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'Conspiracy Theory in America' by Lance deHaven-Smith: Review by Ken Freeland

Lance deHaven Smith, by his own admission, was mentored by Mark Crispin Miller. Anyone familiar with Miller's work will find this a hopeful portent, and will not be disappointed.
With superb scholarly flair, but matter-of-fact phraseology, Smith begins his odyssey by regrounding the reader in some basic facts of American history and political theory. The founding fathers did not trust government, as we are taught to do today; they were relentlessly suspicious of it. Indeed, he asserts in his Introduction: “The United States was founded on a conspiracy theory….The Founders considered political power a corrupting influence that makes political conspiracies against the people's interests almost inevitable.”
Headlining his segment on conspiracy theory as “A Flawed and un-American label” he opines, after explaining the logical problem with the concept itself (namely, that such conspiracies really do occur and routinely so) that “This fatal flaw in the conspiracy-theory concept makes it all the more surprising that most scholars and journalists have failed to notice that their use of the term to ridicule suspicions of elite political criminality betrays the civic ethos inherited from the nation's Founders.” This theme is supported later in the book, but it's heady stuff. In other words, folks, the “conspiracy theorists” stand on solid historical ground, whilst the mainstream media and academe do not.
He then explores the provenance of the conspiracy-theory pejorative label, originating, as most of us already know, with the CIA shortly after the Warren Report, and traces its reincarnations in recent history. Several chapters are devoted to analyzing the psychological impact of this psy-op, and you must read read the book yourself to get the full impact.
But his study of the way in which the social sciences have been transformed into two wings of conspiracy theory denial is certainly the most scholarly, and as a social science major myself, intriguing foray of all. He traces these opposing but mutually reinforcing tendencies to Karl Popper, the academic root of modern neoliberalism, whose school of thought dismisses political conspiracy because it is considered feckless, and Leo Strauss, the father of neo-conservatism which dismisses conspiracy theory because though is likely to be factually accurate, such conspiratorial behavior by elites is considered a necessary evil of modern government and must be protected. Countering both of them is the most fascinating of all, the forerunner whose work was once predominant in the social sciences, but whom I as a social science major had never been exposed to, Charles Beard. He would be dismissed in our times as conspiracy theorist, or perhaps as an economic determinist, but in his heyday he was taken quite seriously. (I was so enamored by this introduction to his work that I ordered several of his classics, and have just completed reading “The Economic Foundations of Jeffersonian Democracy,” which I cannot praise too highly.)
The author concludes this masterpiece of political science with a proposal to reformulate our understanding of these conspiratorial crimes as “state crimes against democracy,” to understand that they are a routine evil requiring our vigilance, identification and prosecution, and makes some practical suggestions on how the criminal justice system needs reform and reinvigoration in order to properly prioritize this paramount task of democratic jurisprudence.
I believe that this book would serve our teleconference well as a common grounding in political conspiracy, and offer us a way to apprehend Deep State events with a historically grounded framework, and terminology which is more forward going than the “conspiracy-theory” label we've been handed by our political opponents. I therefore propose the book for our common reading, with the object of reserving liberal space in a future teleconference to discuss its contents.