Vice Interviews Jesse Walker About The United States of Paranoia

The good folks at Vice have interviewed me about my upcoming book The United States of Paranoia. Here's an excerpt from the intro:

Can't sleep. Clown will eat me.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.

To read my rambly answers to the interviewer's questions, click here. To preorder the book, click here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brett L||

    Dude, your soft peddling is never going to work. I mean, who else at reason has written a book? No one. You guys need to promote harder. But I do like the alt-text, so I'm going to follow up and read the interview.

  • MJGreen||

    Iron helps us play!

  • Virginian||

    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

    Yeah I always find it funny when people bring up conspiracy theories where the theorists were right as an example of crazy paranoia.

    I mean, "The government is spying on all of us!" isn't a conspiracy theory, it's a fact. It's not paranoia when they really are out to get you.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I always find it funny when people bring up conspiracy theories where the theorists were right as an example of crazy paranoia.

    COINTELPRO is interesting because it was a deliberate attempt to induce paranoia and mistrust. And also, of course, it reveals how much crazy paranoia could be found within the FBI itself.

  • Virginian||

    Well, when the same guy is in charge of the organization for 35 years, and said guy is a bit paranoid himself, you get a paranoid organization.

  • Brandybuck||

    Conspiracy theorists use actual mundane conspiracies as proof of their crazy insane theories. They use actual crazy insane conspiracies that FAILED (like Majestic) as proof that their crazy insane conspiracies are actually succeeding.

    "Of course they are reading your mind with lasers, they did experiments with psychics back in the 70s! Pruuf! Pruuf!"

    Or the guy that told me only yesterday when I laughed at his Bilderberger nuttiness, "How can you deny this? Are you saying the House of Commons and the Queen of England don't exist?!?!"

    In a nutshell, conspiratards are unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and see nothing wrong with pointing at something like Watergate as PRUUF that their worldwide multi-generation grand insider conspiracy of aliens secretly directing the course of history is true

  • Outlaw||

    Are you going to discuss the anti-GMO movement and the conspiracy nuts in it? You know, the ones who say they cause cancer. Oh and the ones who have replaced Satan with Monsanto.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Nothing about GMOs, but some environmental fears do appear.

  • Logical 1||

    Like ghost stories, conspiracy theories are always fun to entertain, until they turn out to be real!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement