Back…and to the Left

In 1975, the landscape of the Kennedy assassination debate was forever changed when the American people finally got a chance to see the infamous Zapruder film, an amateur 8mm home movie, which serves as the most complete photographic record of the assassination sequence. The authorities and Time/Life (who owned the rights to the film) had done their best to suppress the footage from the public, but when the Zapruder film was subpoenaed by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison for his investigation into the Kennedy assassination, several bootleg copies were leaked to various interested parties.

A young researcher named Robert Groden obtained a high-quality copy of the film, and screened the footage on Geraldo Rivera’s talk show program. The studio audience, and indeed the whole country, was shocked and horrified at this graphic footage of the President’s untimely demise. After the screening, Groden took great pains to point out the President’s movements after the final shot. The President’s head and upper body, Groden noted, moved violently back and to the left. Groden asserted that this movement indicated a the fatal shot originating from the front of President Kennedy. This assertion contradicted the government’s version of the assassination, detailed in the oft-maligned “Warren Report,” which concluded that the head shot had been fired from behind the President by Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository. If Groden’s interpretation of the footage was correct, then the back and to the left motion was the evidence Warren Commission critics needed to blow the lid off of the official story.

With Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK, “back and to left” became part of the pop culture idiom. The film depicts Kevin Costner, portraying Jim Garrison, repeating the phrase ad nauseam in the climatic court room scene.

“Back and to the left” then quickly became the subject of several other references and parodies in other forms of pop entertainment, from the sitcom Seinfeld, to the short-lived animated series The Critic. I’ve seen this video has been on YouTube for years. Within days of me placing it on this context in this web site, it has been removed. Somebody doesn’t want me writing about this.

But after all these years, just what does “back and to the left” tell us, if anything, about the true nature of President Kennedy’s assassination?

Like most aspects of the assassination debate, researchers and historians are divided into several distinct camps concerning the “back and to the left” phenomenon. Some contend that the “back and to the left” motion was caused by the “jet effect.” According to this explanation, the momentum from tissue flying out of the exit wound on the front right of President Kennedy’s skull caused the head to snap violently back and to the left. If the front right wound was indeed a wound of exit, then the shot must of come from the rear of the President, thus corroborating the Warren Commission’s interpretation of the assassination sequence.

For others, the explanation of the “back and to the left” phenomenon is not a matter of physics, but a matter of neuromuscular biology. According to this explanation, the wounds sustained by the President caused a neuromuscular spasm which sent the President’s head flying back and to the left.

For some, it is simply a matter of Newtonian physics. Since every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, a back and to the left motion must be the result of an impact from the right front, the approximate location of the infamous grassy knoll. In this case, “back and the left” would elucidate a conspiracy, or at least a shooter other than Oswald.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. John Judge says:

    Back and to the left and up at over 100 mph, accellerating at over 100 feet per second per second. Brain matter and skull fragments arc in the air and hit Dallas policeman Billy Hargis hard enough to cause him to think he has been shot. He tells the Dallas News on the 30th anniversary that he saw it arc up and come down on him, driving to the left rear of the limousine. Skull fragment found 30 feet behind the point of impact on the south side of Elm, in other words across the street to the left rear. Damage to the skull is only consistent with a shot from the front according to a former president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Cyril Wecht. Show the film, as I did, before it was renowned, to a room full of Vietnam combat veterans and ask them what direction it came from. Witnesses on the scene ran to the front of the spot. People in the motorcade smelled gunfire as they passed the spot. The alternate theories you mention, as well as the driver speeding up, Jackie Kennedy pushing him and other ludicrous explanations have long been discredited. To pretend that because there has been controversy, most of it created to disinform, is like pretending that evolution is “just a theory” because some religious fanatics say it’s not in the Bible. It’s easy to be agnostic if you won’t take the time to find the expertise needed to settle the question, since you say you have none yourself. The luxury of agnosticism rests in space where those without concern for real democracy or truth spend their time. In the death of a president that had profound implications that still determine our country’s course and detriment, there is no room for some dilettante position of indifference. We have to know, even if we are opposed in so doing. Without knowing, with only believing whatever we like, we are paralyzed and cannot act or properly analyze our fate. It is not a moot question of past history that allows a cynical detatchment as if “we will never know” is a sufficient ground to stand on. That ice has long ago melted. As critic Penn Jones, Jr. used to say, “Since November 22, 1963 we have been in the death grip of the Military Industrial Complex, now let’s all pray I’m wrong.” But he is not wrong, as a reading of Jim Douglass’ excellent new book, “JFK and the Unspeakable” will confirm about why Kennedy was killed and who engineered it. Pretending at this late date that there was not a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy or a single gunman in Dallas that day belies not only historical reality, but the subsequent murder of his brother who not only knew the truth but planned to investigate and reveal it once in the White House. Robert Groden’s work was not from a “bootleg” copy made by Jim Garrison, but from an original copy of the Zapruder film which is very clear and precise. Indifference and the pretense of agnosticism belies a deeper cynicism the future cannot afford.

