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Michael Barkun's 'A Culture of Conspiracy'

From: Terry W. Colvin <fortean1.nul>
Date: Mon, 02 May 2005 09:27:38 -0700
Fwd Date: Mon, 02 May 2005 17:17:35 -0400
Subject: Michael Barkun's 'A Culture of Conspiracy'

From: T. Peter Park <tpeterpark.nul>
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 21:21:22 -0700
Subj: [forteana] Michael Barkun's A Culture of Conspiracy:
      Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America

In the summer of 1994, less than a year before blowing up the
Oklahoma City federal office building, Timothy McVeigh visited
Area 51, the secret Nevada installation where the U.S.
government allegedly keeps crashed UFOs and captured aliens.
McVeigh protested restrictions on public access to the base, but
also had long been fascinated with flying saucers and
extraterrestrials. On death row he watched the movie Contact,
about a scientist who contacts aliens, six times in two days.
McVeigh, as Syracuse University political scientist Michael
Barkun points out, was also reportedly an ardent listener of the
shortwave radio broadcasts of conspiracy theorist Milton William
Cooper, who first emerged in UFO circles in the 1980's and later
gained a large audience among anti-government activists.

Michael Barkun cites Timothy McVeigh's interest in UFO's, Area
51, Contact, and Milton William Cooper to open his book A
Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary
America (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of
California Press, 2003; Comparative Studies in Religion and
Society, 15). McVeigh's and Cooper's interests, Barkun believes,
were not "merely the peculiarities" of eccentric individuals
(Michael Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, "Preface," p. ix).
Barkun, Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School,
Syracuse University, has explored right-wing conspiracy theories
and apocalyptic millennial obsessions in Religion and the Racist
Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (rev. ed.,
University of North Carolina Press, 1997) and Disaster and the
Millennium (Yale University Press, 1974; Syracuse University
Press, 1986). In A Culture of Conspiracy, he .argues that
McVeigh's and Cooper's "connection" between "antigovernment
politics and UFOs" was "not unique" (Barkun, A Culture of
Conspiracy, p. ix).. Barkun describes a whole subculture
combining a devotion to anti-government, anti-"New World Order"
or anti-Semitic conspiracy theorizing with a fascination with
UFO's and other "stigmatized knowledge." By "stigmatized
knowledge," Barkun means "claims to truth that the claimants
regard as verified despite the marginalization of those claims
by the institutions that conventionally distinguish between
knowledge and error--universities, communities of scientific
researchers, and the like" (Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p.
26). It includes beliefs in UFO's, alien abductions,
conspiracies, racial hierarchies, astrology, alchemy,
alternative medicine, "End Time" prophecies, lost continents,
underground civilizations, etc.

Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, Barkun documents in A Culture
of Conspiracy, right-wing conspiracy theories about Jewish,
Catholic, Masonic, Illuminati, "New World Order," and
"International Bankers" world domination plots increasingly
mingled with beliefs about visitors from outer space. Barkun
does "not know whether McVeigh himself was affected by these
speculations" (A Culture of Conspiracy, p. ix), but his
interests were clearly shared by many others discussed by
Barkun--by writers and publicists like Cooper, David Icke,
"Branton," "Valdamar Valerian," Jim Keith, Texe Marrs, Kenn
Thomas, and "Commander X." Similar hybrid UFO/Illuminati,
alien/Jewish, and extraterrestrial/New World Order conspiracy
theories proliferated after the September 2001 World Trade
Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks, he observes.. They
blended the prophecies of Nostradamus, UFOs, Illuminati and
Masonic conspiracy theories, and the Protocols of the Elders of
Zion and theories about the Illuminati (an 18th century
revolutionary secret society allegedly still in existence and
masterminding contemporary revolutionary movements) in strange
and unpredictable ways--often mingled with alternative medicine,
black helicopters, animal mutilations, "Men in Black," Atlantis,
Lemuria, underground civilizations, secret government treaties
with space aliens, Christian fundamentalist "End Time"
scenarios, and "New Age" warnings of impending cataclysmic
"earth changes."

