The Delusional Demos Director

Before getting round to their director, Polly Mackenzie, let’s start with Demos.

Demos on Wikipedia

Their Twitter Bio

The last bit, “Based in London”, and it’s name, “Demos”, might be the only true parts of that bio line.

Think tank? Well, I’ve a couple of other posts related to their thinking. I’m not impressed. These were about a really sloppy piece on the Victoria Derbyshire, on the BBC News channel, and Carl Miller, of Demos, and their dubious ‘research’ milking the ‘Islamophobia’ craze.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Sloppy Islamophobia Journalism

Carl Miller of Demos Still Misfires on ‘Islamophobia’

Britain’s leading independent cross-party think tank? Really? Independent and Cross Party?

Well, they have done work for more than one party, but to say they are cross-party is a bit of a stretch. Independent? Not of thought.

From the Wiki page:

Demos was founded in 1993 by former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, and Geoff Mulgan, who became its first director.

In the run-up to the 1997 general election it was seen as being close to the Labour Party, in particular its then leader Tony Blair.

On 9 August 2006, in a speech at a Demos conference, British Home Secretary Dr John Reid stated that Britons ‘may have to modify their notion of freedom’, as a result of his plans, claiming that freedom is ‘misused and abused by terrorists.’

Take a look at their 2018 accounts, here.

https://demos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/application-pdf.pdf

And, after you’ve tried to work out the flow of money in and out, go to page 30 for some of their funders.

The Open Society Foundation. And who are they? You want to know what George Soros funds? Demos is one of his pets. Independent?

Don’t like the George Soros conspiracy theories? OK, let’s try another.

The Politics and Economics Research Trust. Did you know this report was produced by Charity Commission for England and Wales?

You can read more here: Politics and Economics Research Trust: case report

And here: Charity alleged to have illegally funded Brexit campaign groups – Questions over grants given by the Politics and Economics Research Trust to anti-EU groups, with potential for tax relief.

I can’t pretend to know everything Demos get up to, but to me, and having seen the work of the fabulous Carl Miller, it looks like a bunch of people that can’t get proper jobs so they sell their souls to anyone that will buy them and enjoy playing around in the dubious charity money-go-round, and call the work ‘research’.

So, what about their director, Polly Mackenzie? How much thinking does this head of a think tank do? More to the point, what’s the quality of this thinking?

Polly Mackenzie joined Demos as the new Director in January 2018. She previously worked for Nick Clegg from 2006 to 2015, helping to write the 2010 Coalition Agreement, and served as Director of Policy to the Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-15

Well, that didn’t go too well did it.

Just curious, but did Polly have anything to with forming Nick Clegg’s opinions on the EU. Yes, I know her time with him was up to 2015, before Brexit EU Ref, but, well, ideas aren’t formed over night, are they, and when Nick Clegg laid into Nigel Farage about how saying there would be an EU Army was a dangerous fantasy, Nifty Nick had buggered off to Facebook just before Merkel and significant EU figures started telling us that not only was the EU starting an EU Army, but political and military fusion ought to be a future goal.

Anyway, whatever contribution Polly made towards Nicky Know Nothing’s demise, at least she is able to put her own thoughts down. Sadly, it doesn’t get any better.

Case 1 – Letting Children Vote – And Proxy Parental Votes

This is Polly’s recent piece in Unheard …

What if we gave children a vote? – The electoral system is inherently biased towards the 83% of the population who are over 18

Here are some of Polly’s bright ideas:

  • Children 10 and above should be able to vote. How hard is it for a ten year old to make a cross in the right place on a piece of paper?
  • Children under 10 shouldn’t be able to vote (come on, Polly’s not mad, you know). Instead, their parents should be able to cast a proxy vote on behalf of the infant (I presume only one parent gets to vote for each child, but which one? Not sure Polly has think-tanked this through).

You can read the delusional reasoning yourself. But here, for Polly’s benefit, are some objections.

The notion of a proxy vote is entirely counter to the principle of one-person-one-vote. Large families, religious conservative families, would in fact give multiple votes to the parents, as proxies. To say that such proxy voting parents were casting a vote for the children themselves is delusional. They would be casing a vote for themselves and their of how the world should be.

Childless people will be disenfranchised, because parents get 2 or more times their vote.

As for children themselves voting, there are several reasons why they should not, not least of which are the following.

