Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture [NOOK Book]


 JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, Bill Clinton, both George Bushes—all have been linked to vastly complicated global (or even galactic) intrigues. Two years after Mark Fenster first published Conspiracy Theories, the attacks of 9/11 stirred the imaginations of a new generation of believers. Before the black box from United 93 had even been found, there were theories put forth from the ...
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Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture

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 JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, Bill Clinton, both George Bushes—all have been linked to vastly complicated global (or even galactic) intrigues. Two years after Mark Fenster first published Conspiracy Theories, the attacks of 9/11 stirred the imaginations of a new generation of believers. Before the black box from United 93 had even been found, there were theories put forth from the implausible to the offensive and outrageous. 

In this new edition of the landmark work, and the first in-depth look at the conspiracy communities that formed to debunk the 9/11 Commission Report, Fenster shows that conspiracy theories play an important role in U.S. democracy. Examining how and why they circulate through mass culture, he contends, helps us better understand society as a whole. Ranging from The Da Vinci Codeto the intellectual history of Richard Hofstadter, he argues that dismissing conspiracy theories as pathological or marginal flattens contemporary politics and culture because they are—contrary to popular portrayal—an intense articulation of populism and, at their essence, are strident calls for a better, more transparent government. Fenster has demonstrated once again that the people who claim someone’s after us are, at least, worth hearing.
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Editorial Reviews

Fenster, a lone writer (the literary equivalent of a lone gunman, perhaps), segues from the novels of Thomas Pynchon to the Clinton Death List. . . . Conspiracy Theories is a dangerous book. I suspect 'they' (and you know who I mean, of course) will take care of this lone writer any day now.
Voice Literary Supplement
Fenster culls the liveliest counterintelligences out there—the Michigan Militia, religious millennialists, Chris Carter, even Oliver Stone—and sets them up as the last idealists. They might be obsessive and maniacal, but they're after a transparent political system, where big business and the government can be held accountable. Their 'paranoid style,' according to Fenster, is just old-school populism refitted for the media age.
Philadelphia City Paper
Fenster makes a powerful argument for regarding conspiracism as an integral product of the political system, reflecting inadequacies the establishment itself is blind to and expressing strong desires for the realization of frustrated ideals. Conspiracy Theories is a fascinating look at an important, little-studied topic. Informative and thought-provoking.
American Book Review
Fenster's careful examination of conspiratorial beliefs as evidence by right-wing groups, by various media, and even by those who devise such theories as a form of ludic or satiric endeavor (like Robert Anton Wilson) is revealing. And his articulation of the set of political-rather than pathological-reasons for their behavior is salutary.
Publisher's Weekly
A commendably level-headed analysis of the grip that conspiracy theories maintain on contemporary America. Fenster notes that conspiracy theory serves a useful purpose as a balm to the politically alienated segments of society. By neither dismissing paranoid kooks nor being seduced by their yarns, Fenster constructs a strong case that even while we do not believe, we should nonetheless listen.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452914107
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 7/29/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • File size: 3 MB

Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Introduction: We're All Conspiracy Theorists Now     1
Conspiracy as Politics
Theorizing Conspiracy Politics: The Problem of the "Paranoid Style"     23
When the Senator Met the Commander: From Pathology to Populism     52
Conspiracy as Cultural Practice
Finding the Plot: Conspiracy Theory as Interpretation     93
Uncovering the Plot: Conspiracy Theory as Narrative     118
Plotting the Rush: Conspiracy, Community, and Play     155
Conspiracy Communities
The Prophetic Plot: Millennialism and Christian Conspiracy Theory     197
A Failure of Imagination: Competing Narratives of 9/11 Truth     233
Afterword: Conspiracy Theory, Cultural Studies, and the Trouble with Populism     279
Notes     291
Index     361
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2004

    Knee-deep in pomo-ism

    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.

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