Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?
Here’s the twenty first installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.
LiteratEye #21: Crusading British Journalist Combats Stupidity
By W.J. Elvin III
July 10, 2009
David Aaronovitch calls his new book “my war on stupidity.” Before dashing into the fray, it seemed prudent to figure which side I’m on. So I ordered the book.
“Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History” is an incredibly difficult book to obtain. Amazon will send it to you in 2010. Several vendors offer it at a ridiculously high price. The one reasonable source backed out when I put in an order.
So, over to the UK, where it was published. By golly, the outfit I ordered from there suddenly pulled out of the deal. Conspiracy, or what?
I finally got a copy, shipped from … France?
Aaronovitch is a popular media heavy in Britain and has lots of admirers and friends who write or talk for money, so his book will probably sell well. Some of the reviews are so positive you’d think the reviewer wanted to cuddle up and kiss the guy.
He’s a former Communist who doesn’t seem to mind when described by his media mates as a hawkish leftist intellectual.
Aaronovitch explains that the reason some of us qualify as stupid is that we assume conspiracy when an event is really the result of accident or chance. Such beliefs are harmful because they distort reality and lead to “disastrous decisions.”
The book doesn’t really break new ground. The author’s role is commentator. He provides the wise insight we stupid people lack on what’s normal and conventional, along with overviews and updates on the conspiracies he selected for inclusion. Among those are the Protocols of Zion as endorsed by Henry Ford, the Commies-under-the-bed scares that implicated most everybody including the Boy Scouts, JFK and RFK assassinations, world government as the aim of international bankers, Masons, Catholics, Zionists, Communists and whoever else, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Di, alternative histories of ancient civilizations founded by extraterrestrials, and 9/11, and the Da Vinci Code.
Anyway, in a nutshell, if you believe these events and situations, or any of the myriad others that inspire a paranoid cult following, involve conspiracy, Aaronovitch isn’t writing for you. You’re stupid. He’s writing for those who have to defend themselves against you.
I don’t know … it calls to mind conversation in the wintertime back-alley around the burn barrel with the winos. “Yeah, man, them people are stupid. Pass the Thunderbird.”
The author dismisses the basic tenet of investigative reporting, that being “Cui bono?,” which he translates as “Who benefits?”
I was taught it many years ago as “Who profits?,” or “Foller the Dollar.”
If figuring out who profits provided any clue, Aaronovitch asserts, why, then you would have to attribute wars to the actions of arms dealers and international bankers. To do so, of course, would be stupid.
So, has Aaronovitch got a theory regarding who conspires to foist these plots and schemes upon us stupid people? Well, yeah. “It has typically been the professors, the university students, the artists, the managers, the journalists and the civil servants who have concocted and disseminated the conspiracies.”
So, I quit. I’m not even going to comment on that comment. Except, well, do you think it’s possible, maybe, somebody slipped magic mushrooms into the Thunderbird? I mean … oh, nevermind.
Aaronovitch concludes with a quote from the late historian Stephen Ambrose, a peculiar choice. Ambrose was a plagiarist whose fellow historians keep coming up with more stories on how he got his facts wrong.
So, we come down to wondering why the book was written. One possibility is that Aaronovitch is settling a score. He unloads both barrels on conspiracy yahoos in one particular British case that American readers probably haven’t heard about. Maybe it’s a therapeutic thing, working out a resentment.
I can identify. I got a resentment researching this column. I was reading the Wikipedia entry on my lifelong pal, the late Danny Casolaro, who happens to be at the center of the mother of all conspiracy theories. The entry says, among other bungles, that Danny “dabbled” in journalism.
Dabbled. That’s about like saying Nikola Tesla “dabbled” in electrical theory. Danny was a pit-bull, kick-ass reporter who could find and write a story quicker than an uptown elitist “journalist” could quaff a crème de menthe frappe.
Danny got on the trail of what he called “The Octopus,” and invited me along. I said I’d be glad to join in … if he had a couple of million dollars backing, a secure bunker, a squad of ex-Navy Seals on duty day and night, and a major daily newspaper or TV network behind him.
You think I’m kidding? I said it, and I meant it.
He chose to go it alone. We’d talk frequently about the spooky, dangerous stuff he was digging into, and I’d again advise that he was nuts to chase that story single-handed, David up against a whole army of Goliaths.
Not too long after that I delivered the eulogy at Danny’s funeral. For some of us stupid people, his death remains an unresolved mystery. Cui bono?
Here’s a rather lengthy radio interview by Andrew Marr from BBC 4 with David Aaronovitch, May 4, 2009:
(Copyright 2009 WJE, exclusive to The Art of the Prank, for reprint rights contact Literateye@gmail.com)
Check out previous LiteratEye episodes on The Art of the Prank.