A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America

A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America

A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America

A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America


"Tracing the beliefs in various conspiracies and mega-conspiracies in literature, apocalyptic and political writing, and popular culture, Barkun creates an exceptional and invaluable genealogy of the extraordinary permutations that these ideas have undergone since WWII and, of course, as a result of the Internet. Barkun dives into the religious and political matrix of what some call the "lunatic fringe," forcing us to look at the revival and spread of conspiracist thinking on an even grander scale into broad reaches of American culture. For those who think conspiracy thinking is a fading phenomenon, or a cultural phenomenon of little significance or creativity, think again. Welcome to the third millennium."--Richard Landes, Director, Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University; editor of "The Encyclopedia of Millennial Movements and author of "Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History

"Millennial dreams, apocalyptic nightmares populated by agents of the Antichrist, space aliens, andacolytes of the New World Order-With a calm approach and scrupulous academic bearings, Barkun navigates through the reefs of conspiracist allegation from the cosmic to the comic, from Biblical prophecy to Internet alerts."--Chip Berlet, co-author of "Right-Wing Populism in America

"This is a gripping, and at times scary, book. Michael Barkun, one of our most respected political scientists, has produced a meticulously researched and highly perceptive account of those who find credible an incredible assortment of nefarious conspiracies emanating not only from the Jews, Masons, Catholics and politicians in our midst, but also from' out there.' This book should be read by everyone who believesthat there are some ways of checking the differences between truths and fantasies - and by everyone who doesn' t."--Eileen Barker, Professor of Sociology, the London School of Economics


Although styles of millenarian thought have become increasingly diverse, the result has not been the cacophony one might expect. Despite the unprecedented millenarian pluralism in contemporary America, the varieties described in the preceding chapter—religious, secular, and improvisational—have been integrated by the wide acceptance of a unifying conspiracy theory commonly denoted by the phrase New World Order. This theory may be found in religious, secular, and improvisational versions. in this chapter I examine its disparate origins, for it appears to have developed separately out of religious and secular ideas that subsequently converged.

New World Order theories claim that both past and present events must be understood as the outcome of efforts by an immensely powerful but secret group to seize control of the world. Most commonly, these theories now include some or all of the following elements: the systematic subversion of republican institutions by a federal government utilizing emergency powers; the gradual subordination of the United States to a world government operating through the United Nations; the creation of sinister new military and paramilitary forces, including governmental mobilization of urban youth gangs; the permanent stationing of foreign troops on U. S. soil; the widespread use of black helicopters to transport the tyranny's operatives; the confiscation of privately owned guns; the incarceration of so-called patriots in concentration camps run by FEMA; the implantation of microchips and other advanced technology for surveillance and mind control; the replacement of Christianity with a New Age world religion; and, finally, the manipulation of the en-

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