- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are a form of popular political interpretation and contends that understanding how they ...
Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are a form of popular political interpretation and contends that understanding how they circulate through mass culture helps us better understand our society as a whole. To that end, he discusses Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics, the militia movement, The X-Files, popular Christian apocalyptic thought, and such artifacts of suspicion as The Turner Diaries, the Illuminatus! trilogy, and the novels of Richard Condon.
Fenster analyzes the "conspiracy community" of radio shows, magazine and book publishers, Internet resources, and role-playing games that promote these theories. In this world, the very denial of a conspiracy's existence becomes proof that it exists, and the truth is always "out there." He believes conspiracy theory has become a thrill for a bored subculture, one characterized by its members' reinterpretation of "accepted" history, their deep cynicism about contemporary politics, and their longing for a utopian future.
Fenster's progressive critique of conspiracy theories both recognizes the secrecy and inequities of power in contemporary politics and economics and works toward effective political engagement. Probing conspiracy theory's tendencies toward scapegoating, racism, and fascism, as well as Hofstadter's centrist acceptance of a postwar American "consensus," he advocates what conspiracy theory wants but cannot articulate: a more inclusive, engaging political culture.
About the Author:
Mark Fenster received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Illinois and his law degree from Yale University. He currently lives in Denver.
Posted June 19, 2004
When I bought this book I was hoping for either a historical or social psychology approach to understanding the current popularity of paranoid conspiracism and the breakdown in critical thinking which it heralds. I was disappointed. The author makes a good start in proposing and defending the idea that simplistically dismissing non-mainstream historical narratives as 'paranoid conspiracy theories' is superficial and less than honest. In the second chapter, he completely fumbles the ball. It should not require nearly 50 pages and countless quotes from Lacan to end up dancing around the tautology that circular reasoning is an infinitely prolonged process by virtue of its circularity. Fenster appears to be nearly phobic about doing anything akin to drawing a conclusion or making a judgement either of fact or of value, and the book is written in the utterly leaden, deliberately obfuscating style of the post-modern 'critical theory' academic. Normally a new book is something which I plow through at the first sitting and then re-read repeatedly in small portions until it's well-digested. I could not force myself to finish this book-the first time that has happened in years.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.