Among the Truthers: A Journey through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground

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Overview

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...

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Among the Truthers: A Journey through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kay, the managing editor and columnist at Canada's National Post newspaper, delivers an insightful (and slightly scary) exploration of America's conspiracy movements. Focusing primarily on the Truthers (who believe the U.S. government engineered the September 11 attacks)—and to a lesser extent, the Birthers (those who claim President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim), Holocaust deniers, and JKF assassination theorists—he argues that we must take these movements seriously, however outré they may seem, for the disturbing anti- intellectual trend they epitomize: a "nihilistic distrust of government" and a "rejection of logic and rational discourse." Kay, who spent three years immersing himself in conspiracy culture, traces America's flourishing conspiracism back to Greco-Roman times and explores the technological developments that allow conspiracy theories to flourish: Web sites and message boards where Truthers and Birthers can get news "tailored to their pre-existing obsessions." Kay, although generally a fair-minded conservative, reveals that he isn't immune to conspiracy theories himself: he excoriates the rise of multiculturalism and feminism in the academy for prompting a "reconstruction (and in some cases wholesale invention) of history according to the viewpoint of women, blacks, gays... a project that replaced the historian's once unquestioned goal of objective truth with an explicitly political, Marxist-leaning agenda aimed at empowerment and solidarity-building." (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062004819
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/17/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 713,719
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JONATHAN KAY is a managing editor, columnist and blogger at Canada’s National Post newspaper. His freelance articles have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, Commentary magazine, Salon, Reader’s Digest and Newsweek. He is a visiting fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. His first book, The Volunteer, co-authored with Michael Ross, became a top-ten bestseller in 2007.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Introduction: Stumbling on the Truthers 1

Don't Call Them "Nutbars" 4

Some Caveats 19

Part 1 The Truth Movement and Its Ancestors

1 American Conspiracism: A Brief History 25

Programmed for Conspiracy 25

Populism and Paranoia: How Politics Shaped American Conspiracism 33

The Men in Black: How Technology Shaped American Conspiracism 51

The Emergence of "Flowchart Conspiracism" 57

2 Warrant for Genocide, Blueprint for Paranoia 65

A Dark Fairy Tale 67

Singularity 71

Boundless Evil 76

Incumbency 81

Greed 83

Cui Bono? 87

Hypercompetence 89

Covering Their Tracks 93

3 False Flags and Lava Lamps: The Birth of a Conspiracy Movement 99

Ken Jenkins: Videographer, Flower Child, Truther 99

Operation Northwoods and Its Legacy 106

Project for the New American Century: A Modern Northwoods 116

4 "Show Me the Birth Certificate": Conspiracism in the Age of Obama 121

Joseph Farah: Birther Extraordinaire 121

Drinking Tea in Nashville 124

Enter the False Prophet 135

Glenn Beck and the New Populism 138

Part II Meet the Truthers

5 Why They Believe: A Psychological Field Guide to Conspiracists 149

The Midlife Crisis Case 151

The Failed Historian 159

The Damaged Survivor 170

The Cosmic Voyager 179

The Clinical Conspiracist 183

The Crank 187

The Evangelical Doomsayer 196

The Firebrand 199

6 The Church of Conspiracism 205

Enter Satan 205

The Devil's Legacy 211

Lives of the Prophets 215

The Cultic Milieu 218

Part III Accessories to Trutherdom

7 Democratizing Paranoia: How the Web Revolutionized Conspiracism 227

The Legacy of Flight 800 227

Muckraking 2.0 230

Through the Internet's Looking Glass 238

The Revolution Will Be Televised 250

History Belongs to the YouTube Victors 258

8 Tin-Foil Mortarboards: Conspiracism's Ivy League Enablers 261

Jacques Derrida's Hall of Mirrors 261

Among the Antiracists 273

Lessons from the Yale Law Journal 279

9 The Protocols Revisited: The New Face of Anti-Semitic Conspiracism 285

Showdown in the Bowery 285

Conspiracism's Hateful Sidekick 289

A New Home on the Left 294

The 9/11 Effect 300

Jews Drift Right 305

10 Confronting Conspiracism 309

A Pound of Cure 309

An Ounce of Prevention 316

Index 329

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    Great!

    Includes fascinating subject matter &thoughtful critique

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