If you have ever been in the pub or a dinner party and someone starts talking with complete conviction about how Diana was killed by Prince Phillip or the Moon landings took place in an abandoned stage set, the kind of truth you know in your hearts isn't right but they speak with such conviction that you just feel frustrated that you don't have the facts to hand to pin prick their balloon ... well this book is for you.
David Aaronovitch wondered what it was that made normally sane friends lose their sense of logic when faced with a supposed conspiracy and set about exploring this by looking at the biggest conspiracy theories of the 20th century whilst at the same time seeking to understand just what it was that made them so attractive and durable.
As an introduction he starts by outlining the 7 common themes and approaches that typifies every conspiracy. The next 2 chapters offer an historical context by looking 2 areas of history I knew little about, the Jewish protocols and the part they play in the 2 world wars (they are fake and play no part) as well as the communist traitor trials under Stalin's regime (there was no big plot just a lot of confessions given under torture). Whilst interesting in a historical context and illustrating how conspiracy's can take hold, it does feel like a bit of a false start to the book
The chapters that follow cover the Kennedy assassination , the deaths of Monroe, Diana and Dr Kelly as well as 9/11 and 7/7. Throw in all the stuff around Pearl Harbour, Holy Blood and Holy Grail and a forgotten bit of Uk history involving the death of an elderly anti nuclear campaigner and you have all the main theories covered. In exposing each and everyone Aaronovitch uses surgical precision as well as a good dose of disbelieving humour. In the version I have there is an extra chapter which looks at the issue of Obama's birth certificate which for a uk resident made slightly surreal reading
Some chapters are stronger than others, the one on 9/11 especially powerful. As well as just pointing out what it just plain factually wrong in the conspiracists arguments he uses their own quotes to calmly point out the lack of any kind of rigour or logic in their approach. For example the main argument of one of the 9/11 theorists is that the shear absurdity of some of the other 9/11 theories around are so ridiculous that they look like smoke and mirrors sent out by the govt to discredit any alternative view , therefore they must be hiding something. It would be funny if this same person is not trotted out regularly as a 9/11Truth Movement "expert".
I can't hope to do his arguments justice but one thing re the moon landings did strike me and that was in listing the scale of the deception required he then compares this to the same president / govt who couldn't even manage to break into a rival parties offices and destroy some tapes without being found out.
Now I don't want to offend anyone who is on Al Fayed's side and sees Diana's death as murder or Dr Kelly's death as a big Blair plot , but if you are a sceptic (and some polls worryingly suggest we are in the minority) or been stuck in one of those "no tower would collapse that way" arguments then this book is for you.
I'm afraid the internet doesn't come out of it that well, the fact that anyone can say anything no matter how incorrect and it suddenly become a truth because of the chain reaction it sets off is quite scary when you think about it
You can buy Voodoo Histories here and be prepared for some fiery pub arguments