Francis Wheen HOW MUMBO JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD

2004, 312 p.

It was the week-long World Youth Day in Sydney that prompted me to read this book, although I was, I confess, disconcerted by the big yellow chicken on the front and Jeremy Paxman’s acclamation of it as “hilarious”. I don’t really know that “hilarious” is the apt description- certainly the author swipes both left and right in his tirade against mumbo jumbo.  He attacks post modernism (saving special venom for Julia Kristeva- I’m with you on this one, Francis!), Thatcherism, New-Ageism, Blairism (particularly), globalism, fundamentalism- really, there isn’t an “ism” that he doesn’t turn on.

At its core, the book is an argument for “truth” and the principles of the Enlightenment, but in all this slaughter of sacred cows, it’s difficult to detect what he is in favour of.  He is rather cavalier with his quotations and footnoting- he is careful about one quote on a page, but completely silent about another more outrageous quote from another source on the same page- which makes me a bit distrustful of his  academic thoroughness.  And I find myself still wondering HOW mumbo-jumbo conquered the world.

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