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Voodoo History - Conspiracy Theories


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Of course the false assumption here, as John Judge likes to say,

"All conspiracy theories aren't equal."

taste for gunmen on the grassy knoll

By Michael Washburn Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2010

http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/20...e_grassy_knoll/

In late 2006 I was thrust headlong into one of the most infamous episodes in American history: the conspiracy to commit and cover up the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For several decades Arthur Schlesinger Jr. taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. After retirement Schlesinger retained his office, just down the hall from mine. Hastily tearing through my mail one day, I inadvertently opened a letter intended for Schlesinger. Within lay three-paragraphs of madness, speculation, and baroque innuendo purporting to be a ballistics analysis that obliterated the Warren Commission's jejune findings.

VOODOO HISTORIES: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

By David Aaronovitch

Riverhead, 388 pp., illustrated, $26.95

The letter bought into the persistent fantasy that the CIA, or the mob, or that anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy. Despite the absurdity of its claims, for a brief moment, it was thrilling. What if there was something to this?

Given the popularity of conspiracy theories, not to mention the success of books and shows based on them, one could be forgiven for thinking half the country has received, and been ensorcelled by, such epistolary revelations. According to journalist David Aaronovitch, author of "Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History,'' we are suffering through a long age of "fashionable conspiracism" in which nearly any event of note, from the moon landing to President Obama's birth, is subject to conspiracy theorizing.

"Voodoo Histories'' lucidly reveals the weaknesses of several popular conspiracy theories, including the JFK-RFK-MLK assassination trifecta, the origin of the "Da Vinci Code,''and Marilyn Monroe's death. The book endeavors to explain why "the counterintuitive, the unlikely, and the implausible . . . have a better purchase on our imagination and beliefs than the real."

At their most basic, Aaronovitch writes, conspiracy theories are, "the attribution of a secret action to one party that might far more reasonably be explained as the less covert and less complicated action of another." Here's a typical either/or. Which is more likely: that the US government has successfully orchestrated a four-decade hoax requiring the absolute silence of thousands of people, or that NASA successfully sent people to the moon?

Or consider the success of the 9/11 Truth movement. Forty-two percent of Americans believe the government has, according to Aaronovitch, "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation of the September 11th attacks." The percentage of Americans that believes the government colluded in the attacks isn't much lower. In the 9/11 Truth literature, that people are skeptical of the official explanation becomes proof of the explanation's corruption. This circularity typifies much conspiracy theory "logic."

Unlike many writers who straw man their way through conspiracy discussions, Aaronovitch treats these ideas as more than florid gibberish. Most conspiracy theories, according to him, "originate and are largely circulated among the educated middle class," not, as the same middle class assumes, some raving, slack-jawed peasantry. The cultural and political context from which these theories develop must be taken into account, and Aaronovitch, as thorough a researcher as he is a witty and muscular writer, goes further than most previous popular analysts of conspiracy theories.

The strongest chapter in "Voodoo Histories'' dissects the loathsome Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the progenitor of modern conspiracy theory thinking. From the late 19th century to today, anti-Semites have deployed the Protocols as evidence of a Jewish plan for world domination. Aaronovitch spends considerable effort illuminating the dense tissue of lies and misinformation surrounding the claims. Plagiarized without subtlety from a now obscure French polemic directed at Napoleon III and placed into an anti-Jewish context, this pathetic cut-and-paste job morphed into the conspiracy theory that helped inspire the most horrific of actual conspiracies: the Final Solution of the Nazis.

That the Protocols are fake was well known before the Nazi's rise to power. But in the words of the renowned anti-Semite Henry Ford, the Protocols "fit" the threat that people felt to be true regardless of the actual, literal truth.

What comes clear in "Voodoo Histories'' is how much conspiracy theories are really confirmation theories, political or social myths that confirm anxieties. As Aaronovitch argues, "There is a more than plausible argument to be made that, very often conspiracy theories take root among the casualties of political, social and economic change." This is particularly true in American political history, where our native populism has created factions eager to claim responsibility for successes, but even more eager to lay blame for failures at the feet of a rotating collection of scapegoats. Variously, New Deal liberals, African Americans, big business, Republicans, and most consistently, immigrants have been fitted for the black hat of conspiracy.

Under this interpretation, conspiracy theories are, in Aaronovitch's subtle phrase, "History for losers."

Michael Washburn is the assistant director of the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. dingbat_story_end_icon.gif

Edited by William Kelly
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I doubt whether many inhabitants of this section of the forum have read Voodoo Histories. I found it generally very well written, well researched and thought-provoking. I would also recommend Margaret Macmillan's The Uses and Abuses of History.

http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Games-Hist...4818&sr=8-1

Voodoo Histories is must reading for all members of this section.

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For a righteous spanking - well deserved by the Voodoo author - see:

http://www.shortsshortsshorts.com/2009/09/...%80%9D-edition/

It's six months old, but not yet stale, unlike the book it demolishes.

