“John Birch Blues”: The Problematization of Conspiracy Theory in the Early Cold-War Era


  • Katharina Thalmann University of Freiburg




conspiracy theory, knowledge, cold war, John Birch Society, anti-communism


This paper argues that the status of conspiracy theory changed from legitimate to illegitimate knowledge in the mid-20th century. By tracing the scientific, cultural, and political discourses of the early Cold-War era I show that World War II, the Red Scare of the 1950s, and the rise in political extremism in the 1960s significantly contributed to the delegitimization of conspiracy theory.

Author Biography

Katharina Thalmann, University of Freiburg

Katharina Thalmann pursues a PhD at the University of Freiburg. Her dissertation project deals with the status change of conspiracy theory from legitimate to illegitimate knowledge between the 1950s and 1980s. She also currently serves as a research assistant at the University of Freiburg where she works on the heroization of American presidents as part of the collaborative research center “Heroes - Heroisations – Heroisms.“ She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Language, Culture and Translation at the University of Mainz, where she majored in English and Spanish. She holds a Master of Arts degree in British and North American Cultural Studies from the University of Freiburg. Her research interests include American literature and culture from the 18th century to the present, cultural theory, popular culture, contemporary television, masculinity, and heroes/heroizations.




How to Cite

Thalmann, Katharina. “‘John Birch Blues’: The Problematization of Conspiracy Theory in the Early Cold-War Era”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, June 2014, doi:10.5283/copas.182.