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Publisher's Summary

We are living in an age of conspiracy theories, whether it's enduring, widely held beliefs such as government involvement in the Kennedy assassination or alien activity at Roswell, fears of a powerful infiltrating group such as the Illuminati, Jews, Catholics, or communists, or modern fringe movements of varying popularity such as birtherism and trutherism. What is it in American culture that makes conspiracy theories proliferate? Who is targeted, and why? Are we in the heyday of the conspiracy theory, or is it in decline?  

Though there is significant scholarly literature on the topic in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and more, American Conspiracy Theories is the first to use broad, long-term empirical data to analyze this popular American tendency. Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent draw on three sources of original data: 120,000 letters to the editor of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune from between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and discussions of conspiracy theories culled from Online news sources, blogs, and other Web sites, also from before and after the election. Through these sources, they are able to address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs. 

Ultimately, they conclude that power asymmetries, both foreign and domestic, are the main drivers behind conspiracy theories, and that those at the bottom of power hierarchies have a strategic interest in blaming those at the top - in other words, "conspiracy theories are for losers." But these "losers" can end up having tremendous influence on the course of history, and American Conspiracy Theories is an unprecedented examination of one of the defining features of American political life.

©2014 Oxford University Press (P)2018 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Ugh. Take A Pass On This Title

This book lost me half-way through and I'll be returning the title. The performer sounds like Ed Wood. The listen becomes a hodge-podge of a mess that really offers no direction to any given topic. And, for a book supposedly based on empirical data, then the author really has no business listing some examples and ending the sentence with "and this or that." Really? The real conspiracy here is that this book may divert your attention from things that really matter like Mary Poppins or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This title was released late enough to at least cover the QAnon conspiracy but it was nowhere to be found. Or maybe it does, and I didn't make it through to the end of the book.

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Underwhelming and Out-of-Date

Written years before Q Anon was even a whisper in the mind of its creators this book seems largely antiquated and honestly off the mark. It takes for granted that conspiracies are ubiquitous and mostly harmless. It doesn't consider that the trajectory of political discourse in the country has become less and less moored to traditional media therefore susceptible to disinformation. In fact the book includes a very poorly aged jab at Donald Trump for his attacks on the truth. Almost scoffing that such a person would ever be capable of ascending to the presidency. Like I said, it didn't age well.

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This one is no good

The authored is perpetually perplexed at the causes of American conspiracy theories anx their prevalence, but never does he examine the actual evidenced conspiracies or atrocities commited by the US government in living memory. Should the aggregious conduct of law enforcement during Ruby Ridge inform our understanding of right wing conspiracy? The author doesnt seem to think so, he never brings it up. Should the tuskeegee experiments inform our understanding of medical conspiracy theories in the black community? Should the WMD conspiracy that started the war in Iraq on false pretenses inform our understanding of 9/11 conspiracies? Its hard to take this guys analysis about conspiracy theories seriously when he fails to take conspiracies seriously.