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The Assassination and Mrs. Paine

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A Review Essay of Max Good's Documentary Film

Human duplicity is a marvel to contemplate. This riveting documentary is an excellent example of such cunning in action, not on the part of the filmmaker who is eminently fair, perhaps overly so, but on the part of some of those who appear in the film. It demands that viewers use every skill in their possession to determine who is lying and who is telling the truth about the involvement of a woman named Ruth Paine (and her husband Michael) in the assassination of President Kennedy. In many ways, it is akin to sitting in a jury box, listening to trial testimony from witnesses for the defense and prosecution and from a few whose slippery words seem meant to create uncertainty and never-ending debate about Paine's innocence or guilt in the president's murder.

The film will be an eye-opener for anyone unfamiliar with Mrs. Ruth Paine's fundamental role at the heart of the president's murder; and for those knowledgeable about her, it will be greeted as an important contribution to the case. I believe it is not just a must-watch for those interested in JFK's assassination, which is the key to all subsequent American history, but for anyone trying to unravel today's tapestry of lies and propaganda spewing out from the mainstream media (MSM) that go by different names - CBS, ABC, the Washington Post, etc. - but all of whom speak for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The basic equation is: CIA = MSM.

Since many people are adept at lying, they think they are good at sniffing out lies in others. This is highly questionable. We live in a country of lies, from the top down and the bottom up; propaganda and the everyday lies that grease the skids of social intercourse. Deceptions that deceive no one. Lying is the leading cause of spiritual death in the United States, even as devotion to truth is embraced as a national platitude. Even when such fealty to truthfulness isn't professed or implied and the lying is admitted, as with ex-CIA Director Mike Pompeo's 2019 remark about the CIA at Texas A&M university - "We lied, we cheated, we stole" - such treachery is uttered proudly and with a chuckle. It's what everybody knows and pretends they don't.

There are some intellectuals, like Noam Chomsky, who like to say that many who lie believe their own stories because of their institutional affiliations - e.g. journalists for the BBC, The New York Times, CBS, etc. (but not the Defense Department-funded MIT where he spent his career) - because such institutions require that the employees they hire have internalized the script in advance. But they don't call it lying, for it is built into the socialization process that leads to positions within such institutions. So they are only doing their jobs and lack awareness of any duplicity. They are innocent of their own complicity in censorship and propaganda in stories they report. They have no knowledge of the fact that their mainstream employers have long been proven to be mouthpieces for the CIA, M-16, etc.

Focused exclusively on institutional analyses, Chomsky denies these people a place for individual freedom and consciousness, as he does with his long-held absurd assertion that JFK's assassination is of little importance and his denial of the clearly documented facts about how Kennedy took a radical turn toward peacemaking in the last year of his life, a metanoia that led directly to his death.

He is correct, however, that such MSM people don't need to self-censor, for their jobs require them to play the game according to the censorship rules under which they were hired, but he is very wrong to claim they therefore believe what they say. That assumes these people are very ignorant, which they are not; that they just obliviously do their jobs and collect their pay. He fails to distinguish between playing dumb and being dumb.

It would be more accurate to say that they live in what Jean Paul Sartre calls "bad faith" (mauvaise foi), for "the essence of a lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding ". The ideal description of a liar would be a cynical consciousness, affirming truth within himself, denying it in his words, and denying the negation as such."

You can't lie to yourself, for that would mean you were two people. But you can lie to others. And you can play dumb. It's called acting. And of course many journalists and academics hold dual positions, since they secretly work as assets for the intelligence services.

I begin with these thoughts about lying because a good number of the people who appear in The Assassination and Mrs. Paine have no ostensible institutional affiliation but may be working in some capacity for an invisible institutional paymaster who calls their tunes. No names required. They implicitly present themselves as disinterested pursuers of truth, yet viewers are forced to assess the veracity of their claims, including those of Ruth Paine who appears throughout, answering Max Good's interview questions.

Much has been written and filmed about the JFK assassination. Most take a broad perspective. This film is quite different because it approaches it through a personal focus on a woman named Ruth Paine who, for those who may not have heard of her, was the key witness against Lee Harvey Oswald at the Warren Commission (WC) hearings where she was asked more than five-thousand questions (her husband Michel was asked 1,000 or so). She is the woman who invited Marina Oswald to live with her in her home in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, where Lee Harvey Oswald also spent weekends from late September 1963 up until the morning of the Assassination on November 22, 1963. Her testimony led to the WC's conclusion that Oswald, and Oswald alone, shot the president.

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine is Max Good's second full-length documentary. He came to the subject after reading a section (pp.168-172) on Ruth and Michael Paine in James W. Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters, a book considered by many to be the best on the JFK assassination . He felt the Paines' story shouted out for a documentary, and when he discovered that Ruth Paine was still alive, in her late eighties, lucid, and living near him in a Quaker retirement home in California, he contacted her and she agreed to be interviewed, something she has done for 59 years, always protesting her innocence, even though over the decades researchers have uncovered much evidence to the contrary.

Her ex-husband, Michael, also lived at the home but has since died. There's a brief interview of little consequence with him in the film since his memory was going, but I should note that he too is a crucial figure in the assassination story. Both he and Ruth have always denied involvement in the plot and coverup, yet much evidence connects them to it. Michael Paine's involvement is artfully suggested by the film's title - "Mrs. Paine" and not simply Ruth Paine, a woman acting alone. The Paines, who have claimed they are pacifists, might best be superficially described as unassuming, liberal Quaker/Unitarian do-gooders, whose wealth and astounding family and intelligence connections would make heads spin, if they were known. The film exposes many of those connections.

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Edward Curtin is a widely published author. His new book is Seeking Truth in A Country of Lies - His website is

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