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Time to shut up shop and go home ?
05-08-2009, 06:17 PM,
#1
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch

The Sunday Times review by Christopher Hart

May 3, 2009

In his introduction to this forensically intelligent and hugely enjoyable study of modern conspiracy theories, David Aaronovitch quotes the great British historian, Lewis Namier. “The crowning attainment of historical study is a historical sense — an intuitive understanding of how things do not happen.” It is precisely that sense that conspiracy theorists lack. Instead they have a kind of facile, adolescent knowingness, resembling nothing like proper, ordered knowledge, let alone the kind of instinctive wisdom Namier commended.

Typical of their type is a group of 76 mavericks calling themselves the Scholars for Truth, who, since 9/11, have argued that the destruction of the World Trade Center was nothing to do with Islam, but an American government plot. The 76 soi-disant scholars include not a single Middle-East expert, but instead an engineer who believes America is plotting to bomb Jupiter with antimatter weapons, and another who is an authority on the mechanics of dentistry. Their theories and pronouncements have been widely disseminated, and admired, on the internet, which is, of course, the conspiracy theorists’ natural habitat: a vast maelstrom of mis­information, the cyber-equivalent of that huge floating gyre of rubbish in the Pacific.

Aaronovitch begins his survey at the start of the 20th century, with a consideration of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a wildly anti-semitic Russian forgery of 1903, intended to prove that the Jews were plotting world domination. It might have helped to have had some overview of conspiracy theories in the pre-modern age. Didn’t the Victorians believe in wild rumours, too? If not, why not? And surely during the Middle Ages large populations were regularly swept by lunatic suspicions and beliefs.

They’re still keen on the long-since discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Middle East. Hamas alludes to it regularly in its official Covenant, which also blames Zionists for the French revolution and the First World War. The latter was fought “to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate”. This is a perfect ­example of the frequent vanity inherent in conspiracy-think. It enables the jihadists of Hamas to put themselves at the centre, to say, “The first world war? It was all about us.”

Aaronovitch guides us through the Zinoviev letter, another forgery, this time supposed to show that communists were plotting to take over Britain in 1924; the loonier theories about Pearl Harbor and how Roosevelt knew about it in advance, or even caused it to happen; and inevitably, the Niagara of dotty speculation about the assassination of JFK. Each example, soberly examined, demonstrates the superiority of cock-up theory over conspiracy.

He also reminds us of Ockham’s famous razor: Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, or, roughly translated, “the simplest explanation is usually the best”. The reason Princess Diana died was because her driver was drunk, driving too fast, and she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. All we are left with is a chain of bad luck — melancholy and meaningless. Precisely the reason, suggests Aaronovitch, so many reckon there was a cover-up. At least that would introduce human control, albeit malign. The paparazzi also had a role in her death, and by extension, those who buy the trashy magazines that buy the paparazzi’s photographs. Conspiracy theory, says Aaronovitch astutely, is a way of “reclaiming power and disclaiming responsibility”.

His demolition job in the chapter Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Holy Shit is particularly muscular and enjoyable. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was the bestselling 1982 pseudo-history of Christianity that partly inspired Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. At its heart was the supposedly fabulous wealth of Bérenger Saunière, a humble French country priest. The real reason for his wealth was hilariously banal. He made money by selling masses, “taking payment in the form of postal orders”. He did not have access to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar, blackmail the Catholic Church with the truth about Jesus, or anything else. Like The Da Vinci Code, a lot of conspiracy theory is just plain juvenile.

9/11 was another field day for the lunatic fringe. Some argued that a Boeing 757 couldn’t have gone through a hole just 20ft wide in the Pentagon walls. But it didn’t, it went through a hole 90ft wide, with the wings shaved off on impact. David Shayler, the ubiquitous and discredited former MI5 employee, reckons the twin towers were hit by “missiles surrounded by holograms made to look like planes”. Ockham’s razor urgently needed here. They looked like planes, they flew like planes, they crashed like planes: they were planes.

One of the most salutary lessons of Watergate, Aaronovitch says, is that Richard Nixon, “the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, could not even manage to get a few incriminating tapes wiped clean”. The idea that America could have faked the moon landings is preposterous. But some people still believe it, because it makes them feel superior to the common herd, and it belittles America.

Voodoo Histories is, however, much more than a prolonged sneer at human folly, ignoble fun though that always is. It is also a serious inquiry into why conspiracy theories appeal, and Aaronovitch’s theories are consistently reasonable, persuasive and humane. The complexity of our society is clearly a factor, and the frigid non-humanity of so many of our transactions. Real connections are few and far between, so some ­people start to invent their own.

