Voodoo Histories

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our age is obsessed by the idea of conspiracy—from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the Kennedy assassination to the death of Princess Diana. David Aaronovitch discusses why they are so persistent and why they’ve been around for so long. In Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, he probes and explodes the major conspiracy theories.


David Aaronovitch

Comments [30]

Phil Henshaw from NY

Sounds to me like there's a real link between how the word is formed, as "con-spir-acy" and David Aaronovitch's comment on how "circular" conspiracy theories. The theory about others concocting great plots and executing them with perfection seems to come about through a real affinity group building a story to agree on by passing around added pieces...

So believing your own group's circular reasoning seems to be in on the ground floor of where they come from. I commented on an important further detail of that at:

A lot of my theoretical physics work and practice applies to these kinds of uncontrolled natural systems and how to understand them.

Feb. 11 2010 01:10 PM

Also, he condescendingly uses the word "Voodoo" in his title - is he dismissing Haitian culture as well? I think this guy is very smug.

Feb. 11 2010 01:06 PM
Mike C.. from Tribeca

Regarding Jared from NYC's comment about Watergate. Hunter S. Thompson believed the break-in was all about bugging the offices of the SEC, which were supposedly on the floor above the Democratic Party offices.

BTW, Spiro Agnew always struck me as being from another planet.

Feb. 11 2010 01:03 PM
your friend from manhattan

The guest makes the same mistake as "conspiracy theorists". Just as they sometimes assume that everything is completely controlled, he assumes that all conspiracies fit into the same category and that all parts of all conspiracy theories are of equal (lack) of paucity.

It is the human trait of pattern recognition that allows us to identify actual conspiracies and which also causes some to prefer to see the pattern of lunacy rather than the concentration and action of great powers.

Feb. 11 2010 01:01 PM
Ben from Brooklyn

Yeah, what about COINTELPRO?

Feb. 11 2010 01:00 PM

JFK conspiracy theory.Yes it's early 1960's JFK and CIA become aware of illegal Israel WMD weapons program.Israel constructs extensive deception plan to thwart inspections.JFK threatens Israel with severe sanctions.Ben Gurion resigns to delay sanctions.JFK is assasinated and a compliant LBJ replaces the "ANTI ISRAEL"president does a 180 degree reversal on mideast policy.Israel confident enough to launch 1967 npremtive sneak attack on it's neighbors with 2 nuclear devises as backup for it's greater Israel expanist vision.Expanding it's borders and expelling non Jewish populations and attacking the unarmed USS Liberty.Killing 34 US seamen and wounding another 171.The highest causality on a US navy ship since WWII.

Feb. 11 2010 12:59 PM
yourgo from queens

I think the jews are always attacked because they say they are the chosen ones and if you are not born jew you usually connot be one creating envy in exclusivity. Also they are a small target that is united but also spread across the globe with no homeland, for most of history. It is a unique situation that raises questions, and because they are prosperous there is, again, envy and jealousy. And the power they weild sometimes creates situations that can be interpreted as conspracy actions.

Feb. 11 2010 12:59 PM
Peter from Brooklyn

Pleased to hear Mr Aaronovitch on your show. Please let us know if he will be making any public appearances while in New York

Feb. 11 2010 12:58 PM
Mike C.. from Tribeca

Regarding the David Paterson resignation story -- Sounds more like lazy and/or sensationalist journalism than any kind of conspiracy.

Feb. 11 2010 12:58 PM
Jared from NYC

re WaterGate: we don't know WHY Nixon, heading to a landslide victory, planted spies in the DNC HQ. Pretty good cover-up. The investigation stopped there. Killing a guard is much more noticeable than three burglars getting caught.

re WMDs not being planted in Iraq: Stephen Hatfill created an operational mobile weapons lab for Delta Force, all it needed was the Anthrax chemicals. The lab plan was scotched as Valerie Plame was being outed. Plame was in a position to call the Bush Admin on its WMD shenanigans.

Feb. 11 2010 12:58 PM
M from Brooklyn

Is the writer's problem with people disagreeing with the government, or is it with people making up non-verifiable stories in place of the official government version? I hope he doesn't - as he appears - always assume the government version to be true.

Feb. 11 2010 12:55 PM
the dude from queens

when it was said that Iraq had no relation to 9/11 and there were no WMD. People use to say it was conspiacy theory till it was proven true. Sometimes conspiracy theories prove true and people should consider all until they are proven true or false.
Simplicity is the key.
Where is the plane wreckage in pennsylvania on 9/11?

