Voodoo Histories keep repeating

I recently read Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History by David Aaronovitch. It’s an interesting book which clearly, though with much sarcasm, lays out the history of several conspiracy theories then debunks them. From the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to (in the revised edition I read) the fuss over Obama’s birth certificate, it takes apart the most popular made up histories of the last century.

One of the theories examined in the book is the “mystery” of the death of David Kelly, a conspiracy theory which has been dug up again by the Daily Mail. The in-depth and considered (“The Mail has a healthy scepticism of conspiracy theories.” insists a related editorial) drags up the same arguments as previous iterations of this tale. “Severing the ulnar artery couldn’t have produced enough blood loss to die from.” But only one mention of the overdose of co-proxamol painkillers Kelly took, enough to be fatal by themselves in most cases, and none of an existing arterial problem. “Kelly didn’t seem suicidal.” To people who knew him in passing and are looking back on the events with the whispers of foul play colouring their opinions. His wife, on the other hand, had noticed how depressed he was about his sudden unwanted notoriety. “The Government stood to gain from his death.” Now I’m no fan of Blair, and opposed the invasion of Iraq, but I can’t see any way that the slimy little bastard could have benefitted from Kelly’s death. If anything, the suicide kept the spotlight on the flimsy reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq far longer than if Kelly hadn’t died.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a conspiracy theory wouldn’t die. I bet the Protocols are still considered real in certain circles. And it’s no surprise that the Daily Mail should be so intent on stirring it up. It’s just a shame that so much time is going to be wasted on this when there are more important things to be dealing with.


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