Thank you for that link. It is a great article. As Robin Ramsay of Lobster magazine, who has spent half his life investigating what Aaronovitch has not, said in his review of the book:

“Because his knowledge of recent history is limited, his ‘plausibility threshold’ falsely categories events as beyond plausibility – ‘conspiracy theories’. There’s no mystery here: he hasn’t read the evidence. Nor, as a mainstream journalist and broadcaster, can he afford to do so. And so his account of the Kennedy assassination (and other assassinations) here is inadequate; as is his account of the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty in 1967, as is his account of America’s entry into World War 2, as is…. I can’t be bothered going through the whole thing in that kind of detail.”

David Aaronovitch, a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (not an unusual background for NeoCons), became a cheerleader for Tony Blair after he received £6.5 million from the group of Jewish businessmen to help him in his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party. From that point on, along with Melanie Phillips, another left-winger who has moved sharply to the right over the last few years, Aaronovitch became the leading apologist for Israel's foreign policy.

Aaronovitch is still the leading spokesman for the invasion of Iraq. He was on Newsnight last week defending the legality of the invasion. It was pointed out that Aaronovitch was not a lawyer but the BBC was unable to find any international lawyer willing to argue that the war was legal. Aaronovitch was of course keen to argue that despite all the evidence that has emerged during the Chilcot Inquiry, there was no Bush-Blair conspiracy to invade Iraq. After all, according to Aaronovitch, political conspiracies don't take place.

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Aaranovitch sounds a bit like Bohning, wreckers as well as apologists for the worlds greatest generator of conspiracies, the CIA, and other agencies. In the US of A the FBI formed the largest group of members and, by inference, financiers of the CPUSA. No wonder they go on from there to bigger and better things. (A bit like Bruce Jones, in the SDS, and then found being a leader of the Costa Rica Contras. Is this the Bruce Jones presently a millionire involved in Florida based resorts?)

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Have you read Macmillan's book, John? What did you think?

No, I haven't.

I had an email yesterday from a leading investigative journalist who in his younger years wrote about the assassination of JFK. The contents of the email explains why historians and journalists are unwilling to investigate government corruption.

I hate to ask this, and please don't take it wrongly, but is there anyway you could take down my bio for just a few weeks? The reason is that have been encouraged to apply for the editorship of Foreign Affairs, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, and I am not sure the search committee there would appreciate me being linked in any with certain lines or schools of thought that are notcompletely main-stream, orthodox, and officially received wisdom, especially in asmuch as the Council itself has been the object ofconsiderable interest by conspiracy theorists. I think you and I understand each other here. So I am just asking this as a favor from you, because the first thing anyone is going to do is google me, and you are the second hit, after my own web site. I am fairly certain that I will not become editor of Foreign Affairs, but while I am in the middle of this I think disecretion the better part of valor, etc.

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Whilst I'm sure this is true, I doubt that it would be a consideration in the case of such a prominent and widely respected historian as Margaret Macmillan. I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in the importance of history and historians.

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Whilst I'm sure this is true, I doubt that it would be a consideration in the case of such a prominent and widely respected historian as Margaret Macmillan. I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in the importance of history and historians.

I have just ordered the Margaret Macmillan's book on Amazon. Maybe we can discuss it on the forum.

Have you read David Kaiser's Road to Dallas?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Dallas-Assass...6579&sr=1-9

He is also a much respected historian (his book on post-1945 foreign policy, American Tragedy, is a classic). I met him in Dallas in 2007. At the time he intended to write a book about how Oswald was not part of a conspiracy. We had a debate on this forum about how the sources that historians should use when writing books about the recent past. At the time he was very much an anti-conspiracy theorist. However, after researching the subject in great detail, he changed his mind and concluded that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK.

Have you read the articles by Sparky Satori and Jefferson Morley? If so, what is it about their views that you disagree with?

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For a righteous spanking - well deserved by the Voodoo author - see:

http://www.shortsshortsshorts.com/2009/09/...%80%9D-edition/

It's six months old, but not yet stale, unlike the book it demolishes.

Thank you for that link. It is a great article. As Robin Ramsay of Lobster magazine, who has spent half his life investigating what Aaronovitch has not, said in his review of the book:

“Because his knowledge of recent history is limited, his ‘plausibility threshold’ falsely categories events as beyond plausibility – ‘conspiracy theories’. There’s no mystery here: he hasn’t read the evidence. Nor, as a mainstream journalist and broadcaster, can he afford to do so. And so his account of the Kennedy assassination (and other assassinations) here is inadequate; as is his account of the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty in 1967, as is his account of America’s entry into World War 2, as is…. I can’t be bothered going through the whole thing in that kind of detail.”

David Aaronovitch, a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (not an unusual background for NeoCons), became a cheerleader for Tony Blair after he received £6.5 million from the group of Jewish businessmen to help him in his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party. From that point on, along with Melanie Phillips, another left-winger who has moved sharply to the right over the last few years, Aaronovitch became the leading apologist for Israel's foreign policy.