Traditional religious and secular millennialisms, which saw
history as culminating in a final spiritual, class, or racial
conflict followed by the Second Coming of Christ, the Marxist
Classless Society, or the final triumph of the Nordic Aryan
master race over lesser breeds, were joined and partly
supplanted by an eclectic "improvisational millennialism"(as
Barkun calls it), indiscriminately cobbling together apocalyptic
and millennial scenarios from a variety of assorted religious,
secular, occult, pseudo-scientific, and "New Age" sources--from
the Book of Revelation, but also from the predictions of
Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, the F=E1tima visionaries, and various
New Age gurus and channelers. This conspiracy theorizing and
"improvisational millennialism" are part of a general
fascination with "stigmatized knowledge."."Such "stigmatized
knowledge"--about conspiracies, UFO's, racial differences,
"earth changes," "End Times," Atlantis, or alternative medicine-
-MUST be true, they feel, because the government, universities,
mainstream scientists, "Establishment" media, and "mainline"
churches are trying to suppress or dismiss it!

More broadly, Barkun sees an eclectic, improvisational,
boundary-crossing character in much contemporary conspiracy
theorizing and its devotion to "stigmatized knowledge." Popular
culture, the Internet, and subcultures like the UFO movement,
Barkun emphasizes, have encouraged a promiscuous and omnivorous
exchange of ideas, themes, and interests that in the past might
have been hermetically insulated from each other. We now have a
lively interchange of ideas and themes between science-fiction
and radical politics, UFO buffs and conspiracy theorists, spread
back and forth by New Age and UFO publications, by popular
culture phenomena like The X-Files, and by websites and radio
programs. Science-fiction and UFO aficionados who might have
never paid any attention to right-wing conspiracy theories in
the past are now being increasingly exposed to such theories in
UFO-related contexts--while political conspiracy believers are
getting increasingly exposed to stories about UFO's and aliens
being worked into their conspiracist scenarios. People who in
the past might never have been interested in anti-Semitic, anti-
Catholic, Illuminati, Masonic, or New World Order conspiracy
theories are now getting introduced to such beliefs through the
UFO subculture--which has thus become a conduit for political
conspiracy theorizing into the broader society.

These hybrid cross-fertilizations of conspiracy, UFO, and "New
Age" themes "were not combinations" Barkun "would have expected
to find." He had "assumed that those with a right-wing,
antigovernment agenda were altogether different from believers
in UFOs." His "first inkling" that "such boundaries might be
crossed" had come in the 1990's, as he was reading through
extremist literature for his book Religion and the Racist Right
(rev. ed.,1997).While much of this literature was "predictable,"
with its "diatribes against Jews and blacks," there were
"unexpected intrusions of material that, though certainly not
considered mainstream, was neither racist nor antigovernment."
The literature discussed "processed foods (which the writers
condemned), garlic (whose medicinal attributes they touted), and
environmental pollution (which they wished to eliminate)." He
found "material that would not have been out of place in leftist
publications or those for New Age readers." Thus, when Barkun
found "right-wing conspiracism emerging in UFO circles," this
suggested that the "odd juxtapositions" he had found earlier
"might be part of a larger pattern in which seemingly discrete
beliefs cohabited." Michael Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy,
"Preface," pp. ix-x").

Despite his "many references to UFOs," Barkun emphasizes that
"this is not a book about flying saucers." He does "not know
whether they exist or, if they do, where they come from;" and
does "not address either of those questions." Rather, he
examines the "fusion of right-wing conspiracy theories with UFO
motifs." as a "study of how certain dissimilar ideas have
migrated from one underground subculture to another." Many
readers, Barkun concedes, "may regard both sets of ideas as
bizarre and may question whether this is terrain worth
exploring." He has "addressed such skepticism in earlier books
on millennialism," and believes that "it makes little sense to
exclude ideas from examination merely because they are not
considered respectable." Failing to analyze them "will not keep
some people from believing them," and "history is littered with
academically disreputable ideas that have had devastating
effects--for example, the scientific acceptance of racial
differences in the nineteenth century". Failure to examine those
ideas "did not cause them to disappear." His "examination of
certain odd beliefs" thus "does not signify" his "acceptance of
them."(Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p. x).

