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Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground Hardcover

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Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground + Political Conspiracies in America: A Reader
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition / First Printing edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062004816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062004819
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A well-researched and provocative account of our most baffling conspiracies.” (Kirkus Reviews)

From the Back Cover

From left-wing 9/11 conspiracy theorists to right-wing Obama-hating "birthers"—a sobering, eyewitness look at how America's marketplace of ideas is fracturing into a multitude of tiny, radicalized boutiques—each peddling its own brand of paranoia

Throughout most of our nation's history, the United States has been bound together by a shared worldview. But the 9/11 terrorist attacks opened a rift in the collective national psyche: Increasingly, Americans are abandoning reality and retreating to Internet-based fantasy worlds conjured into existence out of our own fears and prejudices.

The most disturbing symptom of this trend is the 9/11 Truth movement, whose members believe that Bush administration officials engineered the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a pretext to launch wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But these "Truthers" are merely one segment of a vast conspiracist subculture that includes many other groups: anti-Obama extremists who believe their president is actually a foreign-born Manchurian Candidate seeking to destroy the United States from within; radical alternative-medicine advocates who claim that vaccine makers and mainstream doctors are conspiring to kill large swathes of humanity; financial neo-populists who have adapted the angry message of their nineteenth-century forebears to the age of Twitter; Holocaust deniers; fluoride phobics; obsessive Islamophobes; and more.

For two years journalist Jonathan Kay immersed himself in this dark subculture, attending conventions of conspiracy theorists, surfing their discussion boards, reading their websites, joining their Facebook groups, and interviewing them in their homes and offices. He discovered that while many of their theories may seem harmlessly bizarre, their proliferation has done real damage to the sense of shared reality that we rely on as a society. Kay also offers concrete steps that intelligent, culturally engaged Americans can take to reject conspiracism and help regain control of the intellectual landscape.

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Customer Reviews

No, these conspiracy theories are never derided as such by the likes of Mr. Kay.
Steve 303
Don't go into it expecting "Rapture Ready" for the Truther set, and you may find it to be perfectly enjoyable.
David Goodwin
He, However, is not kind to those who have a view different than that of that of the accepted status quo.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Randolph E Prawitt on June 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Among the Truthers" is an easy-to-read treatise on the forces that spawn and fuel conspiracy theories. Jonathan Kay performs a noble service by venturing inside conspiracy movements and teasing out their shared characteristics and unifying group psychology, which he ultimately uses to show how easily a conspiracist yarn can be identified. In the last few pages of the book, Kay offers a remedy to the rising tide of conspiracism, a topic that deserves serious consideration but to which he devotes far too little word count.

Unfortunately, between his expose and his prescription for a cure, Kay takes a curious detour to denounce (with varying degrees of force) academia, leftists, political correctness, civil rights movements, atheists and -- most curious of all -- opponents of Israeli occupation of Palestine. He is able to tie these targets of his rebuke only incidentally - if at all - to conspriacism. But, most shocking of all: not only do some of Kay's criticisms and assertions lack any evidence, citation or even rationalization whatsoever, he actually veers precipitously close to conspiracism itself to sustain some of his assaults. Kay somehow manages to do this without the slightest hint of self-awareness or irony.

The fact that Kay leaves his plan to combat conspiracism underdeveloped is sad, because his ideas seem at least partially sound and should be given a more thorough address. This makes Kay's prolonged dressing down of left-wing politics all the more frustrating.

Conspiracy theories undoubtedly undermine democracy and are helping to poison the current domestic and global political environment. The fact that they have become so pervasive in the Internet age makes books that confront them invaluable.
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83 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Luther G. Weeks on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Near the end he says that an early draft to a publisher had long chapters debunking Truthers in detail, but he dropped all that because the publisher said it would not sell. Unfortunately that would have made the book of use because it could be debated as true or false in its claims. Sure, dedicated Truthers would be unlikely to change their minds just as those that are confirmed that the Truthers are wrong would never be swayed, but facts might sway others with at least somewhat open minds.

I have read the whole book. Besides the conservative bias, it spends very little time on real facts about Truthers. He says he spent hours interviewing some of them. It does not seem like I read an hour on all of them together, but spent days reading about Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. Maybe 20% or less of the book is spent on Truthers and much of that innuendo and characterization (Much of the 80% is also innuendo and characterization as well).

If what he says about the few Truthers he characterizes is true then he has picked the most extreme and done an almost Glen Beckish job in linking them all together with genuinely crazy theories going back many years in history. Many paragraphs are just gobbledygook.

It is a long distance from recognizing that the 911 report was not thorough to presuming one knows what actually happened and that it is a conspiracy committed by specific individuals - yet he tars all Truthers together.

We get proof over and over that "Governments Lie", so it is legitimate to question what is going on when investigations are not thorough, are difficult to get initiated, and the President tries to avoid or compromise them. When there is smoke we need reasonable proof that there is no fire.
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39 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on June 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Kay begins with an interesting proposition - that Americans' state of 'intellectual' agitation after 9/11 isn't temporary. Arguments over patriotism, freedom, values, global warming, stem cell research, Obama's citizenship, values, our 'special status' vs. God, socialized medicine, Obamacare, homosexuality, the importance of projecting democracy, etc., all freed by new technology from the need to gain approval from editors or even publishers and funders, has propelled radicals to the front. Reducing complexity to good vs. evil, in fables is not productive.

Unfortunately, Kay doesn't take readers to any useful findings or conclusions; readers are left wondering why they wasted their time and money on this book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brock Rhodes on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Several of the 1-star reviews covered my problems with this unfortunate work (and impressively well). It's one of the most anti-intellectual, pro-censorship propaganda pieces I have ever read and deserves to be on any bookshelf alongside Michael Behe's anti-scientific treatise "Darwin's Black Box". I actually know some YECs who would advise Kay to be a little more open minded. It's the same whiny, name-calling, unsubstantiated establishment protectionist drivel you can readily find on the boob tube. Don't bother pursuing this book. One day, your doorbell may ring and you'll find it on your doorstep lit ablaze inside of a brown paper bag. It's just that precious.
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25 of 39 people found the following review helpful By C. Martin Centner on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jonathan Kay's views on American conspiracy thinking is quite interesting for two reasons: It is from someone familiar with, but outside, the United States culture, and from an obviously conservative slant.

Kay does not describe in detail Truther theories or attempt to debunk them. As stated in the latter part of the book, such a section would be unnecessary since Truthers would not believe it and skeptics already know. Instead, he attempts to explain the personalities and cultural influences that cause someone to seize onto the idea of a conspiracy. For the most part, the book is entertaining, kind to its subjects, and intriguing. For instance, Chapter 5 attempts to list the types of personalities who might be tempted by conspiracy thinking. Another chapter is devoted to the influence of the Internet on conspiracy propagation. All quite useful and worthy of future study.

Problems with the book were noted as well, however. Chapter 8 (Tin-Foil Mortarboards) seemed to come out of nowhere, and was not sufficiently linked to the Truther movement. In the last chapter, the author suddenly brought up The New Atheists, and suggested that secularization leads to conspiracy theories. However, no evidence was provided in the preceding sections that conspiracy theories were more broadly accepted among disbelievers than believers. Indeed, the belief that the world is organized and run by invisible forces -- something atheists reject -- would logically increase gullibility toward secular conspiracy myths. Tim LaHaye's "
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