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Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  208 ratings  ·  31 reviews
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 conspira
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Metropolitan Books
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4.08  · 
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 ·  208 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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David Wineberg
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I never do this, but here is the first sentence of Republic of Lies: “In January 2015, I spent the longest, queasiest week of my life on a cruise ship filled with conspiracy theorists.”

SOLD! Anna Merlan has put herself through a brain-exploding experience to tell us about the astounding variety of lies Americans tell about themselves and their country. It’s a whirlwind tour of conspiracies, hate, ideology, religion, UFOs, and politics. They are all urgent matters. The nation is at risk. Time is
Susan (aka Just My Op)
I received an advance copy of this book through a LibraryThing giveaway.

“In January 2015, I spent the longest, queasiest week of my life on a cruise ship filled with conspiracy theorists.”

The interesting first sentence of this book couldn't help but draw me in, and began her tales of her time on the “Conspira-Sea Cruise." It took much much too long to read this book. The lesser reason is because I have a hard time reading paper books. The greater reason is I could handle only a little of this a
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
I bought this book on the strength of one of Merlan's tweets, which for me encapsulated 2017.

What does the concept of "today" mean when every day lasts for 5,000 years and contains dozens of the dumbest things that have ever occurred

— Anna Merlan (@annamerlan) May 16, 2017

The weak side of this book is that it recounts conspiracy-related beliefs and internecine quarrels that I have, for the most part, already read about. I know about the white supremacist who had an affair with his wife's stepfat
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know far too many people who desperately need to read this book but never will.
Martha Toll
Here’s my review of this book on NPR.
Jim Razinha
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I admire anonymously the monumental efforts like those of people at Media Matters, who endure hours upon hours of the likes of Fox News so that the sane of us don't have to watch to see what nonsense is being spewed at any given instance. And then there is Ms. Merlan, who takes such to extremes, diving into the belly of so many beasts to write this she has to have brain bleach on autorefill. Hat's off and bravo. There have always been conspiracists and their theories - whacky, out there, unreal. ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're all familiar by now with the fact that the poor, disenfranchised and undereducated are prone to believing in conspiratorial theories and driven by grandiose fantasies of nefarious forces colluding against them. If those people aren't in our immediate families, they're at least visible enough on our social network feeds that we're aware they exist. And, while it's been easy to ignore these people and mock their backward, peasant-like ignorance, it's all become less funny now that they're sh ...more
Colleen Corgel
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is really, really good. It explores the reasons why Americans are given to conspiracies and why it is important to recognize their importance in the current discourse.

The chapters all run on themes, from Medical conspiracies (which she points out has some historical precedence, especially for African Americans), to Military, and to UFOs. It's all tied into the overarching theme I stated above. She bravely goes into the rallies, conferences, and other places where she is often not welcomed
If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of conspiracy theories, from beliefs in UFOs to anti-Vaccination conspiracies, “Republic of Lies” will bring you closer to understanding why seemingly thoughtful people from myriad political spectrums get caught up in conspiratorial movements. Particularly interesting is the author’s research into the lies our own government has spread in the past and how the past fuels current beliefs in conspiracies.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent read about the mainstreaming of conspiracy theory in American culture and (more disconcertingly) American politics.
Maritza Soto
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book! Thoroughly researched and well written. I enjoyed the author’s writing style, especially the bits were her wry humor peeked out amidst places, names, facts and theories.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
America has had conspiracies as long as it has existed but with rise of a "birther" as president, conspiracies and conspiracy theories that were once rightly dismissed as crackpots and crackpot ideas are normalized. This book gives nice explanations of conspiracy culture even if it is demoralizing to read and think about the future of our country and the truth tellers.
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Paranoid much?

In the wake of the release of the (redacted) Mueller report Anna Merlan (blogger for the feminist site Jezebel) has released a book about the prevalence of conspiracy theorists and how they seem to be everywhere in today's political climate. Begun as Merlan's attempt to cover the "Conspira-Sea" boat cruise for the aforementioned Jezebel (this is the sort of thing that Jezebel and related sites published by Gizmodo Media like to cover and mock), it snowballed when Merlan realized ju
Jo Stafford
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A CIA-operated elevator that transports people to Mars? So-called chemtrails dropped from planes in order to weaken the populace? Agents of the Deep State drugging Donald Trump by spiking his Diet Coke? Some folks believe all kinds of things.

To bring us this survey of contemporary conspiracy theorists, Anna Merlan rubbed shoulders with UFOlogists, attended a gathering of white supremacists, and covered a rally of Pizzagate true believers.