The "convergence of conspiracy theories with UFO beliefs,"
Barkun feels, is "worth examining for two reasons." First, he
notes, it has "brought conspiracism to a large new audience."
UFO writers, he points out," have long been suspicious of the
U.S. government, which they believe has suppressed crucial
evidence of an alien presence on earth." Still, "in the early
years they did not, by and large, embrace strong political
positions." That, however, "began to change in the late 1980's
and early 1990's, with the first appearance in UFO circles of
references to right-wing conspiracism." During the next decade,
such borrowing "accelerated," and thus "brought right-wing
conspiracism to people who otherwise would not have been aware
of it." (Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, pp. x-xi).

Secondly, Barkun sees this "combination" as a "striking example
of a new and growing form of millennialism, which I call
improvisational millennialism." Unlike earlier forms of
millennialism (Judaeo-Christian, Enlightenment progressivist,
Marxist, anarchist, or Nazi/Fascist), which "elaborated themes
from individual religious or secular traditions,"this new
"improvisational millennialism" is "wildly eclectic". Its"
undisciplined borrowings from unrelated sources" allow its
devotees to "build novel systems of belief" cross-cutting
traditional religious and secular categories (Barkun, A Culture
of Conspiracy, p. xi).

As to "the subculture of UFO speculation itself," Barkun
sometimes refers to it as ufology, borrowing a term from UFO
writers, though he employs it in a "narrower sense." The
"ufology literature," he notes, "ranges widely, from
conventional scientific investigation to fringe conspiracism."
Because Barkun's "concern is with the latter," he reminds his
readers that uses "ufology" to "apply only to the ideas of this
minority within the larger community of UFO believers."(Barkun,
A Culture of Conspiracy, p. xi). Thus, he does not discuss the
non-conspiracist UFO and abduction literature of writers like
Jacques Vallee (whose criticisms of some conspiracist UFO
writers he does quote a few times, however), Stanton Friedman,
Budd Hopkins, Whitley Strieber, David M. Jacobs, John Mack, and
the late Donald E. Keyhoe, J. Allen Hynek, and Coral & Jim
Lorenzen. Such ufologists, often speculating about government
UFO cover-ups but uninterested in Jewish, Catholic, Illuminati,
Masonic, or New World Order world domination plots, lie outside
Barkun's field of concern. Barkun, however, discusses a few
prominent UFO movement figures of the 1950's, like "contactee"
George Adamski (1891-1965) and prolific UFO and occult writer
George Hunt Williamson (1926-1986), who held anti-Semitic and/or
conspiracist views (A Culture of Conspiracy, pp. 150-151, 154-
156). He stresses Williamson's--and possibly also Adamski's--
close ties with occultist, anti-Semite, and native Fascist
William Dudley Pelley (1890-1965), founder of the Depression-era
"Silver Shirts" and convicted World War II seditionist (A
Culture of Conspiracy, pp. 150, 153-156). Pelley and Adamski, he
notes, had a common interest in Guy and Edna Ballard's 1930's "I
Am" cult, which combined occult beliefs borrowed from Theosophy
with native Fascist sympathies (pp. 114, 154). There were
"multiple ties among channelers, occultists, UFO buffs, and
followers of Pelley," suggesting that "the domain of stigmatized
knowledge in the 1950's was one in which mystic and anti-Semitic
teachings mingled freely" (p. 157).

Noting that "the domain of stigmatized knowledge" has "always"
shown a "laissez-faire character," where the "devotee" is "free
to choose whichever ideas appeal and ignore the rest" (A Culture
of Conspiracy, p. 157), Barkun emphasizes the dual character of
"ufology" as a field where scientific investigation of puzzling
aerial phenomena is mingled with occult and "New Age"
speculations ultimately derived from 19th century Spiritualism
and Theosophy.He stresses the importance of "channeling," and
communications from purported "channeled" entities, in occult-
oriented ufology. There is "considerable truth" in Duke
University religious studies scholar and UFO movement historian
Brenda Denzler's view that "the contactee movement was, in
effect, a conduit through which established spiritualist and
Theosophical ideas and practices moved into the UFO community"
(Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p 149, quoting Brenda Denzler
The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs,
and the Pursuit of UFOs [Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2001], p. 46) In "a manner not unlike its nineteenth-
century predecessors," Barkun finds (p. 149), "the contactee
movement claims to receive spiritual communications as a result
of extraordinary, often paranormal, experiences."

