Magnus Nome cached version 04/07/2018 12:42:40 en Heartfelt rationality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The side effects of good intentions and tolerance can be more suffering. We must let our hearts set our goals, but use the mind to pursue them. Our former Editor-in-Chief, reflecting on rationality and the fallout of a TV-series. <em>Archive: This article was first published on October 1, 2012.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>The alternative industry: it doesn’t work and why it does</strong></p> <p>My last major project before leaving Oslo for openDemocracy was a six-part edutainment/documentary series on the ‘alternative industry’, its science and irrationality. It was produced by Teddy TV and broadcast on NRK1 (Norway’s &nbsp;equivalent of BBC1, ie the country’s main television channel). We cheekily named ourselves <em>Folkeopplysningen</em>, “The Public Enlightenment”.</p> <p>The various branches of the alternative industry make a lot of claims, and a lot of money off these claims. We looked into homeopathy, healing, detox, acupuncture and strange panacea machines supposedly utilizing bio-resonance or quantum mechanics. (Astrologists, psychics and mediums got a showing too, but let’s leave them alone to lick their wounds for now.)</p> <p>We decided it was time for some critical scrutiny of this business, and based on reception and ratings, we are not alone in thinking this.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="224" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Public Enlightenment. (c) NRK/Teddy TV</small></em></p> <p>With a physicist, a psychologist and researchers, we asked three main questions: Are the claims made by the various alternative offerings possible from a scientific point of view? What does the available research say? Why is it so popular?</p> <p>And yes, we found it is pretty much all hokum. Anyone spending a good amount of time honestly and objectively surveying the available scientific material will agree. The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee <a href="">did so on homeopathy</a>.</p> <p>Dear Jeremy Hunt, Beckhams, Orlando Bloom, Thorbjørn Jagland, Jennifer Aniston, Prince Charles and King Harald of Norway: there’s nothing in those pills besides the sugar and the faith. &nbsp;</p> <p>Only acupuncture has some credible documentation to show for itself. But it’s rather thinner than its standing suggests. Here too the placebo effect is due most of the credit, most of the time likely all of it. &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, <em>it works</em> - raking in money, but more importantly: producing many genuinely satisfied patients.</p> <p>While some of the popularity can be explained by our brain’s tendency to look for <a href="">patterns where they don’t exist</a>, ignore <a href="">regression toward the mean</a>, emphasise <a href="">anecdote</a> over data, <a href="">justify its own choices</a> and <a href="">confirm the beliefs</a> we already hold, many patients do feel better in a very real way.</p> <p>This has been proven to stem from the bouquet of psychological and biochemical mechanisms that we lump together as the placebo effect. The placebo effect has clear limitations (rather than cure, it mostly alters our experience of symptoms), but we should all be happy that it exists. It means that visiting a homeopath can make people feel better. This does not mean that homeopathy works. But it does mean they feel better - and that is a good thing.</p> <p>For many, what is needed to improve their well-being and outlook is attention and care. For someone to see them, touch them, discuss their life situation, unhurried and with empathy, to tell them that it’s all going to improve from now on, and that they’ve got a plan – this is what makes the difference. Some get this experience from their doctor, but many do not. Many people get nothing like this assurance from anywhere in their societies. In this regard, alternative therapists can perform an important service for people.</p> <p><strong>Let’s talk<br /></strong>But the alternative industry is more than this, and much of it is problematic. So, as well as to educate and entertain, we set out in the hope of sparking debate on questions such as the following:</p> <ul><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Why is alternative medicine so popular?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Is it right that a large and diverse sector dealing with health is almost completely unregulated?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Can society harness the placebo effect as a harmless way of improving well-being in the population, taking some pressure off the health system?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Can medical doctors learn from the way alternative therapists interact with their patients?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Should we demand proof from those who sell a service or product claiming it cures disease or improves health, or let the market offer the widest possible array of choice?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; If we let the market decide – should the public health service pay for any such services without evidence of effect other than placebo?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Should we accept that some, based on mythological expertise or conspiracy theories, discourage the use of proven, life-saving methods such as vaccination and chemotherapy?</li><li>&nbsp;</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What can be done with those few who contact people on their death bed with expensive miracle cures, making the dying spend their last time on earth, and often money they don’t have, chasing false hopes, instead of spending it in the mutual comfort with their loved ones?</li></ul> <p>Reasoned debates on these issues with those in the alternative industry was perhaps too much to hope for. But at the very least we expected the more responsible parts of the industry to demand a clean-up of the murkiest.</p> <p>In one of the programmes we sent a perfectly healthy, young woman to three different alternative practitioners. They gave her a variety of different, very serious diagnoses for which they offered expensive treatments.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Physicist and host Andreas Wahl with Grete Strøm, healthy undercover reporter with a long list of serious diagnosis. (c) NRK/Teddy TV</small></em></p> <p>One identified fungi growing in her blood due to excessive consumption of carbohydrates, another found a throat problem and several allergies (but OK’d smoking), while the third claimed she was poisoned by the vaccines she was given as a child, had narrow veins and that despite feeling fine now, could expect to succomb to powerful headaches <a href="">imminently</a>.</p> <p>And while most practitioners are nice people with some ethical standards, we found that implying that one could cure anything from cancer to dyslexia wasn’t all that uncommon.</p> <p><strong>Into the trenches!<br /></strong>The alternative minded did not like what they saw in our series. They took to their keyboards. It is clear who the enemy is. Not those preying on the dying. Not obvious charlatans who give random diagnoses, or those who cause preventable deaths by convincing their patients to forego vaccines or chemo. No, the enemy is those who dare to question their faith on TV. Oh, and Big Pharma. But in all likelihood, these were one and the same.</p> <p class="Body1">The alternative practitioners appeared to loathe breaking rank and criticizing each other, except in the most careful and general terms. Wouldn’t the &nbsp;mainstream ones benefit from distancing themselves from the wingnuts? Maybe there is too much overlap? Could this explain their unwillingness to offend the “most alternative” ones in their ranks?</p> <p>There also seems to be a siege mentality. Us against the world. Combined with a culture for “my truth is as valid as your truth”, where extreme relativism functions to make questioning even the weirdest of beliefs taboo. The outcome: little willingness to question even the strangest of bedfellows.</p> <p>Our programmes were quite assertive, more so than unconfrontational Scandinavians are used to. Unlike many previous ‘balanced’ looks at alternative medicine, we researched in depth and actually <em>concluded where there was enough evidence available to conclude</em>.</p> <p>This, to our minds, is what journalists do. Approaching an issue with an open mind does not mean refusing to draw conclusions when there is every basis to do so. (Clare Sambrook calls it <a href="">“Investigative Comment”.</a>)</p> <p>But to the practitioners, used to being interviewed as “alternative experts” alongside actual doctors, with their perspectives presented as equally valid, our conclusions came as a shock.</p> <p>Instead of a fruitful debate, trenches were soon filled with unrepentant and offended alternativists raging on one side, and pretty smug skeptics snidely sniping from the other.</p> <p>We’ve sometimes wondered if our critics have seen the same programmes as the ones we have made. We have never questioned the motives of the therapists, called for a ban, uttered a rude word, derided the placebo effect or claimed they were all of the same cloth. Nor did we edit anyone for the purpose of ridicule. Viewers were indeed afforded a few laughs, but some of these theories and practices can easily have that effect when explained in all seriousness.</p> <p>Soon enough we were dismissed as hateful, propagandistic, dishonest, falsifiers, ignorant, closed-minded, fanatics, arrogant, satirical, populists, speculative, unethical, lying, proselytizing, pathetic, angry atheists, ridiculing and factually wrong. That’s what politely pointing to the prevailing scientific consensus gets you from the “open minded”.</p> <p>The allegations of wrongdoing weren’t specified concretely of course. They remain as general and un-sourced as the assertion that “the <em>good</em> science says it works.”</p> <p>Thankfully we’re a thick-skinned bunch and appreciate the extra publicity. Last Monday 621,000 people, more than a third of the Norwegian TV audience, watched the program, and its hashtag, #Folkeopplysningen, crowds the nation’s twitter streams.</p><p><span style="font-weight: bold;"><strong>The party line<br /></strong></span>While we expected a bucket of bile from believers, we had imagined that the official organisations would voice their disagreement in reasoned ways, and with some adherence to reality.</p> <p>This hope was dashed. NHL, Norway’s largest organisation for homeopaths, attempted to <a href="">sabotage</a> the programme even before the first day of shooting. Early on in the project we contacted them and openly described our intentions. Perhaps naïvely, we believe in playing fair. It was all smiles at the meeting, but soon thereafter all homeopaths, as well as the other organisations for alternative therapies, received a letter from them – a “Warning”, no less – imploring everyone not to talk to us, as we might “be detrimental to all of the alternative industry”, and encouraging them to report back to them should they hear from us.</p> <p>NHL also asserted that the series was instigated by the small organisation Norwegian Skeptics (which they amusingly branded “unscientific”), an untrue allegation they have refused to retract. Other alternative organisations have since actively propagated this idea in the social media, spinning a conspiracy theory involving the inevitable payments from Big Pharma. This fits perfectly into the underdog narrative so popular in the alternative sphere. The reality was and is a smallish, independent production company looking into a large industry. And I’m still waiting for my Big Pharma check.</p> <p>The Norwegian Acupuncture Association’s broadside against the programme came last week, signed by their leader. In it she repeatedly misquoted the programme, scornfully dismissed the “science” (sic) presented, unashamedly citing as proof of effect a study that in fact concluded the opposite, giving misleading statistics on the popularity of acupuncture, and presenting as her trump card the fact that doctors and nurses are legally permitted to use acupuncture: therefore it must work.</p> <p>She contended, “the most important thing is freedom of choice and the ability to individually find out what works best.”</p> <p>No.</p> <p><a href="">Bloodletting</a> was a successful and widely used medical treatment for centuries. Its effectiveness was a given. When statistics entered the scene, it was discovered to have been mass murderer all along. Many of those killed by the practice certainly believed it the right thing for them; after all that’s what their trusted doctor said, and their neighbour did eventually rally after one such treatment.&nbsp;Today’s alternative medicine isn’t nearly as dangerous of course; most of it is just ineffective, plus placebo, which is why it’s still around.</p> <p>The author of the critique is a nice person. But to paraphrase Upton Sinclair:&nbsp;it is difficult to get someone to understand something, when their salary depends upon their not understanding it.</p> <p>Those who call themselves a healer or psychic are in essence saying, “I have magical abilities”. Fair enough. If they charge money for these magical services, we might suggest testing it on TV, but hey, what’s the world without some wizardry?</p> <p>It’s different for those who clad themselves in the garbs of science. If you want to give your treatment an air of authority by using scientific terminology and insisting on being backed up by evidence and trials, you have to play by the rules of science, and accept criticism if you disregard those rules.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Testing the placebo effect with ice water. (c) NRK/Teddy TV</small></em></p> <p><strong>Being human<br /></strong>As well as investigating the validity of certain commercial offerings, we wanted to highlight our inherent irrationality. Not theirs – <em>ours. </em>Perhaps our first mission sabotaged the second somewhat, because some have asked why we label the users of these treatments stupid. That was far from our intention.