Voodoo Histories | David Aaronovitch

Summary of: Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
By: David Aaronovitch


Embark on a fascinating journey as we explore the realm of conspiracy theories and their impact on modern history in “Voodoo Histories” by David Aaronovitch. Discover the difference between actual conspiracies and conspiracy theories, and learn how these notions manage to capture our imagination by offering seemingly believable explanations for complex events. This book summary will help you uncover the methods conspiracy theories use to create a sense of truth and understand why even intelligent individuals may be lured into embracing these ideas. We’ll also delve into real-life conspiracies that gave birth to outlandish theories and analyze the motives behind our attraction towards such narratives.

Understanding the Difference between a Conspiracy and a Conspiracy Theory

There is a significant difference between an act of conspiracy and a conspiracy theory. A conspiracy involves a group of people secretly plotting to carry out an illegal or deceptive act, while a conspiracy theory is an idea that the official explanation is not true. Occam’s razor is one of the primary tools for evaluating the possibility of a conspiracy theory. Theories gain believers by citing evidence and can range from small plots to elaborate ones. Real conspiracies can lead to conspiracy theories, making it fertile ground for such theories.

The Deceptive Power of Circular Evidence in Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories thrive on the lack of solid evidence and the use of circular reasoning. The case of Princess Diana’s death serves as a perfect example of how conspiracy theories make use of this method to bring a false sense of believability. The theory relies on the circular evidence created by Jeffrey Steinberg, editor of Executive Intelligence Review, and Mohamed al-Fayed, father of Diana’s lover, Dodi al-Fayed. Both rely on each other’s claims to back up their statements, which lend no actual support to the theory. Conspiracy theories typically start with a shred of doubt and add speculative motives, making them harder to disprove. Ironically, even after the medical examiners and Diana’s closest friend confirmed that she was not pregnant at the time of the accident, some people still believe in the conspiracy theory regarding her death. The next part explores why intelligent and level-headed people can fall prey to such beliefs.

The Allure of Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories provide a sense of order in a chaotic world by neatly explaining random events that we can’t control. They offer a way for individuals who feel like outcasts to explain their situation without taking any of the blame. As chaos is unsettling, conspiracy theories tend to create a sense of comfort by giving people a reason for tragic events. Elaine Showalter in her book Hystories further explains that conspiracy theories are an external manifestation of repressed feelings. The O.J. Simpson trial, for instance, saw many in the black community embracing conspiracy theories that he was framed by the LAPD. Conspiracy theories are attractive as they provide explanations that reflect our true feelings, and they give us some comfort by removing factors that we can’t control, even though they might be cold.

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