Voodoo Histories Book Summary - Voodoo Histories Book explained in key points
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Voodoo Histories summary

David Aaronovitch

The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

4.1 (26 ratings)
12 mins

Brief summary

Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch exposes the conspiracy theories which question historical facts. He discusses the emotional and political motivations behind such theories, creating a balanced approach to assessing them.

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    Voodoo Histories
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    Conspiracy theories differ from conspiracies, but they do share some common traits.

    Maybe you’ve watched a movie in which the hero gets to the bottom of some mystery. After much field work, he reveals that some important individual didn’t die in a car accident after all. No, it was murder – a conspiracy! Okay, so how does a conspiracy like this differ from a conspiracy theory?

    An actual act of conspiracy is not a conspiracy theory.

    A conspiracy happens when two or more people are involved in secretly plotting an illegal or deceptive act. Whereas a conspiracy theory is just that – a theory that the official explanation is not true, that there’s a conspiracy afoot.

    For example, one popular conspiracy theory is that NASA and the US government faked the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. But which is more likely: Thousands of people conspiring to create and cover up an elaborate hoax or NASA actually landing on the moon?    

    This method of cutting through competing explanations in search of the simplest one is known as Occam’s razor. It is one of the primary tools for analyzing the probability of a conspiracy theory.

    One way conspiracy theories gain believers is by citing “evidence.” Sometimes this comes in the form of celebrity endorsement, or from so-called experts with exaggerated qualifications. And these believers will work hard to present the evidence in a convincingly academic fashion.

    Conspiracy theories also range in size, from small plots (like a few members of Buckingham Palace being involved in the death of Princess Diana) to massively elaborate ones, like the Vatican hiding the truth about Jesus’s bloodline.

    Furthermore, real conspiracies sometimes lead to conspiracy theories.

    In the Middle East, there have been a number of legitimate conspiracies; this makes the area fertile ground for conspiracy theories.

    For instance, the fact that Britain and France conspired to divide up the Ottoman Empire after World War I has led to new conspiracy theories, such as ISIS being an Israeli plot intended to disrupt rival powers.

    In the next blink, we’ll find out how conspiracy theories create the illusion of truth.

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    What is Voodoo Histories about?

    Voodoo Histories (2009) is a fascinating look at why we love to create conspiracy theories. Why do we feel the need to create stories to explain tragic events, such as the Apollo 11 moon landing and the deaths of Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe? Read on and find out.

    Best quote from Voodoo Histories

    Conspiracy theorists fail to apply the principle of Occams razor to their arguments.

    —David Aaronovitch
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    Who should read Voodoo Histories?

    • People curious about conspiracy theories
    • Skeptics wanting to debunk conspiracy theories
    • Activists interested in the Zeitgeist Movement and similar groups

    About the Author

    Since the 1980s, David Aaronovitch has been an award-winning journalist for radio, TV and print. His first book, Paddling to Jerusalem, won the Madoc prize for travel literature in 2001, and his second, Voodoo Histories, was a Sunday Times top-ten best seller.

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