The good folks at Vice have interviewed me about my upcoming book The United States of Paranoia. Here's an excerpt from the intro:
Free-floating fear and half-baked ideas about what's really going on have been a more significant part of American history than is generally accepted, according to Jesse Walker's thorough, meticulously researched book, The United States of Paranoia. "Pundits tend to write off political paranoia as a feature of the fringe," he writes in his introduction. "They're wrong. The fear of conspiracies has been a potent force across the political spectrum, from the colonial era to the present, in the establishment as well as the extremes." He then goes on to explore what amounts to an alternate history of the US—from the Puritans' panic over witches and colonial Americans' panics about Indians plotting in the wilderness or slaves concocting murderous rebellions to Watergate and the FBI's often bizarre, occasionally illegal COINTELPRO operations to batshit (and sometimes ironic) theories about UFOs and the Illuminati to the fear of Satanists in the 80s to the militia movement to 9/11 Truthers to people who are paranoid about paranoid conspiracy theorists. Along the way there are fascinating tangents about now-mostly-forgotten fringe figures like John Todd, who traveled around the country in the 70s spinning insane tales to church congregations of how witches and the Illuminati controlled everything from the military to rock music.