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Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11

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Overview


Many Americans believe that their own government is guilty of shocking crimes. Government agents shot the president. They faked the moon landing. They stood by and allowed the murders of 2,400 servicemen in Hawaii. Although paranoia has been a feature of the American scene since the birth of the Republic, in Real Enemies Kathryn Olmsted shows that it was only in the twentieth century that strange and unlikely conspiracy theories became central to American politics. In particular, she posits World War I as a critical turning point and shows that as the federal bureaucracy expanded, Americans grew more fearful of the government itself--the military, the intelligence community, and even the President. Analyzing the wide-spread suspicions surrounding such events as Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, Watergate, and 9/11, Olmsted sheds light on why so many Americans believe that their government conspires against them, why more people believe these theories over time, and how real conspiracies--such as the infamous Northwoods plan--have fueled our paranoia about the governments we ourselves elect.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195183535
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/2/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Ch. 1 The Consent of the People
Ch. 2 Lying Us into War
Ch. 3 Masters of Deceit
Ch. 4 The Dealey Plaza Irregulars
Ch. 5 White House of Horrors
Ch. 6 Trust No One
Ch. 7 Cabal of Soccer Moms
Bibliography
Introduction
1. The Consent of the People
2. Lying Us into War
3. Masters of Deceit
4. The Dealey Plaza Irregulars
5. White House of Horrors
6. Trust No One
7. Cabal of Soccer Moms
Bibliography

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Customer Reviews

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