Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
Manufactering Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America
published by Pantheon Books
Manufacturing Hysteria is a wide-ranging, provocative study of how our notions of democracy, freedom, and tolerance are threatened during political, social, and economic crises.
In this ambitious history, Jay Feldman takes us from the run up to World War I and its anti-German hysteria, through the September 11th attacks and Arizona's current anti-immigration movement. What we see is a striking pattern of elected officials and private citizens alike inflaming pervasive American fears and prejudices to ostracize minorities (which can be ethnic, racial, political, religious, or sexual), silence dissent, and stem the growth of civil rights and liberties. Among the many examples Feldman discusses are the government's first efforts, during the Depression, to deport and "repatriate" Mexicans and Mexican Americans; President Franklin Roosevelt's ordered "summary apprehension" of 112,000 people during World War II; the viciousness of the Cold War anticommunist campaign, and the consequent Lavender Scare, in which thousands of gay government employees were sacked on suspicion of "moral weakness."
Feldman considers these and other events not as a series of discrete moments, but as part of a continuous vein that runs through American life. In Manufacturing Hysteria, he gives us a timely and powerful reminder of the vigilance required to preserve our most basic ideals.
What has been said about Manufacturing Hysteria:
"Penetrating account of xenophobia and the officially sanctioned persecution of minorities and the politically undesirable....Feldman is an attentive historian, unearthing many disturbing, forgotten examples of official malfeasance....An alternate history rife with violence and class oppression, presented with rigor and detail." — KIRKUS REVIEWS
Jay Feldman is the author of When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes (Free Press, 2005), Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream (Triumph Books, 2006), and Hitting: An Official Major League Baseball Book (Simon & Schuster, 1991). His articles have appeared in Smithsonian, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Gourmet, Whole Earth Review, and a broad variety of other national, regional and local publications. A number of his pieces have been anthologized. He has also written for television (the highly acclaimed but short-lived CBS series Brooklyn Bridge) and the stage (A Loud Noise in a Public Place).