I have to admit one thing here: I knew who Jesse Ventura was as early as 1979 when he was a professional wrestler in the AWA tag-teaming with Adrian Adonis. Whether you like him, love him, or hate him, most people would likely at least be willing to describe former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura as "colorful". From his former stint as a professional wrestler to his political career and then as the host of truTV's "Conspiracy Theory", Ventura has generally approached certain topics with a certain amount of candor, flamboyance, and controversy. The topic of his latest book, "American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies that the Government Tells Us", can easily be guessed by the title as Ventura takes a look at numerous events throughout American history that he believes may have been either influenced, caused directly, or covered up by the United States government.
As you would expect with any book covering a wide range of government conspiracy theories, "American Conspiracies" covers the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Stolen elections (interestingly beginning with Ronald Reagan's victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980 instead of G.W. Bush in 2000), Watergate, and the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centers in New York each have their own chapters in the book, and some interesting (but unsurprising) material is covered in chapters about Malcolm X and the Jonestown Massacre (where it is claimed that Reverend Jim Jones may have been a CIA operative engaging in mind-control research for .gov... YMMV). Ventura prefaces each chapter with a block that describes "The Incident", "The Official Word", and "My Take", where Ventura gives his opinion on what he feels may have really happened as far as the involvement of the United States government is concerned. It wouldn't make much sense for Ventura to include chapters and reference material on incidents that happened as "The Official Word" reported, so the "My Take" analysis (and most of the supporting material) is clearly slanted towards evil-doings and nefarious plots. While there isn't very much in the way of counter-points to much of the research done into the book, Ventura makes it clear in the introduction by writing "Right now I'm a skeptic about anything I read officially from the government" (pg. xx) that his opinion and bias are both up-front, so rebukes and rebuttals from dissenting opinions aren't expected here.
It's easy to understand why Ventura has an interest in this topic. As a political independant, Ventura often bucked the system but never seemed to receive much support from either major political party. In "American Conspiracies", he claims that he "was shielded from plenty of information, because they figured this guy will come and go" (pg. xi). A final word titled "What Should We Do Now?" ends each chapter with Ventura's opinion about how each alleged conspiracy could or should be followed up on by the American people and/or government; these are also clearly opinion, and some comments ("we've become a corporatized state" (pg. 182) and "open the ballot and the debates to legitimate third-party candidates" (pg. 141)) smack of "being held down by the man".. not very surprising given Ventura's political career though. He started as an entertainer, became a politician (yet still a celebrity), and is once again an entertainer. Anyone who has heard his voice should imagine him doing a TV promo saying "I'm Jesse "The Mind" Ventura... legalize marijuana now!" By the way, I'm not taking a stance on that position either way, the thought of it just cracks me up.
For what it's worth, the "Further Reading" (pg. 204) and "Notes" (pg. 208) sections were well done but with the main text clocking in at 203 pages, I'm glad I picked this up from Amazon (see link above) for about 13 bucks instead of the US $24.95 cover price.
It shouldn't matter whether you believe in one, some, many, or all of the "conspiracy theories" discussed in "American Conspiracies" to be able to take a more critical look at each event and decide for yourself what you believe to be the truth. As we state on attrition.org's Charlatans page: "Read the material with a grain of salt; don't implicitly trust us. Make your own decisions based on all the facts you can find, not just what you read here". Whether or not you agree with Ventura's take on each chapter of the book, at the very least "American Conspiracies" is an interesting read about some of the most historical (and tragic) events in United States history.
Grade out of 5:
3.5 (could have been 4 for entertainment value, but should have been about another 50 pages longer. Sorry, Jesse, it "went home" too early...)