"Your poor country," sympathized a Japanese diplomat, speaking to a friend in Washington. "I had thought that after Dallas this could not happen again. There is enough misunderstanding about you abroad. This will make it even worse. How could this happen?"

The King assassination and the subsequent riots have reinforced a world image of America the Violent: a vast, driving, brutal land that napalms Vietnamese peasants and murders its visionaries along with its Presidents. It is an image that has been persistently built up not only by bloody fact but also by fiction—in books,...

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