tv Book TV CSPAN September 28, 2013 2:30pm-3:16pm EDT
you have to read the book to learn about the fifth. i women were not selected in any scientific fashion. but rather i read through hundreds and probably more than hundreds of unpublished memoirs primarily collected by this foundation until i found subjects who described in enough detail their lives during and after the goo lard. i did not want to write a story about one, but i wanted to get to know each family. ..
>> politics and prose fashion, today we present a book dealing with an american history of conspiracies just three days ago the c i a admitted a place known as area 51 does actually exists. even though they dissolve all knowledge of any aliens, so called conspiracy theorists' rejoiced. [laughter] >> the best way to sum up this book is page 8 where he says hundreds tend to write off political paranoia as a feature
of the fringe. they are wrong. the fear of conspiracies has been a potent force across the political spectrum from the colonial era to the president, in the establishment as well as the strain sell all 338 of jesse's readable pages lay out in clear, often funny as well often surprising detail how that is still the case includes one present-day but now polk conspiracy that we talked about when waiting that i personally remember made its round everywhere was the folded $20 bill trek right after 9/11. anyone familiar with that? a few folks, jesse lays it out on page 302, if you fold -- for folks who don't know if you fold the 20 just the right way it alleges to show how the world
trade towers are ablaze if you fold it right. allegedly foreshadowing the 9/11 attacks. for me that can easily dispelled as quackery but some other examples of so-called conspiracies might take about 50 years for the real information to come out and the truth to be exposed. speaking the truth being exposed their coming for me right now so jesse walker is the senior book editor at reason magazine, univ. of michigan alum who has written rebels in the air, rebels on the air:an alternative history of radio in america in 2001. you can follow him on twitter or his blog page. there coming for me. the perpetual column at
jessewalker.com. right up the way in baltimore with his wife and two daughters. i now present you jesse walker and his second book, "the united states of paranoia: a conspiracy theory". [applause] >> what i am going to do is read a bit from the book and talk about the book and there will be a shooting and all we a little more from the book and we will take youestion as will the police. on january 30th coup. anyone here mean that? great. on january 30, 1835, as andrew jackson exited a congressman's funeral an assassin drew a weapon and pointed it at the president. the kissel miss 5. the gunman pulled a second weapon from his cloak.
voted it too continues to fire. jackson and several bystanders subdued the would-be killer. an unemployed house painter named richard ryan. later informed interrogators he was king richard iii, jackson had killed his father and with jackson dead money would be more plenty. he was judged insane and committed to an asylum wary died three decades later. at least that was the official story. wasn't long before two witnesses filed affidavits claiming to have seen lawrence at the home of mississippi senator john poindexter shortly before the attack. poindexter was the noisy opponent to the jackson administration and projection newspapers accused him of plotting the president's murder. so the jackson's allies in congress to quickly convened an investigation. jackson himself told bystanders after the assault that the shooter had been hired by that rascal poindexter to assassinate me.
some of jackson's critics countered by saying the present stage the assault to gain public support and this explains why both had failed. many jacksonian pointed their finger at john calhoun, the south carolina senator and former vice president arguing if he had not been directly involved in the assassination attempt at the very least he had incited it with a speech denouncing jackson as an american caesar which they did before they could compare you to hitler. when the republican writer john smith died 29 years later he saw an even more devilish plot at work. calhoun might not have been directly involved in the attack. with this man was induced to attempt to murder the president by listening to his disclaimer making
if jackson was put in the ground. and a powerful and yet its way. in 1841 president william henry harrison told calhoun he wasn't sure he was willing to annex texas. it needed to union as a slave state. person promptly died. and that our senate was to blame. president zachary taylor opposed the slave power's agenda, he was killed by the same poison. james buchanan -- the slave a crisis appeared. narrowly survived one of the most elaborate assassination plot ever conceived. 1857, poise and all the bulls containing sugar at the national hotel in washington d.c.. some drink coffee, coffee drinkers used sugar so the
southern diner would be scared into tea drinking including buchanan. the future president barely survived the illnesses that followed. intimidated by the attempted assassinations, buchanan became more than ever the tools of the slave power. there is little evidence for to deny explosive charges. you can make the case harrison adds dr. phil wanted to help the ailing president but no more than conjecture supports that anyone deliberately killed him. the coroner's debunked the believe the exact retailer had been poisoned when his body was exhumed in 1991 and buchanan was not even president on february 23rd, 1857. the dysentery broke out at the hotel when buchanan stayed there a month earlier and again when he returned for his inauguration. to date the outbreak we usually a tribute to a sewage backup that contaminated food and water but at the time several stories circulated blaming poisoners for the illnesses with suspects ranging from chinese, ball to a
band of homicidal abolitionists and conveniently for the tea and coffee thesis included the southern congressman from mississippi. the book was published in 1864, the country was at war with the south and when the new edition appeared two years later under the title history of the plots and crimes of the great conspiracy to overthrow liberty in america of the nation was reeling from the assassination of abraham lincoln. in that atmosphere a book that feels like a 1970s conspiracy movie set in the antebellum era received respectful notice in the new york times and excerpted in the chicago tribune, republican papers placed it in philadelphia, harrisburg, trenton and new york city and in pennsylvania even the democratic eastern express proclaimed it the most powerful book of the century. nor did i invent the theory from nothing. he drew on rumors floating through whig and republican circles for years.
