Tag Archives: Democracy

#76 – The Evolution of Alternative Facts

new-york-times-newspaper-1159719_1920 Cropped
[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan is talking to Dr. Gleb Tsipursky of the Pro-Truth Pledge about the battle for honest discourse. This is an important consideration. During a speech at the White House in January 2017, Donald Trump’s Press Secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, famously said: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” This statement has been endlessly mocked, but, in more serious terms, it has come to represent, as stated shortly afterwards without irony by Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway, as not being a lie, but an entirely different version of the truth. Spicer, explained Conway, was not being dishonest, but was dealing in “alternative facts”. Comparisons to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four were manifestly obvious and, indeed, were deeply indicative of a very real problem. What is the answer to alternative facts? Utilising research in behavioral science, Dr. Tsipursky is leading a team effort to address post-truth politics, fake news, and those unscrupulous alternative facts. Dr. Tsipursky is asking people, be they members of congress or members of the public, to sign the Pro-Truth Pledge as a commitment to deal in only one type of fact, and not the alternative variety. Dr. Tsipursky explains the motivation behind this movement, and outlines his hopes for a more honest arena of public discourse. Why are humans so easily misled? What can be done about fake news? Is it possible that Donald Trump would sign such a pledge? How has social media been manipulated to spread misinformation, and can this be prevented? These questions, including a fascinating look at why humans are, from an evolutionary standpoint, poorly equipped to deal with the modern age, are featured in this episode.

For more information on the Pro-Truth Pledge, or to sign the pledge, head to https://www.protruthpledge.org/take-the-pro-truth-pledge/

Expanded show notes:

‘Richard Dawkins: We’re too stupid to decide on EU (that includes me)’, The Times, 23 May 2016.

‘Nigel Farage backtracks on Leave campaign’s ‘£350m for the NHS’ pledge hours after result’, The Independent, 24 June 2016.

Related episode:

#10 – George Orwell Versus Alternative Facts
#17 – The Fake News Agenda
#63 – Tribalism Aboard the Ship of Theseus

#71 – Inspiring The Aidan Project

pexels-photo-220769 (1) Cropped


[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

In a very different edition of the podcast, Aidan takes you behind the scenes of The Aidan Project. Within this reflective podcast, Aidan introduces Inspiring The Aidan Project, a potential separate podcast series which would highlight the men and women whose thinking has inspired Aidan. Aidan then presents a pilot episode for this prospective series; the pilot tells the story of George Orwell. Also in this episode, Aidan offers further reflections on Winston Churchill, following episode 69: The Churchill Myth: Many Dark Hours, and talks about every podcaster’s worst nightmare: a full-length conversation which will never be heard.

Expanded show notes:

#69 – The Churchill Myth: Many Dark Hours

Churchill was flawed like all the greats but his achievements outshine his shortcomings, Sky News, 1 February 2018.

Mary Shores web site

More information on the pilot for Inspiring The Aidan Project:

Copy of Copy of UPSTART

Potential artwork for Inspiring The Aidan Project

Inspiring The Aidan Project is a prospective podcast series, separate to The Aidan Project.

Inspiring would feature five-minute episodes telling the stories of the incredible men and women who have inspired my thinking, for better or worse, according to your preference.

In some instances, I may disagree with certain statements and behaviours of the luminaries in question, but this does not obscure their overall importance. This is because, as Christopher Hitchens so adeptly explained, “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

Hitchens, Orwell, Paine, Bentham, Mill, Russell, Gandhi, Voltaire, Luxemburg, Hume, Aristotle and Arendt are examples of notables who have passed on. However, Inspiring would also profile living persons, too. After the introductory episode, each edition would be an episode unto itself, which is to say, you could listen in any order.  Episodes would neither be released in order of how I rank their influence – even if this were possible – nor according to the year of their birth. All episodes must simply meet the criteria, which is principally of being a person who inspired me to think critically. It may be, too, that a given person was somewhat dogmatic and prone to superstition; nevertheless, their immense moral courage and/or grand ideas served to inspire me, thus meriting their inclusion.

I want to pay homage to the men and women who inspired me, because I merely stand on the shoulders of these giants. I hope these persons could inspire you, too.

Your feedback will be important to me: I want to hear what you think of the vision, the format, the pacing, even down to the cover art and podcast’s title! Please get in touch.

After I have collated your feedback, the podcast could be launched as a separate entity to The Aidan Project, to be made available via this web site and via all major podcast providers. Episodes could possibly be released within a number of ‘seasons’, ala Netflix.

