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 drastically complex worldwide (or even galactic) intrigues. years after Mark Fenster first released Conspiracy Theories, the assaults of 9-11 stirred the imaginations of a brand new iteration of believers. earlier than the black field from United ninety three had even been came upon, there have been theories positioned forth from the improbable to the offensive and outrageous.
In this re-creation of the landmark paintings, and the 1st in-depth examine the conspiracy groups that shaped to debunk the Sept. 11 fee record, Fenster exhibits that conspiracy theories play a big function in U.S. democracy. reading how and why they movement via mass tradition, he contends, is helping us higher comprehend society as an entire. starting from The Da Vinci Code to the highbrow historical past of Richard Hofstadter, he argues that brushing 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 executive. Fenster has validated once more that the folks who declare someone’s after us are, at the very least, worthy listening to.

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On the other hand, during times of depression and economic crisis a more constructive “interest” politics, based instead on “the clash of material aims and needs among various groups and blocs” and focused on passing legislation, must necessarily become dominant (53–54). 50 Because status politics is difficult to reconcile within “the normal political processes of bargain and compromise” (Paranoid Style, 39), and proponents of such politics, “being less concerned with the uses THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS | 41 of power than with its alleged misuse, do not offer positive programs to solve social problems” (87–88), the paranoid style rises in importance when struggles over status that cannot be or refuse to be resolved through rational political discourse become most visible.

Yet, he perceived the central problem that status politics represents to be the problematic role that emotions and the psychological makeup of groups and individuals play in the attempt to resolve these strains through reasonable political means in a pluralistic democracy. 51 Hofstadter thus again relies on his essential dualities: rational versus pathological politics, and political pragmatism against ideological idealism, with the former term in both dualities defined as rational and the latter as pathological.

66 The left is particularly susceptible to such infiltration and manipulation after decades of conservative ascendancy, Berlet argues. 67 The title of an article he published in the magazine The Progressive, “Friendly Fascists,” epitomizes a theme that at times THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS | 45 pervades Berlet’s approach: that conspiracy theory operates by alluring and then corrupting the left, as right-wing extremists who seem to share leftists’ anti-elitism and fear of centralized power and wish to exchange intelligence and analysis infiltrate and pervert left-wing groups and politics.

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