American Panic : A History of Who Scares Us and Why
Overview - 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. Read more...
More About American Panic by Mark Stein
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 American political panics from the Salem witch hunt to present-day vehemence over issues such as Latino immigration, gay marriage, and the construction of mosques, Stein closely examines just what it is that causes us as a nation to overreact in the face of widespread and potentially profound change. This book also devotes chapters to African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Chinese and Japanese peoples, Communists, Capitalists, women, and a highly turbulent but largely forgotten panic over Freemasons. Striking similarities in these diverse episodes are revealed in primary documents Stein has unearthed, in which statements from the past could easily be mistaken for statements today. As these similarities come to light, Stein reveals why some people become panicked over particular issues when others do not.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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Due to an enduring susceptibility to fear and a concomitant desire for certitude, waves of political panic will likely continue to shape American history, but the nation’s founding principles of equality and the rule of law—as well as faith in freedom and democracy—offer a check on the excesses of “alarmists,” argues Stein (How the States Got Their Shapes). In advancing his shaky thesis, Stein surveys 12 episodes of political panic, in roughly chronological order, beginning with the genocidal campaign against Native Americans and ending with post-9/11 fears. African Americans, Chinese immigrants, women, homosexuals, Catholics, Jews, anarchists, Communists, Latino immigrants, and (somewhat anomalously) corporations are among the objects of panic in this cursory assessment. Stein takes pains to show how the objects of political panic can reinforce one another, as when anti-Chinese sentiment among ethnically white laborers and their representatives dovetailed with opposition to capitalist corporations that thrive on cheap, nonunion labor. But the book’s catch-all thesis tends to skirt complexity, and the emphasis on panic skews the discussion toward the irrational bases of these cases, rather than material ones like class interest or job competition. While there are lessons to glean here, careful readers may balk at the book’s generalizations. (May)