristics in common. We are in neither case dealing with obscurities. Here we have very public events. In the first case, we have hundreds of onlookers, and scores upon score of Dallas policeman, and even one filmed record. In the second, the daily reports from all over the world have reached such a pitch in our own time, it is hardly possible to record them all. For both areas, there is not the beginning of an explanation. The rationalist fury is appreciated. Neither the Oswald system or the UFO system (to mention but two high-profile manifestations), cannot be entered. If a system cannot be entered, then we must consider the entire and fundamental relations we have with such a system has broken down. We have been asking the wrong questions. It will get worse until the elegant Fortean solution will have to be faced: that what we term “reality” within a transient complex of knife-edge events, is a movable feast.
Concerning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, as every Fortean knows, the first anomalies and contradictions, the first wave of unanswered questions and unaccountable coincidences, were not long in arriving. Connoisseurs of explanations looked askance at the police claim for the 122mph of her car, equivalent not so much to being driven, as fired from a cannon point-blank at a wall. The fast autopsies, the even faster re-opening of the tunnel, whose exhaust fumes would very rapidly destroy all forensic evidence, will also have been noted. Now awaited are the first doubles, denials, and chain of associated deaths, and we may soon expect to hear the first tones of the only really authentic 20th century sonata-form: the figures acting suspiciously nearby, the figures seen along the tunnel walkway, the time and speed contradictions, the bending of all levels of perception in the strong Camelot image-field. And perhaps we may have the bonus of even a “real” UFO over the Tuilleries, reported by few, denied by many, wanted by all, expected by some, and part-recorded by radar. Tonal variations will be provided by amateur still-photographs: some fogged by the local chemist, others lost in the post, and a few with photos of an old aunt who happened to be in Canada at the time the camera was pointed at the family dog.
It is such dream-like elements which defeat the absolutely superb analysts of Assassinations. Whenever these fine new late-Roman minds come across these modern mysteries, the real problem is that they cannot cope with the breaking of the heart of that near-religion called continuous product-development of a completely stable reality. They must mass-produce denial-structures to defend the idea of clean-limbed and continuous intellectual progress. There is thus induced a crisis of belief and explanation within that ark of the consumer covenant, that Boolean colonisation of inputs and outputs, which is at the heart of those modern vanishing rituals called rational explanations. The pride of all these analysts is that as they have grown up, they have also fully woken up, and that the car they have just been sold that looks like a space-ship is not really a spaceship, and that a rationalist is not really another mythological performer, like everyone else.
Both Oswald, Fort, and indeed Shakespeare’s Hamlet, were great Outsiders; and Fort’s idea of imagination as the supreme prime mover of all philosophy is well described by another of the same ilk, Luis Borges, who in re-writing the end of the story of that other great Outsider, Walter Mitty, might well have been writing of our three characters:
“ ‘The greatest magician (Novalis has memorably written) would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would this not be our case?’ I conjecture that this is so. We (the undivided divinity operating within us) have dreamt the world. We have dreamt it as firm, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and durable in time; but in its architecture we have allowed tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us it is false.”
A few dozen of the major analyses of the assassination of President Kennedy makes for of some of the most fascinating reading of our age, but hardly enlightens a reader.
Oswald is artform personality and society as one: his natural personal life hardly existed: always it was involve with big issues, powerful myhthologies...not muc use asking him the day of day, or the average price of second hand cars...all finite questions resolve themselves into panatomimes, rather like every second of James Joyces Bloomsday. he is a chacter oout of the novel... June 16, 1904—
QUOTE DAN BURISCHE his ultimate dvelopment as media golem...
made of information dumps, dara bases as a model of the Washington monument can be seen in windows maede of old watch parts. He is pure information as a form of life: imag, symbol andm metaphor make up his liver, heart and blood. lifeform to robot instead of the other way around.
As in nuclear physics, the closer we get to the heart of a system the more complicated the system becomes. Once the atom was a hard billiard ball, but on closer observation a mass con contradictions which we still argue about...But perhaps the olde world was a place in which appearances were true images of what was judged to be real. nThe Victorian World (which only began to break up in the 1960s) that poloceman arrested criminals...
In a week which saw not only the death of Kennedy, but the deaths of Patrolman Tippett and Oswald himself...
he outrgaes reason, he subverts sense and sensibility,
he presents formal psychology with some formidable problems. At any instant the personality is no “enclosure” in the sense of the surface of the skull.
in the information sense (space and time aere hard-wired railways metaphors) but participating in as many other death merely means that a part of the the others elves wander off to other channels...to develop in turn yet further self-generating nets aand webs, as indeed in Ulysses again.separate dramas as we have the patience to count
This number-crunching approach that fill page after page with little more than indigestible lists showing that an author is exhausted failing to grasp those vital images that are the heart of the matter. Mere compilation for its own sake is an intellectual malady, and an excuse for what T.S. Eliot called real thinking.
Like all the assassins, flesh and blood has let them down. School, family, and all the holy familiar affections, had all conspired to estrange them at birth. They have formed a new kind of community. They are in a sense networking in this community by networking images.
the trap of almost mediaeval scholasticism that had bedevilled Ufological studies...
Fear. Not the fear of the spooky horrors of films, or the ore of criminality, but the intellectual fear that with all our brains and discoveries, with all the advances in culture, we have missed the greats trick of all with community and consciousness, individual brain and collective destiny. It is the fear that in our proud progress we may have filtered out some dynamic geometry of symbols and images, mind and personality that does not figure in our shiny rational constructions.
