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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  794 ratings  ·  125 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
...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Metropolitan Books
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BlackOxford
It Must Be Something in the Water

Conspiracy is a form of American poetry. It is incredibly imaginative, inspiring for many, and captures the essence of the civilisation from which it emerges, namely it’s ill-educated resentment of the world, especially of itself. From before the foundation of the country, Americans have considered themselves victims of some ‘higher power’ which oppresses them and seeks to destroy something essential about them. In the colonial era the oppressor was the native i
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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
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Emily
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
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
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Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Covers the rise of conspiratorial thinking and its takeover of our political culture especially since 2016. Most conspiracy theories have a kernel at the center of them that might have a little basis in reality but they go off the deep end and become hermetically sealed from further facts. most of them are natural responses of uneducated powerless people who use them to make sense of who is screwing them over. Most are false and a good deal of them are racist or medically dangerous. explores thi ...more
Dna
Jul 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is some controlled opposition type garbage masquerading as journalism. No, thanks.
Scott  Hitchcock
A lot of this is pretty interesting but it's also slanted completely towards the right being in the wrong and the left being in the right. I'm not a Trump fan by any measure but it's inaccurate to say the left doesn't use conspiracy theories, falls flags and other media tactics to their advantage just like the right. If you want to make the case Trump has taken it to another level, sure, I'm completely on board with that. You need some objectivity however and cannot put this all on one side of t ...more
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
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Mike
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.
Jim Razinha
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copies
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
Remi
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very informed, detailed, sobering and yes, depressing read. Conspiracy theories in America exist for a reason: our government has a history of keeping disturbing secrets from the public. Its a wonder we see some evil plot everywhere we turn. Yet lately it feels like its gotten out of control. The author is witty, humorous and admits to her biases upfront. But she's quick to call out people on her side of aisle as well for being paranoid.
Boudewijn
Conspiracy theories are as old as the hills. They have been part of the American system of governance and culture and thought since its beginnings, but it seems that the election of Donald Trump allowed a network of conspiracy profiteers to accrue wealth and credibility. In this book Anna Merlin offers an overview of the most prolific, ranging from infoWars’ Alex Jones to white supremacist Richard Spencer.
Martha Anne Toll
Here’s my review of this book on NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/20/715211... ...more
Jason
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're all familiar by now with the fact that many of our fellow citizens 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 shooting up public ...more
Radiantflux
63rd book for 2019.

Anna Merlan—pronounced like Merlin the magician—offers a handy primer to the various conspiracy groups now inhabiting Trumplandia (formerly known as the (Dis)United States of America).

A useful guide to read before doing a deep dive into Fox and Friends, 8Chan, and the POTOS's Twitter feed. Recommended.

4-stars.
El_kiablo
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
In many ways Republic of Lies is a perfect book to read at this exact moment in time. Most of Merlan's chapters target an issue that's really in the zeitgeist: the rise of white supremacy, the anti-vaxxer movement, our schizophrenic national response to mass shootings, etc. These important topics then get discussed in a way that tries to balance the forest and the trees: she will pick a specific example to examine and then expand out to explain how that case is indicative of the larger problem. ...more
Dale
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
Elite Group
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The conspiracy theorists seized power in America through their fake news.

This is the non-fiction book as Anna Merlan went uncover to interview many conspiracy theorists and disclosed their secrets. The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States sparked the new American age: The Conspiracy Theory Age, not AI or Space Age.

Some people were very livid with the federal government's so-called cover-up of their secrets such as Area 51 and the death of JFK. They wanted the truth but
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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
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Corinne
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought Merlan did a fine job of outlining current conspiracy theories, how they started, why they started and how they continue to flourish and continue to influence current politics. The theories run the gambit between ones that I am unfortunately familiar with (Pizzagate) and ones I have never heard of, such as the Sovereign Citizens Movement (who believe the government opens a bank account in your name with a quarter of a million dollars when you're born and that that there are secret ways ...more
Glenda
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.
Tobias
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really well written journalistic account of how conspiracy theorizing has broken free of the paranoid fringe and gone mainstream. Merlan manages to write empathetically about some people who are hard to feel empathy for, and is by no means dismissive of the tendency. Ends with an impassioned plea to become the kind of society in which people don't need to seek refuge in conspiracy theories.
Christian
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.
Jennifer
Well written, very thoroughly researched. Incredibly depressing and disheartening.
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.
Lukas Evan
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even though I’m pretty sure she’s part of a cabal that includes the Masons, the deep state, and George Soros, this is an excellent look at the politics of paranoia and conspiracy theories.
Amanda Witt
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Forced myself to read this after seeing far too many people I know well getting swept up in conspiracy theories, particularly QAnon. I was nervous to read it as I thought it might send me deeper into a spiral of frustration, and while the feeling of wanting to shake someone violently until they get off Reddit won't go away, I'm grateful to have a better understanding of the science and reasoning behind conspiracies. For example: anti-vaxers came out of the Tuskegee studies. You almost can't blam ...more
Leo Walsh
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun, mad-cap look at the weirder parts of contemporary political culture, notably the myriad of conspiracy theories that infect our discourse. From Pizzagate on the right to anti-vax nonsense on the left, Like me, Merlan is concerned about these crazy theories not because we should trust the powerful, but because we cannot trust them. Idiotic things like Pizzagate or 911-Truthers make real conspiracies that happen, like the Tuskegee Experiments on black people, where the US military allowed bl ...more
Brandt
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
...more
Jacob
Buried deep within most conspiracy theories is some element of truth, that's why almost all of us are conspiracy theorists, at least on one thing or another. Merlan explores some of the bigger conspiracy theories and the history that might make you a little more sympathetic to some of them. Especially interesting were the chapters on race: the bombing of the levees in New Orleans in the 20's leading to the conspiracy taking hold that they were bombed again during Katrina... And why not. The hurr ...more
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
...more
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NPR Book Club: Book for May 2019-Republic of Lies 1 8 May 01, 2019 10:47AM  

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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

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