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.
“The theories Konda weighs and finds wanting are fascinating in their perversity, from chemtrails to climate change deniers. A book that deserves wide circulation and consideration.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“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 Barkun author of A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America)
“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 Butter author of Plots, Designs, and Schemes: American Conspiracy Theories from the Puritans to the Present)
About the Author
Thomas Milan Konda is emeritus professor of political science at SUNY Plattsburgh.