Kind regards,
Aidan

Aidan Coughlan
2 February 2018

Guest Appearance on Miracles and Atheists

On Thursday 18 January, I appeared as a guest on Miracles and Atheists, a live Facebook show in which believers and non-believers engage in civil discourse. I discussed atheism, my view on miracles, the collision between religion and secular values, Christopher Hitchens, faith healers, and much more. A replay is available – my guest spot begins at around 02:36:00.

For more information on Miracles and Atheists, see https://www.facebook.com/miraclesatheists/.

Follow The Aidan Project on Twitter and/or Facebook for updates on upcoming external appearances.

#67 – Project Extra: New Year’s Revolution

iran-2796177_1920 Cropped
[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

In this edition of Project Extra, Aidan presents previously unreleased audio from his conversation with Jared Miracle for episode 66, Hope and Chaos: 2017 Unpacked. In this bonus audio, Jared talks about the sexual harassment scandal which rocked Hollywood, the war on experts, and offers his take on a man who needs no introduction – Donald Trump. Aidan also shares his hopes for 2018, including a new revolution in Iran, and what the left needs to do to get back on track. Happy New Year to one and all from The Aidan Project.

For more information on Jared, please visit his web site at http://www.jaredmiracle.com or his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/jaredmiraclewriter. Jared has also started guest-hosting for the New Books in Anthropology Podcast – see http://newbooksnetwork.com/category/anthropology/ for download links.

Items mentioned on this episode:

Hope and Chaos: 2017 Unpacked

Support The Aidan Project

New Books in Anthropology

Related articles:

Iran protests: Why is there unrest?, BBC News, 2 January 2018.

Related tweets:

#63 – Tribalism Aboard the Ship of Theseus

pexels-photo-89095
[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan welcomes back philosopher, Dr. Benedict Beckeld, for a conversation which explores the current political climate, and delves into intriguing questions regarding the self and personal agency. Why has the political climate become so polarised? What is causing this failure of communication? And how do we understand our own personal self – is the self an illusion and do we have the ability to have acted differently in a given situation? Could letting go of an illusory idea of ourselves liberate us to better live, love and learn? Aidan and Benedict discuss tribalism, free speech, political discourse, journalism, truth, relativism, and the deep questions of the self and free will. Aidan and Benedict also both share an example of an unwitting experience in less than honourable journalism – in Benedict’s case, his comments on inner and outer beauty were used in an egregiously misrepresentative manner by an American tabloid newspaper. The episode begins with a summary of the theme from Aidan and Benedict’s previous conversation, episode 12, Western Downfall: Why Trump Won. Benedict explains whether he feels the conditions which led to Donald Trump’s presidency have begun to change or have continued unabated. Dr. Beckeld was born in Sweden to Brazilian and Jewish parents, but emigrated with his family to New York City as a teenager. Dr. Beckeld’s philosophy has thus far focused primarily on matters of aesthetics, ethics, contemporary culture, political philosophy and the philosophy of history. For more information on Dr. Beckeld, you can find him online at http://www.benedictbeckeld.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/benedictbeckeld

Links to items discussed on this show:

Benedict Beckeld web site
Benedict Beckeld on YouTube
Benedict Beckeld, Monism and Inner Beauty, 1 June 2017.
Western Downfall: Why Trump Won

#56 – Notes on Patriotism: Taking a Knee

pexels-photo-560964

[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

In the previous episode, Aidan talked about the British reverence for Monarchy. In this edition, Aidan moves across the pond to explore the US national identity. In recent weeks, we have been reminded of the importance of the US flag and national anthem to Americans, with Donald Trump on the offensive against sportsmen who have protested racial inequality and other related grievances by taking a knee for the US national anthem.

Protesting can carry a political cost and can give ammunition to your opponent. David Frum wrote in Atlantic magazine, “Colin Kaepernick has better right to that flag and anthem than Donald Trump. Why concede that right? Assert it.” This is an interesting debate. Aidan gives his take, and explains why he would refuse to sing the British national anthem. Aidan also addresses recent comments made by Trump about press freedom.  These comments follow those made in February, when – lest we forget – Trump outrageously stated that the press were “the enemy of the people.” 