We have limits on parent power. Parents cannot abuse their children. An anathema to this is the indoctrination of children into political and religious ideologies. We are not raising independently minded adults, but pre-programmed adults. It takes a lot of learning to realise the extent to which you’ve been indoctrinated, and some never get out of it. Jess Phillips, Labour MP, describes how she was taught a visceral hatred of Tories. The indoctrination of children into our main religious cults is a disgrace to civil society. Until both political and religious indoctrination are criminalised, and a rounded education in reason and science becomes the standard, we will not be producing independent minded rational adults, but victims and perpetrators of the tribal party and religious politics we have today.

Young teenagers are naturally rebellious, and are wide open to the political indoctrination by extremists. Labour’s Momentum know this – Corbyn’s Kids is not a neutral educational programme but a mind programming school. Many young people were so easily indoctrinated into extreme Islam, and left home to join ISIS. The Orthodox Jewish communities keep a tight control of their children, as do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics, and even ‘moderate’ Islam.

Why do you think the Humanists UK and National Secular Society are campaigning to stop and reverse the growth in faith schools.

Read Poly’s article. But just for fun, here’s a sample of Polly’s think-tanking.

“Will you let them drink and smoke, too?” – This is usually the first response I get when I propose enfranchising all citizens under the age of 18. The answer is, obviously, no. We have laws that prevent young people from drinking and smoking because these things are harmful. voting, by contrast, is not harmful; drawing an X on a ballot paper is substantially less dangerous than inhaling toxic smoke into your lungs.”

What? So, coerced voting of ten year olds, indoctrinated ten year olds, isn’t a danger? To society, and the better judgement of those children that have to live in the world they were coerced into voting for?

Polly, putting an unlit cigarette in a child’s hands and to a child’s lips is no more dangerous than putting a pencil in the mouth after drawing a cross on a piece of paper. However, to the child personally, the former could have longer term implications for the individual, if they were coerced to light it; but the latter could cause a far wider danger to themselves and society, if they were coerced to vote a particular way.

There are now many people that were indoctrinated into voting Labour – “I’m a life long Labour supporter.” But many such supporters are overcoming their own indoctrination because they can see before their eyes how Corbyn and Communist McDonnell are changing the party, and they have figured out that in their opinion they don’t like it. The same has been true of may Conservative voters. Many adults learn to change their minds for themselves. 

Children cannot. Do you imagine a ten year old having a conversation about the subtleties of Labour’s Socialism, McDonnell’s Communism, the entryism that’s been going on in the Labour Party for generations? No. They won’t even take an arbitrary lucky dip vote. Their parents will coerce them into voting for the parent’s preference.

And all the above doesn’t even begin to take into account the actual issues of brain development and maturity.

We should be worried about the indoctrinating abuse of children and their use in political vote rigging only somewhat less than psychological child abuse.

No, children should not be allowed to vote, and their parents should definitely NOT get extra votes because they have kids.

This piece by Mackenzie is idiotic. Yet she’s the director of Demos? And Carl Pilkington, sorry, Carl Miller (apologies to Carl Pilkington) is their Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media? Would you trust ANY of their output?

I can see why conspiracy theorists look to Soros. Throwing money at this bunch of clowns is top rate trolling.

Case 2 – Free Stuff Utopian Dreams

It was at this point I thought I’d have a look at Polly on Twitter. Interesting. Following what was obviously a quick lesson in economics by Labour’s John McDonnell’s free stuff promises, Polly gave it a critical eye.

Tweet – Nationalising Openreach is perfectly plausible. But why should broadband be free and not – for example – water, food, heating, clothes, all of which are rather more essential to the human condition.

You’d think Demos might have a director that have some feel for economics. Apparently not.

But, not to worry, Utopia is within reach for Polly …

Which manifesto? Only given Polly’s eagerness to indoctrinate voting children there are several to choose from.

So, for Polly’s benefit, what’s wrong with free stuff, state control and the removal of wages?

  • Eventually, workers don’t need money because everything is free. 
  • But workers are then dependent on the state alone. 
  • Result: oppression of workers that can have no independent means of survival so must comply with the state.
  • Check out some history. Hint: Soviet Union and its oppressed satellites; Moa’s China. The brutality of the party and the Dear Leader.
  • Political Utopias are no better than religious fantasies – they are used to control people.

What the Tweet?

Newenglanbod responded to Jerry Coynes notice that Richard Dawkins has started tweeting:

“I still refuse to get a Twitter account. Communicating at 140 characters per thought is a game I am not willing to play. I also do not wish to be a ‘groupie’ who follows the sound byte pronouncements of other people and especially the often malformed thoughts of their followers.”

