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

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  855 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere - from Pearl Harbour to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana. Bookshop shelves threaten to collapse under the weight of texts devoted to proving myriad conspiracy theories true, while even quality newspapers and serious TV channels are prepared to give them credence.





For David Aaron...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 7th 2009 by Jonathan Cape (first published January 1st 2009)
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Paul
THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF WALMART

OR, IF EVERYBODY’S IN ON IT, WHY HAVEN’T THEY ASKED ME?


Our text for today is :

Things only appear random because you're standing TOO CLOSE!

Let's cut to the chase here. Conspiracies are real. A trade union is a conspiracy against the rat-bastard capitalist running dogs who run big business. The capitalist running dogs in turn conspire against the honest workers to screw them out of every penny and when they're coughing and flopping about from emphysema, sack e...more
Jason
Yesterday morning my neighbor directly across the street committed suicide. Well, her body was discovered yesterday; the suicide took place on July 4th. So, 40 yards from my house, and 20 yards from where my kids and I were lighting fireworks in the street, laughing, our neighbor was alone, in her car, idling a full tank of gas all the way to empty in her sealed garage. We didn’t notice any noise, no gas fumes escaping from the cracks around the door, oblivious to the world, nothing else out of...more
Kemper
NASA landing a man on the moon was one of the biggest engineering challenges ever taken on. It involved thousands of people and billions of dollars. It was documented by countless still pictures, hours of film, warehouses full of paperwork and scientific data. And some people will tell you that it never happened. Because they use bad science and faulty assumptions to say that it’s far more likely that the U.S. pulled off the most elaborate lie in history rather than that that we actually went to...more
Marvin
Nice treatise on the nature of conspiracy theories and why people believe them beyond any other reasonable explanation. The author looks at a number of past conspiracies going all the way back to the Priory of Sion, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Senator Joseph McCarthy's Commie baiting and the JFK assassination. . However it also includes more current theories like 9/11 truthers and birthers to name a few. While Aaronovitch does a good job in debunking them, this is not the main intention...more
Anita Dalton
I liked this book but not for the reasons I purchased it. As someone who has spent a lot of time wallowing in conspiracy at different times in my life, there was little new for me in this book (though this is not to say there was not some content unfamiliar to me – there was and it was fascinating). Moreover, this book is more a debunking attempt than really a look at how conspiracy theory has shaped modern history for the average person. No one can walk away from this book and feel that any of...more
Kevin Cecil
My Conspiracy Theory: Every morning Alex Jones sticks his head up his own ass and farts delusions into his mouth. Mr. Jones then transmits his Delusional Fart Breath (DFB) into the atmosphere via dull, nonsensical, and paranoid speeches, which are spread to the general population via youtube videos and/or radiowaves.

Be advised: DFB is a contagious airborn toxin which can infect anyone who sees patterns in nothing (and/or everything), and likes to think they know more than the rest of the blind...more
Phil
A great book destroyed by a terrible recording. The narrator commits a major faux pas in non-fiction audiobook recording: he tries to do character voices. He has a great reading voice, but every time there is a quote, he throws on a voice. Problem: every Russian sounds like Boris Badenov, every French person sounds like Pepe Le Pew, every American sounds like a gangster (even FDR!) and don't get me started on the Japanese! Oh, christ! It's like an old Fu Manchu movie. Terrible. So distracting.

St...more
Jennifer
This book looks at a series of modern conspiracy theories, from pre-Nazi anti-Semitic rumors and Stalinist show trials to 9/11 Truthers. Aaronovitch's take is frequently ironic in tone--when I noticed that the chapter on Dan Brown-style Grail/Catholic conspiracy theories was called 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Holy Shit,' I knew I was going to like it. If you have a pet conspiracy, you'll probably hate it, but if you're willing to look at rumors with a healthy dose of skepticism, it's a pleasure to...more
Stephen Hayes
It is said that there are two main theories of history: the conspiracy theory and the cock-up theory. In this book the author examines some of the conspiracy theories of the last century or so, and comprehensively debunks them.

