Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The United States of Paranoia


Today’s Nonfiction post is on The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Walker. It is 418 pages long including 75 pages of intense notes. The publisher is HarperCollins Publishing. The cover has words like White Water, Ku Klux Klan, Flying Saucers, and more on it; black text on white background with the title in a blue box, the subtitle in a yellow box and the author’s name in an orange box. The intended reader is someone who likes conspiracy theories and is an adult. There is no sex but some descriptions of violence and foul language used. The author does not use the language but it is in quotes. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- The books editor of Reason magazine explores the origins, evolution, legacy, and effect of paranoia in American politics, and culture, from the colonial era to today.
The United States of Paranoia is a history of America’s demons. Conspiracy theories, Jesse Walker explains, aren’t just a feature in the fringe: they’ve been a potent force across the political spectrum- the center as well as the extremes- from the colonial era to the present. Walker argues that conspiracy stories need to be read not just as claims either to be believed or debunked but also as folklore. When a tale takes hold, as something true about the anxieties and experiences of the people who believe and repeat it is revealed, even if the story says nothing true about the objects of the theory itself.
With intensive research and a deadpan sense of humor, The United States of Paranoia combines the rigor of real history with the punch of pulp fiction. The first half of the book lays out five conspiracy narratives that recur in American politics and popular culture, zeroing in on particular examples from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries: the Enemy Outside, the Enemy Within, the Enemy Below, the Enemy Above, and the Benevolent Conspiracy. The second half of the book looks at how those primal stories have played out in different contexts in the last half century, from Watergate to Waco to the War on Terror.

Review- I was so excited to get and read this book. I am a conspiracy theorist. I find conspiracy theories to be a lot of fun and interesting. I loved this book. It is well written, clever, and the notes in the back are just great. When I was reading this book I had two bookmarks in it. One bookmark for where I was in the book and the other one for where I was in the notes. The notes are very detailed and sometimes you need to read the notes to get the full picture. The writing is strong and very readable. The only thing that I will warn you about is this- I could not read this with anything else going on. I had to be in a quiet place because this is so intense. The writing is so detailed that I could not read it with distractions. So if you are looking for a casual read; I do not think that this is for you. But if you willing to concentrate then this book is very rewarding. But I love conspiracy theories.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given this book from HarperCollins in exchange for my review.