after lincoln was elected well before his book appeared several supporters of the incoming president sent letters warning him to watch out for the plotters who would tell two of his predecessors. general person with the short time after he was installed in office one concerned citizen pointed out and general tailored of the short time after he took his seat, be careful at the king's table, what each and drink you take. another letter informed lincoln that i have often heard it stated by physicians that it was an undoubted fact that our last two whig president, person and taylor, into a sudden and lamentable end by subtle poison administered in their food at the white house. after lincoln died at least two prominent ministers, from the ford and william godwin of connecticut worked suppose the murders of person of taylor into their sermon. rev. henry ward beecher invoked their alleged assassination, an article for the new york wetter, added the and i secessionist
democrat stephen douglas to the list of victims writing he had been killed because the physician and the party made him one of the most efficient champions against the rebellion. during the effort to impeachment and's southern successor president andrew johnson representative james mitchell ashley of ohio brought up the same accusation declaring harrison, taylor and buchanan had been, quote, poisoned for the express purpose of putting the vice president in the presidential office of. in may secularism 68 an extraordinary article in the new york tribune managed, accusing the democratic conspiracy of engineering the malaria outbreak. after commenting zachary taylor fell under the vapors of washington and died because he was prone to acting honestly and straightforward the tribune writer claimed washington and subsequent years was free of malaria democrat to win the new republican party began to gain strength and it was possible
they might become the ruling power in congress the water of washington grew dangerous. hotels, particularly the national became penthouses and dozens of heretics group sickened to death. the contagions continued until lincoln put the walls of the capital under the care of loyal soldiers ending the outbreak but after lincoln was deposed the pattern returns. before the vote to impeach johnson we had a return of the bad water. two or three senators, republicans, are frustrated with sudden illness. what does it mean? why does it happen that whenever a master demon of slavery, never at any other time, we find the air and the water and the whiskey of washington full of poison? that would be a great name for a bar. the assassination theorists were not the only americans worried
about conspiracies of slaveholders. the phrase slave power was common currency in the north where it was used to describe the political influence of the planter of wheat. this was not in itself a conspiracy theory but not adopted a conspiratorial, ring. in the words of russell denied the slave power and an alleged agenda to extend slavery to the territories and free states possibly to whites and destroy civil liberties control of policies of the federal government and complete the formation of a nationwide ruling aristocracy based on a slave economy. lincoln himself believed he could clearly see a powerful plot to make slavery universal and perpetual. in his famous house divided speech he engaged in conspiratorial speculation. senator henry wilson later to serve as ulysses s. grant's vice president, slavery, organize conspiracies in the cabinet, conspiracies in congress, conspiracies in the states, conspiracies in the army,
conspiracies in the navy, conspiracies everywhere for the overthrow of the government and the destruction of the republic. meanwhile southerners had elaborate conspiracy theories of their own blaming slave revolts, real and imagined, on the mack nations of rebellions soaking the abolitionists, treacherous land pirates and other outside agitators. it was a paranoid time in america. it is always a paranoid time. that is how the book begins. i will tell you what else is in it and as i don't go too long by will read you a little bit more. basically this is a history of political paranoia in america and when i say paranoia i mean colloquially, not clinically. virtually everyone is capable of being a conspiracy theorist, political paranoia. when i say everyone i include you, me and the founding fathers. the first half of the book
satsop five recurring, i should at all so, assumptions people have made, that is either an attack on conspiracy theorists or i am espousing all my favorite conspiracy theories. neither is true. i am frank about it. if i think a conspiracy theory is nonsense also discuss some conspiracies that genuinely did have. i have a chapter on the 1970s investigation after watergate that exposed various awful deeds of the cia and fbi and so on. i am really interested in the stories. the stories that keep getting told again and again. sometimes they sound familiar just to put different names in them. what those stories say, because even when conspiracy theories have nothing true about the objects of the theory it says something true about the anxieties and experiences of people who believe it. they are a form of folklore,
they catch on and worth paying attention to. the first half of the book lays out five primal archetypal conspiracy stories that are told over and over. i will give you their names, you can inquire more about them in the question and answer if you like, the enemy outside, the enemy within, the enemy below, the enemy above and the benevolent conspiracy because sometimes there are conspiracies that are supposed to be the good guys. the second half of the book looks at the last half century of american history, through the lens with the tool kit of the -- that i set out in the first half of the book, from watergate to weight go to the more on terror. i look along the way at sort of the rise of a sort of self conscious conspiracy subculture. also the rise of the ironic style of conspiracy theorizing which is people are not so much
interested in espousing more debunking the theory but just having fun with it, may be building one of their own that says something, looking at other people and mining what sort of metaphors or what have you they confined. and i also make sure to look at the conspiracy theories of the establishment which are not always called conspiracy furies but often when there is the moral panic a foot all sorts of conspiratorial notions are taken very seriously in government and the mass media. the most extreme recent example would be the satanic ritual abuse care of the 1980s and 90s but there are others as well and often times something that sounds like and is a fringe theory in one decade and have a version of it be promoted by barry central american institutions, mass media and so on in the next decade and say it again. i mentioned the ironic style. one thing at the end of the
chapter on the ironic style i talk about a couple writers who created such vivid conspiracies for fun and wound up going on a radical lands believing them. paul krasner, edited the realist, worth reading and the other who never came back, co-founder of lot mock religion to worship the greek goddess of chaos, a big influence, and the cult novel of treatment of conspiracy theories and who also the distinction of serving in the marines with lee harvey oswald. when oswald and defected to the soviet union, thought this was
interesting to write a novel about him, didn't get published until many decades later, the only book about oswald before the kennedy assassination. jumping to the other section i am going to read, find managed to get drawn into the jfk assassination circus. jim garrison better known as kevin costner these days, the new orleans they a investigating the kennedy assassination in the 60s, jim garrison tried to get him involved in the investigation of the kennedy killing after being rebuffed garrison started suggesting he had been part of the plot. person put out a press release claiming that his story was closely assassinated with the oswald, not just in the marines but a number of locations. and november of 1963. and the new orleans grand jury in 1968, the experience
convinced person's team they were not interested in eemed intent on pigeonholing him as a conservative. i explained several times i am neither a traditionalist or nationalists nor racist, but i oppose the john birch society with political conservatism. i went on to say i am not right winger in individualism but is more an artistic than authoritarian. they looked at me blankly not seeming to hear. as person's allegations read through the underground press put out his side of the story and everything available. and circulations that for lee helped edit. and plankton can be gathered as nourishing food stuff, and mixed with statements by assassination theorists criticizing garrison's pursuit of foreign we.
formally who bore a physical resemblance to his marine friend served as a double for the accused assassin posing as oswald in a time before the president's murder, of oswald's activities. as he fended off garrison added tax he reconsidered his assumptions that oswald acted alone in dallas. in 1973 he read a feature in the yippie tabloid that would later be expanded, formerly wasn't just convince, he began to suspect he really had been involved in the assassination without his knowledge. they have no ties zombie held in reserve in case something went wrong with the oswald plan, started taking the his speculation boosted by new memories of things he believed happened to him before and circulated the manuscript among his contacts and receive various odd events. an incidents do not scare
anyone. an scheme masqueraded a party he was attending. and identification with everyone else's money but for lee was capable of accusing his girlfriend of working for the conspiracy. and a founder wrote to greg hill i am literally surrounded by the intelligence community, literally meant literally by the way. i am literally surrounded by the intelligence community but after the first three attempts and most of the spies are on the same side. he became convinced a co-worker at the sunshine floral co. was really robert wilson living incognito with timothy leary in atlanta for reasons i obviously could not fathom. he wondered whether the collapse of the new left was caused by foreign intelligence agencies dosing organizers with a substance causing heart disease there after maintaining control over its them by means of a microwave device capable of instantly halting a pacemaker.
in 1990s he believes he was the product of a society breeding/environmental manipulation experiment. in the midst of this the real wilson cut off correspondence with for lee. was hard, he said years later, to communicate with somebody when he thinks you are diabolical mind control agent and you are convinced he is a little bit paranoid. he continued to write sometimes with which and self awareness and sometimes not. c-span the last few years of his life working at menial jobs in atlanta and selling trinkets on the streets. was a chaotic conclusion to a chaotic wife, darkly poetic stage for a man who worshiped parents. you know, he told hill in one of his more lucid moments, if i realize all this was going to come true i would have chosen the best. almost 7:30. of we have questions now? questions, accusations?
