‘Battle of Ideas’ and ‘Spiked On Line’

I just happened to take look at the Battle of Ideas debates for 20th/21st Oct  (2012) and noticed that the on line magazine Spiked seemed to be surprisingly well represented.  At least 12 of the speakers are either current or past writers for Spiked.  As a comparison the Guardian had 9 speakers.  As Spiked is a little known organisation with a right wing contrarian / libertarian agenda, this seems strange but not inconsistent with the concerns raised by commentators like George Monbiot.  Writers for ‘Spiked’ have complained that they are unfairly treated by the likes of Monbiot but as an independent observer it does seem strange that so many names from such a small publication appear in a set of debates arranged by an organisation that is promoting free and open debate.

The more I examine the Battle of Ideas web site the more suspicious I become. Speakers from the ‘Institute of Ideas’ and ‘Spiked on line’ dominate the debates.  The writing of these same people dominate the suggested reading for the debates. In this example: Not in front of the children: are our kids oversexualised? , of eight articles in the suggested reading list, three were from Spiked on Line / Institute of Ideas writers all taking the same ideological stance.

The Institute of Ideas and Spiked on Line clearly have an ideological agenda which is fair enough.  But is their influence on the Battle of Ideas clear to all the attendees and speakers at the debates? I suspect not.

Updated Update:
When I look in detail at the content of items in ‘Battle of Ideas – Hot off the press‘ I cannot avoid the impression that there is an agenda to promote a particular set of ideas without this being made explicit.   Is this appropriate for a conference encouraging open debate?

Oh, and finally, it seems as if the ‘Battle of Ideas’ has an obsessive concern for the freedom of some e.g. smokers, but conversely little concern for the freedom of others e.g. the freedom of parents to bring up children in the absence of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

Am I being paranoid? Anyone prepared to agree or disagree with my observations??

Final Conclusion I didn’t attend the 20/21 Oct Battle of Ideas but did follow the Twitter Feed.  From this admittedly weak evidence, it appeared that there were some interesting debates and many participants enjoyed the event. However, the Tweets from the plenary indicated that this was first and foremost an opportunity for Furedi, Hume, Fox, et al to promote their idiosyncratic neoelibertarian views on freedom.  Their influence pervaded the two days.    I will follow future debates with renewed interest.

Here is the list of the speakers I identified as being linked to Spiked (there may be more):

Duleep Allirajah, sports columnist, spiked; ‘long-suffering’ Crystal Palace fan

Tim Black, editor, spiked Review of Books; journalist, spiked

David Bowden, coordinator, UK Battle Satellites; poetry editor, Culture Wars; TV columnist, spiked

Neil Davenport, writer; head of sociology, JFS Sixth Form Centre; contributor, spiked

Claire Fox, director, Institute of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze

Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology, University of Kent, Canterbury; author,Wasted, Politics of Fear and On Tolerance: in defence of moral independence

Ann Furedi, chief executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Helene Guldberg, director, spiked; author, Reclaiming Childhood and Just Another Ape?

Patrick Hayes, journalist and political commentator, spiked; columnist, Huffington Postand Free Society

Mick Hume, editor-at-large, spiked; author, There Is No Such Thing As A Free Press …and we need one more than ever

Rob Lyons, deputy editor, spiked; writer on science and risk; author, Panic on a Plate: how society developed an eating disorder

Brendan O’Neill, editor, spiked; author, Can I Recycle My Granny and 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas


Who Are They?
Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas:

Invasion of the entryists:

Revolutionary Communist Party (UK):

What’s a nice Trot doing in a place like this?

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2 thoughts on “‘Battle of Ideas’ and ‘Spiked On Line’”

  1. An interesting article.

    Spiked/IoI/LM/RCP are all the same creepy bunch, and it seems fair to say, as you have done, that they have done a very poot job of making their ‘relationship’ to this debate clear. Well done for drawing attention to this.

    However, I take issue with the way in which you express yourself over the ‘sexualisation of childhood’ stuff.

    Here’s the thing. My mind is open on this issue, as it is on pretty much all issues. But I do in general take the view that there is a moral panic going on concerning this particular socially constructed issue, as indeed I believe there are many moral panics going on at present concerning health, sexuality, crime and so on.

    The upshot is that smuggled in with such campaigns, the premises of which I take (some) issue with in the first place, are frequently to be found a series of deeply illiberal policy proposals (censorship and the like), interference with an indepenent judicial system, the sending of ideologically driven ‘experts’ into schools to ‘educate’ children…

    When the dust settles over such moral panics, and everyone wonders ‘how did that happen?’, again and again a loose coalition of fundamentalist Christians and radical feminists have been shown to be at work. Think I’m exaggerating? I suggest you read about the Satanic Ritual Abuse debacle, which took place in British society only a few years ago.

    I suspect you will disagree about all this, finding instead the premises, methods and aims of this particular campaign ok. But would you, at the very least, do the honour of recognising that there are those who disagree with you and that they do so on genuinely held grounds? That it is legitimate to disagree here?

    I suspect not, as you note… ‘conversely little concern for the freedom of parents to bring up children in the absence of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.’

    Thus, for you, it is not just a matter of legitimate debate but a question of your basic ‘freedom’ to (I suspect) promote illiberal policy proposals which affect the lives of others in fundamental ways.

    In this way you appear to de-legitimise your opponents in debate.

  2. Midnight Rambler, thanks for popping by and adding a comment. Regarding your substantive point I am not sure I fully understand what you are saying and suspect that you have read too much into what I have said.

    My apologies if I was not being clear enough. I mentioned the issues of freedom for smokers and the commercialisation and sexualisation of children simply to highlight the strange ideological obsession of the Spiked / ‘Institute of Ideas’ writers for a form of neo libertarian freedom which seems to care more for the freedom of big business to maximise its profits than it does for the freedom of ordinary people to avoid the resulting consequences.

    I stand by my assertion that many parents feel powerless to prevent their children from experiencing the effects of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. If it were just a matter of not buying the ‘Sun’ or the Daily Mail or never turning on the TV that would be fine but you and I know that the effects are far more pervasive and insidious. I have not suggested any solutions, liberal or illiberal, just raised this as just one example of a lack of freedom that the ‘Spiked on Line’ writers do not seem to be very interested in.

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