Feb. 11 2010 12:55 PM

It is true we are quite lied to by our govt and our overly powerful multinational corporations!

Feb. 11 2010 12:54 PM
Jgarbuz from Queens, NY

Regarding all conspiracy theories going back even to biblical times regarding Jews as the source of all cosmic evil, the reasons are:

1. The invisible monotheistic God of Israel was a revolutionary against all the other gods of the world;

2. Isaac and Jacob cheated the birthrights of Ishmael and Esau, their respective brothers;

3. The Jews lost their homeland and were banished by their God to roam the earth like Cain who killed Abel for convicting Jesus;

4. In the Diaspora, the Jews managed to prosper despite being deprived of land and other visible means of support, and hence must be sustained by Satan;

5. Jews invented banking, capitalism, communism, and all the "evils" in the world;

6. Jews are racially the offspring of apes and pigs;

And so on and so forth. The list is endless.

Feb. 11 2010 12:53 PM


Yes there is plenty of BS in teh world but re: JFK - have you read the surgen's account of waht happened in the OR and how different the info was between waht he saw as surgeon and the whole explanation??

I think automatic dismissers are just as apt to be wrong!

Feb. 11 2010 12:51 PM
Mike from Manhattan

The best way to hide something in the plain of day, is to label it a conspiracy theory.

Feb. 11 2010 12:50 PM
Matt from New York

What about what's happening to David Paterson now?

Feb. 11 2010 12:49 PM
Mike C.. from Tribeca

The Earth is hit by about 100 tons of cosmic debris every night, mainly having to do with comets. The cosmos is out to get us.

Feb. 11 2010 12:49 PM
Amy from Manhattan

No--the Da Vinci Code *is* the conspiracy!! That's the horror of it!!

OK, seriously, it could be said that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was the real conspiracy...does that make its allegations projection (in the Freudian sense)? If so, how often might this be the case?

Feb. 11 2010 12:49 PM
Merrill Clark from NY, NY

Will the David Paterson resignation story to come out in the NY Times be a conspiracy theory? A few days, EVERYONE was reporting DP was resigning per a forthcoming NYT story. No story; no resigination and complete denials.

Feb. 11 2010 12:47 PM
Eric from B'klyn

Many people insist that Al Gore and the scientific community is trying to perpetuate a giant hoax.

Feb. 11 2010 12:46 PM

What does he make of conservatives believing Colbert is a real conservative?

Feb. 11 2010 12:45 PM

What are typical psychological profiles of conspiracy theory believers?

Could any commonality be due to brain chip implants?

Feb. 11 2010 12:37 PM
antonio from the republic of park slope..

Without going too far into theories like building 7 is not mentioned in the 911 commission report, the flight path of the plane that hit the pentagon noted by the ntsb contradicts the eyewitness accounts; (check it out
isn't it natural to question the folks who hammer at anyone who questions things??

I mean it is a FACT that there were no WMD's, and the previous administration lied, and had intentions in invading IRAQ years before 911..

Feb. 11 2010 12:26 PM
hjs from 11211

Why do people create conspiracy theories? because government secrecy and half truths (and lies) create the room for them to spread.

Feb. 11 2010 12:24 PM
George from Bay Ridge

Why do people create conspiracy theories? Why do we have conspiracy theories? Is a conspiracy theory is one's way to deal with reality? Why does a person insist on believing a conspiracy theory even if the evidence is overwhelming opposed?

Feb. 11 2010 12:09 PM
Mike C.. from Tribeca

Has anyone else noticed WNYC is just one letter away from CIA? Think about it.

Feb. 11 2010 12:03 PM
Bennett Wilson from Brooklyn

There is proof that the lunar landing was real. In 1969 a Ham Radio Operator on Long Island built an antenna and radio set that listened to the transmissions from lunar orbit by the Apollo 11 crew. NASA was very upset. He is alive and well still on Long Island. His call sign is K2RIW, first name "Dick".

Feb. 11 2010 12:01 PM
Michael from New York

For an incisive and provocative review of Voodoo Histories, look to Michael Washburn's piece in the Boston Globe, accessed at

Feb. 11 2010 11:17 AM
George from Bay Ridge

What does the guest think about the birther controversy involving President Obama?

Feb. 11 2010 08:50 AM

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