Conspiracy theories may be psychologically necessary, suggests Aaronovitch. Like certain types of drug addiction, such beliefs may be the self-medication to salve a deep-er disorder: the desperate sense that nothing means anything any more. He describes conspiracy theories as “history for losers”, with pity rather than scorn. They appeal most strongly to those “left behind by modernity” (such as the Palestinians), and for the user, they are “reassuring”. Their inherent paranoia is a psychological sticking plaster to “disguise the truly obliterating disaster, the often well-founded fear that nobody is thinking about them at all”.

Voodoo History leaves you speechless with laughter at the idea that some people really do believe that “Robert Kennedy had a poisoned suppository inserted into Marilyn Monroe before being assassinated by a Manchurian Candidate”. But it also leaves with you with the pathetic image of the solitary male and his computer, the technology both the cause of his isolation and the outlet for his resultant delusions.

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle6197929.ece
“Everything Popular Is Wrong” - Oscar Wilde
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05-08-2009, 07:06 PM,
#2
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Wow, how uplifting! :smirk:

God forbid the public have any qualms. :angry2:
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05-08-2009, 07:21 PM,
#3
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Someone should have told that rabid zionist Aaronovitch,that a forgery is a copy of the original.
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05-08-2009, 07:30 PM,
#4
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
typical.

he dare mention anything with any substance... why not talk about ae911truth.org ?

this conspiracy theory propaganda will back fire on them one day.
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05-08-2009, 08:46 PM,
#5
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
David Aaronovitch? LOL

Ouch, what a vicious hit piece this is. Christopher Hart is a real piece of work,eh?
Quote:At its heart was the supposedly fabulous wealth of Bérenger Saunière, a humble French country priest. The real reason for his wealth was hilariously banal. He made money by selling masses,

haha very plausible. To even presume such fantastic wealth was accrued from such is patently ridiculous.And they have the audacity to once again attempt to ally Occam to their attack. Mind boggles.

A very vicious piece.
Quote:The lunatic fringe

fringe maybe. Lunatics - no
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05-09-2009, 12:31 AM, (This post was last modified: 05-09-2009, 12:32 AM by Dr Richard H Thorndyke.)
#6
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Just wondering if anyone here has actually read the book in question or is this just knee jerk reactions to something that threatens your particular worldview (or faith)?

I haven't got a lot on my non-fiction reading list at the moment so I'll try and buy it this weekend. Will let you know what its like as soon as I can.

Edit: C.G - your current avatar is superb!!
“Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat.” - Professor Brian Cox.
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05-09-2009, 12:32 AM, (This post was last modified: 05-09-2009, 12:34 AM by ---.)
#7
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:Just wondering if anyone here has actually read the book in question or is this just knee jerk reactions to something that threatens your particular worldview (or faith)?

I haven't got a lot on my non-fiction reading list at the moment so I'll try and buy it this weekend. Will let you know what its like as soon as I can.

Knee jerk in response to knee jerk, methinks tbh.

but Aaronovitch is well known around these circles for his duplicitous hit pieces *shrugs*

I'm incredulous though that Bérenger Saunière's wealth is STILL being claimed to have been accrued from private masses - I thought that line had been dropped a while ago LOL
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05-09-2009, 07:48 AM,
#8
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:9/11 was another field day for the lunatic fringe. Some argued that a Boeing 757 couldn’t have gone through a hole just 20ft wide in the Pentagon walls. But it didn’t, it went through a hole 90ft wide, with the wings shaved off on impact. David Shayler, the ubiquitous and discredited former MI5 employee, reckons the twin towers were hit by “missiles surrounded by holograms made to look like planes”. Ockham’s razor urgently needed here. They looked like planes, they flew like planes, they crashed like planes: they were planes.

First of all, OK, where are the wings then? David Shayler, what an EASY TARGET. Why doesn't his lordship attack David Ray Griffins theory, or someone who is in his right mind?

And about Occam's Razor: don't even get me started. Seems to be nothing more than an instruction for the "critical thinking: off" switch nowadays. They don't get it. Yeah this book DESTROYS all conspiracy theories. If his "facts" about the rest of the book are as straight as the 9/11 part: forget it. It's not worth the money.
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05-09-2009, 08:03 AM, (This post was last modified: 05-09-2009, 08:04 AM by triplesix.)
#9
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:And about Occam's Razor: don't even get me started. Seems to be nothing more than an instruction for the "critical thinking: off" switch nowadays. They don't get it. Yeah this book DESTROYS all conspiracy theories. If his "facts" about the rest of the book are as straight as the 9/11 part: forget it. It's not worth the money.
Yeah Occam's Razor makes me want to flip out every time it's invoked. It's simple, Occam's razor might be great for elementary physics, but it doesn't belong in the same breath as military strategy. Any strategy buff, even most chess players, understand that misdirection is the key to preventing a deconstruction on the enemy's part of your strategy. Military covert operations are always cloaked in contradictory evidence and false leads. Because you don't want it to be easy to figure out, duh!

It's shit you could explain to a 4th grader yet millions of grown men and women can't figure this shit out. Go figure.
&We grow to recognize form. We grow to label that form. In doing so, do we become more intelligent? Do we become more awakened?& - Siji Tzu 四季子
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05-09-2009, 08:08 AM,
#10
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
It just goes to show that Sun Tzu has been understood by even fewer than those that think they understand Occam's Razor.
“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after
equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. ” -Nikola Tesla

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." -Jimi Hendrix
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05-09-2009, 10:33 AM,
#11
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:It just goes to show that Sun Tzu has been understood by even fewer than those that think they understand Occam's Razor.

Care to elaborate? Remember, we = outside your head

:-D
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05-09-2009, 05:58 PM,
#12
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
here the author appears on the bbc.

may 4th 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDgbbrgGnSQ

“Everything Popular Is Wrong” - Oscar Wilde
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05-09-2009, 07:12 PM,
#13
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:Just wondering if anyone here has actually read the book in question or is this just knee jerk reactions to something that threatens your particular worldview (or faith)?
So no-one has read it then judging by your responses. I thought so. :rolleyes:

Also, it's hardly a knee jerk reaction to research, write, edit and publish a book. It takes slightly (well, a lot) longer to do that than post a few misinformed lines on the internet, a fact that might be worth remembering before you fly off the handle and start throwing assertions around about a book you haven't even set eyes on. Whether Aaronovitch is right or not surely it's just daft to talk about something you know nothing about.

Quote:I haven't got a lot on my non-fiction reading list at the moment so I'll try and buy it this weekend. Will let you know what its like as soon as I can.

It's ordered, should be in my hands by the end of the week. Post permitting. :)
“Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat.” - Professor Brian Cox.
Reply
05-09-2009, 09:52 PM, (This post was last modified: 05-09-2009, 10:13 PM by ---.)
#14
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
Quote:
Quote:Just wondering if anyone here has actually read the book in question or is this just knee jerk reactions to something that threatens your particular worldview (or faith)?
So no-one has read it then judging by your responses. I thought so. :rolleyes:

Also, it's hardly a knee jerk reaction to research, write, edit and publish a book. It takes slightly (well, a lot) longer to do that than post a few misinformed lines on the internet, a fact that might be worth remembering before you fly off the handle and start throwing assertions around about a book you haven't even set eyes on. Whether Aaronovitch is right or not surely it's just daft to talk about something you know nothing about.

Quote:I haven't got a lot on my non-fiction reading list at the moment so I'll try and buy it this weekend. Will let you know what its like as soon as I can.

It's ordered, should be in my hands by the end of the week. Post permitting. :)

Yes, I guess we can only wait for the pleasure of you quoting it verbatim here:rolleyes:


Rebuke falls down flat DRT...take another glass of red, it's still the weekend. The tone of the piece and DA's back history make it absolutely valid that such an article be met with derision this end. Did I imagine it or were 'we' all tarred with the same brush as being part of the 'lunatic fringe'?

Quote:'no-one has read it'

By the same token, one can only assume that the author and reviewer, unless unscrupulous and simply wishing to accrue financial success with such a popular themed publication ie ''conspiracy theorists' are fools', have not actually considered the volume of information that 'we' have here; that makes it patently clear (using Occam's Razor, let's say) that there is indeed a pervasive conspiracy afoot. A tactic which no doubt works very well appealing to those who seek to constantly undermine the idea come hell or high water, as you're own purchase would evince

Do you think the investigators that are so glibly ripped asunder in your new book have not put in their own time, intellectual effort and sweat in writing their own books and papers? To then be waived off a cranks and fevered simpletons - in this 'very balanced' review. Do 'us' a favour..

Your chiding is misdirected.

This board is open ended in that it is focused on dissecting memes and trying to establish fact from fantasy - people read here and sometimes opinions change from belief to disbelief in specific ideas and vise versa - however, those that just seek to constantly find error and 'debunk' are ultimately doing themselves a disservice insofar as their 'agenda' precludes a detached appraisal of the information presented. Imsho you would fall into the latter camp.
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05-09-2009, 10:45 PM,
#15
Time to shut up shop and go home ?
"Occam's Razor" seems to be the new fashionable catch phrase here now:rolleyes:
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