Thursday, April 1, 2010

David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch is a British journalist and Times of London columnist. His new book is Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History.

From Aaronovitch's Q & A with Thomas Rogers at Salon:

What prompted the book?

There is a specific moment I mention in the book, when a very intelligent man turned to me during this long car journey and with a kind of mischievous pleasure tried to convince me that the moon landings never happened. I listened to him about the photographic reasons why so-and-so shot was impossible and something else couldn’t happen — I found myself wondering what the attraction of this was for him. To fake something like the moon landing would be incredibly difficult if not completely impossible. Why do clever people believe dumb things?

People put an enormous amount of resources and commitment into these stories, and large numbers of people believe them. A Venezuelan professor recently claimed that the United States caused the Haiti earthquake with an underground nuclear test. What kind of background evidence is there for that? None. But these kinds of stories are ubiquitous.

In recent years, people like the birthers and the 9/11 truthers have gotten a lot of press coverage and pop-cultural play. Are we in a new golden age of conspiracy theories?

I think we live in a more conspiracist period. There’s no question there are more of them, and they’re more global, and they take off more quickly. They’re also more complex and relate to virtual communities rather than real ones. I think it’s because of global interdependence. We live a global period, and there’s a huge temptation among people to believe there is a master plan, because otherwise the suggestion is we’re interdependent and the world is chaotic — and that’s a mindfuck.

There are entire societies where the default position is to believe in conspiracy theories, like in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue