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Conspiracy Theory in America


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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

About the Author

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 analyzes the disputed 2000 presidential election. DeHaven-Smith has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and other national TV and radio shows.


"DeHaven-Smith offers an intriguing take on the origins and implications of conspiracy theories and the paranoid mindset itself in this accessible academic study. The author, a professor of public administration and policy at Florida State University, provocatively argues that conspiracy theories, far from being merely the stuff of outlier fantasy, have played a major role in the formation of U.S. history; the Founding Fathers, he insists, developed a kind of protoconspiracy theory as a means to justify revolution, citing the abuses of King George as 'proof he was plotting to subject the colonies to 'an absolute tyranny.' ' And of course no talk of conspiracy theories would be complete without mention of the J.F.K. assassination. Indeed, DeHaven-Smith shows that it was in the aftermath of the killing that the phrase 'conspiracy theory' entered American parlance, a phenomenon he chalks up to government efforts to discredit skeptics of the Warren Commission's findings (which scheme he dubs 'the Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy'). DeHaven-Smith ultimately suggests that we 'apply the same forensic protocols to elite crimes' (i.e. crimes involving political figures and celebrities) as are used in solving 'ordinary cases' involving citizens. 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." - Publisher's Weekly "Can we always be certain conspiracies aren't being hatched at the highest levels? That's the salutary message of Florida State University political science professor Lance deHaven-Smith." - Express Milwaukee

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