KCL Libertarians’ Statement on ‘Endangered Speeches’ Event

We write to you at a paramount time where attempted censorship on campus is no longer looming in the shadows but is vividly on display in one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

This afternoon’s event entitled ‘Endangered Speeches’ is due to be hosted by the King’s College London War Studies Department, featuring a conversation between Dr. Joanna Williams, as its guest speaker, and Professor Michael Rainsborough who heads the War Studies Department. The conversation is advertised to assess the contentions surrounding the debate over free speech at university campuses. Ultimately, as outlined, the debate aims to ‘explore the dimensions of the debate’ and allow students to cultivate their own understanding and widen their perspective.

We are extremely concerned, but also unsurprised in light of recent events, that elements within the university have attempted to curtail Dr Williams’ free speech on campus and sought to pressurise the university to rescind its invitation and publicly apologise over dubious grounds. It seems that these individuals and societies would rather not have a debate at all, instead citing platitudes that they have the moral high ground, thus those who disagree with them should not be permitted to speak on campus. Disagreeing with Dr Joanna Williams is something we couldn’t encourage more, but rather than coming to the event and challenging her ideas within the Q&A, those seeking to cancel the event would rather the guest speaker not be heard at all.

In an absurd statement issued by the KCL Intersectional Feminist Society, but also backed up by 144 other students in a variety of departments across the university, the case was furthered that due to Dr Joanna Williams’ supposed opposition to women (despite, of course, being a woman herself), trans and non-binary people, students on campus will be put in danger of ‘harm’. As one line states explicitly, ‘not supporting women, trans, and non-binary people kills, and Williams knowingly endorses this.’ Without knowledge of who Dr Joanna Williams is, one could only assume after reading the statement that she believes in men ruling over women and the encouragement of the suicide of trans people. Not only is this deception, it is a vivid exemplification of a smear campaign to shut down discussion, force feed students only one given narrative and prevent them from hearing a different point of view. Make no mistake, this is no different from the procedure followed in academic institutions within the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century when an opinion that differed from the regime propaganda was espoused. In this way, those attempting to cancel this event are more in harmony with the ‘fascists’ they are supposedly trying to battle against than the supposed liberators they claim to be.

More importantly, we were extremely disappointed to learn that the Student Union, a body elected by students to represent students’ interests, came to the defence of those hell-bent on de-platforming Dr Joanna Williams. In a statement, the KCLSU expressed ‘solidarity’ with those restricting the free exchange of ideas on campus and expressed concern and disappointment at her potential presence. In truly ironic fashion, they claimed that this event ‘only serves as a platform for a harmful speaker, as opposed to truly addressing the issue of free speech on campus.’ If a Student Union doesn’t have the intellectual fortitude to fathom that harmful speech counts as free speech, we must be prepared for very dark times ahead. What kind of precedent does that set? When anything that is subjectively perceived to offend any single person becomes the litmus test for an idea to be shut down, what speech will be left to be heard? It is clear to see that the Student Union’s backing of this anti-free speech crusade will only limit the band of accepted speech, and that is severely dangerous. (To read the statement, follow this link: https://www.kclsu.org/news/article/6015/Statement-on-quotEndangered-Speechquot-event/)

In the interests of the future of students and our educational instructions that we all hold so dear, we call on the Student Union to retract its statement which aims to restrict students’ exposure to more ideas on campus. If this demand is not met, we will be forced to take further action within our rights as students by holding our representatives to account.

Whether you agree with Dr Joanna Williams or not, and we certainly do not endorse everything she stands for, free speech will soon dry up at the source if we do not stand up for the right of those who disagree with us to convey their ideas.

Join the battle to preserve free speech with our nationwide Free to Speak campaign (FaceBook, Twitter) and protect the free flow of ideas, no matter which side of the political spectrum they originate from, on university campuses. Free speech is already being curtailed on campuses, and it’s time we woke up before they come for your speech.

