Questions Raised about the Battle of Ideas
The Battle of Ideas – what James Delingpole calls “the annual festival of free speech” is upon us in London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham – and across Europe. Free speech is a great thing and the people promote this ‘Battle of Ideas’ have been promoting the “right to be offensive’ for years now. You may of heard of some of them, though it’s confusing as they use often two or three different identities, which is an odd thing to do.
Who does that?
All is not as it seems.
The Battle of Ideas is the creation of the LM Network, a clandestine group of people who came out of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the their now defunct ‘Living Marxism’ magazine. It’s one of dozens of projects and platforms that the group have created over the years. See how many you can identify in their list of Partners here. I counted fourteen, but it’s possible I missed some.
The format is a well worn one: mix some punchy graphics and mildly shocking titles draped around a libertarian agenda of ‘free speech’. Sprinkle enough credible speakers amongst a coterie of your pals and political associates to mask your actual political agenda – and away you go.
There’s maybe no surprise that Bayer should fund the LM group is there? After all they have spent over a decade promoting big pharmaceuticals and GM technology, and Bayer bought over Monsanto so that all makes sense.
But it’s odd that the Ayn Rand Institute should be one of their supporters though isn’t it?
So will this strange group be seething with arguments from the left from these former Marxists? Not at all, the sponsors, content and speakers are heavily dominated by the right and the far-right, including Spiked! editor Brendan O’Neill,
cult leader Frank Furedi, Julie Burchill, Andrew Doyle (who created the Jonathan pie character and writes for Spiked!), Matthew Goodwin and many other luminaries of Britain’s new right.
The group recently teamed up with Unherd to host a debate titled “Is Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West?” with Claire Fox, Matthew Goodwin, David Aaronovitch and Erik Kauffman. Kauffman is the editor of Rethinking Ethnicity: Majority Groups and Dominant Minorities (Routledge 2004), and more recently “White Shift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities” and Matthew Goodwin who has written: National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (Penguin) and Revolt on the Right: Explaining Public Support for the Radical Right in Britain (Routledge).
After some criticism that this title sounded a bit fascist, the organisers changed it to “Immigration and Diversity Politics: A Challenge to Liberal Democracy?” Whatever happened to ‘the right to be offensive’?
The debate motivated a group of academics to sign an Open Letter against it, arguing: “this debate was framed within the terms of white supremacist discourse. Far from being courageous or representative of the views of a ‘silent majority’, this is a reactionary, opportunistic and intentionally provocative approach, with no concern for the public implications and effect of this framing. By presupposing an ethnically homogenous ‘west’ in which ethnic diversity, immigration and multiculturalism are a ‘problem’ to be fixed, it automatically targets communities already suffering from discrimination as part of the ‘problem’.”
The Battle of Ideas event is riddled with Spiked! writers. The two organisations are inseparable.
Here’s Joanna Williams who appeared at the Battle of Ideas Edinburgh (though her Spiked! position wasn’t disclosed) slot at the Festival of Politics in Edinburgh on trans identity.
Here’s Brendan O’Neill in support of the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance (DFLA), arguing “Fascism is a vastly overused word these days. It now means, as little more than movements or people ‘I disapprove of’.”
“Free speech” is indeed a wonderful thing – but it is being used as a front for the far-right.
There is now considerable disquiet amongst invited speakers that the event is not all it makes out to be, that there are number of hidden political agendas and that the organisation or organisations behind it lack clarity and transparency in their funding and political motives.