Sunday, December 7, 2008

Five best: books that debunk pseudohistory

Damian Thompson, author of the recently released Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History, named a five best list of books for the Wall Street Journal. His subject: books that "emphatically debunk pseudohistory and spurious 'knowledge.'"

One title from the list:
Speak of the Devil
by J.S. La Fontaine
Cambridge University, 1998

The subtitle of this book is "Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England," which gives the impression that the author, a leading anthropologist, is merely examining the phenomenon of the scare stories about satanism that swept Britain in the late 1980s, having migrated from America. In fact, Jean La Fontaine performed a vital role -- at some cost to herself -- in bringing this dreadful episode to an end. "Speak of the Devil" draws on her report, sponsored by the British government, into the allegations of unspeakable acts of degradation performed on small children by covens of devil worshipers. She found not only that there was no evidence that these covens existed but also that the accusations had been extracted from children by social workers and other "experts" who were determined to prove that the organized satanic abuse happened. The manipulation of children described by La Fontaine is shocking -- and deeply sad, because this modern witch hunt destroyed families, reputations and lives.
Read about all five titles on Thompson's list.

Damian Thompson is the editor in chief of The Catholic Herald. He also writes for The Daily Telegraph.

--Marshal Zeringue