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Last update: 2013-06-20

Making History: John Wilkes Forgotten Hero

2013-06-20

John Wilkes maybe little known today but the battles he fought in the 18th century laid the basis for press freedom in Britain and beyond. In this intriguing report we learn of his debauched antics in the Hellfire caves, how his time imprisoned in the tower of London inspired riots for ‘Wilkes & Liberty’ and of the allegiance he gained from the Sons of Liberty in America. A far cry from today’s Leveson inquiry supporters and press regulators, Wilkes was prepared to go all the way and print whatever he wanted to. Interwoven with archive imagery, street interviews and a breach of privacy for author Mick Hume, the programme packs some punches. Today’s ethical regulators and conformist press could do with a dose of Wilkes’ spirit and allow us, the court of public opinion to read what we want and decide for ourselves what to believe. [...]…

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There is no such thing as a free press

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes

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TV Dinners: Prohibition

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes

In this second episode of WORLDbytes’ TV Dinners, while guests tuck into cheese and cake for dessert, the conversation progresses to drinking and smoking. Interwoven with infamous campaign adverts designed to change our behaviour, diners consider whether the amount we drink and whether we smoke should really be up to us. Special guest Rob Lyons points out, the first thing you get from doctors are questions about your weight, smoking and alcohol consumption which may have absolutely nothing to do with what you have visited them for. Should we have the freedom to make unhealthy choices? If alcohol is a great social lubricant, is binge drinking okay? Is smoking a step too far for our health and should smokers be demonised? All the arguments are chewed over in this compelling short. [...]…

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Don’t Shout at the Telly: Press Freedom

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 2s

Even before the Leveson inquiry the British press had become tame, objectivity ridiculed and a culture of conformism had set in. Joining volunteers on the sofa, Mick Hume author of There is No Such Thing As a Free Press… and we need one more than ever sets the scene. Investigative journalism is facing an ice age, he explains and the ‘buts’ to ‘I believe in press freedom’ are getting louder. Discussants raise their concerns, was the response to phone hacking over the top? Why can’t we say what we think anymore? What about privacy? Do the public know or care? Can we trust the press anyway? Hume’s answers are salutary and his recommendations to create our own media to challenge ideas rather than support regulation or whinge about Murdoch are more than worth taking on board. [...]…

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Telling off the grown ups

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes

Too often adults seem powerless in the face of young people behaving badly. During the 2011 summer riots in the UK, well-equipped police officers looked on impotently. Teachers now complain they no longer have official support to deal with misbehaviour and adults avoid reprimanding misbehaving kids for fear of being accused of abuse. Whether it is smoking, recycling or healthy eating, adults often find themselves under a barrage of criticism, and it is our children who are telling us off. ‘Mum, don’t you know fatty foods are bad for me.’ Do we need to reassert the idea that children should respect their elders and children and young adults do not have the same capacity as adults? This fascinating debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival reveals all. [...]…

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Right to know: opening Pandora’s box?

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Is a cult of transparency causing as many problems as its advocates claim it solves? Critics argue that informal exchanges are inhibited: people have to always be on their guard, wary of giving an honest opinion. Others argue a culture of transparency may actually encourage more secrecy: ‘Text me instead of emailing’; ‘Phone me and I’ll tell you off the record’. Moreover, is the act of making decisions ‘behind closed doors’ really such a bad thing? After all, we value confidentiality when it comes to our own bank statements and medical records. Has the ‘right to know’ reinvigorated the public understanding of how society really works, or simply ‘furred up the arteries’ of organisations and government? Or will transparency, the right to know, help restore trust and accountability in society? Panellists in this Battle of Ideas debate share their expertise. [...]…

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Character: skill or virtue?

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

There has been a resurgence of interest in ‘character’ and how it is formed. Character traditionally was seen as a matter of possessing virtues such as courage and wisdom. Today it is often defined in terms of ‘capabilities’ like resilience, optimism, stoicism, altruism, emotional regulation and so on. Nevertheless, sceptics argue none of these can be taught, but are the outcome of moral choices, life experience, or are simply ‘virtues’. Yet, many are turning to positive psychology and neuroscience for more robust evidence about how to develop character in schools. Should society even be in the business of assessing us as individuals, analysing what character deficiencies we might have? Are schools teaching character in fact practising indoctrination? Or is trying to assist the formation of our character with the latest science no more problematic than toning our muscles in the gym — the equivalent of a moral workout? Filmed at the Battle of Id [...]…

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Organ donation: dead or alive?

