Conspiracies of Conspiracies

How Delusions Have Overrun America

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Pub Date 15 Mar 2019 | Archive Date 01 May 2019

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Description

It’s tempting to think that we live in an unprecedentedly fertile age for conspiracy theories, with seemingly each churn of the news cycle bringing fresh manifestations of large-scale paranoia. But the sad fact is that these narratives of suspicion—and the delusional psychologies that fuel them—have been a constant presence in American life for nearly as long as there’s been an America.

In this sweeping book, Thomas Milan Konda traces the country’s obsession with conspiratorial thought from the early days of the republic to our own anxious moment. Conspiracies of Conspiracies details centuries of sinister speculations—from antisemitism and anti-Catholicism to UFOs and reptilian humanoids—and their often incendiary outcomes. Rather than simply rehashing the surface eccentricities of such theories, Konda draws from his unprecedented assemblage of conspiratorial writing to crack open the mindsets that lead people toward these self-sealing worlds of denial. What is distinctively American about these theories, he argues, is not simply our country’s homegrown obsession with them but their ongoing prevalence and virulence. Konda proves that conspiracy theories are no harmless sideshow. They are instead the dark and secret heart of American political history—one that is poisoning the bloodstream of an increasingly sick body politic.

It’s tempting to think that we live in an unprecedentedly fertile age for conspiracy theories, with seemingly each churn of the news cycle bringing fresh manifestations of large-scale paranoia. But...


Advance Praise

Michael Barkun | author of A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America "Conspiracies of Conspiracies is clearly written and deeply researched, a fine-grained account of American conspiracism from the earliest years of the Republic to the present day. There is scarcely a manifestation that Konda has omitted, and periods that others have merely sketched out are presented here in a detail that can be found in few other places. The times being what they are, the subject is (alas!) likely to remain of interest for many years to come."


Michael Butter | author of Plots, Designs, and Schemes: American Conspiracy Theories from the Puritans to the Present “Bridging the divide between quantitative and qualitative approaches to the topic, Konda provides a comprehensive overview of the cultural and political work that conspiracy theories have done in the United States over the past two hundred years. He explains why these theories have recently made a comeback on the political stage and dissects a media landscape that increasingly tends to detect conspiracism everywhere.”

Michael Barkun | author of A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America "Conspiracies of Conspiracies is clearly written and deeply researched, a fine-grained account of...


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Featured Reviews

A very interesting book. It's well researched, engaging and well written. Highly recommended! Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC

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Conspiracies of Conspiracies by Thomas Milan Konda is a very well researched eye-opening work of intellectual history, though in this case perhaps intellectual is a misnomer. It certainly explores the ways in which conspiracy theories have influenced history, particularly United States history, and in doing so highlights our collective tendency, here taken to the extreme, of making patterns fit what we believe rather than what they actually mean. While there is a lot to recommend about this volume I will comment about what it did for me. Perhaps this will give some idea what you can also get out of it. We are all aware of the many conspiracy theories floating around today. They become so numerous and amorphous that they either lose all definition (for those of us not convinced of them) or become congealed into one big conspiracy with little tentacles going every where (for those more likely to believe them). This volume broke down both the history of the theories, since many have common origins, or at least common faux-origin stories, and the places where they overlap and contradict each other. For me, this made them easier to grasp and thus easier to confront. The believers who have completely gone over won't be swayed by any counter arguments, this is their religion, but those who are troubled by society and might see some part of some conspiracy as a possible explanation is still within the realm of rational thought and can be talked down from the edge. Knowing these theories helps arm us in our battle against irrational fear driving irrational conspiracy theories. That said, it is also valuable as simply a work of history and as a background to our current world where so-called world leaders fan the flames of conspiracy theories for personal gain to the detriment of the countries they might supposedly be leading. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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I learned so much from this book. It's both a history of conspiracy theories and exploring the different theories (including the one about the reptilian overlords that I honestly thought was just a joke, but actually is a real conspiracy theory), and exploring the psychology behind it. And honestly, it's terrifying. If there's anything this book proves, it's that conspiracy theories are incredibly dangerous and damaging. People who fall into that rabbit hole hardly ever come out of it, thanks to algorithms, social pressure and the conspiracism's natural instinct to defend itself against any form of criticism. And sure, some people will naturally be inclined to believe in conspiracy theories and those will be difficult to persuade, but others aren't, yet those are getting caught up in the whirlwind. This book doesn't come with easy answers or a step-by-step guide of how to fix the problem, but it does help us understand it. And that is so important.

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In Conspiracies of Conspiracies, Thomas Konda traces America’s obsession with conspiracies from the early days of the republic till today. Though the book focuses on American people & conspiracies, I believe the theme of book is universal, especially in today’s Post-Truth Era. Conspiracies of Conspiracies details centuries of sinister conspiracies—from antisemitism and anti-Catholicism to UFOs and reptilian humanoids. Thomas Konda has analysed several conspiracy theories, has shown their origins and how they fit into the conspiracy world. From the Invention of Conspiracy Theory to the Emergence of the Hidden Hand & New World Order to Pan-Ideological Conspiracy Theories: Denialism and Cover-Up, the book covers a range of topics. Konda explains why these theories have recently made a comeback on the political stage and dissects a media landscape that increasingly tends to detect conspiracy everywhere. Konda attempts to explore the mindsets that lead people toward these conspiracies and how these conspiracy theories have influenced history, particularly United States history. This book also attempts to track the origins of some of the more prevalent conspiracy theories like America leaving the gold standard, Communism being a Jewish conspiracy among others, since many have common origins and mostly they overlap and contradict each other. This book doesn't come with easy answers and you may need some background knowledge of history including the Illuminati, the Free Masons etc to truly grasp it all but it does help you understand it. Overall, it’s a well researched and well written book offering some new insights. Many thanks to the publishers University of Chicago Press, the author Thomas Milan Konda and NetGalley for the ARC.

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Open any social media platform and you can slam into a conspiracy theory in a matter of clicks. These often asinine views have been stretched and further distorted in an attempt at legitimization— forum posts become memes become tweets become … well, information sharing goes on and on. However, though digital distribution is relatively new, there’s absolutely nothing new about the theories themselves, as Professor Thomas Milan Konda thoroughly explores. The research presented is more than thorough. Konda explores the rise of the illogical, tracing conspiracy theories at least to the origins of Freemasonry, its high visibility playing into the idea of something nefarious hiding in plain sight. However, they were hardly the last group to be targeted, and Konda convincingly concludes that consparcism is really the “belief-system” of today. Look no further than false political memes regularly shared or climate change deniers masquerading as television pundits. Konda’s prose does trend academic, but this is refreshing when paired with over-the-top noise of conspiracy theories. It’s logic and reason versus unbelievable schemes, the clinical versus the flashy. Konda keeps his points grounded, and the result is a slow yet interesting approach that doesn’t take the bait of some of the more extreme propositions. This careful approach also allows Konda to explore some incredibly serious topics with tact. A lot of the conspiracies examined here stem from an anti-Semitic or xenophobic viewpoint. Konda squashes this hateful rhetoric quickly without giving it any legitimacy. However, he also expresses the seriousness of these ideas gaining more mainstream traction. It’s frustrating, fascinating, and intensely informative.

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