ENEMIES WITHIN: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America

Robert Alan Goldberg, Author . Yale Univ. $29.95 (354p) ISBN 978-0-300-09000-0

Asserting that conspiratorial paranoia has been present since the U.S. was founded (for instance, fears of the Illuminati, Freemasonry and Catholicism), University of Utah history professor Goldberg (Barry Goldwater) examines the social underpinnings of such theories and the ways in which they spread. Against the backdrop of conspiracy theories from the Salem witch hunts to the fears that led to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, Goldberg launches in-depth examinations of five major areas of contemporary conspiracy theory—the rise of the Antichrist, the threat of communism, Louis Farrakhan's charges against Jews, the JFK assassination and the Roswell UFO incident—and notes overlaps, such as a perceived connection between JFK and extraterrestrials. The chapter on the Nation of Islam examines conspiracy theories' role among the disenfranchised and as a "weapon in the struggle for power within the black community"; the chapter on Roswell illuminates the grassroots nature of UFO conspiracy theory. A chapter concerning mainstream conspiracies details high-profile deaths (RFK, Karen Silkwood, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana), Hillary Rodham Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy," Y2K and how the Internet contributes to a "mushrooming of suspicion" in chat room speculations about Area 51, Armageddon, the New World Order, etc. Goldberg also looks at novelists (Atwood, Burroughs, DeLillo, Didion, etc.) who have contributed to a "culture of conspiracy" and examines conspiracy-themed movies (a filmography lists more than 140 titles) from 1954's Bad Day at Black Rock to Erin Brockovich. Goldberg's exhaustive research, evident in the impressive notes and bibliography, makes this the authoritative book on a curious national proclivity. 8 illus. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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