) and presented pure — that is, not as investigative claims but conspiracy theories.
And what you get when you peel back the partisanship, it turns out, are pure theories of power.
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For decades, the conspiracy theorist shouted his suspicions on the fringes of society, never ascending to a position of such prominence as, say, the presidential nominee of a major American political party.
But it probably makes more sense to think of it evolving in its aftermath, in the years following the shooting, once the shock wore off.
In the late 1960s, that is, which just so happen to be the years when the country radically polarized along the political lines we now know so oppressively well.
We floated conspiracy theories, in other words, as a way of projecting politics.While there were both political and pop-culture conspiracy theories in the 1960s and 1970s — Elvis is still alive, you may have heard — conspiracism as a phenomenon didn’t come into full flower until the 1990s. Message boards and chat rooms of that era gave us the golden age of political conspiracy theory, which we are still living in. ) These days, pop-culture obsessives are quick to cook up conspiracies anytime a celebrity dies, changes her appearance, or even stands next to a triangle, and ideas can now be passed from the edges of sanity to your Facebook feed in a matter of minutes, converting more of the easily influenced into paranoid believers.They were also the birthplace of pop-culture paranoia — when doubts about the real identities of singers and actors, whether they had actually died or truly written that particular song, gave rise to real debate and “forensic” scrutiny. Not to say that pop-culture conspiracies live only in the present — they are often most delicious when they reach back in time, even way back in time, to propose we consider, say, whether it was George Lucas who actually directed Return of the Jedi (which was, you have to admit, worse than Empire) or whether it was actually Emily Brontë’s brother who wrote Wuthering Heights (exhibit A: fucking Heathcliff! Vulture has spent the past few months undertaking an exhaustive cataloguing of these conspiracy theories of pop culture.Music, film, literature, TV, and anything else a celebrity might touch are organized by “genre” (do you like reading about zombie pop stars or Illuminati Svengalis or secret authors of famous books?The assassination wasn’t just a chaotic, spectacular, improbable event that Americans desperately wanted explained, even if the explanations were terrifying (conspiracy-theory culture being essentially willed into being by those for whom nothing was more terrifying than randomness and meaninglessness).It was also the locus of an ideological battlefield over who were the heroes and who the real villains in American life: pro-Castro and anti-Castro leftists; Russian operatives; the CIA; LBJ; the Mafia; the Camelot Kennedys — the list goes on.