Barkun also cites Dr. Denzler on the wide contemporary
prevalence of UFO belief among millions of normal "mainstream"
middle-class Americans. Such "mainstreaming" of UFO belief, he
feels, helps widen the social base of people liable to being
exposed to conspiracist ideas through ufology. Statistics of
polls and surveys since 1947 of people who have seen UFO's,
believe that extraterrestrials may have visited the Earth, claim
they have been abducted, or believe in alien abduction have
"remained astonishingly stable over a fifty-year period," and
been "extraordinarily high, regardless of when the survey was
taken or by which polling organization.". Even if "one
compensates for problems of sampling or the wording of
questions," still "tens of millions of Americans accept the
reality of UFO's" (Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 81) In a
survey of 765 members of the UFO community, he notes, Brenda
Denzler "found her respondents to be anything but 'fringe.'"
Rather, they were mainly white, male, middle-class college
graduates, with incomes just slightly below the national median
(A Culture of Conspiracy, citing Brenda Denzler The Lure of the
Edge, pp. 164-167).

Barkun gives some general observations on conspiracy theories.
The "common thread of conspiracism" is the "belief that
powerful, hidden, evil forces control human destinies (Barkun, A
Culture of Conspiracy, p. 2) "Trust no one" was "one of the
mantras repeated on The X-Files," and it "neatly encapsulates
the conspiracist's limitless suspicions." Its "association with
a popular end-of-the-millennium television program" shows "how
prevalent conspiracy thinking has become.".Indeed, the period
since President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 has
"seen the rise of a veritable cottage industry of conspiracism,
with ever more complex plots and devious forces behind it."
While "much of this mushrooming" reflects the "traumatic effect
of specific events," that "seems an insufficient explanation on
its own" to Barkun. Conspiracist thinking has "grown too
luxuriantly to be fully explained even by events as shocking as
the Kennedy assassination or the rapid spread of AIDS," he
feels. Rather, it suggests an "obsessive concern with the
magnitude of hidden evil powers." It is "perhaps no surprise
that such a concern should manifest as a millennium was coming
to a close and the culture was rife with apocalyptic anxiety."
(Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 2).

A "conspiracist worldview," for Barkun, "implies a universe
governed by design rather than by randomness". This "emphasis on
design" shows itself in "three principles found in virtually
every conspiracy theory." First, "Nothing happens by accident."
Conspiracy "implies a world based on intentionality, from which
accident and coincidence have been removed," where "anything
that happens occurs because it has been willed." Secondly,
"Nothing is as it seems.," as "appearances are deceptive,
because conspirators wish to deceive in order to disguise their
identities or their activities." Finally, "Everything is
connected." Since "the conspiracists' world has no room for
accident, pattern is believed to be everywhere, albeit hidden
from plain view." The conspiracy theorist must "engage in a
constant process of linkage and correlation in order to map the
hidden connections." (Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy. pp. 3-4).

Barkun distinguishes three types of conspiracy theories,
according to their scope .They range from "those directed at
explaining some single, limited occurrence" like the Kennedy
assassination to "those so broad that they constitute the world
views of those who hold them." In "ascending order of breadth,"
they are what he calls event conspiracies, systemic
conspieacies, and superconspiracies. In "event conspiracies,"
the "conspiracy is held to be responsible for a limited,
discrete event or set of events," like the Kennedy
assassination, the crash of TWA flight 800, the spread of AIDS
in the Black community, or the burning of Black churches in the
1990's. In "systemic conspiracies," it is "believed to have
broad goals" of "securing control over a country, a region, or
even the entire world." While the "goals" are "sweeping," the
"conspiratorial machinery" is "simple," a "single, evil
organization" plotting to "infiltrate and subvert existing
institutions." Here we find "conspiracy theories that focus on
the alleged machinations of Jews, Masons, and the Catholic
Church," and "theories centered on communism or international
capitalists." Finally, "superconspiracies" are "conspiratorial
constructs" where "multiple conspiracies" are "linked together
hierarchically," with "event" and "systemic" conspiracies
"joined in complex ways, so that conspiracies come to be nested
within one another". The "summit of the conspiratorial
hierarchy" is a "distant but all powerful evil force
manipulating lesser conspiratorial actors."These master
conspirators are "groups both invisible and operating in
secrecy," their very existence unsuspected by the general
public--e.g., the Illuminati and/or space aliens.
"Superconspiracies" have "enjoyed particular growth since the
1980's," with" authors such as David Icke, Valdamar Valerian,
and Milton William Cooper," whom Barkun discusses extensively in
his book (A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 6)

