News media should stop exploiting JFK's death

ROGER SIMON

November 19, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Isn't it about time we all stopped wallowing in the death of John F. Kennedy?

The media can dress up all their specials this week as "celebrations" or "investigations," but to me they are just exploitations and titillations.

They are just an excuse to drag out old clips of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" and the Zapruder film and John-John saluting.

Monday will be the 30th anniversary of John Kennedy's death, and to that I say: So what? What is so special about a 30th anniversary?

A 25th anniversary, OK, I will grant you a certain significance to a quarter of a century.

But what is the 30th anniversary of anything? The Tupperware Anniversary? The Crockpot Anniversary?

I have never known the media to make a big fuss about the 30th anniversary of anyone's death. But for JFK, we will make an exception.

This week on television we have had or will have:

"JFK: In His Own Words" (which actually was made for the 25th anniversary and has been recycled), "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald" and "Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald," a sign that we are growing a little tired of JFK and are looking for other lives we can peep at.

Helena Bonham-Carter, the British actress who plays Marina Oswald in "Fatal Deception," told TV Guide this week: "I felt tacky meeting her because this kind of project is bound to simplify her life."

Yeah. Absolutely. What a shame that NBC could spend only two hours of prime time on a life as rich, deep and complex as Marina Oswald's. (Has NBC ever spent two hours on the life of Mother Teresa? Why not? Because nobody close to her ever shot anybody?)

We also have "Jack," featuring "never-before seen footage," "With the President -- 1961-1963," "Jackie Onassis: An Intimate Portrait," "The End of Camelot," "JFK: Reckless Youth" and a Larry King show asking famous people including Harry Belafonte, Barbra Streisand and Sean Connery "Where Were You?" when Kennedy was shot.

And then there is the big one: "Who Killed JFK: The Final Chapter?" starring Dan Rather. This last epic was part of an unprecedented journalistic project in which the Washington Post, Newsweek and CBS pooled the talents of some of their best reporters and editors to investigate the Kennedy assassination in time for the 30th anniversary extravaganzas.

I was flipping through Newsweek's special report this week, when my eye caught a large quote that had been excerpted from the story and blown up on Page 92. It said:

" . . . Kennedy was probably killed by a lone nut who in turn was killed by a lone nut -- but conspiracy theories die hard. . . . "

Well, that's good enough for me. Case closed. It's what I believed all along and what the Warren Commission said. And if conspiracy theories die hard, it couldn't be because the media give so much publicity to the conspiracy nuts, could it?

The Kennedy family has asked that the death of JFK not be commemorated and that his birthday be honored instead.

So can any of you tell me the date of JFK's birthday?

No, I didn't think so. Nor can I.

But who cares what the family thinks, anyway? Who says they have any special rights to this guy?

We care about the living Kennedys only when they are getting in bar fights, failing bar exams, getting accused of rape or dating Hollywood stars. Who says they have human emotions like real people?

But what I wonder is what the media will do for an encore. What are we going to do on the 35th anniversary? Will Geraldo tunnel into the Kennedy grave at Arlington to see if Jimmy Hoffa is in there, too? Might be a ratings booster.

I am not asking for restraint because I think John Kennedy was unimportant or because I am a Kennedy basher. My first political act came when I was 12 and Richard Nixon came to my town to campaign for president and I stood in the crowd holding a John F. Kennedy poster.

And, no, I will never forget what I was doing on Nov. 22, 1963, just as many of you will never forget.

But you know what? Enough is enough.

It is one thing to remember a death and it is quite another to have a morbid obsession with it.

Let's move forward.

Let's get a life, America, not a death.

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