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Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History Hardcover – 1 Jan 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843546752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843546757
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 950,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'Damian Thompson's extraordinary book is literally a revelation... Superb and often breathtaking.' J. G. Ballard, Daily Telegraph"

About the Author

Damian Thompson is a leader-writer for the Daily Telegraph. He is also editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald and the author of The End of Time (1996) and Waiting for Antichrist (2005).

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Clive P L Young on 7 July 2013
Format: Paperback
While Thompson convinces that 'counter-knowledge', an odd conflation of "conspiracy theories, quack theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history" is a real issue he doesn't really get to the heart of "how we surrendered" to such daft ideas. The book feels superficial; trailing on the coattails of Francis 'Mumbo-Jumbo' Wheen and Ben 'Bad Science' Goldacre without adding much further analysis.

Why does 'counter-knowledge' gain traction? Can such a range of 'counter-knowledge' usefully be treated together? The profit drivers behind homeopathy and suchlike are obvious and Thompson is right to criticise the editorial sloppiness and greed that has allowed the more egregious examples of pseudo-history to be published. But to what extent, for example, is 'conspiracy' an understandable (if usually daft) response to the 'manufacture of consent' that all governments indulge in? The motivations of creationists were also under-analysed. Why do religious fundamentalists peddle such nonsense and what are the actual, as opposed to speculative, consequences on its believers for education and development.

The reading list at the end looks good though, maybe that is where to look for some of these answers.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Stucumber VINE VOICE on 13 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
A good read but quite slight. Although I did agree with most of the author's arguments it was mostly because I was familiar with them already. I can't imagine that this would likely convince anyone who believes in 'alternative' notions of reality as it doesn't really examine them with any real rigour.

I'm still looking for the definitive book on all things 'woo' and though this is not it, it's still a decent primer into the world of 'Counter-Knowledge'.

Where the subject of this book -counter-knowledge- begins and ends I don't know and from the author's definition I'm still not entirely clear. Given the author's occupation as a writer for a christian publication, what defines orthodox knowledge for him may not chime with everyone else's definition.

Still, I believe at least he is nominally on the side of rationality and reason. Even if some of his personal beliefs, for me, make him a target of his own argument.
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By Taras Bulba on 1 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very quick and easy read, highly recommended. Particularly as propaganda and disinformation (eg from Russia Today) are making a comeback. Recommend if you deal with people from former Soviet Union, Turkey, Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia and other places where large segments of the professional classes have difficulty distinguishing between fact and belief.
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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Andy Cannon on 5 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Everyone always goes on about this and that being a 'necessary' book. It is rare to find one that really is necessary as well as being hugely entertaining and thought-provoking.
Thompson writes in clear, elegant prose which belies his deep research of the subject matter. The argument put forward is clear, ratonal and of interest to anyone who's dismayed by the conspiracy theory and easy answer culture of our decade. Previous reviews have mentioned the author's (purported)Catholicism but these purely ad hominem attacks miss the point. Even if you don't agree with Thompson's targets (and with holocaust denial, homeoipathy and creatonism - you'd be remiss not to) then this book is still a valuable treasure trove of methodology. Thompson lays out a process by which all 'knowledge' can be emprically tested. This is so essential that it's a surprise no one teaches it to kids in school.
Oh, did I also mention that te book is funny? well, that it is; acerbic and witty in all the right places. In an age where believeing in UFOs and believing in DNA are accorded the same credibility by the masses, this is that rare thing, a truly necessary book whose lessons you can take with you and apply to anything. In the years to come, this will be seen as a ground-breaking text on destroying dogma and piffle....make sure you read it now and arm yourself against the exigencies of fiction masquerading as fact.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Emir Aric on 14 April 2014
Format: Paperback
What I saw in this book was abject rejection of anything even slightly outside the strictly-established norm, without any actual delving into the supposed "facts" of each thing on an individual basis. Non'o'that "consideration" nonsense - just shoot down complex issues in a quickfire way with little to no critical analysis. Tackling heavily scientific subjects in a sensationalist non-scientific way. Spending pages upon pages refuting/ridiculing ONE book, and then quickly bundling completely unrelated subjects into the end as if discrediting one thing means discrediting everything.

As a rule of thumb - I avoid sources which place a blanket rejection over things which THEY label as "conspiracy" or "quackery". These are emotive terms used to manipulate people into knee-jerk reactions and are never used by serious thinkers. Most of the time they are speaking from emotion instead of the reason and rationality that they claim exclusive sovereignty over. Any source which relies on manipulative language, ridicule and any measure of verbal abuse to make its case is an entirely bankrupt source unworthy of even a second of time, in my opinion and experience. This book ticks all these boxes.

The message of this book is pretty much "Institutions and corporations know the facts and you don't, so stop trying to think for yourself and just accept what you're told". History proves with endless repetition that established fact is always changing and what is established fact in one decade can become absurdity in the next. This book is already scientifically obsolete in this decade, in another one or two it will be a rag.

We can credit it with poking holes in the most obvious and crudest of theories, which anyone can do.
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