The Immoderate Moderator: Comment is NOT Free

by | Jan 10, 2011

In the wake of the attempt made on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ life, head of environment at the Guardian, Damien Carrington asks,

I have received a handful of threats by email and phone myself, which given my low profile is a measure of the extent of the problem. My better-known colleagues George Monbiot and Leo Hickman receive more.

So it’s clear that even in issues such as climate change there is an active fringe of people deploying violent rhetoric and hate mail against those with whom they disagree. Could that tip the balance between thought and action in the mind of an unstable individual? It’s a worryingly plausible thought.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

I suggested that Theodore Kaczynski’s (aka The Unabomber) manifesto bore uncanny resemblance to much of the narrative offered by the Guardian’s ecological team…

1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering—even in “advanced” countries.

2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it may eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: there is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

3. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

4. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence: it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a political revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.

5. In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.

… Thus, we might to want to look for clues about the expression of violence in the thinking behind it. Accordingly, we find in environmental ideology the belittlement of humanity, as I pointed out on the website:

Leo Hickman: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

James LovelockUnfortunately, Gaia is in trouble today, says Lovelock. It is infected by a virus called Homo sapiens. Humans are destroying ecosystems, killing off species in their thousands and destabilising climates. “We became the Earth’s infection a long and uncertain time ago, but it was not until about 200 years ago that the Industrial Revolution began: then the infection of the Earth became irreversible,” he says.

John Gray: Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obiously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone the Earth will recover. Long after the last traces of the humans have disappeared, many of the species it is bent on destroying will still be around, along with other that have yet to spring up. The earth will forget mankind. The play of life will go on.

In order to kill people, you must first dehumanise them, to make them sub-human, or undermine the value of humanity, such that people can become indifferent to people.

Carrington worries about the bit of hate mail he gets from deniers, conveniently ignoring missives sent the other way, and the casual disregard for democracy evinced by environmentalists as a matter of course.

But what he forgets most is that environmentalism is an open poison pen letter, to all humanity.
Adding later,

“Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change…”, “…a virus called Homo sapiens…”, “Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obiously worth preserving”, are not statements about something that is going to happen in the future; they are statements about the moral value of humanity.

Monbiot: It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four: There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always— do not forget this, Winston— always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.

The point is straightforward enough. In order to do violence, one needs to have made oneself indifferent to the victim, either by making him sub-human, or by degrading entirely the concept of humanity.

And we don’t have to look hard for evidence of environmentalists doing precisely that.

Once you are convinced of the idea that humanity is like a cancer/virus/plague, it is undoubtedly easier to be indifferent to human suffering; at best, and to enjoy it, at worse.

The point is to see environmentalism as an ideology, just as with any other ideology of hate.

The Guardian moderator decided to delete my comments about Kaczynski, without even leaving the usual ‘This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.’ notice in place of the deleted comments that litter the CiF site. I repeated the comment, along with the suggestion that the moderator explains how my comment breaches their guidelines. No word from them, yet they deleted the comments. I now find the words…

Your comments are being premoderated.

… above the text entry field on the CiF website.

What could they possibly be afraid of?

Swearing? Nope.

‘Ad hominem’ argument? Nope.

Rudeness? Nope.

Lies or libel? Nope.

All of these exist in abundance on the CiF website.

What seems to have upset the moderators at CiF is a straightforward argument that peoples’ attitudes towards other people are shaped by the ideas they are exposed to. The anti-human message of environmentalism makes it easier to be indifferent to humans, therefore.

So you can say that humans are a cancer on CiF. You can say that humans are a virus on CiF. You can say that the human race is ‘not obiously worth preserving‘.

But you can’t say that these ideas are dangerous. You can’t challenge these ideas. And you can’t hold the authors of these ideas to account.


  1. papertiger

    Here here. Well said Ben. If it weren’t for zealots in the media enforcing speech codes, the “climate wars” would have been over with three years ago.
    It’s a religion of death, deserving to be tossed in the dustbin of history.

