Panic Through the Ages

A new history of panic in America.


I have a review of Mark Stein's book American Panic in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's the opening:

Mark Stein, not Mark Steyn.
Palgrave Macmillan

In 1870, Thomas Mooney ran for governor of California on a platform that one newspaper described as a plan "to exterminate the Mongolian Race." A year later, a mob of 500 whites invaded Chinatown in Los Angeles, burning buildings and lynching 19 men. In 1876, after another mob torched a Chinese community in Antioch, Calif., the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized that the attack should "meet with the hearty approval of every man, woman, and child on the Pacific coast."

According to Mark Stein, author of "American Panic," these assaults were more than murder, arson and ethnic cleansing. They were, he writes, a form of political panic, a phenomenon he defines as "the irrational fear that one's government is in danger." Mr. Stein's book is an informative tour through some of the country's most notable spasms of fear, cataloging alleged threats ranging from Freemasons to feminists, from the Vatican to Shariah law. He is not always convincing, however, when he attempts to define panic or to explain what these episodes mean.

To read the rest, go here. Among other things, it is probably the first time anyone has defended former vice president Dan Quayle and anarcho-communist firebrand Johann Most in the same article. Or, for that matter, the first time I've defended Dan Quayle or Johann Most in any article.