</p><p>Those who believe in alternative medicine aren’t stupid. They’re human. <em>We are human</em>.</p> <p>Every bias and fallacy we discussed can apply across the board. People with no belief in alternative medicine can make utterly irrational choices in other areas. The placebo effect exists in evidence-based medicine too. All of us experience cognitive dissonance and illusory correlations on a regular basis. Much advertising and rhetoric is geared towards exploiting these quirks of the mind.</p> <p>Our programme’s psychologist, who is extremely well read on (ir)rationality, recently caught himself googling the brand name of a car he was inclined to buy, plus the phrase “best in test”. He found exactly what he wanted to find; a prime example of confirmation bias.</p> <p>With lack of quality-controlled information, inherent trust in our fellow beings and a brain prone to biases and logical fallacies, the popularity of alternative medicine isn’t very surprising. We’ve tried to assist the information part, while highlighting the fact that our brains play tricks on us all.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Science = tools<br /></strong>Scientists are fallible humans too, which is why they use the scientific method,<em> </em>developed in large part to cancel out the effects of the mechanisms that make us so prone to drawing wrong conclusions.</p><p>Modern, evidence-based medicine is a young discipline, but its impact have been massive. Most of us would not exist without it. In developed countries, we now expect to live into our eighties, a century ago you would have been lucky to reach fifty.</p> <p>It is imperfect of course, and so is the pharmaceutical industry, with extremely serious <a href="">flaws</a> that urgently needs to be addressed. But its underlying principles are sound. A casual stroll in a cemetery, noting the lifespan improvement in recent times, confirms that.</p> <p class="Body1">&nbsp;“There is so much we don't understand yet”, we’ve been told repeatedly. And while that’s quite correct, unfortunately it’s often paired with an unwillingness to learn about what we in fact <em>do</em> know, and why it seems to be incompatible with their pet theory.</p><p class="Body1">“Science can't be used for everything,” they say. And indeed, science is a terrible method for creating works of art, lovemaking, comforting the grieving, comedy or finding out the meaning of life.</p> <p class="Body1">But it’s a fantastic one for going to the moon, creating the technology you read this on – <em>and</em> <em>concluding</em> <em>which medical treatments work and which not. </em>Ancient Chinese wisdom, spirituality, good intentions and even empathy are all rubbish at those.</p> <p class="Body1">And make no mistake: despite loud claims, had healing or homeopathy had real effects other than placebo, these would be easy to measure. The trials have been done. They don’t<em>.</em></p> <p>Using the imperfections of evidence-based medicine, or the fact that treatments with effects may also have side effects, as a fig leaf to cover up the truth about alternative treatments is a cheap trick.</p> <p class="Body1">In fact, <a href="">randomized controlled trials</a> are so good at finding answers to certain types of questions (<em>if </em>something quantifiable works and<em> how well, </em>but not <em>how</em>), they should be applied more often to areas other than medicine. In a recent UK Cabinet Office <a href="">white paper</a>, Ben Goldacre and David Torgerson make a good case for using RCTs to test the effectiveness of certain kinds of policies, making for better results and less waste.</p> <p class="Body1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Science - bad a jokes, good at space travel and medicine. (c) NRK/Teddy TV</small></em></p> <p class="Body1"><strong>Cake, and the eating of it<br /></strong>Saying “we should do more research into alternative medicine” is at best a crowd pleaser, after all who can be against more research? But this ignores the fact that resources are limited. When there is reason to believe an alternative treatment has real and useful effects, trials are naturally warranted. Unfortunately, there is much to suggest most or all of the good bits of alternative medicine have already been adopted and enhanced by actual medicine by now. <a href="">Willow bark</a> was an effective alternative treatment, which is why it is no more – today we know it as aspirin.</p> <p>We must spend our efforts on what is most likely to benefit humanity. Instead of trying to prove or disprove faith-based theories, we should focus on reasonable goals, such as cancer research, combating the diseases that ravage the developing world, or investigating the <a href="">promising</a> <a href="">potential</a> of <a href=",8599,2004887,00.html">drugs</a> that have been off-limits to scientists for far too long, due to the taboo of the irrational “war on drugs”.</p> <p><strong>Hearts and minds<br /></strong>We’re emotional beings, but when we are to make decisions on our health and safety, we need facts. When we’re trying to solve the climate crisis, counter xenophobes wielding pseudo-demographics, or decide whether we should get vaccinated - we need solid data, not wishful thinking.</p> <p>We must dismiss gut feeling and taboos and embrace honest, open, fact-based debate, so that we can use our resources for research in ways that give the most benefit to the most people.</p> <p>Each of us possesses an exquisite brain. But it is capable of deeply irrational judgements. Despite it being fantastically adaptable, evolution prepared it for a very different life than the one we’re living; anecdote used to be key to survival on the savannah, data is a new concept.</p> <p>The vast majority of alternative practitioners aren’t frauds, they’re believers, motivated by the desire to help others. There is no nobler motive. But without the tools developed to circumvent the biases and fallacies that are hardcoded into our brain, helping is a lot harder than it seems.</p> <p>Isn’t acknowledging our human shortcomings and taking steps to reveal them the most open of all approaches?</p> <p>We must set our goals with our hearts, but use our minds to figure out how to reach them.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="">The programmes</a> (at - in Norwegian &nbsp;- available untill November 6)</p><p>Ben Goldacre's <a href="">Bad Science</a>&nbsp;(blog)</p><p>Daniel Kahneman's <a href="">Thinking, fast and slow</a> (book)</p><p>Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst's <a href="">Trick or Treatment?</a>&nbsp;(book)</p><p>Dan Ariely's <a href="">Predictably Irrational </a>(book)</p><p><a href="">Warning letter</a>&nbsp;from NHL&nbsp;(in Norwegian)</p><p><a href="">Critique from acupuncturists</a> (in Norwegian)</p><p><a href="">Folkeopplysningen on Facebook</a>&nbsp;(in Norwegian)</p><p>Psychologist Jan-Ole Hesselberg's&nbsp;<a href="">Tankesmed</a>&nbsp;(blog, in Norwegian)</p><p><a href="">Imagining conspiracies</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/robert-sharp/libel-reform-perils-of-inadequate-response">Libel reform - the perils of an inadequate response</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/magnus-nome/death-of-controversy">The death of a controversy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/thomas-ash/im-overdosing-tomorrow-care-to-join">I&#039;m overdosing tomorrow - care to join?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/Exile-Nation_JulieHolland">The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Julie Holland, M.D.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openusa/thomas-rodham/on-bullshit-and-truthiness-harry-frankfurt-stephen-colbert-and-paul-ryans-conv">On bullshit and truthiness: Harry Frankfurt, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Ryan&#039;s Convention speech</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Norway </div> </div> </div> Norway Science, development & faith science & technology faith & ideas television Notes from the Editor-in-Chief health Magnus Nome Thu, 31 Dec 2015 11:47:39 +0000 Magnus Nome 68344 at Passing the torch <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy's Editor-in-Chief is stepping down this summer to pursue new challenges. Here he writes about his two years at the helm of oD.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Melancholy seeps in as I'm typing these words: at the end of June this year I will be stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of openDemocracy.</p><p>The reason behind my departure is personal-geographical; my significant other and I are relocating to Oslo, and while oD is truly global I believe the person at the helm of it needs to be living close to its London headquarters.</p><p>oD is a creature of contradictions that serve it well - federal but with a strong brand, established but never afraid of new ideas, publishing activists and migrants as happily as it does professors and politicians, relentlessly pluralist and putting out quantities of quality on a shoestring budget, almost all with Creative Commons licensing so it can spread even further. </p><p><span>It's the kind of rare mutation that survive not despite, but because of, the ways it is different, and that could lead the way for others. Building on its proud history and unafraid to change with the times, openDemocracy carries part of the genetic code of tomorrow's media.</span></p><p><span>The challenges of our time, from catastrophic climate change to continued discrimination and rising inequality, are not met with anywhere near the haste and effort they require of us. There are voices that cry for action, but we appear to be conditioned to allow them be drowned out by the background noise of the insignificant, the uncomplicated, what grants us instant gratification – however fleeting that instant is, and whatever the price we pay for it. Journalism is going through a crisis too, if a slow burning one, or you may call it a transformation if you are amongst the can-do optimists among us. In any case you can chalk up oD in the column for hopefulness.</span></p><p><span>Where <a href="">Anthony Barnett </a>and his co-founders conceived and created oD in 2001, and <a href="">Tony Curzon Price</a> (E-i-C 2007-2012) made it into a true creature of the internet age and introduced the concept of independent sections, I hope to have strengthened its immune system, increasing its chances of surviving and thriving in a harsh media world through its teenage years and beyond. Many of the most important changes over the last couple of years have been under the hood; unsexy but crucial improvements in finance routines, fundraising, organisational structure and operational principles.</span></p><p><span>Nobody does quite what openDemocracy does, at least not anywhere near as well. My successor will have the challenge of funding and developing it, and the tremendous privilege it is to join its journey and lead the way. While it is a rare gem of intelligent writing and deliberative debate today, what has been built up over the last thirteen years has loaded it with potential to be much more and to reach even greater numbers than the well over 300,000 monthly visitors it currently sees (more than it has ever had.)</span></p><p><span>In my tenure as editor-in-chief we've seen and written on tragedy in Syria and chaos in Ukraine; Edward Snowden's revelations of the true extent of surveillance and the intensifying of the battle for a free internet; ever more examples of how deadly greed can be for those who have almost nothing, from devastating weather events to the building collapse killing 1,134 garment workers in Bangladesh; the aftermath of the Arab spring (and its <a href="">impact on women)</a> and the continuing consequences of the financial crisis; Thatcher, Chavez, García Márquez and Mandela have left us; and with South Sudan one new country has come into existence (as have an oD section: <a href="">Transformation</a>).</span></p><p><span>Our writing continues to wield more influence than that of most mediums our size. Not only is oD writing on reading lists of&nbsp;</span><span>universities, schools and colleges around the world</span><span>, we are followed by many journalists in 'household name media' and rarely does a day goes by without some of these emailing us requesting to be put in touch with our authors. Not following the media agenda benefits even those who do, or even set it; </span><a href="">oDR's exposé</a><span> of Yanukovych' corruption was picked up by outlets from <em>The Independent</em> to <em>Fox News</em> (after the Euromaiden activists had directed their gaze in that direction of course, oDR having followed Ukraine's woes closely long before that), Clare Sambrook's i</span><a href="">nvestigative journalism on privatisation's darkest sides</a><span> have been widely read and referenced too, and </span><a href="">Paul Rogers' weekly openSecurity column</a><span> on geopolitics, security and climate is republished by many and followed by thousands who appreciate his supremely lucid and knowledgeable writing.</span></p> <p><span>In the internet age of sharing popular pieces in outfits such as this can reach just as many people as the media giants, proven recently by OurKingdom editor Adam Ramsey's <a href="">article</a> on prospective Scottish independence, read by over 150,000 people within days.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>It's been two eventful years for oD (and for me), the storms we've weathered, most significantly the funding crisis culminating with a successful funding drive in early 2013, would have broken a less dedicated crew. I’m deeply proud of what we’ve achieved together. <a href="">Rosemary Bechler i</a>s the hardest working editor I've ever encountered, publisher Andrew Hyde is constantly and tirelessly making sure things work (and that the rest of us understand how to use them) and the section editors are heroes who not only edit, commission and write on the most important issues of our time, but also raise the money necessary for their own budgets. With these, and Jess Thomas on board as Head of Operations, my successor has a brilliant team.