By Jovan Byford (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0230349218

ISBN-13: 9780230349216

ISBN-10: 1349323500

ISBN-13: 9781349323500

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Similarly, it is only in the last quarter of a century that opinion polls exposing the prevalence of conspiracy beliefs are routinely carried out, published and pondered over by the media and by scholars. The fact that there is little historical data with which to compare these results, inevitably contributes to the belief that before the onset of globalisation or the arrival of the internet, conspiracy thinking was not as widespread as it is today. The relatively recent origin of the preoccupation with conspiracy theory is reflected also in the fact that it was only in the 1990s that the term got sufficiently firmly established in the English language to warrant a separate entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the attempted assassination, in 1972, of the former Governor of Alabama George Wallace. In each of these events (which have been the topic of much conspiracist speculation over the years and where no plot has ever been proven) he suspects the involvement of the US government or rogue elements within the state apparatus and security services. Therefore, just like Parenti (1996), Ramsay frames ‘conspiracy theories’ in a way that places a number of accounts that are commonly associated with ‘wacky’ conspiracy explanations within the domain of legitimate analysis acceptable to the ‘orthodox rational Western mind’.

They were not even ‘secret’ in the way in which the term is understood today. In the eighteenth century, the term ‘secret society’ denoted ‘voluntary association of like minded people’ which was unaffiliated and unaccountable to the state, the church or any mainstream institution (von Bieberstein, 1977: 1). More importantly, the Illuminati were dissolved in 1786, which means that they were no longer active when the Revolution began. This however only made them more attractive to the likes of Barruel and Robison who interpreted such timely ‘disappearance’ as incontrovertible proof of culpability.

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Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction by Jovan Byford (auth.)


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