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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Correction.
This is merely a response to counteract the review given by the only other reviewer of this book.

"Epistomonical" is not a word. I think there was a gesture at "epistomological." But not to nitpick...

This book is an exploration of the way paranoia in post-WWII America functions, specifically citing literary case studies. It is not concerned with...
Published on April 10, 2005 by J. Beckstrand

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Academics at Work Ahead
I've had this book for a number of years and have made several attempts to read it. I'm happy that J. Beckstrand, Dr. Rinella, and worcblue were able to get some value from reading it. I totally understand the frustrations of the other two posters, who gave up before finishing the book. I did too. It isn't apparent to me from reading the one-star comments whether or...
Published 4 months ago by Jeff


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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Correction., April 10, 2005
This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
This is merely a response to counteract the review given by the only other reviewer of this book.

"Epistomonical" is not a word. I think there was a gesture at "epistomological." But not to nitpick...

This book is an exploration of the way paranoia in post-WWII America functions, specifically citing literary case studies. It is not concerned with reconciling conspiracy theories with mainstream historical accounts, or anything of that nature.

In the author's own words, "this book is concerned with a broad cultural phenomenon, a pervasive set of anxieties about the way technologies, social organizations, and communication systems may have reduced human autonomy and uniqueness."

And the way "conspiracy theory, paranoia, and anxiety about human agency, in other words, are all part of the paradox in which a supposedly individualist culture conserves its individualism by continually imaging it to be in immminent peril."

It is not a book of conspiratorial intrigue. It is, however, academic. Boring? No. Just academic (is there a difference? sometimes...sometimes not). The "trite and utter nonsense" and "pseudoscientific" quality of the book results from exhaustively situating paranoia and conspiracy with the work of Saussure, Althusser, Foucault, Freud, Lacan, Baudrillard, Derrida and a host of other post-modern/structural thinkers and other conspiracy theory scholars. So i guess it really depends on your understanding/appreciation for their work. And familiarity/love of post-modern fiction--which is really what the book is about anyway.

I'm not really here to recommend this book--just to give it a somewhat fair representation.

Thanks for your time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Have to agree, November 1, 2011
By 
Dr. Michael A. Rinella (Albany, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
Melley points out, for example, that Derrida's reading of the Phaedrus draws Plato into the present, arguing the same Platonic fantasy consisting of "the dream of a self hermetically sealed from the external world" is reflected in the "contemporary American logic of addiction" (Page 171).

I see bad reviews all the time. One of the classic forms is "I hate this because they didn't write the book that I wanted them to write."

If that "one-star" reader had wanted to read a work on conspiracy panics that digs more deeply into the conspiracy theories themselves he ought to have read the book by Jack Z. Bratich "Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture." Bratich argues that conspiracy theories are portals into the major social issues defining U.S. and global political culture. These issues include the rise of new technologies, the social function of journalism, U.S. race relations, citizenship and dissent, globalization, biowarfare and biomedicine, and the shifting positions within the Left. Using a Foucauldian governmentality analysis, Bratich maintains that conspiracy panics contribute to a broader political rationality, a (neo)liberal strategy of governing at a distance through the use of reason.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT book., April 24, 2014
This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
This book is a brilliant inquiry into the presence of conspiracy theory in American culture. Melley demonstrates how fear of control and manipulation is ultimately due to a certain conception of personhood: the discrete, autonomous individual of liberal ideology.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Academics at Work Ahead, August 10, 2014
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This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
I've had this book for a number of years and have made several attempts to read it. I'm happy that J. Beckstrand, Dr. Rinella, and worcblue were able to get some value from reading it. I totally understand the frustrations of the other two posters, who gave up before finishing the book. I did too. It isn't apparent to me from reading the one-star comments whether or not those commenters have an academic background. Certainly, the first three mentioned readers do. I do have a college degree, but it isn't in literary theory, post-modernist studies or philosophy, all areas that you need to have a solid grounding in to understand what Melley is writing about. Melley has written an academic book, filled with nearly impenetrable academic jargon, that is largely incomprehensible to anyone outside of academia. That's a real shame, because I really like his concept of "agency panic" and would like to see someone delve into that idea in a more reader-friendly manner. Dr. Rinella suggests reading Jack Bratich's book, "Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture." Perhaps Bratich deals with what Melley terms "agency panic" in a more approachable manner. I'll have to investigate that book. Worcblue writes that "Melley demonstrates how fear of control and manipulation is ultimately due to a certain conception of personhood: the discrete, autonomous individual of liberal ideology." I don't doubt that is true, but only a person with an academic background could come to that conclusion. "Liberal ideology" is academic-speak for the Enlightenment emphasis on individualism, which underlies the explosive growth of capitalism in the last few centuries. I'd like to find a book that lays out the connections between individualism, capitalism and conspiracy theories in a less-academic manner. Perhaps someone reading this reaction to Melley's book can suggest one. I'm not qualified to write a review of Melley's book because I don't have the background necessary to do so.

