Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Conspiracy Playlists: Revolution

Here's one of my playlists, to consider Bailyn and Wood by. You should be able to listen at least once for free. I am experimenting with this site, Lala.com, as a place to post playlists.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Links on past and upcoming topics: American Revolution, Antisemitism

Monday, September 14, 2009

Message on class meeting for 9/15/09

This is in response to some questions I have had about tomorrow's class, on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Let me explain again in writing what I want to you to be ready to do in class: Make some notes for yourself, and be ready, verbally, to take a position for or against one of the interpretations of conspiracy theory you have encountered in the readings, using an example from the Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories as your evidence. The point is to start working with these various interpretations yourselves, rather just have me explain them to you.

It is best to think of the individual readings so far, besides Fenster’s survey (meaning Hofstadter and most of the individual chapters in Conspiracy Nation), as spinning out their own theories of why conspiracy theory appeals to people and how we should evaluate the phenomenon (especially, how dangerous we should think it is). Among the options would be “agency panic” from Timothy Melley, the “poor person’s cognitive mapping” explained by Fran Mason (based on the work of Frederic Jameson), and Jodi Dean’s defense of alien abduction mythology as (in effect), a perfectly valid and functional alternative belief system. Then there is Hofstadter, whose ideas we have not fully talked out yet. His interpretation applies the psychiatric concept of “paranoia,” to begin with, and then links conspiracy theory to the basically anti-democratic politics of the extreme Right (think Nazism or Fascism) and the fears of the old white, native-born middle classes, who feel their status as the dominant group in American society to be threatened by the changes of the modern world. (For an application of this idea to recent politics, see this post: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/09/entitled.php#more?ref=fpblg  ). There are other interpretations in the reading, but these are probably the most eligible options to which you can apply your thinking right now. 

As a way of getting some critical distance from these interpretations, consider some other ideas that have been floated concerning the conspiracy theories being floated about President Obama's health-care plan. Some articles linked earlier have seen them as examples of a persistent insanity in American politics, and/or as an example of popular political ignorance. The following article and video presents a kind of conspiracy theory of these conspiracy theories, that they are a political tool being used by conservative ideologues and the health insurance to distract a lot of middle- and working-class people from their own economic interests: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-blumenthal/get-the-government-out-of_b_285361.html . This one may well have some merit, considering that the public phase corporate lobbying campaigns are really all about selling hidden agendas.

See you tomorrow,
Jeff Pasley

P.S. I will be around my office most of the day Tuesday between 11AM and our class, so come and see me if you have questions.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Eisenhower's fears of militarism and right-wing extremism

More background on Hofstadter's "Paranoid Style" and the ideas and fears (of fears!) behind Seven Days in May:
  • People did not seem familiar with President Eisenhower's warning against the "military-industrial complex." This clip from the film Why We Fight includes the good parts of that speech and also explains it. Watch it, and marvel that Ike was a Republican!
  • A New York Times column explains another Eisenhower warning, against people looking for answers from authoritarian leaders, like General Scott in the movie.
Now playing: The Beatles - We Can Work It Out

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Conspiracy Playlists -- The Adventure Begins

The creation of my History of Conspiracy Theory course coincided with the onset of the mp3 era, so it was natural for a music fan like myself to make a CD to listen to while working on it. In putting that together, I realized that this music was an integral part of the whole subject for me. I vividly remember having originally picked up on the paranoia that pulsated through the culture of the 60s and 70s from the music I heard on the radio as a kid, including several of the songs on the list below, before I knew what any of it was about. Over time, this little amusement mushroomed into a lengthy series of conspiracy- and paranoia-themed CDs that I cannot seem to stop making. Having long wanted to share of these playlists without incurring the wrath of the RIAA, I am going to start posting a few of them here, along such links to versions of the songs themselves I happen across. Mp3s of most of these can be purchased from the usual outlets,  

CONSPIRACY MUSIC: Paranoia (original CD)
1. Paranoid Larry and His Imaginary Band - Paranoid Larry Theme Song (2:08)
2. Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth (2:40)

3. Uncle Tupelo - We've Been Had (3:26)
4 .Radiohead - Black Star (4:07)

5. X - Someone's Watching (4:49)
6. The Kinks - Here Come The People In Grey (3:46)
7. The Undisputed Truth - Smiling Faces Sometimes (3:14)
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising (2:20)
9. Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine (3:15)
10. The Temptations - (I Know) I'm Losing You (2:28)
11. Four Tops - Reach Out (I'll Be There) (3:01)
12. Green Day - Basket Case (3:03)
13. The Kinks - Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues (3:32)

14. Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta (3:38)
15. Garbage - I Think I'm Paranoid (3:37)
16. Black Sabbath - Paranoid (2:47)
17. Clem Snide - The Ballad of David Icke (1:51)
18. Bob Dylan - Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues [Live] (4:25)
19. Soul Coughing - Unmarked Helicopters (3:22)
20. Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Imagination Is a Powerful Deceiver (3:40)
21. Offspring - Conspiracy Of One (2:18)
22. The Black Crowes - A Conspiracy (4:46)
23. The Kinks - Destroyer (3:47)
24. Radiohead - Paranoid Android (6:23)