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Conspiracy Theory in America (Discovering America) [Kindle Edition]

Lance deHaven-Smith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ever since the Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman assassinated President John F. Kennedy, people who doubt that finding have been widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists, despite credible evidence that right-wing elements in the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service—and possibly even senior government officials—were also involved. Why has suspicion of criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government been rejected out-of-hand as paranoid thinking akin to superstition?

Conspiracy Theory in America investigates how the Founders’ hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced by today’s blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition. Lance deHaven-Smith reveals that the term “conspiracy theory” entered the American lexicon of political speech to deflect criticism of the Warren Commission and traces it back to a CIA propaganda campaign to discredit doubters of the commission’s report. He asks tough questions and connects the dots among five decades’ worth of suspicious events, including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, the crimes of Watergate, the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal, the disputed presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the major defense failure of 9/11, and the subsequent anthrax letter attacks.

Sure to spark intense debate about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of our government, Conspiracy Theory in America offers a powerful reminder that a suspicious, even radically suspicious, attitude toward government is crucial to maintaining our democracy.

Editorial Reviews


"An intriguing take on the origins and implications of conspiracy theories and the paranoid mindset itself. . . . Confronted with these compelling arguments, even the most incredulous readers will find themselves questioning their own preconceived notions of paranoia, governmental transparency, and conspiracy theorists." (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

LANCE DEHAVEN-SMITH Tallahassee, Florida DeHaven-Smith is Professor in the Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. A former President of the Florida Political Science Association, deHaven-Smith is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Battle for Florida, which analyzes the disputed 2000 presidential election. DeHaven-Smith has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and other national TV and radio shows.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2680 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (April 2, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,135 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skepticism is a virtue April 25, 2013
By Jurgis
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a trip through recent history in which pictures of recent high-impact events have been excised and replaced by blank pages in which you are now free to connect your own dots. It posits that the term "conspiracy theory" had its genesis in a CIA sponsored conspiracy of its own. It works hard at removing the stigma of insanity that is associated with the term. It rewards the inquiring minds of those who seek truth and justifies reconciling hard science with unseen and unarticulated, perhaps sinister objectives.
For those who become incredulous and weary of the way others connect the dots of world events, this book is balm for your troubled, skeptical soul. Your feelings of shame and inadequacy at being called a "conspiracy theorist" will evaporate and the term will become a source of pride.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn to Think in new ways. June 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is some of the best writing i have seen ever. I wonder how I have doubted the possibility that governments will do anything necessary to achieve their ends. If it is another country's governmnet doing the "dirty work", we have no trouble believing it, but when it is our government, we just cannot believe we could fall so low. Well just look at how we got into our present wars.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Text June 4, 2013
Written in an entertaining and accessible style by a highly respected public administration scholar, Conspiracy Theory in America demystifies the nonsensical 'conspiracy theory' meme in American culture. For anyone with a remotely accurate sense of US history, it is not difficult to grasp the criminality within the 'political class' (DeHaven-Smith's term) that governs this country. So how is it that the bad guys are never held to account?

Conspiracy Theory in America focuses on the methods and institutions that legitimate the prevailing political order. Specifically, deHaven-Smith looks at the `conspiracy theory' meme which is routinely used to marginalize and quarantine those reasonable suspicions that have the potential to delegitimize the prevailing order. 'Conspiracy theory' is a weaponized term. Its current form was created and deployed with the express intention of preempting suspicion of what the Founders called 'high crimes.' DeHaven-Smith discusses at length the CIA document that explicitly details this plan as a response to critics of the Warren Commission. The purpose was and is to take the focus off of the suspected crime and place it onto the accuser: "What are you, some kind of conspiracy theorist?" Undoubtedly, we are all familiar with this technique. In addition to outlining the history of proven and suspected high crimes, deHaven-Smith lays out some steps that should be taken by lawmakers and public administrators to make our system less susceptible to this most dangerous type of criminality.

