David Aaronovitch was on Radio 4's Start the Week this morning. Each week, I nonsensically start my own working week by getting worked-up by the nonsense so often spouted by the facile contributions of the blathering contributors to said radio programme; I really need carefully to look within and work out why I regularly put myself though this unhappy ritual. Some Maoist self-criticism is obviously required!
Anyway, Aaronovitch has just written a book called Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History a part of the publisher blurb to which reads:
Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy. We see it everywhere - from Pearl Harbour to 9/11, from the assassination of Kennedy to the death of Diana... For David Aaronovitch, there came a time when he started to see a pattern. These theories used similar dodgy methods with which to insinuate their claims: they linked themselves to the supposed conspiracies of the past (it happened then so it can happen now); they carefully manipulated their evidence to hide its holes; they relied on the authority of dubious academic sources. Most importantly, they elevated their believers to membership of an elite - a group of people able to see beyond lies to a higher reality... Aaronovitch... looks at why people believe them, and makes an argument for a true scepticism: one based on a thorough knowledge of history and a strong dose of common sense.
Ah, common sense! Well, we do like common sense around here, for sure. I'm always happy to see "conspiracy theories" debunked, but I'm equally intrigued by which theories are deemed to be conspiratorial and which historical theses are deemed to be sensible and sound. For example, why isn't the suggestion that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD a "conspiracy theory"? Belief in the lie that Saddam had such weapons was linked "to the supposed conspiracies of the past" (he bombed the working class stronghold of Halabja so therefore, it was asserted, he'll certainly do something as heinous again) and was based on "carefully manipulated... evidence" which "relied on the authority of dubious academic sources". Most importantly, this "elevated their believers to membership of an elite" -- those who saw the huge, looming threat had seen the truth and those of us who thought this huge "threat" was merely a manipulation of the Anglo-American ruling class were blind, naive or worse.
It is, indeed, interesting and important to debunk "conspiracy theories" -- there are a lot of them out there. Recent official history contains its fair share of such dangerous lies, too, so I wonder why Aaronovitch doesn't seem very keen on debunking them. Was it because there are certain conspiracy theories he fell hook, line and sinker for?