01: Conspiracy, Problem, Solution cont’d

with 8 comments

The popular definition of conspiracy can be found in the idea of a cover-up, and to a large degree this is certainly the case. However, there are various aspects to conspiracy that are worth unpacking. In his book, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, political scientist Michael Barkun claims conspiracy is a method through which people explain the presence of evil in the world. They do this by viewing “history as controlled by massive, demonic forces.” Conspiracies can therefore be seen as simultaneously frightening and reassuring: the demonic forces are at work, but at least they can be identified as the source of everything around us that is bad, as opposed to the true terror of random evil.

Barkun identifies three key aspects to conspiracy theories, which are worth spelling out. First, nothing happens by accident: there is always intent behind actions; the willed nature of reality is paramount. Second, nothing is as it seems: the source of a conspiracy tends to conceal its activities through the appearance of innocence or misinformation. Third, everything is connected: patterns abound in conspiracy; exposing conspiracy is about unveiling these hidden connections. Barkun sees this type of thinking (which has escalated since 9/11) as ultimately resulting in paranoia: a closed system of ideas that “defeat any attempt at testing” due to the assumption that all the evidence countering the conspiracy must be part of the conspiracy, and therefore rejected.

To be fair, Barkun is highly critical of conspiracy belief, and when you look at the examples he provides such as the Illuminati and extraterrestrial reptilian masters, it is tempting to agree with him. But because conspiracy theories can often be a bit flaky (who can resist the description “Barkun mad”?), it doesn’t mean that they are always flaky, or that at the very least there aren’t some reasonable things that resemble conspiracies, inasmuch as there being a widespread assumption that needs to be exposed as false.

And this is what I’m getting at with the Masculinity Conspiracy. In this book I will argue that the way masculinity has been sold to us has the appearance of a conspiracy. Looking at the proceeding evidence, it appears that the way we define masculinity has not happened by accident. It appears that nothing about masculinity is as it commonly seems. It appears that a number of key themes in society are connected to form a legitimizing framework for the Masculinity Conspiracy. What I’m not suggesting is that the Masculinity Conspiracy is “controlled by massive, demonic forces.” I use the term “conspiracy” fully aware of its limitations, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Besides, if I had called this book The Masculinity Phenomenon that Shares Some Loose Commonality with Barkun’s Presentation of Conspiracy Belief, you just wouldn’t have read it, would you?



Written by Joseph Gelfer

April 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I can’t believe you have a job in academia. Your arguments are as bereft of logic as they are of evidence. You define the word conspiracy, then admit your use of it does not fit that definition but hey, it makes a nice book title. You also downplay the commonalities of sex and gender roles across cultures in favour of your useless conspiracy theory. Clearly your universities budget needs to be cut and you along with it.

    The term “waste of space” barely does justice to your professional existence. Surely there must be some useful contribution you can make to society.


    October 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    • Not to worry Jax, no tax dollars were spent on this: I do it all for love.

      Maybe one day you won’t feel so certain about these things: the gift of uncertainty often comes very late in life for those folks most invested in the conspiracy 😉


      October 5, 2010 at 5:26 am

      • Actually, I think it’s the constant, chronic uncertainty that impels the investment…..the ‘conspiracy’ identity fills a big hole…the void of ‘No-Self’.

        gaia charis

        October 10, 2010 at 5:19 am

        • Yes, the Man in the Mirror exercise at the beginning of this chapter is basically a No-Self exercise. But let’s not get to the end too quickly!

          In learning terms, of course, certainty is a stumbling block.


          October 10, 2010 at 5:57 am

          • Sorry, will refrain from being a conclusion-pooper by giving the game away.

            gaia charis

            October 10, 2010 at 8:58 am

            • But then of course you may be certain at this point in time that you know what your conclusion will be but the writing process has a strange way of progressing the thought processes….the certainty of uncertainty 🙂

              gaia charis

              October 10, 2010 at 9:01 am

              • True: I know the framework of the book, but it is the act of writing that reveals the interesting bits (I can see how some people could mistake this for channeling a message from some greater being).


                October 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

                • Indeed, be careful… might be the same one whose behind the Conspiracy…(joke)….(maybe).;)

                  gaia charis

                  October 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm

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