Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine: Behind the Curtin

Edward Curtin says that he is very concerned about "human duplicity." So much so that he has written a book about it called Seeking Truth in a Country of Lies: Critical & Lyrical Essays. Seems like a noble cause. That is, until you look behind the curtain, which is what his website claims he himself does, at his review of Max Good's film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine. Good himself has promoted the review as "thoughtful."

But the ostensible truth seeker Curtin spreads so much misinformation in this review that it is difficult to know where to begin. However, a look at Curtin's world view is instructive. Curtin believes that "all" of the mainstream media—CBS, ABC, The Washington Post, etc.—"speak for the Central Intelligence Agency." Curtin says that "many journalists and academics hold dual positions, since they secretly work as assets for the intelligence services."

Notably, Curtin completely agrees with the late Vincent Salandria who he believes was one of the "most brilliant critics of the official story." A quote from Salandria that Curtin finds significant enough to blockquote in his review is the following:

There is no mystery here. It’s all self-evident. It was a coup. It was designed to be a false mystery and the debate would be eternal and why (emphasis by Curtin) it [killing JFK] was done – forgotten. In order to commit yourself to truth here, you’re changing your real identity from a citizen of a democracy to a subject of a military empire. A big step.

Having ascertained where Curtin is coming from, let's take a look at the misleading and inaccurate statements (highlighted in green) from his review and my responses. Because, as Curtin says, "Human duplicity is a marvel to contemplate."

"...a good number of the people who appear in The Assassination and Mrs. Paine have no ostensible institutional affiliation but may be working in some capacity for an invisible institutional paymaster who calls their tunes. No names required."

Curtin doesn't want to mention names for legal reasons but he is obviously talking about Ruth Paine, Max Holland and Gerald Posner among others. In response to Curtin's qualified assertion, I will simply quote Max Holland from Good's film:

A favorite tactic of conspiracy theorists is to make accusations that anybody who they disagree with has a connection with the intelligence community. It's been made against me, it's been made against Ruth and Michael. The only explanation could be that we’re part of the coverup, paid by the CIA ...

Curtin, by the way, is one of those who has proven Holland's point for the umpteenth time just since the film was released in June.

"Her [Ruth Paine's] testimony led to the WC’s conclusion that Oswald, and Oswald alone shot, the president."

One hundred percent false. See complete discussions of the subject here and here. What led to the WC conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin was the overwhelming evidence they uncovered. The vast majority of that evidence has nothing to do with Ruth or Michael Paine.

"The Assassination and Mrs. Paine is Max Good’s second full-length documentary. He came to the subject after reading a section (pp.168-172) on Ruth and Michael Paine in James W. Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters, a book considered by many to be the best on the JFK assassination."

See the late Professor John McAdams' demolition of Douglass here.

"she [Ruth] agreed to be interviewed, something she has done for 59 years, always protesting her innocence even though over the decades researchers have uncovered much evidence to the contrary."

"Researchers" have uncovered precisely NO evidence that Ruth was guilty of being involved in a plot to kill JFK or a plot to cover-up such a conspiracy. What they have "uncovered" is many people who are suspicious of her. The reason these individuals are suspicious is that they believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK and Ruth's first-hand experience with Oswald must be explained away in an expedient manner because it doesn't fit into any of their theories.

"The Paines, who have claimed they are pacifists, might best be superficially described as unassuming, liberal Quaker/Unitarian do-gooders, whose wealth and astounding family and intelligence connections would make heads spin, if they were known. The film exposes many of those connections."

Unfounded doubts about the sincerity of the Paines religious beliefs are discussed here. The fact that Michael Paine came from a wealthy family and both Ruth and Michael have "connections" that theorists find suspicious were not "exposed" by Max Good. These facts have been known for years.

"The fundamental undisputed facts are as follows. In February 1963, Ruth, who spoke and taught Russian, was invited to a party by George de Mohrenschildt, a White Russian CIA asset who was ‘babysitting' Lee Harvey Oswald at the request of the CIA. There she met Oswald."

Curtin's "undisputed facts" are anything but. It was not de Mohrenschildt but Everett Glover who invited Ruth to the party. And Curtin's assertion that de Mohrenschildt was "babysitting" Oswald stems from his interview with journalist Edward Epstein which occurred when the baron was suffering from a demonstrable mental illness. It should also be mentioned that de Mohrenschildt was being paid by the Reader's Digest for the interview and he undoubtedly wanted to give Epstein something new for his money. J. Walton Moore, the Domestic Contact employee who de Mohrenschildt knew, denied that he had spoken to the baron about Oswald. Read much more about de Mohrenschildt and the suspicions of theorists here.

"On her long road trip south, she made numerous stops, including at her sister Sylvia Hyde Hoke’s house in Falls Church, Virginia. Sylvia worked for the CIA, as documents have confirmed, and her husband worked for the agency’s front, the U.S. Agency for International Development..."

