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

2.9 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; F First Edition 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 (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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"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
Bought this book on a recommendation from a colleague. Regretted wasting the money. It felt like the author seemed to have had his mind made up about nearly every aspect of the topic before he began this exercise. I think that the author believes that he presents some fresh & interesting material. Reads like a claustrophobic intellectual stuffed-shirt trying to justify a pretty uninspired thesis. Was really hoping for some new insights; but it was a flat & strident read at the same time - an achievement of sorts I guess.
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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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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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Format: Hardcover
I think two stars here might be generous. One of the author's proposals by way of solving the baseless conspiracy theories rampant in our time is an appeal to the educational system to teach youth and others how to distinguish what is true from what is false in these areas. In order for the educational system to be effective it becomes necessary for educators to learn and then teach about the profound changes in consciousness that have occurred (in the 20th century) and continue to increase in our time. The colleges and universities are, by this time, becoming notorious for preventing the sources of genuine higher spiritual knowledge from reaching the students and hence eventually the public - our culture. One can certainly suspect a "conspiracy theory" here, a "conspiracy of silence." The greatest names in these areas, those who would bring understanding to the youth, students and adults - those who are thirsting for comprehension of deeper truths in keeping with the increasing changes in consciousness - are names or sources that are never included in the indexes and contents of books that presume to comprehend the major events of our time.

Jonathan Kay also makes a very serious error in including John's "Revelation" in with the mishmash of confused theories and so-called spiritual "teachings" all too abundant on the internet and in published books nowadays. He throws into this batch of unsightly flotsam one of the greatest spiritual documents ever written, totally unable to comprehend a word of it, unwilling even to study and consider it.
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