Once you read this book, it is impossible to think about the government and the media in the same way.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally something coherent June 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
We know real and substantial, high crime conspiracies have been committed in the United States, including Watergate, Iran-Contra and Plamegate. What we don't have is a systematic means for understanding the place of these high crimes within a broader context of institutional and cultural vulnerabilities indicating these are not isolated events.

Lance deHaven-Smith provides a long awaited scholarly assimilation of the ideas--not the hype, innuendo, and slipshod hysteria--that makes coherent sense out of the enduring place in American culture for conspiracy theorizing and conspiracies, real and imagined. DeHaven-Smith doesn't just sort out the confusion around the simplistic dismissal of informed criticism of official claims of truth and fact; he dissects the pertinence of conspiracies in American history and how intellectual formalisms have determined how we are told and how we otherwise ought to think about elite dominance in public affairs and how and why the demos portion of democracy needs to adopt a measured concern with these realities. This is essential reading for public affairs, public administration, political science, and history academics and intellectuals.

While it is easy for western academics and intellectuals to dismiss the obvious intellectual blinders of soviet scholars who once incessantly measured the labor theory of value with no real challenge of that received reality, our western blinders to received shibboleths about real and meaningful access by the demos to political influence under capitalism go largely unexamined.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Lance deHaven-Smith has done a great service to this country by revealing the ways in which valid questioning about the activities of the power elites in the US has been squashed merely by applying the term 'conspiracy theory.' He traces the pejorative use of the term back to a CIA memorandum in 1967 that covertly was presented to the media and political figures. Thereafter, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, the mere application of the term would in effect belittle, if not ridicule, any argument being put forth that questioned the official story. The author reminds the reader that the idea of suspecting conspiracies in high places was not at all foreign to those who fought in the Revolutionary War and to those who drafted the Constitution. In fact, he stresses, the US Constitution was designed with the expectation that public officials are likely to conspire to abuse their powers and thereby undermine popular control of government. Many if not most colonists brought with them to the new world a deep fear of official conspiracies, treason and constitutional corruption. DeHaven-Smith also does an excellent job in pointing out the importance of discerning patterns of likely conspiracies, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the murder of his brother Robert five years later.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener for Citizens and Historians !!
The assassination of President Lincoln and attempted assassination of Secretary of State Seward in 1865; the Wall Street Plot against Roosevelt in 1933-34; the attempted... Read more
Published 6 months ago by tularosa
5.0 out of 5 stars A seminal work that all truth seekers should read...
A book that deals intelligently, and with insight, into the origin and exploitation of the term "conspiracy theory" (as this one does) is long overdue. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Glen Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, there really are conspiracies.
It's about time someone unpacked the nonsensical copout called "conspiracy theory," which is used to discredit any idea not delivered by the MSM. Conspiracies exist. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mark S. Deneen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work that effectively counters the popular academic attempts...
Excellent work that effectively counters the popular academic attempts to discredit all conspiracy theories, in general. Read more
Published 9 months ago by derrell
5.0 out of 5 stars REQUIRED READING if you want to learn how the United States REALLY...
REQUIRED READING if you want to learn how the United States REALLY works!
Published 11 months ago by Jonandjoeinindy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great model, not only for America, but also for other nations!
I’ve met this book at Florida State University’s classroom presided by Professor deHaven-Smith. First of all, I was fascinated by his new concept, ‘State Crimes Against Democracy’... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Loy Ahn
3.0 out of 5 stars No magic bullet
Conspiracy Theory in America is at once a historical piece that traces the tense relationship between the American people and the intrigues of their political system; a polemic... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mike Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
I am a retired journalist. I have long taken a highly skeptical, even cynical view of our media and our political elites. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Abbot of Acorn Abbey
5.0 out of 5 stars Conspiracy Theory in America (book review)
This book by a professor of political science from Florida, USA, summarizes how the Americans have viewed the political conspiracies of their rulers from the 18th to the 21st... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mikael Book
5.0 out of 5 stars One book to read...
If you're going to only read one book about conspiracy theory, this is the one to read. Start here, then dig deeper.
Published 18 months ago by Ed Rankin
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