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Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Anglais) Relié – 12 mars 2009

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Revue de presse

...energetic narrative shows an increasingly complex national security apparatus both prompting conspiracy theories and promulgating its own. Convincing study of how alternative histories develop. (Kirkus Reviews)

Though most conspiracy theories are nonsense, Real Enemies demonstrates that actors in and around American government have been engaged in conspiracies against the public interest for decades. (Chronicles)

Real Enemies is a study of paranoia in American politics, and of course, as Kathryn Olmsted shows, the paranoia begins far too often in the Oval Office. Olmsted makes it clear, however, that it didn't start with Richard Nixon or George W. Bush. Political paranoia, it turns out, is as American as political demagoguery. (Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command)

Kathryn Olmsted has written a brave, provocative, and audacious book. Her willingness to subject the systemic effects of consistent patterns of official government deception--together with the popular conspiracist 'blowback' this deception inspires and empowers--to scholarly scrutiny invites us to ask troubling but necessary questions about the nature of our political leadership. (Eric Alterman, author of When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences)

Présentation de l'éditeur

Many Americans believe that their own government is guilty of shocking crimes. Government agents shot the president. They faked the moon landing. They stood by and allowed the murders of 2,400 servicemen in Hawaii--or 3,000 civilians in New York. In their zeal to cover up their crimes, they killed witnesses, faked evidence, and stole into secure offices to snatch incriminating documents from the files. Although the paranoid style has been a feature of the American scene since the birth of the Republic, in Real Enemies, Kathryn Olmsted shows that it is only in the twentieth century that strange and unlikely conspiracy theories have become central to American politics. While Americans had worried about bankers, Jews, and Catholics for decades, Olmsted sees World War I as a critical turning point for conspiracy theories. As the federal government expanded, Americans grew more fearful of the government itself--the military, the intelligence community, and even the President. Perhaps more important, Olmsted examines why so many Americans believe that their government conspires against them, why more people believe these theories over time, and how real conspiracies by government officials--such as the infamous Northwoods plan--have fueled our paranoia about the government. She analyzes Pearl Harbor, Cold War and anticommunist plots, the JFK assassination, Watergate, and 9/11. Along the way, she introduces readers to a lively cast of characters, from the Nobel prize-winning scientist who became a leading conspiracist to a housewife who believed she could unlock the secrets of the JFK assassination. Polls show that thirty-six percent of Americans think that George W. Bush knew in advance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Real Enemies, an engaging work on a timely, important topic, sheds light on such theories, revealing how the rampant fear of conspiracy at once invigorates and undermines American democracy.

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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5 20 commentaires
19 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 very interesting and provocative book 6 novembre 2009
Par William J. Christensen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This is a great book if the idea of reviewing past histories of "conspiracy theories" are of interest to you, from WWI to 9/11. The book is just packed full of information and documents to back up the concepts of the author. It reads like a PhD thesis----packed full of information and is not a book that will put you to sleep. It took concentration from me, even though it was well written. And It will take me at least a couple of reads to really get a handle on most of the topics. It is just very interesting look at conspiracy theories of all types with explanations of how they got started including extensive documentation and bibliography at the end. It would be a good research book and you could expand on any of the topics that may interest you by use of its excellent and extensive bibliography.
18 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Magicians of Mud 2 janvier 2012
Par W. Green - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
REAL ENEMIES is a quick summary of the "facts" related to conspiracies alleged to have occurred over the past century. The author Olmsted finds that with the increase in government power and the democratization of information, conspiracy theories have been increasing. Of course such theories are speculation based on available information. Proof of criminal conspiracy requires facts showing that at least two people willingly agreed to commit a crime and took some action toward that end. Attempting to prove conspiracy involving government officials is difficult because the criminal "defendants" can control the release of the "facts" and the investigative system.

