Book Report: Web of Conspiracy

I am not a conspiracy theorist, though I know a few. I know someone who believes that Wal-Marts are designed to corral and potentially dispose of the unruly masses. And that vapor trails are actually mind-controlling drugs being spread by the government (which is why there are more vapor trails over liberal cities than conservative cities). Someone also told me that there is a tunnel that runs from under the Masonic Lodge to the Vance Monument, though I can’t imagine what good that would do anyone. Or how a group (however weirdly secretive) that holds fundraiser spaghetti suppers could be up to no good. Further proof, I suppose, that I’m just not paranoid.

But for those of you who enjoy wrapping your minds around such issues (Where is Bin Laden anyway? And was the American government out to silence Bob Marley? And what’s with the fezzes worn by the Shriners?), I offer Web of Conspiracy: A Guide to Conspiracy Theory Sites on the Internet (Information Today, Inc., 2008) by James F. Broderick and Asheville-based author Darren W. Miller.

The book, like its name suggests, covers highly trafficked conspiracy theories as they are duked out on various Web sites. Not that the sites provide forums for banter; rather they are constructed to support arguments around any number of view points. Of the PBS-created pages for the Stratford vs. Oxford case (debating the true identity of William Shakespeare), Web notes, “The site remains one of the best designed, most easily navigated and clearly written on the topic. Because it never really gets bogged down with too much microscopic detail, the site is the perfect introductory course to de Vere’s challenge of the Bard.”

Here, it’s worth noting that Web really is about Web sites. Yes, each chapter provides background (often titillating) on a number of conspiracies — info culled from each side — but the book’s real focus is on the Web sites perpetuating the facts and works of fiction.

Which is not to say Web won’t be of interest to conspiracy theorists of all technological capabilities. Subject-wise, there’s something for everyone, from aliens (Roswell) and politics (9/11) to religion (Jesus) and celebrity (the death of Princess Diana). Some of the information may offend delicate sensibilities (on the chapter about AIDS, the authors maintain, “Within the conspiracy community, there are sharp divisions over such basic questions as whether AIDS is even fatal, or rather if it’s the treatment for AIDS that kills instead.”); there is also plenty that’s light-hearted (in the same chapter, a photo caption for a blurry image of flying saucer notes, “Some conspiracy theorists believe that the AIDS virus resulted from an alien plan to infect and weaken the human species.”).

For this reader, the most intriguing chapters are those on the mystery-shrouded, made-for-PBS’s-History Detectives “The Order of the Skull and Bones,” and the Hollywood, silver-screen-drama of “The Death of Marilyn Monroe.” But that’s strictly a matter of taste. The book itself is well-written, moves at a respectable clip even through the densest of material (though the authors do an excellent job of leaving the hardcore hashing to the Web sites about which they write) and provides interesting overviews of these many cultural phenomenons. And really, even if you’re not about to take sides on who killed J.F.K. or kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, there’s no harm in brushing up on the swirl of controversy that these events continue to stir up. If nothing else, it makes for good party chat.

Other literary events:
• Suspense and romance author Jeanne Adams visits Accent on Books on Friday, July 18. The 6 p.m. reading includes refreshments.

•  On Tuesday, July 29, Malaprop’s hosts An Evening of Fantasy with Jeff Vandermeer and Tobias Buckell. Vandermeer is the author of several novels and collections and the editor of anthologies including The Best American Fantasy 2007 and The New Weird. Sci-fi author an blogger Buckell most recently wrote Sly Mongoose. The event begins at 7 p.m.

• A writers’ gathering is slated for noon on Thursday, July 31, at the Grove Corner Market in Asheville’s Grove Arcade. Grab lunch and talk shop with other area writers. Organizer Mark Bloom describes the get-together as an opportunity to “share stories, job leads, and business cards — although we’re certainly not limiting you to that. This informal group is a great way to stay in touch with your colleagues in the Asheville area.” No dues to join the group. If you (or someone you know) would like to be on the mailing list, e-mail MarkHenryBloom@aol.com. Info: 280-1686.

— Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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5 thoughts on “Book Report: Web of Conspiracy

  1. JPass

    What is a “Conspiracy Theorist”?

    I do believe that the attacks of 9/11/2001 were conspiracies. Multiple people conspired to commit a crime.

    The term “conspiracy theory” is obviously being used to create the impression that there might be something ‘wrong’ with ‘conspiracy theorists’.

    The term is utterly ridiculous and used to squash discussion on serious issues like the attacks on 9/11/2001 or the assassination of a US President (JFK).

    These DEADLY serious events changed the course of a nation. In the case of 9/11/2001 attacks, we have invaded multiple countries and destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives in illegal slaughters in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    Even more ridiculous is that, in this article and else where, the assasination of a human being / US President and the murder of 3000+ Americans on 9/11/2001 are thrown into a big with things like space aliens and other such non-sense.

    If you ask me, it sounds like “conspiracy theorist” means someone who doesn’t believe or trust their own government.

  2. Scrubby

    JPass is right.
    In the case of 9/11, i’d like to recommend everyone to have a look at what these over 400 architects and engineers have to say, and to make up their own mind about which “conspiracy theory” is the crazy one:
    http://www.ae911truth.org/

  3. [b]Scrubby:[/b] Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought JPass was saying that it was a conspiracy because a group of jihadists got together and made a plan — a conspiracy in the basic sense — not the government.

  4. JPASS

    I did not make a distinction. But since you asked Steve…I can make one.

    After 5 years of intensive study on the events of 9/11/2001, I do not believe the official story of the 9/11/2001 attacks represents the truth.

    I believe Arabs/Islam/Muslims were designated patsies in a larger plot which ushered in a new era of war, torture, mass murder, and military spending and much more.

    I do not believe in the myth Islamophobia. I do not believe the evil forces of Islam have organized against me because they ‘hate my freedoms’ and therefor we must ‘root out the evil Islams’ around the world.

    There are numerous examples of Arabs/Muslims/Islam being used as patsies before & after 9/11/2001. Look up the Toronto terror cell and investigate the facts of this case. Look up the Miami Terror cell and investigate the facts of this case.

    And what about the Anthrax attacks? This happened just two weeks after the attacks of 9/11/2001 and the entire Anthrax Terror operation was obviously designed to frame Arabs/Islam/Muslims.

    The letters sent to the Anthrax victims all said “Death to America! Death To Israel! Allah is Great!” But the Anthrax was traced to FT. Detrick USA!

    Furthermore,before the story of the Anthrax letters was made public, an ‘anonymous letter’ was sent to the media claiming that an Arab at FT. Detrick was responsible for the Anthrax Terror Attacks.

    Dr. Assaad was the victim of a vicious attack that attempted to blame the Anthrax attacks on him.

    When the ‘evil Muslim scientist’ conspiracy thoery didn’t stick, a new patsy was invited to the party. Dr. Hatfill would eventually be awarded millions of dollars because our own government paraded him around as the most likely Anthrax terrorist. Not true. He was awarded 3Million or maybe it was 5 million dollars!

    I am familiar with the website that Scrubby has linked.

    According to 400 Architects & Engineers at http://www.ae911truth.org, the official explanation of the collapse of three buildings on 9/11/2001 is impossible.

    Apparently, physics negate the possibility that the damage that WTC 7 inured could cause this 47 story skyscraper to collapse in less then 10 seconds.

  5. Dionysis

    With regard to September 11, 2001, there was no ‘conspiracy theory’, but an actual conspiracy. The question is ‘perpetrated by who’? Many learned and responsible people do not buy the official version. JPASS has provided some good links; another one, which offers comments and opinions by senior government, military and intelligence officials is this:

    http://www.wanttoknow.info/officialsquestion911commissionreport

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