A paranoid's full plate as Vankin, news editor of Metro, a California "alternative weekly newspaper,'' tromps through every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of--and then some.
While putting his imprimatur on none of the many theories he's diligently researched, Vankin makes no bones about his general premise: "The history of secret societies is the history of conspiracies. And that is the history of civilization itself.'' Before he works up to this puzzle-box edict on history, however, Vankin opens with a disorienting look at several top "conspiracy theorists,'' including Lyndon LaRouche (Britain as a hotbed of "irrational hedonists'' bent on world domination), William Bramley (UFOs as directors of human history), and Daniel Sheehan (a "Secret Team'' of CIA agents, businessmen, and drug-smugglers as America's "shadow government''). Here, as elsewhere, Vankin turns up apparent gold among the dross: In his report on Ken and Jim Collier, for instance, he reports that one Manhattan-based company, NES, owned by the networks and AP and UPI, has been granted "a legal monopoly'' to count all votes cast in presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections ("The U.S. government does not tabulate a single vote...NES is the only source Americans have to find out how they...voted''). More boggling, though, is the author's ardent rundown of the theories themselves, stepping off from questions about the JFK and RFK assassinations, CIA-sponsored mind-control, the mob, and Jonestown to the all-embracing theories that see Western civilization as the plaything of an age-old Masonic conspiracy that today is headed by none other than George Bush ("He is an embodiment of conspiracy'').
Hopscotch organization and choppy prose don't help Vankin's brief, but, thorough and enthusiastic, it still offers enjoyably wild, sometimes challenging, fare for anyone who wonders who really rules the roost.