George Johnson: Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics; Jeremy P. Tarcher; Los Angeles. 

Before the world became a smaller place as a result of com­munications and transportation webs, apocryphal tales about magical and mystical powers emanating from sages in Africa and the Orient permeated the nooks and crannies of civilized environments. Today, when virtually every space is dominated by man, only “Atlantis” and possibly the South Pole (which some individuals maintain is the site of a gate to an ether world) remain as numinous spots on the globe. However; there has been no slack in the ridiculous beliefs, merely a reorientation of per­spective. Now, for many persons, Outer Space holds the Answer. Grocery store tabloids shout through headlines about UFO’s; popular so-called nonfiction pulp paperbacks posit that man will be saved by greater intelli­gence from other planets; SF films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. show a fictional (or is it? …) benign beyond, and even The Right Stuff  movie implies that there are some things that technology cannot explain. There are, of course, terrestrial-oriented crack­pots on the loose, sitting on the edges of their chairs waiting for the mutterings of Nostradamus to knock them off, or babbling about the conspiracies of the Catholic church, international bankers, etc., and or the Iliuminati. 

The Order of the Illuminati was established in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt as a pro-Enlightenment outfit; it probably had all of the power of a glee club with a penchant for costumes and play acting. But some members and outsiders, then and since, blew the whole club up into grotesque propor­tions so that the Illuminati–Or one of its predecessors or suc­cessors–can be found as the moving wedge when it comes to critical historical events: wars, economic crises, you-name-it. George Johnson, while working on stories for the Minneapolis Star, decided to debunk some of the grand schemes of the fringe theorists, such as those people who find secret meanings on the backs of one dollar bills. His stories for that newspaper have been bloated into Architects of Fear.


Johnson’s deflating of others becomes self-inflating: he is a proud secular humanist. Before long, almost anyone in America who happens to be conservative or Christian turns into a member of what he calls the “Obscurati,” a group that includes virtually all of the benighted boobs that Johnson finds littering the Amer­ican landscape. After all, he insists, such people concern themselves with such things as tradition and God, not only progress and man. It becomes patently obvious that Johnson’s illuminative mind captures all of the brilliance of a spent firefly. “Ah ha!” he would interject here, “You too are minions of the obstruction!” Well, if he’s characteristic of the others, thank good­ness we aren’t on his side.