thoughts? [applause] >> could you tell us what motivated you to write on this topic? >> it was a payoff. i started reading conspiracy theories in my teens, reading serious exposs of the cia and fbi that came out following the church committee report and so on and often they were on the same shelf i found with books that were not quite as reliable but often fun to read. around the same time also, i discovered things like the aluminum august trilogy, the hole ironic style and this whole sort of subculture of people who can appreciate conspiracy theories without necessarily believing all of them were going all the way constantly into the freak out to believe something that isn't true.
so that was the origins of the interest. this book, i wrote it in the last few years and i draw on interviews as a journalist covering stuff about the militia movement and an expected intersection with black nationalists and so on often around conspiracy theories so i had a long time of writing about this to build on. >> thank you. >> if i read your mind correctly you leave the impression that all of the american public is subject to a degree of paranoiac and can be unconsciously developing conspiracy theories? is this partially what you are saying? >> i try not to use words like all. there is always someone who costanza up or being a como or something and not be having a conspiracy theory but there are three things that go in -- i
hate to make any reductive explanation of where conspiracy theories come from because they come from all kinds of places. not like there's a particular type of person who is susceptible or whatever. there are three things going on. one is we naturally seek patterns, we naturally create narrative to tell stories, that is how we make sense of the world, we organize things. we constantly have things to be afraid of and gaps in our knowledge that we are then creating stories about to explain the world. that makes you printed conspiracy theories. when you throw on the affected sometimes people really do conspired is not like being afraid of where wolves or sea monsters. you can actually point to something and say that happened. the chapter about the 1970s investigation part of it going
on about what actually happened, the actual bonafide conspiratorial behavior but also talking about how that lowered the bar for what people were willing to believe. once you heard that the cia did is you start to imagine the cia did that. and when it starts going into pop culture and we get those great movies that came out around the time that in turn also influenced the way people form their narrative. i hope that answers your question. >> conspiracy theory spread, have to be picked up, i am wondering what your thoughts are about the internet, makes it so easy to spread, may be easier than ever. can that be corrected? does the internet -- do you see the internet having an impact? conspiracy theories now and in the future? >> not so much on the quantity as in the velocity with which they spread and also the way is
a mix. really in the 1990s particularly it had been building before the 90s but in the 90s there was a sort of golden age of the militiamen and the hippies and the black nationalists and the uso spies all reading each other's stuff and you could have all sorts of odd combinations or what might seem at first odd combinations emerge. that is only intensified since then. >> what is the difference between -- what makes the difference between misinformation and the conspiracy theory? >> two things. >> a lot of misinformation, they don't all become blown up, i am thinking about like the death panel with obamacare. >> i actually struggled with whether or not it was right to
describe death panels as a conspiracy theory. i think i did. they do have the conspiratorial image of people in a room condemning people to death. your question is where do you draw the line? i guess you draw the line at the point where someone invokes conspiracy. one thing, two things bother me about the way the phrase conspiracy theory gets thrown around. one is as i said, that if they are embraced by major social institutions or lot of people they are not considered conspiracy theories at least not until retrospect usually. the other is often times anything that challenges dominance social institutions where conventional wisdom gets called a conspiracy theory even if there is no conspiracy involved. i think it was mother jones recently had a top nine
>> this is me looking at american history through the things that people have been afraid of that obviously, for all i know, the french are scared to death of everything. [laughter] you know, i don't -- i mean, it is clearly russia and the middle east, many countries that you hear about conspiracy theories, although i know that the dominance is going to differ from culture to culture. and the only conspiracy story from abroad that i cover is the one that has influence in america. and i'm not making a quantitative statement. >> so we try to sometimes have our relations with latin america and this is full of ideas about practically everything that the united states does that is a cia conspiracy.
but to me this is as i was attending a meeting at the johnson library and ran into what was it? >> he was the secretary of the cabinet. and it was like you don't realize that castro was getting ready to tell kennedy in a matter of a fact, i had interviewed him many times and if anything he had been looking forward to kennedy being part of generational understanding and for eisenhower to understand where he came from.
ascribing things and it is these people and surely there must be a conspiracy there. and obviously the chapter and this isn't the evolution and gradually that sort of expands to include and the second bank of the united states, and subsidized by the state and the trust and trusts and so on. there are all sorts of economic related conspiracy thinking here.
