Mark Jacobson’s Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America traces Cooper’s life and the unlikely spread of his book Behold a Pale Horse, released in 1991 by Melody O’Ryin Swanson, a New Age publisher who claims she’s never read it, despite its perennially strong sales. It’s a story of the incubation of the politics of conspiracy, a kind of prologue to our era of Birthers, Pizzagate, and QAnon ... Behold a Pale Horse attempts to connect this story to the world we now inhabit, one where belief has eclipsed truth, and paranoia has eclipsed trust.
Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America by Mark Jacobson is a worthwhile introduction to one of the most unique personalities in the world of conspiracy theories. In a business full of hucksters, paranoiacs, and would-be messiahs, Cooper is the prototype: the insider-turned-outsider, the radio show host behind a movement. Jacobson, an investigative journalist and contributing editor for New York magazine, creates a complex portrayal of Cooper that recognizes why he has become a mythic figure but doesn’t fall prey to the legend. Jacobson is clear that Cooper was physically abusive in his personal relationships and that his paranoid view of the world reached a dangerous fever pitch.
...intriguing if uneven ... he has missed an opportunity to take a deeper look at how, what and why we believe ... Readers wanting to find out are mainly left to navigate their own way through the fever swamps: Mr. Jacobson describes more than he explains, a flaw mitigated by his sharp eye and keen ear.