Jesse Ventura, with Dick Russell. American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies and More Dirty Lies that the Government Tells Us. Constable, 2010.

Jesse Venture, former navy SEAL and pro-wrestler. was once the only third-party governor in the United States, elected in Minnesota on the ticket of the libertarian faction of Ross Perot's Reform Party. He then stood as a "financial conservative and social liberal", but the years out of office have clearly radicalised him, and he now could fairly be described as a Left Populist in the tradition of Michael Moore. This book, co-authored with Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist Dick Russell, lies in that tradition, as does Ventura's TV conspiracy show.

The conspiracies featured here go back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln., Some will be more or less familiar to the British audience such as the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and the notorious rigged 2000 election. (Imagine how the world would have reacted had Robert Mugabe been defeated by the popular vote in a presidential election, but had clung one because we won in couple more constituencies with very very dodgy wafer thin majorities). Others will be barely known, such as the attempted military coup against FDR in 1934, or the claims that the Republicans secretly did a deal with the Iranians in 1980 to delay the release of the hostages in exchange for arms; government drug dealing; the Peoples Temple as a CIA mind control operation; the Watergate affair as a CIA pre-emptive coup against Nixon to prevent him getting his hands on the smoking gun that would prove that the CIA was behind John Kennedy's assassination; or the claims that the 2004 election was rigged.

This is the atmosphere, in which for example the stories told in Mark Pilkington's book, reviewed below by John Rimmer, emerge, one of mounting mistrust of the political elites and the democratic process, where it is assumed that the 'other side' are not simply misguided or selfish, but are utter monsters capable of anything. This Manichian view of politics promoted by both sides in the Cold War, has now to a degree turned inward. The right in the United States has its own set of conspiracy theories (Obama is Muslim, socialist, was born in Kenya etc.), and in some cases, the same ones as the left.

This atmosphere of total paranoia is sustained by the fact that there is a significant amount of truth in many of the conspiracy theories. There really was a conspiracy to overthrow or to 'neutralise' FDR in 1934; the 2000 election was rigged (so was the election of 1960 which was probably actually won by Nixon - of course in that case the Chicago Mafia inadvertently saved the world, imagine Tricky Dicky in charge), and a lot of other stuff looks very suspect. Others, such as the massive 9/11 conspiracies would have involved just too many people, but even here the precedent of the notorious aborted Operation Northwood (a 1960s plan to run terrorist operations in the US and blame them on Castro) adds fuel to the fire.

You might think that all of this shows that our American cousins have a uniquely conspiratorial frame of mind, it wouldn't happen here would it? Yes it would, but apart from the Diana conspiracy stories, the absence of the first amendment and the penal libel laws means such conspiracy theories tend to stay underground.

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