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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: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 561,978 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

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. 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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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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By m. dosa on 21 April 2014
Format: Paperback
this book sets out to question and debunk. its quite wide ranging which can give it a bit of a sneering tone but its autopsy of the book 1421 was interesting,homeopathy and some of the conspiracy theories concerning 9/11 were worth reading it came across to me as positive debunking some of the aura counter knowledge has attained
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46 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. A. Davies on 25 Jun 2008
Format: Hardcover
Firstly, the good points. This book points out many of the more dubious beliefs held by sections of society, and indeed justifiably, it seems, calls for people to open their eyes to many of the highly suspect techniques used by pioneers of 'counterknowledge' in the conveying of their work: 'Loose Change', for example, taking situations out of context and cropping photos to bias their account of events, thus encouraging sceptism of such notions as 9/11 conspiracy theories.

However, the book's downfall is ironically preset in its own approach to 'facts'. Unfortunately, Thompson's reasoning, scattered citations and poorly disguised subjectivity in his portrayal of counterknowledge ultimately mirrors his criticism of how counterknowledge is spread in the first place. For example, in the same paragraph of describing how the 'cultic milieu', in their stupidy, basically think everything is conspiratorial and unrealistic once they accept one conspiracy, he goes on to make the generalisation that since 9/11 is supposedly an unjustified conspiracy, so must be the case with ESP, UFOs, Bible Prophesy, near-death experiences, and so on. This sort of generalisation becomes ubiquitous as the book progresses; and thus Thompson forms his own 'cultic milieu', which should probably be renamed 'sceptic milieu' - as it seems just about as valid to presume that all conspiracies and unlikely events are false as it is to presume that all are true. I see this book as a piece of counterknowledge in itself by the way it arrogantly presents all its inferences and conclusions as fact, thus being as misleading to the weaker-minded reader as the likes of Dan Brown - only on the opposite end of the spectrum.

This said, 'Counterknowledge' does have SOME valid points and, albeit at the expense of its integrity, is an entertaining read.
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