It is time to nudge government back in its place

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Even before the publication of the Behavioural Insights Team’s Applying behvioural insight to health, it was hard to ignore the number and variety of social experiments reported last year.

Here are some examples:

Yale University experiment to assess The Moral Life of Babies

The experiment involved asking toddlers (6-18 months) to choose between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters in puppet shows.  In itself it sounds harmless enough, as it simply observes behaviour – but some of Bloom’s conclusions may not be.  He writes: ‘when individuals and societies aspire toward an enlightened morality — one in which all beings capable of reason and suffering are on an equal footing, where all people are equal — they are fighting with what children have from the get-go.’

See also Babies can tell good people from bad.

Group behaviour experiment[4]

Starts with the idea that ‘our natural, genetic instinct is to behave in an altruistic and supportive way if we witness someone being attacked. So if, in modern society, we fail to do so, something would appear to have gone badly wrong.’  The program went on to develop the idea that people act, or don’t act, according to group relationships, using first the military then football fans as examples.  It examines ways of making groups ‘as inclusive as possible’, citing this as the responsibility of legislators and authors of social policy.

Neuro-education experiment at Histon & Impington infant school[5]

Aims to obtain an ‘understanding of the underlying processes of the developing brain,’ aided by ‘our ability to see inside the brain using scanners.’  And according to contributor Paul Howard Jones teachers ‘are the professionals that are in charge of changing the connectivity and structure of their children’s brains on a daily basis’.  The concept of ‘reward consistency’ (‘games-based learning’) is discussed, with the conclusion that ‘uncertain reward’ is more motivating.  Usha Goswami predicts that neuroscience will provide ‘biological markers for learning difficulties like autism or for dyslexia, and we we know very early on who was more at risk… and then enrich the environment in ways that… might make a difference to the whole developmental trajectory’.  Goswami acknowledges that there are ethical issues.

 

What is the point of these experiments?  Why are there so many?

On the surface the first two may sound like socialist propaganda, designed to demonstrate collectivist instincts and support a multiculturalist agenda.  But looking at the conclusions, they may be something quite different.  For example, is the idea to ‘fight what children have from the get-go’ in order to manufacture the ‘enlightened morality’ to which Bloom refers?  How?  And will legislators and social scientists be able to change group behaviour to make groups as inclusive as possible?  How?

The third experiment might seem distasteful, as it is an experiment on very young children.  Also, however, it may provide answers to both of these ‘hows?’ by looking at how to change the connectivity and structure of children’s brains, testing a reward system which would seem perverse even to the more wordly-wise, and finally by providing a ‘scientific’ way of identifying problems in the ‘developmental trajectory’ at an early stage.  What will they do then?  Already, quite a lot of children are seized by the state.

 

Who wants this information, and what will they do with it?

Judging from the language used, this research seems to feed into Government masterpieces like the Cabinet Office’s ’nudging’ document[1].  In the very first paragraph, the reader immediately learns that the is ‘irrational’ if he hasn’t insulated his loft, and from then on it gets worse, talking of behaviour change, encouraging social norms, conditioning people.  Opinions will vary about which suggestion is the most Orwellian – my personal favourite is the idea that supermarkets should provide quarterly ‘nutritional profiles’ for their customers.  But could it also be used to determine their eligibility for health care they’ve already paid for?

It even has an interesting lineage, being the result of Labour’s MINDSPACE project.

The Independent[9] and Telegraph[10] provide more detail, but what seems to have been overlooked is that these are all the same ideas as we saw in the experiments above – ideas which are being used to indoctrinate children.

 

Who is under attack?

Top of the list are smokers.  Just as the previous administration tried to ‘denormalise’ them, this one wants to stamp them out altogether.  Making a virtue of intolerance may sound like the language of Nazism, but I suppose the same was true in 1996, when the BMA didn’t seem to mind too much.  In fact, it’s been an interesting exercise: now that we know how easy it is to denormalise, or exclude from society, a significant minority, how much easier would it be with a much smaller group, especially with our new knowledge of group behaviour?  Are any immigrant groups getting lots of bad press at the moment?

Teenage mothers take third place.  Now, I’d agree that it’s not ideal for children to have children, but I’m uneasy about the solutions proposed, to give ‘higher-risk’ girls more teaching about sexuality and relationships, and make them supervise and play with a toddler for a number of hours each week.  What will be the effect – to make them want never to have children?  Is this desirable?  Will they be offered sterilisation (yes, it is still mentioned) afterwards?  And whose child will they supervise?  Does no-one ever think of dropping sex education in some schools?

