Rexistopheles's Reviews > Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch
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Jan 02, 11

it was ok
bookshelves: 2010-reads, culture-politics, history
Read from September 22, 2010 to January 02, 2011

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 even presented with this golden opportunity, the author decides to write a book equivalent of flipping the "on" switch to an industrial fan pointed at a room of straw men stuffed to the gills of the author's chosen cultural chaff. This begins with his own definition of conspiracy, loaded with immediate opportunities to mock rather than analyze.

Not that I envy the author's position here. It goes without saying that if he were to spend meticulous efforts and rigorous analysis proving, for example, that lee harvey oswald acted alone, he wouldn't be convincing anyone who didn't already accept this for the truth. After all, who are more notoriously unconvice-able with the generally accepted facts than conspiracy theorists? That's why they are called conspiracy theorists.

But that raises the question, why bother writing the book at all then, when your choices are breezy sarcasm and witty ridicule or science journal papers on gun logistics and plane/building collisions? You're either preaching to the converted or you're just plain boring and redundant.

The only alternative is to actually explore what the sub-title suggests you're exploring: look at the role conspiracy theories play in shaping modern history. That means you start asking questions like why now, more than any other time in recent history, are there more conspiracy theories? What are the causes of these theories? Even the most patently absurd theories say something about our human condition, simply because there's a reason why we believe what we believe. There's a truth it expresses that is transcendental to the actual theory.

For example we may, I don't know, posit the theory that this recent upsurge in conspiratorial perspectives might have something to do with the fact that our vice president has his own personal death squad, and that whole smoking gun, slam dunk, open and shut case on iraq weapons didn't really pan out.

IE: as laughable and absurd conspiracy theories may be, the needs they satisfy, the vacuum they fill, the loss of whatever it is for which these theories compensate, may be deadly serious, vitally important.




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