But debunking and refuting conspiracy theories is not the main purpose of the book. It rather shows that whether or not there are conspiracies, beliefs in conspiracy theories often do more to shape history than the conspiracies the theorists believe in. An example is the...more
JenniferRuth
I guess we have all experienced a moment when someone you thought was quite a rational and sensible person suddenly espouses belief in a conspiracy theory, It might be about the 1969 moon landings or the events of 9/11 or global warming being a myth but whatever it is it nearly always implausible. If you point out the holes and impracticalities and the lack of cui bono in these theories you will often find yourself derided as being "close-minded" at best and "brain-washed" at worst. You may begi...more
Ascexis
I'm nearly at the end of the book -- some three pages in fact, having just looked -- and ... I don't know.

The author clearly has a very strong sense of Fact and Not!Fact. He spends a lot of time reviewing how Not!Facts get treated as facts, and diagramming the way conspiracy theories develop, interlock, and support each others lies -- the same names over and over.

And yet. If he does it in the last three pages, then it's more than I'm expecting. I'll do him the credit of assuming he wants you to...more
Matthew
I enjoyed the author's methodical dissection of multiple conspiracy theories, if only because I find conspiracists ridiculous, and so does the author. The epilogue also contained a thoughtful and interesting speculation on why conspiracy theories have so much appeal. If someone in your life is bedeviling you with ridiculous conspiracy theories, this is the book for you.
Joely Black
A great introduction to the business of debunking conspiracy theories. Having attended David Aaronovitch's talk on the subject at GMSS, I was curious to read the book behind it. Aaronovitch has created a useful synthesis of major conspiracy theories of the twentieth and 21st centuries, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to 9/11. He finishes with an interesting discussion on the reasons why conspiracy theories have become so prevalent recently, who and why we believe in them.

The work is tho...more
Tom
After reading the utter crap that was 1421 The Year China Discovered America, this book seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. Aaronovitch is a British journalist who doesn't buy into conspiracy theories. Here, he outlines some of the bigger ones from the past 100 years or so, starting with the Protocols of Zion and ending with the Birther movement. He also includes two big ones from Britain, and it says a lot about the power of these ideas that the average American, even one who considers h...more
Marcia
This was an extremely interesting and insightful read. Aaronovitch examines a multitude of conspiracy theories, their believers, and the effect these fringe ideas have on politics, history, and the general population. He focuses mostly on US and Britain, with some forays into Western Europe. He examines it all with a skeptical eye, which works for me, because when it comes to conspiracies I am a HUGE skeptic, but for those with a less skeptic mindset, he may be biased, in that he believes that v...more
Brian S. Wise
3.5 stars. “Voodoo Histories” is a valuable read; mostly smart and well written. Though Aaronovitch lost me here and there in the middle chapters, his 9/11 chapter is especially worth reading. My one true disappointment came late in the book when, while covering Birthers and Clinton era conspiracies, he writes the following:

“But the Birther charge has been led by Joseph Farah at WND, Christopher Ruddy at NewsMax, and by Accuracy in Media, making use of the Internet and right-wing radio and cable...more
Daniel Fitzgerald
Kinda smug in terms of the author's voice and approach to the subject. The arguments weren't terribly solid--for instance, his main criteria for discussing any given conspiracy theory was that he could easily claim to debunk it. The huge field of JFK nonsense is given less space than the Harrodown Hill incident. Aaronovitch also doesn't always do a good job of describing and differentiating between the various conspiracy theorists and their methods, arguments, and potential motivations; however,...more
Patrick Sprunger
I have no idea how David Aaronovitch would describe the "role of conspiracy theory in shaping modern history." The author spends such an inordinate amount of time commenting on how stupid various conspiracies actually are that he never quite gets around to his thesis.*

Of course, Aaronovitch isn't wrong. Conspiracy theories - from CIA involvement in the Kennedy assassination, British royal family orchestration of Diana's death, President Bush's war mongering desire to stage 9/11, to the "birther"...more
Ellie
This is an excellent book, which traces the history of conspiracy theories from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion through the redbaiting of the 1950s, the assassination of JFK and the supposed assassination of Diana, Princess of Wales, up to the MIHOP and LIHOP twins of 9/11 and the "birthers" of present day. Aaronovitch gives a clear and scholarly outline of the beginnings of each conspiracy, the dynamics of its spread, and the effect it has upon history as we know it.

