A Culture of Conspiracy

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A Culture of Conspiracy
Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
Michael Barkun

What do UFO believers, Christian millennialists, and right-wing conspiracy theorists have in common? According to Michael Barkun in this fascinating yet disturbing book, quite a lot. It is well known that some Americans are obsessed with conspiracies. The Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 2001 terrorist attacks have all generated elaborate stories of hidden plots. What is far less known is the extent to which conspiracist worldviews have recently become linked in strange and unpredictable ways with other “fringe” notions such as a belief in UFOs, Nostradamus, and the Illuminati. Unraveling the extraordinary genealogies and permutations of these increasingly widespread ideas, Barkun shows how this web of urban legends has spread among subcultures on the Internet and through mass media, how a new style of conspiracy thinking has recently arisen, and how this phenomenon relates to larger changes in American culture. This book, written by a leading expert on the subject, is the most comprehensive and authoritative examination of contemporary American conspiracism to date.

Barkun discusses a range of material — involving inner-earth caves, government black helicopters, alien abductions, secret New World Order cabals, and much more — that few realize exists in our culture. Looking closely at the manifestions of these ideas in a wide range of literature and source material from religious and political literature, to New Age and UFO publications, to popular culture phenomena such as The X-Files, and to websites, radio programs, and more, Barkun finds that America is in the throes of an unrivaled period of millennarian activity. His book underscores the importance of understanding why this phenomenon is now spreading into more mainstream segments of American culture.


1. The Nature of Conspiracy Belief
2. Millennialism, Conspiracy, and Stigmatized Knowledge
3. New World Order Conspiracies I: The New World Order and the Illuminati
4. New World Order Conspiracies II: A World of Black Helicopters
5. UFO Conspiracy Theories, 1975-1990
6. UFOs Meet the New World Order: Jim Keith and David Icke
7. Armageddon Below
8. UFOs and the Search for Scapegoats I: Anti-Catholicism and Anti-Masonry
9. UFOs and the Search for Scapegoats II: Anti-Semitism among the Aliens
10. September 11: The Aftermath
11. Conclusion: Millennialists from Outer Space


About the Author
Michael Barkun, Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University, is author of Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (revised edition 1997) and Disaster and the Millennium (1986), among other books.

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