Monday, March 29, 2010

Straight Scoop On Twisty Subjects

Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more by Arthur Goldwag. Vintage Books/Random House 2009.

Ever wonder about those shadowy groups that want to run -- or maybe are running -- the world? The Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, that ilk? Or maybe you want to learn more about less nefarious organizations like Woodmen of the World.

Try Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag. He acts as a knowledgeable guide through the convoluted historical mazes of non-mainstream organizations. This non-fiction book is easy-to-read, easy-to-grok, but not so easy to use as a reference.

CC&SS is broken down into the three general categories mentioned in the title. Of course, this is Goldwag's personal organization. You might think a subject should be under Cults but it's actually included in Conspiracies or Secret Societies. He provides a list of topics in the front of the book so that you can scan and cross-reference a particular topic when it pops up in another entry.

For example, you're reading along about Area 51 and see the Trilateral Commission mentioned in bold print, indicating the subject has its own entry. It takes some page flipping to locate it in the List of Topics because you have to scan through each of the three main categories. Eventually you find Trilateral Commission under "Secret Societies."

A traditional index in the back of the book with everything listed straight from A - Z would've work better but there isn't one. Another way to save on searching would be to follow a bold print cross-reference with its page number in parentheses. Sorry, but I'm been spoiled using online hypertext links. And if this book is ever digitalized, it should offer links to the topics within its manuscript.

Despite that flaw, CC&SS is still a ripping good read, even with its occasional lumpiness.

Sometimes Goldwag might go off on a riff and lump some subjects under one entry. You'll encounter articles such as "Area 51, Stealth Blimps, Majestic-12, Alien Abductions, and Divine Revelations" and "Black Helicopters, Men in Black, Michigan Militias, Cattle Mutilations, and Liars' Clubs." Despite such rambling he ties it all together with his readable style.

Goldwag states in his introduction that his book is "exploratory rather than encyclopedic," meaning that he is more interested in finding connections between topics than just strictly itemizing the groups and theories he reviews.

His fair-minded approach reminds me of "Kooks," the classic book by Donna Kossy. Like Kossy, Goldwag doesn't engage in vehement attacks on fringe beliefs, unlike some militant skeptics who have covered the same territory with scorched earth campaigns.


Doug said...

If Men in Black are part of Michigan militias that would explain a bit about why anyone would live in the upper peninsula.

X. Dell said...

I just did a title search on this subject with Books in Print, and somehow missed this. Thanks for brining it up.