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Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 23, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

“Feldman’s compact history . . . charts the federal government’s ‘all out assault on dissent, with a three-pronged attack of legislation, propaganda and surveillance’ from the early 20th century on . . . . Feldman ably sketches out instances of the trampling of [our] constitutional rights . . . and offers especially fine analyses of the McCarthy era . . . . Feldman’s history offers a sharply revisionist view of 20th-century America that eschews triumphalism.”
Publishers Weekly

From Kirkus Reviews

“An alternate history rife with violence and class oppression, presented with rigor and detail . . . Feldman is an attentive historian, unearthing many disturbing, forgotten examples of official malfeasance.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425349
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,278,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Gelman on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jay Feldman's book is another important addition to the literature of surveillance, scapegoating and secrecy embedded so deeply in the history of the United States.
This tradition of American paranoia is long. Its roots started to grow in the Salem witch trials towards the end of the 17th century, and then the nativist tendencies along the Know-Nothing groups of the 19th century spread their wings deep into the beginning of the twentieth century. This is the starting point of Felman's book. He discusses in detail the anti-German hysteria during WW1, when the theater of the absurd reached its apogee, for example, after Sauercraut became "liberty cabbage, while a hamburger got the name of "liberty steak". German language courses were removed from school curricula and even whole towns were renamed to remove any hint of German influence.
The Palmer raids, the deporation of Mexicans during the thirties and the concentration camps which were populated by Japanese-American citizens during the Roosevelt years followed. To be more precise, there were 112000 ethnic Japanese who were incarcerated in concentration camps along the West coast three months after the Pearl Harbour attack. This was Executive Order 9066, issued by Roosevelt. But according to Jay Feldman, this was not because of the attack. Racism was the sole cause of the Japanese and Japanese-American relocation and this process began at least five years before "the infamous day" and was originally aimed at Communists, Fascists, and Nazis.
In a report published in 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Interment of Civilians stated that this order "was not justified by military necessity...but because of race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership".
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Format: Hardcover
There is the popular saying that those who don't know their history are destined to repeat it. When I picked up MANUFACTURING HYSTERIA by author Jay Feldman and began to read it I found it clear that we had already made that mistake. The book takes us into programs and plots inside the United States that go back as far as the early 1900s that were suppose to ensure the country's safety and security but began a way in which groups of people were targeted and labled as a threat---whether they actually were or not.

In this country we had Presidents and other individuals in authority who gave the ok for rights to be trampled on and action to be taken that were said to be in the best interest of the American people but those without a voice in the United States were helpless against them. Feldman has given me a history lesson that I have never before experienced and educated me on events that took place less than a hundred years ago that have led the way for some of the politics and behavior we see today.

The lesson? For one it is the obvious: it is our responsibility to know our history. If nothing else Feldman's newest book is proof that we can't expect anyone else to educate us about how the events of our path are shaping our lives today. There is also the importance of knowing what's going on in the world today, even if you think it has no direct effect on you. To note take an interest in world affairs and understand how the rights of many are being trampled upon opens the door for us to one day be victims of the very same actions.

There is no other way to put it: Jay Feldman's book MANUFACTURING HYSTERIA is something that should be required reading for all of us. Our future and the freedoms we enjoy will certainly be in jeopardy if we don't begin to educate ourselves and others today.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What distinguishes this important book is the balance of thorough research, engaging prose, and the author's refusal to go easy on injustice in any form. Throughout "Manufacturing Hysteria..." Jay Feldman documents the effects of fear-mongering and outright abuses of power on the American temperament and character over, roughly, the past hundred years.

"One of the most insidious degradations of democracy," Feldman writes, "is the scapegoating of minorities--be they ethnic, racial, religious, political, or sexual--because to deny the civil liberties of any specific group, even in the name of national security, is to take the first step toward curtailing the civil liberties of all." Yet modern American culture and society have been fraught with such "goats": German-Americans during and after the First World War, Japanese-Americans and (to a much lesser extent) Italian-Americans during World War II, immigrants and trade unions during times of economic downturn, peace demonstrators during times of war, and countless others.

"Manufacturing Hysteria" tells the stories of forgotten victims like German immigrant Robert Paul Prager, who was lynched by an Illinois mob in 1918, but it also offers a close and detailed look at familiar periods when American values and ideals were threatened most by those whose proclaimed purpose was to expose "anti-American" beliefs, behavior, and activities. Of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Feldman reminds readers that, "For all the hundreds of individuals McCarthy accused, he never discovered or exposed a single Communist or any instance of espionage.
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