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Category archive: Propaganda

Wednesday April 09 2014

As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014.  “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:

It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).

Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.

Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.

I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …

Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it.  It’s not just more of the same.  Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.

I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend.  Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.

What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.

Sunday April 06 2014

...  but something from me here, about the IEA and LLFF2014.

Sunday March 30 2014

Incoming from Simon Rose, entitled “End of the World not happening tomorrow”.

What this means is that the End of the World CLUB MEETING is not happening tomorrow, because of a double booking mix-up of some sort.  But for a moment there, I was wondering what mad prophecy Simon was taking it upon himself to contradict.

The End of the World Club is an up-market version of my Last Friday meetings.  Despite its rather grumpy old man title, these meetings are very good, with excellent speakers.  For instance there was that fascinating talk by someone who had lived through the Zimbabwe inflation.

And, I first came across Dominic Frisby when he addressed the EotW Club, about this book.  Ever since Frisby spoke at my home, about his next book I have been hearing his voice on television, what with me being fond of TV documentaries.  Here (click on that only if you want to hear noise at once) is what he sounds like.  More Frisby audio info here.

Email me if you want to know more about these EotW meetings, and I’ll put you in touch with Simon Rose.

If the world ever does end, I want Frisby doing the voice overing for it.

Wednesday March 26 2014

On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:

image image

Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout.  In “reality” I mean.  If you were there, which I was.

But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour.  One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate.  For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange.  Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour.  What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped.  But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot.  And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green.  It was blue.

As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey.  In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:

image

That’s an article reproduced at her website.  So, is that her handwriting?  Could well be.

I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.

The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit.  The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her.  And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback.  She also has a slight but definite stutter.

The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all.  I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it.  In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.

See also: Hawking.

Thursday March 13 2014

Here is another of those postings where I stick two pictures up next to each other, in order to remember something in one or both of them better than I have been doing.  (I’m getting old.)

This time it’s another person whose name I am determined to stop getting wrong, who is called Christiana Hambro.  For no intelligent reason that I can think of, I have been getting the Christiana bit of her name wrong.  The good news is that I can’t now even remember what I used to say instead, because I have known for several hours, ever since I thought about doing it, what the rest of this posting is going to consist of, and because this posting is already doing the job of fixing Christiana’s correct Christian name, Christiana, in my head, even before I write the posting, never mind before I stick it up for others to read.

Christiana is the one on the left, of these two pictures:

image image

And the one of the right is Christian.  Christian Michel.  I have never got Christian’s Christian name wrong.  Putting these two people next to one another in my head has solved my Christiana Hambro problem.

Christian Michel will be speaking at my next Last Friday meeting, on March 28th.  This is what he just emailed me about what he will be saying:

In August 1938, a rich and talented American journalist gathered 36 economists and philosophers in Paris, in what has become known after his name: the Lippmann Colloquium. The objective was nothing less than a refoundation of liberalism, under attack by Marxists and Fascists. Participants only agreed in their opposition to command economies. Mises remained attached to unfettered free markets.  Röpke and Rüstow developed what became Ordoliberalism, still the official ideology in today’s Germany.  Einaudi, future president of Italy, remained faithful to the social teachings of the Church. Hayek tried to federate all these currents in the Mont Pélerin Society, to the point of dilution. In America, neo-liberals merged into the neo-conservative movement, whilst in France, Michel Foucault, in his insightful Birth of Biopolitics, reclaimed it for libertarianism (which he espoused in his last works, to the horror of the Leftist establishment). Today, for the likes of Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, the term ‘neoliberalism’ is a word of abuse, whilst it was meant to characterize the very ‘third way’ they so eagerly embrace. In the talk, I will go over the debates within the liberal movement of the last 80 years, which all revolve around the definition of this neologism: neo-liberalism.

In my thankyou email back to him, I told Christian that this piece alone makes an illuminating read.

Which is a lot of the point of talks these days, now that we can all know about everything that is happening that we even might be attending.  Yes, the small number of people who choose to squeeze themselves into my living room on the 28th will hear Christian’s talk, and very good and very detailed it will be, I am sure.  They will learn lots that will not be learned by others.  But meanwhile, many more will read the above spiel by Christian about his talk, and the ripples will spread out way beyond my living room.  If just half the people on the Brian’s Fridays email list read the above piece, when I send it out in about a week’s time, many of them will learn quite a lot.  I had no idea Michel Foucault ended up as a libertarian, until Christian started telling me about this.