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

The ethics of organ transplantation are largely based on ‘brain death’ - the certainty that brain activity is irreversibly over - to allow harvesting of organs from the cadaver while the heart is still beating. But, there is considerable debate about what the ability of the body to survive such a loss might mean for the ethics of organ transplantation. Are we confident in saying that these living bodies are dead? Confident enough to harvest unpaired vital organs from them? Even to presume consent for donation in these cases? Who should pronounce on matters of life and death? Do we trust doctors enough to make the decision for us? Medical ethics boards? Public opinion? Philosophers, theologians, politicians? In this Battle of Ideas debate, we learn that central to this issue is just what we mean by being human and how we value autonomy and free will. Much of our morality rests on a feeling that we should treat a human as an end, never as a means, certainly not as a bag of sp [...]…

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Trust me: I’m a scientist

2013-06-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Policymakers regularly accompany their policy proposals with scientific claims, while campaigners also cite ‘the science’ to further their causes. In 2011, the British Medical Association, as part of its anti-smoking crusade, asserted that smoking in cars generates 23 times more toxins than you would find in a smoky bar. While the figure was impressively frightening, it was also untrue. So rather than the problem being too little trust in science, are too many inclined to trust the science too much? This Battle of Ideas debate filmed at the Barbican addresses the big question, do government, activists and campaigners need to stop hiding behind science and make their arguments in moral and political rather than scientific terms? [...]…

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Blaming troubled families: licensed to parent

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

Immediately after the riots in summer 2011, David Cameron echoed the question many observers had been asking: ‘where were the parents?’ Subsequent calls for an aggressive ‘early intervention’ programme to improve parenting among ‘problem families’ were welcomed across the political spectrum. It is now orthodoxy that what happens in a child’s first five years shapes them for life. So are there some people who shouldn’t be parents at all? Or is it not the place of the state to decide who are good and bad parents, and dictate what are the best outcomes for children? The experts raise the stakes in this illuminating debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas. [...]…

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The Wide Angle: Comedy & the war on terror

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

In this illuminating bar chat, film buffs discuss two of the most insightful comedies of our time, Four Lions and In The Loop. Guest expert and media lecturer Dr Philip Hammond argues that comedy has provided greater insights into the nature of terrorism and the war on terror than straight documentaries and drama. The absurdity, political emptiness and narcissism expressed by the characters in these films captures accurately the nature of both suicide bombers and the war on terror, says Dr Hammond. As the Boston marathon explosions capture our imagination and pose an uncanny resemblance to the plot in Four Lions, Dr Hammond’s point is extremely timely. [...]…

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Social media: good or bad?

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

There are plenty of reasons to champion social media. For some, they played a key role in the Arab uprisings, allowing the unheard to give voice to their struggles. In the West, too, social media are deemed increasingly vital to public life, be it President Obama’s high-profile tweeting strategy, or influential Facebook-driven campaigns. But are social media really such a force for good? Are there downsides as well? Is the private sphere being rendered all too public? What about free speech, twitchunts and kneejerk instantaneous censure online? Or are the criticisms as misplaced as the hype? Filmed at the Battle of Ideas you can use your preferred social media site to add your say. [...]…

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Banning the Brave New World?

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

A Centre for Mitochondrial Research was established this year at Newcastle University. But its proposed techniques cannot be tested in clinical trials without a change in the law, so the government has commissioned a ‘public dialogue’. Such procedures address the feelings prompted by scientific advances, but often also result in substantive moral objections being condescendingly dismissed as the irrational ‘yuck’ reaction. There seems to be scant room for moral or political rather than scientific arguments. What roles should democracy, morality and a grasp of the actual science play in the process of making decisions on such issues? The speakers in this Battle of Ideas science session reveal all. [...]…

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Austerity: here to stay?

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

The election of Francois Hollande as President of France at the same time as the Greek elections in May acted as a rallying call for many eager to reject austerity. Plan A for Austerity was ripped up, and Plan B was on. But should we be posing the question in terms of either austerity or growth? Hard labour or holidays? Many of the rejections of austerity across Europe today seem to have something of a ’stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off’ character to them. Is it irresponsible or just ambitious to argue that we should worry about growth first and (relatively smaller) debts later? This Battle of Ideas debate may provide a wake up call. [...]…

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Epigenetics: are you what your parents ate?