</span></p><p><span>The advice of the board of directors and its chair <a href="">David Elstein</a> have been invaluable to me, and without the fundraising guidance of Anthony – oD founder and first man to consider the thought of me as its editor-in-chief, having read my piece on the US media coverage of the Norwegian massacre in 2011 – I could never have raised the funds necessary for oD's continued existence.</span></p><p><span>Still, the most important support I ever got was from my wife Nelly, who joined me on this adventure and never wavered. I am a very lucky man.</span></p><p><span>From July I'm no longer Editor-in-Chief, but I will stay on as Commissioning editor and member of the board, and of course: supporter and reader. I'm sure my not-as-of-yet identified successor's time will be no less interesting, and wish her the best of luck in one of the most rewarding (if sometimes frustrating) positions in international journalism.</span></p><p>Love and reason,<br /><span>Magnus</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opendemocracy/editorinchief-opendemocracy">Editor-in-Chief, openDemocracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Magnus Nome Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:48:54 +0000 Magnus Nome 82302 at Words and money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our Editor-in-Chief responds to Yasmin Nair, who argues that those who write for free are 'scabs'.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">I read with interest Yasmin Nair’s <em><a href="">Scab academics and others who write for free</a></em>, which names openDemocracy - along with Huffington Post, Guernica and The Rumpus – as a neoliberal workplace and scab.</p><p dir="ltr">The piece was published on Nair’s own blog, so I assume she wasn’t paid for it. Luckily for her she already had the audience and writing skills to reach people.</p><p dir="ltr">But let us imagine for a moment that Nair had something important to say, but hadn’t already built an audience for herself through her blog, or maybe she didn’t have the English fluency, time or confidence to self-publish.</p><p dir="ltr">Such an alternative version of Yasmin might instead have contacted openDemocracy, an independent not-for-profit (and so very much unlike AOL’s HuffPo) employing skilled editors to work with the content it publishes, and with an established worldwide reputation and audience.</p><p dir="ltr">But had she done so, following her logic, she’d be a scab, and by paying that editor a modest living wage to work with her material we’d be neoliberal. In Nair’s world such are the consequences of not being able to either sell at a high price or go it alone.</p><p dir="ltr">Not that all of oD’s contributors are in need of much editorial assistance of course, hundreds of established writers choose to come to us, their many reasons include no pressure to dumb down their writing to be commercially more appealing, and a global readership that is both interested and influential.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps most importantly: by writing for oD, they contribute to a huge body of writing and thinking that will stay free and available to everyone with an internet connection.</p><p dir="ltr">While writers need to make a living, the principle that all writing needs to be paid for wouldn’t be a good one for the writing itself; a piece that’s worth money in the marketplace isn’t necessarily worth either reading or writing in the first place, and important writing can’t always find a pay check however hard one looks. It shouldn’t be left alone in a drawer for that reason.</p><p dir="ltr">We would lose something immeasurably important by assuming that there can only be a viable exchange through the commodification process.</p><p dir="ltr">So the vast majority of openDemocracy’s writers are not paid. Not because we don’t consider their content valuable, nor because we dismiss it as something that should be done as a ”labour of love”. I wish we had the resources to offer pay to all, but take it from someone who has worked to fund the modest core operations of oD over the last couple of years: such sums aren’t easy to come by. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">So until we do, our digital commons model means we can’t offer compensation to most contributors. We don’t take ownership of their writing either, rather we publish everything under Creative Commons licensing, making it available for free to all other not-for-profit operations (again quite unlike AOL/HuffPo). If a commercial outfit wants to republish the material we split the fee with the author. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If oD would have to pay all its contributors, that financial burden would kill the organisation. That would lead to exactly zero new paid jobs for writers, but some hard working editors would be out of a job, and we’d have lost a platform that has published about 25.000 articles and sparked numerous debates since 2001 - on issues of human rights, inequality, war, economy, migration, democracy and surveillance amongst countless others.</p><p dir="ltr">We have many supporters, some contributing with cash, some with time, others with their writing. Our editors are clever people who could have earned a higher salary elsewhere, but work with oD because they believe in <em>free thinking for the world</em>.</p><p dir="ltr">Journalism is in an on-going crisis, and the lack of resources to pay authors and investigators is a serious issue those of us who care about democracy, transparency, debate and fine writing will have to wrangle with for years to come. &nbsp;</p><p>But with corporate media giants towering above us all, dumbing down and often paying staff or freelancers lousily while enriching shareholders, it’s a peculiar decision to take aim at openDemocracy. Yasmin Nair isn’t only barking up the wrong tree, she appears to have completely missed the forest.</p> oD Blog oD Blog Magnus Nome Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:52:56 +0000 Magnus Nome 80421 at openDemocracy - here to stay <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our Editor-in-Chief on our 2013 turnaround and how our readers can strengthen our influence for years to come</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I don’t want to boast but openDemocracy is here to stay – with, that is, a little bit of ongoing help from our friends, readers and writers. A year ago we faced a life or death crisis. With magnificent support we cleared our debts, funded 2013 and started the work to ensure that oD isn’t just independent of corporate power, but also sustainable for the long-term.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We have just published </span><span style="line-height: 1.5; text-decoration: underline;"><a href="">a list</a></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;of everyone who have recently given financially, I hope to soon see your name on it too!</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Here are some things you might not know about openDemocracy:</span></p> <p>- Our readership is growing: unique visits up 26% over the last year.<br /> - We’re truly global, with readers in 234 countries and territories.<br /> - 84% of you have encountered facts or perspectives on oD you’ve seen nowhere else <br />- Half of you have used arguments from oD, over a quarter have changed your opinion on an issue after reading us. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And while our readership is diverse, there are many “influencers” – activists, scholars, journalists and policy makers – so when we make people change their mind, that changes the world.</span></p> <p>If the world knows that openDemocracy is here to stay it will grow our influence and make what you read and write here more important because less easily dismissed.</p> <p>That’s why we are asking for modest ongoing support. A one-off contribution is really helpful, but a <a href="">regular donation</a> is better as it signals continuity.</p> <p>As a small token of appreciation we’ll send you the Week in 1 Minute, written by an editor to sum up our best content.</p> <p>And unless you want to keep it private, which you can, you will join a great and growing list of names of those who are helping us stay independent and grow.</p> <br /> <div style="margin-bottom: 15px; background-color: #f0f5f0; padding: 15px;"><em><b>Text to donate:</b> It's now possible to make a one-off donation by texting <b>OPDE13</b> followed by <b>£5, £20, £50 </b> or <b>£100</b> (any amount of your choosing) to <b>70700</b>. For the full range of donation options see our <a href="">donate</a> page.</em></div> oD Blog oD Blog Magnus Nome Wed, 11 Dec 2013 12:36:27 +0000 Magnus Nome 77661 at The Norwegian shift to the right: 10 short lessons on The Progress Party <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="Notes from EIC" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />Norway seems to have taken a sharp turn to the right, and some have warned of right-wing extremism in a bastion of social democracy. A ten-step guide to understanding The Progress Party.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today the centre-left coalition that has governed Norway for eight years will hand over the office key cards to a coalition of the Conservatives and junior partner, The Progress Party. They don’t have a majority alone, but will be supported in parliament by the centrist Liberal and Christian parties. </p> <p>International media has paid most attention not to the defeat of the government but to the inclusion of the Progress Party – a right-wing party in a country thought of as deeply social democratic – in the new government. The coverage had its share of hyperbole and inaccuracies, so here’s a ten-point guide to the third largest party in the world’s 118th largest nation.</p> <p>1) <strong>They’re not ”the Breivik party”</strong>. <em>The Independent</em> recently wrote they had ”links” to the terrorist who massacred 77 young people, most of them members of Labour Youth.&nbsp;</p> <p>Technically you could argue a connection, though hardly a ‘link’, which implies a two-way conscious connection, so while correct it is a journalistically shoddy claim. Breivik joined, tried to gain influence, failed, and left the party which he found too moderate. He was the leader of a local youth branch for a while in 2002 and sat on that chapter’s board until 2004, but there’s nothing to indicate the party had any clue of his extremism. It would be unreasonable to attribute blame to any political party for a low-level member’s criminal activities many years after he left.</p> <p>2) <strong>It’s wholly unsurprising they were Breivik’s favourite. </strong>Deep skepticism of ”the others” and sharp anti-immigration rhetoric has been a mainstay of the party’s platform and <em>modus operandi</em>. It’s what fuelled their rise from a small anti-tax party in 1973 to the country’s third largest party.</p> <p>In the late 80s the party realized that a large minority of the population harboured fear and/or dislike of the growing number of immigrants, but no politicians catered to their opinions on this. Soon many saw them as the only party who spoke out and took the challenges of immigration seriously, and by fanning the flames of fear and suspicion, painting immigrants as criminals and fraudsters (and, after 9/11, religious fundamentalists) they created even more voters of the same ilk.</p> <p>In the past they’ve received money from the apartheid regime of South Africa and mingled with neo-nazis, but those times have been left far behind and the worst elements have been chucked out. These days most of their rhetoric is fine-tuned to appear ethically defensible while still pushing the right buttons with nationalist voters – but it must surely be uncomfortable to the liberal faction to see how blatantly their party is courting xenophobes. </p> <p>In 2009 the party’s leader, Siv Jensen, coined the term “stealth Islamisation” in her party conference speech, criticising the centre-left government for letting prisons serve halal food, and warning of a slippery slope.</p> <p>In 2010 the leader of the Oslo chapter, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, co-wrote an infamous op-ed where he claimed that the governing Labour party wanted to “stab our own culture in the back” and “replace it with multiculture”. He vowed not participate in this"cultural treason" and to fight multiculturalism because Labour’s project was “tearing our nation apart”. He promised to do this even if posters were hung promising death by shooting to those who did, bravely defying hypothetical threats that only ever existed as wildly unrealistic figments of his own imagination.</p> <p>Tybring-Gjedde is one of the party’s calculated “loose cannons”; he’ll go “a bit too far” – the leadership won’t embrace but vaguely criticize his statements not to scare off more moderate voters or potential political partners – but the message is still received by those it was meant for. Every time immigration is on top of the media agenda, even if it’s sharp criticism of some Progress Party statement, they get a bump in the polls.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="image-caption">From The Prograss Party election campaign brochure 2005: <strong>“ ‘The criminal is of foreign origin!’ (A press quote we read frequently) “</strong></p> <p>3) <strong>It’s not a single issue party. </strong>While immigration has been a top issue for The Progress Party since the late 80s, the party’s original name was <em>Anders Lange's Party for a Strong Reduction in Taxes, Duties and Public Intervention, </em>and tax cuts and removal of bureaucracy remain amongst their top priorities. They have a visceral loathing for toll roads, potholes and expensive petrol, which has resonated with many drivers.