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American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why
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American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  126 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
In American Panic , New York Times bestselling author Mark Stein traces the history and consequences of American political panics through the years. Virtually every American, on one level or another, falls victim to the hype, intensity, and propaganda that accompanies political panic, regardless of their own personal affiliations. By highlighting the similarities between A ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
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Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting read. I usually like my nonfiction written without bias, but I didn't mind that this book strayed from that. It had some thought provoking ideas.

This isn't really an in depth look at the way panic has influenced American history, but some of the 'incidences' mentioned were used well in presenting the author's concept. The basic premise is how panic of the unknown or of a physical threat, has propelled America into certain paths that have led to change (often times painfu
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting idea but hard to read. Not written like a good history or novel, but more like references and quotes. Someone else might make a better more readable book from these same ideas. Definition of panic is troublesome. It is more likely irrational fears and actions than what we might think of as panic. Still the idea fits American history even to the "Ebola fears" of today ( which is not mentioned in the book) but he starts with the Salem witch trials and moves on through all Amercan histo ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, bookcrossing
Five chapters in (84 pages), I finally admitted to myself that this book was boring me to pieces. I was still interested to read about the women, so flipped ahead to the chapter, " Woman Suffrage", but one page in that interest faded.

There are parts of the book where the author talks about specific people, and the events that happened to and around them, and those parts kept my interest. But the rest of the book, dry and repetitive. (I'm actually sick of seeing the word "panic".)

An ambitious p
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the library because my husband and I had fun watching Mark Stein's How the States Got Their Shapes and thought it might be interesting how he handled panics and in so doing help me and my husband to "decompress" from the shocking election results and aftermath. It did. In reading American Panic, the author helped us to remember pieces of high school history lessons of past issues. I was able to see a common theme of panics, how they started, purposes behind them and how ...more
Rick Lee James
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Invite panic on one issue by bringing in aspects of other issues that cause panic. This seems to be one of the easiest ways to motivate a group of people. Unverified claims and filtered facts based off of superstition and hearsay seem to be the way to do it if you want to create panic and influence groups of people toward your agenda. This book is a great study in this kind of manipulation. Making sweeping untrue generalizations about a group of people with blanks left open to be filled in can b ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must read to understand how and why people are driven by fear. Fear of other races, ethnicities, religions, and sexuality and how these fears drive certain groups.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear".
— Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful

In his book "American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us, and Why", author Mark Stein takes us through a litany of things which have, at one time or another, given rise to fear and/or panic in the American public. Stein gives times and examples of how and when the general attitude in our Country was that to al
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads Program.

American Panic while interesting was not exactly the history I expected. Some eras were shaped to convey the story desired by this author at the expense of unbiased presentation. The definition of panic and how it operates in the US while not entirely defined is interesting and engaging as the book progresses. I did learn something in every chapter and found the book engaging to read when I wasn't angry at its misr
Jim Kahn
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it
While this is not a particularly easy read and sometimes seems to be nothing but endless quotes from newspapers, editorials, or politician speeches, the premise of this book is very interesting. The author spends the first chapter defining 'panic' and proceeds to analyze various groups throughout American history who have been the subject of such. Starting with witchcraft in the colonial days and working up through Native Americans, Catholics, Communists, Corporations (ironically at about the sa ...more
Scott Haraburda
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Book.


American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why is an interesting account of a dozen different examples of panic within American history, beginning with the 1692 Salem Witch Trials to modern issues involving gun control.

The author tries to explain the cause of panics and attempts to the similarities involving different groups of people, including African Americans, Chinese immigrants, women, homosexuals, Catholics, Jews,
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it