 

Danny Al-Khafaji – President of the KCL Libertarian Society and Director of Free to Speak

Georgia Leigha – Vice President of KCL Libertarian Society

Tamara Berens – Communications Director of KCL Libertarian Society

Danielle Kleinerman – Events Organiser of KCL Libertarian Society

Eberle Miller – Treasurer of KCL Libertarian Society

How to usher in a new golden age of science without spending a penny

Many years ago, the wise king Jafar of Serendip spared no expense in the education of his three sons. He called in the best tutors and scientists from around the world to prepare his sons to be rulers, but soon realized that books and teachers would not be enough. The sons would have to depart the kingdom on a journey of discovery in foreign lands to find knowledge and wisdom not contained in any book.

So begins the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, which through Horace Walpole gave rise to the term serendipity –  accidental but fortunate discoveries in science unrelated to the goal of the study. Although the meaning of the term in later years has shifted somewhat into implying a large degree of luck (perhaps a sign of envy from competitors), the process of incidental discovery is no mystery. In fact, it is inevitable that hard work and a deeper understanding of a complex system, along with new data and observations, opens new avenues and insights. There is no doubt that luck can be a major factor, as in the case of Alexander Fleming waking up one morning to find his agar plates contaminated by a mould which eradicated any nearby bacteria. That mould was later identified as penicillin, which brought on a revolution in medicine and finally swung the long battle between humans and bacteria into our favour. Similarly, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity by leaving a photographic plate overnight in a box. In both cases, their hard work and diligence allowed them to capitalise fully on lucky circumstances which would have passed many of us by.

Sometimes, serendipitous discoveries result in billion dollar industries, as in the case of a marker protein used in almost every microbiological experiment since the 70s, which was a consequence of a modestly funded study of luminescent jellyfish. Once the principles of the molecule were understood, industry quickly enhanced the product with an efficiency only a market economy can provide.

There are also some commercial enterprises whose primary products are serendipitous. One very interesting example of this is the Fraunhofer Institute, as you may recognise as the inventors of the mp3 audio format. Their main source of income is to perform research on a bespoke level for external clients, and as a consequence, they have amassed a considerable range of patents in virtually every field they operate in.

Previously, I have argued that public funding of science is a waste, and that the human and financial resources would be better allocated elsewhere (i.e. not allocated at all), so wouldn’t that imply that scientific advances would be halted when funding dries out? Perhaps not at all, as long as the resources of other actors were freed up and invested into research. One way to achieve this is by removing costly and inefficient regulations on industry. The best example of the massive overheads of regulation is the cost of developing a new drug. On average, US pharma companies must be prepared to gamble $2 billion for each new drug development. As bad as that sounds, it is actually worse since the drug may still not be approved or commercially viable. Most of this cost is due to draconian FDA regulations, which in the true spirit of statism are intended to protect the populace, but whose effects are instead to deny them risky but potentially efficient drugs.

Let’s say that regulatory costs were cut, freeing up a billion dollars per drug. What would pharma do with these extra funds? Most likely, they will invest it back into research and development. Some of these funds would even open up a sector of businesses who specialize in a specific field but who operate similarly to the Fraunhofer Institute. If for instance a drug company needed genetic screening based on fruit flies, it would be more profitable for them to outsource the study to a business specializing in it than to set up an in-house facility. The diligent fruit fly business would perform the study, deliver the results, and also potentially develop products of their own based on serendipitous discoveries, elevating them to proper pharma companies in their own right. And it doesn’t end there – perhaps the fruit fly business needs support from another business focusing on yeast, and perhaps that work leads to further discoveries and so on ad infinitum.

The economic gains of opening up the market for bespoke research companies similar to the Fraunhofer is a strong enough argument in itself, but there are also other benefits that are harder to quantify. First, scientific support companies have to produce real and replicable results in order to maintain their good reputation and gain more clients. As I have argued previously, academia does not. Second, the incentive to pursue a scientific career would be based on market forces rather than political decisions. Fewer scientists would be trapped in dead end careers and held back by the altruism prevalent in academia. Third, it would derail predatory academic journals, fraudulent results and politicised science, shifting the currency of research from publications, grants and ideology to actual concrete results.

The three princes of Serendip walk among us every day. They represent the inquisitive and creative nature of humans, but they are stifled by regulations, politics and the altruism of academia. Let them roam fully free and unfettered, and we will usher in a new golden age of science unlike anything in history.

