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The United States Of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory (2013)

by Jesse Walker(Favorite Author)
3.51 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0062135570 (ISBN13: 9780062135575)
languge
English
publisher
Harper
review 1: Full disclosure: I read and commented on a portion of this book while it was a work in progress, and I'm kindly credited in the acknowledgements. I'll be using this as a required text in my "Witch Hunts, Conspiracy Theories, and U.S. Society" university course.In a tale that stretches from the 17th century to the present, Jesse Walker proposes that five major conspiracy narratives recur not just on the fringes but also in the mainstream of U.S. politics and popular culture. They are the following:1. The Enemy Outside, "who plots outside the community's gates";2. The Enemy Within, "comprising villainous neighbors who can't easily be distinguished from friends";3. The Enemy Above, "hiding at the top of the social pyramid";4. The Enemy Below, "lurking at the bottom"; and 5. T... morehe Benevolent Conspiracy, "which isn't an enemy at all: a secret force working behind the scenes to improve people's lives."Walker's careful research, ironic humor, and easygoing journalistic style make this a fascinating, entertaining, and at times mind-blowing read. I greatly appreciate his thorough notes, which also make this work a terrific springboard for further reading.
review 2: Jesse Walker a writer for the Libertarian skeptic magazine Reason has put together a book on political paranoia in American politics. Unlike Richard Hofstadter "the Paranoid Style in American Politics" Walker doesn't merely focus on paranoia as a phenomenon of the fringe but instead practiced by the centrist mainstream as well throughout American history. He outlines the five forms conspiracy theories take (enemy from outside, enemy as neighbor, enemy from below, enemy from above, and benign conspiracies). He goes on to spend half the book on conspiracy theories since the 1970s and the watershed of Watergate. I like walkers values of skepticism he brings to the subject of conspiracy theories in American politics even if I don't share his libertarian world view. This is a valuable treatment on the centrality of paranoia in politics even if I feel he scrutinizes the left more heavily than warranted. It is also a fun read. Like reading Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum if he decided to write about American history instead of fiction. less
Reviews (see all)
moksha
Just read this and Radley Balko's book and consider yourself well-versed in American ridiculousness.
chuncheng
Very uneven. There is an entire chapter devoted to interpreting the Rambo movies, each in sequence.
Ferris_Song
great summary, and great source of info, but a little too libertarian for anyone who isn't that.
alisha
Utter crap and boring too.
Nishada
interesting stuff
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