RFK’s good traits don’t cancel out his conspriacy theories

A recent Herald opinion piece professed admiration for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., allegedly because he urges “comity”— generosity and willingness to consider other voices—in politics, (“Saunders: RFK Jr. isn’t a spoiler, but he could be a winner,” The Herald, April 3).

Granted, this is an admirable and even necessary trait in a leader. If Mr. Kennedy genuinely instantiates this trait, he also appears to suffer from an unfortunate vulnerability to improbable but juicy conspiracy theories and related crackpot notions. Such a vulnerability is a crippling liability for someone aspiring to leadership; it seldom afflicts a leader of a large organization, or even a plausible “alpha” individual (excepting, of course, cult leaders). One is inclined to forgive Kennedy’s family for their lack of enthusiasm for his campaign, given this tendency; and no doubt other difficult traits that only a family member may be privy to.

Kennedy has done very good, important work in the environmental and energy spheres. Such work must stand alongside his unfortunate buy-in to other pet conspiracies, well documented elsewhere (cf Wikipedia, Google, “Robert F. Kennedy”). He believes JFK, his uncle, was assassinated with government assistance.

Regarding his manifestly erroneous position on vaccines and in particular, autism, he has allied himself with a British physician who was proved to have defrauded many patients and their families (Andrew Wakefield) and contributed fake, misleading “studies” to The Lancet and other journals. These papers transmitted bogus pseudoscience to millions until they were finally retracted; too late, alas, to prevent those ideas from becoming established in the minds of vulnerable people (very much including many professionals who never heard of the retractions).

I believe that Kennedy means well and is doing the best he can. The tendency to be taken in by weird and improbable theories is such a deep and apparently subconscious character flaw that no large organization or institution can afford to knowingly install such a person at the helm.

Don Dillinger


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