Aaronovitch is still the leading spokesman for the invasion of Iraq. He was on Newsnight last week defending the legality of the invasion. It was pointed out that Aaronovitch was not a lawyer but the BBC was unable to find any international lawyer willing to argue that the war was legal. Aaronovitch was of course keen to argue that despite all the evidence that has emerged during the Chilcot Inquiry, there was no Bush-Blair conspiracy to invade Iraq. After all, according to Aaronovitch, political conspiracies don't take place.

Well that's that book rubbished without a word being read :lol:

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For a righteous spanking - well deserved by the Voodoo author - see:

http://www.shortsshortsshorts.com/2009/09/...%80%9D-edition/

It's six months old, but not yet stale, unlike the book it demolishes.

Thank you for that link. It is a great article. As Robin Ramsay of Lobster magazine, who has spent half his life investigating what Aaronovitch has not, said in his review of the book:

“Because his knowledge of recent history is limited, his ‘plausibility threshold’ falsely categories events as beyond plausibility – ‘conspiracy theories’. There’s no mystery here: he hasn’t read the evidence. Nor, as a mainstream journalist and broadcaster, can he afford to do so. And so his account of the Kennedy assassination (and other assassinations) here is inadequate; as is his account of the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty in 1967, as is his account of America’s entry into World War 2, as is…. I can’t be bothered going through the whole thing in that kind of detail.”

David Aaronovitch, a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (not an unusual background for NeoCons), became a cheerleader for Tony Blair after he received £6.5 million from the group of Jewish businessmen to help him in his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party. From that point on, along with Melanie Phillips, another left-winger who has moved sharply to the right over the last few years, Aaronovitch became the leading apologist for Israel's foreign policy.

Aaronovitch is still the leading spokesman for the invasion of Iraq. He was on Newsnight last week defending the legality of the invasion. It was pointed out that Aaronovitch was not a lawyer but the BBC was unable to find any international lawyer willing to argue that the war was legal. Aaronovitch was of course keen to argue that despite all the evidence that has emerged during the Chilcot Inquiry, there was no Bush-Blair conspiracy to invade Iraq. After all, according to Aaronovitch, political conspiracies don't take place.

Well that's that book rubbished without a word being read :lol:

Of course it is impossible to read every book published. One therefore has to take into consideration the background of the writer. David Aaronovitch’s New Labour propaganda activities means that I would never buy his books. However, as I pointed out to Mike Tribe, I have purchased Margaret Macmillan’s book, as I consider her a serious historian. What is more, I will read the book and will discuss it on the Forum with Mike.

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For a righteous spanking - well deserved by the Voodoo author - see:

http://www.shortsshortsshorts.com/2009/09/...%80%9D-edition/

It's six months old, but not yet stale, unlike the book it demolishes.

Thank you for that link. It is a great article. As Robin Ramsay of Lobster magazine, who has spent half his life investigating what Aaronovitch has not, said in his review of the book:

“Because his knowledge of recent history is limited, his ‘plausibility threshold’ falsely categories events as beyond plausibility – ‘conspiracy theories’. There’s no mystery here: he hasn’t read the evidence. Nor, as a mainstream journalist and broadcaster, can he afford to do so. And so his account of the Kennedy assassination (and other assassinations) here is inadequate; as is his account of the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty in 1967, as is his account of America’s entry into World War 2, as is…. I can’t be bothered going through the whole thing in that kind of detail.”

David Aaronovitch, a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (not an unusual background for NeoCons), became a cheerleader for Tony Blair after he received £6.5 million from the group of Jewish businessmen to help him in his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party. From that point on, along with Melanie Phillips, another left-winger who has moved sharply to the right over the last few years, Aaronovitch became the leading apologist for Israel's foreign policy.

Aaronovitch is still the leading spokesman for the invasion of Iraq. He was on Newsnight last week defending the legality of the invasion. It was pointed out that Aaronovitch was not a lawyer but the BBC was unable to find any international lawyer willing to argue that the war was legal. Aaronovitch was of course keen to argue that despite all the evidence that has emerged during the Chilcot Inquiry, there was no Bush-Blair conspiracy to invade Iraq. After all, according to Aaronovitch, political conspiracies don't take place.

Well that's that book rubbished without a word being read :lol:

Of course it is impossible to read every book published. One therefore has to take into consideration the background of the writer. David Aaronovitch’s New Labour propaganda activities means that I would never buy his books. However, as I pointed out to Mike Tribe, I have purchased Margaret Macmillan’s book, as I consider her a serious historian. What is more, I will read the book and will discuss it on the Forum with Mike.

Here's me thinking it might be something to do with its contents. What a silly old thing I am. Incidentally do you implement similar political vetting for all your reading material? Would you consider for instance purchasing something written by Lord Blake?

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