Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere - from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana. In this age of terrorism we live in, the role of conspiracy is a serious one - one that can fuel radical or fringe elements to violence.
For award-winning journalist David Aaronovitch, there came a time when he started to see a pattern among these inflammatory theories. He found that these theories used similarly murky methods with which to insinuate their claims: they linked themselves to the supposed conspiracies of the past ("it happened then so it can happen now"); they carefully manipulated their evidence to hide its holes; and they relied on the authority of dubious academic sources. Most important, they elevated their believers to membership of an elite - a group of people able to see beyond lies to a higher reality. But why believe something that entails stretching the bounds of probability so far? Surely it is more likely that men did actually land on the moon in 1969 than that thousands of people were enlisted to fabricate an elaborate hoax.
In this entertaining and enlightening book - aimed at providing ammunition for those who have found themselves at the wrong end of a conversation about moon landings or the twin towers - Aaronovitch carefully probes and explodes a dozen of the major conspiracy theories. In doing so, he examines why people believe them and makes an argument for a true skepticism - one based on a thorough knowledge of history and a strong dose of common sense.
©2009 David Aaronovitch (P)2010 Audible Ltd
"Leaves us in no doubt that arriving at the truth is a vital matter - at times a matter of life and death." (Financial Times)
"Deconstructs a dizzying array of conspiracy theories in this pages with unsparing logic common sense and at times exasperated wit." (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
"Better in author's voice"
I heard david narrate some chapters of this book at a 'Skeptics in the Pub' event. He did it 'off the cuff' without notes. The material was engaing and very interesting. He signed my copy I hastily bought from the organisers of the event. I spoke to him at length and found him warm, open and very well researched in his subject areas, much like the book. Yes, I accept that the narration here can be a bit 'off-putting' but do not let it stop you from getting this title. It would have earned 5 stars if David had read it himself as he has a very good presentation style, and you can hear the mischevious humour beyond the straight line he is giving. VooDoo histories earns 5 stars, this version is slightly below par.
"Educational and plausible"
Thoroughly interesting and educational - and you can?t help but think the author has done his research. Narration was pleasant except for the frightful French, German, Russian.... accents. Please - only do accents if you are any good - it was so lame and partly spoiled the book. It would have been 4 stars but for the accents.
While I've heard some of this before, particularly the material on Dan Brown which Tony Robinson has had such fun with. However, other parts, particularly the Marilyn Munroe material, was new to me and both fascinating and stupifying. How people come come up with and believe some of this stuff is beyond imagination.
Well worth the time and very interesting.
"Try to get past the narrator's self indulgence"
First, the narrator. When he is reading without reaching for his repetoire of comedy voices he is easy to listen to and aids the listener in following the arguments and counter arguments that are explained in this book. However, when trying to add 'colour' to his quotations (and there are alot of them) the whole thing sounds like an audition piece for a voice talent agency. I wouldnt mind but they are often wildly inaccurate. Take, for example, Tam Dalyell. Or, Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch, 11th Baronet of the Binns; educated Edinburgh Academy and Eton. He is somewhow portrayed as a cross between a Glasgow Dockworker and Billy Connolly! (Who actually was a Glasgow Dockworker, come to think of it. Pick another Glasgow Dockworker) The less said about the Monroe impression the better.
If you can get past this irritation, however, it's a hugely enlightening and entertaining listen. Clearly the nature of the book means it will appeal to those who have little truck with conspiracy theories. If you are a 'truther' or a 'birther' you will learn little that will excite you and you will just get a bit angry with it all. If, on the other hand, you regard conspiracy theorists as generally irrelevant, though occasionally dangerous, then this book will provide all the dinner party ammnunition you need to shoot down the most ardent conspiracy fantasist. Would have been 4 stars without the distracting voice irritant.
"Those funny accents"
I am obviously not the only one who was shocked by the accents. It started badly with the Russian and French, and then got very scary when he did Japanese and Marilyn Monroe! The book itself is remarkably un-analytical, in that there is are reams of descriptions of past events with little comment and context. A disappointment.
This audiobook is totally marred by bad narration. There are so many quotes in this book that the narrator has to change his voice to fake American, fake Churchill, fake Jewish Rabbi, fake French etc on every page, and the thing is while he's a good reader, he is clearly not good at doing character voices. Not even someone who is good at this would make it, there are just too many quotes. The producers of this audio book should have just stuck to a single commanding voice.
The book itself is interesting but I can't even continue through it because of this problem.
"Magnificent debunking of conspiracist mentalities"
What a fantastic book! To my mind utterly convincing, not only in its deconstruction of some of the most notable conspiracies of recent (and not so recent) history, but in its analysis of why so many believe so much nonsense and the damage it frequently does.
"Intellectual Integrity - our only real protection"
This is a really impressive collecting together of the most important stories that sit under news and current affairs and stubbornly point to an alternative history hidden to all but the enlightened. The prism of focus shifts from Left to Right and in each case there is an unofficial ranking based on how far the assumptions which support these glimpses of the real truth are congruent with the individual?s personal world view, which then serves as the coagulant through which the conspiracy grows.
David Aaronovitch does a real service here in undertaking an examination which has the method and rigour which the case studies that he refers to lack and then gives a cogent and coherent conclusion which draws all of the threads together to an enormously satisfying close. What has been produced should be applauded since it is a real model of hard-working, clear thinking intellectualism of the highest order of merit and integrity....the section on Hilda Murrell in particular displays Aaronovitch?s writing and critical method at its very best.
Or does it.....?
I really enjoyed this book - it's extremely well researched and the pulling together conspiracy theories throughout modern history is expertly done. It's presents itself as a sane voice in a rather insane world and goes some way to explain the origins of many conspiracy myths and the possible motives and psychology behind them. It's an enjoyable listen - meaty enough to make you think without being dry or overly intellectualised.
I would give it five stars but unfortunately I have to agree with the other reviewers about the narrator - fantastic unless doing one of the many accents he's required to do when quoting people from the book.
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