Republic of Lies

American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power

by Anna Merlan

Republic of Lies

American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power

by Anna Merlan

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.

Praise for Republic of Lies

“We live in confusing, aggravating, infuriating times, when facts are under attack, news is fake, and conspiracy theories and grifts suck the oxygen out of working democracy. Republic of Lies is the perfect tour guide through our upside-down world, blending first-rate reporting, a keen sense of history, and vibrant storytelling to get at how desperate we are for coherence, and how that deep-seated need wreaks havoc on people and society as a whole.”

—Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

“A deeply researched, fiercely intelligent, and uncompromising look at the thorny roots and poison fruit of the contemporary political condition. Brilliant, provocative, and chilling.”

—Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine

“Armed with copious research and fearless curiosity, Anna Merlan has written a devastating portrait of American political culture in the Internet age. At the center of it are people who feel powerless, disillusioned, and exhausted by a government they don’t understand. Merlan shows us just how sophisticated the recruiting campaigns have gotten, how violent the rhetoric has grown, and how far the ideas have spread. The luxury of ignoring the conspira-sphere is one we can no longer afford.”

—Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon

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