 

 

Sean Hooper speaks tonight 13 November at the Two Chairmen.

Why is Fascism is Considered More Evil Than Communism

We have all seen it happen and some of us may even be guilty of doing this ourselves. If two individuals are having a particularly nasty argument about politics it is almost inevitable that somebody is going to get called a fascist. Quite what that means exactly is hard to ascertain. Those on the political left call fascism’s authoritarian strong state tendencies. Yet, whatever your preferred political stance happens to be. We all seem to be able to agree that being a fascist is a bad thing.

Aside from a handful of deranged individuals the default ideological staring point of pretty much every person that opens their mouths to expresses a political opinion today is that they are definitely not a fascist. And this is for a good reason.

The brutal fascist regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were responsible for piling up dead bodies on a scale unknown to humanity before that point. This is before we begin to count the tens of millions more who died on the battlefields of the second world war that was fought (among other things) to bring down fascism.  But there is a puzzling fact here. There were not one but two murderous ideologies from the twentieth century that have the blood of millions of people on their hands. The first being fascism, the second being communism.

This presents us with a puzzling state of affairs. Fascism is rightly regarded as taboo. As I mentioned above, calling yourself a fascist or even harboring empathy for fascism bars you from entering any meaningful civilized political discourse.  And yet the same rule does not apply for communism.

In fact there are a great many people today who openly express their sympathy for the ideals of communism. The rather shocking sentiments that are expressed in this article  in The Guardian are quite common place in socialist circles.  This is even more difficult to explain when we compare the body count of the two ideologies. Nazi Germany killed six million Jews during the Holocaust. This increases to around ten million if we include Soviet POW’s, Poles, Gypsies and Homosexuals.

On this metric communism is by far the worse ideology. During the terrible reign of Joseph Stalin the estimated death toll ranges from around 15 million all the way to 25 million. And that was at the behest of just one leader. If we include Chairman Mao: 45 million, Pol Pot: around 2 million, Kim Jong Un & Kim Il Sung: around 3 million the loss of life at the hands of communist regimes becomes truly staggering. And this is far from an exhaustive list of the communist leaders of the twentieth century. Moreover, while fascism has only been put into practice in two countries communism has been tried in over 20; all with grimly predictable results. Nor has communism been a fantastic economic success. Communist countries have traditionally lagged behind their capitalist and mixed economy counterparts to put it mildly.

So why is wearing a swastika generally understood to be grounds for making somebody a pariah while communism or an affiliation with communism is for the most part accepted?

There are some plausible theories for why this may be the case. The first is the idea that because the allies won the Second World War fascism is discredited whereas communism was the ideology of one of the victors. There is some logic in this. The fact that so many of our countrymen lost their lives fighting Hitler and Mussolini makes fascism not only a barbaric ideology but thoroughly unpatriotic. But this ignores the events that took place straight after Hitler unloaded the contents of his pistol into his cranium deep inside his Berlin bunker. The cold war began as soon as world war two ended. Where WWII lasted for six years the Cold War simmered for just under five decades. Add to this the fact that a nuclear armed USSR was just as much an existential threat to the western world as Hitler’s Wehrmacht was. I reckon that we have a fairly convincing case that fascism is no more unpatriotic than communism.

Another possible explanation for why communism is still deemed morally acceptable is that our count

ry is awash with genuine communists. Perhaps such a large number of people endorse what Mao, Stalin and Khrushchev did that it would be impossible to paint communism with the same stigma as fascism. There might be some more mileage in this. Indeed, last year when the centenary of the Russian Revolution rolled around people described Lenin and his fellow Soviets in fawning terms as ‘revolutionaries’.

But despite the obvious appeal communism still has for many I don’t find this explanation particularly convincing. To give credit where credit is due apart from the small die hard cadres of the  hard-left (useful idiots to use Stalin’s term for them) the savage realities of life under Soviet rule lost the USSR its appeal to western left wingers somewhere in the 1960s. After this the left adjusted itself just enough so that the charge of “Soviet lackey” wouldn’t stick. An endeavor in which they were largely successful. Even today very few left wing people profess to be dyed in the wool communists. As I write this article the Communist Party of Britain has just over 700 members… This is hardly enough comrades to sway national opinion.

I believe the real reason that the hammer and sickle does not convey as much dread as the death head should leave us feeling much less comfortable. But first we need to understand a little bit about both ideologies.

I agree with Johnathon Meades. Fascism is now a meaningless term. This is in part because it has been used as a catch-all political slur rather than an objective statement of fact. Surely the sight of black clad, masked thugs assaulting political opponents whilst somehow claiming to be ‘anti-fascists’ is proof enough that fascism is a rather loose term to say the least.

But even during its heyday fascism was a mess of contradictions. Let us focus solely on Nazi Germany for a moment. It was radically modernist whilst steeping itself if folk tales and ancient Germanic lore. It was an aggressive expansionist country while at the same time being isolationist in its outlook. Hitler spent a decade establishing a strong centralized state that ultimately proved chaotic and ineffective when confronted with the challenge of invading an almost pathetically unprepared USSR. These sorts of contradictions are even present in fascist Italy. Mussolini commissioned some of the most monumental modernist architecture in Europe by drawing heavily on ancient Roman themes. Anyway, you get the idea.

Admittedly this does not give us much to work with and I am by no means an expert on the subject. Sure enough any attempt to make some kind of sense out of the historical morass of fascism is bound to fall foul of some factoid hidden in the endless pages of literature that have been devoted to fascism in the decades following the second world war. And yet I believe one thing does go at least some way to helping us understand what made Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy tick- fear.

If we look closely at the history of the two fascist regimes I believe fear is a common factor. This is not to paint the twin fascist dictators as merely frightened children, far from it. Powerful and violent emotions are born out of fear; hatred, revulsion, anger, misanthropy etc. Mein Kampf is a book filled with a terrible fear. Fear of betrayal by the Weimar elite, fear of the international ‘Jewry’, fear that the fabled fatherland will be lost at the hands of foreign powers.

It has been said that fascism constitutes a ‘conservative revolution’ and I think this is at least party right. The iconography of Nazi Germany speaks to this negative emotion by restoring order, promoting safety and traditional hierarchy. The photograph of the Reichstag fire, propaganda posters showing the ideal German family huddled together, terrible anti-Semitic pictures of Jews depicted as monsters and films like The Triumph of the Will all played on the fears of ordinary Germans. This is echoed in Fascist Italy where the cult of Il Duce who will keep Italy safe and rally the nation behind him was extremely effective.

So to summarize my view is that at least to some extent fascism owes its success to the ability of the leader to play on the fears of their citizens.

We could perhaps say the same of communism. Communist dictators have never been strangers to using fear of an external enemy or the capitalist class to whip up violence. Fear of the vengeful bourgeoisie has played an important role in communist propaganda around the world.  Yet, I think the thing that really drives communism is different. The imperative element of communism is hope. Once again, this is not to make communism seem benign. Like fear, hope can be a potent all-consuming impulse that has an abundance of negative outcomes. People who are excessively hopeful can scorn those who try to stand in their way, distrust people who do not share their ambitions and openly ignore evidence that may prove their desires impossible. This subtle but crucial difference goes some way to differentiating the two monster ideologies of the twentieth century.

 

If we compare the propaganda of the Soviet Union to that of the Third Reich this difference is clear to see. The outpouring of art that followed the ascension of Vladimir Lenin to the upper echelons of the Russian Empire is awash with bountiful fields, smiling peasant girls, rose cheeked proletarians and well-fed iron jowled soldiers. The propaganda looks very different because the emotion that the USSR’s leaders played on was very different. You only have to compare the Nuremberg rally to the Soviet Parade of Athletics. Even as the capitalist countries enjoyed the economic prosperity brought by the post war boom the Soviets were almost certain that it would only be a matter of time before the standard of living in the USSR would outpace those of the USA, spoiler alert- they never did.

