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By Mark Fenster

JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, invoice Clinton, either George Bushes—all were associated with enormously complex international (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. earlier than the black field from United ninety three had even been came upon, there have been theories placed forth from the fantastic 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 9-11 fee record, Fenster indicates that conspiracy theories play an immense function in U.S. democracy. interpreting how and why they move via mass tradition, he contends, is helping us higher comprehend society as a complete. 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 well known portrayal—an extreme articulation of populism and, at their essence, are strident demands a greater, extra obvious govt. Fenster has established once more that the folk who declare someone’s after us are, at the very least, worthy listening to.

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Extra resources for Conspiracy theories: secrecy and power in American culture

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Hofstadter intended an analogical, rather than clinical, use of the term “paranoid,” THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS | 37 but left undefined precisely how far short the phenomenon is from a clinical pathology. 40 Hofstadter offered no greater clarity about the causes of the paranoid style. He did, however, identify two, though he failed to explain precisely how and to what extent each caused outbreaks. The first such cause was the general historical development of “mass society,” the modern precondition for the mid–twentieth-century rise of the paranoid style.

52 In this schema, it is unclear which are the effects and which are the 42 | THEORIZING CONSPIRACY POLITICS causes, and where the tipping point of social and economic crisis lies that would cause interest politics to subside and status politics to rise. 55 “Consensus” and “pluralism,” in their understanding of conspiracy theory and populism, also offer a narrow vision of politics and especially of democracy. 57 Hofstadter’s analogical use of paranoia, then, brings along with it a normative description of conspiracy theory and populism as necessarily extreme and marginal, as well as an attenuated theory of democracy and politics.

Hofstadter at once created and cleared the field, establishing both that extremist political movements and thought were important objects of research and that the researcher’s normative position should be that of a detached, centrist critic who explains and admonishes extremism’s marginal role in the unfolding American historical and political narrative. 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.

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