I found the above picture of Christian Michel here.  I probably could have dug up a picture of him taken by me, but image googling was easier, given the state of my photo-archives.

Christiana’s relevance to all this is that she is one of a number of free-market-stroke-libertarian activists who have been putting some organisational juice behind spreading these ideas to British students.  She is based at the I(nstitute of) E(conomic) A(ffairs).  I took that photo of Christiana at the Liberty League Freedom Forum 2013, which she helped to organise, and “helped” may well be a serious understatement.

I hope to organise a Brian’s Friday at which Christiana and/or one of her colleagues describe the outreach work they are doing at the IEA.  In my opinion it is the biggest single piece of news about the spread of libertarian thinking in Britain.  The British public continue to be indifferent to libertarian ideas, as is their habit with so many ideas.  But the British student libertarian movement is now growing from insignificant to … significant, and it is to a great degree thanks to the work of people like Christiana.

Tuesday February 04 2014

Here:

image

To the right of this image is to be found the following verbiage:

The reasons for why East London has seen the flowering of street art are manifold. The post-industrial legacy of Shoreditch’s crumbling low-rise warehouses, not only provides an environment in which the artists and designers can do their work, but East London’s proximity to the City of London provides an economic source of support for the artists and designers; and finally Shoreditch with its building sites, old dilapidated warehouses provides a canvas upon which those artists can display their work and increase their commercial value.

Mostly revolutionary chic to pay the rent, I’d say.  Which, on balance, I quite like, because it gets up the noses of the real revolutionaries.

Plus it gets up the noses of the Art Twats by being understandable and entertaining without them having to explain what it means.

More East End street art here.  In fact, lots more, if you scroll back through the archives there.

Wednesday January 22 2014

I have plenty more to say about Alex’s PR Masterclass, and may even get around to saying it, Real Soon Now.  Meanwhile, here is my favourite snap that I snapped at the launch of the book last night, at the office of Adam Smith Institute:

image

If you hold a book launch for a book called “PR Masterclass”, that launch had better be packed out, or you look like a prune.

It was.  He didn’t.

Sunday January 19 2014

As my talk deadline (tomorrow evening) approaches, further insights keep rearranging themselves in my brain.

Not long ago, I read Alex Singleton’s new book (he will be speaking at my home on Friday 31st of this month) about how to do P(ublic) R(elations).  (Not so long before reading that book, I read another book in which PR meant, throughout, P(hoto) R(econnaissance).  How the world keeps changing (see below).)

I don’t recall any of the facts in this book of Alex’s about how to do PR being any sort of shattering revelation.  Rather was the book a relentless drip-drip-drip of what is called “commonsense”, that is, of facts which might well be true, which would make sense if true, and which are, in the opinion of one who knows, actually true, as opposed to some other equally commonsensical notions about these or those circumstances, which, in the opinion of the same expert, are not true.  Yet Alex telling me all the things he knows about how to do PR hardly begins to turn me into a PR expert, even though I am now at least passingly acquainted with every important principle, or even fact, that he has gathered up during his PR-ing over the last few years, and furthermore now know (or think I know) where to look to reacquaint myself with all these facts.

What distinguishes Alex from me as a PR-er is that he not only has his facts right, but that he also has them, as the saying goes, “at his fingertips”.  That is, he knows how to deploy the pertinent fact at the pertinent time, again and again.  He makes connections between his facts, and knows, from experience, which fact matters at which particular moment.  He has his facts properly arranged and cross-referenced, inside his head.  He knows his way around his facts.  All I have is an ill-remembered list of facts.

Trying to “make sense” (as I now am) of digital photography is like that.  I already know everything about digital photography that I need to know, pretty much, as (I’m guessing) do you.  The problem is making sense of what I know, of putting it all together and relating this fact to that fact, in a way that is slightly interesting and surprising, yet also true.

I now find myself thinking about digital photography as part of that wider historical change known by labels like: the Information Revolution.  The Information Revolution kicked off, I would say, on May 11th 1844, when the first message between two different cities (Washington and Baltimore) was sent by electric telegraph.  It is intrinsic to digital photography that it is photography that can be communicated.

