"A solid sketch of a difficult and intriguing topic without indulging in sensationalism" (Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1997).
Was AIDS intentionally inflicted upon blacks by whites? Was JFK assassinated as part of an intricate conspiracy? Pipes traces conspiracy theories through history to show that "Conspiracism"—genuine and virulent belief in a conspiracy—dates back to the First Crusade and reached a peak in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, with the focus shifting from the Jews, groups such as Freemasons and the Rosicrucians, and back again.
In this academic study, Pipes (The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy) defines "conspiracism" as unfounded fears that explain political events. He harkens back to the crusades, when the rumor that Jews were plotting to seize political power became prevalent as well as a cultural myth that the secret society of the Knights Templar was also a conspiracy against the existing order. Hatred toward Jews and secret societies, according to the author, led to the mass killings of the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust, and to a brutal suppression of Freemasons in various countries. Although the author's analysis is interesting, his thesis that Britain and the U.S. have been historically victimized by left-wing conspiracists is less convincing. He discounts as left-wing conspiracist thinking questions surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy and speculation about the timing of Iran's release of U.S. hostages in the last days of the Carter administration. Pipes also makes the controversial argument that conspiracy theories advanced by the political left have been far more harmful to society than those propagated by the right.