Conspiracy Theory in America

Paperback | February 15, 2014

byLance DeHaven-Smith

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Ever since the Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman assassinated President John F. Kennedy, people who doubt that finding have been widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists, despite credible evidence that right-wing elements in the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service—and possibly even senior government officials—were also involved. Why has suspicion of criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government been rejected out-of-hand as paranoid thinking akin to superstition?

Conspiracy Theory in America investigates how the Founders’ hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced by today’s blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition. Lance deHaven-Smith reveals that the term “conspiracy theory” entered the American lexicon of political speech to deflect criticism of the Warren Commission and traces it back to a CIA propaganda campaign to discredit doubters of the commission’s report. He asks tough questions and connects the dots among five decades’ worth of suspicious events, including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, the crimes of Watergate, the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal, the disputed presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the major defense failure of 9/11, and the subsequent anthrax letter attacks.

Sure to spark intense debate about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of our government, Conspiracy Theory in America offers a powerful reminder that a suspicious, even radically suspicious, attitude toward government is crucial to maintaining our democracy.

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From the Publisher

Ever since the Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman assassinated President John F. Kennedy, people who doubt that finding have been widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists, despite credible evidence that right-wing elements in the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service—and possibly even senior government officials—were also involved. ...

LANCE DEHAVEN-SMITH Tallahassee, Florida DeHaven-Smith is Professor in the Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. A former President of the Florida Political Science Association, deHaven-Smith is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Battle for Florida, which analyze...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.87 × 5.33 × 0.73 inPublished:February 15, 2014Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292757697

ISBN - 13:9780292757691

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations and Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: High-Crime Blind
    • A Curious History
    • A Flawed and Un-American Label
    • Naming the Taboo Topic
    • Perceptual Silos
    • Causes and Consequences
    • The CIA’s Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy
    • The Rest of the Book
  • Chapter 1: The Conspiracy-Theory Label
    • Perspectives on Conspiracy Beliefs
    • The Assassination of President Kennedy
    • The Single-Bullet (or “Magic-Bullet”) Theory
    • The Assumption Someone Would Talk
    • Flawed Definitions
    • The Term’s Meaning in Practice
    • A SCAD Hypothesis
    • Reforms after President Kennedy’s Assassination
  • Chapter 2: The American Tradition of Conspiracy Belief
    • The Political Science of the Founders
    • Conspiracy Theories of the Founders
    • The Sedition Act of 1798 and the “Burr Conspiracy”
    • The Dialectic of Corruption and Reform
    • Conspiracy Charges at Nuremberg
    • How Conspiracy Deniers Misread History
  • Chapter 3: Conspiracy Denial in the Social Sciences
    • The Transformation of U.S. Social Science
    • Philosophical Perspectives on Conspiracy Theory
    • The Conspiracy Theories of Charles Beard
    • Popper’s Critique of the "Conspiracy Theory of Society”
    • Strauss on “Noble Lies” and “Salutary Myths”
    • American Neoconservatism
  • Chapter 4: The Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy
    • Subtle Speech
    • Decoding the Dispatch
    • CIA “Collaborator” John P. Roche
    • Popularization, Association, Connotation
  • Chapter 5: State Crimes against Democracy
    • Scientific Conceptualization
    • The Victim’s Perspective
    • SCAD Conceptualization
    • Searching for Novel Facts in 9/11
  • Chapter 6: Restoring American Democracy
    • America’s Family Secrets
    • Reform Where Law and Politics Meet
    • Selective Totalitarianism
    • The Struggle Ahead
    • A Simple Proposal for Reform
  • Appendix: CIA Dispatch 1035-960
  • Tables
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Editorial Reviews

"An intriguing take on the origins and implications of conspiracy theories and the paranoid mindset itself. . . . Confronted with these compelling arguments, even the most incredulous readers will find themselves questioning their own preconceived notions of paranoia, governmental transparency, and conspiracy theorists." - Publishers Weekly