</p> <p>Other important issues include improvements of the health service, better care for the elderly, more (and armed) police, economic liberalisation and deep cuts in foreign aid as well as agricultural, media and culture subsidies.</p> <p>On foreign policy (not a main priority) they are more closely aligned with the USA and Israel than the other parties.&nbsp;</p> <p>4) <strong>They fight dirty – and they’re good at it. </strong>Carl I. Hagen led the party from 1978 to 2006, and is personally responsible for turning what could easily have become a short-lived protest party into a formidable political force. He did so with few ethical qualms and a well-honed and deeply cynical rhetoric that has changed Norwegian politics forever.&nbsp;</p> <p>The political establishment was unprepared and discounted him as a wing-nut, but for a large portion of the population he was the only person on the podium that made sense and had the guts to say what they were privately thinking.</p> <p>Just before the 1987 local elections, Hagen read out a dramatic letter he’d received, purportedly from a Muslim in Oslo, detailing how Muslims were planning to take over the nation and replace all churches with mosques. The letter was easily established as a fake, but Hagen had done nothing to test its authenticity, and the message worked: the party’s result was triple that of the previous election.</p> <p>As the party has moderated itself since the new leader Siv Jensen took over, Hagen the Godfather has also become one of the abovementioned “loose cannons”.</p> <p>5) <strong>They’re not extreme-right</strong>.&nbsp; Barry White, the outgoing US ambassador to Norway, recently laughed at the idea of the party being extreme right, imploring those who claimed so to get a reality check by traveling to America and chatting with the Tea Party. He has a point.</p> <p>Their policies are most certainly rightist, even more so in the local context, and the anti-immigration vitriol and populism are not dissimilar to <em>SD</em> in Sweden or <em>Front Nationale</em> in France. Still there is a lot to distinguish them from such parties. They have worked hard to mainstream themselves in the last two decades, and the transformation has been successful; they're now palatable enough for centrists like the Liberal and Christian parties to support them in government, and their organisation is as professional as any party’s.</p> <p>Their platform incorporated plenty of social democracy, so while they preach less state interference and encourage a liberalisation of the economy, they also want to strengthen the national health service, keep the welfare state in place and are not averse to state ownership of strategic companies. While they are alone in the country in talking up US Republicans, much of their programme would be to the left of the Democratic party.</p> <p>6) <strong>They revel in playing the underdog and victim. </strong>Just after election night, the party reacted with deep affront and outrage when a socialist politician called them right-wing populists in a tweet, reacting as if they had been terribly wronged.</p> <p>They are unquestionably populist, and are even on the record endorsing the term. But they’ve perfected this role of the victim, the underdog standing up for the average Joe, only to be brusquely brushed aside by the political establishment and the “socialist media” calling them mean names and refusing to see them as the sole voice of the <em>real</em> Norwegians.</p> <p>An example of how deeply imbedded this tactic had become occurred shortly after the Breivik terror, and after a couple of people had suggested that their alarmist rhetoric on immigration bore some indirect blame for creating the terrorist. Party leader Jensen said on live TV that such allegations meant her party was just as much a victim as the terror victims, and that the claims were <em>as bad as </em>the actual terror. She later apologised for her choice of words, and surely didn’t mean what she said literally; nevertheless it was a revealing reaction.</p> <p>7) <strong>They love to cut tax and spend cash – but won’t go overboard. </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>Like</strong>&nbsp;most parties that have never tasted the sweet nectar of government power, or the annoying responsibilities that come with it, The Progress Party has been generous with their promises. They want large tax cuts while government spending is increased in many areas, especially infrastructure and health.&nbsp;</p> <p>Norway is in the peculiar situation where access to money isn’t what constrains the spending (there’s about £500 billion tucked away, earmarked future pensions), but rather how much can be spent without overheating and ruining the economy. The Progress Party is alone in challenging a broad political consensus that the nation shouldn’t spend oil income worth more than 4% of the fund in any normal year, and have proposed alternative methods of calculation that would allow them to keep the costs of building roads and hospitals outside the quota.</p> <p>Even though the party is tipped to get the Minister of Finance, and the coalition platform promises new funding and tax cuts galore, there is unlikely to be unchecked spending: there is plenty of oil cash to play with within the 4% (too much according to almost all economists), and both their government partner and the support parties are in line with the opposition on responsible spending.</p> <p>8) <strong>They are anti-green. </strong>Does The Progress Party leadership think human beings have caused climate change for real? It’s hard to tell, but they certainly aren’t worried about it, and strive to appeal to those voters who refuse to accept the uncomfortable reality. </p> <p>Their current line has evolved to admitting there is some climate change, <em>probably</em> <em>partly</em> due to human influence, but they don’t think it’s a major cause, and keep referring to the ostensibly “big controversy among scientists” on the issue.</p> <p>While hostile to any environmental regulation, this pandering to so-called climate skeptics will likely be tempered by sitting in a government where both their partner and support parties accept that anthropomorphic climate change is real and appropriate action is necessary. They at least talk the talk - the amount of walking that will be done remains to be seen.</p> <p>The start was promising: the small, centrist Liberals, in exchange for their support for the coalition, won the concession that there won’t be oil exploration in the vulnerable Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja areas, a major victory for environmentalists. But the coalition platform published since barely touches upon the environment or climate, and it’s clear there will be higher speed limits, bigger roads and no more regulation of snowmobile driving in nature.&nbsp;</p> <p>9) <strong>It won’t be a far-right government. </strong>The Norwegian political spectrum is narrower than most, and has its centre a tad left of centre in an international context. The new government will be much further to the right than the previous, but the changes are unlikely to be dramatic. </p> <p>Where The Progress Party has radical ideas, they mostly clash with their relatively moderate government partner and centrist support parties. They know all too well they’ll have to accept defeats and compromises to gain power, and have said as much publicly numerous times since the election, readying their voters for disappointment. Several key fights have already been surrendered in the name of cooperation.</p> <p>10) <strong>They will need some victories. </strong>For four decades the party have promised their voters real and dramatic change if they only get to enter the government offices. Now those voters expect action. All parties in or supporting the coalition know they will need some visible victories, even though they might taste foul to the rest of the flock.</p> <p>Perhaps most important of all is immigration policy, and here they run into a particular problem: even in opposition the party has shaped the debate on the issue the last decades, resulting in many of their policies first being derided, then later adopted by other parties, Labour in particular.</p> <p>There simply aren’t that many things left to do to decrease immigration without breaking international conventions, something their fellow travellers would refuse. But be sure, they will find some rules to tighten, some asylum seekers to deport and some fences to build – and they’ll hail their victories and hope the electorate goes along with it.</p> <p>One of these will probably be so-called “closed asylum centres”, jails in everything but the word, where those who have lawfully applied for asylum but had their plea rejected will be interned until they can be sent out of the country.&nbsp;</p><p>Having acheived their long ambition of government power, it now remains to be seen how successful they'll be in - using Jensen's words - creating "solid Progress Party footprints" on government policies.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Norway </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? E-i-C Blog Norway Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Can Europe make it? Magnus Nome Elections 2013 Mon, 14 Oct 2013 08:33:04 +0000 Magnus Nome 76029 at The many beliefs of openDemocracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Replying to criticism of openDemocracy's tone and belief, our Editor-in-Chief describes it as a home to a wide variety of opinions and convictions, all of which it's good for us to be exposed to</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">An Arab Awakening <a href="">blog post</a> at openDemocracy, written by Michael Stephens, has provoked Nick Cohen's ire, as you can see in his&nbsp;<a href="">Spectator blog</a>&nbsp;today.</p><p class="p1">At oD we revel in sharp debate between a plurality of opposing voices. We believe in openness and that this leads to a more nuanced view of reality than keeping to a strict editorial line.&nbsp;We therefore welcome Cohen's reply to Stephens, our only regret is that we didn't alert him to it ourselves and invite him to reply within our own columns.</p><p class="p2">openDemocracy is in some ways an unusual creature in the media fauna, some might find it hard to get a grip on. Cohen's misunderstanding of our nature leads him to address openDemocracy as the originator of the tone and opinions expressed in the piece he critiques. I want to take that as an opportunity to point out some of our characteristics.</p><p class="p1">There is no such thing as an openDemocracy "tone" or "belief" - that is outside our strongly held values of democracy, human rights and transparency. When we publish a piece of writing, whether blog post or in-depth analysis, we do so because we believe the author brings a valuable perspective to the table. We think Michael Stephens did so when he wrote on how Cohen's Observer article could be perceived in Qatar, and stand squarely by the decision to run it. The parts of Cohen's reply in the Spectator&nbsp;that actually addresses Stephens’ points would unquestionably pass the same criteria.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Any attempt to define a monolithic oD belief based on the opinions published within it would show it to be a very varied and at times deeply contradictory one. We don't believe in carrying only "a belief", but that you should be exposed to many - that's why we treasure debates and comments based on investigation and expertise. Not only are our writers a varied bunch, our editors often disagree too, and have a larger degree of autonomy than in most publications. Our specialist sections and debates (like those on security, Russia or Arab Awakening) act independently, without needing their editorial judgement approved by an&nbsp;overarching&nbsp;hierarchy.&nbsp;</p><p>I hope Cohen will consider replying to oD&nbsp;on&nbsp;oD next time, and in the meantime let me recommend to him our&nbsp;<a href="">50.50 section</a>, where he will find an abundance of good writing on women's rights, fundamentalism and secularism, much of it from a perspective he would appreciate.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/michael-stephens/workers-rights-in-qatar">Workers&#039; rights in Qatar</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> oD Blog oD Blog Magnus Nome Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:55 +0000 Magnus Nome 75736 at Don't say 'I told you so' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="Notes from EIC" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />Avoid the temptation to be smug about it: Snowden's leaks matter, and others will follow.<br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the Edward Snowden leaks spread via Glenn Greenwald, onto the&nbsp;<em>Guardian</em>, though fibre optics and into our minds, I keep hearing people – even smart people – saying ”pah, nothing new here – if you didn’t know this was happening, you were naïve” – as they carry on with their day.</p><p>The cynics are probably right; this was inevitable at this time in history. There is no reason to doubt the various intelligence services’ desire to tap into our digital lives and to have the ability to map our existence with a few keystrokes. The combination of post-9/11 mentality, the internet’s omnipresence in our lives and <a href=";s_law">Moore’s law</a> is a potent one.&nbsp;</p><p>However they’re not right in asserting, as some do, that these revelations are almost irrelevant.</p><p>Firstly, they deny the intelligence services plausible deniability. Up until now they could shrug and say ”secret” – or simply <a href="">lie</a>. It’s much more difficult to lie or deny when your internal slides and tacky acronyms are floating around. The questions being asked become too concrete to be nonchalantly brushed off as tinfoil hat nonsense by the agencies or their allies in politics and punditry.