Showing posts with label conspiracy theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conspiracy theory. Show all posts

Bullet The Blue Sky--Again: Immigration, Contagion & the Lost Land

Arlene M. Sanchez-Walsh

See across the field 
See the sky ripped open 
See the rain comin' through the gapin' wound
Howlin' the women and children

Who run into the arms
of America

"Bullet the Blue Sky," by U2 from The Joshua Tree, 1987

I came of political age in the 1980s, attended my first political rally against the Reagan Administration's policies in Central America, wrote op-ed's for the late great L.A. Herald, and even supported the Sandinista government in Nicaragua with my modest college-age wages.  With the stories of the Central American children crossing the border and being met with invective, insults and generally appalling behavior, my mind went back 90 years, to more appalling behavior, perpetuated by U.S. officials under the guise of public health--the fumigation of Mexican workers and immigrants, some of those crossing back and forth were Pentecostal missionaries, this is one of their stories. I think it demonstrates that the regulation of Latin American peoples, whether 90 years ago or today, is fraught with danger, colored by nativism, and usually anything but the idealized site of refuge where people fleeing violence can find relief.

A Culture of Conspiracy: An Interview with Michael Barkun


I had the pleasure of interviewing my colleague Michael Barkun, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Syracuse University, about the new edition of A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, first published by the University of California Press in 2003, and reissued this past summer. A scholar of millenarian and right-wing movements, Barkun is also the author of Crucible of the Millennium (Syracuse University Press, 1986), Religion and the Racist Right (University of North Carolina Press, 1997), and Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security since 9/11 (University of North Carolina Press, 2011). For other discussions of Barkun's scholarship on the blog, see here and here.

The first edition of A Culture of Conspiracy ended with the impact of September 11, 2001 on conspiracy theorists. How has the subculture of conspiracy evolved since then?

I finished the manuscript in fall 2001, and it was almost completed when the 9/11 attacks occurred. I couldn’t send it off without saying something about the events of September 11. At the time, all I could do was look at what professional conspiracy theorists had to say. They had an immediate response, and their short version was: I told you so.

      After ten years, I looked back and saw a number of important developments. First, the development of a 9/11 conspiracy culture, which drew in people who had not been conspiracy theorists before the 9/11 attacks. Second, the election of Barack Obama created a new form of conspiracism around him. The most conspicuous element were the birthers, who believed he was hiding his true origins. Third, the decade witnessed a rise in militia activities as well as attacks by lone wolves motivated by the belief that a social catastrophe was coming. I was supposed to be an expert witness on conspiracy theories for the trial of one militia group in Michigan, though my testimony was not allowed.  This heavily-armed organization, the Hutaree militia, allegedly planned to kill one or more law enforcement officers and then launch an attack at the funeral, which would involve police from all over the country. The legal charge was sedition. There were other examples of militia activities in Georgia, where a group planned to use ricin, and in Florida. Fourth, the Mayan prophecy of 2012 was an example of the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories described in the first edition of the book. So much had happened that I proposed new chapters to the press, and they responded with enthusiasm.

Conspiracy Theory in American Religions

Kelly Baker

As my Apocalypse class is finishing up Michael Barkun's excellent A Culture of Conspiracy, I have conspiracy theory on the brain. We have discussed new world order, aliens, reptoids, black helicopters, secret concentration camps, the Illumnati, the Masons, government coverups, more aliens, men in black, and secret cabals that control the world. One of my commitments in teaching Barkun's book is to problematize visions of "fringe" and "mainstream" by demonstrating how conspiracy theories appear commonly in popular and civic culture. I want students to move beyond initial reactions of "this is crazy" to an approach that recognizes how conspiracy functions and why these theories have appeal and longevity. Barkun convincingly argues the need to study groups we find bizarre and strange for comprehension while also noting that ignoring conspiracists will not make them go away. More importantly, his book demonstrates that hoping some movement is fringe does not make that true, even it is comforting. By far, he is one of my favorite scholars to think with as I also research groups and topics that appear "fringe" at first blush. To demonstrate the mainstreaming of these topics, my class watched an episode from the History Channel's Ancient Aliens series (now in its fifth season) about alien cover-ups as an example of mainstreaming. I've posted it here for your viewing pleasure

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