David Weigel Reviews "Among The Truthers"
[C]onspiracy theorists […] investigate as much in sorrow as in anger. They are always just one confession away from the truth. This kind of logic is much more understandable, if no more sensible, after reading Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground, a smart and serious new book by Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay. His book shows why Americans are becoming so willing to believe lurid fantasies about the government or politicians they don’t like or vaccines or the theory that the federal government was behind the attacks of 9/11 (these believers are the “truthers” of his title). And you realize that the world of conspiracies is only going to get larger. …
Kay’s book is half reportage and half evidence. Both halves demonstrate that mistrust in institutions—which aren’t doing the best job of running things right now—is driving a wave of conspiracy-mongering. To a man, the leading 9/11 Truthers that Kay interviews say that they found their obsession because they didn’t trust the government and they sought out information from some samizdat source. …
Look at the 9/11 conspiracy. Some of Kay’s sources have tenuous connections to reality. Most of them got interested in the conspiracy because something else seemed … wrong. As Kay points out, “Trutherism” didn’t really take off until 2003, when it was clear there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If you were already inclined to think that George W. Bush had been unfairly put into office in 2000, if you had read the Project for a New American Century’s letters from the end of the Clinton years, well, this was enough to drive you nuts.
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