Bottom line: this is an academic book and you shouldn't buy it unless you have a solid grounding in literary theory, post-modernist studies, and philosophy.
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1 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bored Disappointed reader, December 24, 2012
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This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
The author Melley must be seriously delusional if he thinks this book is readable! After reading a few pages of his intro, I had to skip ahead. I had to find justification of me shelling out more than $25 bucks for this hunk of ink on paper. Guess what? There was none! I tried in vain to find something, anything of interest but failed miserably. Don't waste your time or money!
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8 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pseudoepistemonical, and, did I mention boring?, June 15, 2003
By 
This review is from: Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Paperback)
Classic case where I'm forced to give one star because Amazon doesnt offer the option of giving "minus stars".
You would think (and i certainly fell for it) that with the topic such as the one this book deals with you would have a tremendous reading ahead of you, or at least, a very good shot at one.
Not even close. Melley, the author, takes this juicy issue and devoids it of all its substance. He goes on a tiring, ultraboring diatribe made up of wooden language and a pseudoscientific approach and by the time you reach (if you manage) page 50 you're about to quit and go watch some paint dry. I quit about 100 pages after that, but only because i spent money on this and i wanted to at least go as far as i could possibly tolerate it.
This author deals with conspiracies as if they dont, offhand, exist, as if it's a given that it's all the product of paranoiacs and dellusionals and based on this assumption which he doesnt bother anywhere to explain he goes on to a ride of incredible trite and utter nonsense employing psychology and sociology thinking that makes it all sound plausible and argumentative.
This, of course, doesnt cut it.
If you want to examine the culture of conspiracy theories, and what's more, show that it is all indeed paranoia, you would have to take the high profile theories and take them apart for what they are, or what you want to show that they are.
Like the JFK conspiracy theory for example. Melley cant seem to be bothered with the tons of evidence available anywhere from Jim Garrison's book to other books as well and websites for good measure that show that the official theory is a joke. Nope. It's all paranoia, paranoia, paranoia, and if you dont believe mr. Melley it is very possible you're paranoid too.
This is exactly how this book builds up, literally on thin air, with extremely weak arguments and with an approach that a CIA agent would be proud of if he'd written such a book.
While it is a fact that there IS a strong paranoia factor involved in the conspiracy theory culture, it is also a FACT that many conspiracy theories are not "theories". Anybody with a serious interest in history will attest to that.
And that is exactly my point. Since conspiracy theories and their analysis involve a good backround grasp of history spend your money on some other book. The author of this one seems to have a very poor understanding as well as knowledge of history and he'll waste your time like there's no tomorrow. If you anyway think in the lines of this book you dont need to read it anyway. Just watch the news every day, rest assured you're being told the truth and go to sleep. Applying sciences to build up a nonsensical theory is an old trick in itself and a poor one at that.
Back to my paint-drying watching...
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Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America
Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America by Timothy Melley (Paperback - January 6, 2000)
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