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David Aaronovitch

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In preparation for this interview I watched the documentary (that’s what the producers call it, anyway) “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup.” Of course it’s absolutely loony. In fact, it’s so loony that I began to wonder if the director, Dylan Avery, wasn’t having us on. It’s hard to tell whether “Loose Change” is a you’ve-gotta-hear-this conspiracy theory or a tongue-firmly-in-cheek parody of a conspiracy theory. Maybe I’m just jaded, but it seems to me–particularly after reading David Aaronovitch’s excellent book Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in the Shaping of Modern History (Penguin, 2010)–that we’ve heard all this before: Satan’s children did it, the Freemasons did it, the Illuminati did it, the Jews did it, the the Commies did it, the Mafia did it, the John Birch Society did it, the Trilateral Commission did it, the Bilderberg Group did it, the Club of Rome did it, Skull and Bones did it, PNAC did it, and everyone else has done “it” whatever “it” happens to be. Every time one of these insidious plots “comes to light” it turns out to be a sickly-sweet cocktail of paranoia, anger, and don’t-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-your-argument speculation. You’d think we’d have learned by now not to believe that “dark, hidden forces” are behind everything because, well, they demonstrably aren’t. But people want to believe these things, particularly when they seem to explain why something disturbing–say, the collapse of Germany in WWI, the high costs of rapid industrialization in the USSR in the 1930s, or America’s evident lack of preparation for 9/11–wasn’t “our” fault, but rather someone else’s. I would like to think that David’s wonderful book will put an end to loopy conspiracy theories so that we can get on with the important business of fixing things that matter. It probably won’t, but nonetheless Voodoo History is certainly a fine step in that direction and I applaud David for writing it (and you for reading it).

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan March 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I dont think there will be any progress in scepticism on conspiracy theories. Its just too intriguing to many, having simple answers to complex issues will allways have some people attracted to it…

Another very recent example is the subborn believe of some that the US were tricked into electing a Muslim / Socialist (which contradicts itself but they dont seem to mind) as President, that public healthcare will transform us into a totalitarian state and so on and so on.

While that is pretty easy to debunk sometimes its a little more tricky. See the “Ergenekon” case and coup plot, that is unfolding in Turkey right now. To some it is the uncovering of a huge conspiracy of the “deep state”, to others it is a conspiracy that consists of a made-up-conspiracy (recent FP article) by the ruling party to remove the last opponents an Islamist state. Ohhh soothing simplicity…

Dominic March 15, 2010 at 8:30 am

I really enjoyed this episode, you and David seemed to have quite a good rapport and learning about the origins of the “protocalls of the elders of zion” and the 911 “truth” movement the last one really shows how conspiracy theories have a tendency to become more and more elaborate and less plausible over time.

However I do disagree with your comment, Marshall about Britain and American not being “forced” into war by George W Bush and Tony Blair. They clearly decided to invade iraq years before and pushed it through parliament, congress and to the public through manipulations of the truth; WMDs that could launch within 45 mins and the frankly nonsensical linking of Saddam to Al-Qaeda.

Also the existence of weapons of mass destruction in iraq was far from accepted by the majority of those who were experts.

Keep up the great podcast, it’s such a pleasure to hear intelligent people given time to talk about something they know really well.

Bruce May 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

I really enjoyed this episode, you and David seemed to have quite a good rapport and learning about the origins of the “protocalls of the elders of zion” and the 911 “truth” movement the last one really shows how conspiracy theories have a tendency to become more and more elaborate and less plausible over time.

However I do disagree with your comment, Marshall about Britain and American not being “forced” into war by George W Bush and Tony Blair. They clearly decided to invade iraq years before and pushed it through parliament, congress and to the public through manipulations of the truth; WMDs that could launch within 45 mins and the frankly nonsensical linking of Saddam to Al-Qaeda.

Also the existence of weapons of mass destruction in iraq was far from accepted by the majority of those who were experts.

Keep up the great podcast, it’s such a pleasure to hear intelligent people given time to talk about something they know really well.

Mark June 3, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I think the basis of conspiritorial thinking is the insistance that only one alternative of history can be correct – usually tied to a political agenda or personal vendetta/hatred. This factor, and the misbelief that fiction is more exciting than fact, are the great curses of most popular historical writing.

I can’t help but respond to both Dominic and Bruce’s identical postings. There is a possible alternative to a Bush-Blair (and for us Australians – Howard) conspiracy, namely that they actually believed these things to be true. In which case they are only guilty of naivety and self-righteousness. Lets also note that all three are out of office with one, Blair, departing to a significant extent as a result of Iraq.

Chris June 21, 2012 at 4:39 am

I find this podcast deceitful. If one knows about such things operation Gladio, Cuban missile crisis, Watergate or Iran-Contra affair, i.e. real state conspiracies, one cannot simply reject so called conspiracy theories and call inquiring people paranoid. Why? Because of conspiracy practice. Of course, one needs to research a lot in order to get to facts. One may arrive at a conspiracy theory in conclusion.

Such phrase as “Of course it’s absolutely loony” makes a historian saying so look like an idiot, because he undermines his own professional position and abilities to search for truth. But at the same time mister David Aaronovitch surely believes in historical validity of Wannsee conference proof. It was a German conspiracy, wasn’t it?

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“David Aaronovitch,

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