Conspiracy theories: secrecy and power in American culture by Mark Fenster

By Mark Fenster

JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, invoice Clinton, either George Bushes—all were associated with significantly complex worldwide (or even galactic) intrigues. years after Mark Fenster first released Conspiracy Theories, the assaults of Sept. 11 stirred the imaginations of a brand new iteration of believers. ahead of the black field from United ninety three had even been came across, there have been theories placed forth from the incredible to the offensive and outrageous.
In this new version of the landmark paintings, and the 1st in-depth examine the conspiracy groups that shaped to debunk the 11th of September fee file, Fenster indicates that conspiracy theories play a big position in U.S. democracy. analyzing how and why they move via mass tradition, he contends, is helping us greater comprehend society as an entire. starting from The Da Vinci Code to the highbrow historical past of Richard Hofstadter, he argues that pushing aside conspiracy theories as pathological or marginal flattens modern politics and tradition simply because they are—contrary to renowned portrayal—an severe articulation of populism and, at their essence, are strident demands a greater, extra obvious govt. Fenster has established once more that the folks who declare someone’s after us are, at the very least, worthy listening to.

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Hofstadter’s interest in this question was both historical, insofar as he described a longstanding strain in American politics, and presentist, insofar as his work was intended as a rejoinder to and condemnation of the New Right of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The left-progressives focus more specifically on how conspiracy theory affects the political project of the contemporary left. My purpose in this chapter is to draw out and contextualize the assumptions of these two approaches, as well as review their similarities, differences, and relative strengths and weaknesses.

THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS REVOLTING IN STYLE: THE STYLE AND PRACTICES OF | 31 PARANOID POLITICS By the time he focused his attention on political extremism and conspiracy theory, Hofstadter was already a leading and popular academic historian whose writings were marked by a broad historical scope, an engaging narrative style and authorial voice, the political moderation and ironic detachment of a Cold War liberal intellectual, and a powerful challenge to the dominant Progressive historiography of the previous generation.

This work arose from within two movements that dominated the disciplines of history and political science during the postwar era, the “consensus” or “counterprogressive” historiography among American historians, of which Hofstadter was a leading figure, and the broad theory of “pluralism” in American political science. 1 Their work on conspiracy theory responded to the rise of the “New American Right” of McCarthyism and, later, Barry Goldwater, as well as the surge in visibility of reactionary groups such as THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS | 25 the John Birch Society.

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