Some "conspiracy" theories: Did President Wilson deceive the public leading to the American participation in World War I? Did Roosevelt know about Pearl Harbor but allow it to happen so the USA would be forced to enter World War II? Did Lyndon Johnson and others warp the "facts" to hide the truth about the JFK assassination? Did Nixon create a criminal snoop machine and then attempt to hide the truth? Did the Reagan government conspire to use illegal means to fund rogue military operations? Did "W" Bush create or take advantage of the events of 911 go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The answers to all of these questions as presented in this historical summary could be: "yes", "maybe" "sort of", "possibly", "it depends of your point of view", and so on. Justifications for the possible illegal actions of officials are often cited: Wilson and Roosevelt needed to deceive the public in order to pull America into necessary wars and Lyndon Johnson and Hoover packaged an official JFK "lone nut" story to avoid igniting a nuclear war. The cover-up conspiracies that inevitably follow such disasters as Pearl Harbor or 911 could just be products of human nature. Bureaucrats and politicians need to put a pretty (or ignorant) face on their incompetence. But, as the author relates, no conspirator ever "takes the fall"-- no one goes to prison -- rarely is anyone even fired. Life goes on. Conspiracies continue.

There is a tone in the book that many of the conspiracy theories are set forth by the "little people" who do not have the facts and often jump to erroneous conclusions. It is suggested that shoe clerks and housewives find excitement in the conspiratorial chase otherwise not found in their mundane lives. And that often the government conspirators are "good guys" who cannot expose the logical motives behind their actions for reasons of national security. But then again even that could also just be a smoke screen.

Ultimately, the book shows that governmental and political criminal conspiracies and cover-ups are a real and continuing phenomena, obscured by the power of those who commit the crimes to create "official" stories, to manipulate public opinion, to delay or eliminate the release of facts, and to pardon those who happen to get caught.

After taking great pains in the book to appear neutral on the subject, the author identifies the book title perpetrators and summarizes the problem: "it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy."

I would add that it is the excessive power and often the criminality and incompetence of those in government that permits them to easily conceal the real motives, the crimes, the mistakes, the bribers, manipulators and "ego-driven crazies" involved in the conspiracies. Powerful politicians and bureaucrats like Johnson, Hoover and Helms working within the governmental/corporate/bureaucratic power structure are the magicians of mud who constantly dirty the waters of truth to conceal their crimes from a gullible and weary public.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 If you want to know where nut-job conspiracy theories originate, look to the US government: the `real enemies' of democracy 16 février 2013
Par The Guardian - Publié sur Amazon.com
Kathryn Olmsted is Professor of History at the University of California, author of a biography of Elizabeth Bentley and of `Challenging the Secret Government: the post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA & FBI'.

In `Real Enemies' (published in 2009), Olmsted tackles the tradition of anti-government conspiracy theories in the USA. The origin of the tradition can be found, she demonstrates, in the actions of various administrations throughout the 20th century which have led to an escalating climate of paranoia and suspicion. The catalogue of subterfuge, cover-ups and half-truths perpetrated by various US administrations begins with President Woodrow Wilson's alleged machinations to take the USA into the First World War on the allied side, and concludes with the Bush 43 administration's clumsy mishandling of the 9/11 Commission and attempts to implicate Saddam Hussein in the 9/11 attacks & fictional WMD programs. On the way we are treated to revealing chapters on FDR's interference in the Pearl Harbor investigation (where attempts were made to scapegoat local naval commanders in Hawaii and exonerate others more demonstrably culpable of neglect-of-duty); the `Red Scare' of the 1950s championed by Senator McCarthy; the JFK assassination & Warren Commission report; the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair of the 1990s.

As an academic historian Olmsted displays admirable investigative rigour, sticks to the facts and to demonstrable evidence, and writes with a refreshingly direct style.

Throughout the 20th century the power and reach of the US Government has (for mostly defensible reasons) grown exponentially, concurrent with the appropriation of escalating taxpayer revenue. The creation of an alphabet soup of often competing and mutually uncooperative intelligence bureaucracies has further extended this power, making it ever-more opaque. Moreover, it is openly admitted that agencies of the US government - including the President himself on occasions - have conspired to assassinate other heads of state (JFK persistently supported the CIA's botched and incompetent attempts to murder Fidel Castro for example) and gain political advantage through illegal and even criminal practices, i.e. Nixon's collusion with Republican-Party-sympathising ex-CIA agents to break into the offices of his Democrat Party opponents to plant recording bugs, and the Reagan administration's later involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. The public have been persistently lied to, in attempts to cover-up such blatantly illegal and unconstitutional practices.

