We all treat life as a buffet line. The things that pique our interest are put on our plate, and the unsavory things are by large ignored. That analogy is most frequently used in a religious context with the term Cafeteria Christian, which describes individuals who conveniently select which theological doctrines they want to follow, and which they don’t. However, I have come to believe Kennedy assassination researchers are Cafeteria Conspiracists. Most researchers select particular Kennedy assassination edicts for study with no predisposed conclusions, accumulating a massive amount of information on a subject and then form educated conclusions. Unfortunately, a few develop their own idiosyncratic conspiracy, and then search for information to support their biased preconceptions. Regardless, like in food, we have favorite subjects that define the assassination for each of us. Some may contend that a sustained, corresponding narrow focus and selection process in a buffet line could result in a diet consisting entirely of ice cream sundaes: filling, but unhealthy and one-sided. However, life is not food, and neither is historical research. Selection of particular points to study should not be compared to choosing just the Mac and Cheeze and avoiding the veggies. Being selective provides opportunity to engage in extensive and detailed study that has the potential to develop into expertise—as long as investigation drives the study to a conclusion and not the other way around. More importantly, like branching out to experiment with unfamiliar cuisine, you don’t have to stay within your normal realm of experience to be successful.
Many researchers today are considered experts in various areas of the assassination that are outside their customary areas of experience or education:
- Donald B. Thomas, a research entomologist, is recognized as expert in acoustical evidence.
- Mary Ferrell was a legal secretary who created a large assassination database documented in a four-volume set of chronologies.
- Larry Hancock, whose experience is in communications technology, is considered a cold war history expert.
- Vincent Palamara, a financial advisor working in the banking industry, is a Secret Service expert.
These authorities, and a large number of others, have provided the rest of us with valuable information because they are Cafeteria Conspiracists. They saw something of interest and not happy with letting a food critic tell them how it tastes, they tried it repeatedly, until they were more than just familiar with the subject, they became experts.
I am a Cafeteria Conspiracist in the sense that I have a narrow focus. I have not ventured much beyond the forensic evidence in Enemy of the Truth, but I am perusing the buffet table and hoping to expand my taste. I’ll let you know how it goes.