David Aaronovitch: Voodoo Histories (4 stars)

David Aaronovitch: Voodoo Histories

Pearl Harbour was engineered by FDR so America could enter World War II. Princess Di was bumped off by MI6. And 9/11 was the master plot of a wicked American administration. All because TV documentaries, the internet or some bloke down the pub told us so. But they’re simply wrong, as the empirical evidence isn’t there, and more often than not, neither is the logic. Yet, simply debunking conspiracy theories isn’t journalist David Aaronovitch’s only goal. He also examines the long view of their role in modern history and explores their psychology, a mixture of hysteria, paranoia, stubborn incredulity and simple stupidity.

Quite the opposite of conspiracy theories, Voodoo Histories isn’t sexy; it’s a weighty, heavily-researched tome that largely resists condescendingly rubbishing the ramblings of loonies. Aaronovitch actually finds room to suggest that conspiracy theories – while undoubtedly dangerous – may even have a semi-valuable social function as a levee against indifference. More instantly gratifying is the arsenal of factual ammunition he provides for shooting down know-it-all pub bores.

(Jonathan Cape)

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