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Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11
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"...exquisitely researched and annotated new book...her compilation presents a startling read of public history."--Chicago Tribune
"...energetic narrative shows an increasingly complex national security apparatus both prompting conspiracy theories and promulgating its own. Convincing study of how alternative histories develop."--Kirkus Reviews
"Though most conspiracy theories are nonsense, Real Enemies demonstrates that actors in and around American government have been engaged in conspiracies against the public interest for decades."--Chronicles
"Real Enemies is a study of paranoia in American politics, and of course, as Kathryn Olmsted shows, the paranoia begins far too often in the Oval Office. Olmsted makes it clear, however, that it didn't start with Richard Nixon or George W. Bush. Political paranoia, it turns out, is as American as political demagoguery."--Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command
"Kathryn Olmsted has written a brave, provocative, and audacious book. Her willingness to subject the systemic effects of consistent patterns of official government deception--together with the popular conspiracist 'blowback' this deception inspires and empowers--to scholarly scrutiny invites us to ask troubling but necessary questions about the nature of our political leadership."--Eric Alterman, author of When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences
"Once in a while, a talented historian writes a book about a neglected topic that millions of Americans think about all the time. Real Enemies is one of those rare and indispensable studies. With grace and impeccable judgment, Kathryn Olmsted illuminates one of the darker regions of the nation's political history. Richard Hofstadter would be pleased."--Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
"A revealing study of the impact of conspiracy theories on American society and politics...[With] careful, mature analysis, Kathryn Olmsted investigates every major conspiracy theory and monger in U.S. history." --Book of the Month Club 2
About the Author
Kathryn S. Olmsted is a professor of history at the University of California, Davis. She has written two previous books on secrecy in the U.S. government.
Top Customer Reviews
Some "conspiracy" theories: Did President Wilson deceive the public leading to the American participation in World War I? Did Roosevelt know about Pearl Harbor but allow it to happen so the USA would be forced to enter World War II? Did Lyndon Johnson and others warp the "facts" to hide the truth about the JFK assassination? Did Nixon create a criminal snoop machine and then attempt to hide the truth? Did the Reagan government conspire to use illegal means to fund rogue military operations? Did "W" Bush create or take advantage of the events of 911 go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The answers to all of these questions as presented in this historical summary could be: "yes", "maybe" "sort of", "possibly", "it depends of your point of view", and so on. Justifications for the possible illegal actions of officials are often cited: Wilson and Roosevelt needed to deceive the public in order to pull America into necessary wars and Lyndon Johnson and Hoover packaged an official JFK "lone nut" story to avoid igniting a nuclear war.Read more ›
Update Apr. 27, 2016: After carefully reading Chapter 4 about the JFK assassination, I am left mystified. She reports quite accurately on the findings of independent researchers who generally concluded that the US government killed JFK. As one who has spent thousands of hours reading on this topic, I was impressed at how deeply she has dug and some of her unique discoveries. She notes with apparent agreement that the single bullet theory cannot be true.Read more ›
In `Real Enemies' (published in 2009), Olmsted tackles the tradition of anti-government conspiracy theories in the USA. The origin of the tradition can be found, she demonstrates, in the actions of various administrations throughout the 20th century which have led to an escalating climate of paranoia and suspicion. The catalogue of subterfuge, cover-ups and half-truths perpetrated by various US administrations begins with President Woodrow Wilson's alleged machinations to take the USA into the First World War on the allied side, and concludes with the Bush 43 administration's clumsy mishandling of the 9/11 Commission and attempts to implicate Saddam Hussein in the 9/11 attacks & fictional WMD programs. On the way we are treated to revealing chapters on FDR's interference in the Pearl Harbor investigation (where attempts were made to scapegoat local naval commanders in Hawaii and exonerate others more demonstrably culpable of neglect-of-duty); the `Red Scare' of the 1950s championed by Senator McCarthy; the JFK assassination & Warren Commission report; the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair of the 1990s.
As an academic historian Olmsted displays admirable investigative rigour, sticks to the facts and to demonstrable evidence, and writes with a refreshingly direct style.
Throughout the 20th century the power and reach of the US Government has (for mostly defensible reasons) grown exponentially, concurrent with the appropriation of escalating taxpayer revenue.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
"Many Americans believe that their own government is guilty of shocking crimes," it says in the synopsis above. Read morePublished 1 month ago by K. Caldwell
This is one of the better historical texts on conspiracy history , at least from the standpoint of the official record . Read morePublished 7 months ago by Charles B Shaw
This is an extraordinarily weak effort with paper-thin research leading to very poorly supported conclusions. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Johnny Nineball
When Americans think about conspiracy theorists, images of wacky and "un-American" individuals come to mind. Who can actually blame them? Read morePublished on August 17, 2014 by Social Historian
Conspiracy theory is an easy way to tell complicated stories, Kathryn Olmsted reminds us in "Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11. Read morePublished on March 26, 2014 by Rob Fitzgibbon
This book is wonderful. There is a lot of good insight contributed by Olmsted, and the correlations drawn are well supported. I would read this book 3 times.Published on November 1, 2013 by Leenebee
This book is an honest look at some of the most popular America conspiracy theories. Olmsted takes a very middle of the road approach to each theory and gives the reader the... Read morePublished on June 28, 2013 by Syreasha Giles