Conspiracy Panics

Political Rationality and Popular Culture

By Jack Z. Bratich

Subjects: American Studies
Paperback : 9780791473344, 239 pages, February 2008
Hardcover : 9780791473337, 239 pages, February 2008

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Table of contents


Grassy Knolledges

1. Political Science Fiction
Expert Monitors, Excessive Skepticism, and Preventive Rationality

2. Pop Goes the Profession
Journalism, New Media Culture, and Populism

3. Trust No One (on the Internet)
Gary Webb, Popular Technologies, and Professional Journalism

4. Left Behind
AIDS, Biowarfare, and the Politics of Articulation

5. Going Global
9/11, Popular Investigations, and the Sphere of Legitimate Dissensus


Appendix: AIDS Conspiracy Theory Chart


Examines contemporary anxiety over the phenomenon of conspiracy theories.


While most other works focus on conspiracy theories, this book examines conspiracy panics, or the anxiety over the phenomenon of conspiracy theories. Jack Z. Bratich argues that conspiracy theories are portals into the major social issues defining U. S. and global political culture. These issues include the rise of new technologies, the social function of journalism, U. S. race relations, citizenship and dissent, globalization, biowarfare and biomedicine, and the shifting positions within the Left. Using a Foucauldian governmentality analysis, Bratich maintains that conspiracy panics contribute to a broader political rationality, a (neo)liberal strategy of governing at a distance through the use of reason. He also explores the growing popularity of 9/11 conspiracy research in terms of what he calls the "sphere of legitimate dissensus. " Conspiracy Panics concludes that we are witnessing a new fusion of culture and rationality, one that is increasingly shared across the political spectrum.

Jack Z. Bratich is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and the coeditor (with Jeremy Packer and Cameron McCarthy) of Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality, also published by SUNY Press.


"…an important contribution to the narrow field of conspiracy studies as well as the broader cultural study of politics. " — Journal of Communication Inquiry

"With his concept of conspiracy panics, Bratich makes a major contribution to thinking about our complex relations to conspiracy theories, those theories that haunt and annoy us, that we want to dismiss but cannot avoid. Not only does Bratich steer a clear and confident course through conspiracy theorists and their seemingly more rational critics, but he also addresses the far more pressing question of how adherents to some ways of thinking come to be scapegoated, dismissed as crackpots, or denounced as enemies. This is a terrific book and essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between thinking and doing politics. " — Jodi Dean, author of Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace