JFK conspiracy theorist Mark made mountain out of a knoll
The bestselling author of Rush to Judgment made the case for a second gunman on the grassy knoll. But don’t take our word for it.
Mark Lane, second from left, with Marilyn Moorhead, writer Don Duncan and actress Jane Fonda in 1970, announcing the opening of a “GI Office” to help U.S. military personnel who opposed the war in Vietnam. Lane died on May 10 at age 89. (JAMES MCNAMARA / THE WASHINGTON POST FILE PHOTO)
Any John F. Kennedy assassination buff, especially anyone who rejects the official version of what happened, will know the name Mark Lane.
Was alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald really a patsy, as he claimed? Were there other shooters? Did the FBI, CIA, Dallas police and other agencies cover up a massive plot? Was it the Mob? Russians? Cubans?
Using his skills as a trial lawyer, Lane began amassing and distilling vast amounts of information, and less than three years after Kennedy’s murder published Rush to Judgment, a withering early indictment of the official Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald had acted alone.
Lane died of a heart attack at home in Charlottesville, Va., on May 10. He was 89.
Across 478 dense pages and some 5,000 references, Lane’s New York Times bestseller hung the murder on the CIA and cited forensic and ballistic evidence to refute, even ridicule, the commission’s conclusions.
Among his myriad claims was that the trajectory of the bullet that killed Kennedy showed evidence of a second shooter on the now-storied grassy knoll in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963.
A 1966 Harris poll suggested half of Americans agreed with Lane that there had been a conspiracy to assassinate the president.
His book, which he later helped adapt into the movie Executive Action starring Burt Lancaster, spawned a veritable cottage industry of volumes on the Kennedy murder: an estimated 2,000 titles on the subject have been published.
The éminence grise of Kennedy conspiracists, Lane authored two other books on the assassination, both indicting the CIA.
In an age when the Internet breathes new life into Winston Churchill’s quip — that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” — what strikes an observer about Lane is how hard he had to work to develop his evidence and theories, noted Jonathan Kay, author of the 2012 book Among the Truthers: North America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.
“These days, conspiracy theorists can weave together their videos and manifestos largely by copying and pasting other material they find on the Internet,” said Kay, editor of the Walrus magazine.
It was different in Lane’s day.
Then, conspiracism “was more a matter for dedicated monomaniacs, since these people really did have to dive into it as if it were a full-time job.”
Born in the Bronx in 1927, Lane served in the U.S. army after the Second World War, stationed in Vienna, and earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He became active in New York’s left/liberal circles, organizing rent strikes and taking on civil rights cases.
In 1960, he was elected a New York state assemblyman (he and Kennedy endorsed each other) and served one term.
Lane helped establish the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
Given his work on the Kennedy file and on civil rights, Lane was “a lion … Sean Connery as King Arthur, the elder statesman that all turn to,” gushed Brent Holland, a Kingston, Ont.-based radio and TV show host, in his 2013 book TheJFK Assassination: From the Oval Office to Dealey Plaza.
Holland told the Star he hosted Lane several times on his local television show, Night Fright. In the foreword to Holland’s book, Lane recounted that in the raw months after the assassination, the only way he could get his dissent out was by broadcasting from Canadian radio stations, which leaked into U.S. border cities.
The “distorted, fictional” official account of JFK’s assassination has been rejected by a “consistent majority of the public,” pointed out Toronto journalist Barrie Zwicker, author ofTowers of Deception: The Media Cover-Up of 9/11.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination, 62 per cent of Americans still believed there had been a conspiracy (down from 80 per cent in 1976).
“This is in part due to the courageous and persistent work of the likes of Mark Lane,” Zwicker said.
Studied, articulate and unflappable, Lane played down a suggestion that he helped kickstart a conspiracy craze.
Asked by television host William F. Buckley in late 1966 whether a national “obsession” with the assassination had arisen, Lane uncharacteristically snapped: “Some people would like to know who killed their president and why he died. And that’s not really an obsession, is it?”
Lane’s legacy, said Len Osanic, host of Vancouver-based BlackOpRadio.com — “the voice of political conspiracy research” — was to inspire people “to get the facts for themselves and not trust the headline.”
Including, presumably, for this story.