The effect of the Information Revolution has been to unleash a succession of changes in the texture of everyday life, with each successive decade being defined by whatever stage the Information Revolution happened to have arrived at at that particular passing moment.  Photography is both an example of such a change, and the means of recording and remembering and celebrating such changes.  Photography remembers things like tablets and iPhones, just as in earlier times it remembered and still remembers big mobile phones, antique microphones, dance crazes, the social structure of successive pop combos, fashions in costume and make-up, and so forth and so on.  (Photography also remembers successive iterations of the Industrial Revolution, like trains, cars, airplanes and wars.)

Photography remembers, among many other things, itself.  Digital photography remembers, among even more other things, itself.

Friday November 22 2013

Here is one of those memo-to-self but also memo-to-anyone-else-interested postings, about the next few speakers who have been fixed for the next few Brian’s Last Fridays.  The last posting I did along these lines was useful, to me and to people I was emailing about these events, and so will this one be.

So, here are the next five speakers, who have been inked in:

Nov 29 - Marc Sidwell on The School of Freedom: Why Libertarians Should Care About Liberal Education.

Dec 27 – Antoine Clarke on Immigration and the Bad Arguments Against It.

Jan 31 – Alex Singleton on How Individual Individualists can influence the Media.

Feb 28 – Dominique Lazanski on Digital Freedom in the UK and Europe.

March 28 – Christian Michel on A Subject Yet To Be Determined.

Note the change of speaker next Friday.  Dominique Lazanski can’t do Nov 29 so will be doing Feb 28 instead.

Also, I am doing a talk for Christian Michel on Jan 20.  In this Samizdata posting about the talk, I previously had the date as February 20, but have now corrected this date, because February 20 is wrong.  It’s January 20.

Monday September 16 2013

Does this photo tell us the direction the Great Climate Debate is going?  I took it in Foyles, underneath the Royal Festival Hall, London, on September 2nd:

image

I put this up to entertain you, and also so that I can send a short email to Bishop Hill about it, rather than a long and annoying one. Because I’m guessing it might interest him.

The Bishop’s (as of now) latest posting concerns an article written by some academic CAGWers (CAGW = Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming), about how they can defeat their ever more annoying and persuasive “denier” enemies?

Bishop Hill:

The answer to this conundrum is - you will never believe it - to be found in the realms of communication. Although Garud and his colleagues note that some observers think that communication is not enough, and point to such initiatives as the Climate Science Rapid Response Team (seriously!) that are already in place, they suggest that something called a ‘narrative approach’ might also be a part of the solution.

But that, as the Bishop well knows but Garud et al do not, is no solution to the problem the CAGWers have.  The “narrative approach” is their problem.  What the CAGWers have been doing is spinning a narrative and calling it science for the last quarter of a century and more, and now this narrative is unravelling, thanks to the efforts of people like Bishop Hill.  This latest plan is for them to stop pretending that they aren’t doing this.  That can’t work.

If the anti-CAGWers had relied on books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, which is one of the books in the above photo, to carry the main weight of their arguments, they’d have been utterly crushed.

LATER: Bishop Hill has linked to this, and there are comments there too.

Tuesday April 16 2013

Me at Samizdata, commenting on this, about the bonkersness of North Korea:

No. North Korea is not socialism betrayed. It is socialism done.

Which everyone here knows, but it is worth repeating.

Commenting on that, Perry de Havilland said:

That North Korea is ‘late socialism’ is a meme worth spreading.

Indeed it is.

Duly spread.

A bit.

Various people have been nagging me (a bit) about getting into Twitter, which things like this suit well.  It reminds me (a bit) of when people got contemptuously angry (a bit) because I still didn’t have an email address.

Friday March 01 2013

imageOne of the about seventy seven signs of aging is definitely being more sensitive to the weather, and in particular the cold.  I remember feeling this way as a small child, when first compelled to travel every morning to school.  Now, I feel it again.  I actually “caught a chill” earlier this week, and had to take to my bed for a whole day.

However, I will soon be getting out from under the weather, if the next ten day weather forecast is anything to go by, which it is.  As of today, it looked like that (see right).

Talking of short range weather forecasts, James Delingpole did a silly piece in the Daily Mail a while back, saying the Met Office is a total waste of space.  But it is precisely because the Met Office’s short-range weather forecasts are generally so spot-on that its mad opinions about the weather in the more distant future are taken so seriously.  If the short-range forecasts were as bad as so many unthinking idiots say, the Met Office wouldn’t be half such a menace on the C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) front.  This Delingpole article played right into the hands of CAGW-ers.  Asked the News Statesman: Was there ANYTHING in James Delingpole’s Daily Mail piece which was true? Yes.  The Met Office is bonkers about CAGW.  But Delingpole’s attempts to prove that the Met Office never gets anything right were indeed ridiculous, and did the anti-CAGW team no favours at all.