Conspiracy theories, Barkun observes, "purport to be empirically
relevant;" "testable by the accumulation of evidence about the
observable world." Their proponents "often engage in elaborate
presentations of evidence in order to substantiate their
claims." Thus, "conspiracist literature often mimics the
apparatus of source citation and evidence presentation found in
conventional scholarship" Even as "stigmatization is employed as
a virtual guarantee of truth," the "literature of stigmatized
knowledge enthusiastically mimics mainstream scholarship" by
"appropriating the apparatus of elaborate citations and
bibliographies." It shows "a fondness for reciprocal citation,
in which authors obligingly cite one another," so that "the same
sources are repeated over and over," producing "a kind of
pseudoconfirmation" where "if a source is cited many times, it
must be true" (A Culture of Conspiracy, pp. 6-7, 28). .

Historian Richard Hofstadter, Barkun notes, observed this
pattern almost forty years ago in his examination of what he
called the paranoid political style. "The very fantastic
character of [conspiracy theories'] conclusions leads to heroic
strivings for 'evidence' to prove that the unbelievable is the
only thing that can be believed," according to Hofstadter. The
result was a literature that, "if not wholly rational," was "at
least intensely rationalistic." [Richard Hofstadter, The
Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York:
Knopf, 1965), p. 36, 38-39, cited in Barkun, A Culture of
Conpiracy, pp. 7, 29] Elsewhere, Hofstadter observed that "there
is a great difference between locating conspiracies in history
and saying that history is, in effect, a conspiracy, between
singling out those conspiratorial acts that do on invasion occur
and weaving a vast fabric of social explanation of nothing but
skeins of evil plots"[Richard Hofstadter, "Populism: Nostalgic
Agrarianism, The Two

Indeed, Barkun found, "conspiracy theorists insist on being
judged by the very canons of proof that are used in the world
they despise and distrust, the world of academia and the
intelligentsia." For "all its claims to populism," conspiracy
theory "yearns to be admitted to the precincts where it imagines
the conspirators themselves dwell" [A Culture of Conspiracy, p.
29] Conspiracy theories."resist traditional canons of proof
because they reduce highly complex phenomena to simple causes."
This, he notes, is "ordinarily a characteristic much admired in
scientific theories, where it is referred to as "parsimony.'"
Conspiracy theories, he finds--"particularly the systemic
theories and the superconspiracy theories discussed above"--are
"nothing if not parsimonious, for they attribute all of the
world's evil to the activities of a single plot, or set of
plots." (A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 7)

As background, Barkun traces the history of several originally
saucer-less conspiracy myths popular among contemporary UFO
conspiracists who have added an extraterrestrial component--
including the Illuminati and the Protocols of the Elders of
Zion. The Illuminati legend, he shows, is based on the Bavarian
Illuminati (formally, the Order of Illuminists), a republican
and anti-religious secret society founded in 1776 by Adam
Weishaupt, an ex-Jesuit and professor of canon law at the
University of Ingolstadt. Following Jesuit and Masonic
organizational models, dedicated to replacing Christianity and
monarchy by radical Enlightenment ideals, and infiltrating some
Masonic lodges, the Illuminati attracted around 2,500 members,
mostly in German-speaking areas, before being suppressed by the
Bavarian authorities in 1787. While Weishaupt's Order of
Illuminists itself lasted only some 11 or 12 years, it served as
a model for many 19th century revolutionary groups. It also
enjoyed an amazing afterlife among 19th and 20th century right-
wing writers who claimed it had never really been dissolved, but
had gone underground, secretly masterminding the French
Revolution and many later subversive and revolutionary
movements--by itself or in conjunction with the Jews (Barkun, A
Culture of Conspiracy, pp. 45-47).

