The Politics of Fear: The Peculiar Persistence of American Paranoia (Paperback)

The Politics of Fear: The Peculiar Persistence of American Paranoia By Arthur Goldwag Cover Image
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From the author of Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, a probing exploration of the bizarre and dangerous conspiracies that have roiled America over the past decade and captured the minds of so many Americans

Some of the conspiracy theories now gripping American politics contend that Joe Biden was executed and replaced by a clone and that John F. Kennedy Jr., faked his death and will one day return to slay Trump’s enemies. But who is susceptible to them, and what makes them so politically potent?

Investigating the historical roots of our peculiar brand of political paranoia, Arthur Goldwag helps us make sense of the senseless and, in so doing, uncovers three uncomfortable truths: that it is older than Trumpism and will outlast it; that theocratic authoritarianism is as hardwired in our American heritage as the principles of the Enlightenment; and that the fear that our system is “rigged” is not altogether unfounded. A probing, surprising, and critical examination of America’s paranoid style, The Politics of Fear sheds new light on the age-old question: What exactly are we so afraid of?

About the Author

Arthur Goldwag is the author of -Isms and -Ologies; Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies; and The New Hate. A freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, he has worked at Book-of-the-Month Club, as well as at Random House and The New York Review of Books.

Praise For…

“In this ambitious new book, Arthur Goldwag seeks to break down and isolate the uniquely American, molecular preconditions that allow Trump’s followers to believe in him with a messianic fervor that is immune to truth, science, and self-interest. Tracing a historical, cultural, and spiritual American arc that fosters and rewards paranoia, conspiracy theories, and fear, Goldwag makes the case that the seeds for today’s rabbit hole obsessions with—variously, QAnon, the Big Steal, Pedophile groomers, Satanism, and anti-Semitism—were all there at the founding, tended lovingly throughout history, and have flowered in the age of the internet, racism, demagoguery, and economic scarcity. Our paranoid, fearful, broken-brain moment is, as he suggests ‘a pure product of America.’ ”
—Dahlia Lithwick, bestselling author of Lady Justice

“Arthur Goldwag, our indispensable encyclopedist of mass irrationality, brings his deep knowledge of cults, conspiracism, and organized hate to bear on the politics of the Trump era. As always he is bracingly lucid and alert to the historical roots of present-day antipathies and delusions.”
—Geoffrey O'Brien, author of Arabian Nights of 1934

“Since the founding, the United States has provided a haven for conspiracy theorists, bigots, cultists, and violent extremists. In The Politics of Fear, Arthur Goldwag offers a lively tour of America’s heart of darkness. Chronicling decades of fear-soaked ideas and the individuals who espoused them, The Politics of Fear is provocative and unforgettable.” 
—Matthew Dallek, author of Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right

“The omnipresence of conspiracy theories in American politics is excavated in this savvy study. . . . [Goldwag's] exploration of the ideology, emotionalism, and sheer craziness of conspiracy theorizing is colorful and perceptive. . . . Penetrating. . . . A sharp-eyed assessment of Trumpism’s deep roots and toxic potential.”
Publishers Weekly

“QAnon cousins? Here’s your field guide to their eldritch politics. . . . Like David Bennett’s Party of Fear, this book traces a right-wing political movement that exploits widespread fears of deep-seated conspiracies and absurd theories of ethnic ‘replacement.’ . . . A sharp survey of the political landscape guaranteed to seed nightmares among the sensible, educated, and progressive.”
Kirkus Reviews
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593467060
ISBN-10: 059346706X
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English