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

A Centre for Mitochondrial Research was established this year at Newcastle University. But its proposed techniques cannot be tested in clinical trials without a change in the law, so the government has commissioned a ‘public dialogue’. Such procedures address the feelings prompted by scientific advances, but often also result in substantive moral objections being condescendingly dismissed as the irrational ‘yuck’ reaction. There seems to be scant room for moral or political rather than scientific arguments. What roles should democracy, morality and a grasp of the actual science play in the process of making decisions on such issues? The speakers in this Battle of Ideas science session reveal all. [...]…

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TV Dinners: Fatminster

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

Join us for a TV Dinner and chew on the government’s obsession with our waistlines. Special guest and author of Panic on a plate, Rob Lyons, pokes more than a few holes in some fat worries. Do we really want Westminster dictating what we eat he asks? Should it even be a government concern? Wouldn’t society be healthier politically if what we put in our mouths was up to us? Promoting healthy diets as NHS money saving, he suggests, is ludicrous, if its a fiscal matter we should thank people whose lifestyles may mean they die young. This is Come dine with me with serious politics and volunteers and guests are not afraid to question Fatminster policies while tucking in to the calories. [...]…

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Do we live in a top-shelf society?

2013-04-27 :: WORLDbytes

Sexually explicit material has always challenged traditional moralists. Since the Sixties, liberal values on sex and sexual relationships became one of the markers of a civilised society. Yet we learn from this debate, filmed at the Battle of Ideas, there is a growing unease that sexually explicit material has become mainstream. Some insist the likes of Rihanna and Katie Perry are simply the latest practitioners of age-old exhibitionism. But have sex and relationships become devalued and is the rush to smash sexual taboos a healthy impulse, or an expression of our unwillingness to exercise good taste? [...]…

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Occupy: illusory radicalism?

2013-03-05

In this debate, filmed at the Battle of Ideas, a panel discuss the Occupy phenomenon. At its various locations, Occupy has issued demands for tighter regulation of banks, a reduction in the level of inequality between rich and poor, greater transparency when it comes to political lobbying, and more broadly, an attack on greed and [...]…

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Drink, smoke, eat: prohibition today

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Statistics for regular church attendance suggest the British have little enthusiasm for religion, but many describe themselves as ’spiritual but not religious’. Is this a half-baked mishmash or a meaningful religious sensibility’, indicating that, even if religious practice has declined, belief has not. Do campaigning atheists overlook an innate propensity for the spiritual? Speakers in [...]…

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Religious or spiritual or neither?

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1m 18s

Statistics for regular church attendance suggest the British have little enthusiasm for religion, but many describe themselves as ’spiritual but not religious’. Is this a half-baked mishmash or a meaningful religious sensibility’, indicating that, even if religious practice has declined, belief has not. Do campaigning atheists overlook an innate propensity for the spiritual? Speakers in [...]…

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The Giants of Asia

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

With their huge populations and growth rates, China and India are two of the economic and technological powerhouses of the twenty-first century. And though many seem to forget it after the Lost Decade, Japan is the third largest economy in the world, the second largest developed economy and the world’s largest creditor nation. Nevertheless, all [...]…

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Born this way?

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

For many, the idea that being gay is not a choice is key to the fight for equal rights. Instances of homosexual behaviour in animals are used as evidence of the naturalness of being gay. Differences in brain structure between gays and straights are employed to further reinforce the idea that sexuality is innate. So [...]…

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Views On The News: Immigration

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

In this thought-provoking programme, volunteers consider the arguments for open borders and ask whether there is a generation gap on attitudes towards immigration.Being positive about immigration, we learn, has become a badge of moral superiority and is used to admonish a supposedly bigoted white working class for being anti-migrant and work-shy.This is not a by-product of immigration to the UK but a result of its use by an elite who consider the masses in need of behaviour modification and migrants in need of strict control. Without open borders, Saleha Ali argues, we cannot claim we have freedom. [...]…

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Illuminating the Middle Ages

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

Historically, our understanding of the Middle Ages has tended to be coloured by the ‘Dark Age’ label, which casts this as a time of cultural famine and stagnation in contrast to the Renaissance and our Classical heritage. Yet medievalists insist the era has a wealth of thought, art and culture to rival that of any [...]…

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Manufacturing: the great comeback?