The Illuminati, acting through front organizations like the
Masons and Jacobins, were blamed for the French Revolution by
counter-revolutionary monarchist propagandists like John Robison
in Proofs of a Conspiracy (1798) and the Abb=E9 Barruel in
Memoirs, Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (1803). In the
20th century, the legend of Weishaupt's group inspired a far
more complex and grandiose superconspiracy theory with Jews,
Masons, and Communists as tools or accomplices of the
Illuminati--or even the Illuminati themselves as a Jewish tool
or front. These Illuminati/Jewish superconspiracy theories were
developed in the 1920's by two Englishwomen, Nesta Webster
(1876-1960) and Lady Queensborough (d. 1933). In mid-20th
century America, the Illuminati were revived as the secret wire-
pullers of all the world's revolutionary and subversive groups
by the John Birch Society, which also promoted Robison's and
Barruel's books as authoritative scholarly studies of Illuminati
machinations. Then, in the 1980's and 1990's, the Illuminati and
"Elders of Zion" were intertwined with UFO's and aliens by
superconspiracy theorists like Milton William Cooper, David
Icke, and Valdamar Valerian (Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy,
pp. 45-50, 130).

Barkun similarly traces (A Culture of Conspiracy, pp. 49-50, 55,
130) the history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.. That
traditional staple of anti-Semitic conspiracy literature was
likewise linked up with UFO and alien themes in the 1980's and
1990's by writers like Milton William Cooper and David Icke. The
popularity of the Jewish/Illuminati link on the American far
right was reinforced by the circulation in the 1920's of Victor
Marsden's English translation of the Protocols, whose contents
were disseminated in the United States by Henry Ford in his
newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. The Protocols were
allegedly a transcript of 24 speeches to an assembly of Jewish
"Elders" plotting to rule the world, describing the methods the
Jews and their Masonic allies would use to subvert governments
and institutions. As scholars and journalists soon discovered,
the Protocols were a forgery concocted by the Tsarist Russian
secret police in the early 1900's, plagiarized from two mid-19th
century sources: Maurice Joly's A Dialogue in Hell:
Conversations between Machiavelli and Montesquieu about Power
and Right, a satire against Napoleon III having nothing to do
with the Jews, and an anti-Semitic novel, Biarritz,, by "Sir
John Retcliffe" (Hermann Goedsche).

A Culture of Conspiracy focuses on the linkage of UFO and
conspiracist themes developed in one American subculture in the
1980's and 1990's, so Barkun pays little attention to saucer-
less conspiracy theorists, except as historical precursors of
Milton William Cooper, David Icke., and Valdamar Valerian. Thus,
there is no mention of conspiracists like Senator Joe McCarthy
or Lyndon LaRouche, or of right-wing populist Establishment-
bashers like Rush Limbaugh. Likewise, while he often alludes to
the Kennedy assassination literature in passing, Barkun never
really discusses conspiracist interpretations of Dallas and
Dealey Plaza--including the allegation that 1947 Maury Island
saucer hoaxer (or alleged hoaxer) Fred Crisman was one of the
three "tramps,"actually assassins, arrested at the Grassy Knoll!
We never hear of Lyndon LaRouche's superconspiracist view of
history as a millennia-long conflict of republican "Platonist"
apostles of scientific rationality, a logically and
mathematically coherent cosmos, technological progress, and
universal technological progress to uplift the masses versus
oligarchic irrationalist "Aristotelian" empiricists, mystics,
occultists, and nature-worshippers favoring an agrarian feudal
society of wealthy aristocrats ruling over half-starved

Barkun does not explore why some people in our society are
attracted to UFO/consporacist/millennialist world-views while
others remain indifferent, skeptical, or hostile. He mentions a
general millennium's-rend mood of anxiety and obsessive concern
with hidden evil powers (p. 2), and discusses the general r=F4le
of popular culture and ufology in diffusing conspiracist themes
through mainstream society. However, he does not address the
susceptibility versus immunity of different individuals or
groups, or how this might relate, for instance, to status
inconsistency or resentment--matters well worth a detailed
examination. Also, he refers several times to Richard
Hofstadter's discussions of the "paranoid political style," but
never quotes Hofstadter's observation that "there is a great
difference between locating conspiracies in history and saying
that history is, in effect, a conspiracy." A critique of
superconspiracist theories of history, Hofstadter's remark
allows for the occasional real occurrence of what Barkun calls
"event conspiracies"--and the possibility that these might
perhaps include actual "event conspiracies" surrounding the
Kennedy assassination or the Roswell UFO crash. Pace Richard
Posner, Philip Klass, or Karl Pflock, I suspect that neither of
these can yet be totally discounted.


T. Peter Park <tpeterpark.nul>
Garden City South, L.I., N.Y.

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