The Umbrella Man

I saw the above video in 2011 on the New York Times site, but was reminded of it again today by this post by John Naughton:

The JFK assassination is probably the most inquired-into killing in history. But intensity of re-examination can have various results. As John Updike observed in the New Yorker of December 9, 1967 when reviewing some of that re-examination,

“We wonder whether a genuine mystery is being concealed here or whether any similar scrutiny of a minute section of time and space would yield similar strangenesses – gaps, inconsistencies, warps, and bubbles in the surface of circumstance. Perhaps, as with the elements of matter, investigation passes a threshold of common sense and enters a sub-atomic realm where laws are mocked, where a person is how the life-span of beta particles and the transparency of neutrinos, and where a rough kind of averaging out must substitute for the absolute truth. The truth about those seconds in Dallas is especially elusive; the search for it seems to demonstrate how perilously empiricism verges on magic.”

Or, as Errol Morris puts it in the film:

“If you put any event under a microscope you will find a complete dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on. It’s as if there’s the macro level of historical research with things sort of obeying natural laws, the usual things happen, unusual things don’t happen. And then there’s this other level where everything is really weird.”

I like his concluding riff:

“What it means is if you have any fact which you think is really sinister, right, is really obviously a fact which can only point to some really sinister underpinning, forget it, man. Because you can never on your own think of all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations.”

The Umbrella Man