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Pale Horse Rider by Mark Jacobson

April 8, 2019

Conspiracy theories are beautiful and dangerous. Beautiful because they connect dots across social, political, and cultural spheres, creating a mosaic of intentions which seems deliberate. They’re dangerous for the exact same reasons. 

The assumption of intent often dismisses coincidence and fact in favor of convenience and disinformation. In the wrong hands, these dangerous ideas become deadly.

Mark Jacobson’s Pale Horse Rider explorers the life of one of AMerica's foremost conspiracy theorists, Milton William Cooper, and it’s a book that itself is both beautiful and dangerous. Beautiful because it paints a clear portrait of a fascinating and flawed man who was haunted by demons both real and (probably) imagined. It’s dangerous because it requires a dive into Cooper’s worldview. The realm of conspiracy which Cooper proffered—the New World Order, international cabals, and, yes, UFOs—suggest a world that’s more ordered than it is, and for some that imagined order is provides comfort in the face of tragedy.

Cooper authored the perpetually checked out Behold a Pale Horse and is a controversial figure due to his ties to the militia movement. Jacobson’s book explores those connections and more, including Cooper’s popularity in the hip hop community and his turbulent personal life.

Milton died in 2001 at the hands of his arch enemy: the US government. His death was either the result of a vast conspiracy or his own stubborn impulses, but his legacy lives on. Today his work is foundational to many of the most virulent conspiracy theories, from false flag operations to birtherism. Jacobson’s book is a fine introduction to Cooper and the world of conspiracy theories, and if Cooper can teach us anything, it’s this: don’t believe everything you think.

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Jeremy Estes has worked for Nashville Public Library since 2008. He loves comic books and dislikes the term “graphic novels”. He hosts Panel Discussion, a comics book club for adults, on the first Wednesday of the month at 12pm at the Main Library. 

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