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Download American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why Audiobook

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What political panics—from the Salem witch trials to the Tea Party—can tell us about our modern society

In American Panic, New York Times bestselling author Mark Stein traces the history and consequences of American political panics through the years. Virtually every American, on one level or another, falls victim to the hype, intensity, and propaganda that accompany political panic, regardless of their own personal affiliations. By highlighting the similarities between American political panics from the Salem witch trials to present-day vehemence over issues such as Latino immigration, gay marriage, and the construction of mosques, Stein closely examines just what it is that causes us as a nation to overreact in the face of widespread and potentially profound change. This book also devotes chapters to African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Chinese and Japanese peoples, communists, capitalists, women, and a highly turbulent but largely forgotten panic over freemasons. Striking similarities in these diverse episodes are revealed in primary documents Stein has unearthed, in which statements from the past could easily be mistaken for statements today. As these similarities come to light, Stein reveals why some people become panicked over particular issues when others do not.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A fresh take on the outbursts of hysteria over witches, Catholics, women, communists, gays, Muslims, illegal aliens, and others that have occurred throughout American history…Popular history that will appeal to readers of the author’s How the States Got Their Shapes.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Mark Stein does not look at our history through the familiar prism of presidents, battles, and laws; instead he uncovers and relates the behavior and fears of the populace that too often has set the course of history. A wonderful read filled with lessons so needed now.”

    Stanley Kutler, author The Wars of Watergate

  • “Through compelling narrative and intriguing research, Mark Stein shines a beacon into the midnight of the American soul and shows us what our deepest fears say about ourselves as individuals and as a people. The psychological gap between the ideal and reality of E Pluribus Unum is Stein’s theme, and he limns it with original and fascinating insight.”

    Mark Olshaker, coauthor of Law & Disorder

  • “If there is an American cultural DNA Mark Stein is the guy who most ably picks apart the strands that tell us who we are—and in this case, what scares us and why and puts them and ultimately us under a microscope for a rarefied, compelling, and unforgettable view.”

    Brian Unger, TV host, actor

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About the Author

Mark Stein is the author of How the States Got Their Shapes, a New York Times bestseller that became the basis of the History Channel series of the same name, in which Stein frequently appears. He is also the author of How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People behind the Borderlines. Stein lives in Washington, DC, where he has taught at the Catholic University of America and American University.