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

Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch
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Mar 17, 12

Read in March, 2012

David Aaronovitch is one of the few writers who, when I see their name on a newspaper article, will consciously ignore it. I have never been comfortable with either his style or approach. However, not being a great believer in conspiracies (and seemingly being in the minority in this), I bought the book.

I have just finished it and I was impressed. He starts off from a position that I sympathise with - he was working with someone who believed the moon landings were faked - and that lead him to write the book. He goes through all of the well known conspiracies such as 9/11, Princess Diana, JFK, Obama isn't American etc etc, and demolishes them all fact by fact. As a non-believer, this wasn't a surprise for me but none the less satisfying to see each theory examined piece by piece and disproved.

The point he then goes on to make is that these conspiracies, far from being harmless fun, can cause enormous damage. Perhaps the best example of this for me was concerning "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". This particular conspiracy came about in pre Communist Russia, when some Napoleonic era literature was plagiarised and turned into a supposed tale of how the Jews were about to rule the world. The point was that it provided a basis for the Tsarist authorities to persecute the Jewish community who were actively supporting the Bolsheviks. However, that false document remained in circulation throughout the 20th century. Aaronovitch's point is that it might have influenced Hitler et al, which is pure speculation and easily dismissed as such. But when he demonstrates that sections of "The Protocols" are actually quoted in Hamas' constitution, I began to understand what he was getting at .

In the conclusion to the book, he asks why, regardless of fact, conspiracies are so popular. He provides some basis for the often given explanation; the world is big and scary and nasty things happen. These are random, but some people can't accept that and need to put a pattern on events. And if there is a pattern - a conspiracy by big powerful concerns - then that is more easy to accept than the randomness.

Excellent book, well worth the read.

JJH Dubai March 2012
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