>> what can you do about these conspiracy theories that have no institutions with the credibility to address and resolve these competing views of reality and i will just take the 9/11. there is the government case and there is the architects and engineers case, which says that the government's case is not possible under the laws of physics. and that is pretty compelling is a dispute. so what do we do when faced with conspiracy theories that are incredibly diverse of? >> there are a few things and as far as, i don't think conspiracy theories can be dismissive.
but there are also a product of social divisions and sometimes you can have more than others as part of what produces this. and wondering what is going on in the other factions as well. of course then they turn around and reinforce it. but i don't think there is like some magic bullet to recommend social divisiveness and i think that there is always going to be the debate over the proper direction for the country. and i want to eliminate all of the divisiveness because we need to have this. >> anyone else? >> okay, yes. the enemy outside. and the enemy outside is part of
the two classic model is better the fear of native americans. and the roman catholic church. and this is kind of an a threat in the church and the aristocratic old world trying to encourage these systems and there were all kinds of catholics and indians. and the enemy above is at the top of the social hierarchy and the fear of the people at the bottom of it. because people have conspiracy theories too. and fears of this and many have
which happened and which were just slave owners freaking out and brutally packing done. and the enemy within is someone who is not easily identified by where they are from with this social or ethnic and the enemy within is a neighbor of coworkers and might be one of the pod people. and the benevolent conspiracy is sort of working behind the scenes to make life better. and that would include people who have these great visions of christians found in america in secret and creating a higher destiny.
>> and a lot of these ufo people sort of secularize these ideas about higher powers. it is sort of true on that body of storytelling. >> this includes a conspiracy theories and it may be the conspiracy theories prevalent now. >> the kennedy assassination is one of those things that keeps popping up. i don't have a chapter devoted to it or anything like that. but what i will say about it is setting aside questions about wanting to drive people and i don't buy it, what the warren
commission says. i don't want to psychologizing entire thing. and questions based on the reading of the evidence. nonetheless, the conspiracy theory and other forms of tyranny that don't involve conspiracies and such a part of the kennedy assassin parallels in the fears that were part of that as well. so in that, in 1963 on the one hand, the president was shot in dallas in the resort of this big fear of the radical light at the time. many worried about the john birch society and there is this instant assumption that oswald must be an agent of the radical right or a member of it. then it comes out that he defected to the soviet union for a wild and had a pro-cuban activism conspiracy theorist that appeared to be
pro-activism. so that fed into the cold war fields. and there is more and more fears that maybe the government had a part of this with post-watergate and investigation that breaks through. there is a wave of books explaining the cia and the fbi. including hwm and there are people he was in the caa before we knew he was in the cia. and this is not in the book, but he continued publishing conspiracy investigation on what this and enabling which was which. and he fabricated some stuff trying to implicate bush senior on the kennedy assassination.
and then ran like a notice saying that this guy likes me and claimed that you know, the scents are famous for having a magazine and i just removed this from one category to the other and retrospect. and so the mafia is everything and so on. but i do think that that is one thing of looking about the kennedy assassination. >> questions? >> may be the intersection of conspiracy theories and investigative journalism. we have seen so much more within the last 10 years about the freedom of information act. and it seems like there is a much greater awareness of the
idea and certain documents will be released in a few noteworthy incidents with some pretty serious information that came to pass and had he seen any trends that are emerging in terms of maybe these are not alone blown conspiracies within that community of people that were doing the investigation? and this is part of the legitimate conspiracies that exists. it is often the investigative journalist at work and they would still try to do what they are doing and just as there are conspiracy theories and some that aren't. there are good investigative
journalism tactics and they actually had this inside this book that came through as i was checking the proofs to add stuff. it has become actually more difficult in the last decade. if anything, i think this movement is part of it. it is so much easier to find us online. it was so great for my purposes to be able to just go to the fbi.gov and download all of these documents that they have made available. it is so much easier to write a book when there is archive.org, all sorts of wonderful entire books that the puritans have published hundreds of years ago.
so hopefully i did not forget to answer your question. >> you mentioned at the beginning of the talk how america had been on its paranoid stance with people and i'm i was sort of put in mind of the great reason and tv video -- i think it was 2010 talking about vitriol and politics. and back in 1800 or whatever, people are calling each other even more names. and i'm wondering if the conspiracy theories that you saw were even more outrageous or less credible or anything like that? >> i will not try to quantify. but if you want to hear that, the jeffersonians and the federalists had such complicated conspiracy theories about vitriolic a
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