Voodoo Histories

  • by David Aaronovitch
  • Narrated by James Langton
  • 14 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's 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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent, with a few minor flaws

This is an excellent, thoughtful, and very listenable book on conspiracy theories from the most skeptical of viewpoints. The book delves deeply into the deaths of JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and Princess Diana, as well as the show trials of Stalinist Russia, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 9/11 conspiracies, and even the recent "birther" conspiracies. Each conspiracy is completely rejected, though the level of detail devoted to each debunking varies. If you are of an "anti-conspiratorial" bent, this book will appeal to you greatly, and the analysis at the end about the nature of conspiracy theories is thoughtful and well-articulated.

A couple of flaws prevent this from being a five star review. First, the book suffers a bit from the eternal problem of debunkers, to fight crazy conspiracies, you need to stoop to their level a bit, which can occasionally seem either petty, or overly drawn out. The book also drags a bit in the middle, as it covers a lot of ground, and moving from JFK to Marilyn to RFK to Princess Diana, topics that, for me at least, weren't as interesting. Finally, the reader is odd - the main narrative is great, but he does various "voices" for people like FDR or the Queen, which are not quite imitations, and thus are a bit jarring.

And, as an additional note, if you believe in any of the above conspiracies, this book will likely make your blood boil. Take that how you will.

Overall, however, this is an excellent, reasonably quick and generally entertaining tour of conspiracy debunking.

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- Ethan M. "On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through"

Entertaining and enlightening.

The book did drag in some places, but seemed to get better as it went on. David Aaronovitch discusses commonalities found in conspiracy theories and the reasons people are attracted to them. The phenomenon is more complex than I had thought. The book begins and ends by underscoring that conspiracy theories can do serious harm.

Apparently though, they will always be with us because people love interesting stories and some people have a lot to gain by propagating them. Even journalists and scholars can't always resist them. And the most outlandish tale spreaders often begin with the disclaimer, "I'm not one to believe in conspiracy theories but . . . . "

The narrator, James Langton, was excellent.
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- Caro

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-10-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios