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Premise

Human cloning tends to discombobulate our moral compasses; the potential for scientific gain and the potential for abuse are vast. Now, contrast this moral dilemma with the public sentiment concerning the assassination of JFK. Seeing as JFK was assassinated, he clearly had enemies, but he was loved by many as well. As such, JFK's assassination was much lamented; Adlai Stevenson put it well:

All of us will bear the grief of his death until the day of our own.

If there was ever a man people would accept cloning, would it not be the charismatic, intellectually gifted and universally loved US president?

That, folks, is a rhetorical question -- at least in my world. My world assumes that nearly everyone would rally around the fresh-from-cryosleep JFK clone. The way it works is:

  • Once a week, the real JFK undergoes a consciousness upload to a server
  • A secret facility stores the data as well as several JFK clones
  • In the event a clone needs to be activated, JFK will be able to have administrative continuity by virtue of downloading his consciousness to the clone
  • The process of downloading consciousness to the clone takes 18 hours
  • The new JFK clone then attends a meeting where he is debriefed about events of the past few days (everything that happened after the most recent upload)
  • This secret facility aside, everything else about the 60's can be assumed to be the same.

Question

BANG! BANG! BANG! The president has been assassinated. However, the next day JFK makes it public knowledge that he has been brought back to life via cloning and consciousness streaming. Would this dissuade further assassination attempts? Why or why not?

Putting ourselves in the minds of the assassins, and using an organized progression of logic are the keys to answering this question. Of course there are a bazillion theories on who was responsible for the assassination, but I'm curious if JFK could perpetually clone himself, why bother assassinating him?

Further Clarifications

In the interest of keeping this question from being too broad, I am not stipulating that the answer needs to be robust to all the theories of who assassinated JFK. You may answer this question simply in the context of plausible motives for the general case.

But if you can't help yourself, you may choose your favorite assassination theory or choose one of the ones below. If you want to go overboard you may do all of them!

  • Lee Harvey Oswald | Motive: Unclear (emotional immaturity? random act?)
  • Military Industrial Complex | Motive: It would not be in their best interests to deescalate from the cold war (which was the trend of JFK's policies)
  • The Mafia | Motive: Retribution for Robert Kennedy's hard stance on organized crime
  • Mossad | Motive: Safeguarding Israel's existence in the region by taking out Kennedy, who was firmly opposed to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and often pressured Israel.
  • Banksters | Motive: Kennedy was allegedly proposing a silver-backed dollar policy that threatened the Federal Reserve and the banks ability to turn on and off the fiat printers at will.
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    $\begingroup$ The "backup restoration" process takes about 1 week, I assume? Assassination would be a significant political distraction, especially if done at the right (or wrong, depending on a viewpoint) time. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 1 '18 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander It takes the better part of a day, but the clone could have up to 6 days worth of information deficit. The clone is told in person about the last few days. Editing for clarity. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Aug 1 '18 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ once a week may be slow. The entire missile crisis with Cuba lasted 13 days $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '18 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ Would such an assination in fact be classed as a murder ? Might be a hard sell to a jury or coroner's court if the deceased is actually out and about making speeches. :-) Certainly it would attract a lot of legal arguments. And if you could show the shooter knew JFK would be "restored", I'm not sure you could even prove attempted murder - legal arguments can have weird outcomes. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Aug 1 '18 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ What happens next depends entirely on how the first assassin is treated. If you kill a person with a clone backup, do the courts treat it as murder or destruction of property? Realistically, the murder of a president will bring the wrath of the justice system down on the assassin, but if by some odd quirk of fate he gets off easy the oddballs, subversives, and thrill seekers are going to line up to kill JFK like it's a roller coaster. It's guilt free murder, a cat and mouse game with the secret service, and a political statement at the height of the cold war and countercultural revolution. $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 1 '18 at 4:58
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I believe it would make things worse

The majority of presidential assassinations — and I'll use that as prima facie evidence that all assassinations — are emotionally motivated. Even when people are planning to be rid of a leader (consider Operation Valkyrie), there's a lot of emotion. Too much emotion.

And suddenly we have a way to make that leader feel the assassin's pain. Indeed, he could be made to feel it over... and over... and over....

Frankly, knowing you can't actually remove a leader via assassination would, in my opinion, make them absolutely open game. No matter how strict the laws against presidential assassination, knowing that he'd always have the privilege of knowing he wasn't the original, that he was a copy — that he'd always have video of that happened to him... over and over and over...

If anything, it would seriously reduce the number of people wanting to be president, which would seriously reduce the quality of our presidents.1


1Yeah, yeah, yeah.... "if that's even possible!" Don't laugh too loud.... it really could be worse.

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  • $\begingroup$ A-ah, but emotions would be different, much different. The act would seem much less momentous, like trying to hit GW Bush with a shoe (but still much more difficult to do that the shoe attack). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 1 '18 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander. How different would they be? You must still be angry enough to kill. There's still a death involved. If anything else, the belief that the death isn't permanent would simply make the choice to assassinate easier. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 1 '18 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ A death of a clone, that's it - but the sentence perhaps would not be any lighter. Would one, running on high emotions, would have tried to assassinate Hitler? Perhaps. Would he (or she) try to publicly burn his portrait, knowing that Hitler would still live, but repercussions would still be severe? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 1 '18 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander, Yes, I believe so. (An alternative argument would make an excellent answer!) $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 1 '18 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Yes, my interest is perked as well, seeing as JBH has presented a very good case here. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Aug 1 '18 at 14:53
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Much of the premise would revolve around the public, the Congress and even the Cabinet accepting the clone really is JFK. Certainly there are many philosophical and technical arguments which could be made stating that a clone, even one with uploaded memories is not JFK, but at best a simulation or analogue of the real thing.

If the Cabinet or the Congress refuses to accept the clone as being JFK, then the succession laws would take place, and RBJ would still become President. Indeed, if enough members of either body were opposed to accepting the clone as the President, the succession might take place simply to ensure continuity of government (the United States would be unable to function with the Congress or Cabinet deadlocked over the question of if the clone is actually JFK, and a Supreme Court ruling might take years to settle the question).

Even if the Congress and the Cabinet were to accept the clone as JFK, there is the greater danger the public will not. Although "zombie" stories had not gained the sort of popularity in the early 1960's as today, the idea of a resurrected President would be strange, repulsive or even ghoulish to a large fraction fo the public, and you can imagine huge rallies and marches of people demanding the clone be removed from office, since it isn 't the "real" President. Massive opposition on the domestic front would likely paralyze the nation and bring the economy to a grinding halt, triggering even more opposition to the Administration.

So despite the best intentions of these super scientists, the resurrection of JFK (or any future President) is likely to arouse massive opposition and create chaos rather than certainty in the minds of the public, the elected members of the Congress and the Cabinet of the Administration.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for a fresh dose of skepticism about the premise, but I guess I figured enough politicians were on board for this plan implicitly or else it wouldn't get any funding (scientists, equipment, ect). As far as explicitly goes, the world is at least assumed to have public support for the clones. I'd like to focus on whether the assassins would continue to assassinate or not. That's the main question. Perhaps creating political turmoil as you stated is part of the motivation for assassinating him over and over again? $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Aug 1 '18 at 1:01
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I believe he would be even more unsafe if people knew about the cloning.

Just imagine if Russian or Chinese spies swap out JFK's backup with another or an edited version that is more sympathetic to their beliefs. They then go on to assassinate the president. The clone body is loaded up JFK v2.0 Russian version.

Currently killing the President just means someone else becomes President but suddenly having the ability to replace the President with your President makes assassination much more attractive.

Any cloning tech would have to be kept super secret and the President just miraculously survives every assassination attempt.

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I think he would be more in danger, but not physical danger.

Since he has an army of clones ready to take the place of whoever has been killed, it is evident that killing is not a viable option. Either it is known that there are clones, or it will be known after the first time. In both cases the assassination would play as a large advertisement for JFK. See what happened to him after Dallas.

What his enemies can do is instead dig for the dirty secrets he was hiding: i.e. his non monogamous sexual life style is not a mystery for us, but it was a rather well kept secret back then, at least for the general public.

Find proofs of that, disclose them to the public, and you will have a Sexgate in the prude '60es. No matter how many clones you have, once your image is ruined you are practically death to the public life.

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I think it would encourage more assassination attempts on policy makers and key negotiators rather than the president.

The biggest issue is that the memory of the person is only uploaded once a week. Everything that happens during the week will be lost and unless it was written down or recorded. If there were certain policies or treaty discussions that weren't going well, it would be easy to kill the other person under the disguise of an assassination attempt and then renegotiate from the beginning again. Of course the person who plans the assassination backs up their memory after the other negotiator is killed and can recommence negotiations with the clone with more knowledge on the outcomes.

If the problem is specifically killing the president, I don't see much point from a more rational perspective. It would be more of an emotional process. The president might be the head of a country, but he isn't the one who creates and pushes policies day in and day out. I believe that would be the senate or congress (I'm not sure on politics) which would have a much larger impact.

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Assassination risk will get lower, but president still won't be safe.

Let's try to go over some likely assassination scenarios.

  1. Well-prepared assassinations - organized by other states or resourceful groups which do detailed calculations of the consequences. Because the president can't really be killed, long-term effect is normally minimal, but a short-term effect, especially during a crisis time, can be profound. I'd say the risk goes down to 25%;
  2. Individual or small group motivated by policy. The direction where president is taking the country may seem too dangerous, or individual/group may be personally threatened by this policy. This is where assassination would make the least sense, because the clone would likely keep policy unchanged. I'd say risk goes down to 10%;
  3. Individual or small group motivated by hatred. This hatred may be personal, or stemming from the policy, so #2 and #3 may be difficult to tell apart. The key ingredient here is the desire to hurt the president, not just to try to have the policy changed. Lethal attacks may be less likely, but non-lethal attacks would become more. Instead of trying to shoot the president, one may try to splash him with acid. If president's face is disfigured because of the attack, what do we do? "Discard" him and replace with a fresh clone? I'd say assassination risk goes down to 50%, but the risk for non-lethal attacks may go up considerably;
  4. Individual motivated by psychotic obsession. For example, one may see the assassination as a way to become famous. The effect here is difficult to predict. Some individuals may want their victims to stay dead, and would be discouraged if they are guaranteed to resurrect. I don't think Herostratus would have targeted the Temple of Artemis if he knew it would be completely rebuilt in one day. On the other hand, some others, who are not deranged enough for a murder, might see killing a clone as a doable option. I would predict overall risk for this group would stay at 100%.

The above predictions are based on assumptions that Secret Service would not let its guard down because the president is immortal and courts will prosecute clone murder just like any other murder.

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The answer would depend on the aim of the assassin.

If the goal was to stop the (mind of the) president to follow a certain policy, then that president would have to be removed completely, including clones. Therefore, the "assassin" would not target the president alone, but the storage of the president's mind etc. If they wouldn't have the resources for that, they might not even start the first killing, because it would be pointless.

If on the other hand the goal was emotional (express one's individual rage or become famous etc.), then killing the one body would probably be enough. The return of the president wouldn't matter, because only that one killing counted.

So, as with any character development – by the way, this should be closed for not being worldbuilding –, you need to get into the mind of your assassin to learn what they would do.

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