But I digress.  To more serious matters.  There is another reason I am glad the weather is going to perk up soon, which is that rugby matches are far more entertaining when the weather is nicer.

The Six Nations began with what the commentators were all telling each other was one of the best Six Nations first weekends ever.  All three games were full of tries.  England won.  Okay, only against Scotland, but they won, and actually Scotland are looking a bit better now, with some backs who can actually run fast.  Ireland and Wales scored lots of tries against each other.  Italy beat France.  It doesn’t get much better for an England fan.

But then the weather turned nasty and the games turned attritional.  England beat Ireland, but nobody scored any tries.  England beat France, with one fortuitous England try which shouldn’t have been allowed.  Italy reverted to being … Italy.  The one truly entertaining thing about the next two weekends, after the entirely entertaining first weekend, is that now it’s England played 3 won 3 and France played 3 won ZERO!  Arf arf.  Sorry Antoine.

Talking of England v France, I’ve been reading (and watching the telly) about the 100 Years War.  And it seems that towards the end, the French cheated by having guns.  That explains a lot.

So anyway, no more 6N rugby until the weekend after next, and I really miss it, just as I did the weekend before last.  The Six Nations takes seven weekends to get done, with weekends 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 being occupied with games, and weekends 3 and 5 being skipped.  During weekends 3 and 5, I pine, and watch ancient rugby games, the way I never would normally, to fill the rugby gap.

The best ones I recently watched were two epic Wales wins against France, in 1999 (France 33 Wales 34) and 2001 (France 35 Wales 43), on VHS tapes.  Sorry Antoine.  But the next one I’ll be watching will be 2002 (Wales 33 France 37).

Friday February 22 2013

imageSo I finally got around to finishing my review of Think Tank by Madsen Pirie, which is the story, so far, of the Adam Smith Institute.

Ripple: me quoting Madsen Pirie, here.

Another ripple: the ASI quoting me, here.

The ASI seems happy, despite the delay.

LATER: Madsen Pirie quoting me, here.

Monday February 11 2013

While I was on that Waterloo Station upper deck, I espied a couple of adverts next to each other, put out by this organisation.

Here they are together:

image

And here they each are separately, for you to click on to get them well and truly readable:

imageimage

Okay, I accept these challenges, and will respond.

The left hand one is a variant on the theme of “a billion people can’t be wrong”.  Yes they can.  Why has the Qur’an remained unchanged?  There are any number of reasons why that would happen, other than what they are trying to say, which is that it is all true.  Because it is an object of unthinking worship, rather than of serious study?  (Remember that the memorising of it is often done by people who have no idea what they are saying, merely reproducing sounds.) Because people have been too scared to challenge it?  Because Islam remains stuck in the seventh century, and unthinking bigotry is built into it?

Science, which the second advert seeks to argue was pre-echoed by the Qur’an, has changed over and over again.  And this is a sign of science’s intellectual seriousness and intellectual vitality.  Lack of change, century after century, signifies the opposite.

As for the claim of the Qur’an to be science before science, the real theory of the big bang is but the conceptual tip of an intellectual iceberg consisting of a ton of evidence and interpretation, and it is the latter that gives science its force. Science is not merely true.  It explains why it is true.  It argues about whether it is true.  And consequently it gets ever more true.  Islam is no truer now than it was thirteen centuries ago.

The good news here is that the claim that the Qur’an is as scientific as real science is a huge concession to the acknowledged intellectual superiority of science.  “We have been right all along, and science proves it!” But if they really thought that the Qur’an was the last word on everything, they wouldn’t be dragging science in to back the claim up.  Science would be ignored.

But they know that they cannot now ignore science.  Science is a challenge they know they have to respond to.  On account of it being so much truer and so much better at getting at more truth than the unchanging and unchangeable incantations that they are stuck with.

Friday January 04 2013

Yes, my Last Friday of the Month meetings are starting up again, with the first new one being on the 25th of this month.  Speaker: Sam Bowman.  Subject: libertarianism and “unknown unknowns”.

More about why the meetings, again, and about what Bowman will be saying in this Samizdata posting.

If interested, please get in touch, with an email, or with a comment here, or there.