  2. Greg Cavanagh

    While history is well documented, it seems very few can learn from history. These people fit the profile of a sociopath.

  3. Alex Cull

    Ben, I’ve just mentioned Kaczynski again on CiF and also referred to the fact that your comments have been deleted – we’ll see how long my comment lasts.

  4. Ben Pile

    Alex… And now it has gone.

    Do you have a copy of what you wrote? I thought it was rather good.

    I wonder whether the issue is that it referred to Kaczynski, or to me referring to Kaczynski. It seems to have really upset them, because they don’t simply ‘remove’ the comment, they erase it from history.

  5. Alex Cull

    Ben, I’m away from my home PC now but will post a copy of what I wrote later today. Incredible… I wonder which house rules I broke at the Guardian to make them delete my comment without trace. I thought it was was polite enough and relevant enough to remain unmoderated – apparently not!

  6. Lewis

    What’s the point, Ben? We know the inanity of the present literaty (sic!) has nothing to do with reality, be it left, right or the ‘middle way’ ( ha! ha!). It is obviously something far more profound. Which, by the way, is what they object. This white heat of a ‘top ‘a’ of the world, mama’ rejection of them. Not from the right, the tea party tin pot army nor from the left, silent, endlessly silent but from ‘us’, our midships, as they used to say, our ‘midden’ as Lawrence pretentiously would say.
    But worse, this is impotent and unconstructive, destructive rage. They are afraid of this but only as the ‘rabble’. The most intelligent voices as that ginger haired orator of this rabble that threw the small streets on the great and was laughed out of parliament for three or for mis signings of a charter.
    No, there must be something better and more organized about this ‘protesting’. Then they really will be afraid.

  7. Lewis

    So let us start. Let us begin to cut through the miasma of obfuscation and intellectual cowardice. Let us put our intellectual bombs (metaphorical – let us start by saying ‘bomb’!) amidships. I nor you nor anyone is stupid, lacking resources. What we lack is what used to be our own – independence of mind, ‘civic duty’, care for our neighbour. We have been so cowardly in our little shells that we’ve forgotten what it is to be human. To care for those liberties and justices that we so long fought for but have forgotten how to defend. Let us be grand and great and good, for once, and once again.

  8. geoffchambers

    Ben, Alex
    Any references to moderation tend to get removed. The first comment with a long quote may have got removed as off-topic if reported as such. I conducted an experiment on CiF which I described at
    in which I got ten warmist comments removed and left a similar eleventh one up, demonstrating that a determined use of the “report abuse” button by one reader is enough to get comments moderated. A large number of insulting comments remain on the Higgins thread, presumably because no warmist felt moved to report them.
    A colleague’s premoderation was removed after a couple of weeks, so don’t let that discourage you. Moderation is independent of the journalists. I’ve seen below the line comments by article authors removed.
    I continue to be a firm believer in CiF. It’s fair, within its own rules, even though they can be gamed by a determined opponent. Guardian Environment, with its thousands of articles a year, is the most impressive propaganda effort ever mounted by a British newspaper. Where CiF and Guardian Environment intersect is, in my opinion, the most interesting front in the climate wars. Several occasional contributors, including members of the Guardian Environment Network, have been ridiculed in the comments and have never been back. These include figures as diverse as Lord Stern, Ian McEwan, Gavin Schmidt, Lord Rees, and the editors of the Lancet and the BMJ. These are people who are not used to having their views challenged, and they may have been surprised by the critical reception they received from Guardian readers.

  9. Floyd

    Ben..not surprised that your comment was deleted and with no explanation. What seems to cause fury from the Eco-Wallys (yes Fanny Alexander, George Monbiot, Leo Hickman, Jonathon Porrit, Emily Apple, Jean Lambert, Caroline Lucus I am looking at you) is the fact that sceptics (note I use that word, rather than deniers) wont recant the devil three times before the cock crows. What is more we tend to make reasoned arguements that go beyond the “Its all a lefty/green tax conspiracy” that serves so many deniers as political thought and insight.

