Aaronovitch does a really solid job explaining a number of major conspiracy parts. The book is informative and well written.
The history part is good, but I don’t agree with the guy’s main conclusions. His argument is that people use conspiracy theories to avoid real history, and that it makes the world more muddled.
He doesn’t see a difference between conspiracy theories that punch up, saying that the government is responsible for horrible things, and those that punch down, blaming already oppressed groups. That makes a huge difference to me. We should be questioning authority and the official version of events. Even if the facts are right, they’re still being presented with a bias that we should work to understand. That doesn’t mean there’s a secret conspiracy, but things are not always as they seem.
The thing about conspiracy theories is that they find intention in what is often just tragic incompetence. I don’t really believe in conspiracy theories, but I’m sympathetic to them. Sometimes it would be nice to know that someone is out there planning things, that the world isn’t just chaos. When bad things happen it would be nice to have someone to blame. Or maybe I’ve just been watching too many X-Files episodes lately?
It’s solidly written history, but I disagree with his perspective enough that the whole book left me a little bit pissed off.