Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia

Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia

by Francis Wheen


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The 1970s were a theme park of mass paranoia. Strange Days Indeed tells the story of the decade when a distinctive “paranoid style” emerged and seemed to infect all areas of both private and public life, from high politics to pop culture. The sense of paranoia that had long fuelled the conspiracy theories of fringe political groups then somehow became the norm for millions of ordinary people. And to make it even trickier, a certain amount of that paranoia was justified. Watergate showed that the governments really were doing illegal things and then trying to cover them up.

Though Nixon may have been foremost among deluded world leaders he wasn't the only one swept up in the tide of late night terrors. UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson was convinced that the security services were plotting his overthrow, while many of them were convinced he was a Soviet agent. Idi Amin and his alleged cannibalism, the CIA's role in the Chilean coup, the Jonestown cult, the Indian state of emergency from '75 to '77 and more are here turned into a delicious carnival of the deranged—and an eye-opening take on an oft-derided decade—by a brilliant writer with an acute sense of the absurd.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586488451
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 03/02/2010
Pages: 343
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Francis Wheen is deputy editor of Private Eye and the editor of Lord Gnome's Literary Companion, the author of the bestselling How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World and Karl Marx: A Life, and a former columnist in the London Guardian. He has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Nation, the New Yorker, LA Times, and Washington Post, and has appeared on C-SPAN's Booknotes and National Public Radio.