    To follow on from what you said; (1)its okay to tell 3rd world women that they need to keep their legs shut as they are having too many kids
    (2) You can reduce the kids they do have to the amount of C02 they’ll cost the earth

    (3) W/O a trace of irony, if your an eco-gap year-NGO you can lecture people on poverty levels of exsistence on the evils of consumerism

    What you cant!!! do however is put forward any sort of idea that people can aspire to something greater than a wattle and daub hut, folk remedys, seeing your kids die and greatfully subject to the benevolence of left-wing missionarys on an ego trip.

  10. Alex Cull

    Here’s the comment I posted today at 7:50 am that vanished:

    “Although ClimateResistance’s comments re Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, have been deleted several times, I think Kaczynski does provide a valid example of a shift from violent rhetoric into violence. As SteB1 rightly points out, the Unabomber is an aberrant individual, but that can be said of Loughner and Lee. They differ, of course – Loughner’s influences are a mishmash (Marx, Hitler, Satan?) and Lee’s “manifesto” (“and, of course, the Squirrels”) reads like a deliberate parody, Kaczynski by contrast comes across as highly intelligent and coherent. Here is his text “Industrial Society and Its Future”, which you can read for yourselves on Wikisource. Arguably, an individual like Kaczynski is more of a threat to the public than Loughner or Lee – although he killed fewer people than Loughner, he was intelligent and resourceful enough to remain at large for 20 years, and pursued a much more sustainable campaign.”

    It’s very like a second comment I made at 9:45 and which is still there, but which doesn’t mention the deletions; Geoff, I think this proves your point.

  11. geoffchambers

    It’s a funny old thread, isn’t it? One thing Guardian Environment can’t be accused of is running a carefully planned propaganda campaign. Plane Stupid and 10:10 are marketing wizards compared to Damian &Co. SteB1 accuses us sceptics of being Nazis, and Carrington steps in to praise his contribution, on a thread about the dangers of inflammatory language!
    Someone pointed out that on the board of 10:10 are a Guardian journalist and Dame Briony Worthington, recently enobled by Ed Miliband. And a guy called Roger made an interesting psychoanalytic point about environmentalism as an overactive superego, and politics having renounced the role of society’s ego, much in the style of PeterS here.
    I’d lay bets that Carrington isn’t long for this job.

  12. Ben Pile

    Geoff, the line I think is particularly revealing from Carrington is “I agree that a sensible and reasoned debate would be wonderful. For most that begins with accepting the overwhelming scientific evidence for AGW”

    In other words, until you agree with me, you can’t legitimately disagree with me.

    There are indeed some incoherent arguments from some of the sceptics in this debate; but it’s nothing compared to the intransigence that dominates the establishment’s thinking. Shame on Carrington.

  13. geoffchambers

    Agreed. Someone using a name similar to mine has made that point on the thread. Possibly someone not under premoderation who agrees with you could be persuaded to go back on the thread and make the points you made, without referring to moderation?

  14. Ben Pile

    Geoff, I don’t think I can be bothered. Its clear that the moderators don’t want the discussion to be contaminated by thought, and while they’d let the occasional comment pass, they weren’t letting continued discussion happen, or for the debate between myself and a couple of others deepen.

  15. geoffchambers

    I know how you feel. The only consolation on a thread like that is that Damian Carrington’s bias and logical incoherence is out there for all to see. I once got under his skin to such an extent that he politely asked me to reveal my identity, so that we could argue “on a level playing field”, which I did, whereupon the moderators promptly removed my comments, since I am banned.
    Those who politely demand that he come back to explain his inconsistencies at least force him to face his own bad faith (I imagine that he, like Monbiot, has an assistant who is paid to read the comments) or else, like Monbiot, retreat into accusations that we are all astroturfers in the pay of corporations.
    Someone at the Guardian, even if it’s only the moderators, must notice that, week after week, environment journalists fail to reply when commenters point out their errors and prejudices. Maybe one day one of them will leak. In the interest of ascertaining the truth about Climate Change, I’d choose a sheaf of internal Guardian (or BBC) emails over the real true raw temperature data any day.

