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on 7 July 2013
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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on 14 April 2014
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. We then go on to liken the most absurd theories (i.e. flat earth theory) with the most sophisticated ones, in a tragically unscientific attempt to discredit EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE.

Make no mistake, there is no critical or original thought in this book... it is confirmation bias personified. An exemplary example of emotionally reacting to things first and then seeking out the means in which to discredit it second, and the means we see here is poor quality in any case. The only way someone could like this book is if you already agree with everything in it, but if you're looking for genuine thought-provocation then you'll find nothing here worth your time. Look elsewhere for a book that teaches you HOW to think rather than WHAT to think.
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VINE VOICEon 13 October 2008
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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on 3 February 2017
Spurious drivel from a man who holds people who don't agree with him in the highest contempt.
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on 1 January 2015
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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on 5 February 2008
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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on 21 April 2014
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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on 25 June 2008
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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on 12 January 2008
If you feel nauseated by the avalanche of "facts" and bad history that pollutes the internet and now even newspapers and respectable publishing houses, then this book is a real antidote. A systematic demolition of one piece of phoney theory after another, it reasserts the objective value of scientific investigation. Thompson achieves this with humour, a punchy style and a rigorous application of reason. Counterknowledge is necessary but also thoroughly enjoyable to read.
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VINE VOICEon 1 November 2012
Thompson's argument like Andrew Keen's is that now we have the internet it is much easier to spread disinformation and crank ideas - his counterknowldge. He rejects pseudo-science such as creationism and complementatry and alternative medicine (CAM) and pseudo-history such as Graham Hancock's ancient super-civilisation, afro-centric history and the holocaust deniers. He is right to point out that the failures of most of these arguments based on the wealth of evidence against them and the lack of evidence to support them but he gives Christianity special protection from criticism(he is editor of the Catholic Herald).

His continuous attacks on "Fundamentalist Islam", multi-culturism and relativism in science approach hysteria and show his strong political bias (the bad guys are always Lib-Dem voting teachers or reactionary leftists). His views of muslims and creationism border on paranoia, while he fails to see the faults in his own arguments. He says that Islam did not have the elightenment when actually they were having an enlightenment while the west were still in the Middle Ages. He obviously has never heard of Algebra or Algorithms. He considers that Wikipedia by its nature is unreliable but gives no evidence. Actually evidence shows that peer reviewed science can be unreliable as well.

In his arguments against CAM he is right to ridicule homeopathy, accupuncture is more complex, it is hard to explain open heart surgery using accupuncture as an anaesthetic as only a placebo. The worst example for him is traditional chinese medicine only providing one approved drug artemisinin to cure malaria. Sorry but Big Pharma has been negelecting malaria for decades and artemisinin is a wonder drug. He also forgets that many modern medicines are natural products, suchs as statins, taxol, aspirin, antibiotics, insulin, quinine .... TCM will give more drugs as more get through clinical trials.

I should declare an interest relating to his last pages as I actually work for the University of Westminster, but I have been a lecturer at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford before so it is dangerous to attack a university for perceived mistakes of some of its staff. William Hamilton from Oxford believed that AIDS was caused by polio immunisation, and Richard Lewontin also believes most health improvements attributed to vaccination are actually a result of an improvement in food and clean water.
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