&nbsp;</p><p>Secondly, the more we know about&nbsp;<em>how</em>&nbsp;we’re being surveilled, the better. There is now no doubt that internet companies willingly sell you out, and it seems most transatlantic internet traffic - which includes a lot of inter-European traffic due to how the internet works - is looped via the British intelligence services. Anti-surveillance activism, as well as <a href="">protecting your own activities</a> (and you don’t need a better reason than preferring that no stranger can rummage through your stuff at will) is easier the more details we know.</p><p>Thirdly, cynicism is just too easy. We’re not fighting state surveillance, or climate change, or the grossly unfair financial system, because we see a clear path to victory, but because it’s the necessary thing to do. We shouldn’t take pleasure in leaning back with a worldly expression and saying ”I told you so” each time a fear of ours is confirmed, however tempting that is. It may feel like winning for a split second – but the war is being lost. We should point some angry fingers, refuse to accept the situation as inevitable and avoid being distracted by sideshows like ”the great Snowden hunt”.</p><p>Alongside the cynics, we have those who are not only unsurprised, but also unconcerned; they don’t expect to be personally targeted or simply trust that governments, current and future, won’t be tempted to abuse these powers.</p><p>Such trust is touching of course, but let’s leave the state to one side and there’s another cause to worry: states won’t be the only users.</p><p>Every database that many can access (and restricting access too much would defy the point of having it in the first place) will leak. Snowden leaked info&nbsp;<em>on</em>&nbsp;the systems, which isn’t a problem – worse leaks could come&nbsp;<em>from</em>&nbsp;it. Post 9/11 the world’s intelligence services have ballooned, and in the US over a million people have security clearance, many of whom work for private companies. Only a small fraction of these has the kind of access Snowden had, but those who do&nbsp; - even to one arm of the intelligence octopus – are sitting on a very valuable commodity.</p><p>If Snowden gave up his comfortable life to leak from conviction, how often do you think someone will be tempted to sell information on a specific individual for high monetary reward and small risk? Political opponents, industry lobbyists, organized crime, gutter press, businesses in fierce competition – the list of potential customers is long and includes anyone with money, an adversary and a willingness to get their hands just that little bit dirty.</p><p>The product is information, more comprehensive than ever before in history. Your correspondence and content is one thing, another is the <a href="">metadata</a> that can be used to map your every movement and relationship. This information is pure power, available to the most shrewd of the already powerful, whether inside the state or outside.</p><p>There’s a positive flipside: Snowden isn’t the only disillusioned intelligence agent partial to freedom. On a few desks in the world’s secret services there must be agents who are admiring his courage, and wondering what their contribution to a more just world could be. Some of them will act. Godspeed.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jeremy-fox/global-dissent-and-uk">Global dissent and the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jd-taylor/what-have-i-got-to-fear-if-youve-got-something-to-hide">What have I got to fear, if you&#039;ve got something to hide? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ben-hayes/eu-won%E2%80%99t-stand-up-to-usa-or-protect-our-rights-against-%E2%80%98-eyes%E2%80%99">The EU won’t stand up to the USA or protect our rights against ‘the eyes’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler/on-prism-snoopers-charter-whistleblowers-spies-and-secret-courts-what-can-we-say">What can we say? On Prism, the Snooper&#039;s Charter, whistleblowers, spies and secret courts ... </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/magnus-nome/retake-your-privacy-0">Retake your privacy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties institutions & power democracy & power Surveillance PRISM Snooping on the innocent NSA privacy Internet The fight for digital freedom Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome Sat, 06 Jul 2013 10:17:39 +0000 Magnus Nome 73833 at Retake your privacy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="" alt="" width="140" height="80" /></p><p>The US can read your emails because you let them. Demand privacy – but take it back first.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The way we use the internet is inherently insecure, so while keeping a big-brotherly eye on a whole population might require the digital muscle of the NSA, any half-decent nation state can peek at&nbsp;<em>your&nbsp;</em>secrets should they want to. So can a good hacker, or anyone who knows how to hire one. And however uninteresting you might be, Google, Facebook and others feverishly gather all the info they can on your life, automatically and legally.</p><p>Luckily there are a number of easy steps you can take to ensure your online privacy. Perfect security requires extreme diligence, but with a few simple programmes and habits you can drastically reduce who could sneak into your stuff, and increase the efforts they’d have to go through to do so.</p><p>Of course, we shouldn’t take it lying down that either the NSA or any one else should be able to look at our emails or online activities, however easy it is to do so -&nbsp; but while fighting the surveillance state is a political battle, there’s no reason to leave your own front door open to make a point.</p><blockquote><p>I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950?&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p><em>(Whistleblower Edward Snowden in an online comment in 2004)</em></p><p><span style="background-color: #ededed; font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;"></span>When you send emails, you’re using these transparent envelopes, despite the fact that opaque ones are perfectly available and free. Email encryption using&nbsp;<strong>PGP&nbsp;</strong>or&nbsp;<strong>GPG</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;ensures that your message is gibberish in transit, its meaning only being unlocked by your own private key. It also has the added value of authenticating the message; emails can be faked, encrypted messages can’t.</p><p>Encrypting our emails should be standard for anyone who ever sends secrets. There are several free options out there, I use&nbsp;<a href="">GPGTools</a>&nbsp;for Mac, for Windows there’s&nbsp;<a href="">Enigmail</a>. Encryption plugins for instant messaging are also available, the most popular being&nbsp;<a href="">Pidgin</a>.&nbsp; </p><p>The drawbacks: both sender and recipient need to use it, and if your computers are compromised, so are the messages.</p><p>Our world wide web undertakings are also out in the open: your internet service provider and anyone with access to it can monitor all your activities, and on the web you can be linked back to your ISP and IP, which can be directly traced to you. Your browser’s secret or incognito mode will only help you not leave traces on your own computer, and does little to protect you in the wilderness. But other tools are available. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Virtual Private Network</strong>&nbsp;– pretty safe and very convenient. You connect to a VPN, a commercial service that puts a watertight hull between you and the open net. You can encrypt any traffic between the VPN and your own computer, so that no-one can see what you’re doing or censor it.&nbsp;</p><p>On the ”outside” of the VPN the activity is unencrypted, but cannot be linked to you, as tracing it back leads only to the VPN’s server. A good provider doesn’t keep logs, so there’s nothing to turn over if they’re asked, and they’ll have servers in several countries so that you can conceal which nation you’re in. You do need to make sure your browser's privacy settings are sound as well.&nbsp;</p><p>The drawbacks: it costs a bit of money, can slow your connection down a little bit, and you’ll have to take the&nbsp;<a href="">VPN provider</a>&nbsp;on their word.</p><p><strong>Tor - </strong>the only choice if anonymity is paramount. Tor routes your activity, encrypted, through a worldwide volunteer network, concealing your location and identity.&nbsp;<a href="">The Tor Browser Bundle</a>&nbsp;is the easiest and best bet for when you want to be as safe as you can, and combining it with a VPN adds an extra layer.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">(The most hardcore might want to check out</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="">Onion Pi</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.)</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;It’s free too. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The downside: it can be very, very slow.</span></p><p>If you like to keep your searches private,&nbsp;<a href="">DuckDuckGo</a>&nbsp;looks the other way, but it can’t really compete with Google when your hunt becomes complex.&nbsp;<a href="">StartPage</a>&nbsp;however Googles&nbsp;<em>for</em>&nbsp;you, and brings you back the results without revealing to our digital overlords who you are.&nbsp;</p><p>Your computer can be stolen or investigated by authorities, for example when crossing national borders, and for that there’s harddrive encryption like&nbsp;<a href="">TrueCrypt</a>. For extra security in ”plausible deniability”, some recommend making an encrypted disk with another encrypted disk within it,&nbsp;<em>as well as some smutty pictures or films,&nbsp;</em>the reason being that it’s technically impossible to discover whether the second encrypted area exists, and the dodgy material serves as a fine explanation for why you might use encryption in the first place…</p><p>With these precautions, good password habits, due care and a reluctance to share personal information - you can sleep pretty good at night. Just don’t talk in your sleep.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="">PRISM Break</a> - a guide to option out of the NSA's global surveillance programme.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties science & technology media & the net democracy & power Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Snooping on the innocent Magnus Nome Fri, 21 Jun 2013 03:21:27 +0000 Magnus Nome 73449 at Introducing the oDBlog <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="oD blog 140" hspace="5" width="140" /></a> <br />Our Editor-in-Chief says hello, and introduces the new openDemocracy blog.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>During our successful fundraiser earlier this year, we ran a <a href="">campaign blog</a> where we kept you updated on our progress, and asked for your input. Some of you thought we should keep in closer touch with our readers, and we agree.</p> <p>Which is why we’re hereby starting up the oDBlog to pick up where the Campaign blog ended. This is an informal place where we’ll give you a peek into what is happening at oD, sometimes important, sometimes not so much, occasionally downright frivolous.</p> <p>We’ll tell you what’s in the pipeline, let different oD voices loose on what’s close to their hearts, and most importantly: we want to hear what you have to say.</p> <p>Suggest, and we’ll take it to heart. Ask us anything, and we’ll answer the best we can. Criticise and we’ll take a long hard look at what you’re pointing at. Say nice things and we’ll smile, mumble, look down and scrape the tip of our shoes in the dirt.</p> <p>If oDBlog is a window into our office, our <a href="">new debate</a> on the Digital Commons, launched yesterday, is a meditation and discussion on our very existance and purpose. With Dan Hind we’ll explore what Digital Commons is, how it fits with oD and in the larger digital landscape dominated by tech giants, and ponder what it has to offer the future of the internet.&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s an exciting summer for oD, with a new section and an improved design soon to be launched – but I’m getting ahead of myself. Stay tuned!</p> <p>Magnus<br />Editor-in-Chief</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> oD Blog oD Blog Magnus Nome Thu, 13 Jun 2013 06:49:59 +0000 Magnus Nome 73266 at We did it! <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="" hspace="5" width="140" height="80" /></a>Thank you to all of you for helping us reach £250,000 - openDemocracy will stay open!</p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">We did it!</p><p dir="ltr">It´s great news: openDemocracy broke through our £250,000 target a few days before the deadline of March 31. This means we won’t have to close and will continue to publish writing, thinking and debates on the world we live in.</p><p>And by ”we did it”, we really mean all of us – especially you: readers, writers, donors and supporters who have dug deep into pockets, time and imagination. We can exist only because of your interest and commitment.</p><p>Thank you for your solidarity, your funding and your messages.</p><p dir="ltr">With a stronger financial foundation, we will not only stay open, but keep developing openDemocracy into what we see as a digital commons, open, accessible and well organised, with our focus where it should be: great and original coverage.</p><p dir="ltr">And we want to work with you, listen to what you’ve got to say, especially on what you think we should do better. The <a href="">Campaign blog</a> will continue as an Editors blog: an informal window into the oD office where we will also share what you tell us is on your minds.</p><p dir="ltr">Not a few of you have mentioned that our design and navigation system leave something to be desired… we don’t disagree! With the crisis weathered, this is now a top priority, and as spring comes to the northern hemisphere, you’ll notice some upgrades of our site. You can also look forward to a new section launching this summer: Transformation.