The results of her foray into the world of conspiracism a
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A comprehensive stroll through America’s predilection for mass conspiratorial ideation. Merlan strings together a series of vignettes that range from absurd to terrifying. Her focus on the real-life victims of conspiracists is well done. My problem with this book is that it seems content to gawk and scoff at conspiracy weirdos, but has no underlying theory as to the cause of this phenomenon en masse. There is an attempt to tie things together in the epilogue, but, even there, the focus is on fig ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I bought this because I enjoy Anna's conspiracy reporting, especially the conspiracy cruise, and the book didn't disappoint. Each chapter covers a different conspiracy, focusing on more current/popular ones, such as anti-vaxxers, sovereign citizens, neo-nazis, and lots more. Even for someone who is pretty aware (unfortunately) of random internet theories and conspiracies, I found new information and was horrified/entertained by a lot of the in person anecdotes with various conspiracy theorists. ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC from the Publisher and NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I've been following Anna Merlan's writing on conspiracy groups at Jezebel and the Gizmodo Special Projects Desk for a few years, and it's consistently great - providing historical context where appropriate, reporting things as they are, and providing a critical eye in exactly the right places. This book does a great job of applying this eye to the conspiracy theorists that have seemed to be on the rise since the 201
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting romp through American conspiracy theory groups. Some of them are frightening. Most of them are absurd. All of them have benefited from having an idiot in the White House. The author soo easily dismisses the idea that the FBI and CIA and Whitehouse worked to use drug distribution in black communities as a way to set them up for arrests and incarceration. Recent revelations about the Nixon/Reagan efforts to do just that suggest that it isn't a theory. Most distressing is the conclusion ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Merlan's book discusses dominant conspiracy theories in the US, including 9-11 trutherism, the controversy about Obama's birth certificate, Sandy Hook, and especially "pizzagate" (the conspiracy that leading US politicians are running a secret pedophile ring). Although the author's assertions about conspiracy theories being used to bring a new political group to power risk sounding conspiratorial themselves, overall, the discussion of the various conspiracy theories is interesting enough to make ...more
J.O. Teague
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Informative and well written book. Merlan not only describes the theories and the people who promulgate them, she explains historical precedents and memes that led to such misunderstandings and how the secretive tendencies of governments help promote them. I just talked to an intelligent young man who was leaning towards the belief that twelve foot aliens and the Jewish World Order were involved with the JFK assassination. Merlan explains all three conspiracies and a host more.
Kevin Maness
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book. I like that she’s appropriately crucial of conspiracy theories, but that she also shows that they can be understood (at least to begin as) as more and less rational responses to a society characterized by inequality, injustice, secrecy, and an increasing sense of powerlessness, despair, and loneliness.
Kaitlin Ugolik
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I learned a ton from this book and particularly enjoyed the author’s ability to wink at the reader amusingly while also showing empathy for her subjects. Will be buying copies for some wacky relatives :)
Emily Rice
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely good. Not just a rundown on wtf these people are talking about, which is so necessary, but a really good explanation of the context conspiracy theories develop in and how they’re weaponized! Scary!!!! But also essential.
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a good primer for conspiracy theories in the US. Since I generally try to avoid them, I found this book to be very enlightening.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I might mostly align with the politics of the author but don't quite understand the weight of their argument in this book or what it may mean for understanding our contemporary conjuncture.
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: on-the-radio
Fun to read; a little unfocused.
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Learned a lot about the roots of conspiracy theories in the US and the origins of the ones we're saddled with today. Well worth the read if you're looking to give your bullshit detector a tuneup.
Hal Johnson
This book is pretty good, but also weird because it seems to be trying to brand itself as compassionate to conspiracy theorists, and not just snarkily making fun of them (as we tend to do); but Merlan can’t stop zinging her true bogeyman, viz. the set of anyone to the right of her on the political spectrum. It’s so nonstop that even when I agree with her the dissonance can be jarring. Just one example out of many: When Anna Merlan mentions that one conspiracist looks like “a sister-wife in a sun ...more
Well written, very thoroughly researched. Incredibly depressing and disheartening.
Edward Sullivan
An often engrossing look at contemporary American conspiracy theorists, some amusingly harmless, many terrifyingly dangerous.
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NPR Book Club: Book for May 2019-Republic of Lies 1 3 May 01, 2019 10:47AM  
Anna Merlan is a New Mexico-born, New York-based journalist, specializing in politics, crime, religion, subcultures, conspiracy theories, and women’s lives. She is currently a reporter at the Special Projects Desk, an investigative division within Gizmodo Media Group. She has previously worked as a senior reporter at Jezebel, and as a staff writer at the Village Voice and the Dallas Observer. Her ...more