David Aaronovitch is an award-winning journalist, who has worked in radio, television and newspapers in the United Kingdom since the early 1980s. He lives in Hampstead, north London, with his wife, three daughters and Kerry Blue the terrier. His first book, Paddling to Jerusalem, won the Madoc prize for travel literature in 2001.
After reading several of the negative reviews, I thought a more pointed one was needed in response to clear a few things up for those who have not read the book.
First off, the book is very well written and in a fast-paced, easy to read styles. It's not boring (regardless of agreeing with the author or not), nor is it overly long.
That being said, it brings me to my main point: this is not a scholarly, historically exhaustive work of research; it is an investigative look into how conspiracies begin and the people who latch on to them. Does that mean that it's not researched? No, there is a fairly extensive bibliography, and he has clearly documented his sources. However, it is not done in the way a historical textbook would do so -- but there again, it's not written from that point of view.
The key to remember here -- and this is for those negative reviewers who so adamantly want to hold on to their theories -- is the theme of how these theories get started, and why they become popular. This is of special interest to me because it is clear that there has to be a motivation for believing in most conspiracy theories; one has to *want* them to be true at some level for them to get off the ground, otherwise they wouldn't due to the incredible lack of factual support.
But here we come to the famous rebuttal offered up (which I have seen in the reviews here): "We are just asking questions. That's why it's a 'theory' and it's not perfect. But you have to admit that ____ and ____ don't add up!" This statement -- or a similar form -- is offered up every time a conspiracy theorist is confronted with hard facts. And this book addresses that exact issue, rather than going down the road of saying "here's this reference, and this one, and this one, and this one...Read more ›
The author, a journalist, recounts a number of leading conspiracy theories, rebuts them, and exposes their common themes. With respect to some conspriacies -- such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (the alleged Jewish conspiracy for world domination) -- he absolutely obliterates them with great panache. Others -- such as the Kennedy Assassination theories -- he rebuts in a more cursory fashion. What unites the conspiracy theories is part resentment of shadowy elites, part desire to explain the failure of one's own political movement to succeed, and part a desire to impose some rational explanation on random acts of evil or misfortune.
Conspiracy theories show staying power by defining some event as logically impossible -- for example the magic bullet that hit Kennedy and Connolly or the inability of Marilyn Monroe's body to absorb the amount of barbituates found in her or the lack of wreckage resembling an airplane by the Pentagon on 9/11. Such an impossible fact justifies conspiracy proponents to reject the conventional explantion and to propose all sorts of wild alternative theories. Such theories are resistant even to an attack on the core -- such as evidence showing that Oswald did not have to be a particularly great shot to hit Kennedy and that the path of the bullet does have a rational explanation. Such attacks involve too many details and complexities, thereby allowing the conspiracy proponent to refuse to see their truth.
This is interesting as far as it goes. But instead of exploring the reasons in human nature, politics, and history for such conspiracy theories, Aaronovitch just keeps jumping to new conspiracies and saying the same thing. Thus, the book does become a bit tiresome after a while.
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I bought this review primarily on the basis of the review by "H.Josson". No-one in their right mind could write a review along the lines of the book being "delusional [and] lazy" (it simply isn't). The reviewer's hysterical reaction to what is a well-written and thought-provoking (if very depressing) book simply doesn't stack up. Why would a reviewer buy an early copy of this book - write a review which is borderline out-of-control and put their rantings up on Amazon UK and US? Could it be that Mr Aaronovitch has written this review himself? It has all the hallmarks of what he himself describes: ignore facts and focus on specious rumour, "no-one understands the secret mysteries as I do because I have special insights", throw mud at objective analysis to distract attention from the reviewer's own fantasies and, of course, the throw-away line "as crooked as a banker". This resonates with the anti-semitism described in Chapter One of the book, where the Jews were blamed for all the evils of the world. (I'm not defending the bankers here, but "crooked as a banker" is just so tacky!) If H.Josson is David Aaronovitch, it makes a very good conspiracy - unfortunately seen through rather quickly by the raft of comments on the review on Amazon UK.
The book is well-documented and the sources are of real writers, not, as in the case of the usual conspiracy-revealers, all referring to other "famous conspiracy experts".
My own view is that it is an extremely thoughtful explanation of why the gullible lock on to secret mysteries, conspiracies and insights and avoid any historical analysis, belying any familiarity with reality and current affairs or historical occurrences.Read more ›