Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory Hardcover – August 20, 2013
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
This is a remarkably comprehensive, wide-ranging look at the way American culture, politics, religion, and social structure have been affected by conspiracy stories. Here you’ll find tales of Mormon conspiracies, the Salem witch trials, the Illuminati, satanists, the 1980s rash of bogus claims of child molestation (especially the famous McMartin case), the Church of the SubGenius, and, oh, so many more. Author Walker’s intent is neither to ridicule nor debunk but simply to explore: How does an idea take hold, grow, permeate the culture? Sometimes it happens by accident: Illuminatus!, a satiric trilogy of novels published in the mid-1970s, led to a surge in interest in the (supposedly) real Illuminati—what was essentially a joke led to the spread of a very serious conspiracy theory. Sometimes, of course, an idea spreads because people want it to spread: John Todd, whose own story would make a fascinating book all by itself, spent his life aggressively promoting an elaborate conspiracy theory (which involved, among other elements, Ayn Rand and Charles Manson as puppets of the Illuminati). A lively, extremely interesting, and occasionally more than slightly scary book. --David Pitt
“A superb analysis of American paranoia…terrific, measured, objective.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Prepare to be amazed.” (Jeet Heer, author of In Love with Art)
“Free-floating fear and half-baked ideas about what’s really going on have been a more significant part of American history than is generally accepted, according to Jesse Walker’s thorough, meticulously researched book.” (Vice)
“Oddly entertaining...Walker quickly demolishes [Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics]. It’s all too rare to come upon a writer willing to attack the sacred cows of the right and left with equal amounts of intelligence and flair.” (Los Angeles Times)
“First there was A People’s History of the United States. Now there’s a paranoid’s history, with Jesse Walker revealing that normal, sensible citizens have been conspiracy nuts ever since our nation’s beginning.” (Debbie Nathan, author of Sybil Exposed)
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The second half, devoted to modern paranoias, is less satisfying. At times the discussion seems a mile wide and an inch deep, at times even degenerating to name-dropping. Hasty generalizations abound, and often the reader looks for discussion of how this event/character exhibits one, or a combination of, Walker's paranoid theories. Sometimes the discussion of films is so superficial as to call into question the seriousness with which we should take their inclusion as exemplifying, or contributing to, a paranoia.
And as a sometime-Pynchon fan, one has to note that in many ways Walker is the ultimate paranoid -- grasping at signifying clues to make a mass of unruly events cohere. To his credit, he admits as much in his epilogue.
For example, the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings by Adam Lanza that killed 20 children and six adults --- and also his mother. the woman who helped train this young man(iac) --- is thought to be a conspiracy perpetrated by the whole town. Yes, the police, the parents, the firemen, the local grocery store owner, the media, the teachers, the garbage men, the electricians and the old folks rocking in the nursing home and, add to that, the little kids themselves.
To these conspiracy theorists, Lanza never killed anyone and all the kids are alive and well as is everyone else. In fact, there might not even exist an Adam Lanza.
With that in mind, I purchased "The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory" by Jesse Walker, an exhaustive study of conspiracy theories going back to the very first Europeans to come to this land --- actually even before the Europeans arrival, the American Indians were damn good at spinning conspiracy yarns too.
Walker takes us through every type of outrageous and even seemingly logical conspiracies, and he shows that many of them in different guises and forms are basically made from several categories: the enemy within, the enemy without, the strong clique manipulating events, even minor daily events in history and in your own little life. The conspiracies can even be a combination of these types.
Now, no one would say there are no conspiracies. Most spies are involved in conspiracies but these spies don’t belong to groups such as the Illuminati or the psychic underground or Aunt Emma’s sewing club. Normandy was a conspiracy after all.
In our own lifetime we have been subjected to the Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy (seems everyone from politicians and the mafia were into that one), the Martin Luther King Conspiracy (some of which blame Jesse Jackson), the Robert Kennedy Conspiracy, the World Trade Center Conspiracy (we bombed ourselves), the War is Good conspiracy that blames Republicans or Democrats for starting us on the path to lucrative wars that make individuals a lot of money supplying weapons or gaining oil rich lands for greedy corporations, rich people and politicians. The list goes on and on.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in clearing the air about the paranoia that travels throughout our history like a hand in a glove, which is probably a conspiracy of glove makers in huge cabals.
Conspiracy theorists might want to read the book to see exactly where on the conspiracy continuum their particular favorites fall.
Frank Scoblete is the author of "I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps!"