This nefarious history has gradually created a climate of suspicion, where an increasing proportion of the US population simply does not believe anything the government tells them - or at best remains highly skeptical. Trust in the government's fundamental honesty in the early 20th century was in the 90%+ range; this has gradually eroded to the point where it's now in the single-digit percentile. In this fetid swamp, conspiracy theories fester and grow, their proponents citing genuine precedents of government deceit and double-dealing to imply that even outlandishly bogus theories should be given credence.

Olmsted points out that the administration's occasional support for incomplete narratives of major events are not always for nefarious reasons, but sometimes for motives genuinely commendable. In chapter 4 `The Dealey Plaza Irregulars' for example she explains why President Johnson explicitly instructed the Warren Commission to play down Lee Harvey Oswald's hard-line communist credentials, from a fear that a proven Castro-Oswald link would create a populist call for the invasion of Cuba leading to a very real threat of thermonuclear war with the USSR. A fantasy that elements of the CIA and the mafia were involved in the JFK assassination was concocted from the fact that precisely such collusion had existed to assassinate Castro, supported by the Kennedy administration. The Soviet KGB also had an urgent need to defuse the prospect of cataclysmic nuclear war with the West; their psychological warfare division seeded stories of CIA/mafia involvement in the JFK assassination into several European political journals and fed it to (among others) Jim Garrison, a self-aggrandising & ego-driven public prosecutor in New Orleans who was successfully deceived into promoting the bogus conspiracy theory. The CIA played along with the game because it was in their interests to do so, despite the fact that no real evidence of CIA involvement in the JFK assassination ever emerged. You can understand why the Johnson Administration did not permit the Commission to publish damning evidence of Castro's culpability in JFK's assassination (it's not as though Castro lacked motive, as JFK had tried to murder him); thanks to Johnson's determination that any Castro-Oswald-communist link be suppressed, it's arguable that World War 3 was averted.

So sure, the Warren Commission Report was `incomplete' - for good reasons. Those ignorant of the facts, fuelled by liberal ideology and fertile imagination, leaped to completely erroneous conclusions and were manipulated into feeding a self-perpetuating mythology.

The author also demonstrates that `government' is not a single entity, but different elements are frequently in conflict, i.e. the CIA refused to support the fraudulent `Saddam-9/11' connection and was also unconvinced that Saddam had WMDs, fantasies the Bush-Cheney administration manufactured to gain public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The book concludes by exploring some negative consequences of conspiracy-theorist thinking:

"...the costs of conspiracy theories outweigh their benefit; too often conspiracists press their analysis beyond the realms of facts and logic and inject toxins into the public discourse" (p236)

The classic MO of skilled disinformation campaigns is to work with the grain of pre-existing belief in your target audience, make them focus on what you want them to look at and away from real, important matters you want them to ignore. By channelling belief into concocted frauds like the CIA was involved in the JFK assassination or blatant stupidities like the twin towers of the WTC were destroyed by controlled demolition, provable examples of government lying & deceit become drowned out by the noise and continue unchecked. Persistently barking up the wrong tree wastes time and energy by pursuing delusional trash (`9/11 was an inside job' for example). Peddlers of conspiracy theories are - to say the least - very useful to the government in that they distract attention with nonsense, whilst ensuring no-one is held accountable for real-world intelligence failures, and genuine nefarious scheming is ignored. Conspiracy theories are used to contaminate the pool, everyone employed by the government keeps their jobs or gets promoted, Iraq was successfully looted by private interests, and abuses of power continue right out in the open with impunity.

So US governments past and present, claims Olmsted, are culpable in creating the swamp in which these poisonous weeds of delusion are encouraged to bloom. "Excessive secrecy breeds mistrust, which can make it impossible for democracy to flourish. By contrast, transparency causes government officials to hesitate before they engage in real conspiracies - and at the same time restores Americans' trust in their government" (p238).

