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American Conspiracy Theories$
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Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199351800

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199351800.001.0001

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The Ages of Conspiracy

The Ages of Conspiracy

(p.105) 5 The Ages of Conspiracy
American Conspiracy Theories

Joseph E. Uscinski

Joseph M. Parent

Oxford University Press

This chapter surveys the overall levels of conspiracy theories in American history from 1890 to 2010 based on data from letters to the editor of major U.S. dailies. It shows that the 1890s and 1950s were the true highpoints, the real ages of conspiracy in the United States. The prevalence of conspiracy talk in the United States has diminished slightly across time since those heydays, especially since the mid-1960s. Comparison of long-term data against the most popular explanations shows that most of the comforting stories used to explain away supposed surges in conspiracy theorizing seem as baseless as the conspiracy theories themselves are often held to be. This includes such usual suspects as economic hard times, big government, new technologies, social status, partisan politics, and foreign intrigue.

Keywords:   American history, conspiracy theorizing, letters to the editor, partisan politics, foreign intrigue

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