Then there’s diabetes.  The idea here is that children should have fun with a Bayer Didget pin-prick blood-sampling device which connects to their Nintendo Gaming System.  Not just that, but they can join a fun Web community with it too.  Could this be a health risk?  Do parents have control over what data this machine sends when it is connected?

Food, diet, alcohol and organ donation also get a mention, but the last one which really got my attention was The Piano Stairs In Stockholm.  Incredibly, there are lots of adults who will stop using the lift and walk up stairs instead, just to hear some childish plonking noises.  To begin with it was a 66% increase… and then more followed them!  Now, that is worrying – and I’m not being sarcastic.  If so many are so easily amused by so little, it suggests they must be a bit on the ‘vulnerable’ side – in less politically correct times, we might have called it ‘soft in the head’.  And when others follow like sheep, what does that say about us?  How easily might we be conditioned by people who want to manipulate group behaviour in a bad way?

 

The model society

The ideas contained in the Behavioural Insights Team’s document sound uncomfortably close to someone’s belief in the ‘perfectibility of mankind’ or ‘model society’. Have the people behind it forgotten the kind of regimes which tried this in the mid-20th century, and the hell that it led to?

And when we read of experimental treatments[12] and sterilisations[13] being forced on people the state deems not mentally healthy enough, we could wonder whether there are more parallels with the past.

It is sad – and frightening – that some people still think that way.

 

Links

[1] Cabinet Office, Behavioural Insights Team Dec-2010 Applying behavioural insight to health

[2] Paul Bloom New York Times 5-May-2010 The Moral Life of Babies

[3] James Randerson The Guardian 22-Nov-2007 Babies can tell good people from bad

[4] Nick Ross BBC 13-Sep-2010 Walk On By

[5] Claudia Hammond BBC 29-Mar-2010 Inside the Brain of a Five-Year-Old

[6] Philippe N. Tobler, John P. O’Doherty, Raymond J. Dolan, Wolfram Schultz Jouranl of Neurophysiology 22-Nov-2006 Reward Value Coding Distinct From Risk Attitude-Related Uncertainty Coding in Human Reward Systems

[7] Christopher Booker Daily Telegraph 30-Oct-2010 Child protection: MPs must act on the scandal of seized children

[8] Institute for Government MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy

[9] Martin Hickman The Independent 3-Jan-2011 Nudge, nudge, wink wink… How the Government wants to change the way we think

[10] Brendan O’Neill Daily Telegraph 4-Jan-2011 Nick Clegg’s sinister nannies are ‘nudging’ us towards an Orwellian nightmare

[11] Robert N. Proctor BMJ Dec-1996 The anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis: a little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933-45

[12] Tim Ross Daily Telegraph 20-Oct-2010 Judge tells doctors they can enforce treatment on mentally ill woman

[13] Martin Beckford Daily Telegraph 28-May-2010 Secret Court of Protection can order abortions and sterilisations of mentally ill patients

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Someone should throw the book at The Guardian’s film reviewer

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Rowan Joffé’s remake of Brighton Rock isn’t a remake, according to The Guardian’s film reviewer. ‘S/he’ writes that ‘Rather than taking his cue from the 1947 classic he returned directly to Graham Greene’s novel, and, re-setting the story in the 60s, formed a towering study of female suffering.’

I’m not sure ‘a towering study of female suffering’ was what Greene had in mind, and to be fair, the Guardian’s main review seems to recognise this, yet concludes that ‘if it [the 1947 film] was a masterpeice, then so is this.’

Of course, that’s just The Guardian’s opinion, but I doubt I’ll be rushing out to see the film. Whether or not the 1947 film was a masterpiece, it at least tried to interpret the author’s thoughts on faith, loyalty and secularism; the reviewer seems to be saying that the Mod-ridden remake in a ’60s setting tries to twist this into a comment on long-suffering womanhood against a background of tackiness and mediocrity. I’ll be surprised if they do that in 88 minutes – the length of the 1947 film.

Perhaps there would be some merit in testing Greene’s original thoughts in a 1960s setting, but I doubt The Guardian would want to review that. If their interpretation is correct, then this sounds like something more sinister than rewriting history – it is an attempt to rewrite thought.

‘Nothing very straightforward’ at Yaroslavl global junket

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Some might think – though I don’t – that nine years ago there was some excuse for men not to see the direction in which the world was going.  Today, the evidence is so blatant that no excuse can be claimed by anyone any longer.  Those who refuse to see it now are neither blind nor innocent.

Ayn Rand, Foreword to Anthem (1946 edition)

Nothing is very straightforward these days.

Dmitry Medvedev

Mention ‘global government’, and you can expect a good drubbing as a ‘conspiracy theorist’.  Mockery is a hugely successful technique: even Orwell’s porcine bully Napoleon could silence reasonable views when he had noisy enough sheep to support him.  That said, some seasoned journalists can get away with it, for example the Telegraph’s Janet Daley, or more recently MEP Daniel Hannan, who just crossed swords with pro-globalisation Federal Union.