</p><p dir="ltr">Again, thank you – and watch this space…</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Magnus Nome, Rosemary Bechler, Anthony Barnett, Oliver Carroll, Jane Gabriel, Oliver Huitson, Niki Seth Smith, Jo Tyabji, Clare Sambrook, Felicity Cave, Tom Cowan, Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, Bassam Gergi, Shilpa Jindia, David Krivanek, Alex Sakalis, Charles Shaw, Jonathan Bowles, Andrew Hyde, Stuart Weir, Tony Curzon Price</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="" width="140" height="80" /></a></p><hr /><p><a href=""> </a></p><p><a href="">More from the </a><a href="">campaign blog</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> #KeepODopen Blog Magnus Nome Thu, 28 Mar 2013 12:23:05 +0000 Magnus Nome 71849 at Less than ten thousand to go <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="" hspace="5" width="140" height="80" /></a>There is less than £10,000 to go in our campaign to keep oD open.&nbsp;With the reminder of openDemocracy's early foresight on the Iraq war, our&nbsp;Editor-in-Chief&nbsp;asks you to walk with us over the finishing line.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">When we faced the challenge of raising a quarter of a million pounds for openDemocracy to stay open, we knew it would be hard. The possibility of closing was very real.</p><p dir="ltr">We would fight tooth and claw to survive and grow but we all knew that success or failure would ultimately depend on how much you – our readers - value openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Two generous donors pledged the first hundred thousand, on the explicit condition that we reached the full sum. 'Almost' wouldn’t and won't cut it, it was all or nothing.</p><p dir="ltr">It still is, but we put our faith in you all and your wonderful responses have left us touched, honoured and at £240,000 – only £10,000 left to the finish line!&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">We just need a little bit more help, and we’re there. We’ve got 11 days.</p><p dir="ltr">I hope you want to be part of the final thousands and walk with us across the finish line – whether it’s by&nbsp;<a href="">donating</a>&nbsp;(or topping up your donation), asking a friend to step up and do so, pestering your circles on social media (#keepODopen on Twitter) – or all of the above.</p><p dir="ltr">And should you for a moment&nbsp;waiver&nbsp;in your belief that openDemocracy is important, I urge you to read founder&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Anthony Barnett</a>&nbsp;on the foresight and clashes of argument of oD's coverage of the Iraq war, it pioneered our approach but two oD writers paid a terrible cost. </p><p dir="ltr">The world is just as fallible now as it was then, and the need for an open, passionate and intelligent platform like oD is still as great.</p><p dir="ltr">And if&nbsp;(dare I say ”when”?) – we reach the target, I’d like us to do something else: to grow with you, your voice and your support into something better.</p><p dir="ltr">Help us climb through the final thousands&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>. Thank you.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="140" height="80" /></a></p><hr /><p><a href=""> </a></p><p><a href="">More from the </a><a href="">campaign blog</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> #KeepODopen Blog Magnus Nome Wed, 20 Mar 2013 09:50:35 +0000 Magnus Nome 71643 at Where are the openDemocracy readers? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="" width="140" height="80" /></a>In the latest campaign blog, our Editor-in-Chief&nbsp;gives a shout out to our readers no matter where they are and asks you to consider <a href="">supporting us</a> or nudging a friend to do so</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As an openDemocracy reader you’re in good – but not exclusive – company. 2,3 million people (unique visitors) have read us since this date last year, up 15% from the previous period.</p> <p>And that readership is global, coming from 225 countries and territories. They’re not always legion of course, but no less important for that, so a shout out to our single reader in <a href="">Tuvalu</a>: hi there! - we know of and appreciate you!</p> <p>The countries with the largest oD readerships are the US and the UK, not surprising since we publish mostly in English, and the same goes for the next countries; Canada, India and Australia. Then follow the Europeans: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. </p> <p>Readership has increased in all of these countries, most so in India and the US, but the list of countries where oD has seen the strongest growth<em> </em>looks very different; in Mauritania, Ethiopia, Qatar, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Lithuania and Bahrain visits are up 210% to 52%. Our proliferation in the MENA region is no doubt down to the changes that have happened – and are still happening – on the ground there, and our coverage of them in <a href="">Arab Awakening</a> and <a href="">50.50</a>.</p> <p>Our readership is spread thin across the world, and many don’t have the opportunity to contribute any money, so we depend upon more of you who can afford it to make a donation. Many of you have done so already, and maybe you could nudge a friend who also values openDemocracy. But if you haven’t, please consider <a href="">helping us secure our future</a>.</p> <p>I enjoy seeing our reach extending, but quality trumps quantity, and nothing beats an article or debate that changes the world – even if it’s just the mind of a single person. For an account of an evolving mind and the influence of an early but key openDemocracy debate, read <a href="">’Iraq after 10 years’</a> by my predecessor, Tony Curzon Price.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="140" height="80" /></a></p><p><a href=""> </a></p><p><a href="">More from the </a><a href="">campaign blog</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler/we-need-your-ideas-and-your-input">We need your ideas and your input</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andrew-hyde/350-of-you-have-helped-us-reach-%C2%A3232000-%E2%80%93-thank-you">350 of you have helped us reach £232,000 – thank you</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-krivanek/keepodopen-notes-from-twitter-campaign-trail">#keepODopen: notes from the Twitter campaign trail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/magnus-nome/thank-you-for-getting-us-halfway-there-only-%C2%A324000-to-go">Thank you for getting us halfway there - only £24,000 to go</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/magnus-nome/keep-opendemocracy-open">Keep openDemocracy open</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> #KeepODopen Blog Magnus Nome Wed, 13 Mar 2013 12:40:23 +0000 Magnus Nome 71539 at Thank you for getting us halfway there - only £24,000 to go <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="" alt="Campaign blog" width="140" /></a>Our Editor-in-Chief opens our <a href="">campaign blog</a> and pays tribute to the magnificent response so far to <a href=";src=hash">#KeepODopen</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Dear supporters,</p> <p>Since we launched the public part of our urgent <a href="">£250,000 appeal</a> last week, the openDemocracy team and I have been overwhelmed by your magnificant response.</p> <p>Many of you have given so it hurts – that particular kind of pain that’s mixed with the pleasure of knowing you’re part of something bigger: ensuring that oD survives as a free and open space. Without you, it could not.</p> <p>You’ve already helped us get half way to the last £50,000 we need to release the full £250,000. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!</p> <p>But with your pounds, dollars or euros many of you also sent comments, telling us just why you’ve decided to contribute. And while we <em>need</em> money at oD, we <em>love </em>words… here are some favourites:</p> <blockquote><p><em>I am occasionally enraged by OpenDemocracy, often stimulated, and much better informed.</em></p></blockquote><p style="margin-left:240px">- Alexander Walkington</p> <blockquote><p><em>We need to&nbsp;<a href=";src=hash">#</a></em><a href=";src=hash"><em><strong>keepODopen</strong></em></a><em> - closed doors close minds.</em></p></blockquote><p style="margin-left:240px">- @shelleydeane via Twitter</p> <blockquote><p><em>oD is an unique source of news and opinions and we can't let it die.</em></p></blockquote><p style="margin-left:240px">- Eric Cavalcanti</p> <blockquote><p><em>With ever increasing concealed and centralized control over so called free press and so called democracies throughout the world, openDemocracy is probably one of few bastions left for future hope.</em></p></blockquote><p style="margin-left:240px">- Morten Lind</p> <p>If you haven’t supported us yet, <a href="">please consider doing so</a> – we still need £24,000 to reach our target and release what the donors have pledged.</p> <p>If you’ve already pitched it, maybe you could email our appeal to someone you know who appreciates openDemocracy, asking them to match you. Or spread our <a href="">appeal</a> on <a href="">Facebook</a>, or on Twitter using <a href=";src=hash">#<strong>keepODopen</strong></a>. </p> <p>And keep watching this space for updates.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="Campaign blog" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a></p> <hr /><hr /> <p>Read more from the <a href="">#KeepODopen campaign blog</a></p>. </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> #KeepODopen Blog Magnus Nome Wed, 27 Feb 2013 18:51:42 +0000 Magnus Nome 71197 at Keep openDemocracy open <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy needs your help to survive. We have to raise £18,000 by March 31 – if we don’t, we will have to close.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This has not come out of the blue. In December we realised we must put openDemocracy on a better footing. We had redoubled our efforts to secure funding through project funding and editorial partnerships. This is showing great promise but is not quick enough – and our Board has judged that we need £250,000 to secure our future.</p> <p>We have raised £200,000 of this, thanks to very generous donors. But this is conditional on achieving the target we need - and now we have a deadline: March 31.</p> <p><span>We know you want fresh investigation, strong ideas and good writing to address the extraordinary events of our time.&nbsp; We also know you don’t want to pay for it. We don’t either. We like our web free.</span></p> <p><span>Web publishing is increasingly dominated by giant corporations and lone bloggers. To keep open and independent spaces like openDemocracy alive with a richness of content and a variety of voices, we need the help of those of you that can pitch in.</span></p> <p><strong>We are not asking you to pay for content, but to make sure we continue to exist</strong><span>.</span></p> <p><a name="five"></a><span>Every £1 or $1 or €1 that <a href="">you give</a> will be worth £5 or $5 or €5. Every £10 will be worth £50. A monthly commitment of $20 counts as $200 over the year and will be worth $1,000 to us.</span></p> <p><span>At openDemocracy we give you a depth and originality that is all too rare, and we don’t charge a penny. We never will – oD is a not-for-profit digital commons made possible by the thousands of authors and contributors who donate their time and thoughts because they believe in what we do and the space we’ve created.</span></p> <p><span>We will never hide their work behind a pay-wall. We will always make sure it is freely available for everyone, including the impoverished, young and old across the world.</span></p> <p><span>You can read our <a href="">appeal document</a>, which explains our situation and sets out our very modest budget.</span></p> <p><span>The generous pledges we have so far secured mean that </span><strong>for every dollar, pound or euro you donate to openDemocracy – we’ll get five.</strong></p> <p><span>But: </span><strong>if we fail to raise the £50,000 by March 31 we will get nothing, and will have to close.</strong></p> <p><span>We hope you agree that would be a shame.</span></p> <p><span>openDemocracy has a proud history – since we started in 2001, we resisted the moral panic of the war on terror, challenged market fundamentalism, questioned the war on drugs, analysed issues of gender equality, championed human rights and supported a democracy of deliberation, not populism.</span></p> <p><span>We have published material from esteemed experts and fresh talent from all over the world, and hosted debates that could have existed nowhere else. We’re read by over 2 million people every year, and in every country of the world, including those where we’re blocked, like Iran.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>In 2003 we published an article warning of a coming debt crisis in the US and EU. A day after the assault on Fallujah in Iraq in 2004 we ran a first hand account. In 2006 an oD author imagined a black former community organiser with an unfamiliar name as the next US president.</span></p> <p><span>Today we write on subjects such as drone warfare, a deeply flawed economy, how the ‘Arab spring’ affects women, power and opposition in Russia, the dismantling of the welfare state in Britain, xenophobia in Europe and the US, the climate crisis, and violent conflicts across the world.</span></p> <p><span>And we look forward. We stand for human rights, openness and democracy. Our sections are teeming with life and energy, and editorially and in terms of readership we’re at a high point. A new self-funded section </span><em>Transformation </em><span>is launching this spring. We publish 53 pieces a week on average, and we do this on a very modest budget – </span><em>much less</em><span> than half the salary of a banker! &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>So not only will your donation be quintupled – it’ll also fuel one of the most efficient publishers of quality news, comment and analysis in existence.</span></p> <p><span>This is possible because our contributors and our young, dedicated team of editors give so much for so little.