Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Progress report & a clarification

I forgot to mention in class Tuesday, that we have moved on to topic #2 on the syllabus, so you should be starting the second block of reading by now. You will notice that the topics and associated reading blocks are each tied to a particular multi-day PowerPoint presentation. When I start a new one, with the theme music and title screen, you will know we are moving on even if I forget to say it.

Also, please note that "reserve" next to a reading indicates it is physically on reserve at the Ellis Library Circulation Desk, rather than available on ERes. My understanding is that we are not allowed to put whole books or even majority chunks of them on ERes. Chapters 2 & 3 in Knight, ed., Conspiracy Nation, by Fran Mason and Timothy Melley, are especially important among the reserve readings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More campaign conspiracy theories: Barack Obama a "terrorist in disguise"?

The Columbia Tribune helpfully headlined this one "Obama fighting Muslim rumor," as though it might possibly be true, the AP story they printed pretty straightforwardly gives the facts about Obama's Christianity:.

At a rally to kick off a weeklong campaign for the South Carolina primary, Obama tried to set the record straight from an attack widely circulating on the Internet that is designed to play into prejudices against Muslims and fears of terrorism.

"I’ve been to the same church - the same Christian church - for almost 20 years," Obama said, stressing the word Christian and drawing cheers from the faithful in reply. "I was sworn in with my hand on the family Bible. Whenever I’m in the United States Senate, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. So if you get some silly e-mail ... send it back to whoever sent it and tell them this is all crazy. Educate."

Obama is referring to a debunked chain e-mail widely circulating on the Internet that suggests he is hiding his Islamic roots and might be a terrorist in disguise. It says he was sworn into the Senate on the Quran and turns his back on the flag during the pledge.

There are some truths in the e-mail’s details. Obama’s middle name is Hussein. His father and stepfather were Muslim. And he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country. But he attended secular and Catholic schools, not a radical madrassa.

Of course, stories like this just give the rumors further publicity. And it does seem to be pretty widely believed, at least among people who equate non-English-sounding names with illegal immigration and/or terrorism.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Texas Town in UFO Sighting Frenzy!!

Just in time for the start of classes, the town of Stephenville, Texas, has suddenly emerged as the new Roswell after a large number of people saw something large with lights on it in the sky, flying too low and fast to be a plane. It "was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts," said one local quoted in several stories and pictured in this one. The title link above will take you a list of different news stories and web pages on the sightings. Undoubtedly the best of these is a guy claiming that UFO conspiracy theorists are supporting Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, for reasons that I could not quite follow. Another reason to back Obama, I guess.

Also priceless is this MSNBC guide to what to do if you should see a UFO.

While I not sure this will work, I will also try to post MSNBC's smirking report in the sightings:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Campaign Conspiracy Theories Today

Don't expect any of the updated course materials here until the first days of classes, but if you want to keep up to the minute on conspiracy theory, check out what a group called Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain is saying about the Republican presidential candidate in South Carolina, which has a primary election coming up: yep, he's the real "Manchurian Candidate," brainwashed by his Vietnamese captors and set up as a war hero so he could become president . . . decades later, and do, well, something really evil. They're not sure. The plot details seem to be taken directly from the famous novel and Frank Sinatra film. (Via blogger Matt Yglesias.)

Another anti-McCain smear (pictured above) contains much of the same content, though apparently not the "brainwashing" charge, and amusingly comes from a different right-wing group pretending to be the group ("Swift Boat Veterans for Truth") that smeared John Kerry in the 2004 election. Here's the story.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Food for incoming History 2420 students' thought

I doubt that many History of Conspiracy Theory students will be checking this space until the new semester starts, but I thought I would share a couple of conspiracy-related interesting items I have found recently:
  • "The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science," a little guide which applies as well to most conspiratorial and "paranormal" thinking as to pseudo-science particularly.
  • "The Golden Suicides," a long, brand-new Vanity Fair article about a (relatively) young New York art scene couple who committed suicide after a spiral into paranoiac dysfunction that seems to have been abetted by their growing attraction to the left-wing, "9/11 Truth Movement" brand of conspiracy theory.
You will hear more about both of these general topics in the early weeks of the course. Enjoy the rest of your break.

Now playing: Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Poor Napoleon
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