Republic of Lies

Republic of Lies

American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power

Book - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:
7
A riveting tour through the landscape and meaning of modern conspiracy theories, exploring the causes and tenacity of this American malady, from Birthers to Pizzagate and beyond. American society has always been fertile ground for conspiracy theories, but with the election of Donald Trump, previously outlandish ideas suddenly attained legitimacy. Trump himself is a conspiracy enthusiast: from his claim that global warming is a Chinese hoax to the accusations of "fake news," he has fanned the flames of suspicion. But it was not by the power of one man alone that these ideas gained new power. Republic of Lies looks beyond the caricatures of conspiracy theorists to explain their tenacity. Without lending the theories validity, Anna Merlan gives a nuanced, sympathetic account of the people behind them, across the political spectrum, and the circumstances that helped them take hold. The lack of a social safety net, inadequate education, bitter culture wars, and years of economic insecurity have created large groups of people who feel forgotten by their government and even besieged by it. Our contemporary conditions are a perfect petri dish for conspiracy movements: a durable, permanent, elastic climate of alienation and resentment. All the while, an army of politicians and conspiracy-peddlers has fanned the flames of suspicion to serve their own ends. Bringing together penetrating historical analysis and gripping on-the-ground reporting, Republic of Lies transforms our understanding of American paranoia.
Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2019
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250159052
1250159059
Branch Call Number: 001.9 M547r
Characteristics: 275 pages ; 25 cm

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment
m
MichelleinBallard
Aug 24, 2019

When reading non-fiction I presume that the author is motivated to communicate truthfully and to increase knowledge and understanding. Thus, a basic requirement for any non-fiction author is to demonstrate that s/he knowledgeably and accurately engages with the work of other authors in the field (though that is not to suggest that s/he must agree with their reasoning or conclusions).

Anna Merlan demonstrably fails this requirement early on when she grossly misrepresents the position of Lance Dehaven-Smith, author of *Conspiracy Theory in America* (Univ. of Texas Pr., 2013). Merlan would have her readers believe that DeHaven-Smith promotes the notion "that the term [conspiracy theory] itself was created by the CIA to discredit people who get too close to the truth" (Merlan, p. 26).

However, DeHaven-Smith's claim is not that the CIA created the term but that they undertook efforts in the 1960s that popularized it in American discourse (DeHaven-Smith, pp. 3, 25). Merlan actually lends support to Dehaven-Smith's case, quoting Kathryn Olmsted: "Public officials began adopting the term only 'on a regular basis in the late '60s in reference to the Kennedy assassination' " (Merlan p. 27).

Dehaven-Smith clearly understands that the CIA did not create the term because he discusses its use, by others, in critiquing the work of Charles and Mary Beard in the 1930s and Karl Popper's usage in his 1945 book *The Open Society and Its Enemies* (see DeHaven-Smith, ch. 3). Merlan's misrepresentation of DeHaven-Smith's position is her only reference to his work in her book.

Merlan closes her book with an un-sourced anecdote about Rush Limbaugh and Hurricane Irma. According to Merlan, Limbaugh claimed that "news coverage of the storm was hyped up by people bent on pushing the 'climate change agenda' " (p. 249). Yet, Merlan tells us, Limbaugh "did something quietly reasonable ... He evacuated ... steering himself out of the path of the fake storm." This, we are to believe, is evidence of "the hypocrisy, contradictions, and opportunism of our better-known conspiracists ..."

Limbaugh may well be a hypocritical, contradictory opportunist. However, what is most revealing here is that Merlan is apparently untroubled by the fact that she never presents any evidence that: 1) Limbaugh ever thought or claimed the storm was "fake", or; 2) Limbaugh actually denies anthropogenic climate change, or; 3) the media doesn't actually cover storms in a non-neutral, unscientific manner (climate scientists are clear that any single hurricane is not evidence for/against global climate change). I don't know what Limbaugh thinks about climate change. My point here is to highlight the faulty evidence and reasoning Merlan employs to make her case.

