Filmmaker Alex Cox's response to Errol Morris "The Umbrella Man" video


[Video Link] Alex Cox (Repo Man and Sid & Nancy director), says "[Here's] my response to Errol Morris' documentary for the New York Times website, "The Umbrella Man" - and the first of several short films I'll post in connection with the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, and my book, The President and the… READ THE REST


I used to work with a couple of people that previously worked for the CIA (two different jobs here in San Diego, must be a popular place for former 007s). I asked one about the Kennedy assassination, and he said (taken with the usual amount of skepticism) that the Hunt brothers were behind it. If that's the case, how boring.


A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example, show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, "plate," or "shrimp," or "plate o' shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.


Interesting. But Cox gets one thing very wrong-- the Bulgarian dissident killed on Waterloo bridge in London (OK, two things, it wasn't Blackfriars bridge) was killed with a pellet, not a dart, and the pellet was tiny and delivered at very close range, practically injected-- the assassin basically stabbed Markov with the pointy end of the umbrella while firing the pinhead-sized pellet, lodging it in his leg-- not the same as a dart fired from several feet away. So, it goes both ways, Cox's own intellectual honesty is as debatable as Thompson's. Or maybe that's his hidden point (I mean, other than to hawk his own book.)


Morris' point (always) is that we have a hard time ferreting out what really happened in the best of circumstance and one should always be conscious of your own unacknowledged biases. Cox answers by saying you can't even be sure of that. A skeptic answers a skeptic. Somehow I don't feel twice as illuminated.


I don't see why anyone would find Cox's film to be convincing or interesting. He makes two points in response to Morris. 1) The CIA used umbrella darts to kill people in other circumstances, 2) the man who claimed to be Umbrella Man gave testimony that is seemingly contradicted by the photographic record.

Neither point proves that an umbrella was used in the assassination. As some_guy points out in his comment, the CIA use of darts and umbrellas was far simpler and effective than the fanciful and absurd contraption depicted by the conspiracy theorist. To aim a device like that would be difficult in the extreme, and to hit a moving target would require luck that even Lee Harvey Oswald, who allegedly hit a moving vehicle with a cheap rifle from a 6th floor building, twice, could have hoped for.

What's more, the inconsistent testimony of the supposed Umbrella Man is not necessarily sinister, and certainly proves nothing. It's easy to imagine alternative explanations that are more likely. Perhaps, since human memory is a less-than-perfect recording device, he misremembered.

But for Cox, misreporting your location by a matter of a few yards must be evidence of a conspiracy. Providing no evidence, Cox states unequivocally that "the pair of them were up to something."

Cox's video is an example of the shoddy reasoning, paranoid belief systems and poor editing skills of conspiracy theorists. They don't supply relevant evidence in support of their claims, but instead rely on their readers' and viewers' tendency to link two unrelated bits of information together when those bits make an interesting and compelling story.


Isn't that two things? Please forgive me for confusing my London bridges. Like you I had been under the impression that Markov was stabbed with a poisoned umbrella. But Hristo Hristov's book "Kill Vagabond" - which the AP article is about - refers to "a poison-laced pellet (fired) from a special mechanism concealed in an umbrella."
And please don't be rude to people about their intellectual honesty while hiding behind a pen name. I don't take a position on whether or not the "Umbrella Man" really had a weapon or not. Only that such devices had been developed (you can read the inventor's testimony to the Church Commission) and were in the possession of the US military, the CIA and (apparently) a Bulgarian assassination team. These are the facts which Errol Morris' documentary and the New York Times would, for whatever reason, prefer you not to know.


Thanks for your reply. "...hiding behind a pen name..." -- I used my real name, Hugh D'Andrade. I accused you of sloppy reasoning, not intellectual dishonesty. If a dart was fired from an umbrella, it is highly unlikely that it was fired in the manner described in the drawing included in the text referenced in this film, and in fact it would be physically impossible for a device such as this to be aimed with any accuracy, certainly not at a moving target. (Then there is the fact that no darts -- or extra bullets, for that matter -- have been discovered.) So Morris is correct to expose this theory as preposterous, and to label its author a crank.


Hugh, I wasn't replying to you, but to the poster named "some_guy". But my comment applies to you in the general sense that rudeness and accusations of paranoia suggest that the poster is on shaky ground. You have nothing to lose by reading Senseney's testimony. The weapon existed. Whether or not it was in Dealey Plaza on 11/22/1963 I have no idea.


I was being more playful than accusatory, Alex, don't be offended. I think Thompson has the right to dismiss the umbrella device as silly if he wants, since that isn't really the point of his film, and it's unclear whether he "prefer you not know" about those weapons (which implies he is deliberately trying to hide their existence) or if he honestly thinks they are bogus-- from what is written about these supposed weapons the dart could penetrate a wall, but then suddenly dissolve in the human body and not be found. There are other vagaries and inconsistencies about them that leads me to disbelieve the theory.

Whenever I find myself discussing the JKF asassination with someone I end up thinking "none of this is truly knowable, anything is possible, and invoking the CIA is akin to invoking magic since they can apparently do anything and not be discovered."

There are often rational explanations for even the most sinister looking events. Knowing that the NSA is peeping into everything everybody does I recognize that anyone can appear suspicious if you don't know what they are actually doing, if you don't know their motives, and if you are looking for something suspicious to begin with. You seem very sure that the Umbrella Man and the Dark Complected man were "up to something", but how can you really know for sure?


If you look at the Zapruder footage, JFK's head seems to effectively explode. After the impact it is clear there is massive cranial damage. There is a huge flap of skin hanging.

Take a look.

This is certainly not consistent with a small Markov style pellet, and I doubt very much that a dart would do that. It looks much more like the effect of a high velocity rifle round, which makes perfect sense if Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin.

It is an interesting piece of human psychology that people look for overcomplicated solutions to simple problems. One man shoots another man. The target is moving, making the shot difficult but not impossible.

The problem with this kind of conspiracy is that too many people need to be involved and people are very poor at keeping secrets. Given the inevitability that your conspiracy will one day be blown wide open, you'd better make sure it's a conspiracy that will not result in your arrest and execution.

With this rationale, "Overthrowing a communist government" is fine (even at the behest of a greedy Fruit Company) but "murdering your own President" is not. Consequently most of the confirmed conspiracies resemble the former and not at all the later.


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