The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

Andrew Roberts in Literary Review:

ScreenHunter_07 May. 29 12.31 David Aaronovitch is one of those few Britons who can be referred to as an intellectual without it being pejorative. He is also a master of the art of ridicule, as this reviewer once discovered to his cost at a public debate. This superbly researched, wittily written and eminently sane book explodes conspiracy theories by the dozen, and highlights the psychological disorders from which their promoters often suffer. Best of all, however, it points out how dangerous conspiracy theories can be to society.

Of course, it's perfectly true that sometimes in history there have indeed been genuine conspiracies. The Catiline conspiracy in Ancient Rome, the Gunpowder Plot, the Cato Street Conspiracy to blow up the British Cabinet in 1820, the Bolshevik conspiracy to overthrow the Kerensky government in Russia in October 1917, and the Iran-Contra conspiracy in Reagan's White House in 1985-6 are all cases in point. Generally, however, it is the cock-up explanation rather than the conspiracy that provides the best guide to what really happened. To believe that dark forces control our lives, and have done so for centuries, is a sure sign of weak-mindedness, akin to a belief in UFOs or that one's destiny is affected by the zodiac.

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