When speculation and conspiracy get personal
Ever know someone who has been involved in political campaign?
It's tough, not just on the candidates but on their families. Just ask the wife of an office-seeker what it's like, even at the local level, to be the subject of deep scrutiny, to have your mate's motives questioned at every turn. Then there's the personal stuff--little if any of it true but all of it out there in play, to be dealt with and ignored even as half-truths or not-truths become perception and thus, reality.
Sometimes it's not even political.
Peter Mandel's father wrote a famous piece for Life magazine back in 1964, the subject being the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination. Nearly a half-century later, his family is living with the blow-back from conspiracy theorists who question the elder Mandel's conclusions and motives, even after he's long gone and unable to defend himself.
What is it like being the son of a man accused of, at the very least, being part of some sort of vast cover-up that's keeping "the real killers" from justice or, even worse, of being "in" on the plot to take out the President? Mandel's son wrote a Huffington Post piece this week, He writes, "My dad had, after all these years--and without my family realizing it--become a celebrity in the superheated world of conspiracy theory websites. He'd turned into nuclear fuel for a whole range of assumptions and arguments, a touchstone for angry postings and rapid-fire computer chat. I started clicking on links to his name and was rocketed straight to sites that said things like, 'His article (contained) a total fabrication...(and a) blatant lie'...'When Mandel discovered that the film was inconsistent with the lone assassin theory, he either shaded the article to cover up a conspiracy or was coerced into doing so by the editor of Life'...' Because of Mandel's knowledge of a conspiracy, he mysteriously died.' "
The younger Mandel goes on admit that, as a chronicler of history, his father is fair game and that the age of the Internet means we're all in the public domain. Still, he wonders, isn't there a point where enough is enough and that we all move on, at least until new evidence/witnesses come forward. Mandel says he's got his laptop open and is willing instead to talk to anyone who wants to about what a good father and man his dad was.
There's no limit on crazy when it comes to this and the web only fuels the fire. I've written before about the fresh traction some of the theories are getting including one about Vice President Lyndon Johnson being in on the plot. There's another that has the limousine driver supposedly putting the fatal slug into JFK (he, too, is long gone--wonder what HIS family is going through as this sort of drivel spreads). Speculation is fine and skepticism can be healthy, but there's also a point where things get reckless and innocent folks get hurt. If someone has something that pins complicity on Mandel--or anyone else--great. The world would love to see it. In the meantime, though, there's nothing to keep a crackpot with a laptop in mom's basement from clipping frames from a grizzly film or a sentence from a dusty document to create his or her own reality.
As for the younger Mandel, his posting at HuffPo may have gotten him something far short of his desired effect: instead of ending the speculation, it's triggering fresh articles questioning his dad's conclusions. In the end, the son might've been wise to heed the advice given to a young radio reporter who's name appears at the top of this blog, words that came from someone with far more years on the planet and far more experience in this profession. The words were crude, but effective. And true.
"The more you kick a bag of crap," he said, "the more it smells."