How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions

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PublicAffairs, 2005 M07 6 - 336 pages
In 1979 two events occurred that would shape the next twenty-five years. In America and Britain, an era of weary consensus was displaced by the arrival of a political marriage of fiery idealists: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher transformed politics with a combination of breezy charm and assertive "Victorian values." In Iran, the fundamentalist cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set out to restore a regime that had last existed almost 1,300 years ago. Between them they succeeded in bringing the twentieth century to a premature close. By 1989, Francis Fukuyama was declaring that we had now reached the End of History.

What colonized the space recently vacated by notions of history, progress and reason? Cults, quackery, gurus, irrational panics, moral confusion and an epidemic of idiocy, the proof of which was to be found in every state, every work-place, and every library. In Idiot Proof, columnist Francis Wheen brilliantly evokes the key personalities of the post-political era?including Princess Diana and Deepak Chopra, Osama bin Laden and Nancy Reagan's astrologer?while lamenting the extraordinary rise in superstition, relativism and emotional hysteria over the past quarter of a century.

In turn comic, indignant, outraged and just plain baffled by the idiocy of it all, Idiot Proof is a masterful depiction of the daftness of our times and a plea that we might just think a little more and believe a little less.

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User Review  - Devil_llama - LibraryThing

A book reminiscent of the older work, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The author traces the history of current trends in anti-critical thinking and embrace of delusion ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - sanddancer - LibraryThing

The quotation on the front of the book from Jeremy Paxman described it as 'hilarious' - obviously Mr Paxman and my ideas on humour differ greatly as this book didn't raise many laughs. Parts of it did ... Read full review


Dare to Know I
Old SnakeOil New Bottles
Its the End of the World as We Know It
The Demolition Merchants of Reality
The Catastrophists
With God on Our Side
Us and Them
The New Romantics
Forward to the Past
Voodoo Revisited

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About the author (2005)

Francis Wheen is deputy editor of Private Eye and the editor of Lord Gnome's Literary Companion, the author of the bestselling How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World and Karl Marx: A Life, and a former columnist in the London Guardian. He has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Nation, the New Yorker, LA Times, and Washington Post, and has appeared on C-SPAN's Booknotes and National Public Radio.

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