</span></p> <p><span>We don't want you to wave them goodbye,&nbsp;we’re asking you to salute their generosity by matching it with <a href="">yours</a>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> Notes from the Editor-in-Chief #KeepODopen Blog Magnus Nome Tue, 19 Feb 2013 12:22:52 +0000 Magnus Nome 71034 at A convenient "tie" <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A tie that isn't quite what it seems, and a US election sideshow: pundit gut v nerd calculator.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>We’re only a few days away from knowing who will lead the US for the next four years. (Probably – I haven’t forgotten 2000). </p> <p>The contest is already a media success. It has had some interesting twists and turns, and as it approaches the finish it's close and exciting.</p> <p>For pundits, it’s prediction time, and we’re treated to their expert opinions (also known as gut feelings) on who will be occupying The White House.</p> <p>But this year we’ve seen more of a less cocksure bunch, wielding large sets of interesting numbers but still refusing to go all in. While traditional pundits still pretend that any cherrypicked poll swing is “news”, proper statisticians are adding them all together, carefully weighed by many parameters, thus creating a much more reliable meta-analysis.</p> <p>These number crunchers, led by <a href="">Nate Silver</a>, have consistently given Obama the edge. It started out slim, grew comfortable as Romney struggled, then almost evaporated after the first debate. Much of it has been recovered since, mostly due to a smallish but tenacious lead in enough of the swing states. At time of writing, Silver’s <a href="">Fivethirtyeight</a> estimates Obama’s chance of victory at 79%.</p> <p>The fact that Obama never dipped below a 50% chance, even when Romney led national polls (which right now look almost exactly even), has led Silver to be dubbed “<a href="">Xanax for liberals</a>”, and has recently brought down a <a href="">slew of attacks</a> on the head of the current king of stat gurus.</p> <p>It’s not surprising: the GOP is desperate to avoid a return to the narrative of a losing Romney. Silver has been called an ideologue and a joke, his sexuality alluded to. His numbers from before the <a href="">2010 election</a>&nbsp;are conveniently forgotten – those were more like cocaine for conservatives than sedatives for liberals.</p> <p>Also, many of the attacks on Silver seem to be from people who don’t understand probability – interpreting a seventy-something per cent chance of winning as a shoo-in. It’s no such thing.</p> <p>If Obama has a 79% chance of winning, more than one in five hypothetical elections would go to Romney. That’s far from a tie, but it's not a bad shot. If you put 79 blue and 21 red balls in a bucket and picked one out without looking, your mind wouldn’t be blown if it was a red one. (If it is, you’ve lived a rather sheltered life.) There’s plenty of reason for both campaigns to keep fighting tooth and claw.</p> <p><a href="">Joe Scarborough </a>of MSNBC doesn't get this, asserting that 50.1% was the best estimate – as both campaigns had told him so. They would of course; the Romney campaign wants to be seen as winners, the Obama campaign know they’ve got a slight edge, but are terrified of anyone in their ranks letting their guard down.</p> <p>On Election Day 2008 the Obama campaign sent out a message through their organisation on the ground: “McCain is doing surprisingly well – get out there!” Adrenalin flowed through the veins of thousands of volunteers, ensuring the ground campaign worked at full capacity those last few hours. I’m sure they’ll repeat the trick, it would be stupid not to.</p> <p>So at this point, both campaigns and the media have interests in the same narrative – it’s a tie.</p> <p>Karl Rove is too smart to really believe it’s going very well, so when he claims <a href="">Romney is poised to win</a> in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, brandishing plenty of numbers, it’s to even out the predictions of Silver and co. (He knows that he <em>can</em> win of course, otherwise he’d have kept quiet, but calling him favourite is a favour, not a judgement.) The Obama campaign wouldn’t want their surrogates to declare likely victory like Rove, they already look like very slim favourites and are happy with that perception.</p> <p>To be sure, pundits will still declare winners, because they see speculating as part of their job, and they like to bask in the glory of being right if they happen to be. Not that there should be much of that: if you declare you’re sure of the winner now, you might be right about the outcome, but that doesn’t make you right about the confidence. It would just be an unremarkably correct guess.</p> <p>Silver’s numbers aren’t necessarily right, of course. It’s a complex landscape of polls and realities, and uncharted undercurrents or unexpected events can have unpredictable results. But I’ll trust a nerd over a pundit any day, especially when the <a href="">bookies agree</a>.</p> <p>Based on the imperfect, but vast and informative data we have available, I think we can say this with certainty: an Obama victory is the most likely outcome, a Romney victory is entirely plausible.</p> <p>At least that’s what my gut tells me.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/magnus-nome/sports-for-people-who-dont-like-sports">Sports for people who don&#039;t like sports</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Notes from the Editor-in-Chief American election 2012 Barack Obama Mitt Romney Magnus Nome Thu, 01 Nov 2012 17:51:22 +0000 Magnus Nome 69119 at Trilogy of tragedy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Three texts taken together invoke Norway’s darkest day in peacetime.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For those who want to understand the attacks of July 22 2011, three documents shine a light on them, each from a different angle.</p><p>Some would argue that these texts offer too little political, philosophical, sociological or historical context to help our understanding of events. But before we try to contextualize and analyse, we need to know the basics. These are the three documents that together form a picture of July 22 &ndash; a Trilogy of Tragedy.</p><p><strong>The Actions: The verdict</strong></p> <p>Last Friday&rsquo;s unanimous verdict in Oslo was the conclusion to a court case that was utterly bizarre and run completely by the book.</p> <p>A soft spoken, well-mannered terrorist, moved to tears by his own crude propaganda, apologizing for not having been able to kill an even greater number. &nbsp;A prosecutor who decided that there was enough doubt cast on what they had to offer to necessitate a verdict of insanity. In opposite corners: the victims&rsquo; lawyer and the defence finding themselves in agreement that these actions were in fact political rather than mad.</p> <p>The verdict is clearly written with more than the strict requirements of the law in mind; its authors aware of its historical importance as the official account of a national tragedy. </p> <p>It contains a concise version of the life of the perpetrator and his ideology, and a heart-breaking shot-by-shot account of the fatal day; formal, brief and seemingly never-ending, despite being confined to the murdered and gravely injured. &nbsp;</p> <p>It also includes the forensic reasoning behind the judgment on sanity, clearly laid out and grounded in law &ndash; probably the decisive factor leading to the prosecutor&rsquo;s unusual step in declaring, on the very same day, that there would be no appeal against the verdict.</p> <p><a href=";tl=en&amp;js=n&amp;prev=_t&amp;hl=en&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;layout=2&amp;eotf=1&amp;;act=url">Verdict (Google translated, English)<br /></a><a href="">Verdict (original, Norwegian)</a></p><p><span>The Reactions: The fact-finding commission&rsquo;s report</span></p> <p>In August last year, the parliament gave an independent commission the task of dissecting the events, and to establish the readiness and reactions of the country.</p><p align="center"><img src="" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p>Earlier this month the results of a thorough investigation were presented in a report full of damning conclusions. While some individuals were reprimanded, most of the failures were systematic.</p> <p>The risk of terror hadn&rsquo;t been taken seriously enough &ndash; there had been plans for bomb-proofing government quarters for years, but they faded in drawers, nobody feeling ultimately responsible for the project. Both the government and the police are criticized for lack of preparedness, the report leaving the distinct impression of a country going through the motions of preparing for a terror attack, without really believing it would happen. The police computer and communication equipment was woefully inadequate, and the routines for a national crisis in shambles.</p> <p>Perhaps the most painful example: a post-it note.</p> <p>A witness saw Breivik in Oslo, dressed as an armed police officer, entering the second car he used to drive to Ut&oslash;ya after having planted the bomb. The witness got suspicious, called the police, and described what he saw, including the number plate. This information was left on a post-it note for 20 minutes before they called him back.</p> <p>Another ten minutes later the police finally sent out an alert through the <em>national alert system</em>, detailing the vehicle and perpetrator. The system was set up for these kinds of crisis, but hadn&rsquo;t been relevant before. The alert went unnoticed.</p> <p>Breivik passed multiple police cars on his drive to Ut&oslash;ya where he murdered 69, but none of the officers knew what to look out for.</p> <p>Not everything was dysfunctional. The response of the medical emergency services got good marks, and the leadership shown by the Government <em>after</em> the attack had occurred was lauded.&nbsp; Finally there was well-deserved praise for the holiday campers by Tyrifjorden, who jumped into their boats and rescued many of those trying to escape the massacre by swimming through the freezing water.</p> <p><a href="">Extract of report (pdf, English)<br /></a><a href="">Full report (pdf, Norwegian)</a></p> <p><span>The Reasoning: The Manifesto</span></p> <p>As in the other two cases, Breivik&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="">2083 &ndash; A European Declaration of Independence</a> is written with the knowledge (or hope) that it would become a document for posterity. It offers an important perspective on the reasoning behind the attack.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not a comfortable read; poorly justified hatred (against muslims, women and anyone remotely left-wing), hagiographical autobiography showing extreme ego and vanity, terror DIY manual, cut-n-paste plagiarism, historical revisionism,&nbsp;faux scholarly writing and&nbsp;dreams of a nationalist-fascist society.</p><p align="center"><img src="" alt="" width="270" /></p> <p>Worst of all, the ominous feeling of reading the words of a human bomb when it was still ticking, quietly, hidden from us and from 77 people no longer alive.</p> <p>Still there is no better document to understand the world Breivik imagined himself living in, one where he and his own were under threat, so offering him an opportunity to become someone significant. A hero by his own self-definition.</p> <p>The ideological chapters of the 1518 page document show who it was that inspired Breivik to believe he was living in a civil war. People like Gis&egrave;le Littman (aka Bat Ye&rsquo;or),&nbsp;<span>Peder Are N&oslash;stvold Jensen&nbsp;</span>(aka Fjordman), Robert Spencer and Bruce Bawer cannot be considered directly responsible for a single death. But by feeding their misinformed hate and horrifying fantasy scenarios into the online echo chamber of Islamophobia, they helped Breivik rationalize his simmering hate and gave him something to kill for: the role of misunderstood martyr in shining armour, protecting his people from themselves, even if it meant they would hate him for it.</p><p>---</p><p><em>For more personal and analytical views on the terror, court case and national trauma, watch <a href="">openDemocracy's video interviews from Oslo.&nbsp;</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marte-christensen/recovering-from-terror">Recovering from terror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/robert-lambert/breivik-court-verdict-security-lessons">Breivik court verdict: security lessons? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cas-mudde/norway%E2%80%99s-democratic-example">Norway’s democratic example</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kjetil-%C3%B8stli/justice-is-just-word">Justice is just a word</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/p%C3%A5l-gr%C3%B8ndahl/legal-insanity-look-to-norway">Legal insanity - look to Norway?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/magnus-nome/notes-from-editor-in-chief">Notes from the Editor-in-Chief</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Norway </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oslo </div> </div> </div> Oslo Norway Notes from Editor in Chief TEST islamophobia criminal justice security terrorism Debate on Utøya Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome Sat, 01 Sep 2012 11:31:54 +0000 Magnus Nome 67843 at Sports for people who don't like sports <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: left;">With the selection of the politically extreme Paul Ryan as his VP candidate, Romney will energize Obama’s base as well as his own, making it a watchable race for those who enjoy political blood sports.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For those of us who can’t seem to manage to get enthused over certain Olympians running slightly faster than other Olympians (but wish we did – it looks like fun), there are other sources of entertainment in town.</p> <p>We had a great one last week, with NASA participating alone in the game of trying to place a robot/car/laboratory equipped with a laser gun on another planet using a rocket-powered sky-crane. Beats dressage in my book.