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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Damian Thompson's Counterknowledge

"Has anyone revealed that after Jesus married the notorious Freemason Mary Magdalene in a ceremony on top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, she spirited him off to the south of France in one of the FBI's black helicopters? If not, it can only be a matter of time. We are living in a golden age of fake history and archaeology – historical counterknowledge, . . . some of which is easily identifiable as rubbish and some of which is pseudo-scholarship carefully dressed up to look authentic. And you do not have to root around the internet to discover it: every major bookshop in Britain stocks bogus history."

The Telegraph.co.uk ran a two-part excerpt over the weekend from their correspondent Damian Thompson's new book, 'Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and False History' (Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.) It's possibly one of the best and most succinct overviews of the conspiratorial mindset that has crept into the world's collective consciousness, and continues to spread.

He covers lots of ground in a short stretch (and hits on many topics that are in our forthcoming Conspiracy Theories And Secret Societies For Dummies). Not that he'll convince anyone to change their minds. Or to stop publishing this drivel year after year that feeds the international appetite for "Lost!" "Secrets!" that "Reveal!" "Hidden!" "Facts About The Truth!", replete with the requisite exclamation marks. As he points out, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail, trumpeting Pierre Plantard's fairy tales about the Priory of Sion, and found out not long afterwards they had been the subject of a hoax. That didn't prompt them to change subsequent editions of the book or publicly deny their own claims - in fact, Baigent and Leigh took Dan Brown to court for using their material (if you can't have an exclusive copyright on history, then one can only presume they were in fact protecting the intellectual property of fiction). And after discovering Plantard's hoax, they didn't seem too terribly upset at selling 6 million copies of their book anyway. Aw, I'll fess up. I wouldn't have minded either.

(Funniest sidebar to the Holy Blood, Holy Grail is that Plantard, after reading it, was more than a little baffled by the book's assertion that he was, as a supposed Merovingian King of France, descended from Jesus. He never made that claim at all. Ken Mondschein, quoted in Thompson's article, said, "Keep the children of Christ marrying each other . . . and eventually they'd be so inbred that the sons of God would have flippers for feet.")

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