As an aside, it is not far-fetched to think that some folks would use a disaster to advance an agenda. After all, in 2008, Obama's recently appointed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking of the human-made disaster that would come to be known as the "Great Recession", infamously told a forum of corporate CEOs: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste ... This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

According to scholars Reeves, McKee and Stuckler at the University of Oxford, writing in a 2014 article published in the *British Journal of Psychiatry*, between 2008 and 2010 alone "there were at least 10,000 additional suicides due to the economic hardship experienced in EU countries, Canada and the USA." Whatever else one may say, Emanuel's remark sounds grossly insensitive and clearly evinces opportunism.

In sum, Merlan is evidently a careless and/or a dishonest source concerning the subject matter of her book. In other words, she herself seems to be a citizen in good standing of the "Republic of Lies" or, perhaps, the "Republic of Indifference to Truth". Either way she's not a reliable source to consult regarding "conspiracy theorists".

l
lukasevansherman
Aug 05, 2019

"Contemporary Conspiracy theories aren't random offshoots emerging spontaneously . They are politically useful."
First I want to address "StarGladiator" and his "comments," with their excess of punctuation marks, ad hominem attacks, and ravings. This book isn't really about the JFK assassination, which is maybe ground zero for conspiracy theories, nor is about the financial crisis. Author Anna Merlan has worked for Jezebel and the Village Voice, so she's hardly part of the corporate media establishment. If anything "StarGladiator" and his/her inane comments show why you need to read this well-researched, intelligent, and compelling book about the politics of conspiracy theories, which include, but are not limited to, Pizzagate (my favorite), the Deep State, crisis actors, the Jews running everything (a perennial favorite), and, of course, aliens. While Merlan has a clear point of view, she also takes time to interview many of the people who holds these views and attempts to place them in context, as well as detail the political and cultural aspects of their views. We live, for better or worse (mostly worse), in a Golden Age of political conspiracies: the election was stolen, the Russians are hacking everything, the Deep State is plotting a coup, the Democrats are running sex rings, the Republicans are stacking the supreme court with theocratic conservatives (oh, wait). Merlan does take pains to point out that there are legitimate reasons not to trust the government and the media because they have lied or concealed the truth, yet she sees little reason to swing to the opposite extreme: trust no one, start feedback loops on the internet with like-minded people, listen to Alex Jones. A valuable, highly relevant book (that was probably co-authored by the Illuminati and the lizard-people). Also check out Kevin Young's "Bunk" and Jon Ronson's "Them: Adventures with Extremists."

w
WoodneathKristie
Jun 12, 2019

Republic of Lies is a fascinating and nuanced look at the conspiracy culture that is increasingly influencing mainstream media narratives, particularly here in the US. It is interesting to see how a mix of legitimate concern over the bad behavior of governments and corporations, political zealotry, profit motive, and paranoia have created the "fake news" storm currently buffeting our country. This book traces may of the moment's most notable (and bizarre) narratives, such as "Pizzagate", from their often innocuous genesis points to their outlandish, sometimes dangerous conclusions in a way that is critical of conspiracy thinking, but never reduces the regular folks who get swept into the maelstrom to caricatures.

s
StarGladiator
May 20, 2019

Extravagant claims require extravagant evidence and sources - - ergo, this book is rated Epic Fail! [This book reads remarkably similar to a book written some years back by Canadian far right winger, Jonathan Kay.]
Where to begin? First, the valley girl-sounding simpleton author [just heard her on a radio interview] employs the standard disinformation tactic of painting all skeptics as one: suggesting all are the same as whackos like Alex Jones and the Birthers!
Next, the author claims that only "official journalists" should be listened to?!
Like all those "official journalists" who wrote planted stories on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq??? Like all those "official journalists" over the decades who repeated fantasy stories of lemmings running, en masse, over cliffs to their deaths; the 13th monkey, or that all humans are 6 degrees of separation from one another? [Has any official journalist ever passed a math course???]
Some public facts avoided by all those "official journalists":
________________________________________________________________
FACT: A declassified CIA document detailed a meeting between CIA agents and assassin, Jean Rene Souetre, in Lisbon 6 months prior to the assassination of President Kennedy.
FACT: A declassified CIA document [#632-796] detailed that INS agent, Virgil Bailey, picked up Jean Rene Souetre, temporarily held in a Dallas jail for deportation, 18 hours after President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas!
FACT: A declassified document from the HSCA detailed that their request to NSA for the 1963 files for NSA-designated site, USA-55, was denied as all the 1963 files had disappeared!
FACT: In the recently released 2018 declassified documents were items about USAF Sgt. David Christensen, alleged to have overheard plans to assassinate the US president in Dallas - - this occurred on a voice link between Lisbon and Tangiers. This event happened while Sgt. Christensen was stationed at NSA-designated site, USA-55 - - whose intercepts all went missing, most conveniently, from the NSA!
________________________________________________________________
Now why haven't any of those "official journalists" reported this? ? ?
Because a Republic of Lies can only exist with the active support of a Media of Lies!
Any real journalist, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, should have been able to find the connections between the Markit Group, the InterContinental Exchange, MERS and Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America - - but none of them did! ! !
Any real journalist, after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in France, should have been able to dig up the facts surrounding those false scandals against his political opponents created by John Negroponte and Sarkozy's stepdad, Frank Wisner, Jr. via the Franco-American Foundation - - yet none of them did!
It would require thousands of pages to list all the failings of official journalists, incapable of the simplest of research and investigative skills!

s
StarGladiator
May 20, 2019

Extravagant claims require extravagant evidence and sources - - ergo, this book is rated Epic Fail! [This book reads remarkably similar to a book written some years back by Canadian far right winger, Jonathan Kay.]
Where to begin? First, the valley girl-sounding simpleton author [just heard her on a radio interview] employs the standard disinformation tactic of painting all skeptics as one: suggesting all are the same as whackos like Alex Jones and the Birthers!
Next, the author claims that only "official journalists" should be listened to?!
Like all those "official journalists" who wrote planted stories on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq??? Like all those "official journalists" over the decades who repeated fantasy stories of lemmings running, en masse, over cliffs to their deaths; the 13th monkey, or that all humans are 6 degrees of separation from one another? [Has any official journalist ever passed a math course???]
Some public facts avoided by all those "official journalists":
________________________________________________________________
FACT: A declassified CIA document detailed a meeting between CIA agents and assassin, Jean Rene Souetre, in Lisbon 6 months prior to the assassination of President Kennedy.
FACT: A declassified CIA document [#632-796] detailed that INS agent, Virgil Bailey, picked up Jean Rene Souetre, temporarily held in a Dallas jail for deportation, 18 hours after President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas!
FACT: A declassified document from the HSCA detailed that their request to NSA for the 1963 files for NSA-designated site, USA-55, was denied as all the 1963 files had disappeared!
FACT: In the recently released 2018 declassified documents were items about USAF Sgt. David Christensen, alleged to have overheard plans to assassinate the US president in Dallas - - this occurred on a voice link between Lisbon and Tangiers. This event happened while Sgt. Christensen was stationed at NSA-designated site, USA-55 - - whose intercepts all went missing, most conveniently, from the NSA!
________________________________________________________________
Now why haven't any of those "official journalists" reported this? ? ?
Because a Republic of Lies can only exist with the active support of a Media of Lies!
Any real journalist, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, should have been able to find the connections between the Markit Group, the InterContinental Exchange, MERS and Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America - - but none of them did! ! !
It would require thousands of pages to list all the failings of official journalists, incapable of the simplest of research and investigative skills!

This is an excellent compendium of conspiracy theories, and also of real world events that lend credence to them. Although there are a couple of paragraphs on the (so-called) Tulsa Race Riots, I was disappointed to find that there was no mention of them in the reference notes. Her account is somewhat at variance with others, and particularly in stating the motivations of the whites. I'd like to know where her information came from.

Theoretical_Onesie Apr 30, 2019

I used to play chess when I was younger and actually won a trophy for it. Granted it was a plastic 3rd place trophy but still it was an award of some kind. The funny part was some of the people did not even know how to play the game. One of them was actually playing the game like it was checkers! The point of the story is somehow moralizing the insane decisions of others despite the effect it has on others. So while this may seem like a call for some form of acceptance of all actions as if they are just a common occurrence in the world, you would be right. eventually we will be desensitized in such away that nothing bothers any more and we just have to deal with events as they occur day by day. Of course at the end of the day we should all realize that chess is a silly game that we should stop playing.

Age

Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...
No similar edition of this title was found at PPL.

Try searching for Republic of Lies to see if PPL owns related versions of the work.


Suggest For Purchase

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top