Damian Thompson - Counterknowledge (4 stars)

(Atlantic)

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Damian Thompson - Counterknowledge

HISTORY

Conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, creationism and the like are all notions consigned largely to the outer reaches of societal thinking, right? Wrong, according to Damian Thompson. Having spread – largely care of the internet – in the 21st century, such wacky ideas as the US administration masterminding 9/11 and China discovering America in 1421 are penetrating dangerously far into public, and even government thinking. All that, despite being ‘counterknowledge’ – ie sexed-up theories based on not a shred of empirical truth.

Thompson systematically spears many of them here, along with the irresponsible publishing houses, religious leaders, ‘doctors’, entrepreneurs and politicians guilty of aiding their rise. He does a fine job of keeping it entertaining throughout by not delving too deep into (yet never straying too far from) the realms of dry, hard, statistical fact. It’s well worth a read, as will be the inevitable tirade of foaming-mouthed counter-Counterknowledge literature that will soon swamp cyberspace, probably suggesting Thompson is a CIA-sponsored alien from Mars.

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