Transparency on the Grassy Knoll

Mark FensterBlog

Surprisingly soon after the Warren Commission Report concluded that Lee Oswald acted alone in assassinating John Kennedy, a significant and growing segment of the American public began to speculate about alternative perpetrators whose actions the Warren Commission had covered up. In 1992, facing the persistence of that speculation, Congress enacted the statute that prompted this week’s disclosures (and non-disclosures) of secret documents relating to the assassination. It hoped to assure the public that the government was not complicit in the assassination, and nor was it withholding evidence of a conspiracy, a hope that President Trump reiterated upon the documents’ release last Thursday. The effort was a noble one. Congress designed a timed disclosure mandate that would allow the public to know more and theorize less. In the predominant telling of history from the 1960s on, the assassination had initiated the public’s radical doubt about the government’s actions and willingness to … Read More

Self-Disclosing the Point

Mark FensterBlog

I intend this site to promote my two related books to a non-specialist audience. The books make a broad argument about contemporary politics, law, and culture—that nothing is precisely what it seems, and the things that appear dangerous and destructive are products of the same dynamic that creates a democratic nation and functional government. For worse and better, conspiracy theories play a key role in populist political rhetoric. We cannot purge them from our thoughts and political parties, in part because we rely on them and enjoy them too much. Similarly, we cannot rid ourselves of secrecy in order to create a more perfect democracy. Government inevitably produces information that it cannot or will not share, some of it germane to politics and some of it irrelevant. But government also can’t hold fast to the information it attempts to protect. Secrecy won’t necessarily destroy us, but transparency will certainly not … Read More