Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture

Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture

by Mark Fenster

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452914107
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 07/29/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 665,604
File size: 2 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

What People are Saying About This

Mark T. Reinhardt

Only a vast academic conspiracy can keep this book from having the impact it deserves.

Gerald Posner

Fenster's illuminating study sets forth a stimulating correlation between the popularity of our obsessive interest in conspiracy theories and the social and political values of our society.

Barbie Zelizer

I find the issue of conspiracy theory compelling and appreciate Fenster's fruitful approach to what has been mysteriously ignored by the academy.
—(Barbie Zelizer, author of Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory)

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