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Among the bizarre-but-documented conspiracies: U.S. plots to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro (one scheme involved dropping poison pills in his drinks; another called for planting an exploding seashell in his favorite scuba-diving bay); proposed military attacks on U.S. citizens as a pretext for war with Cuba (bombing U.S. cities, for one; blowing up John Glenn's rocket during his historic spaceflight, for another); and a government study that dropped hallucinogenic drugs into the drinks of unsuspecting Americans in random bars.
And the view through that window is one of growing paranoia. Olmsted notes that in a 1964 poll, nearly 80 percent of Americans said that they trusted officials to do the right thing most or all of the time -- an all-time high.
Contrast that with 2006, when more than half of Americans ages 18 to 29 told pollsters they believed that the Bush administration had either planned the 9/11 attacks or deliberately let them happen.
The cure for corrosive conspiracy theories, according to Olmsted, is increased government transparency and accountability. And Americans must make themselves informed skeptics.
"When you live in a democracy, you have to educate yourself about your government to hold it accountable," the history professor says. "I always tell my students that being a citizen in a democracy is a lot of work. You have to be skeptical of your government, and you have to be skeptical of conspiracy theories about your government. Trusting either totally is a mistake.
with one man climbing a tree to feed the birds, the troop commander gave up
During the Cold War, the U.S. Army pursued a research program that used soldiers as lab rats to test the effects of various chemical agents—ranging "from tear gas and '___' to highly lethal nerve agents, like VX." As a huge class action suit against the government by those who were experimented upon nears its trial date, the New Yorker has dropped a huge piece full of details on just how much crazy # our military was doing in a single secret facility in Maryland.