THROUGHOUT the world, industrialization is spurring millions to want more—and to feel more thwarted when affluence and equality are too slowly achieved. In the highly industrialized U.S., the fever is intensified by racial and generational clashes. The result is impatience with the political process: a yen for direct action has created a charged emotional climate that inflames inherently violent minds.

Robert Kennedy was a natural target for what New York Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham calls "magnicide—the killing of somebody big." Historically, that somebody has often symbolized the political assassin's hated father; in the...

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