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Voodoo Histories

The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
Narrated by: James Langton
Length: 14 hrs and 25 mins
4 out of 5 stars (183 ratings)
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Summary

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

Critic reviews

"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)

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • Southport, United Kingdom
  • 08-08-10

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Marc
  • LondonUnited Kingdom
  • 22-06-10

Awful reading

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.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • BANCHORY, United Kingdom
  • 31-05-10

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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Niall
  • Manchester, United Kingdom
  • 07-11-11

Fascinating listen

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Not what I wanted

What I expected was a review of weird conspiracy theories and then an analysis of why people want to believe in such theories and what characteristics a conspiracy theory must have to win followers. i.e. I was looking for a book about human psychology, not a history book. Well, I should have paid attention to the clearly stated subtitle, as I got what it says on the cover. History. Except, it is history that never even happened, footnotes to history, as the mainstream moves on a forgets the hot-button fantasies of their Grandparents. The first conspiracy - that of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - was the most interesting. Based originally on a satirical French pamphlet, used in fiction and then repackaged and presented (in the early 20th Century) as the actual Zionist plot to take over the world, that is an impressive story. After that, frankly, I just couldn't get excited. Roosevelt plotted to get the Japanese to mount the Pearl Harbour attack? It is not amazing or very important now that certain isolationist Americans believed that. Perhaps the interesting message is that demagogical politicians can use false theories to motivate crowds? I think I already knew that.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

It's all a plot!

Essential listening for anyone interested in conspiracy thinking. Ever wondered why people believe in daft ideas and whether such ideas can cause any harm ?

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good account of the big conspiracy theories

The writing was good, as always by David Aaronovitck. But why the funny accents in the narrative ?

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A must

Excellent factual read for anyone fed up up with their credulous friends "armchair detective" beliefs in absurd conspiracies and good fun.