The scholarly sheen given The Road to Dallas is not wholly unprecedented, to be sure. A few other fallacious books about the assassination have received the academic stamp of approval. Still, that begs the question: How did The Road to Dallas ever survive the gauntlet of peer-review at the august Harvard University Press, which is part of an industry that likes to think of itself as “a bulwark against the confusions of error and unsupported opinion, of ideology masquerading as fact, magic as science, and prejudice as theory.”
The perception fostered by university presses (and HUP is no exception) is that these publication committees operate with due diligence and the highest of standards. But they would not be human institutions if they were exempt from impulses honed by human frailties, whether in the form of plain inattention or severe bouts of political correctness. A more realistic glimpse into how these boards sometimes dysfunction, and fail in their oversight of the vetting process, came to the attention of this author in 1994.
That fall, a member of the University of California (UC) Press’s Editorial Committee described to this author that panel’s deliberations over Peter Dale Scott’s Deep Politics and the Death of JFK — a book which ranked, prior to HUP’s publication of The Road to Dallas, as the most embarrassing work about the assassination ever printed by a scholarly press.
If what happened 15 years ago at UC Press is any guide, it is fairly easy to imagine how a similar, and stunning, lapse of judgment occurred on the Board of Syndics, even though group-think, and a vaguely leftist, paranoid ideology, are not usually associated with the most prestigious university on the Eastern seaboard.
I don’t think he’s being sarcastic…
Future historians of 20th century America will be mystified about why such a watershed event received little attention from scholars — why, out of hundreds of books about the assassination, only a tiny fraction were published by university presses, nearly all of them written by trained historians who were conspiracy theorists. Despite the vast literature about every conceivable aspect of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the assassination — clearly, the single, shattering event that defines both presidencies, for better or worse — is treated as a disconnected afterthought in most works about the Kennedy administration.
The consequence of this dereliction of duty has been to leave the field wide open to the fervid imagination of conspiracy buffs, and now, apparently, the disease that is the paranoid style has seeped into the highest reaches of the academy.
Indeed. Insanity abhors a vacuum. Scholarly attention to the assassination could have been a vaccination against societally corrosive conspiracy theories, but now it is decades too late and we are all infected.