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Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

David Aaronovitch.
Publisher Riverhead  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.4 x 1.25 inches
ISBN 9781594488955
Pages/Publication Date 388/2010
Daedalus Item Code 34168
This item is not available.
Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy, in which everything from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, has reportedly been engineered either by clandestine branches of our own governments or a shadowy cabal of secret world leaders. For British journalist David Aaronovitch, winner of the George Orwell Prize and a columnist for London's Times, there came a time when he started to see a pattern among these inflammatory theories and the ways that they play on key human tendencies. In this entertaining and enlightening book, for those who have found themselves at the wrong end of a conversation about faked moon landings or the citizenship of Barack Obama, Aaronovitch probes and explodes a dozen major conspiracy theories and examines why people believe them.

"Like Michael Shermer in Why People Believe Weird Things, or Damian Thompson in Counterknowledge, Aaronovitch tackles the intriguing question of why people accept as factual things that are patently (and provably) untrue. Most of the popular conspiracy theories are here: 9/11 as an inside job; the faked moon landings; the secret Zionist world empire; the Priory of Scion's mission to safeguard the bloodline of Jesus; the murder of Vince Foster.... Aaronovitch demonstrates where the theories go off the rails (the Priory of Scion was a hoax concocted in the mid-1950s, for instance), and he examines the reasons why elaborate conspiracy theories, despite being so implausibly complex, capture the imaginations of so many people. It's due to a mixture of credulity, a lack of critical reasoning, a need for an underlying explanation for the inexplicable, and—perhaps most important—an inability to distinguish between the possible and the wildly implausible (for example, which is more likely: that astronauts actually went to the moon, or that thousands of people, including the astronauts themselves, perpetrated, and are still perpetrating, a mammoth hoax?). The author also examines the role the Internet now plays in disseminating, and lending apparent validity to, crackpot theories. The book is an evenhanded, lively, and fascinating look not just at the people who believe these theories but also at the people who promote them: the evidence manipulators, the liars, the con artists, and the almost pathetically gullible and uninformed."—Booklist (starred review)

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