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Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
     

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

3.4 28
by David Aaronovitch
 

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An absorbing, probing look at the conspiracy theories that operate on the sidelines of history and the reasons they continue to play such a seditious role, from an award-winning journalist.

Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere- from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana. In this

Overview

An absorbing, probing look at the conspiracy theories that operate on the sidelines of history and the reasons they continue to play such a seditious role, from an award-winning journalist.

Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere- from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana. In this age of terrorism we live in, the role of conspiracy is a serious one, one that can fuel radical or fringe elements to violence.

For David Aaronovitch, there came a time when he started to see a pattern among these inflammatory theories. these theories used similarly murky methods with which to insinu­ate their claims: they linked themselves to the supposed conspiracies of the past (it happened then so it can happen now); they carefully manipulated their evidence to hide its holes; they relied on the authority of dubious aca­demic sources. Most important, they elevated their believers to membership of an elite- a group of people able to see beyond lies to a higher reality. But why believe something that entails stretching the bounds of probabil­ity so far? Surely it is more likely that men did actually land on the moon in 1969 than that thousands of people were enlisted to fabricate an elaborate hoax.

In this entertaining and enlightening book -aimed at providing ammunition for those who have found themselves at the wrong end of a conversation about moon landings or the twin towers-Aaronovitch carefully probes and explodes a dozen of the major conspiracy theories. In doing so, he examines why people believe them, and makes an argument for a true skepticism: one based on a thorough knowledge of history and a strong dose of common sense.

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
"Terrifying, hilarious, irreverent and addictively compelling, Voodoo Histories is an instant classic that should be read by everyone—a brilliant, witty and devastating analysis of, and guide to, the big lies of modern history by our most brilliant commentator" – Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Stalin: The Court Of The Red Tsar"A brilliant, sparkling and witty demolition of numerous conspiracy theories—not only dotty but sometimes, as in the case of the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion—highly dangerous and an analysis of why otherwise intelligent people are so ready to believe in them" – Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101185216
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/04/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
611,240
File size:
578 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

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

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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Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
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dogWY More than 1 year ago
makes for enteresting reading.
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Placitus More than 1 year ago
If belief, faith, impressions, and wishful thinking inspire warm-fuzzy-feelings inside your body, this book will knock your socks off and leave you with very cold feet. Aaronovitch has written an explanation and catalogue of the ancient proposition that, if the premisses are true and the argument is in a valid construction, then you are committed to the conclusion. Unless, of course, you believe the premisses are false. In a context of famous conspiracy theories Aaronovitch illustrates persuasively what it means to claim a false premiss is true. It's worth previewing three sections in the event of hesitation to throw yourself on a potential to fall head over heals for a conspiracy theory. Try "Lone Assassins" pp.133-36, "The Magic Bullet" pp. 136-37, and "Conclusion: Bedtime Story" pp.332-56. If the reader is convinced to look at reality a little more closely, he will have done himself a grand favor. After starting off with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he takes up some luminous transformations of history into spirit-consuming lunacy: the Moscow Trials of the late 1930s, FDR and the destruction at Pearl Harbor, the lethal worms said to be within the New Deal, Senator McCarthy and the great scare, Marilyn Monroe's death, Princess Diana's death, and a barrelful of episodes in between. Motivations come up against plain exposure, occasionally falling on the knife of bitter criticism so sharp it's comic. Feelings of something wrong, desire to believe, the unknown authority, sudden choice blotting out recognition of improbability, conspiracy by accident, incentives offered by money, a need to disclaim responsibility, risk of failure are some of the motivations Aaronovitch sets forth. And if you have lost you're heart (and mind) to The Da Vinci Code, read on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JameJ More than 1 year ago
I really cant stand the loud people busy revising current events, seeing the hand of government/liberals/conservatives/Muslims/Jews/pick-your-oppressor everywhere, pushing their narrow, self contradictory, anti-intellectual points of view. I didnt realise how common this was throughout recent history. Though the author spends way too much ink on Jewish/Zionist conspiracy theories (are there no other examples he could have spent all those pages on?) he does raise valid and interesting points. I think the book could have been shorted by 1/3 and be more compelling. Still a good read.
Bluestatepatriot More than 1 year ago
This book is well written, well researched, and an entertaining read. It serves as an important corrective to the ignorance that prevails on the internet. The author effectively demolishes the arguments of 9/11 "truthers," of right wing "birthers," and of those whose believe in the second gunman on the grassy knoll. If you are truly devoted to history, as opposed to "learning" your history on the internet or on radio talk shows, this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago