Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History [NOOK Book]

Overview

A history so funny, so true, so scary, it's bound to be called a conspiracy.



"Meticulous in its research, forensic in its reasoning, robust in its argument, and often hilarious in its debunking, Voodoo Histories is a highly ...
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Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

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Overview

A history so funny, so true, so scary, it's bound to be called a conspiracy.



"Meticulous in its research, forensic in its reasoning, robust in its argument, and often hilarious in its debunking, Voodoo Histories is a highly entertaining rumble with the century's major conspiracy theorists and their theories" (John Lahr).



From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 to the assassination of JFK to the Birther movement, David Aaronvitch probes and explores the major conspiracy theories (and theorists) of our time. This entertaining and enlightening conspiracy theory book-aimed to provide ammunition for those who have found themselves at the wrong end of a conversation about moon landings or the Twin Towers-examines why people believe these conspiracies, and makes an argument for a true skepticism: one based on a thorough knowledge of history and a strong dose of common sense.
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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
In his lively new book, Voodoo Histories, the journalist David Aaronovitch uses Occam's razor to eviscerate the many conspiracy theories that have percolated through politics and popular culture over the last century…Aaronovitch, who is a columnist for The Times of London, deconstructs a dizzying array of conspiracy theories in these pages with unsparing logic, common sense and at times exasperated wit.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
In this impressive new study of contemporary conspiracy theories, British journalist Aaronovitch (London Times) analyzes a plethora of explanations that have surfaced over the past several decades for such mysteries as who shot the Kennedy brothers, how Marilyn Monroe died, whether our astronauts really landed on the moon or were part of a huge NASA scam, and what was the real 9/11 plot. Beyond providing a systematic analysis of both how conspiracy theorists present their cases and what the actual facts are, as they are known in 12 different historical cases, Aaronovitch delves into the psychology of what makes conspiracy theories attractive in the first place. Humans always seek comfort in knowing exactly what has happened, and the absence of certainty (because of the way history is) makes us susceptible to those who think they know more than we do. There is comfort in thinking that historical events cannot have random causes but must operate instead from some preconceived (and often diabolical) notion. VERDICT This is fascinating stuff and absorbing reading that gives us a better understanding of why conspiracy theories are so popular and what the facts—in fact—indicate. Recommended.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
An Orwell Prize-winning British journalist examines a dozen conspiracy theories and why they matter. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was Marilyn Monroe murdered? Did the U.S. government bring down the Twin Towers? Conspiracy theories, writes The Times (UK) columnist Aaronovitch (Paddling to Jerusalem: An Aquatic Tour of Our Small Country, 2000), are invariably unlikely and implausible, but they often seep into the popular culture and meet real needs. The author describes the key proponents and tenets of each conspiracy theory and the "evasions, half-truths, and bad science" on which most are based. Readers may grow impatient with his detailed explications-the theories are well-known nonsense-but they allow him to show how fringe thinking can spread through the Internet and mass media and color our understanding of historical events. Aaronovitch notes that the Arab world still widely invokes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fraudulent document claiming that the world will be ruled by a supreme Jewish autocrat, and that by the 1970s the young and educated in the United States and Europe believed in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. The writes that conspiracy theorists have much in common. They always cite similar earlier conspiracies, insist they are simply raising disturbing questions, rely on endorsements from celebrities and academics with exaggerated credentials and claim that they are being watched by authorities. "The government has been trying to sell us a pack of lies," said one woman about 9/11. Unfortunately, such charges enjoy a patina of credence because of genuine U.S. government coverups, including Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair. But the real reason educated,middle-class individuals circulate conspiracy theories is the human need for a story, writes the author. We crave order, cannot tolerate the chaos of random events and are quick to insist that "they" (Jews, communists, big corporations, etc.) are responsible. Sometimes rambling, but helps explain our fascination with the proverbial crock. Agent: Georgia Garrett/AP Watt
From the Publisher
"This is fascinating stuff and absorbing reading that gives us a better understanding of why conspiracy theories are so popular and what the facts—-in fact—-indicate." —-Library Journal
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
The concept of conspiracy is one that tickles the fancy of many people. The popularity of mystery stories that hinge on misdirection, surprise endings, and things not being what they appear to be is an example of the powerful appeal of uncertainty. Aaronovitch delves into the issue of conspiracy theory as applied to historical events. In approaching this "what-if" subject the author not only touches on some of the most fascinating conspiracy theories but also identifies some of the potential political agendas attached to them. For Aaronovitch, conspiracy advocates not only try to peel away the layers of misdirection that are heaped onto events but also apply their own agenda to the new reality. For example, conspiracy theorists who doubt the veracity of the 1969 lunar landing, or who generally opposed the space program, may reflect distrust of the Federal government as a widespread phenomenon in American society. A wide range of beliefs and biases color the conspiracy theorists' perspective or, in more premeditated cases, actually drive a new agenda. In the end, Aaronovitch cautions readers to weigh heavily not only the ideas of conspiracy theorists but their agendas as well. A failure to do so leads to nothing more than a new false reality purporting to be based on truth but really no more than a myth. By providing an in-depth look at the subject of conspiracy theories in history, Aaronovitch does a great service to serious readers. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101185216
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/4/2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 307,664
  • File size: 565 KB

Meet the Author

David Aaronovitch is an award-winning journalist, who has worked in radio, television and newspapers in the United Kingdom since the early 1980s. His first book, Paddling to Jerusalem, won the Madoc prize for travel literature in 2001. He is also the recipient of the George Orwell Prize for political journalism. He writes a regular column for The Times (UK). He lives in north London, with his wife and three daughters.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2011

    recommended

    makes for enteresting reading.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Authentically scary book

    Depending on how paranoid we feel, there's a multitude of questions we may be asking about what's going on in the world. Is the world really being secretly run by an international cabal of Jewish bankers? Are aliens (human or otherwise) really out to capture America and murder all the white people? Did the U.S. government really conspire to invent the AIDS virus? Mastermind Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attack? Kill Marilyn Monroe? Aha-there's the operative word. Conspire. In this age of too much information and too little personal power, there's got to be someone running the show. Someone is sitting behind the great, giant head pulling the levers. And we can't afford to ignore that guy behind the curtain. He's out to get us. David Aaronovitch, an award-winning British journalist and skeptic, take a very close look at conspiracy theories and the conspiracists who propagate them. His definition of conspiracy theory is "the attribution of secret action to one party that might far more reasonably be explained as the less covert and less complicated action of another," or in other words, "the unnecessary assumption of conspiracy where other explanations are more probable. Where do all these conspiracy theories come from? Aaronovitch searches for an answer to this question in his final chapter, "A Bedtime Story." It seems to come down, he writes, to a combination of paranoia and powerlessness and the human need to have stories. If we can somehow account for great and terrible events, then history is not random. We don't like change, so we tell stories to explain change and promote the idea that underneath change there is still something that makes sense. Conspiracy theories are thus somehow comforting. "I have written this book," he concludes, "because I believe that conspiracies aren't powerful. It is instead the idea of conspiracies that has power" (pg. 372). Quill says: Forget about vampires and zombies and aliens from outer space. This is one of the most authentically scary books you'll ever read in your life. Help! The paranoids are after me!

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