Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America

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Yale University Press, 2008 M10 1 - 368 pages

There is a hunger for conspiracy news in America. Hundreds of Internet websites, magazines, newsletters, even entire publishing houses, disseminate information on invisible enemies and their secret activities, subversions, and coverups. Those who suspect conspiracies behind events in the news—the crash of TWA Flight 800, the death of Marilyn Monroe—join generations of Americans, from the colonial period to the present day, who have entertained visions of vast plots. In this enthralling book Robert Goldberg focuses on five major conspiracy theories of the past half-century, examining how they became widely popular in the United States and why they have remained so.

In the post–World War II decades conspiracy theories have become more numerous, more commonly believed, and more deeply embedded in our culture, Goldberg contends. He investigates conspiracy theories regarding the Roswell UFO incident, the Communist threat, the rise of the Antichrist, the assassination of President John Kennedy, and the Jewish plot against black America, in each case taking historical, social, and political environments into account. Conspiracy theories are not merely the products of a lunatic fringe, the author shows. Rather, paranoid rhetoric and thinking are disturbingly central in America today. With media validation and dissemination of conspiracy ideas, and federal government behavior that damages public confidence and faith, the ground is fertile for conspiracy thinking.

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Selected pages


Chapter 1 An American Tradition
Chapter 2 The Master Conspiracy
Chapter 3 The Rise of the Antichrist
Chapter 4 The View from the Grassy Knoll
Chapter 5 Jewish Devils and the War on Black America
Chapter 6 The Roswell Incident
Chapter 7 Mainstreaming Conspiracism

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About the author (2008)

Robert Alan Goldberg is professor of history at the University of Utah. He is the author of Barry Goldwater, published by Yale University Press.

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