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A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
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A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  146 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
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 o ...more
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published November 7th 2003 by University of California Press (first published 2003)
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Jeb Card
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent examination of the fluidity of conspiracy thinking and politics in American society. Barkun shows how seemingly unrelated concepts, if they are considered "forbidden" can crosscut and produce bizarre combinations (antisemitism, populist right wing and New Age left wing politics, UFOs, and subterranean lizard people shouldn't have much in common, and yet ...). His study of the development of Reptilian lore was particularly useful for me, and has pushed me into making some links of my ow ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
“You shall hear your history such as I think I have read it, not in books composed by those like you, for they are liars, but in the book of nature which never lies.” Jean Jacques Rousseau, On the Inequality among Mankind, Introduction, 7

Barkun's work need to be divided between his research work and his analysis: although he set out to provide us with an overview of the subject of conspiracies at large, and an analysis of the phenomenon to be applied generically, one is bound to review the autho
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting account of how different conspiracy theories melded into a unified subculture of conspiracy in the 1990s, in which conspiracy theorists have blended once-separate conspiracy theories (UFOs, Masons, Jews, New World Order, etc.) into a super conspiracy, what Barkun calls "improvisational millennialism."
Jun 19, 2012 rated it liked it
All in all, a fascinating spotlight on a surreal dark corner of American culture.

They really are out there. And they are strange...very strange.
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book added a new phrase to my idiolect, "stigmatized knowledge".

The author of this book is a sociologist who wrote a book about protestant Christian skin heads. He said that he gathered and read all of the literature he could find while researching that book. A surprise for him was that conspiracy theories, including the existence of UFOs and otherworldly aliens, were a staple of this literature. He used the material on conspiracies to write the current book.

The author says he doesn't know
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked this up to prepare and research for a class I'm teaching this fall focusing on the rhetoric of conspiracy theories. A fascinating (as well as frightening and frustrating) read. His terms and categories make it easier to understand and digest the nebulous and contradictory narratives given in these circles. I was a little disappointed in the 9/11 chapter as it felt a little more general and summary of their responses. Maybe it's just indicative of the (relatively, at least when this was ...more
Patricia Roberts-Miller
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent summary, almost an encyclopedia.
Rent deskriptiv skildring av olika konspirationsteorier som florerar i USA. Barkun följer grundsatsen att konspirationsteorier i sig är marginalfenomen och uttryck för "stigmatiserad kunskap". På så sätt blir de aktörer han tar fasta på i princip uteslutande ett gäng vansinniga kufar. Analysen känns ibland ganska tunn. Internet, globalisering och misstro mot makten har gjort det enklare för galna idéer att få någon sorts fotfäste, om dock i mer utspädd och kaotiskt uppblandad form. No shit, sher ...more
Raughley Nuzzi
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book that gave insight into the mindset required for belief in conspiracies great and small. The history and currency of conspiratorial belief is fascinating and my only criticism of this book is that it was published in 2006. Barkun missed out on the apotheosis of conspiracy in the campaign and election of President Trump. While the book touches on 9/11, it was written in an era before the internet had properly come into its own--before pizzagate or wikileaks or the birther mov ...more
Patrick Bair
Not particularly well written, the accumulation of informative is nevertheless worthwhile. I wish Barkun had spent more time discussing the psychology of those people who perceive every day conspiracies, but who don't necessarily connect them to a larger world view, so-called "closed systems of belief."
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating examination of the overlap between various UFO and New Age literatures and communities with fascist thought. Given the state of things now, with Alex Jones having press credentials and #fakenews on the rise, it's hard not to wince whenever Barkun assures readers that these ideas are not part of the mainstream.
Bradley Kale
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
So the roots of most conspiracy theories: prejudice and profitable fantasy.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author begins from the premise that all conspiracy theories are bunk. He also defines the word conspiracy effectively as an untenable assertion. These are false premises. Yet there are conspiracies. The assassination of Julius Caesar was a conspiracy, as were many other (if not all) assassinations of political leaders. It seems the aim here is to debunk the weird and wonderful, but without a proper study of history.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
The latest work from a leading scholar of millennial and radical religious movements. I can't imagine reading all the stuff he's had to read to put this together, but he can't identify how many people he's describing, or assess their real impact.
Michael T.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
You may want to skip the first chapter, as it is a little dry and academic with it's jargony definitions. Once through that, though, there is some amazing information here. Especially timely in our through the looking glass era, too.
May 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A useful overview of past and present conspiracy theories, with attention paid, in particular, to the relationship between conspiratorial and millennial thought.
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Ólafur Arnaldsson
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