Since Curtin likes facts, here are a few. Ruth's father and brother-in-law probably worked for USAID. But not everyone in USAID is secretly working for the CIA. And the fact that Ruth visited her sister while on a road trip is hardly newsworthy. There is no credible evidence that Ruth ever worked for the CIA as an agent or asset. And there is no evidence that any family member was feeding her instructions from Allen Dulles.

"...yet to this day – and in Good’s interview in the film – she claims not to know where her sister worked."

Ruth "to this day" is completely aware that her sister worked in an evidently non-covert capacity for the CIA. Why would she not be—Good showed her documents that proved it. But Sylvia Hoke was undoubtedly not broadcasting her relationship with the agency and it seems that while Ruth was aware that her sister was employed by the government in some capacity, she never pressed the issue further.

"In mid-October, again out of alleged kindness, she got Lee a job in the Texas School Book Depository, despite calls to her house from an employment agency offering him a much higher paying job. When asked about this by the Warren Commission, Ruth gave an evasive answer."

Researcher Greg Doudna has addressed this issue here. The short version is that it is unknown if the man from the employment office told Ruth that the prospective job paid more than the one Oswald had just taken at the Texas School Book Depository. But theorists like Curtin will undoubtedly continue to say that she knowingly withheld this information even though they can offer no proof of it.

"Then when JFK was killed, an empty blanket roll that allegedly held Oswald’s rifle was found in the Paines’ garage."

Ruth knew nothing of the rifle or the blanket roll that held it. That information was provided to the authorities by Marina Oswald.

"And Ruth claimed to have found a note – the ”Walker Note” that was used to show his propensity for violence – and a letter also allegedly written by Oswald to the Russian Embassy that was used as evidence of his guilt."

The Walker note is discussed here. Both the signature on the letter that Oswald wrote to the Soviet embassy and the draft that he worked from were confirmed by handwriting experts to have been written by him. In any case, the letter merely helped to confirm his presence in Mexico and did not establish his "guilt" in the JFK, Tippit or Walker shootings.

"The Paines have always said that Oswald killed Kennedy to make a name for himself – the little man kills the big one syndrome. They repeat this in the documentary. Ruth says of Oswald, “He realized he had the opportunity to no longer be a little guy but someone extraordinary.” But as Jim DiEugenio (one of the finest and most informed commentators in the film) says, if that were so, then why did Oswald always claim he was innocent, a patsy who didn’t shoot anyone. Those who wish to kill to make a name for themselves obviously claim credit, but the Paines seem not to get this. Their claim makes no sense, yet they both repeat it in the film."

What would make no sense would be Oswald incriminating himself in a death penalty state. There was no need for him to declare that he was guilty to "make a name for himself." Every news camera and every reporter in the world was already focused on him. By he way, Jim DiEugenio has a poor track record as a JFK scholar.

"Paine’s defenders make sure to bash Oliver Stone and his film, JFK..."

Stone's film was universally bashed by just about everyone in the know. Read about it here.

"Bill Simpich interjects that there is “something about the Ruth Paine story that simply doesn't jell.” Good then proceeds to ask Ruth a series of hard questions that viewers will find very interesting. But he never lets the audience know what he has concluded about her guilt or innocence. He is impartial to the end."

Nonsense. Good has stated in interviews that the book that began his JFK research was Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable. And that volume is certainly critical of the Paines. In addition, I have done a study of the objectivity of the film and concluded that it is clearly slanted toward the conspiracy side.

Interestingly, in a recent interview with the San Antonio Express News, Good stated that he had reached some conclusions about the Paines which he "intentionally" left out of the film. "...I decided not to reveal what my conclusion is, at least for now," Good explained, "because I think the film’s more powerful when people watch it and they have to be on their toes wondering and thinking about who they trust."

But when pondering the possibilities, Good's "conclusions" seem to be limited to three. I credit much of the following to an email discussion with noted researcher Paul Hoch. First, Good could believe that Ruth had nothing to do with a conspiracy. But in that case, how could he justify publicizing some of the irresponsible remarks by DiEugenio, Salandria and others? Secondly, he could believe Ruth is guilty of something. But then how and why can he continue to maintain that his film is truly balanced? The "why" may be partly explained by the fact that Good does not want to be perceived as just another conspiracy theorist even though he must maintain a relationship with more extreme individuals whom he may not agree with. Keeping his own position under wraps skirts the issue for now.

But I am putting my money on a third theory that I'll call the Jefferson Morley approach. Good believes there was a conspiracy and the Paines must fit into it as Salandria told him. But Good (along with a million other theorists) hasn't quite figured it all out yet. And his search for JFK knowledge gives him the perfect excuse for a sequel (or a series of them) just as it has provided Morley with a reason to pen five books related to the subject. Because conspiracies, which are really just historical mysteries, sell.

Edward Curtin and Max Good say (or at least imply) they are seeking truth in the matter of Ruth and Michael Paine. The reader can decide if they have found it or if they have muddied the waters even more than they were.

Powered by Blogger.