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Manufacturing has long been argued to be the heart of any modern economy. It produces valuable exports, boosts the balance of trade, provides skilled jobs and generates even more jobs in supporting service sectors. Yet many developed economies have seen the weight of manufacturing in their economies decrease since the 1970s, relative to services and [...]…

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Open Borders: Vivita’s story

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

Born in Kuwait but never a citizen, for Vivita travelling across the world to work is normal. British passport holders have more freedom to travel than anyone else she points out, yet they don’t and they prefer to stay in a small place. Vivita loves London but is unimpressed by the British NHS and her [...]…

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Open Borders: Tiku’s story

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

Zambia’s dependence on copper, we learn in this short story, left it in a difficult position post-independence and boxed-in. Separated from her better-off husband, Tiku’s mother headed for Britain as an economic migrant and Tiku followed. The search for a good education that will lead to higher paid work, he explains, is what motivates young [...]…

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Open Borders: Tiba’s story

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

Tiba was an asylum seeker from Eritrea. Now married and living in Brixton with beautiful kids in tow, she explains the only racism she has ever experienced has been from the home office. The British public have been welcoming and more generous than they are given credit for. Freedom of movement, she tells us, is [...]…

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Water, water everywhere: not allowed to use it?

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1m 19s

The hosepipe ban introduced in England earlier this year was the signal for it to rain for months on end. Soaked commuters on London platforms faced posters of cracked dry earth stating: ‘none of us can make it rain but we can all use less water’. Should we focus on demand management by encouraging people to limit their consumption of water or would it make more sense to put in place the infrastructure necessary to meet our current consumption needs and even those of future generations? And what of the third world, where lack of access to water can have far more serious implications than a hosepipe ban? What solutions are there to make sure that in the future there is enough water to meet the needs of the whole world? Speakers include: Chris Binnie, Dr. Caspar Hewett, David Lloyd Owen and Andy Wales. [...]…

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Open Borders: Rania’s story

2013-03-05 :: WORLDbytes

Interwoven with a seductive album of engaging family photos, Rania Hafez shares her story of moving across the world, war in Lebanon, Israel’s invasion and rising religiosity. The glamorous Lebanese women in her family remind us that Beirut was once the Paris of the East and not shorthand for war-torn hell-hole that the phrase ‘like Beirut’ conjures up to today. For Rania aeroplanes were like taxis and she hopes cheaper flights will mean more people see more of the world and that she points out, requires ending visa restrictions. [...]…

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Stop the press: the media after Leveson

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

While in principle, everyone supports the idea of a free press, in practice there seems to be ever greater appetite for restraining it. The judgement of history is that a free press is worth having regardless of how venal it sometimes is. Without total freedom of the press, are we jeopardising the role of the [...]…

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What is the truth?

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes

Whether in news, current affairs, documentary or investigative journalism, reporters have traditionally aimed at a degree of objectivity, apprising the facts and checking sources, while public service broadcasters have signed up to the notion of impartiality. Yet many current affairs stories elide subjective views and opinion with news reporting and crusading journalists claim the greater [...]…

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UK RIP?

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes

When the SNP won a majority in the Scottish elections and pledged to hold a referendum on an independent Scotland, doubt was cast on the future of the UK. Yet polls suggest most Scots are against independence, and the SNP victory was about disillusionment with other parties. Those in favour of maintaining the Union however, [...]…

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Atheism: What’s the point?

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes

For many, atheism implies support for such progressive causes as the ‘right to die’ and LGBT equality, human rights and liberal education. But is atheism always the same as ‘humanism’? Are there really such things as atheist values? Aren’t there as many religious people who also have liberal, progressive and humane ideas - especially in [...]…

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Youth today: unemployed or unemployable?

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

With over one million 16-24 year olds currently unemployed in the UK, joblessness among the young is a pressing problem. Nevertheless, unemployment among the young has been here before. In the past people often moved to find work; today a record number of young people remain at home living with their parents. Under New Labour, [...]…

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Lobbyists: the new hidden persuaders?

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Is lobbying, as David Cameron said, ‘the next big scandal waiting to happen’? A series of lobbying controversies suggests so. Industry support for All Parliamentary Groups and the existence of firms created to influence politicians reinforce suspicions that politicians are buyable. In response, the government is considering a statutory register of lobbyists, which could result [...]…

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Taming tabloid tittle-tattle

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Hatred of the tabloids is about more than phone-hacking, as contributors to the Leveson Inquiry have proven beyond doubt. When high-minded ‘ethical’ journalists demonise redtops, are they really deriding the millions who read and enjoy them? Are critics calling for the tabloids to be tamed really talking about the papers, or the public? How do [...]…

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Media-bashing live

2013-01-15 :: WORLDbytes

The media is often now seen as being Public Enemy Number One: Of making prime ministers bow to the might of press barons; of dumbing us down through a diet of celebrity gossip and the latest moral panic; and of misinforming us on everything. Is it really possible, as Hugh Grant urged, to separate off [...]…

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Taxing our way to a fairer society?

2012-12-17 :: WORLDbytes

Rarely has the tax man, historically a figure of popular disdain, been so lauded. Today, youthful radicals and mainstream politicians alike have mounted a high-profile campaign against companies and individuals deemed to be cheating HMRC. But what’s driving this obsession with how much tax people are paying? Should the rich be forced to give more [...]…

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Why isn’t poverty history yet?

2012-12-17 :: WORLDbytes

Whilst China, Brazil and South Africa have become aid givers and are raising millions out of poverty each year, sub-saharan Africa has made little progress. In the US, a majority of Americans can expect to spend at least one year of their lives below the poverty line. Many argue though, that poverty is relative and [...]…

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What’s wrong with equality?

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

Economic debates today are haunted by the spectre of inequality. From David Cameron to the Occupy movement, everyone seems to agree society has become too unequal. Indeed, demands for more equality are now used to curb individual freedom, religious freedom and apparent ‘excess’. In this debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas, panellists don’t [...]…

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Capitalism: kill or cure?

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

It’s now cool to be a ‘Marxist’ and discover capitalism doesn’t work. But is the recession a product of the same old trend re-asserting itself or is there something else going on? An exceptional line up of speakers do battle and the audience raise the stakes in this Battle of Ideas keynote. Ferdinand Mount, author [...]…

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Public Inquiries in the dock

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

By the end of 1990s the public inquiry had increasingly come to play a prominent role in British political life. Where the authority of politicians is often in doubt, the authority of the public inquiry is unquestioned and seen as representing an impartial way to establish the truth. Yet the public play no role in [...]…

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Building an intellectual legacy: the Battle for which ideas?

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

Some contend intellectual life has rarely been healthier; after all today’s governments appoint economists, philosophers and scientific advisers to positions of influence, and the fashion for evidence-based policy puts a premium on academic research. Nevertheless, the emphasis is on ‘what works’ utility and short-term impact rather than open-ended, risky ideas. In this Battle of Ideas [...]…

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The riots one year on: assessing the state of the nation

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

After the riots in the UK in 2011, responses ranged from blaming feral criminality to presenting looting as a form of protest. These competing explanations shared a common belief in calling for greater state intervention to fix the problem. The law’n’order lobby argued people need stricter social and moral codes, while liberal-leaning commentators called for [...]…

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Can the law make us equal?

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

A legal system that discriminates against minorities is widely recognised as upholding an unjust society. But does this mean the law should be used to make society more equal and can that work? Does the law make or follow social trends? This debate kicks off with the infamous anti-gay B&B owners story and lessons from [...]…

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Free will: just an illusion?

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

Some of the most profound challenges to the idea of free will, now come from neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists. It is argued that advertising can make us buy things and that early intervention determines the sort of adult we will become. Yet, we feel remorse at opportunities we could have taken but didn’t, we sometimes [...]…

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Lessons from America: the new culture wars

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

‘The culture war is back’, proclaimed one American newspaper earlier this year. In this fascinating debate, filmed at the Battle of Ideas, an illustrious panel explore today’s culture wars with reference to a variety of social issues which have seemingly cleaved America in two. But is this anything new? And are we seeing the emergence [...]…

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Risk, regulation and red tape

2012-12-14 :: WORLDbytes

In this must watch debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas Josie Appleton tells us risk is no longer about the dangers we face but seeing unregulated life itself as risky. Everywhere the mantra is the same: ‘Better safe than sorry.’ How do we properly assess safety in an age in which both private and [...]…

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What’s wrong with equality?

2012-11-20 :: WORLDbytes
Length: 1s

Economic debates today are haunted by the spectre of inequality. From David Cameron to the Occupy movement, everyone seems to agree society has become too unequal. Indeed, demands for more equality are now used to curb individual freedom, religious freedom and apparent ‘excess’. In this debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas, panellists don’t [...]…

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WORLDbytes is a unique online Citizen TV station which produces hard-hitting programs on challenging issues. Our motto is "Don't shout at the telly, change the message on it".

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