Bursting your filter bubble since 2020

The fake woke and the shrinking middle class

05 September, 2020 — Daniel James
Video at: https://youtu.be/LL6qroy84TU

Richard Dawkins was in the right place at the right time when he wrote 'The Selfish Gene' in the mid 1970s. He was employed as a lecturer at the all-male New College, part of the elite University of Oxford. Thatcherism and Reaganomic principles were developing their own momentum, and would control at least two major economies within five years. An academic from a most credible institution was advancing the theory that not only are humans genetically programmed to be selfish, but that altruism is just selfishness in disguise.

It's a short mental leap from the idea of a selfish gene to the belief that greed "captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit", as articulated by fictional Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko in 1987. We have Dawkins to thank for popularising that key idea, along with the concept of the meme. It's not necessary for people to understand the theory of the selfish gene, just the big idea as communicated to them.

By 1989, having endured a decade of revolutionary capitalism, the education system in the United Kingdom was ready for a 'new' big idea. The credibility of classical Marxism was destroyed by Europeans' thorough rejection of communism that year. A faction within leftist academia switched focus to an obscure French group of writers who had a new big idea, post-structuralism or postmodernism. Suddenly, objective reality was out of fashion, and the concept of 'evidence' suspect.

Given what had just happened across Eastern Europe, it was just as well that many of these writers had taken the precaution of being unintelligible, to ensure they could not easily be contradicted.


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'Target Africa' by Obianuju Ekeocha - demographics book review

16 August, 2020 — Daniel James
Book cover of Target Africa, by Obianuju Ekeocha Video at: https://youtu.be/1OtKlVpbBcQ

In the West, we hear about the problems of Africa, its rapidly-growing population and its poverty, particularly during disasters and aid appeals, but rarely do we hear from Africans on these topics. This book was written by a Nigerian pro-life activist, now living and working in the UK as a biomedical researcher and pathologist.

Ekeocha's research skills are evident in the way this book is clearly argued from premise to conclusion, with copious references for further reading, but this is not a research paper. Like other books written by activists, the goal of this book is not to review the evidence objectively, but to present an alternative narrative, in this case of family life in Africa and Western attitudes to its population.

The key argument in Ekeocha's book is that a small number of extremely wealthy Western donors, mostly white American men, are using aid programmes as a lever to impose their own beliefs about reproduction and sexuality on African states. According to Ekeocha, African elites are benefiting personally from this largesse, but the effect of targeted aid on the behaviour of ordinary Africans is harder to quantify.


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Is sex a spectrum? Or binary?

06 August, 2020 — Daniel James

Video at: https://youtu.be/_96J2aP4Kv8

At least since reruns of the Wizard of Oz were shown on colour television, the rainbow has been a metaphor for a spectrum of diversity. As any home decorator knows, there are a vast number of possible colour combinations, as many as we care to name, and when we run out of names we can use ever larger numbers to distinguish one colour of the rainbow from another, in much the same way as astronomers did when they ran out of names for stars in the universe.

It's unhelpful that the rainbow metaphor has been carried over from sexuality to the debate about sex and gender, as it presents us with wholly misleading ideas. An infographic in a Scientific American blog post from 2017 entitled 'Visualizing sex as a spectrum', often cited in the transgender debate, illustrates the problem neatly. In a classic case of 'fit the facts to the theory', a spectrum of possible sexes ranging from extremes of typical female to typical male is displayed with a multicoloured header ranging from mint green through mango yellow to fuchsia pink.


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No Singing in Church

17 June, 2020 — Kate Brown

Video at: https://youtu.be/DG5D_2BaDS0

No singing in church. The chapel is silent today, and it's been silent for a while now.

For fear that we respire, conspire, then expire. Now is the time for silence. To mourn the losses, to bury the dead, for grief to be felt.

Now is the time to quieten voices, to hear that small calm voice of reason telling us what has to change. To keep silent the cars, and the planes. To quieten busy minds' chatter.

To recalibrate, and hold on to that which really matters, amidst the social distance, reaching out for each other.

We will sing again, one day.

We will raise our voices, and be changed.

And even though we sing alone, still sing together.


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'Birth Strike' by Jenny Brown - USA demographics book review

16 June, 2020 — Daniel James
Video at: https://youtu.be/28JaEJGw3dQ

Published by: PM Press $19.95 USD paperback / $8.95 USD e-book


Politicians and pundits of all kinds are in agreement that the current birth rate in most industrialised countries is below replacement level, the number required to maintain the population. Accounting for mishaps and variations such as child mortality, this level is generally considered in Western societies to be only slightly higher than the number of males plus the number of females, or about 2.1 children per woman.

What is far from agreed is whether Western population decline is good or bad, in a global context of continuing population growth; and if this decline is considered problematic, what the causes and remedies might be. Jenny Brown tackles the question from the point of view of a feminist labour organiser working in the United States of America, in the particular context of a free market economy with minimal state support for new parents and an influential anti-abortion lobby.

Brown's key point is that the debate over women's reproductive rights is fundamentally economic, rather than religious or ethical. Birth rates must be sustained to provide workers and soldiers, in order to maintain economic power, while ensuring that wages are kept down. This point might explain why a president who apparently becomes emotional when talking about innocent babies is more than willing to launch a missile strike against a civilian area in some other country.


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The cost of pregnancy and childbirth in the USA

04 June, 2020 — Jenny Brown and Daniel James
Video at: https://youtu.be/2aDDdIa5kBQ

Jenny: I've been a feminist and labour activist most of my life, and I worked from 2003 to 2013 trying to get the morning-after pill available over the counter in the United States. When we started, dozens of countries already had this including the UK, and so we campaigned; we had a lawsuit, we sat in at the FDA, and we finally got the FDA to recommend putting the pill over-the-counter for all ages.

The newly-elected administration of Barack Obama overruled the FDA, saying he did not want his children, his young daughters, to be able to access the morning-after pill which is as everybody knows after-sex contraception that prevents pregnancy, and so we were a little surprised that the Obama administration had taken this position, and as we started to think about why is it that opposition to birth control had become mainstream, I mean, we had grumbled about the Democratic Party, but it still largely seemed to support reproductive rights, and this sort of showed that we were really going backwards.


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What is Technofascism? Part Two

18 May, 2020 — Dr Andy Farnell
Video at: https://youtu.be/MlPlaSD_-j8

Okay. The next topic which I would like to get onto in my defence of the phrase "technofascism", indeed in my support of the phrase, is to talk about the sociological aspect of Fascism, which is more or less ubiquitous fear. Now there have obviously been so many good books and documentaries and discussions of this, of this very deep and very broad subject, but one part that I'd like to single out to talk about is what I think is our very modern fear which we sometimes call FOMO - fear of missing out - and this is connected to many things, to vanity and insecurity, to our intrinsic need to feel a sense of belonging to a group, and so on.


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What is Technofascism? Part One

17 May, 2020 — Dr Andy Farnell
Video at: https://youtu.be/OyNbEc9VgsQ

So today I'm going to talk about "techno fascism". Many of you will have heard me use this phrase in other talks and lectures, and some people find it cute, and some people kind of object to it. They say "hey, isn't that a bit strong?" So I'd like to explain and defend, and to situate the phrase a little bit. I don't think it's particularly extreme, I think it's really quite fitting in many ways. It's certainly a great shorthand that encapsulates many complex ideas that would be hard to fit under one banner.


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