His last chapter ties i...more
Nicola
I had a friend go off the deep end with his conspiracy theories. He would spend half the night following hyperlinks, say that he couldn't even tell me about all the things he knows, point out all the unmarked cars in our small town, build his bunker in the woods, and worry about all the people photographing him. This wouldn't have necessarily ended our friendship completely--there was room for fascination--but because he was so pretentious about all the conspiracies he was privy to, it was reall...more
Rexistopheles
Given the recent surge in power and presence of conspiracy theories in modern culture post 9/11 you'd think this book would have quickly found itself a cornerstone for the national dialog. You'd think people would be discussing Aaronovitch along with Malcom Gladwell and Fareed Zakaria. Conspiracy theory is the new black, especially when it comes to formulating perspectives on world events, and an amazing menagerie of weird has recently percolated up from the woodwork into household usage.

But ev...more
Sonja Reid
An interesting take on conspiracy theories, this book meanders through quite a few of them: the deaths of Diana and JFK and Marilyn Monroe , 9/11, Pearl Harbor...the list goes on. I found the chapter about "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to be particularly well-done.

Unfortunately, Aaronovitch can't resist the lure of the occasional snarky comment, which doesn't actually build his case. And in a section about the murder of an elderly anti-nuclear activist, he clearly thinks that rape is an...more
Betsy
I read this book because I enjoy conspiracy theories but I don't want to become someone who starts believing them. This definitely helped with that. It reminds you that the most plausible theory is probably the correct theory and that just because someone benefits from an event does not mean that they are most likely to have caused it. It is also a reminder that books that look like scholarship are not always scholarship, calling into question "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" which I read sometime aroun...more
Aaron
Aaronovitch's exploration of some of the lasting conspiracy theories of the 20th and 21st centuries is enthralling. This is not a book for those who hold fast to conspiracy theories-- Aaronovitch's careful, reasoned skepticism dismantles them utterly.

One thing that I particularly liked about the book was the focus not just on rightist theories but from those held by the left as well. I was especially gratified to find his discussion of the Stalinist show trials thorough. He also discusses the l...more
Jim
I was provoked into reading this by Paul Dorby - not directly, it was by his espousing of the view that he felt 9/11 could well have been a conspiracy constructed by the Bush administartion. Calm down son, I felt like saying, but as the book points out, the trouble is that this argument is met with a similar response unless you sit down and coldly examine the evidence and facts. Plus also apply some common sense, not the least of which is just how many people would have to be involved in coverin...more
David
A fascinating book! This book clearly shows there is no such thing as "common sense". Aaronovitch gives example after example where different views of events conflict, often both sides falling back on what they consider "common sense" to back up their arguments. Such as two planes couldn't have brought down the towers so there had to be charges places through out the buildings. Or, they weren't really planes but missles disfigured by holograms. He gives a recent survey of conspiracy theories sta...more
Brian
A great look at not only conspiracy theories and their perpetuation/debunking but the people behind them and the motives for why the theories take hold.

Aaronovitch does a great job of linking conspiracies through the people involved in their spread, showing how isolationists in pre-WWII America became McCarthy-ites through a string of conspiracy theories. Aaronovitch often lets those involved in the spread of conspiracy have enough expose to where they begin to dig their own graves, and then he...more
Sarah Souther
Aaronovitch says he wrote it for those of us who encounter 9/11 "truth" folks in bars and just don't know how to respond to them. I liked the idea of this book, but I found it a hard slog. The author assumes the reader already knows a lot of the details of Trotsky's life, Princess Diana's car crash, etc. so this can be confusing to those not versed in the relevant minutia. He wanders around a bit and I found myself impatient for him to get to the point.

Still, it's a worthwhile read if you're cur...more
Caleb
Each chapter of this book takes on a different set of conspiracies, roughly following the various forms the conspiracy theory has taken through the the last century or three. Some of the most familiar ground--20th century business like the assassinations of the '60s and Red Scare and so on--is covered, but so too are older conspiracies and newer ones, including ones as recent as this year, regarding President Obama's birthplace and eligibility to be president. If Aaronovitch does another edition...more
Todd
Aaronovitch explores a number of high-profile conspiracy theories in the modern world, eventually getting to the root motivation for their creation and proliferation. In the end he explains the basic human needs to justify our losses in the battles of social values, and why so many get sucked into these crazy social memes. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the polarized fear-based political currents we face and avoid being swept up in the crazy vilifying conspiracy narrative...more
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David Aaronovitch is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, television, and newspapers in the United Kingdom since the early 1980s. His first book, Paddling to Jerusalem, won the Madoc prize for travel literature in 2001. He is also the recipient of the George Orwell Prize for political journalism. He writes a regular column for The Times (UK). He lives in north London with his wife...more
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