Linklog entries in February 2014

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ghostwriting Julian Assange 

This long read by Andrew O’Hagan about his experience working as a ghostwriter for Julian Assange is exquisitely written and utterly compelling. A fascinating character portrait. Set aside a couple of hours, grab a hot drink, get under a blanket and savour every word.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Domestic Extremist Awareness Day 

So today was the first ever Domestic Extremist Awareness Day. People tweeted things about themselves that police might consider ‘domestic extremism’. Some of them are pretty funny. I’ve linked to one example and you can find more on the hashtag #DomesticExtremist. Some seem to be genuine quotes from police records. It was a light-hearted stunt to spotlight a rather shadowy operation.

The Guardian journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans have reported on the police’s ever-expanding remit for collecting information on active citizens. They say in their book Undercover that domestic extremists are generally described as people who want to ‘prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy’, often doing so ‘outside of the normal democratic process’. Quite a broad definition.

Anybody can submit a request to the police, under the Data Protection Act, to discover what (if any) information is held about them. Find out how you can do this here and here.

The comedian and activist Mark Thomas tweeted today that after he requested his data the police sent him 63 items over 7 pages.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

George Lakoff on the failure of progressives to frame the debate 

Here journalist Zoe Williams speaks to the master of ‘moral framing’ George Lakoff – a professor of cognitive science at the University of California.

I was first introduced to Lakoff’s ideas at university when a friend urged me to read ‘Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know your Values and Frame the Debate’ – and it has influenced how I’ve interpreted political debates ever since.

Essentially Lakoff argues that progressives need to frame political and social debates from a fundamentally moral standpoint. Trying to disprove neo-liberal dogma with facts and evidence doesn’t cut it, it merely reinforces another’s framing of the issues; you need to present a better alternative story – a more appealing and inspiring vision for society.

Lakoff said:

Progressives want to follow the polls … Conservatives don’t follow the polls; they want to change them. Political ground is gained not when you successfully inhabit the middle ground, but when you successfully impose your framing as the ‘common-sense’ position.

This anecdote from Williams is also a good example:

One of Lakoff’s engagements in London was at the TUC, where they proudly showed him a video they had made about welfare – restating Cameron’s case in order to dispute it, but in reality falling into the trap of trying to dispel welfare “myths”, instead of talking about a social security system of which we should be proud. He took it apart at the seams.

The New Economics Foundation produced an interesting report last September called ‘Framing the Economy: The Austerity Story’ which applied Lakoff’s theory to current UK politics and offered up some alternative frames to the coalition’s narrative focus on the deficit and debt. I wonder whether the great professor approved?