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Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Ann_Louise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't gotten hang of adding a 1/2 star, otherwise this would have three 1/2, not just 3. This book arrived shortly after I watched Threads - a BBC docudrama depicting the effect of WW3 on several families in England. In retrospect, Threads seems like the poison flowering, the ultimate nightmare of the paranoia and distrust of the preceding decade. It was different, but enjoyable, to read a book about the 70's from a British perspective. It presents a grim, gray counterpart to the hazy, "Brady Bunch" sheen we in the U.S. see the 70's through. An interesting read.
craigim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was born in the 1970's in the US, so most of the players in Strange Days Indeed were strange to me. However, reading against a backdrop of Glen Beck and Fox News, the burgeoning Tea Party movement, two mis-managed wars, the USA Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, torture, and secret CIA prisons and no-warrant NSA wiretapping, I found much of the paranoia to be rather quaint. I was disappointed that Wheen left it until the very last chapter to tie any of the 70's paranoia to the paranoia of today.
LamSon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strange Days Indeed is an interesting and enjoyable read, but I was somewhat disappointed. Part of the subtitle talked of `a World on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown.¿ Unfortunately, there was only a sampling, like Idi Amin, for example, of the other lunatics that abounded in the 1970s (Kim Il-sung, Pinochet¿). Most of the book explored the chaotic world around PM Harold Wilson with a healthy dose of President Richard Nixon. In the last chapter, Wheen does a good job summing up the decade by sampling the paranoid/conspiracy movies that were prevalent at the time.
kbondelli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strange Days Indeed is a history of the 1970s without being an historical narrative that starts in 1970 and ends in 1980. Instead, Francis Wheen approaches the decade through the lens of a particular characteristic: paranoia.While much of the focus of the book is on the politics and culture of the United States and Great Britain, Wheen also looks at how the paranoiac mindset was prevalent throughout the world, from China and the Soviet Union to Africa and South America.This account of the paranoia, fear, and dread that was ubiquitous in the 1970s is more than just an interesting look at history. It is also a reminder and a warning for the world today. The politics of fear, surveillance and roving wiretaps, and terrorism all mark a resurgence of paranoia in the post-9/11 world.Wheen's important and interesting approach will leave the reader with a new understanding of the 1970s, as well as a valuable lens with which to view the world today.
jsewvello on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strange Days Indeed tells the story of the 1970s, a decade when a distinctive paranoid style emerged and seemed to infect all areas of both private and public life, from high politics to pop culture. The book frames the 1970s as an era of institutional collapse, unstable officials, general irrationalism and terror. The author brings together everything from global politics, literature, and film. He occasionally adds his own memories to help create a feeling of immediacy. This book is written from a British perspective, presenting stories and figures not well known to us readers in the U.S. The poster child for this paranoid style was Richard Nixon, but he was not alone. There were many other paranoid leaders during the decade, including UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Ugandan President Idi Amin.This was a very entertaining book, but I¿m not sure that I completely agree with the author¿s premise that 1970s were ¿The Golden Age of Paranoia". It seems like nearly every decade has its share of paranoia. The '30s had Stalin's purges and Nazi hatred of the Jews. The '50s had McCarthyism. And now that were in the age of terrorism, paranoia seems to be more pervasive than ever.
atbradley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Until the conclusion of Strange Days Indeed, which reminds us that the Era of Paranoia experienced a comeback starting after September 11, 2001, I was able to appreciate the book in much the same way as I would any other humourous nonfiction (like, say, the essays of Mark Twain)--with the lunacy of the era safely 30-40 years in the past, it's easy enough to read its history as simply dark comedy, an attitude Wheen deftly encourages.For the most part, I found the book thoroughly amusing and often hilarious (even the index has its moments--one entry reads, "Manners, Elizabeth: deplores masturbation, 124; admits trying it: 125"). Wheen provides an overview of many of the absurdities of the Seventies--White House correspondents' (justified) concern that President Nixon 'might go bats in front of them at any time'; the worry among top US and UK intelligence officials that Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister, was a KGB operative; Idi Amin's psychotic mistreatment of foreigners, including diplomatic officials, in his Uganda; the rise of Uri Geller, Raël and other psychic lunacy; to name a few examples--[?] with snippets of memoir interspersed and providing a more personal connection to events.Overall, this is a fun and worthwhile read, but be forewarned--it's dense and really appreciating it requires some degree of background knowledge or willingness to look up a few of Wheen's references, especially to British history and politics.
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting, if somewhat uneven, book. It looks at the 1970s with the purpose of demonstrating that it was a weird and wild, extremely paranoid decade. I wasn't alive in the '70s, so I can't say how accurate Wheen's description is. However, I can say, that, being of a younger generation, I felt like a lot of his points went over my head. He spends a lot of time recollecting his specific experiences and expecting the reader to remember, too, which severely limits his audience. The book isn't constructed in any sort of linear fashion, so if you're expecting a straightforward, timeline style history, you're out of luck. There are some interesting parts, especially the bits about Nixon, Mao, and various dictators. A lot of time is spent on the UK's situation, which makes sense as Wheen is British, but a lot of the minutiae of British politics can be lost on the American reader (at least if the American reader is me). The germ of Wheen's idea (that the paranoia of the '70s lingers today) is interesting, as are a lot of the stories that are brought up as asides. But the book is a bit of a mess and doesn't live up to its potential. I am glad, though, that I read it right before David Peace's Nineteen Seventy-Four, because otherwise I would have missed a lot of the time period. I can't really recommend this book overall. Two and a half stars.
Dogberryjr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Going into Strange Days Indeed, I had some knowledge of the hijinx of the 1970s, but only from an American perspective. Wheen pays attention to the United States but also describes the upheaval in United Kingdom and beyond, relating some very bizarre incidents and instances that I had never before heard of. Parts of the book bog a bit, but it's certainly worthwhile to keep pushing on.
chorn369 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since I was born in 1960, I can honestly say I was there for the golden age of paranoia. Growing up in an era with only a couple TV channels, the only thing to watch when I was exiled to my grandparents house in the summer of 1973 were the Watergate hearings. The evening television news (no 24-hour news cycle then) recapped the Nixon administration shenanigans, the number of dead and wounded in Vietnam, anti-war protests in U.S.streets, the labor strife in the UK, the continual temperature-drop of relations with the Soviet Union, slaughter, torture, dictatorships, and famine in Africa, and often a nasty tidbit or two out of Latin America. Wheen's book puts a hilarious and sobering perspective on this age that is surely destined to repeat itself, as history always does.
erikschreppel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book, but not really sure he relates his premise very well. The book is supposed to be a collection of tales from the 70's illustrating the paranoia of the times. Some of the stories do relate to paranoia, but a lot of them don't. Still interesting reading, but don't think he really tied the tales together very well in support of his theme.