The American Style of Paranoid Politics

My latest contribution to JFK Week -- it's like Shark Week, but it happens every 10 years instead of every summer -- is an article for CNN called "The Roots of American Conspiracy Theories." Here's an excerpt:

Why does it always have to be a picture of MY book? This is a pretty good one too.America is not unusually suspicious. Conspiracy stories flourish all over the world, some of them far less plausible than the notion that more than one man was involved in the King or Kennedy killing. As I write, Europe is undergoing one of its periodic panics about international child-stealing gypsy conspiracies. Over the summer, the prime minister of Turkey blamed a global plot for the protests against his government. Last year, the host of Nigerian Idol lashed out at the local press for reporting that he was a high-ranking member of the Illuminati. In Iran, it is apparently considered savvy to claim that the Holocaust was a hoax. The fear of conspiracy isn't the property of any one nation -- it's more like a universal human trait.

But if Americans are not unique in being suspicious, it's true that we can be suspicious in distinctive ways. Every country's conspiracy stories reflect that country's culture, and that's as true of the United States as any place else. There is an American style of paranoid politics.

You can read the rest here.

I also have a cameo in this report about the Kennedy assassination. And I'll be talking about all this stuff on the public radio show Radio West at 11 a.m. Mountain Time today; you can tune in to that here.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I blame America's style of paranoia for the National Treasure movies.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I blame Nic Cage's inability to manage his finances and his lack of self-respect.

  • Hugh Akston||

    National Treasure was the Indiana Jones followup that America never knew it wanted.

  • Square||

    Wasn't National Treasure a rip-off of The Da-Vinci Code, which was in turn a rip-off of Foucault's Pendulum, and thus an example of the Italian paranoid style?

  • ||

    As you should. As you should.

  • CE||

    At least something good came out of it then.

  • OldMexican||

    Feels like somebody is plugging a book somewhere...

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Fuck JFK. It's Doctor Who Week and that 50th anniversary. Let's hear out resident conspiracist dish on whether John Nathan Turner was Mary Whitehouse's plant and Steven Moffat is their love child.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    our

  • DJF||

    So I should not believe that the Democrats conspired to come up with Obamacare?

    Or that the Republicans conspired to bring us McCain and Romney as Presidential candidates?

    Or that the President, Congress, FED conspired to transfer huge sums of money to crony bankers?

  • R C Dean||

    Not sure if Nick really addresses this in the book, but (and I'm projecting here), I think a big part of the appeal of conspiracy theories is that they're just so damn entertaining.

  • Gray Ghost||

    This. They're a game; the adult version of the ghost stories you'd tell around the campfire when you were a kid. I love trying to figure out ones that jusssst might actually be true.

    And then came people like Snowden. Or the whole Monica Lewinsky thing. Reality's weirder than anything we can make up.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Not sure if Nick really addresses this in the book

    Nick who?

  • CE||

    So if we really landed on the moon, where are the photographs showing the constellations to verify the location?

  • Gray Ghost||

    ...where are the photographs showing the constellations to verify the location?


    Doubt you're being serious, but for those who might take that at face value, the Moon Hoax FAQ has that as its first topic.

    Briefly, with the limited dynamic range of film, in a single image you can either capture the stars, or brightly lit objects like the astronauts, but not both.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    Will all of the women that JFK screwed in his life, and who are still alive, please step forward and write a memoir before it is too late. Everyone should know by now that he was assassinated by an irate husband who was never caught. And there must be a few JFK kids running around out there somewhere. This is the man's legacy.

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