[Crossposted from New Books in History] In preparation for this interview I watched the documentary (that’s what the producers call it, anyway) “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup.” Of course it’s absolutely loony. In fact, it’s so loony that I began to wonder if the director, Dylan Avery, wasn’t having us on. It’s hard to tell whether “Loose Change” is a you’ve-gotta-hear-this conspiracy theory or a tongue-firmly-in-cheek parody of a conspiracy theory. Maybe I’m just jaded, but it seems to me–particularly after reading David Aaronovitch’s excellent book Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in the Shaping of Modern History (Penguin, 2010)–that we’ve heard all this before: Satan’s children did it, the Freemasons did it, the Illuminati did it, the Jews did it, the the Commies did it, the Mafia did it, the John Birch Society did it, the Trilateral Commission did it, the Bilderberg Group did it, the Club of Rome did it, Skull and Bones did it, PNAC did it, and everyone else has done “it” whatever “it” happens to be. Every time one of these insidious plots “comes to light” it turns out to be a sickly-sweet cocktail of paranoia, anger, and don’t-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-your-argument speculation. You’d think we’d have learned by now not to believe that “dark, hidden forces” are behind everything because, well, they demonstrably aren’t. But people want to believe these things, particularly when they seem to explain why something disturbing–say, the collapse of Germany in WWI, the high costs of rapid industrialization in the USSR in the 1930s, or America’s evident lack of preparation for 9/11–wasn’t “our” fault, but rather someone else’s. I would like to think that David’s wonderful book will put an end to loopy conspiracy theories so that we can get on with the important business of fixing things that matter. It probably won’t, but nonetheless Voodoo History is certainly a fine step in that direction and I applaud David for writing it (and you for reading it).
Please become a fan of “New Books in Political Science” on Facebook if you haven’t already.