CALL me shallow - you can call me Ishmael if you like - but I do love a good conspiracy theory.
There was one at the weekend about the death of Princess Diana. There's one about her most weekends (and weekdays too) in certain newspapers associated with her lover, Dodi Fayed. The gist of the latest is that she was murdered by a member of the British military. Or possibly Prince Philip.
Mostly such theories are unworthy of the print expended upon them, given that they are held by crackpots and obsessives who need to get out more. If you really believe that the first moon landing was a fabrication then I'm afraid you need to seek help of a psychiatric nature. Similarly, you may be inclined to take seriously the idea that Churchill and Roosevelt turned a blind eye to an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in order to propel America into the Second World War. In which case you should be wearing a straitjacket.
More plausible, and therefore worthy of consideration, is the questionable authenticity of the Zimmerman telegram, which was sent in 1917, during the First World War. In it, the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmerman, offered the Mexican government an alliance against the United States if it would contact the Japanese (who were then on the Allied side) to see if they could be persuaded to switch loyalties. But the telegram was intercepted and decoded by the British and its contents revealed to the Americans, which led to their entry into the war. But did Zimmerman send the telegram? Or could it have been a ploy by the British to stop the Americans wavering?
The mother of all conspiracy theories concerns the assassination of President Kennedy who, 50 years ago this November, was killed as his motorcade made its way through the streets of Dallas, Texas. By 1963, Kennedy had been in power for three years, during which period he had to cope with a series of foreign policy crises. First, there was the disastrous attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs. Then there was the building of the Berlin Wall. Finally, he was confronted by the threat of nuclear armageddon when the Russians placed missiles in Cuba preparatory to an attack on the United States.
Nor were all of Kennedy's enemies abroad. His relationship with the CIA, for example, was fraught, as it was with the military, whose power he wanted to curb, and the oil industry, whose taxes he wanted to increase. Moreover, he was unpopular with the unions, whose wings his brother Bobby wanted to clip. It was a similar story, too, with the Mafia. Each and any one of the above could have been complicit in the young President's murder. And they could have acted alone or in concert.
From a conspiracy theorist's point of view this is perfect material on which to gorge. The Warren Commission was set up to end speculation but, over the course of 10 million words, succeeded in doing exactly the opposite. It averred that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, both on the fateful day and in the run-up to it. Much of the evidence appears to contradict this. It did not help, of course, that Oswald himself was shot dead a few days after the assassination by Jack Ruby, who had connections to the Chicago Mafia. Ruby said that he killed Oswald out of grief for Kennedy. Few, however, believed him. He was found guilty of Oswald's murder and narrowly escaped the electric chair. Hopeful of a new trial in 1967, he died of lung cancer.
That, to a conspiracy junkie like Matthew Smith, author of Who Killed Kennedy?, stinks. Ruby, he insists, was given an injection by a mysterious doctor and died shortly thereafter. He was not alone. Smith records the deaths of numerous people who may or may not have known something that would finally have resolved the mystery had they lived to tell their tales. For conspiracy theorists there are always unidentified people lurking nefariously in the shadows. They act on behalf of nameless nations and faceless corporations, some legal, others on the cutting edge of criminality, who can strike at any moment. As for who really did kill JFK, I could tell you but would you want to live with the consequences?
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.