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Rental Partner: Elliott Bay Book Company presents

Rachel Maddow with Seth Cotlar (SOLD OUT)


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Tue Oct 24, 2023
7:30 pm PDT


The Great Hall
1119 Eighth Avenue (enter on Eighth Avenue)
Seattle, 98101 United States
+ Google Map

Emmy Award-winning MSNBC host and #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Maddow visits Seattle on the occasion of her latest book Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism.


Rachel Maddow traces the fight to preserve American democracy back to World War II, when a handful of committed public servants and brave private citizens thwarted far-right plotters trying to steer our nation toward an alliance with the Nazis.

Inspired by her research for the hit MSNBC podcast Ultra, Rachel Maddow charts the rise of a wild American strain of authoritarianism that has been alive on the far-right edge of our politics for the better part of a century. Before and even after our troops had begun fighting abroad in World War II, a clandestine network flooded the country with disinformation aimed at sapping the strength of the U.S. war effort and persuading Americans that our natural alliance was with the Axis, not against it. It was a sophisticated and shockingly well-funded campaign to undermine democratic institutions, promote antisemitism, and destroy citizens’ confidence in their elected leaders, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the U.S. government and installing authoritarian rule.

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That effort worked — tongue and groove — alongside an ultra-right paramilitary movement that stockpiled bombs and weapons and trained for mass murder and violent insurrection.

At the same time, a handful of extraordinary activists and journalists were tracking the scheme, exposing it even as it was unfolding. In 1941 the U.S. Department of Justice finally made a frontal attack, identifying the key plotters, finding their backers, and prosecuting dozens in federal court.

None of it went as planned.

While the scheme has been remembered in history—if at all—as the work of fringe players, in reality it involved a large number of some of the country’s most influential elected officials. Their interference in law enforcement efforts against the plot is a dark story of the rule of law bending and then breaking under the weight of political intimidation.

That failure of the legal system had consequences. The tentacles of that unslain beast have reached forward into our history for decades. But the heroic efforts of the activists, journalists, prosecutors, and regular citizens who sought to expose the insurrectionists also make for a deeply resonant, deeply relevant tale in our own disquieting times.

Rachel Maddow is host of the Emmy Award–winning “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Drift and Blowout, and the New York Times bestselling co-author of Bag Man. Maddow received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and earned her doctorate in political science at Oxford University. She lives in New York City and Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula.

Seth Cotlar is a Professor of History at Willamette University in Salem, OR.  He is currently working on an article entitled Rightlandia: Walter Huss and the Long History of the Far Right in Oregon, 1955-2005 about an anti-communist crusader with ties to white nationalists and neo-Nazis who was elected chair of the Oregon Republican Party in 1978. Portions of that research have appeared on his Substack page, also entitled Rightlandia. Cotlar’s first book, Tom Paine’s America: The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2011) won the James Broussard Prize for Best First Book from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.  He is also the co-editor, with Richard Ellis, of a collection of essays entitled Historian in Chief: How Presidents Interpret the Past to Shape the Future, (University of Virginia Press, 2019).

Presented by Elliott Bay Book Company. If you have questions about this event, please contact Elliott Bay Book Company at (206) 624-6600.

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