  16. geoffchambers

    There’s a reply just up to a Climate Resistance comment on the Carrington thread

  17. Philip

    Ben: “…the line I think is particularly revealing from Carrington is “I agree that a sensible and reasoned debate would be wonderful. For most that begins with accepting the overwhelming scientific evidence for AGW””

    Even if you accept “the overwhelming scientific evidence for AGW”, you are still not there as far as the Guardian debaters if concerned. In fact, the latest CiF reply (from EwanB) seems to make exactly the same leap of faith as Carrington and most of the other commenters there.

  18. Ben Pile

    No matter; they have no closed the discussion to all. I’ve ventured into about half a dozen CiF threads now. Each time, they are populated by the same avatars, defending the same eco-orthodoxy against criticism.

  19. Philip

    Ben – I suppose the reason for doing it is if the discussions there do have an influence, either on the Guardian editors or on the politicians. One of my neighbours (who writes occasional articles for the broadsheets) told me that the papers do use comment on the Internet to try to gauge popular opinion. If so, then well-informed argument against the eco-orthodoxy is likely to have some positive effect – even if it’s unlikely to win over the regulars.

  20. geoffchambers

    I’d like to think you’re right that well-informed argument against the eco-orthodoxy is likely to have some positive effect, but, given that global warming is official Guardian editorial policy, I think it unlikely.
    I used to think that it might be possible to influence opinion at the Guardian, speaking over the heads of the committed environment journalists to unbiassed readers, and possibly to secret dissidents within the ranks. I now view it as an elaborate game, with the useful side-effect of providing insight into the thinking of warmists.
    There are usually one or two who argue from a genuinely felt sense of intellectual superiority, and are most upset by Ben’s posts, when he refuses to argue the standard sceptic line. Most are really not paying attention to what we say, but can be needled into exposing the daftness of their arguments.
    I have a soft spot for some; the world-weary gpwayne, who correctly forecast the collapse of Copenhagen, and Monbiot’s reaction; thesnufkin, who manages to crack some decent jokes at the expense of his colleagues; and the much lamented GreenAgeChloe, who makes her primary school children cry with her rendition of “No More Snow”, and wants to lock us sceptics up and ban democracy.
    Of course, I’m hoping to wake up one day, like Alice, and find that they’re all just a pack of cards, but in the meantime, they provide me with some innocent fun.

  21. Philip

    Oh, now you’re making me feel depressed. But perhaps the greens really will implode all by themselves – or at least the extremist fringe. If that happens, would our fine leaders finally think again?

  22. Shub

    We encountered Monbiot-CiF censorship on a thread with Monbiot attempting to prove racism charges unilaterally. I wrote a response and posted a link on CIF.

    Shortly, the link was deleted and I was on “premoderation”. My total posts at the Guardian, including the last one, must be two or maybe three.

    This is even as Monbiot boasts that he and the Guardian are really the venues for open debate and Monboit literally begging his moderators to not delete any comments.

    The simple fact is, that real life considerations – be it the fear of libel lawsuits or the fear of being seen as providing “the skeptics with a megaphone”, will not allow open and free debate, at all venues.

    Therefore, people who are trapped on the wrong side of such venues – Monbiot, Carrington, Gavin Schmidt – should simply not lecture or pontificate other about freedom of expression. And such venues do exist online. But they repeatedly insist on doing so, only making fools of themselves.

  23. Ben Pile

    Look at all those deleted comments!

  24. rxc

    It is all about inserting their vision of the way society should work into the societal psyche, by repeating stuff over and over again, by indoctrinating children and using them against their parents, and by controlling the dissemination of anything that calls their arguments into question. The technique has been used by politicians for a long time, but the most recent good description of the method comes from Gramsci, an Italian opponent of Mussolini in the 30s. He wrote several volumes about it while he was in prison, and now the method is taught in universities to “activists”.

    And, it is succeeding.