Olmsted remains pessimistic that this cycle of mistrust and deceit is likely to dissipate in the near future. She demonstrates that conspiracy theorists more often than not undermine democracy, their outlandish theories help obscure the truth and conceal genuine government wrongdoing, and concludes:

"With cool calculation, (the government) has promoted conspiracy theories, sometimes demonstrably false ones, for their own purposes...it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy" (p240).
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing 18 août 2014
Par Social Historian - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
When Americans think about conspiracy theorists, images of wacky and "un-American" individuals come to mind. Who can actually blame them? Although conspiracy theorists come from diverse backgrounds, they broadcast their messages through numerous methods, and the ones that most people encounter is heckling (like many 9/11 conspiracy theorists at political rallies). Historian Kathryn Olmsted shows that conspiracy theories have been largely shaped by the emergence and growing power of the modern bureaucracy. Although conspiracy theories have existed for centuries, before World War I they were targeted toward perceived alien forces that were plotting to take over the government. It was not until the First World War, when the government exercised tremendous power by drafting large numbers of young men into the military, repressing civil liberties, and jailing dissenters, that conspiracy theories were targeted towards the state. From then on, the government itself was believed to act in malicious ways that undermined democracy.

Olmsted's work shows us the influential role non-state actors have in governmental affairs. Despite that theorists have rarely acted as a collective group nor do they approach the government directly (unless they are part of the government), their influence has grown with new technologies such as the Internet and film production, making alternative theories more accessible to a larger audience (take the Boston Marathon bombing for example, although no government officials proposed any theories, alternative narratives proposed by ordinary citizens received responses from some major media outlets). Even though government officials could have simple ignore these narratives, the fact that they have to contest alternative narratives and reinforce their own shows us the power alternative voices have in pressuring officials for the "truth." Olmsted also shows how in various periods, government officials have became conspiracy theorists themselves and even launched investigations to seek out a counter narrative. Her example of Bill Clinton asking one of his aides to find out "who killed Kennedy" shows us how conspiracy theories even reached high ranking officials in the government.

Olmsted does not sympathize with conspiracy theorists nor does she constantly bash them, but rather she provides a good balance on their contribution to American democracy and their hindrance to the public debate by making radical claims. She sees theorists as a part of the checks and balance system by forcing nation-states to exercise more transparency. While some Americans might view them as "un-American," conspiracy theorists see themselves as the true patriots who believe "that their country would perish without their efforts to find the truth." By studying conspiracy theories alongside the growing American bureaucracy, Olmsted shows that citizens seeking out an alternative narrative are purely rational since the government at times has conspired against its citizens.

Why four stars? As a reviewer, I can only give a book five stars if it truly captivated me (see past reviews for examples). The chapters in this book can be read selectively, and if one were to just read the introduction and conclusion, they basically have gotten all the major arguments. I still highly recommend this book for anyone generally interested in conspiracy theories (not to find out whether they are true or not), or for someone seeking more knowledge on American cultural history. Generally, society tends to discuss conspiracy theories in isolation; Olmsted, on the other hand, takes numerous conspiracy theories across the twentieth century and ties them together.

For the record, I must say that I met Kathryn Olmsted in person as a prospective student interested in the graduate program at UC-Davis. She has a strong interest in conspiracy theories, which stood out to me because I can't think of any other historian that has the same fascination. Probably because nobody has ever looked are various conspiracy theories from a historical and an intellectual perspective.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Good vs. The Bad 18 avril 2013
Par Branden Crom Jr. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
Well written, though it was assigned by my teacher I find the book enjoyable and inexpensive to boot unlike most books. The author stays neutral while discussing the multiple conspiracy theories and gives the reader a thorough understanding of the birth of conspiracy theories and the way in which they have impacted society. Would recommend for those that love good conspiracy theories and would like good information and facts that support it. Well written, keeps the reader entertained and does not sound like a teacher droning on and on.

Sincerely, iSklcndykid
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