Damian Thompson - Counterknowledge (4 stars)

Damian Thompson - Counterknowledge

(Atlantic)

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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