Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Five of the best books that debunk pseudohistory

Damian Thompson is Editor of Telegraph Blogs, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, and the author of Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History.

He was once described by The Church Times as a "blood-crazed ferret." He is on Twitter as HolySmoke.

In 2008 Thompson 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:
by Elaine Showalter
Columbia University, 1997

This is one of the truly indispensable books in my library, its dust jacket worn to tatters by frequent perusal. Elaine Showalter, a feminist literary scholar, rebuts disturbing reports of alien abduction, satanic abuse and even chronic-fatigue syndrome, describing them as "hysterical epidemics" rooted in the imagination and the disorientation of modernity. For this she became a hate figure of the pressure groups advancing particular causes. More than a decade later, though, most of the panics have subsided and Showalter's case looks stronger than ever. Crucially, she does not dismiss the real suffering that lies behind lurid claims. People will need true courage to face the "hidden fantasies, myths and anxieties" of what troubles them, she writes. "We must look into our own psyches rather than to invisible enemies, devils and alien invaders for the answers.... Our human dignity demands that we face the truth." Well said. But, alas, there are fortunes to be made from junk history and science, just as there are from junk food.
Read about all five titles on Thompson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue