Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch [Book Summary – Review]

A distinct conspiracy theory called chemtrails that states the unique trails in the sky made by the white airplanes was because those airplanes sprayed chemicals to control people easily by the government. Did you ever hear about it? You could be shocked when you find out how popular that is. Frankly, it is not the only one.

The question is what is the reason that moves people to believe in those?

One cause that makes people believe is that the human instinct to form a simpler cosmos instead of a messy and confusing one. Additionally, some of them are true interestingly. Another issue comes up this time which is how we will know if one of our friends is nonstop talking about a fact or a dystopia.

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Chapter 1 – Even though there are similar dimensions, a conspiracy is not even similar to conspiracy theories.

When we look at several TV series or movies we see that the lead actor digs out and questions a mystery and finds out it is not as it is thought to be or shown to be, maybe it is not an accident but a murder. There comes the conspiracy. Alright, but what is the difference?

A real act of plot is very different than a conspiracy theory.

Such as a plot or intrigue, an act of conspiracy is an act when more than one individual is secretly involved in an intrigue. However, a theory of conspiracy is a hypothesis that refutes the official statements and suggesting that there is another dimension of it where conspiracy is happening.

An example of conspiracy theory, in 1969 the Apollo 11 Space Operation to land on Moon by NASA (saying rather than the Moon they used Nevada desert) and the US government. Which one is closer to the truth: arguments by lots of people who are thinking the reverse or the Eagle really has landed, that small step for a man and the giant leap really have taken. 

To find out which is more likely, there is a method called Occam’s Razor. A very crucial tool to analyze two arguments and a test to calculate the possibility of the hypothesis.

Presenting an “evidence” is the most used way to pull more people to believe a conspiracy theory. A celebrity’s or some overrated scholar’s work that supports the idea. The believers enthusiastically will do everything to show the “evidence” with an academic aura.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories with different scales, such as small ones (the so-called assassination of Diana by Buckingham members) or the huge theories such as Vatican’s big secret of Jesus’s bloodline. 

Also, actual conspiracy acts now and then turns to a conspiracy theory.

The chaotic Middle East has become a scene for a lot of lawful conspiracies which makes the region suitable for them.

As a real example, the conspiring acts of Allied powers over the Sick Man of Europe to split it into several countries, laid the ground for ISIS as a secret Israeli plan to damage their rivals.

In the following pages, we will see in what ways and methods a conspiracy theory forms a fantasy of truth.

Chapter 2 – Conspiracy theories lead to form a fake perception of reality by using a cycle of evidence and suspicion. 

Okay then, how a conspiracy theory shapes a wrong perception of credibility?

Circular evidence is what they apply usually. 

Circular evidence emerges when two strangers give reference to each other to present evidence and support their ideas. 

Apparently in the issue of Diana’s Assassination, Steinberg – editor at Executive Intelligence Review – stated that the situation was filled with absurdities and irrationality with annoying questions. To be able to back his idea he referenced Al-Fayed’s father – Al-Fayed was Diana’s lover, who was in the crash too -. Eventually, Al-Fayed’s father can only state that “Steinberg is helping me to reveal the truth about the crash”.

Both people are bearing each other and shape a unique system of roundabout evidence which does not show a real backing for the conspiracy theory.

The common lack of reliable proof is very familiar in conspiracy theories, that generally start with a little suspicion and speculative acts by inserting a doubt to the minds of the receivers so they start to create a power center that conspires against and interpret the world around them accordingly.

If we observe the same case again, the car which has crashed, Diana’s car a white Italian car, has vanished later the incident which results in other suspicions about the crash. The missing car, does it indicates a conspiracy?

Then the speculative acts are added: Diana being pregnant with Al-Fayed’s child and murdered to block the birth of a Muslim baby as a member of the Royal Family by the members of the government or from the Buckingham residents, as known as the monarch. 

Some acts that are similar to this, sometimes harder to refute. About the situation mentioned above is falsified by both the autopsy reports of the corpse and Diana’s close friends that she wasn’t carrying a fetus.

It is interesting that the reason behind the smart and sensible people’s belief in those conspiracy theories. In the following, we will observe closely.

Chapter 3 – Conspiracy theories are rooted in our very simple instinct to make the world easier and simple, separated from confusion.

Therefore we observe that conspiracy theories are fragile and break apart if we investigate deeply. But the question is why it still amazes us?

As stated above, our instinct of making the world simpler is satisfied by conspiracy theories, since they create an order with irrelevant issues.

That reason indicates the conspiracy theories usually emerge from the introverts of the society who suffers because of their identity or some other aspects that they carry within socio-economic situations that they are involved in. Conspiracy theories help them to relieve the pressure about their state of being accused. So they blame others.

To exemplify let’s look at the murder of Hilda Murrell in 1984 in a period where left-wing parties in Britain weren’t powerful in terms of elections. Murrell, the campaign activist, has been murdered which resulted in a hypothesis of plotting that Iron Lady’s government, the Margaret Thatcher administration, was plotted. The issue is considered as an act of despotic government control by many.

We are pulled into the vortex of theories just because it gives rationality for the outer world, minimizing the modern feeling that the world is beyond our perception at some points.

Chaos usually upset us, we tend to deny that life involves tragic moments instead we create a power that is organizing those negative impacts. Accepting we can’t control all aspects of our lives is hard, it makes it easy to believe there is some power behind.

Theories do substitute the tragedy and bad luck with some orderly structure that a pivotal power being at center and intrigues which actually gave a sense of security for the one who conspires or believes even though it isn’t optimal.

Also, the theories are based on our genuine feelings and attempt to state the world that way which creates a tendency for us to believe. According to Elaine Showalter, stated in her work Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture, those theories were “the external manifestation of repressed feelings” especially for a group of people who share some common characteristics or a dimension of identity.

The prosecution of Simpson indicates that: lots of members of black society, which are oppressed by authorities, are adopted the idea that Simpson was an arranged actor by LAPD. As seen this theory is a medium for a society to reflect their feelings.

Chapter 4 – Theories of intrigue that reveal a secret, particularly about celebrities are the most liked. 

We talked about the tendency of believing conspiracy theories. Why we like them is another dimension. Frankly, specific theories actually give us some kind of joy.

We like them because it gives us an opportunity and hope to discover the “truth”. 

Lies and acts of sweeping under the carpet are the most hated things of human nature. Thus we love conspiracy theories and fulfill our need to discover, although there isn’t anything to.

According to Dan Burstein, people love reading Dan Brown’s books because it triggers suspicion and thus he connects with receivers. Dan also states that even though the readers said that they accept the book as fiction, they may still think it involves some truths. 

For instance, the speculative conspiracy theory the book about the Vatican City State which presses a sensitive spot in the reader since the administration has tried to hide the facts about sexual abuse in churches all throughout the world.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy – 35th president of the USA who is assassinated by a sharpshooter – Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, when they are included in a conspiracy theory it amazes us. 

Generally, the murder of a celebrity becomes the content of conspiracy theories. And the people feel amazed by those situations of adored people in an unhealthy way. Even maybe our compulsions about iconic figures can be related to someone’s death. We just don’t want to stay with the feel of guiltiness so we transfer the accusing to others by concentrating on another theory of intrigue. 

To explain further, thinking our basic need of chin wag has some part in the accident of Princess Diana or Marylin Monroe, people might hold on to a theory to relieve ourselves. Thus we prefer to believe that the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the murder of Monroe and the same for the Princess, believing Buckingham was behind the car crash of Diana and Al-Fayed.

Chapter 5 – Even though the conspiracy theories spread a sense of relief, sometimes does the opposite by resulting in a tragedy. 

Above we stated why do we draw in by conspiracy theories and why we incentively shape them. So the question is how some of the theories are more convincing and more known?

Of course, the first condition for conspiracy theories is to be persuasive by relieving the receiver. Suggesting a more simple plan than the situation itself, solving the confusion and exhaustion that event brings.

Successful theories have this thing in common: presenting a more rational way than the world itself, that situations don’t shape out of random acts but some other power is plotting for it to happen in a sensible order. Therefore a successful conspiracy theory going to shape a situation in which outer secret forces are involved pragmatically and give incentive to someone to act. 

For instance, about Diana’s crash, it is very sad to contemplate that Diana would have been alive if she would wear her seatbelt. Thus we create a conspiracy theory that the Royal Family and British Government are involved. Although the scale of intrigue that is suggested is making the theory absurd and less likely to be true, it is a lot more assuring to perceive that is not a conspiracy instead of a traumatic series of event which happened randomly. 

Besides the point that conspiracy theories are relieving our genuine state of mood, still they can be highly dangerous.

Holocaust is the best fit to explain further.

The Nazi Party found paperwork as known as  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which states that the Jewish community’s ambition is to seize all power and destroy others around the world. Of course, this makes Nazi’s problems a lot easier and so the solution for them. So-called final solution: annihilate the Jews.

So that indicates occasionally theories of conspiracy can result in great traumas and tragedies, in the cause of propaganda it turns into a means of hatred. Spreading a huge threat and fear to a community and even resulting in the systematic destruction of identity.

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch Book Review

Absolutely, conspiracy theories are far from being reasonable. Most of them consume an irrational amount of time, endeavor, cooperation, and creating a structure to make it persuasive. Two results can come up by believing, an instant relief, or a huge disaster. 

Think simple.

As of now, whenever some other people try to impose a conspiracy theory or an act of conspiracy, keep in mind to use Occam’s Razor effectively. Just by asking yourself which argument looks simpler and thus shape your ideas accordingly about the stated topic. The possibility can be explained as, more confusing it is, less possible to be real. 

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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