“Among the Truthers” is a remarkable book, not least because its author, Jonathan Kay, appears to have emerged with his sanity intact after. Q: I so appreciate Jonathan Kay for highlighting this phenomenon, and Diane for hosting him. I’ve been aware of this trend for several years. In Among the Truthers,journalist Jonathan Kay offers a thoughtful and sobering look at how socialnetworking and Web-based video sharing have engendered a .
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Throughout American history, conspiracy theories have flourished as a way to explain pivotal events: Diane and her guest take an in-depth look at the underground world of conspiracy theorists.
The New Rise of the Ths Theory Have conspiracy theories been gaining momentum in the past several years? Why do there seem to be so many conspiracy theories gaining traction these days? In addition, the mainstream media used to have fairly good control over the flow of information, but the Internet has drastically shifted this power.
Watergate and Iran-Contra were fairly limited, and even so, people have a hard time keeping secrets. There really could have been someone else acting with Oswald. There are so many places a person who has information can go to disseminate that information in a country like the U.
I so appreciate Jonathan Kay for highlighting this phenomenon, and Diane for hosting him. Also, is Jonathan aware of the book Behold a Pale Horse which seems to be seminal for many conspiracy theorists?
The conspiracy theorists I interviewed generally were not violent in any way — and did not even amongg any threat of violence that I could see. Most were bookish internet addicts, not gun-toting types though, of jobathan, there are always exceptions.
And when they hold protests in public places, they obey the instructions of police. tje
Among the Truthers, by Jonathan Kay
And these movements were mostly infiltrated and broken up in the last 15 years, as part of the fallout to the Oklahoma City bombing. I was wondering trtuhers Mr.
Kay has anything to say regarding gender as it relates to conspiracy theorists, i. And I will respond with a quote from my book: Another is that the male mind tends to become more easily obsessed with abstract logic puzzles and eccentric ideological systems that are disconnected from the reality of day-to-day human existence—a subject to which I shall return in Chapter 5.
For all their pretensions to sophisticated truth-seeking, conspiracists often seem stuck in the truthera universe of secret decoder rings and Star Wars action figures. How else could they constantly avoid detection and capture?
Greatest overlooked jonahtan in this conversation: But they are all conspiring in different directions. And this is how a democracy should work — thousands of different actors, all seeking their own advantage, co-operating with one another where truthees have common interest; but also opposing one another where they do not have common interests.
This is how things are supposed to work in an open society more generally — and I am speaking here not just about lobbyists, but also the media, NGOs, different levels of government and voters themselves. Massive ongoing, undiscovered conspiracies are only possible in nations where information and power are tightly controlled such as modern-day North Korea.
But that does not describe the United States. For conspiracy theorists, Osama bin Laden will never die. Facebook pages claiming the terrorist is still alive already have thousands of fans. The dramatic increase of conspiracy theories in recent years is something journalist, Jonathan Kay, believes is more than just a distraction.
In a new book titled, “Among the Aamong he explained why it’s happening, and how fringe theories warp our shared American experience.
And throughout jonaghan hour, we’ll talk about his book, “Among the Truthers: Send us your email to drshow wamu. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good to have you here.
REHM Will you tell me why there seem to be so many conspiracy theories and theorists around these days?
I know they’ve always been around, but why so many these days? KAY I think there’s two main reasons. One is that joanthan theories always flourish tge the aftermath of great traumas, wars, depressions, assassinations of presidents, and America is a very traumatized place right now.
And in traumatized nations, you always get conspiracy theorists trying to explain why this has happened. KAY I truther the second reason is the Internet. You know, it used to be that the mainstream media had pretty good control over the popular imagination of Americans. The Internet has completely changed that. I have a chapter on Internet in my book. One of the things I say is that the Internet has transformed conspiracy theories just as te as it’s transformed journalism and social media.
You say there have been 2, books written about that. The Kennedy assassination, obviously one of the most focused on issues in the history of human news coverage.
And by one kag, about 2, books about the assassination, most of them dwelling on some conspiratorial element, some theory, the Mafia, Cubans, and that sort of thing. But what’s interesting about that is it took years and decades for those books to come put. Jonayhan they were written usually by solitary authors. KAY With the Internet, that’s changed completely. Because first of all, the speed, you know.
After the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed, I immediately went to some of my conspiracy theory websites that I monitor, and within hours there were already elaborate theories about how bin Laden was still alive.
In the JFK era, it took months or truthera for these theories to develop. Now they appear in hours, also it’s now a collaborative enterprise. You know, it’s not one guy sitting creating his conspiracy theory.
KAY Now, it’s groups of people creating YouTube videos, blogging on tge other’s sites, putting comments. It’s become a collective enterprise, and it’s part of the social media on Facebook pages and stuff. This is a socially constructed zmong now. You know, in my book, I take it for granted that the conspiracy theorists that I interviewed, genuinely believe these theories.
But Donald Trump might be the only exception, who’s a guy who’s actually just trying to market himself to people who believe these theories. REHM But these are otherwise, as you put it, rational thinking people. What is it jonathah motivating them as individuals? I understand your point about the country going through trauma, the Internet, but what motivates them as individuals, not only to believe, but then to try to promulgate such theories.
Jonathan Kay – Among the Truthers | Point of Inquiry
I have a jonatgan in my book, chapter five, in which it’s called “A Field Guide to Conspiracy Theorists” in which I go through the psychological motivations of conspiracy theorists, and I break them down into eight different types. The most prominent type is what I call the failed historian. These are people who are simply unable to deal with jonaathan way that history has turned out, truthhers they create fantasies to recreate history.
KAY Well, often they’re just unable to square history with their ideological beliefs. One example, is many birthers I interviewed, these are people who see America as a fundamentally conservative place, and trthers simply unable to accept the fact that Barack Obama, a left-leaning president, was constitutionally elected in And they feel this psychological need to recreate amojg in some way that satisfies their emotional belief that somehow his presidency is illegitimate.
KAY And so they create a conspiracy theory that well, his credentials were forged, he’s not a real citizen, his whole presidency is illegitimate, and for them, conspiracy theories is a tool to write history according to their ideological script.
REHM And it even goes farther than that. They wish to believe that President Obama is going to impose Sharia law on this country. That he a,ong wants the United States to fail as a country? KAY Trruthers, part of it is the truthrrs — take the financial crisis. If you are a big supporter of let’s say, fair capitalism, you need some way to square this historical episode with your beliefs. And so what a lot of anti-Obama radicals have decided is that the current malaise, and the crisis that proceeded it was somehow a conspiracy by left-wingers to destroy capitalism.
That way they’re able to square the way history has turned out with their beliefs. By the way, I should say that this is a bi-partisan phenomenon. Now, where do you put him on the spectrum between political pusher and conspiracy theorist?
KAY I would not call Limbaugh a full-fledged conspiracy theorist. In fact, I think it’s quite interesting, you know, 10 or 15 years ago, I think Limbaugh was seen as out there. I mean, here was a guy really pushing the boundaries of radicalism, or as some would see it, radicalism. Now, in a sense, Limbaugh is almost somewhat moderate ampng to, for instance, some of the things that Glenn Beck has said.
You know, Glenn Beck, is to my mind a full-fledged conspiracy theorist. KAY The stuff he put on his show about George Soros, and the flow charts that he’s put on his TV show showing all world events somehow being controlled by some cabal.
I mean, these are classic motifs in conspiracy theorists literature going back hundreds of years. KAY No, I don’t. In fact, one of the interesting conclusions I jonathsn to in the book is very few of the conspiracy theorists that I interviewed were mentally ill. In fact, there’s one telling sign of a conspiracy theorist who is mentally ill, is that he will involve himself in his conspiracies.
So he will talk about his wife or his landlord or people trying to attack him while he’s sleeping. KAY But 99 percent of the people I interviewed did not have this personal connection. They were talking about political conspiracies that had nothing to do with them. They were simply the observer. And it was actually just a small minority of people who I interviewed who had any kind of mental illness.
Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground
REHM You’ve said that the conspiracy theorists spring up at times of national trauma. Take us back to the Lincoln assassination. Were there conspiracy theories that boomed into the forefront at that time? KAY In the American imagination, yes. The 19th century was a huge period for that.