Customer Review

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They Knew, 5 Jun 2010
This review is from: Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History (Paperback)
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.

I would maybe have liked a bit more of an introduction; having ploughed through a thorough exposé of the Protocols of Zion, I launched into the second chapter on Stalin's show trials without really knowing what he was on about, and the sudden explosion of complicated Russian names was quite tough going. And it seemed a shame not to finish off on his opening anecdote about the moon landings, although perhaps now that we have photos of the landing sites with footprint trails, everyone's forgotten that one.

It is also peppered with wonderful little anecdotes illustrating all these points; I laughed at the friend of the author who went to the Louvre and challenged a curator about the wherabouts of some Da Vinci Code painting; the angry response from the curator was, naturally, evidence of a vast conspiracy, not simply the exasperation of a tired curator meeting his 50th aggressive wannabe detective of the day.

So a most welcome de-bunking effort and plenty of food for thought.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Mar 2011 23:59:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Mar 2011 01:20:28 GMT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2011 19:12:23 BDT
Pete says:
The book deals with specific conspiracies which have been debunked by subsequent history and science. Your comment deals with a more general point that clearly the workings of government are quite complex and often hidden. It's an entirely different point.

Can you please read it yourself and address the points he makes, not the ones you want to make?

Posted on 8 May 2013 22:42:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 May 2013 22:52:05 BDT
G Cooper says:
Pete "Pete"
"Where he really succeeds is in his ability to tell these stories while (largely) holding back on excessive ridicule or ranting".

Have you looked closely?

Graham Hancock is introduced as "the archetypal practitioner of the book-TV-book-DVD cycle" and "millions have watched, millions have read, millions have bought." A mecenary motive is clearly implied.

Dr Immanuel Velikovsky is introduced as "The first grand wizard of the Universal Order of Pseudo-Scientists".

Webster Tarpley is "a wide, shiny sixty-year-old, bald and slick..."

The pilots, military men, politicians lawyers and engineers who largely form the 9/11 truth movement are caricatured as "a collection of geeks, teenagers, far-leftists, far-rightists, strange millionaires and perpetual dissidents".

And Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, comes in for an exceptionally egregious attack. "Pooter" (from "Diary of a Nobody") means narrow, insignificant and self-important. On top of that, Aaronovitch goes to excessive lengths to demean Baker in every way possible.

He was elected due to an electoral "car wreck",

He is middle aged, middle height, with receding chin and receding hairline.

He became "un-ordinary", "no matter that he was dull". And so on and so on.

Aaronovitch cannot even restrain himself from attacking Baker's activities as an MP, ie, simply doing his job, by using the number and costs of parliamentary questions Baker asks as a stick to beat him with. "Though it is bad manners in a democracy to dwell on the price of information, and offensive to speculate on its cost effectiveness..." If Aaronovitch finds it so offensive, why does he proceed? Aaronovitch IS offensive here.

It must be asked: if Baker and his David Kelly theory were so easy to disprove, why does Aaronovitch go to so much trouble to "kill the messenger". Of course, playing the man and not the ball is a common debater's trick. Voodoo Histories is rife with this ploy. Please re-read it with different eyes.

Thanks.

Posted on 5 Nov 2014 09:39:58 GMT
"Oswald the hard core leftie", who spent his 1963 summer in the company of Guy Banister and David Ferrie, the most rabid anti-communists in the whole of the southern US at that time? Rubbish. Oswald was no leftie. Even if he was, how does that change anything?
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