But then we get this from newenglandbob, on a post that was about Sam Harris on Free Will: “I prefer the egg rolls to the spring rolls. Some Vietnamese Pho(ph? bò)if they have it.” [87 characters]

And this, on a post about Elliot Sober’s views: Or potato chips. They also have Wavy to help during the wave function. [70 characters]”

Or this pithy contribution to a post about Sam Harris: “Heh heh.” [8 – not counting smiley emoticon]

To be fair, newenglandbod does contribute more interesting stuff than these examples. My point here is not that these particular comments are inane in any way (they seem off topic to the main post, but they are in context as responses to other comments), just that they seem to contradict the statement “Communicating at 140 characters per thought is a game I am not willing to play”.

Okay, if twitter is so great, what’s so great about it?

As Jerry pointed out, you can use it to broadcast your own blog posts.

Twitter is really useful for following people who tweet but don’t provide feeds to their web sites or blogs, so otherwise I wouldn’t pick up their posts so regularly, say with a news reader.

The whole point of the 140 character limit is to avoid verbose people (guilty) hogging the space. I can scan tons of tweets really quickly, and many (most if you follow the right people) use twitter to link to their posts or other interesting stuff when you want greater detail. The limit is an aid. And for those adicted to longer tweets there are other tools that will take your longer tweet and condense it for presentation on twitter: http://longertweets.com/

And, the 140 limit makes it easy to read on a smart phone, where you can choose to open up links for a more detailed read if you want to.

One of the best features is the retweet, where you simply echo to your followers the tweet of someone you follow. When someone retweets a tweet from someone they follow and that I don’t, I sometimes find new interesting threads to start following.

And retweets are one of the means by which news travels fast on the web. I think it’s hard to deny the contribution of twitter to social change. The Arab spring being a prime example. Try this activist. Take a look at the number of retweets that link to others. This is how they communicate.

And all the news agencies and radio and TV broadcasters have several twitter accounts where you can pick and choose what you’re intersted in: https://twitter.com/guardianscience

I also follow several tweets related to my work, which makes keeping track of events a lot easier.

You can still use twitter as a source without having an account. There are some tools out there, such as Meet The Tweet. Or, if you only follow one or two you only need their twitter name: https://twitter.com/Evolutionistrue.

I get it that there are millions of inane tweets out their keeping you up to date on how much navel fluff they’ve collected today, how much pain they are sufferring at the hands of an unrequited love, or how Jesus will save you. Sometimes even the people worth following can resort to uninteresting stuff. Stephen Fry is a prime example. He’s an interesting guy; love much of his TV and radio work; have picked up many interesting links from his tweets. But sometimes I’m not so interested…

There’s no escaping the fact. I’m eating a cherry.”

So, this is Margate, is it? Certainly plenty of fish and chip shops.”

… though no doubt many of his followers are.

Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s bad. It might be popular because it works. Trying it, making your mind up based on that, and then deciding to quit, is all fair stuff. If you’re rejecting tools because of what you suppose them to be, because the notion of what they are, or who uses them, or how popularist they are, offends your rationality, then perhaps you’re not assessing it rationally yourself.


An Experiment

1) Sign up to twitter. You can always close the account after the experiment. You don’t have to write any tweets yourself. In this experiment just use it as a source.

2) Enter each of the following into the search box, hit search and click the ‘Follow’ button. These are just for starters. They are some of the more regular sources that link to articles on science, philosophy and news. Sometimes the authors will link to their own blog posts – you get your blog to automatically post on twitter, so no big deal there.

@sciam, @microphilosophy, @Neurosciencenw, @TelegraphSci, @JandMo, @Neurophilosophy, @tedtalks, @neuroblogs, @TheBrainScience, @docartemis, @edyong209, @nytimes, @Stanford, @PhysicsWorld, @newscientist, @guardianscience, @philosophybites, @NewHumanist, @BBCNews, @Evolutionistrue, @neuropsychblog, @MarcusduSautoy, @BHAhumanists, @bloggingheads, @BoraZ

I’ve left off lots of people associated with my work that won’t be of interest to you. I also follow some celebs: @seanmcarroll, @timminchin, @BadAstronomer, @neiltyson, @SamHarrisOrg, @bengoldacre. Some celebs I don’t follow (honestly): pop-stars

3) As you read your own sources, from news feeds or favourite blogs, start to click on the twotter link so that you follow them too. My list is just a starterlist for you. Develop your own interests. You’ll soon figure out who is worth following. Some people post infrequently, and maybe post interesting stuff even less frequently. They are OK to leave as followed, since they won’t fill up your stream too much.