Further reading (in show order)

‘NFL protests: Why did players kneel or link arms?’, BBC News, 25 September 2017, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41392433

‘You Don’t Have To Stand With Trump Or Kneel With Kaepernick. Stand For The Flag And The First Amendment Instead’, The Daily Wire, 26 September 2017, www.dailywire.com/news/21561/you-dont-have-stand-trump-or-kneel-kaepernick-ben-shapiro/

‘Why Cede the Flag to Trump?’, The Atlantic, 24 September 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/why-cede-the-flag-to-trump/540930/

‘The US Declares War on Britain’, The Aidan Project, 17 November 2016, https://theaidanproject.org/2016/11/17/the-us-declares-war-on-britain/

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s real PLAN for when the Queen dies REVEALED in shocking interview [their capital letters]’, The Daily Express, 5 July 2017, www.express.co.uk/news/uk/824460/Jeremy-Corbyn-Queen-replaced-head-of-state-die-monarchy-royal-family-republican

‘Donald Trump intensifies war with media, saying it is ‘frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants’’, Indepedent web site, 12 October 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-media-war-us-journalists-press-fake-news-freedom-of-expression-first-amendment-a7995971.html

‘Trump sits, talks through song lowering the flag at military base amid NFL anthem controversy’, Washington Examiner, 12 October 2017, www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-sits-talks-through-song-lowering-the-flag-at-military-base-amid-nfl-anthem-controversy/article/2637296

 

#55 – Notes on Monarchy: House of Wax

house of wax[Problem with the web audio player? Click here for the full range of listening options]

Christopher Hitchens asked in The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish“Why, when the subject of royalty or monarchy is mentioned, do the British bid adieu to every vestige of proportion, modesty, humour and restraint?” This podcast episode seeks to explore this, and related, questions.

Why, after executing a King, did the British almost immediately experience a distinct feeling of buyer’s remorse? What purpose do the British think the Royal Family serves? And how intrinsic is the yearning for monarchy within the British identity?

In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, wrote stridently that he thought the British monarchical system absurd. Indeed, he helped establish the United States of America in opposition to monarchy. Christopher Hitchens said the British have a ‘fetish’ for all-things Royal. George Orwell, a man who experienced, wrote and was fearful of autocracy, explained that the British see their monarchy as a safety-valve against tyranny. Orwell pointed to the dictatorships, in stark contrast to British constitutional monarchy, which had suffocated democracy in Germany and Italy in the prelude to World War 2.

These questions of national identity are, of course, subjective. But by looking at past events (such as the Civil War and its regicidal aftermath), analysing the various arguments made over time (Paine, Orwell, Hitchens and others), and seeking to understand the continued reverence for monarchy, we can gain an insight into the British identity and its apparent obsession with Royalty.

The British and their Royals (3).png

“Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the Judgment of God upon this Land, think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater; therefore let me know by what lawful Authority I am seated here, and I shall not be unwilling to answer, in the meantime I shall not betray my Trust: I have a Trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it to answer a new unlawful Authority, therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.”

So said Charles I at his trial for treason in 1649. History tells us that those conducting his trial would have been well advised to have listened to these words of defiance. Indeed, republicanism in the UK is about as able to face down the monarchy today as Oliver Cromwell was when, already dead, he was exhumed after the Restoration, and beheaded. Such memories, such ghastly memories, are as much a part of the British identity as pomp and circumstance is.

At the beginning of the podcast, Aidan briefly comments on the high emotions surrounding the Catalonia referendum, and the awful Las Vegas shooting, which both occurred on 1 October 2017.

Bibliography

Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution (Oxford World’s Classics), (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks, 2001).

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837, (London: Vintage, 1992).

Christopher Hitchens, The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish, (London: Vintage Publishing, 2012).

‘HM Queen Elizabeth II — Coronation Day Speech — 2 June 1953’, YouTube website, https://youtu.be/S2pgmKeGEZg, 2015, accessed 1 October 2017.

Simon Jenkins, A Short History of England, (London: Profile, 2012).

John Laughland, A History of Political Trials: From Charles I to Charles Taylor (Proquest eBook), (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2015).

George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: Volume III, As I Please, 1943 – 1945, (London: Secker And Warburg, 1968).

J.A. Sharpe, Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760, (London: Bloomsbury, 1997).

Charles Spencer, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I, (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, (London: Penguin, 1985 [first edition 1781])

‘The Monarchy: popular across society and ‘here to stay’’, YouGov website, https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/09/08/monarchy-here-stay/, 8 September 2015,  accessed 1 October 2017.

‘The Trial of Charles I’, BBC In Our Time website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kpzd6, 2009, accessed 1 October 2017.

Clips

‘Blackadder II’, BBC Television, 1986.

‘The Devil’s Whore’, Channel 4 Television, 2008.

Images

‘Queen Elizabeth II’ at Madame Tussauds, Madame Tussauds web site, www.madametussauds.co.uk

Queen Elizabeth I portrait, Royal Family web site, www.royal.uk

Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol, Guy Hepner web site, www.guyhepner.com