The art of programming what people need to know in troubled times.
TODAY’S 3D DEFINITION: HAVING SOMETHING ISSUED
With the release of most of the classified documents dating from 1963, the public has finally learned what J. Edgar Hoover was concerned about in the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination, followed by Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder by Jack Ruby. Hoover wrote: “The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”
Here is its 3D definition:
1. to make an official announcement
2. as used in the expression “have something issued,” to disseminate information that may be true or false through official channels in order to make people stop asking pertinent questions
The context allows us to understand that when used in government documents, the common noun, “something” — generally defined as “a thing that is unspecified or unknown” — can be understood to indicate “an object to manipulate public opinion whose text has not yet been written or that has yet to be defined.”
The media seem to take this literally, as they so often do. They assume that Hoover was sincerely concerned by the risk of unjustified conspiracy theories emerging. But another equally likely explanation would be that, suspecting or possibly even knowing that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy, his goal was to support the fiction that Oswald was the unique assassin: “But, reflecting on Oswald less than an hour after he died, Hoover already sensed theories would form about a conspiracy broader than the lone assassin.”
CBS and the rest of the media can thus paint Hoover as a prophet because, as everyone knows, those conspiracy theories did indeed emerge. But what he “sensed” may have been the possible existence of a conspiracy.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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