Enemies Within


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The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America

Robert Alan Goldberg

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There is a hunger for conspiracy news in America. Hundreds of Internet websites, magazines, newsletters, even entire publishing houses, disseminate information on invisible enemies and their secret activities, subversions, and coverups. Those who suspect conspiracies behind events in the news—the crash of TWA Flight 800, the death of Marilyn Monroe—join generations of Americans, from the colonial period to the present day, who have entertained visions of vast plots. In this enthralling book Robert Goldberg focuses on five major conspiracy theories of the past half-century, examining how they became widely popular in the United States and why they have remained so.

In the post–World War II decades conspiracy theories have become more numerous, more commonly believed, and more deeply embedded in our culture, Goldberg contends. He investigates conspiracy theories regarding the Roswell UFO incident, the Communist threat, the rise of the Antichrist, the assassination of President John Kennedy, and the Jewish plot against black America, in each case taking historical, social, and political environments into account. Conspiracy theories are not merely the products of a lunatic fringe, the author shows. Rather, paranoid rhetoric and thinking are disturbingly central in America today. With media validation and dissemination of conspiracy ideas, and federal government behavior that damages public confidence and faith, the ground is fertile for conspiracy thinking.

Robert Alan Goldberg is professor of history at the University of Utah. He is the author of Barry Goldwater, published by Yale University Press.

“It may be an old saw but this is, without doubt, one of those books which has to be read from front cover to back . . . in a night. There is too much in it to leave for another day.”—Michael Drake, Belfast Telegraph

Enemies Within is an extraordinarily well-written and carefully analyzed study of alleged conspiracies in our midst since the end of World War II. I have never read a book about conspiracies that is as thoughtful or as balanced as this one.”—Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

“From esoteric theologies through political scandals to blockbuster movies, Goldberg skillfully guides us through the foremost conspiracy theories in contemporary America. In the process, he shows once and for all that this mode of thinking is certainly not confined to social or psychological extremists.”—Leo P. Ribuffo, George Washington University, author of The Old Christian Right: the Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War

“Delusion and paranoia are usually the domain of psychiatrists but historian Robert Goldberg brilliantly analyses these collective disorders in the richly textured Enemies Within. Building on the pioneering work of Richard Hofstades, he explores the popular origins of conspiracy theory from the Puritans to Watergate with intellectual verve and keen insight. A truly important new book.”—Douglas Brinkley, director, Eisenhower Center for American Studies

Enemies Within offers an alternative to the sort of political history that highlights modern American democracy as the consent of the governed. This engrossing volume presents a very disturbing version of the recent past—seething with suspicion of Washington, and fearful of secret and omnicompetent forces which manipulate a God-fearing nation. Robert Goldberg’s invaluable book exposes a public culture in all its mischievous credulity, its stupefying contempt for common sense and its sheer nuttiness.”—Stephen J. Whitfield, Brandeis University

“Encompassing such diverse individuals as the Salem witchhunters; the antebellum Protestants who battled Masons, Catholics, and the Bavarian Illuminati; and the Oliver Stones, Pat Robertsons, and Louis Farrakhans of out own day, this highly readable broadranging book explores the many faces of conspiratorial thinking in America and offers fascinating reflections on why we find so perennially seductive the impulse to unearth the hidden reality supposedly lurking beneath the surface of events. But I have one nagging question: why did Robert Goldberg really write this book, and what powerful secret groups are behind it?”—Paul Boyer, Author of When Time Shall be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture  

“Goldberg’s exhaustive research, evident in the impressive notes and bibliography, makes this the authoritative book on a curious national proclivity.”—Publishers Weekly

“Goldberg’s writing is clear and vivid, and his willingness to tackle conspiracies emanating from many points of the political spectrum makes his argument more cogent. . . . [An] important and unusually accessible study.”—Library Journal

“Goldberg has written an excellent book that places the concept of conspiracy firmly in American history with an academic flair, but throws in enough of the salacious details to keep the plot moving along. . . . This is the first really superb book I have read in 2002.”—Rob Meltzer, Metrowest Daily News

“Goldberg’s book should be essential reading. By relating how conspiracy theories are not merely the products of a lunatic fringe, Goldberg demonstrates that this paranoid style of thinking is disturbingly alive and well in American life and culture.”—Jack Fischel, Forward

"Of the nearly dozen books that have been published in the past decade about the rise of conpiracism, historian Robert Alan Greenbergs' Enemies Within is unrivaled. . . . Goldberg expertly illuminates the political and social conditions that have allowed conspiracy-mongers, once consigned to the lunatic fringe, to creep into the mainstream."—Max Holland, Wall Street Journal (one of Five Best books on conspiracy theory)

Winner of the Phi Alpha Theta Best Subsequent Book for 2002
ISBN: 9780300194722
Publication Date: November 1, 2001
368 pages, 6 x 9
Barry Goldwater

Robert Alan Goldberg

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