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Later, we’d “learn” that Britney Spears was a tool of the Bush administration, Katy Perry was really grown-up Jon Benét Ramsey, and J. Rowling was just an actress impersonating an author. And then there is perhaps the most interesting new-model conspiracy — most interesting because the category often includes the most plausible claims.The meta-level lesson of all these theories is that the whole system of celebrity, which may confuse or madden you as a consumer of culture, makes sense — that the arbitrariness of, say, Miley Cyrus’s rise to fame could be explained by the influence of secret power brokers (rather than talent or popular taste). These are about authorship, and credit — that Bob Dylan stole “Blowin’ in the Wind” from a New Jersey high-school student, say, or that Paul Thomas Anderson actually directed A Prairie Home Companion.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.We floated conspiracy theories, in other words, as a way of projecting politics.Who really killed Natalie Wood, or Bob Marley, or Albert Camus?

And in ways they are — people have been arguing about who wrote Shakespeare’s plays literally for centuries, of course.Conventional wisdom puts the beginning of modern conspiracy-theory culture at the JFK assassination.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.This is the era of the Illuminati worldview — that everyone who is famous, or close to everyone, owes that fame to the power of a secret cabal.It is also when the theory arose that gangster rap was concocted by the private prison industry.

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