 

It is this hope that has helped communist regimes stagger on for so long after political fratricide and economic disaster. Commitment to the illusion that things were ‘getting better’ defined the public facade of the Soviet elite from the 1960s onward. In Bill Curtis’ brilliant documentary Hypernormalisation he describes a bizarre state of affairs where everybody in the eastern bloc knew that the old communist economies were failing and yet, nobody was allowed to state this out loud. They were living in a sort of alternate reality where the only permissible sentiment one could express was faith in the communist system.

I believe this hopeful aspect of communism explains what is arguable one of the strangest political phenomena of our age: the firm belief by many that “communism has never really been tried.” Or “it wasn’t real communism.”

How can we have a state of affairs where a political system has been tried and failed miserably in a wide variety of different nations across almost every single continent but people still cling to the belief that it might actually work? The answer has to be hope. Ultimately communism is draws sustenance from following formula:

If we can just get people to do X then Y will follow. If Y is a positive or necessary goal then any amount of coercion to make people do X is justified.

This is why I think so many people are willing to give communism a pass whilst fascism is deemed beyond the pale. When most historians discuss fascism they quite rightly talk frame it as a reaction to something. Like a diamond buried deep underground, fascism is formed by the crushing pressure of powerful social forces whereas communism is something different. The political system that emerged after the Russian Revolution was part reaction to the hardships sustained by The Great War but after the gunshots of civil war died down it became a utopian project to create a better future. You can take that idea with as much salt as you feel would be appropriate. Whether Lenin, Stalin or Mao really cared much about the fate of their countrymen can be debated. However, the utopian aspect of communism is certainly how the ideology was sold to the unlucky masses who now found themselves under collectivist rule.

The real reason then why communism is not as maligned as fascism is to put it bluntly that we have learned our lesson from fascism but not from communism. The basic belief that forcing individuals to do things because the outcome would be desirable by a certain number of people (the end justifies the means if you like) is still a very important feature of our current political arrangement. Waking up to this fact would be a hugely positive step. I am not the only person to have made this point. Jordan Peterson has made an appeal to members of the political left to define ‘when the left wing doctrine has gone too far’ but to no avail. Similarly Albert Camus famously quipped that the left is really more of a religion than a political ideology.

There have been a small number of socialists who have woken up to this fact George Orwell being chief among them. But for the 21st century socialist movement moderation seems to be tantamount to treason.  We see the logic of semi-theocratic hopefulness regardless of the costs being regurgitated by the postmodernist left. The thinly veiled contempt that Theodore Adorno had for the American working class for caring about bowling, fast cars and TV more than the class war could well be interpreted as Adorno’s anger that the people he was supposed to be fighting for did not share his hopeful Frankfurt School ambitions. Indeed, when the postmodernist left talks about society being nothing more than a power struggle all sorts of violent ends become justified in the hope that they will help society reach he promised land.

This should be a sobering thought for all of us. The logic of the ends justifying the means is not limited to the radical left. Given the fact that the basic principle of forcing people to do X because Y is desirable is widely put into practise in our political system I believe that we run the real risk of brining in an ideology that looks very similar to communism. That will bring equally devastating results. As long as only a tiny few are willing to stand up for the rights of individuals to do as they wish and rely on the beauty of socioeconomic networks as agents of progress rather than resorting to  the blunt force of legislation than I see no ideological barrier to retreating back into authoritarianism.

Facebook purges libertarian(ish) accounts

Libertarians, mostly Americans, on Facebook are frantically working through the details of a mass ban of Facebook Pages maintained by organisations in the libertarian-conservative part of the spectrum.

One user posted this “working list” of affected accounts to another libertarian’s wall:

The Free Thought Project – 3.1 million fans
The Anti-Media – 2.1 million fans
Police the Police – 1.9 million fans
Cop Block
Filming Cops
Policing the Police
Cop Logic
Rachel Blevins
End the Drug War
V is For Voluntary
TheAnonNews
Legalizing Cannabis Hemp
End the War on Drugs
Anonymous News
Get Involved, You Live Here
Dan Dicks – 350,000 fans
Political Junkie News Media – 300,000 fans
Murica Today – 180,000 fans
Choice & Truth – 2.9 million fans
You won’t see this on TV – 172,000 fans
Modern Slavery Hilarious Vines – 129,000 fans
Fuck the Government – 168,000 fans
Punk Rock Libertarians – 190,000 fans

Also blocked were Peaceful Anarchism, Liberty One and The Truth Is Viral.