  25. geoffchambers

    Yes, that’s how indoctrination works in totalitarian states. It’s never worked in pluralist democracies with a free press, because any attempt to indoctrinate automatically produces a reaction. Yet here we have a belief system, doubted or ridiculed by a large part of the population, yet supported by practically the entire media and political establishment.
    They’re making idiots of themselves, and they don’t care. The few critics of the consensus can be dismissed as fringe figures.
    This is an absolutely unique situation, and it demands an explanation.

  26. Philip

    Geoff, “This is an absolutely unique situation, and it demands an explanation.”

    I’ve no doubt you’re right about this. But it might still be interesting to see a comparison between the current situation and past group craziness – what do they have in common and what are the differences. Have you seen any analysis of this kind?

  27. geoffchambers

    Have I seen any analysis? no, but many comparisons, starting with the material in Mackay’s 1852 book “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” which is available online (South Sea Bubble, Tulip Mania, Prophesies etc).
    All religions and political ideologies get compared, usually the more extreme ones, since – let’s face it – anyone comparing environmentalism to other movements is doing it for propagandist reasons. I think methodism might be an interesting line to explore, since it shares with environmentalism its ambivalent relation to power – at once a protest against the established church, and approved of officially as a bulwark against political militancy.
    Lysenko and eugenics had the backing of official science. Prohibition is interesting as an example of how an unpopular and absurd policy can get applied in a democracy (think lightbulbs).
    I’m still pondering your question on another thread – What to read? I’m wading through the founders of sociology, Durkheim and Weber, with Mannheim’s “Ideology and Utopia” and Karl Popper’s “Open Society and its Enemies” on my list. Much classical sociology is a dialogue with Marx. The point is to read the original works, not the textbooks which tend to pigeonhole everybody into -isms, preventing one from appreciating the originality of a mode of thought in its early, creative period.
    But I also learned a lot from Crichton’s second-rate thriller “State of Fear”. I’m intrigued by GK Chesterton because of a marvellous quote often bandied around – “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything”. I had him pigeonholed as a rightwing Catholic, but he’s much more interesting than that. He opposed eugenics which his socialist friend and sparring partner HGWells supported.
    My only rule is to go for chronological depth and original works. Jferguson on another thread reported reading Gibbon and Macaulay while navigating through the Georgia Sea Islands – an image of the independent-minded sceptic which I shall cherish forever.

  28. Alex Cull

    Geoff: “Yet here we have a belief system, doubted or ridiculed by a large part of the population, yet supported by practically the entire media and political establishment. They’re making idiots of themselves, and they don’t care. The few critics of the consensus can be dismissed as fringe figures.”

    Re relevant reading matter, Hasek’s excellent novel The Good Soldier Svejk comes to mind. In an absurd world where cold mean hot, where backwards means forwards, where literally anything that happens is evidence of impending planetary doom, where all major political parties are the Greens by any other name and where the likes of us are considered guilty of summoning droughts and rainstorms, I think that an appropriate response, when all else fails, is sabotage, subversion and laughter.

  29. geoffchambers

    Thanks Alex; the Good Soldier Schweik goes on my reading list, somewhere between Marx and the latest Pratchett.
    “I think that an appropriate response, when all else fails, is sabotage, subversion and laughter”.
    No doubt some Home Office compter will have picked up your reference to sabotage and subversion, and even now, som obscure police force is training a mole to infiltrate our sceptic ranks. I just hope they choose someone who looks more like Donna Laframboise or Joanne Nova than Richard Lindzen.

    On what the well-informed sceptic should be reading: I think it was a reference of yours on another thread which led me to a government document: “MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy.” This is what I should be reading, of course. It looks like an annexe to 1984, except that the majority of the 300-odd footnotes refer to 21st century publications, so it can’t be. The Good Soldier Schweik isn’t there, since it’s not peer-reviewed.

    What kind of a name is “Laframboise” anyway? Do you think….?

  30. Ben Pile

    Thanks Alex; the Good Soldier Schweik goes on my reading list, somewhere between Marx and the latest Pratchett.