“"Mark Stein reveals just what it is that causes us as a nation to overreact in the face of the unknown.
Whether recounting panics centered around African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Communists, women, or Freemasons, Stein reveals striking similarities in each episode-all centered around a desperate need to make the world comprehensible.
Ultimately, he shows how panic has always run through our cultural DNA-and what it says about the underpinnings of our society."
(quoted from a review
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
i can see why this author is on the bests sellers list.i was very impressed with what he thinks about how we as americans fall victim to the propaganda of the political panic.and how no matter what the generaltion we face the same obstacles in what we dont know or want to face.this book starts with the witch trials and ends up during the september 11 attacks.i am amazed by the shear magnitude of the ideas and information i obtained and will enjoy rereading this book over time.
I want to take this
Fraser Sherman
Aug 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Part of the low rating is that political paranoia in America is something I've read a lot on (and written about in my Screen Enemies of the American Way), so not much of this is new to me. A bigger part is that while I agree with Stein that all panics about Them (Catholics, Masons, Jews, Commies, blacks) have a similar pattern I don't agree with him about the pattern (he talks a lot about how our fears are based on "unverified claims" but I think if the ground wasn't fertile already, nobody woul ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
Full Disclosure. I won this book in a Goodreads FirstReads giveaway.

As someone else mentioned, the book read more like a report than an engaging narrative. Stein chronicals a series of prejudiced actions against various groups, and terms them as panics when certain criteria that he has established are met. In an attempt to show the similarities bewteen the different panics, the book became rather repetitive. The book also definintely has a liberal bent as Fox News and the Tea Party get bashed a
victor harris
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Topical coverage of different domestic and immigrant groups that have inspired panic since the colonial period. From the early Indians right up to the present hostile anti-immigrant climate, Americans have always been fearful and paranoid about people of different color and ethnicity. An efficient coverage of the topic though it leans more toward a reference style presentation than a fluid, engaging narrative.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Stein gives a good, but not extremely deep look at various moments of Panic(!) throughout American history, from fear of Freemasons to Catholics, The Irish, the Jews, Communists, Homosexuals, The Chinese, Feminists/Women in General, Muslims and others I've already forgotten in the endless stream of People Americans Were Temporarily Afraid Of. It does give me hope that today's current panics will eventually boil over to nothing, but history shows we'll just find someone else to fear.
Wisconsin Alumni
Mark Stein ’73

From the author:
Surveying social panics from the Salem witch hunt to present-day fears of Latino immigrants and Muslims, the book finds phrasings that recur in each of this nation’s many such panics. It then explores why these phrasings induce some people to do that which they fear (the defining characteristic of panic) and why others remain more rational.
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting enough topic, but didn't go into great depth on anything. To me, the one take away point is that while it's easy to look back an say, what a bunch of dopes to get so worked up over these issues, it's important to realize that our current "fears" will likely be viewed the same way 50 years from now. Basically, we are the same bunch of dopes.
Zach Popkin-Hall
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Some interesting facts, but repetitive and poorly written/edited. Lots of weak arguments and a few glaringly inaccurate statements. I wish I hadn't seen this and been intrigued by it on a bookstore shelf.
Apr 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This reads more like a textbook rather than a general reader. A carefully chosen word, with or without a proven fact, can cause public "panic". Gender, race or any other issue can be used to drum up worry.
Hunter McCleary
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Disappointing. Ninety-five percent of the book covers various chapters of political panic in response to various groups. Might have been more interesting to look at the psychology behind all these and maybe discuss what we've learned and what we can do in the future. And why it keep happening.
Sue Berg
very interesting and important information but writing style not as interesting -- info merits 4 or even 5 stars but the writing is the 3 star part of the rating.
Edward Sullivan
Good overview of America's long, repugnant history of fear mongering and scapegoating rooted in racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and lots of other prejudices.
Sep 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
audio book - gave up. Just couldn't finish it. It may have picked up, but not for me.
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
A tad too dry
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
It started out pretty good. Then it got hard to follow and repetitive.
Adam Christian Smith
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you like logic and reading and history you'll like this.

He dismantles crazy fear mongers and their writing.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The reason not to trust opinion, hearsay, or gossip. Go to the source and find out for yourself! Fallacy based on incomplete or misleading information is dangerous.
Jim Ogle
Interesting material, but it felt more like a report than a narrative.
Eric Haworth
rated it liked it
Oct 21, 2014
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

More about Mark Stein...
“fears based on stereotypes help make the world comprehensible.” 1 likes
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