I am not personally subscribed to these pages, I am not vouching for them or identifying them as libertarian or as anything else. I prefer to limit my consumption of social media, but I have certainly heard of many of them.

Some sound a bit bonkers, others seem to have been doing important work which anyone should recognise as valuable in a democracy. It is possible Facebook has some evidence that they were up to something? There seems to be an issue with pages being “forced” to spam for reasons related to Facebooks algorithms.

I’m asking you a question: have you been tuning into these pages and what do you think is going on? Are some of these legit targets based on some criteria of public safety that you feel is valid? Or are they legitimately operated venues of dissenting opinion which is being squashed?

Aren’t Right Wing People Just A Bunch Of Racists?

There was a particularly interesting documentary on Radio 4 this week (link below) about why so few ethnic minority voters are happy to vote Tory called ‘Operation Black Vote’. According to this program, in the last general election the Conservatives received a smaller portion of the ethnic minority vote than Donald Trump did during the 2016 presidential election.

There were some similarly alarming facts all the way through the program:

  • Once an area becomes more then 30% non-white. It becomes essentially impossible for the Tories to win that seat.
  • 70%-80% of the non-white vote goes to the Labour party
  • Being perceived as ‘anti-immigrant’ has a massive knock on effect on the amount of young voters a party attracts.

Although the program was focused on the Conservative party, and I do not support the Conservatives. Being the insufferable optimist that I am,I thought that there were some positive things to take away from this insightful documentary.

We are often left to believe (by those on the left and right) that a pro individual freedom and pro capitalist message simply does not wash with ethnic minorities. One of the things that this short doc made clear is that this simply is not true.

Almost by definition immigrants and the children of immigrants are often eager to improve their lot in life. For many of the interviewees, the Conservative message mattered very little. What mattered more was the perception of the Conservative party. The legacy of Enoch Powell, ‘the cricket test’ and opposition to migration all contribute to make the Tory brand toxic for many minority voters.

But more importantly the idea that certain ‘kinds’ of people are just not receptive to free market ideas is one that I think should be challenged.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m0000nn3

Speaker Profile: Tom Walker

Many libertarian activists will know Tom from his consistent presence at think tank and meetup events and his writing at Backbencher, the ASI Blog and Telegraph Refresh. He helps the European branch of the Ayn Rand Institute to arrange events in communication with the other UK objectivist organisations.

Professionally Tom is a planning consultant and is therefore well placed to speak on the prospects for New Towns under consideration in England. Tom speaks at the Two Chairmen tonight in Westminster.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Appointment is a Low Moment for Democracy

Imagine for a second that you are Chinese…

You are sat there in your apartment in the outskirts of Chongqing contemplating whether transitioning from a totalitarian state to a democracy would be a good idea.  For decades those people in countries like Britain, America and Australia have been telling you that things would be much  better if you could vote. But given the event that has just transpired in the USA, I seriously wonder whether many Chinese would come to the conclusion that becoming a democracy would be worth the effort.

This weekend we saw the conclusion on the Brett Kavanaugh saga. Having watched his car crash of an appearance in front of a senate panel, regarding his alleged sexual misconduct there should be little doubt in our minds that this man is unsuitable for a seat on Americas supreme court.

Regardless of your political position the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is a disaster. Although I am an anarchist at heart- I value democratic institutions. Bringing such a partisan individual into a body that is designed to be impartial, respected and uphold the US constitution makes a mockery of such democratic institutions.

One of the most worrying things about the Brett Kavanaugh nomination is the polarization it has caused in American society. If you are Republican-you love him, Democrat- you hate him. Sadly, this seems to be a worrying trend. Across the United States there is an awful lot of political football going on. Perhaps it is time to start thinking about reducing the amount of power a centralizing government has over society. If for no other reason than to let out some steam (or maybe that should be ‘hot air’).