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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 12:33 GMT
Opinion: Why we love conspiracy theories

King family believes there was a conspiracy

By Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds

Was Martin Luther King really the victim of a conspiracy as a jury in Memphis has just found? Or was he really the victim of a lone, criminal white male racist, as is much more likely?

The fashion has grown in recent years, as a new generation has grown up not knowing the original circumstances, for conspiracy theories to hold sway.

The truth, as she often is, is clothed in more modest garments
Look at the John Kennedy assassination, How can truth hold out against the power of Oliver Stone and the film JFK? But the truth must out.

It is more comforting for some people to believe in conspiracies. They find it unacceptable that some lone figure can bring down such mighty men. Yet in both the Kennedy and King cases, that is probably what happened.

The jury has found that there was a conspiracy. Perhaps the jury was being polite to the King family, which itself only asked for 100 dollars in damages.

But to believe the theory, you have to believe that not only was the Mafia involved, but the FBI, the CIA, some cafe owner who claims he paid someone to do it and even the US army which had snipers standing by in case of failure.

The truth, as she often is, is clothed in more modest garments.

No conspiracy

James Earl Ray confessed to the crime
James Earl Ray was a criminal on the run from jail. He was also a racist. He told his brother that he was going to do "something big", perhaps shoot the "Big N". Maybe his brother knew, but that was as far as it went.

And the deed itself was easily and quickly done. Ray fired from a room across the street. He even confessed to the crime. End of story. Or should have been.

And the same with Lee Harvey Oswald. Anyone interested in conspiracy theories just needs to read Gerald Posner's book Case Closed. He runs every lead to earth, and they all belong in the dirt.

Sadly, the truth is plainer, but harder, perhaps, to accept
And yet, so many don't want to listen. Much easier to believe Jack Ruby was part of a plot instead of being a small time club owner who liked being in the big time and wanted to prove that a Jew could revenge Kennedy.

Much easier to believe that three well dressed tramps must have been part of a plot when they were simply tramps.

Much easier to believe that the magic bullet couldn't have done the damage it did when it did.

And now, those who want to believe that King was also brought down by the forces of the state, have ammunition in the Memphis jury's verdict.

Sadly, the truth is plainer, but harder, perhaps, to accept.

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See also:
08 Dec 99 |  Americas
Jury backs King conspiracy theory
16 Nov 99 |  Americas
King assassination conspiracy trial begins
26 Aug 98 |  Americas
New inquiry into Martin Luther King killing
26 Apr 98 |  Americas
King family invited to Ray's funeral
23 Apr 98 |  Americas
Questions left hanging by James Earl Ray's death
07 Apr 98 |  Americas
US considers new inquiry into Dr King's murder

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