    Pratchett should be at the end of everybody’s growing reading list.

  31. geoffchambers

    Ben: Do you mean “at the end of” or “at the top of everybody’s reading list?”
    I’ve always been amazed at Pratchett’s ability to sum up a great swathe of our civilisation in one silly book (e.g. the influence of printing and the press in “Truth”). He’s also a fascinating subject for socio-cultural studies because his huge sales are entirely concentrated in a readership which is too small for marketing purposes, and so therefore escapes media attention. 98% of the population have never read him, while 2% would read nothing else, if they had the choice. Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon but Discworld, which sells as many books, is culturally invisible. I’ve never managed to persuade anyone to read Pratchett, as I’ve never managed to persuade anyone to examine climate change scepticism. But that’s probably just me.

  32. Ben Pile

    Geoff – “at the end of” or “at the top of everybody’s reading list?”

    Right at the end — just after the Tokyo phone book.

    Regarding the sociology of it (in that small part I’ve read); I’ve always thought of it as sociology for physicists with no girlfriends; like Blackadder, Red Dwarf, and some of Douglas Adams. Perhaps I’m being unfair… It’s been a long while since I tried it.

  33. Mooloo

    Odd how the Good Soldier Svejk is a classic of human nature, but Pratchett isn’t. The essential difference, I would reckon, is merely 50 years.

    It’s not litterary pretensions, as Hasek had none. He wrote funny stories for money, and was happy to write a sequel upon sequel.

    It’s not the fantasy setting, as that doesn’t rule out Animal Farm as a classic.

    The comparison to Blackadder, Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams is totally wrong. Those are pure comedies with no hint of political meaning. Frank Herbert or Ursula le Guin would be better, if you must try to group writers like that. Which you shouldn’t.

  34. Luke Warmer

    Geoff – re readings – another sociologist cropped up recently, W I Thomas via his Thomas Theorem, summed up by:
    “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”

    This and Leon Festinger on Cognitive Dissonance is particularly apt.

    G K Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday is another good read, especially in the light of last week’s undercover ‘rogue’ policeman story. (Both of which are also relevant to Festinger’s work, placing undercover researchers into End of the World groups BTW)

  35. geoffchambers

    Ben: “sociology for physicists with no girlfriends”
    Oh well, back to “MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy.”which is abnormal psychology for civil servants with no belief in anything not peer-reviewed in the last 30 years. Someone’s got to read it.
    Luke: Thomas’s theorem looks like a version of Durkheim’s treatment of social facts (beliefs, ideologies etc) which exist independently of their truth or being believed by any individual. Many sociological theories look banal when summarised, but I shall keep at it. GK Chesterton’s essays are full of criticisms of prophesy, and there’s the Napoleon of Notting HIll, which is set 80 years in the future.

  36. Alex Cull

    I can’t remember if it was me who first mentioned the MINDSPACE doc; I’m just reading it now, though, and it does look familiar, with that mind-map diagram thingy at the top.

    All we need to know about it, I think, is encapsulated in the very first sentence:
    “Influencing behaviour is central to public policy.”

  37. Luke Warmer

    Alex – I googled Mindspace and found it at the (in my view*) misleadingly named Institute for Government Thinktank website. Thanks.
    I have to point out that this behavioural stuff is a mine field – another interesting report is at the OFT website (here)
    What does behavioural economics mean for competition policy?

    The OFT defines a number of “behavioural biases” and argue that these could en masse contribute as another element of “market failure” (a frequently misunderstood economic term, not specifically the current crisis).

    Now the question in relation to Mindspace and the OFT is can bias or ‘bad’ behaviour be defined ojectively? Certainly dangerous territory alongside the parallel approaches to make climate skepticism a psychological condition. I’m sure there’s a fruitful debate brewing in the blogosphere. There’s a big difference between nudging and bullying.

    * From companies house:
    Institute/ Institution – Approval for use of these words is normally given only to those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or to professional bodies of the highest standing.



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