A Paranoid Style? : The JFK Assassination and the Politics and Culture of Conspiracy Theory

Broadbent, Joseph (2014) A Paranoid Style? : The JFK Assassination and the Politics and Culture of Conspiracy Theory. Masters thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses the phenomenon of conspiracy theory, using the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy as a case study. Doubt is the root cause of conspiracy theory, stemming from
both the innate biases all humans exhibit, and a traumatic experience – in this case the
assassination of JFK. This thesis argues that conspiracy theories are created and take hold
because of a predisposition toward conspiracy theory, a misinterpretation of a central piece of
evidence, such as the Zapruder film, and agency panic, where dispossession causes one to feel as
if their agency is under threat. Conspiracy theory can provide believers with many emotions
which appear to the individual to not be available elsewhere, namely closure, comfort, control,
and a sense of leisure.
Using the assassination of JFK, this thesis examines the role of conspiracy theory in
modern American society. It weighs up the benefits of conspiracy theory, such as it is an example
of free speech and it can aid transparency, with the negatives: that it can possibly cause harm to
its adherents and their dependants because of a belief in ends justifying the means. The
conspiracy theory of David Lifton and how he came to form his ideas, and how Oliver Stone’s
movie JFK forced a huge document release will also be examined. The study of conspiracy theory
itself is oft bifurcated. Humanities scholars tend to look at the implications of conspiracy theory
on society. On the other hand, those which have a background in social sciences usually focus on
what causes people to accept and believe in conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory, however, is a
complex issue, and this division leaves one with an incomplete picture. By taking an
interdisciplinary approach, one can better understand both why conspiracy theory is so prevalent
and how it became that way.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of American Studies
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 09:17
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 09:17
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/48793
DOI:

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