Review: Conspiracy by Tom Phillips and Jonn Elledge


Title: Conspiracy: A History of Boll*cks Theories, and How Not to Fall for Them

Author: Tom Phillips and Jonn Elledge

Published: 12th July 2022, Wildfire

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy Hachette Australia 



My Thoughts:


“Conspiracy theories may be having A Moment right now, but that doesn’t mean they are new.”

An informative and entertaining book, Tom Phillips and Jonn Elledge offer insight into  the history and evolution of conspiracy thinking and theories in Conspiracy: A History of Boll*cks Theories, and How Not to Fall for Them.

The authors begin by attempting to define what a conspiracy theory is, the forms conspiracy theories take, and the evolutionary and social reasons humans indulge them. It quickly becomes clear that few, if any of us, are exempt from conspiracy thinking but while some theories are reasonably benign and have no or few mild consequences, others can risk the mental and physical well-being of their adherents, and pose a danger to society at large. Unfortunately, evidence shows that often the further you go down the rabbit hole, the faster you fall, as to justify one belief, others are folded in to support it, creating a type of superconspiracy.

As Phillips and Elledge delve into the history of conspiracy theories it’s interesting to realise that the roots of some of today’s conspiracies stretch back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The authors explore how theories have began, gained traction and adapted to suit the desired narrative of their proponents with specific examples. It is both horrifying, and yet not at all surprising, to discover the motives for some of the most damaging theories stemmed from the selfish desires of a single person or small group of people, though others were borne simply of fear, ignorance, and even, occasionally, a desire to do some good.

In light of current events, the chapter titled Viral Misinformation is particularly fascinating. Many of the same conspiracy theories that have surrounded the CoVid pandemic arose during other pandemics centuries ago, for example the elite were accused of introducing cholera to cull the lower classes, foreigners were blamed for spreading the Black Death by poisoning wells, and some suggested the ‘Spanish flu’ was created by the Russians as a weapon transmitted through electric lights. Just as now, the media were lambasted for perpetuating ‘lies’, government bodies argued about the best way to handle the consequences, and there were those who declared the disease of the day was a scam, or at the very least a distraction from some nefarious purpose.

I think Conspiracy presents its information clearly, and is well structured. Thankfully the authors’ humour takes the edge of what could otherwise be a dry, and depressing read, it’s important to note however they don’t make fun of those caught it in the web of conspiracy thinking.

Conspiracy is an interesting read, though it’s not exactly comforting to realise that such theories are common throughout human history as it challenges notions of human enlightenment and progress. I feel like I gained a better understanding of what drives someone to embrace conspiracy theories, how easy it is to become enmeshed, and how difficult it can be to escape, its a shame that most in need of the books insights are unlikely to pick it up.


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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WendyW
    Sep 28, 2022 @ 12:54:40

    I like how it explains why people belive these theories and how hard it is it change their minds.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Stephanie @ Bookfever
    Sep 29, 2022 @ 02:12:24

    I think I would really love to read this book because I’d love to get more into why so many people believe certain conspiracies. It sounds very fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Mystica
    Sep 29, 2022 @ 14:04:31

    Surrounded by them on a daily basis. Sometimes becomes hard to sift through fact or fiction.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Helen Murdoch
    Oct 01, 2022 @ 05:24:41

    We certainly are in the age of conspiracy theories so this book seems interesting and timely.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out

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