Tony Rennell's bit in this morning's Mail poses a big question:
Was John Lennon's murderer Mark Chapman a CIA hitman?No. Of course he wasn't.
Rennell's article is effectively a long advert for a book by Phil Strongman that drags up the old "of course, it was the CIA what did it" barroom theory and attempts to construct some sort of proof.
And somewhere along the line his mind was infiltrated. With Chapman, the CIA could have drawn on its long experience of using mind-controlling drugs and techniques such as hypnosis to produce assassins who would eliminate trouble-makers, and ‘patsies’, the fall guys on whom such killings could be blamed.Well, let's go with this theory for a while. The CIA - and the FBI, too, of course - have gone to all the trouble of turning Mark Chapman into a cross between Cuddles The Monkey and Oddjob.
Strongman claims: ‘Catcher In The Rye was part of Chapman’s hypnotic programming, a trigger that could be “fired” at him by a few simple keywords [via] a
cassette tape message, telex or telegram or even a mere telephone call.
’It’s certainly true that conspiracy theorists have long suspected both the Americans and their communist foes of using such techniques to activate ‘sleeper’ assassins — as fictionalised in the film The Manchurian Candidate.
And they use him to assassinate John Lennon?
Why on earth would the CIA want Lennon dead? Double Fantasy wasn't so bad it called for extrajudicial execution.
Strongman can explain the motive:
He had, it seems, rattled the cages of America’s powerful Right wing, first with his opposition to the Vietnam War and then with his campaign of pacifism.Even the Mail's Rennell, who is regurgitating the book more-or-less verbatim, is unable to stop himself from squirting milk out his nose at that one:
It is here that those of us who lived through the period must pause for breath. Lennon was a mad and maddening genius, a showman and a show-off. But he was a dreamer, not a doer.Irreverent? By the time the CIA was supposedly having no choice but to have Lennon killed, Lennon was pretty much irrelevant.
He wrote songs, he played the guitar, he had some funny ideas. He made us laugh. He was irreverent.
But he wasn’t about to bring down capitalism. He was doing much too well out of it himself for that.
You know that last big interview Lennon did with Andy Peebles that gets rolled out every anniversary? It was with Andy Peebles. And if the decision to send the bloke with the all-important Friday evening sports-preview show to interview Lennon isn't enough to remind you that Lennon was gently, but clearly, heading towards silhouetted-appearance-on-Denis-Norden-panel-game oblivion, let's look at this week's Creamguide:
One thing that Lennon page did point out was a moment on Nationwide when Frank Bough looked at a picture of a bearded, bed-in era Lennon and asked his guest Hunter Davies whether he still looked like that in his last days, emphasising that before he died people didn’t really know what Lennon looked like anymore, as he had been very much a recluse, enjoying life as a house husband in New York, and being well out of the public eye, especially on this side at the Atlantic.Yes, that would have had the CIA worried, wouldn't it? "Imagine if all American men stayed at home and grew beards. It would throw the economy into chaos, and destroy the chances of Project Kiam from being a success."
It's perhaps surprising that - given he's just making stuff up, including the inevitable 'second actual gunman' - Strongman hasn't just decided to construct an equally pointless motive. Hey, how about if Lennon was actually a KGB sleeper? Programmed to go wild and slaughter Walter Cronkite - or the actual true heir to the Romanov throne, of course - at a signal from Olivia Newton John. Hey, the CIA are keeping their Lennon files sealed, so who's to say that just because I've made this up off the top of my head, it isn't in there?