it took me few days to read counterknowlegde by damian thompson. the book reads quickly and easily. not much of a challenge and mostly only one idea to follow. it feels like a long sensationalist newspaper article and it actually originates from one.
damian thompson tries to get attention by blowing up the influence of bogus bullshit things we hear every day: conspiracy theories, psuedoscience, quacks, fake medicine, whatever is an easy target. he does make it seam very serious but in reality i have never met anyone who takes these things seriously. there are crazy people who do but most people do not really care much about these things and use them as a chit chat subject. damian thompson is like a nervous guy who can not tell between daily chit chat and hard core decisions. my impression is he is blowing things way out of proportion and that people will always entertain themselves with these kind of things. does the general public make serious decisions based on these pseudofacts – not really.
i am not familiar with pseudohistory and such stuff – but he does attack patrick holford. i agree that patrick holford says a lot of stupid things. everything that damian thompson says about holford is true. but the fact is also that patrick holford has an awesome talent of explaining important connections between food and health and, weather we like it or not, he did introduce me and millions of other people to the basics of eating well.
sure patrick holford gets carried away and sure he is a quack and sure his goals are very commercial (duh!) but i still would not take such a black and white point of view and say he is pure bullshit. i suggested patrick holford to many people directly or through my blogs and i always said: take what you can, the guy writes easily, you can digest it well, do not listen to megavitamin blah blah but focus on the basic facts. in serbia and south africa (fortunately or unfortunately – i am not wise enough not tell) it is hard to find any other publications that even come close to the level of patrick holford and therefore i have to appreciate him for this.
i agree with everything damian thompson says but i think his point of view is one sided and very negative. his view is of downtown london publishing, very specific and rigorous, while patrick holford, now, is an international phenomenon. should some bad should be tolerated to get more good – this is a tough question which i can not answer immediately – however i do not subscribe to black/white position of damian thompson even though i know no book of this kind can not be relativist but only subjective and precise.
another thing which seemed very dominant in counterknowledge, and this is maybe my impression, is that damian thompson does attack muslims and internet quite a bit. again he picks on the most negative aspects of both and generalizes to create a paranoid vision of the near future in which uneducated muslims use internet to control the western culture.
he, like many other nervous anal people i met, criticizes wikipedia for its lack of accuracy. my answer to these people, as a wikipedia user and author, is that if they find inaccuracies they do correct them and not bitch about it in the news. the whole point of wikipeda is collaboration. do not be so spoilt and not contribute but only complain. also the idea of comparing wikipedia to print references makes very little sense to me. wikipedia is a totally different concept, it is like comparing apples and pineapples. his attitude towards wikipedia and internet shows his lack of understanding of the medium and actual disbelief in the benefit of the medium.
however damian thompson’s counterknowledge, no matter how cynical and negative and angry, is book i would recommend to anyone. it is true that with the emergence of networked media (damian wrongly calls it digital media) everyone can be a publisher. many publishers deliberately produce bogus content like pseudoscience and quackery for their own gain but many writes do so because they just get carried away. exactly for this second kind (group which i belong to as well) it is necessary to be a bit scared by counterknowledge so they take their own writing a bit more seriously. damian thompson is very critical of one aspect of information distribution and this is useful for anyone who actually does create and distributes content.
my recommendation is that you read counterknowledge by damian thompson but, just as with patrick holford, take what you can and ignore the rest. it is up to you to determine which is what.