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Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground Hardcover – May 17, 2011


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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: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

Kay does not describe in detail Truther theories or attempt to debunk them.
C. Martin Centner
I would normally give this book one star, but his bravery to even take part in this debate earned him the prestigious second star.
Delta James
I bought the book to better understand the people I was debating with and was not disappointed.
James B. Bryant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 119 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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Format: Hardcover
Viewed negatively, "Among the truthers" is a screed against Truthers and other
conspiracists. Viewed more positively, it is an argument for more civility and reason in
our public discourse, and it is an exercise in debunking, uncovering, exposing, and
clarifying conspiracy theories, urban myths and legends, etc.

Kay also attempts to explain why, 400 years into the age of reason, we have we have a
market place of ideas with such an extreme balkanization of ideologies, theories, etc.
It's an attempt to answer the question: How did we get to a place where true is so
relative, in particular, relative to where you are on the political spectrum, the
religious spectrum, etc.

In one sense, what Kay's arguments are obvious, because behind the Truther movement is the
preposterous belief that U.S. government assassinated over 3,000 of its own citizens. One
of Kay's goals is to show how believers can be ration and intelligent and come to also
believe that they have a "truth" that others are too blind to see.

The list of Truther beliefs is rather long, but there is a smaller common set: (1) Dick
Cheney planned the attack. (2) Osama bin Laden and the hijackers were patsies of the U.S.
government. (3) NORAD was made to intentionally stand down 9/11. (4) Pre-planted
demolitions brought down the World Trade Center buildings. Etc.

We need to ask whether abnormal, conspiracy theories can come from normal minds? Perhaps
they can. Or, perhaps it's more likely that normal minds can be lead along to consider a
conspiracy theory.
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85 of 128 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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