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Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History Hardcover – 7 May 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition 5th Printing edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224074709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224074704
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About 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. He lives in Hampstead, north London, with his wife, three daughters and Kerry Blue the terrier. His first book, Paddling to Jerusalem, won the Madoc prize for travel literature in 2001.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Guardian TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Aug 2009
Format: Hardcover
You can be reasonably confident in advance that a book will be worth reading if it has conspiracy theorists in rant-mode and foaming with indignation: a raw nerve has obviously been poked. Such a book is David Aaronovitch's `Voodoo Histories' which exposes the delusional ideological framework at the heart of conspiracy-theorist psychology.

This original UK version of Aaronovitch's book, which includes the conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths of Dr. David Kelly and Hilda Morrell, doesn't disappoint - though it might have had more bite. Radical anti-establishment journalist Aaronovitch looks into why many otherwise sane and rational people buy into the more outlandish conspiracy theories which litter modern social history. From the fraudulent 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' manufactured by 19th century Czarist police to justify the persecution of Jewish people and enthusiastically promoted by Adolf Hitler and Henry Ford (of all people); to the '9/11 was an inside job' fantasists who employ ignorant pseudo-science to feed dogmatic belief-systems and multiple fringe political-propagandist agendas, Aaronovitch takes us on a fascinating, instructive and frequently amusing ride through a parade of delusional ideologies to be found just beneath the surface of contemporary society, and does a mostly effective job in deconstructing them.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Datta on 18 Nov 2009
Format: Hardcover
Well clearly Aaronovitch's book already has a number of conspiracy theorists slathering at the mouth at the debunking of a number of their sacred cows. I guess it's just further evidence to them that the world's media is run by giant lizards from Zarg bent on galactic domination via the printed word. Anyways, let's be grateful for a well researched and readable work which carefully dismantles a number of well know conspiracy theories (Diana, 9/11, JFK) and lesser known ones (e.g. Hilda Murrell). It also usefully provides thoughts on how these theories come about, both in general and in their specific context and what drives people to believe in them despite all the evidence and even post revelation (e.g. Priory of Sion).

So why only three stars?

Well mainly because he carefully selects targets that whilst well known, can also be easily dismantled - a quick check on Wikipedia would probably do enough for the average individual to throw these theories in the bin. So a book on these alone just isn't enough to my mind. A key thing here should be, to my mind, the extent to which governments and companies conspire in far less serious ways and therefore give credence to the possibility of these theories. As such, he doesn't touch on the many day to day collusions, frauds and deceits that governments and companies carry out all the time. These clearly range from the very minor (e. recent Parliamentary expenses), through the domestic (e.g. wire-tapping of political opponents like Scargill), to the international (e.g. French bombing of the Rainbow Warrior) and to the global (e.g. US support for Suharto in the 1960s).
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31 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Iain S. Palin on 2 Jan 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author deals with a number of well-known conspiracy theories, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the death of Dr David Kelly, by way of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the death of Marilyn Monroe, the assassinations of JFK and RFK, the moon landings, the Da Vinci code/bloodline of Jesus stuff, and 9/11 (among others) and to my mind demolishes them pretty thoroughly.
But he isn't just interested in debunking. He also examines why people believe in conspiracy theories and why they can exert such a strong grip on them. He points out that conspiracists tend to be on the "losing side" (politically, socially, or economically) of society, and that believing in conspiracies is therapeutic for them. They can explain why they are on the losing side ("we were robbed, deceived") salve their hurt ("the people who deceived us are so powerful, so evil, it's understandable that they appear to be the winners") and then restore their egos ("we have seen the truth, we are so much cleverer than ordinary people who are happy to be sheep-like in their acceptance of things; we are illuminated, in the know, we are special").
Interestingly he is able to develop this line in the light of some recent psychological and biological research which indicates we are genetically hard wired to look for causes and effects. This seems to be related to our developing tool-using capabilities; in order to develop and employ tools we need to think in cause and effect terms. (And of course while some animals to make occasional and specific use of natural objects as tools, humans are the only ones to do so extensively and develop the range of tools to use.
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