Conspiracy Theory in America

Lance deHaven-Smith, Author
Lance deHaven-Smith. Univ. of Texas, $20 (204p) ISBN 978-0-292-74379-3
Reviewed on: 01/28/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Open Ebook - 978-0-292-74910-8
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-292-75769-1
Hardcover - 273 pages - 978-0-292-74911-5
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DeHaven-Smith (The Hidden Teachings of Jesus) offers an intriguing take on the origins and implications of conspiracy theories and the paranoid mindset itself in this accessible academic study. The author, a professor of public administration and policy at Florida State University, provocatively argues that conspiracy theories, far from being merely the stuff of outlier fantasy, have played a major role in the formation of U.S. history; the Founding Fathers, he insists, developed a kind of protoconspiracy theory as a means to justify revolution, citing the abuses of King George as “proof he was plotting to subject the colonies to ‘an absolute tyranny.’ ” And of course no talk of conspiracy theories would be complete without mention of the J.F.K. assassination. Indeed, DeHaven-Smith shows that it was in the aftermath of the killing that the phrase “conspiracy theory” entered American parlance, a phenomenon he chalks up to government efforts to discredit skeptics of the Warren Commission’s findings (which scheme he dubs “the Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy”). DeHaven-Smith ultimately suggests that we “apply the same forensic protocols to elite crimes” (i.e. crimes involving political figures and celebrities) as are used in solving “ordinary cases” involving citizens. Confronted with these compelling arguments, even the most incredulous readers will find themselves questioning their own preconceived notions of paranoia, governmental transparency, and conspiracy theorists. (Apr.)
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