- Malcolm Jack
- 7 August 2009
This article is from 2009.
How paranoid ideas shaped modern history
It’s easy to assume that conspiracy theorists are odd, simple, lonely blokes who still live with their parents and spend far too much time on the internet. But in truth, they’re usually otherwise normal, intelligent and rational people. Author, broadcaster and journalist David Aaronovitch found that out when his bright and perfectly commonsensical mate Kevin casually dropped into conversation one day that he believed in the ludicrous-yet-popular theory that the 1969 moon landing was faked by NASA, an undertaking that would have probably proven more difficult to execute than the real thing.
‘I was completely non-plussed,’ says Aaronovitch. ‘It got me thinking about the entire business of what I guess you could call “why otherwise clever people believe un-clever things”.’ Voodoo Histories is the result, Aaronovitch’s detailed look at the role of conspiracy theory in shaping modern history. It compares, contrasts and debunks many mumbo-jumbo ideas about recent historical events – ranging from American intervention in WWII to the assassination of JFK and the attacks of 9/11 – while examining what shapes them, most often some combination of honest skepticism, political disenfranchisement, fear of a disorganised universe and desire for a better historical narrative.
Aaronovitch also wants to arm readers against the pub bore. ‘I want people to be able to deal with someone turning round to them, most likely in the pub, and saying, “oh, do you know the real reason that X happened?” Instinct tells you it’s wrong, but you don’t have the facts at your fingertips. I had the ignoble ambition of turning the tables on such people.’