  2. author337 says:


    Thanks for your comments, I appreciate you taking the time to put them up, and I’m glad someone as knowledgeable and respected as you is the first one to put up their thoughts. I hope this encourages others to join in the conversation. David Lifton also corrected me on the circumstances of Groden’s acquisition of the Z film, and I have subsequently updated this page. I thank both of you from preventing me from spreading disinformation. I’d like to assure you that my uncommitted position is not a reflection of indifference. Indeed indifference is the great enemy that I am attempting to battle with my site. Most of my generation doesn’t care what happened in Dallas that day, despite the fact that the ramifications of JFK’s murder affects their lives to this very day. I created JFK007 to provide my generation an accessible antidote to the oppressive polemic of the mainstream media, who dominate the debate and leave no room for discussion. I hope to reach my Spacebooked Idrone peers, fight their crushing indifference, and show them why this remains such an important subject matter.

    No matter where the shots came from and who planned them, the US Government let us down that day in Dallas, and their malevolence or indifference is shamefully apparent in the mess that has been made of the executive branch, and indeed our democratic institutions since then. The government let us down, they lied about it, and then they covered it up. On that, I think we can both agree.

    Respectfully Yours,
    Lee Sanger Goldin

  3. Steven Berry says:

    I am a former combat Marine ..I did two tours of Hells Half acre ..Vietnam..from 6/66- 3/68..I feel I am as much of an expert as any fat assed never have fired a WEAPON IN HIS LIFE EXPERT THAT WILL TELL US A LIE SO PREPOSTEROUS IT IS EMBARRASING to even address yet again..I will give anyone $500..and kiss his butt in the middle of time square..and even give hiom an hour to raise a crowd if he can ever prove that a shot from the rear made Kennesys dead head go back and to the left..It is a flunky with no experience of seeing what happens when a high powered bullet..probably with a hot load in it’s tip..connects with the human skull..If you watch closely..You will note that his skull actually peels back from the right front as the massive impact and perhaps mercury tip literally scalps Jack before exiting the rear right of his skull..When JFK arived at Parkland..The orderly when told to stop any drainage from the rear exit..told the head Doc..”There is no more brain to find in this man skull”

  4. J Falk says:

    I was ten years old when Kennedy was killed. I watched the funeral. I saw Oswald shot down on live television. I saw a few of the post assassinationTV specials over the years, some hosted by the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite. If I recall correctly most of the programs concluded that Oswald did it. The Warren Commission Report said it too. The fact “they” didn’t want the public to see frame 313 for so long afterwards, if ever, seemed like a red flag among dozens of red flags to come. I am 58 years of age now. Those days are a stain on the soul of America. With each passing year the darkness descends. Even though I care deeply about the repercussions of that sad event it hardly matters now who did it. Because nothing will bring back the promise, possibilities and vision of those days. “What might have been” is only a bitter, bitter taste.

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