The fear comes from the impression that Oswald’s mind was semi-automated. We accept that our vital organs are such, but the mind? We have great difficulty with the idea that we are not completely in control, that the watch parts as it were belong to regions quite beyond the activity bounded within the skull.
Shakespeare and Borges knew it, and so did the novelists Hardy and John Fowles...there is a yet deeper terror than this.
that even the buidling fo a dog kennel conans as many mysteries. That the mysteries have no end. They existed long before Oswald and will exist long after him. With Oswald they were revealed not only because of his extraordinary behaviour, but because he became one of the most investigated individuals in world history. Perhaps like Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame, each life would reveal innumerable worlds wrapped within worlds, personalities within personalities and indeed performances within performances, packed like Russian fractal-like dolls within dolls.
would every sinmgle instance of experience yield as many mysteries as this?
Even the major novels of his time (the Manchurian Candidate), quite external it would appear to himself, contain whole pieces of his extended body... forecast his coming and his actions., as they indeed made him in some Escher-like geometry in which the gangsters imitate the films stars and the film stars imitate the gangsters, this transfer of images and energy takes place in past, present, and future simultaneously.
He cerainly proves one thing: that human beings are very special. Perhaps a rhino or a two-toed sloth could not move through th walsl of so many universes at once. Though why such a miraculous and profound complexity is perched on top of ingrowing toenails and a disposal system worthy of failed and bankrupt pig farmer is yet another thing to ponder on these Last Days is yet another mystery
Holistic and anachronistic to an almost comic degree, we can imagine even a walk down the street with this ex-Marine for a cup of coffee would yield the most extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps he would get up and leave on some excuse, never to return. Or perhaps he would give any excuse at all., or change his name and identity papers between ordering coffee and the arrival of steaming cups at the table. Perhaps he would shoot another coffee drinker a few yards away. Even if nothing but ordinary conversation ensued, perhaps he would spin the most fantastic tales in which he was a communist on the one hand, yet part of a right-wing conspirator on another. A glance through the window of the coffee house might reveal black limousines across the way full of humped black profiles. A glance in another direction might show a swivelling security camera; two FBI might then come in and sit at a table never taking their eyes off Oswald, and not ordering anything from a waitress who in any case does not come near them.
Even if the world stayed steady-state enough for the coffee to be delivered, perhaps between sips, Oswald would give would contradictory details of several lives, all later to prove false, even in the contradictions. Perhaps he would produce photographs which later proved to be expertly made collages from various different sources.
The Mafia? The Russians? He must have had an entire organisauon behind him night and day to carry out this work by expert persons...
The Mafia di it, the CIA...Like sceptical views, explanations are navigation lights that keep us away from sirens and parts of waters where be dragons and monstrous things.
A fear that the world indeed may be forever fundamentally unstable, if only to avoid being measured. Certainly, as shown by recent developments in quantum theory, Nature does like being observed too closely. a deeper fear that the world may take the form we want it to take the Trickster...the greatest fear of all Protestant trading-class sceptical rationalism – that it might be possible to get something for nothing.
Just one of the great mysteries about Oswald is that he appears to have done almost nothing to cause this chaos. He appears not to have been a conscious anarchist trickster, rather is he often quite genuinely confused by the many processes that worked their plots through him.
 Edited by Peter Dale Scott, Paul L. Hoch, and Russell Stetler (Penguin, 1978).
 Assassinations: The Proof of the Plot (p.135), and The Zapruder Film (p.185)
 Ibid: From Dallas to Watergate - the Longest Cover-Up, (p.337) and The Death of Kennedy, Vietnam, and Cuba (p.340).
 Ibid: CIA activities and the Warren Commission Investigation (p.411)
 See article “Exhibiting Ambiguity” by Ralph Rugoff (Fortean Times No 100: p 21-24).
 Assassinations COINTELPRO (p 304); this is J. Edgar Hoover’s own internal department instruction hinting that Martin Luther King might have to be “removed.” See also Robert Blair Kaiser The Case is still Open (p. 309) on the shooting of Robert Kennedy, and the convincing evidence that Sirhan Sirhan was almost certainly hypotically programmed.
 Assassinations, p.401 Fensterwald and O’Toole.
 Oswald completed a pretty stiff US Marines radar and electronics course, and became a qualified radar operator guiding U2 reconnaissance planes and also nuclear-loaded aircraft from the American base at Atsugi n Japan. During his military service, however his behaviour became increasingly strange. According to Anthony Summers, he shot himself with his own pistol, and assaulted a fellow Marine. These were court-martial offences. but Oswald was not charged, serving only disciplinary sentences in the “brig.” For a detailed account of other strange incidents during Oswald’s military service, see Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald by Edward J Epstein (Hutchinson, 1978)
 See Anthony Summers,The Kennedy Conspiracy (Warner Books, 1980)
 Ibid. p.377
 Assassinations, p. 84: The Murder of Patrolman Tippit by Sylvia Meagher.
 Ibid, p. 229: Physical Evidence by Josiah Thompson
 General Walker was one of Patton’s World War 2 commanders, and had an America tank named after him (the “Walker Bulldog”).
 Assassinations, p.197: The Case for Three Assassins by Lifton and Welsh.
 Avatars of the Tortoise, from the short-story collection, Labyrinths. (New Directions, 1964)