Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't believe the lies!

Today, for the first time, I read Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch. I've been mildly curious about conspiracy theories in the past- I even watched "Loose Change" and thought my eyes had been opened to the truths behind the tragedy of 9/11.. I wouldn't be fooled like everyone else because I was now on the side of the experts intelligent enough to sniff out a huge, complicated, intricate conspiracy. In fact, as far as I was concerned, how could anyone overlook these facts and still believe the lies our government was feeding us? However, after reading Voodoo Histories, while I acknowledge that the most important conspiracy theories in history are interesting, compelling, and often times alluring and thought-provoking, they are also largely untrue and shaped our history in a negative way.

While the novel itself can get very classroomy at times, Aaronovitch's thoughtful analysis of major consiracy theories (the Protocols, Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, Princess Diana) shows both how it was possible for so many to believe them and how this impacted society. For example, the "Protocolos," a collection of papers detailing how Jews were behind every major act and decision during the Russian Revolution and how they had a secret plot to take over the world, lead to an overall anti-Jew sentiment that would later help to fuel tagic pieces of history like the Holocaust. Even now, long after it has been proved that the Protocols were mostly plagiarized from old pieces of fiction and thoroughly untrue, there are still people who believe them to be fact.

One of the arguments Aaronovitch makes is that if it is convenient for you in any way to believe a conspiracy theory, then you are more likely to believe it- even when faced with irrefutable evidence to the contrary. It certainly doesn't help that the media will try to keep a story like the death of Princess Diana in the headlines with any new discovery or twist that adds mystery and intrigue to what was really just a fatal car accident. Aaronovitch cites the playwright Mamet, who said "It is in our nature to dramarize." Afte reading this book, I think it is important to be critical of conspiracy theories. If you ask yourself, "Could this cospiracy truly have been pulled off?" and your first reaction is to say "no," you're probably right.

On a scale of 1-10 will I do this again: 2 for probably not. It was a very interesting book, but I got all the information I needed from it the first time around. I highly recommend you read it though!

P.S. Sorry for the long wait on a new post, I've really gotten into making jewelry out of clay so I've been spending a lot of my time doing that. Plus it took me a few days to read this book!

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