So given EU president Herbert van Rompouy’s declaring 2009 the ‘first year of global governance’, it would have been nice to find some comment in European newspapers about Yaroslavl 2010, the second Global Policy Forum (or about the forthcoming one in Bali).  I searched the Telegraph, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and WordPress… and all I got was a Russia-bashing Guardianista.

Maybe that’s not so surprising.  Though we are constantly bombarded with Global Warming and Global Economy rhetoric, and school children are taught about the challenges of being Global Citizens (rather than those of long division), we hear very little of the organisations behind the globalist agenda.

All the same, there’s quite a nest of them, for example:

World Federalist Movement 1947
  • aims to create global order
  • dedicated to ensuring democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world
Federal Union 1938
  • member of WFM
  • campaigns for federalism for the UK, Europe and the world
One World Trust 1951
  • affiliated to WFM
  • founded by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for World Government
Global Policy Forum 1993
  • policy watchdog that monitors the work of the UN and scrutinises policy-making
  • tax-exempt consultative organisation
  • concerned with Security Council, global economy, international law

We may wonder how such organisations ever came to exist.  At first glance, they may appear harmless and have UN connections, but their chronology might just as easily point to some unannounced post-war settlement; and the fact that they hold forums to discuss ‘global policy’ suggests they wield real power.  I say ‘power’ because I doubt whether mere influence would be sufficient to explain why we seem to get more or less the same policies, no matter which party we elect.

One might even argue that the redistributionist, internationalist views expressed on some of their web-sites have common ground with the aims of the COMINTERN, but to do so would be futile.  Not only would it be nigh impossible to prove, it completely misses the point.

The real concern is that a very small group of people seem to have accumulated a great deal of power under cover, and elected politicians of all persuasions seem to continue this process.  History shows us what can happen when power lies in the hands of a small ‘elite’: those who have acquired such power look down upon their creation and see that it is not at all good; then, imagining themselves to be the will (or ‘political wing’) of the people, they set about improving it – which tends to involve removing people they don’t want.  When ‘sustainability’ is such a fashionable word, it is chilling to imagine how the kind of people who want such power might go about making the global population ‘sustainable’.

In a post-conference address, President Medvedev sounded pleased that Yaroslavl 2010 took place more openly than some other behind-the-scenes international discussions.  Perhaps this is welcome, but it would be useful to have a lot more openness about what redefinitions of democracy our politicians plan to discuss at an international level before we elect them.

However, who could dispute Medvedev’s statement: ‘Nothing is very straightforward these days’?  All democracies, including Russia’s, have their faults.  And sometimes it may be better to live with these and let things take their natural course, than to allow the GPF or their sister organisations to influence how any free country – recent or long-established – is run.

Related

Russia Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum 2010 The Modern State: Standards of democracy and criteria of efficiency

Russia Today 3-Sep-10 World leaders gather at Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl

Boris Volhonsky Voice of Russia 10-Sep-10 Yaroslavl: a new global brand

Russia Today 9-Sep-10 “Global security is not about helping mankind” – Russian analyst

Alexander Bratersky, Natalya Krainova Moscow Times 10-Sep-10 Kremlin critics get a voice at ‘Russian Davos’ (£)

Russia Today 11-Sep-10 Yaroslavl celebrates 1000th birthday as Global Policy Forum ends

Russia Today 11-Sep-10 Yaroslavl forum has worked out well – Dmitry Medvedev

5-Jun-10 Bilderberg meeting in Sitges

Green dreams in Nottingham

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When redistributionist Robin Hood went out robbing those he had a grudge against, he knew that green made the best camouflage, even though red might have been more honest.  After he was granted an estate in the mid-fourteenth century he shunned progressivism, although with the tabloids only interested in the Maid Marion Scandal, little record remains of this U-turn.

In fairness, he was a smooth operator with a good head for spin, and would definitely have been selected for an apparatchik/leadership role with Nottingham City Council, who promise hundreds of nu-jobs – in their green dreams.

East Midlands European Office appointee Graham Chapman, leader of the Labour council, told the Nottingham Post that ‘green energy [would] make [Nottingham] competitive’, and that ‘there is money in waste’.  So obviously he’s a business genius… or perhaps a little disingenuous?

Now, I can’t prove that Chapman came from Mars in the early 1970s, but some serious lunacy did go on back then: remember the spate of UFO sightings, and a lot of talk about scorched earth circles and little green men?  And around then the rag-and-bone man who would take your old cooker or mattress away disappeared from the streets, the scrappy went from under the railway arch, and you couldn’t get sixpence back on your empty lemonade bottles any more?

So that’s what the little green men were really up to.  And what’s more, they took all the common sense, which is probably why, even post-Climategate, these people can still camouflage their internationalist, worldwide workers’ revolution agenda in phrases like ‘the need to address global climate change’.  But only some of it… because they do not demand the cessation of all industry, the only logical conclusion of their arguments.  Instead, they call for ‘international development’ and ‘climate justice’, whilst contriving to destroy industry only in developed countries, with dreamt-up ‘targets’ and ‘carbon trading’ taxes.

In Britain, the so-called laws on all things ‘green’ usually come in the guise of EU diktats (officially called ‘directives’), the people implementing them usually have links to the political extreme left, and the ‘charities’ and pressure groups supporting them mostly (so far as I can tell) describe themselves ‘anti-capitalists’.

Something stinks – and it’s not your local incinerator.  Perhaps the green camouflage is going rancid.

Common Purpose will prosecute critics, warns Sir David Bell

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Common Purpose, the UK-based political ‘charity’ which trains tomorrow’s leaders of society, is having a hissy fit with its critics.

According to CP trustee Sir David Bell, they’re getting a bit tired of ‘negative commentary’.  Sir David writes that ‘They have been accused of everything from running Britain and Europe – and more recently the US – to being a secret brainwashing society. They have also been portrayed as criminals, child abusers, embezzlers of government funds and being spies’.

I don’t know what Sir David’s been reading, so if he sees this, I’d be obliged if he would post a few links.

Organisations who make reference to ‘common purpose’ in their literature, or issue a ‘Statement of Common Purpose’ are ten-a-penny, and include Regional Development Agencies, police forces, health services, local councils and charities.  There are claims, which I understand have undergone some scrutiny, that their presentation material utilises Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques.  And a high incidence of paedophilia among CP ‘graduates’ has been reported.

The last of these is particularly interesting.  Some course attendees state that they were asked to reveal embarrassing personal information at leadership courses under Chatham House rules.  In some cases, the information divulged might have potential to be used to create a sense of camaraderie between those selected for CP leadership training, or even manipulate a government employee in his current role.

Whether NLP amounts to brainwashing is arguable, as is the question of whether remarking on it can qualify as an accusation.  Management, sales and advertising techniques all rely on persuasion, and when people are trained to persuade, does that qualify as NLP?  Or does the description only really apply when laws have been designed to ‘rub in’ some sort of indoctrination, or when the media are used to present a false perception of normality? (And yet, some people refuse to be conditioned, and continue to think and behave as individuals.)

And spies… where did he get that, and who on earth for?  The accusation I have heard was of subversion, of trying to undermine society.  Is society – or at least, confidence in democratic government – undermined when someone is fined for leaving his bin open, whilst a violent attacker is given a police caution?  Or when the nationalised health service which we are all forced to pay for rations its services based on lifestyle choices?  Or when neighbours are urged to denounce each other for benefit fraud, and children report their parents for ‘climate crimes’?

According to Soviet dissident Yuri Bezmenov, subversion or psychological warfare, rather than espionage, was the main task of the KGB, to which British trade unions and socialist parties had tangible links.

So will Sir David be sending out summonses wholesale?  I very much doubt it.  On the whole, I think CP’s lawyers are going to have tough time if they go down the libel route, even in Britain, the libel capital of the world.  I just can’t imagine CP will want to risk relaxing their Chatham House rules to win a case.

That leaves them the option of looking for legal technicalities to silence critics.  It worked in December 2009, when they managed to serve a takedown notice for copyright infringement on cpexposed.com’s hosting service.  The site was back within a month.

Bilderberg meeting in Sitges

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Sometimes portrayed as a ‘shadow world government’, the secretive Bilderberg Group are meeting in Spain this weekend.  Charlie Skelton’s Bilderblog in the Guardian takes a dim view of the whole thing, while the Telegraph’s Iain Hollingshead plays down some of the conspiracy theories.  I’m not sure his colleague Janet Daley would agree.

World government may sound crazy, but EU President Herman van Rompuy seems to think we already have one, and of course there’s the famous Dennis Healey quote: ‘To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair’.

Just a conspiracy theory?

See also:
Russia Today 5-Jun-10 “Conspiracies are spoiled borsch” – Bilderberg skeptic
Charlie Skelton The Guardian 5-Jun-10 Bilderberg 2010: Between the sword and the wall
Roger Boyes, John Carr The Times 14-May-09 Shadowy Bilderberg group meet in Greece — and here’s their address
Russia Today 2-Jun-10 Bilderberg Group “highest form of world government” – Alex Jones