Historian's Podcasts Examine Conspiracy Theories

Illustration: The dollar bill's eye and pyramid and the words State of Conspiracy, a Crooked Mini
UC Davis historian Kathryn Olmsted hosts a four-episode "State of Conspiracy" podcast series. (Illustration/Crooked Media)
Portrait photo of UC Davis history professor
Kathryn Olmsted

Delve into popular conspiracy theories this month with a new podcast from Kathryn Olmsted, professor of history in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

Olmsted has launched a four-episode “State of Conspiracy” series on the site Crooked Media. In her first podcast, Olmsted talks with Anna Merlan, a journalist for Jezebel and other sites and author of the book Republic of Lies, about how Donald Trump successfully used conspiracy theories to gain national attention and get elected, and why the surge in government conspiracy theories today is no joke.

Other episodes will follow each Wednesday in September:

  • Sept. 11, Kevin Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University known for his Twitter threads about U.S. history, will talk about the historical context for the rise in conspiracism. 
  • Sept. 18, Jon Ronson, journalist, documentary filmmaker and an author of several books, including Men Who Stare at Goats, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the “Alt-Right.”
  • Sept. 25, guest to be determined. 

Olmsted said Crooked Media, a political media site best known for its Pod Save America episodes, contacted her and invited her to do a monthlong Crooked Mini podcast series.

“Are lizard people real? Was 9/11 an inside job? Is the government really out to get you? We can’t conclusively answer those questions, but we will be exploring these topics in September’s series, State of Conspiracy,” says the online intro to her podcasts.

Olmsted is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 and other books. She teaches a popular undergraduate course, “Politics and Paranoia: Conspiracy Theories in 20th Century America.”

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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