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About Writing Right: The Blog


While this question is a little off the beaten path, when someone wrote online asking if anyone disagreed with the findings of the Warren Report following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, I couldn't help but respond. You'll find out why in a couple of minutes. Here's what I said.

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Let me ask you an even more pertinent question: Who didn't?


When I was sixteen and the Warren Committee Report was published, I was a conspiracy theorist right along with some of the others who took great pains to respond to your question, fueling the conspiracy controversy that has survived now for decades. And why wouldn't it survive? It's glamorous; it's mysterious, it's titillating, and it's exciting. Unfortunately, it's also untrue.


Yes, I was bitterly disappointed with the report and immediately suspected Earl Warren, President Lyndon B. Johnson's personal choice to head the committee into the investigation of JFK, of political chicanery. He was slick, and he was evil. He had a hidden agenda and, like Johnson, didn't want the truth known about who really planned for, ordered, and executed the assassination. And like all those other theorists espousing online here, I was calling for blood. And truth. And justice.


Then, within the relatively short span of a few years, something strange happened. I became a journalist. I became a reporter. I became an author. All this thanks to the fact that I was forced to become a researcher. In the end, that made me a realist.


Now, I'll be among the first to admit that realism and fantasy are nowhere near compatible. Nor are they mutually rewarding. Where is the drama, the excitement, and the allure in realism? Conspiracy is traveling at the speed of sound; reality is plodding along at a mule's pace. And, to be honest, I missed the ferocious freneticism of the trip.


But, when reality rears its ugly head and holds up all the truths and facts around which it is built, that reality becomes difficult if not impossible to ignore. Instead of clinging to my childhood fantasies of soaring faster and higher than all others, I began taking a closer look at the facts surrounding Warren wherever I could find them. I did original research. I "channeled" Earl Warren from long before he ascended to the seat of Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court and the author of The Warren Report. In the first two books about Warren that I wrote, two among nearly a dozen on the court and its various justices, I dug into the very heart and soul of the man. And, I managed to unearth mysteries that few people outside of his immediate family should have—or could have—known. His own son, a sitting judge at the time, admitted as much in a letter to me, marveling after reading my first work, a Young Adult book entitled Earl Warren: Chief Justice for Social Change.


The Earl Warren I discovered during my research for that book was nowhere near the one I had concocted in my mind following the release of the Warren Report, as it soon came to be called. But, that was not enough. So, in my second book on Warren, I dug even deeper, exploring the Warren family from the grandparents and parents through Earl's childhood and development all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Entitled Earl Warren: A Life of Truth and Justice, it calls upon friends, associates, and family, including unique recollections and insights from grandson Judge James Warren, to fill in many of the missing details I hadn't had access to before. I believe this second book has the richest, fullest explanation of why and how the Warren Commission was founded (to quash mounting rumors that Lyndon Johnson may have been actively involved in Kennedy's death and to prevent anarchy in America's streets), how the commission functioned, who served on it, and how the members reached their unanimous conclusion:


Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, and he had developed his plan, acting on his own without any outside help or influences.


The rationales are many, and they're all in the book. So, too, is the description by Chief Justice Earl Warren, himself, after his jailhouse visit with Lee Harvey Oswald following his assassination of the president. I found Warren's impressions of Oswald astounding.


I say all this not to be contrarian or to dismiss or demean those whose responses to your question are more conspiratorial in tone than my own. After all, everyone has an opinion and a unique perspective on things. Besides, I'm still a conspiracy theorist at heart, albeit a slightly modified and more cautious one. Unlike most academicians, I form my theories first and then do my best to defend or destroy them, modifying my idealism with reality as I go. Only then do I put pen to paper to articulate what I "know" to be true.


Am I ever wrong? Are politicians always honest? You tell me. But, I do always strive to be the most accurate possible whenever I set out to prove or debunk a position, whether mine or someone else's. That takes leg work, contemplation, consideration, and a willingness to take a whole different look at something you already thought you knew to be true.


After that, you can just sit back, light up, and ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack. It's free; it's entertaining; it's informative, and it runs weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!)

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