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Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History [Kindle Edition]

David Aaronovitch
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Did Neil Armstrong really set foot on the moon?

Was the United States government responsible for the 11 September attacks?

Should we doubt the accidental nature of Diana's death?

Voodoo Histories entertainingly demolishes the absurd and sinister conspiracy theories of the last 100 years. Aaronovitch reveals not only why people are so ready to believe in these stories but also the dangers of this credulity.

*Includes a new chapter investigating the conspiracy theories that question Obama's legitimacy as president *

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"A handbook to be cherished by anyone who would rather have the unvarnished truth" (Daily Mail)

"Superbly researched, wittily written and eminently sane" (Andrew Roberts Literary Review)

"Gloriously readable" (Independent)

"Dazzling debunkery" (Scotland on Sunday)

"This book leaves us in no doubt that arriving at the truth is a vital matter - at times a matter of life and death" (John Lloyd Financial Times)

Book Description

A stinging assault on the shocking, dotty and sinister world of modern conspiracy theories by the award-winning journalist David Aaronovitch.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
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 US version of Aaronovitch's original UK-biased text, which includes the conspiracy theories surrounding Obama's birth, doesn't disappoint - though it might have had more bite. Erstwhile 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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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They Knew 5 Jun. 2010
This is an enjoyable trip through many of recent history's most popular conspiracy theories. The recurring theme is the tendency for apparently intelligent people to challenge "official" stories with a deep scepticism, yet fail to apply any level of critical scepticism at all to their own ideas. There are some interesting common themes and tendencies throughout these, and the conclusion makes interesting observations about our need to find neat narratives in an otherwise indifferent and chaotic world, as well as the odd fact that it tends to be people with plenty of academic qualifications who propagate these stories.

Where he really succeeds is in his ability to tell these stories while (largely) holding back on excessive ridicule or ranting, allowing theories to collapse under their own preposterous contradictions with only a bit of prodding. These are strongest where subsequent evidence (e.g. DNA testing) has incontrovertibly disproved a theory that at the time seemed backed by very strong evidence.

These are generally viewed across the political spectrum, although his portrayal of Noam Chomsky as a sensible chap with no time for daft theories is quite surprising. I liked the observation that much of this is "history for losers", explaining why the collapse of popular beliefs isn't really the fault of the believers but of some invisible omnipotent power - it's interesting to see the vehemence of the JFK theories arising from the awkward fact that Oswald was a fairly hard-core leftie.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a moderate recommendation 25 May 2011
By Stephen
There is some interesting stuff here, but I do have reservations. It is hard to see what links Norman Baker's theory about the death of poor Dr Kelly with the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s - indeed, as others have said, it is hard to see the latter as in any way conspiracy theories of the kind we normally hear about. I'm sceptical about conspiracy theories simply because in real life things go wrong, whereas most of the theories seem to rely on perfect accomplishment (the Holy Grail nonsense being a classic of this kind). The author has a nice phrase somewhere about 'the untidiness of reality'. But at times he seems to be straining at a gnat, and once he starts theorising the book becomes too ponderous for its own good. Indeed some of his targets are really not worth the trouble.

Still, I did enjoy some chapters (e.g. the one about the death of Hilda Murrell, drily told) and so a moderate recommendation is fair.
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By Nigel O
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Aaronovitch is an incisive and intelligent writer; I read his opinion pieces in the Times avidly. He brings his analytical skills to bear on some great conspiracy theories of the 20th and 21st centuries. This must have involved massive amounts of research as the detail is incredible. Be aware that this is not a lightweight read. I do not diminish my respect for his work at all when I say that there may possibly be more detailed information here than my own intellect can cope with.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 19 Feb. 2011
By Davey
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very readable account of a range of conspiracy theories. The current obsession with conspiracies can be ammusing, but it's at times quite frightening; the pseudo-intellectual backing for 9/11 conspiracy theories, for example, summed up very well by an commentator in The Australian newspaper:

"In this scholarly mirror universe, where truth and fiction are equally interesting so long as they titillate the creative intellect, and where a generalised hostility to Western interests can pass as a proxy for political progressivism, the old hard Left and the new far Right join together in a splendid danse macabre, Black and Red carolling in joyous euphony."

My only complaint is the subtitle: "How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History". That sounds too much like something a conspiracy theorist would say!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!
Very thoughtful and witty analysis of conspiracy theories. David treats the reader as a grownup. Deserves to sell many more than the conspiracy theory books...
Published 1 month ago by Andrew Fraser
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very quick delivery very enjoyable book
Published 1 month ago by mick
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking... but why did THEY let ...
thought provoking. . . but why did THEY let it get published?
Published 1 month ago by cnile
1.0 out of 5 stars Patronizing
This book has the lofty aim of debunking every conspiracy theory from JFK to 9/11. Aaronovitch is a fairly extreme left-wing newspaper writer and although he does occasionally... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Huscarl
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all sane thinkers thanks to the author
Second time I have read this book. This edition comes with an update on the Obama not being born in Hawaii etc. Read more
Published 5 months ago by S Flood
5.0 out of 5 stars the sad, the lonely
The only book I've ever read which places conspiracy theories (in democracies) firmly in the looney tunes box. Read more
Published 6 months ago by tomtom
1.0 out of 5 stars The type of thinking that you can get from any mainstream media...
Fails to deal with some of the biggest issues of the so called 'conspiracies' whilst washing over other facts as if they are somehow inconsequential. Read more
Published 9 months ago by amy
1.0 out of 5 stars This is astonishing! Does this guy possess any sense ...
This is astonishing! Does this guy possess any sense of irony? He doesn't believe in conspiracy theories but he believes people are conspiring to his book? Read more
Published 10 months ago by semira
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read
Published 10 months ago by Susanne Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Highly entertaining, vividly written and powerfully argued. It's just a shame that Aaronovitch did not demolish even more outlandish theories. I could have read on and on...
Published 12 months ago by K. Lewis
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