They Knew

How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent

From one of the sharpest political voices of our time, “They Knew” is New York Times bestselling author Sarah Kendzior’s deep dive into the conspiracies that have shaped, and will continue to shape, our increasingly polarized democracy.

In an age of QAnon and widespread misinformation, conspiracy theories cannot be dismissed as one-off or fringe belief systems. In “They Knew,” best-selling political author Sarah Kendzior explores the United States’ “culture of conspiracy,” the inevitable aftermath of decades of criminal impunity by the country’s elite. Pulling from years of experience as a political commentator, she puts forth a timely and unflinching argument: uncritical faith in broken institutions is as dangerous as wild false narratives peddled by propagandists. As powerful actors secretly carry out plans that protect their interests–like the Jeffrey Epstein operation–it’s unsurprising that conspiracy theories are on the rise.

Both conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies revolve around questions of pre-existing power dynamics and the potential to shift them. A conspiracy is a form of betrayal. A conspiracy theory, when rooted in a sincere desire to find and expose the truth, is a refusal to move on from that betrayal. Conspiracy theories are expressions of grief and memory, but because they are emotionally potent, conspiracy theories can be weaponized by malevolent actors (including by the conspirators themselves) to mislead the public further.

Through its discussion of the most influential conspiracy theories and unpunished government corruption of our moment, “They Knew” is a critical look at how we might rebuild our democracy by unearthing the political lies and crimes that have shaped us. The truth may hurt—but the lies will kill us.

Read an interview with Sarah Kendzior in the latest issue of Washington magazine.

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