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Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America [Kindle Edition]

Robert Alan Goldberg
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Historian Goldberg (Barry Goldwater) analyzes "conspiracism" in American history with balance and precision, presenting conspiracy belief as a traditional part of our culture rather than a fringe response from deranged or abnormal personalities. Goldberg discusses a range of examples, from the Salem witch trials, to the abolitionists' slave power conspiracies vs. the Confederates' slave insurrection plots, to the Klan's hatred of African Americans, Catholics, and Jews. However, he focuses his study on five post-World War II conspiracy theories: the Communist fifth column, the belief in the Antichrist, the assassination of JFK, the plot against black America, and the Roswell incident concerning a purported alien attack. 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. Underlying his analysis is the view that both the media and, ironically, the government have been instrumental in making these five conspiracy theories (and others) more credible. This important and unusually accessible study is strongly recommended for academic libraries, most public libraries, and large high school libraries. Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"An extraordinarily well-written and carefully analyzed study of alleged conspiracies in our midst since the end of World War II." -- Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

"From esoteric theologies . . . political scandals to blockbuster movies, Goldberg skillfully guides us through the foremost conspiracy theories in contemporary America." -- Leo P. Ribuffo, George Washington University

. . .[C]lear and vivid. . . tackle[s] conspiracies emanating from many points of the political spectrum. . . [An] important and unusally accessible study. -- Library Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 1035 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 1, 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,200 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power Tools March 9, 2003
ENEMIES WITHIN affords deep insight into the gothic "conspiricism" that has infected our public discourse in the United States. Countersubversives such as Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, Louis Farrakhan, Pat Robertson, and various writers like Whitley Strieber all have used conspiricism to rally the troops (or consumers) to their various causes, to suppress or destroy rivals, to form power bases through an insurgency against the mainstream, and to make money. American as apple pie, they are enacting the same "paranoid style" first described by Richard Hofstadter in the aftermath of the McCarthy era, a style which was initiated by the likes of Thomas Paine, Jefferson, and in later generations by the Anti-Masonic movement in 1820s New York, and the Know Nothings a generation later.
Goldberg argues that Hofstadter's theory looks in retrospect too bound to the ideas of deviant psychology popular after WWII. Instead, he sees conspiricism, rightly, I think, as a struggle for power. To demonstrate his thesis, he takes five well-known recent examples of conspiracy thinking: the "master conspiracy" (i.e. the Birchites Robert Welch's fabrication of the New World Order which postulates an elite who run the world through the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign relations, " "The Rise of the Antichrist (exampled through Pat Robertson's take on Revelations), "The View from the Grassy Knoll" (the Kennedy assassination), "Jewish Devils and the War on Black America" (a brief history of the exploitation of the exploitation of the ill-feeling between Louis Farrakhan and Jews, and "The Roswell Incident" (the "cover-up" of the alien invasion in 1947, and the mainstreaming of these theories through TV -- the X-Files, Independence Day, etc.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read November 8, 2001
Conspiracy is a subject many Americans have on their minds since Setember 11, 2001. It seems their is a need to use conspiracy thinking as a coping mechanism. Robert Goldberg's new book explains this phenomenon. Perhaps conspiracy beliefs are a means for control and peace of mind. Compelling and complicated, Goldberg ventures into a maze of detail, in an effort to make sense of the nonsensical. From the Roswell incident to the Kennedy assassination Goldberg does not provide the reader with an answer to "was there really a conspiracy" but instead tries to reason the theme through history. What a pleasure to discover a writer as talented as Robert Alan Goldberg.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Robert Goldberg is Professor of History at The University of Utah, a respected writer on American history, public educator and author of a highly-regarded biography of right-winger Barry Goldwater.

Goldberg’s 2001 book ‘Enemies Within’ is a superbly written and edited 260-page volume from Yale University Press which tackles the social phenomenon of conspiracy theories and their place in contemporary American society. The introductory chapter ‘An American Tradition’ outlines the history of conspiratorial thinking in the USA, for example the conspiracy theory that Roman Catholics were scheming to undermine the country and "deliver it into papal slavery" ran for most of the 19th century in various forms, until Catholics were morphed in the fevered minds of conspiracy theorists into Jews and an identical narrative took over with a different flavor of bogey-man.

Five variants of the same fundamental belief-system are then examined, each with its own dedicated chapter:

1. The Master Conspiracy (focusing on John Birchers and their extremist ideology that the Trilateral Commission/Bilderburg group were plotting to take over America and “destroy freedom”)

2. The Rise of the Antichrist (the shenanigans of millennialists like Pat Robertson and his ‘New World Order’ claims)

3. The View from the Grassy Knoll (the JFK assassination industry)

4. Jewish Devils and the War on Black America (Louis Farrakhan and the paranoia manufactured by the so-called ‘Nation of Islam’ principally against Jews, but incorporating elements of the extraterrestrial conspiracy and millennialist elements borrowed from right-wing Christian fundies)

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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Is In Here! October 25, 2001
Once again, Goldberg has brilliantly researched and written about another American phenomenon, just as he did in his recent Goldwater biography. This time around, the good doctor explores in magnificent detail, several enduring conspiracies and the reason why so many of us want to believe that greater forces are at work. The book is gripping and honest, and of course, the documentation is excellent. Why doesn't this man have his own talk show on the History Channel? That's one conspiracy yet to be unraveled.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars mind numbingly boring December 11, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was disappointing, and provided little insight into the appeal of impossibly complex secret plans. The book consists of long lists of loosely-coupled historical facts, occurrences and beliefs, which makes for a difficult and unrewarding read. Each chapter was less compelling than the previous one, and I found myself flipping through the last half of the book in a hurry to reach its inconclusion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Professor Goldberg --- "Never question authority, even now that our...
I genuinely got a kick out of seeing Robert Goldberg spouting his "logic" on one the "History Channel" propaganda programs this evening. Read more
Published on November 23, 2011 by D. FAXON
2.0 out of 5 stars pretty dry
The book was in good shape. But the contents were not written in an interesting manner. Not a book to just pick up and read. Read more
Published on June 5, 2010 by iko,iko
3.0 out of 5 stars thanks for the iteration but I was hoping to learn something
While Goldberg may take credit for being one of the first to seriously attempt exploiting the true potential of the American conspiracy phenomenon, 'Enemies Within' reads more as a... Read more
Published on July 21, 2002 by RossPW
5.0 out of 5 stars Considers the impact of conspiracy thinking in American life
This survey of conspiracy ideas in modern America doesn't begin with the usual contention that those who believe in conspiracies are mentally ill: it considers the impact of... Read more
Published on February 6, 2002 by Midwest Book Review
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book
?,Why does this guy try to discredit the Nation of Islam and
black america in general,when it comes to what has been
happening to black america all these year's,under the... Read more
Published on December 18, 2001 by Pro-Black
3.0 out of 5 stars Paranoid/Not Paranoid
University of Utah professor Goldberg makes the latest contribution to academic literature on conspiracy culture, in a long tradition stretching back to Richard Hofstadter's... Read more
Published on November 5, 2001
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