Author JR Nyquist was the first to postulate that the collapse of the Soviet bloc was a strategic maneuver, intended to actually further the cause of global communism. This very same theory has been discussed at American Thinker here, here, and here, as well as at FrontPageMag. Notionally, this idea usually received the tinfoil hat treatment up until about 2008.
Most conspiracy theorists have yet to suggest what discovery might lead them to change their mind. It is my observation that whatever future event occurs, whatever fact is discovered, their notions can be flexibly fitted to the occasion. If a politician rises, it is proof there is a conspiracy. If that same politician falls, it is also proof. If a president is assassinated, we see the hand of the Satanic cabal. If he survives assassination, he has come over the cabal's side.
When a Nazi official in the 1930s brought proof to Adolf Hitler that "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was a forgery, Hitler's reply was: "It doesn't matter. The Protocols are still true in principle."
Conspiracy theory, for Hitler, was a statement of faith - the furtive fallacy of those who cynically believe that history is a chronicle of nefarious dealings, plots and subterfuge; that all events are explicable by a reference to a common plot. In Hitler's case, it was a "Jewish-Masonic" conspiracy. For Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, conspiracy theory is due to the mysterious Illuminati. There are many amendments to the basic conspiratorial line.
Conspiracy theories are "reassuring," says Aaronovitch. We adopt them in order to feel better. And yet, these theories can be dangerous. Aaronovitch speculates that conspiracy ideology is the last defense of those who fear that their existence doesn't matter. And here is the nub of the problem. The modern world leaves individuals dwarfed and helpless -- convinced that their plight doesn't matter to those in power. The isolated man, lonely and powerless, has reason to be paranoid. The human psyche is a delicate instrument, and conspiracy theory merely registers a sense of alienation. It says that our leaders don't really care, that the situation is going downhill fast. The paranoid fairy tale is a parable, not a literal truth, in which the individual finds himself crushed by inhuman conspirators who do not take his existence into account. It is the soul-destroying indifference of the modern politician, and the cynicism which imbues his empty promises, rendered in narrative form.
Those who believe in conspiracy theories are sure to be offended by Aaronovitch's book, which is well researched and brilliantly set down. A person who writes a column like this one is sure to receive an avalanche of outraged email. There are items about which I could nitpick Aaronovitch, but the book is otherwise so excellent that no good purpose would be served. Voodoo Histories is a must read.
It would be incredibly interesting to see how Mr. Aaronovitch responds to an endorsement of his work by Mr. Nyquist.