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Jan
25
Daniel Pipes
Booknotes, Sunday, January 25, 1998
Daniel Pipes discusses Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From.

Many of the greatest tragedies in human history are the result of the successful spread of conspiracy theories, from atrocities committed during the Crusades, to the Holocaust. Today, conspiracy theories are swirling with renewed vigor. CONSPIRACY, by eminent scholar Daniel Pipes, offers much needed perspective on the past and present of this special type of paranoia. Conspiracy theories are generated by two broad groups of people: the politically disaffected and the culturally suspicious. The former group often includes blacks and right-wingers, whose dislike of the existing order instigates a belief in the presence of powerful forces engaged in plots against them. Bill Cosby and Spike Lee believe that AIDS was created by human beings to be used as a weapon of oppression. Louis Farrakhan believes that Jews are responsible for both capitalism and communism, the two world wars, financing Hitler, controlling the Federal Reserve Board and Hollywood, and causing the U.S. government to go into debt. Rightist groups have raised alarms about an imminent invasion by United Nations forces. The result of such an attack, militia-members warn, will be a new world order in which all Americans will lose their constitutional rights and have tracking devices inserted into their buttocks. In the ranks of the culturally suspicious are conspiracy theory devotees such as Patrick Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Lyndon LaRouche and Ross Perot. Pipes traces the roots of western conspiracism to the Crusades, when anti-Jewish bias took on a violent, paranoid dimension and the first secret societies, like the Knights of Templar, came into being. Conspiracism grew steadily through to the Enlightenment, but didn't become a powerful political force until the years before the French Revolution when groups like the Freemasons and the Illuminati surfaced, and the Jewish emancipation began. With greater and greater frequency, those groups were accused of hatching plots to rule the world, and were assumed to have the power to do so. During the first half of the 20th century, conspiracism reached the peak of its power. In 1940-41, the paranoid style was so pervasive that several European nations were under the direct control of leaders whose ideologies were largely based on conspiracy theories. Since then, Pipes argues, western paranoia has declined, although it remains a threat to the existing order. Millions still buy the books of Pat Robertson, listen to the songs of Ice T., and watch the movies of Oliver Stone. CONSPIRACY offers a clear-eyed look at the disturbing power of organized paranoia, and a warning against its unchecked consequences. —from the publisher's website (timspalding)… (more)
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