Friday, February 19, 2010

Conspiracy Theories

Who’s Really Flying the Plane? 2006

I’m not planning to buy John Aaronovitch’s new book, Voodoo Histories, The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not good or that you shouldn’t consider it.

Voodoo Histories is one of those books I’ve learned I shouldn’t buy because it’ll only affirm my belief about something so much so that I’ll just become more obsessive and obnoxious about it.

Like conspiracy theories.

You know, like the New World Order one I heard about in Texas from Alex Jones (also a favorite of Glenn Beck), or the ones involving everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Pan Am Flight 103, the JFK assassination, the moon landing, the death of Princess Diana, the Elders of Zion and so on.

Voodoo Histories takes a systematic approach to sorting through the facts, the suppositions and the theories. As the The New York Times’ review put it, Aaronovitch uses the principle of Occam’s razor (i.e. that the simplest hypothesis is usually the right one) “to eviscerate the many conspiracy theories that have percolated through politics and popular culture over the last century.”

“In most cases, conspiracy theorists would rather tie themselves into complicated knots and postulate all sorts of improbable secret connections than accept a simple, more obvious explanation.”

Later on, he delivers the coupe de grace that had me pounding on the breakfast table in agreement. He argues that tangled webs of conspiracy theory are:

“…formulated by the politically defeated and taken up by the socially defeated.” [Those] “left behind by modernity...They are the America firsters, who got the war they didn’t want; the Midwest populists watching their small farms go out of business; the opponents of the New Deal; the McGovern liberals in the era of Richard Nixon…the irreconcilable American right during the Clinton Administration; the shattered American left in the time of the second Bush Administration.”

Or, dare I mention, the righteous, dumbfounded and anti-intellectual right, who still haven’t accepted that America is a country defined by its optimism, its trust in the fellow man and its confident eye to the future rather than the past.

Postscript: The January 2010 issue of Texas Monthly has a good article about Alex Jones in which, among other things, Jones states that Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone's 2002 fatal plane crash was caused by a government laser gun.


  1. It does seem true that conspiracy theories can sometimes seem phenomenally convoluted, doesn't it?

  2. What I love is the part when you say "There's no evidence," and they say, "See! There has to be a vast conspiracy to hide all that evidence."