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Enemies Within

Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America

Robert Alan Goldberg
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Enemies Within
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13294-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 An American Tradition
    (pp. 1-21)

    Conspiracy thinking is not American born. The Latin wordconspirare—to breathe together—suggests both drama and a deeply rooted past. The fear of conspiracy was a prominent feature on the mental maps of the first English settlers in the New World. Early colonists suspected both neighbors and strangers of secret alliances and dangerous plots. Subsequent waves of immigrants not only invigorated traditional beliefs but expanded the pool of potential conspirators. Well into the twentieth century, Europeans would cue their American kin about the means and ends of conspiracy and its erpetrators.]]

    Yet conspiracy imaging has also adapted and developed...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Master Conspiracy
    (pp. 22-65)

    Americans in the postwar world were well prepared for global conspiracy thinking. Protestants had been suspicious of Catholics and Jews for centuries. Witches in league with the Devil were also known to have global ambitions. The threat now was more mundane, but clearly recognizable. It began in 1919 when the Bolshevist call for world revolution and a seemingly responsive wave of strikes had startled Americans into a red panic. Radicals, already castigated for their opposition to World War I, saw their activism tarred as un-American during the subsequent Red Scare. Concerns resurfaced during the 1930s with the growing influence of...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Rise of the Antichrist
    (pp. 66-104)

    Christians in America have long sensed a special relationship with God. The nation was created to perform the Lord’s will and surely was chosen as the site of the Second Coming and God’s future kingdom. In preparation, Americans proclaimed their manifest destiny and built a transcontinental city upon the hill. When God delivered power into American hands, the mission grew to encompass the world. America was the Lord’s redeeming sword in the war against the forces of darkness. The Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation, guided this vision and steeled men and women in their purpose. Each generation repeated the...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The View from the Grassy Knoll
    (pp. 105-149)

    On November 22, 1963, six seconds of history transfixed America and forged a community of grief. At 12:30 P.M. Central Standard Time, President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. Witnesses heard shots and saw the president clutch his throat while Texas Governor John Connally withered in his limousine jump seat from a wound to the back. Seconds later, a bullet fragmented in the president’s head, and a red halo misted the tragedy. Time became telescoped in a rush of events seared into memory by the power of television. Dallas police officer J....

  8. CHAPTER 5 Jewish Devils and the War on Black America
    (pp. 150-188)

    Opinion polls give evidence of the conspiracist zeal that flares in modern America. They also mark the demographic communities that glow most intensely with countersubversive fire. Collective experiences may entice groups to conspiracy thinking, with those who feel their place in American society most precarious primed to be the most suspicious. Disproportionately among the vigilant are African Americans. Opinion surveys in the 1990s found that more than 60 percent of African Americans believed that the CIA had flooded their neighborhoods with drugs and one-third were convinced that government scientists had created the AIDS virus to ensure black genocide. On the...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Roswell Incident
    (pp. 189-231)

    In July 1997, tens of thousands of Americans made pilgrimage into the New Mexican outback to Roswell, the most sacred shrine of the UFO phenomenon. There they commemorated the incident of fifty years before, when, they believed, an alien craft had crash-landed and confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life. In spite of one hundred–degree–plus temperatures, the pilgrims were in a festive mood, and Roswell entrepreneurs served up a cornucopia of treats. An “Aliens Welcome” sign decorated the Arby’s fast-food restaurant, while Bud’s Bar described itself as the “Unofficial UFO crash recovery site” and Church’s Fried Chicken promised “Best...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Mainstreaming Conspiracism
    (pp. 232-260)

    During the second half of the twentieth century, the alarm of American countersubversion grew louder and more insistent. It reached a crescendo in the 1990s, when a chorus of messengers gave warning, their pleas for defense merging, resonating, and reinforcing. Their construction of conspiracy, only loosely tethered to the legal definition, was broad and multifaceted. Diverse enemies, the conspiracy-minded claimed, had entered the gates and now bent history to their will. If some conspiracists could be dismissed as eccentrics, large numbers of women and men had awakened to the threat, convinced that secret groups plotted the assassination of a president,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 261-288)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 289-338)
  13. Index
    (pp. 339-354)