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Real Enemies

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

Kathryn S. Olmsted (Professor of History, Professor of History, University of California, Davis)

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Oxford University Press
11 February 2011
History; History of the Americas; 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000; Conspiracy theories; Constitution: government & the state; Political structures: democracy; Political subversion
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.
By:   Kathryn S. Olmsted (Professor of History Professor of History University of California Davis)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 159mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   443g
ISBN:   9780199753956
ISBN 10:   0199753954
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   11 February 2011
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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

[E]xquisitely researched and annotated new book...[H]er compilation presents a startling read of public history. --Chicago Tribune [An] 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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