The ones you may want to stop following are those that tweet very often – like 10+ times a day, but mostly consisting of useless 140 char opinion. Yes, these are the ones that most critics of twitter are objecting too, along with the millions of teens tweeting on the attractiveness of their current idols. Don’t follow them and you won’t see them.

4) Try this for a month. Open twitter every day or so and scroll down and scan down. I just scanned 20 hours of tweets I follow in about three minutes, and I follow 197 people. Of course if I follow a link and read the article I take mroe time. But, hey, what are you doing reading this anyway? If you’ve posted a criticism of twitter on some blog of online news article then you do actually find some stuff on the net worth reading. Now you are using twitter as one more tool to follow your interests, efficiently.

Extension to Experiment

I find some days there are too many interesting things to read up on, but some I really don’t want to lose track of. I don’t find twitter’s favourites tool useful. Instead I use Evernote, plus Evernote clipper, an extension to Google Chrome (and other browsers) which allows me to quickly save an interesting web page url to an Evernote note. I must have hundreds of such quickly saved links that I’ll never get round to reading. But in there are some gems that I vaguely remember seeing but can’t trace again by a google search. After a quick search of my Evernote account I’ve been able to get back to the article, often months later.

If you don’t like Evernote, try Deliscious, or one of the many other means of keeping track of links. These tools, and twitter, ensure that if I must waste much of my time on the internet, at least I’m wasting it on interesting stuff.

Writing, from Thinking

The thought provoking Lesley has provoked some thoughts, which, in line with her post, has given me the urge to write them down.

I’d agree with the sentiment of spiritedcrone’s comment – that writing is prayer; though from an atheist perspective I’d say writing and meditation, or simply productive exploratory thought, are part of the same process, and writing is the foundation of all productive thought, including philosophy, maths, science, poetry, prose, fiction. If we are flexible enough with the medium then any of the visual, audio, tactile arts fall into the same pattern.

The point being that to write (or paint…) is simply a means of recording and organising one’s thoughts for a productive purpose. Even if that’s in a personal journal that no one else ever sees – and in this respect a blog is a brilliant medium for sharing some of our thoughts, whether we offer them up as words of wisdom, or as appeals for interaction. We are our own librarians.

I’m often struck by how often I have thoughts I wish I could record, but don’t have the means. Driving and listening to a radio broadcast and knowing that some of my ideas will be gone by the time I can record them. I often walk listening to podcasts, and for repeated ones I know that on a previous hearing I had a thought about some point but can’t recall it. Despite this frustration, so far, I’ve resisted carrying a separate voice recorder, to record my thoughts, because I’d have to spend further hours transcribing them. I’m waiting for the thought-transcription gizmo – maybe an app on the iPhone version 20.0. Or a separate device – the iThink?

I feel that without writing, my life would be an endless stream of fleeting events and ephemeral thoughts that would rarely lead to anything. I want to feel in control of my thoughts, and writing gives me this control. And this from someone who thinks there is no free-will – at least not as many of us normally think of it. I want (ok – this organism has a biological urge) to learn something from the electrical impulses that flit through my brain. The biological mush between my ears doesn’t have the appropriate fidelity when it comes to recording ideas. We need other tools.

How many of us who are parents have held on to the treasures that are the school work of our children.

My father was keen on electronics in its early days. I have a notebook of his, with jottings and drawings. It’s not prose. My wife has notes and the odd letter of her mother’s, tucked into her mother’s bible. They’re the only writings we have from them, and as little as they are they are valuable to us. It seems so little. But, archaeologists drool over any fragment from the past of human inscription – even if it’s only the scraping of lines on a bone. We take what we can get.

How many are lucky enough to have family treasures of writings from dead parents or grand parents, or even ancestors you never knew? How many are published? What does it feel like to be a descendant of Darwin, for example?

Transcribing our thoughts, from cave paintings, through hieroglyphs, to writing as we know it, has been maybe the greatest invention of human beings. Writing has given us the capacity to do more than simply conceive of continuity. It has made it real for each of us, within our personal lives; and for some it has made them effectively immortal, at least to others if not themselves.