A comprehensive history and analysis of the origins, evolution, and current life, legacy, and impact of conspiracy theories in American culture and politics, from the colonial era to today.
Conspiracies have been woven through America’s social tapestry since the beginning of its history. The United States of Paranoia is a unique and fascinating look at how these commonly held beliefs—true or not—have helped shape the American cultural imagination. Using examples from colonial times to today, Jesse Walker makes the compelling argument that paranoia doesn’t just exist on the fringe of society, but is at the core of our national identity.
Walker doesn’t focus on proving or disproving a particular theory. Synthesizing intensive archival research in a pulp fiction narrative, he explores the myths that haunt our nation, breaking them into five distinct categories: The Enemy Outside, The Enemy Within, The Enemy Above, The Enemy Below, and The Benevolent Conspiracy. From J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to Watergate, the “Matrix” phenomenon to the Birthers, Walker reveals how national myths have influenced our lives, including our view of ourselves and our government. He also identifies and explores the little-recognized rise of a subculture obsessed not with one single myth or another, but in the notion of the conspiracy phenomenon itself. This growing obsession, Walker attests, offers profound insight into what it means to be American.
Provocative, well-reasoned, and utterly compelling, the United States of Paranoia will make you rethink the world and the nation in a new and different way.