The assassination of J.F.K., fifty years later

131104_r24201_p465Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker:

The nation really did get turned inside out when Kennedy was killed, as nations do at the death of kings. But what altered? In many ways, it was a time more past than present. Though it’s said that the event marked the decisive move from page to screen, newspaper to television, all the crucial information was channelled through the wire-service reporters, who, riding six cars back from the President’s, were the first to get and send the news of the shots, and were still thought of as the authoritative source. Walter Cronkite’s two most famous moments—breaking into “As the World Turns” to announce, “In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired”; and his later, holding-back-tears “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time”—were in both cases simply read from the wire-service copy. You can see the assistants ripping the copy from the teleprinter and rushing it to the anchorman.

Yet an imbalance between the flood of information and the uncertainty of our understanding—the sense that we know so much and grasp so little, and that reality becomes an image passing—does seem to have begun then: the postmodern suspicion that the more we see, the less we know. A compulsive “hyperperspicacity,” in the term of one assassination researcher—the tendency to look harder for pattern than the thing looked at will ever provide—became the motif of the time.

more here.