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Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America Hardcover – November 1, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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.

Review

"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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300090005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300090000
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,193,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Guardian TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 26, 2013
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)

5.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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 conspiracy thinking in American life and politics throughout American history, considering the underlying ideas which nurture a belief in diabolical forces. Any studying American society and social influences will find Enemies Within an essential consideration.
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