</p> <p>It might have been the highlight of the year, but it lasted only a few <a href="">minutes</a> for us spectators, and the trickle of scientific data and red landscape photos won’t be able to compete with the biggest – and longest - show in town: <strong>the</strong> <strong>US Presidential Elections</strong>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Picking Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, Romney has injected much-needed energy into the race, as he has <a href="">steadily been slipping behind</a> in the polls. Portman or Pawlenty wouldn’t have provided much of a bounce.</p> <p>He had to find a candidate more interesting than himself (despite the unfortunate contrast it will create), but not someone who could trigger even the faintest déjà vu of Sarah Palin. Right wing enough to make that wing happy, but potentially palatable to centrist independents.</p> <p>Palatable, Ryan is only in appearance. Smart and knowledgeable, sincere and likeable, young and good looking, with a pinch of blue collar credentials, he seems a far cry from the zany primaries, with its cast of crazy eyed, Pokémon-quoting, moon-base-promising, sweater-vest-wearing loonies.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The problem with Ryan is his extreme ideas. As Nate Silver <a href="">points out</a>, he’s the most ideologically extreme veep candidate since 1900 if not before, including Cheney, his voting record on a par with Michelle Bachmann’s.</p> <p>His political mentor is Ayn Rand, the darling of Tea Partiers and libertarians, who don’t seem to mind that she was an avowed atheist, had as much empathy as a lump of coal and wrote terrible novels.</p> <p>The atheism part could be the deal-breaker, but conveniently<a href="">&nbsp;an interview in <em>The National Review</em></a> from April this year reveals that Ryan’s long <a href="">admiration</a> for the objectivist saint is in fact an “urban legend”, re-launches him as a pious Catholic, and – why not - declares the Pope a deficit hawk. Anyone doubting the Christian right’s willingness to overlook this one-degree-of-separation atheism, I refer you to the all but forgotten Mormonism of Romney.</p> <p>Despite the American obsession with the personal faith of politicians, what really count are his economic policies, and that’s where the true extremism lies. Ryan was the architect of a cost-slashing budget, <em>The Path to Prosperity,</em> based on his <em>Road Map for America's Future</em>, which went so far it was originally believed nothing but a wet dream for über conservatives, unlikely to win over even most Republicans.&nbsp;Newt Gingrich thought Ryan’s plan for Medicare so radical it amounted to “right-wing social engineering”. But then the budget was embraced. This extreme plan, praised by Romney, might now become the unofficial platform for the campaign.</p> <p>If you wanted to put a positive spin on that, it would be “actual change” – which is both true and scary. In his acceptance speech Ryan painted America as a sombre and dysfunctional place that needed to be taken back to its roots, its core idea, to prosper again; it’s a strain of empty rhetoric with a proven track record. Ryan fills Romney’s idea vacuum, and helps the narrative of their campaign. It now feels like something more than anything-but-Obama.</p> <p>But Ryan’s radicalism makes him an excellent target for the Obama campaign, which will revel in painting him as an extreme candidate in the <a href="">pockets</a> of the <a href="">1%</a>, eager to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It’s a powerful line of attack that has the added benefit of being an accurate description of reality. As much as Americans love their capitalism, they love these exceptions to it even more.</p> <p>Other handicaps that Romney accepted with the pick of his running mate: as another white guy, Ryan carries no extra bonuses with crucial voting groups such as&nbsp;Hispanics and&nbsp;women, and he hails from Wisconsin, not a crucial swing state like Florida and Ohio. He’s a Washington insider, with a long paper-trail of votes as a representative, also known as ‘potential ammunition’ in campaign parlance. That he <a href="">pampers to climate change denialists</a> is, unfortunately, unlikely to cause him any problems, even in a year of severe drought.</p> <p>Something here that should worry Obama: Romney has plenty of experience taking calculated risks, is obsessed with thorough research and has become very rich based on these skills. Wise or not, it’s not a Hail Mary pass like McCain’s.</p> <p>With the VP tap done, it’s time to look forward to <a href="">the debates</a>, the Olympics of well-honed rhetorical fencing, question-evading ju-jitsu and talking-point archery. I’ll be gleefully watching all of them, with equal parts giddy interest, intellectual disgust and beer. That the outcome matters in a very real way to a great many people doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to enjoy watching the fight.</p> <p>For those of us who prefer politics to other types of sports, the season just got more interesting, and the outcome even more important. The pick will energize both bases, and might, just maybe, make the campaign more about actual ideas and policies than it would with another choice.</p> <p>In the age of sky cranes and laser robot cars on Mars, we should at least be allowed to hope.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/magnus-nome/death-of-controversy">The death of a controversy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/magnus-nome/notes-from-editor-in-chief">Notes from the Editor-in-Chief</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/matt-kennard/veterans-tale-homeless-in-homeland">The veteran&#039;s tale: homeless in the homeland </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Science north america Barack Obama Mitt Romney Paul Ryan presidential elections Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome Sun, 12 Aug 2012 15:08:18 +0000 Magnus Nome 67506 at The death of a controversy? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Non-news about a "controversy" on life support, an inconsequential U-turn and the unfortunate fact that&nbsp;<em>schadenfreude&nbsp;</em>won't save the climate.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When scientists come to a surprising conclusion, they don’t pick up the phone and call a newspaper´s gossip column. They try to disprove the results themselves, then submit them to the harsh criticism of colleagues through the peer-review process.</p> <p>The conclusion Richard Muller and his team came to <a href=";utm_medium=email&amp;utm_content=Vision+Prize+next+steps+___+and+thanks_&amp;utm_campaign=Vision+Prize+next+steps+___+and+thanks_&amp;utm_term=data+graphics#findings">wasn’t in the least bit surprising</a> to the vast majority of climate scientists. But since he was one of exceedingly few actual scientists who had embraced the label “climate sceptic”, and since he was receiving funding from the infamous <a href="">Koch brothers</a>, it was nevertheless considered a bombshell.</p> <p>“Call me a converted sceptic”, he wrote in <a href=";pagewanted=all">an op-ed in the <em>New York Times</em></a>. He concludes not only that global warming is real, but also that humans are its cause. And he can even assert this, he says, with greater certainty than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has done.&nbsp;</p> <p>So, does this kill the “climate change controversy”? Of course not. </p> <p>Number one, <em>there is no controversy to kill</em>. While there are many aspects to quibble over (and I mean that in the best possible way, this is how we refine our understanding of the climate process and magnitude of the problem); and while we’ve yet to decide on how best to deal with the crisis - the conclusions dramatically unveiled in the <em>NYT</em> have been known to everyone within the field for decades, the level of doubt steadily decreasing as more data is gathered and studied. In a more rational world, the <em>NYT</em> would find no reason to publish such underwhelming statements as if they were news.&nbsp;</p> <p>Number two, <em>there is a faux controversy that should be dead but is being kept artificially alive by the American right.</em> The sponsors are few in number but very rich and strategically important, functioning as major roadblocks to effective coordinated international action. The argument over whether we humans are causing climate change should be in the same file as the <a href="">miasma/germ</a> controversy. But it lives and breathes in an iron lung &nbsp;forged by ideology and business interests, powered by money and greed. This is not the kind of machine that can be turned off by some scientist, some know-it-all guy from Berkeley, who – talk radio hosts in all likelihood already fuming - probably thinks we should all live on lettuce alone and cycle to work on bikes made of recycled hemp. His conversion might chip away at a corner of the cock-sureness, the number of voices that suggest switching off the argument's life-support could increase. But the incentives to insist ‘the jury is still out’ remain. There is no reason to believe that the great pretending won’t go on for some time yet. Big lies oft repeated are still effective.</p> <p>There has been criticism that the Muller team's conclusions were released before a peer-reviewed paper has been published, a very legitimate point - though giggle-inducing when it comes from quarters who, as often as not, can’t tell data from anecdote, trend from variation, or scientist from sock puppet.</p> <p>Muller’s conversion is welcome, and the Koch money adds delicious <em>schadenfreude</em>, but whether his peers find it wanting or not is of little importance: he has discovered the Earth is rather round.&nbsp;</p> <p>At openDemocracy we want to increase our coverage of climate issues. Not the fake controversy, but how we as a society must change to save the biosphere as well as the progress we’ve made so far as a species; and the <a href="">obstacles</a> we face in that endeavour.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/magnus-nome/notes-from-editor-in-chief">Notes from the Editor-in-Chief</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/%C3%B8yvind-paasche/climate-politics-hockey-stick-to-hamster-wheel">Climate politics: hockey-stick to hamster-wheel </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> Science science & technology Climate change north america Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome Wed, 01 Aug 2012 16:49:32 +0000 Magnus Nome 67354 at Notes from the Editor-in-Chief <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src=" pic 270 short.jpg" alt="" hspace="10" width="70" align="right" />Our Editor-in-Chief launches a new front page feature. His first note reflects on Norway's past year and the need for eternal vigilance both against online hate speech and the new manacles on internet freedom in the pipeline.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>One year ago a self obsessed loser from the west side of Oslo went on a killing rampage, fuelled by online hatred and right-wing conspiracy theories, to cut the heroic figure he imagined he should be.</p><p>Norway has thought of little else since. As his guilt was not in question, the court case, held April 16 to June 22, was part historical documentation, part therapy session for a traumatized nation, part memorial for the victims and part seminar on psychiatric diagnosis and the distinction between insane obsession and deranged judgement.</p><p>The rights the court granted the mass murderer surprised many: he was unchained, allowed to speak, unhindered when he contrived a made-up right-wing salute, and the professional actors in the courtroom shook his hand. Foreign observers saw it as bewildering naivety or perhaps lack of passion. In fact for many Norwegians it was our act of defiance; changing these norms would mean shifting the society ever so slightly in a direction Breivik would have approved of.</p><p>As the nation, the survivors and the bereaved look back to this infamous date, openDemocracy will run a series of pieces looking at&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the year that has passed</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">whether it has changed the country.</a></p><p>In recent weeks a shameful situation has dominated Norwegian headlines.</p><p>The relatively small number of Romanian Roma in Oslo, legally in the country as EU citizens, have experienced&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">increased hostility</a>, including threats and pure hate speech. Police have been tearing down their camps one minute, protecting them against aggressive neighbours the next.</p><p>The worst things that are being said aren’t actually being said of course, but written on the internet, Breivik’s feeding trough for hate. Hopefully we’ve come far enough not to blame the technology in this case, which would be like blaming the Holocaust on <em>bierstubes</em>.</p><p>--------</p><p>Internet freedom is one of the crucial issues of our time, which is why I am pleased that openDemocracy is amongst the signers of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Declaration of Internet Freedom.</a>&nbsp;Some criticize the text for its vagueness, but it’s intended as a banner to gather around when the freedom of the Internet is under attack, rather than a detailed manifesto.</p><p>The internet started out with protocols but without law. &nbsp;But power abhors a vacuum, and so it’s being subjected to rules struggling to keep up with technology and a traditional battle has opened between the interest of big business and police on one hand, and civil liberties, creativity and users (as well as other big businesses in some cases) on the other.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s crucial we pay attention to what these laws say. Too many forces are all too willing to censor opinions, keep users under surveillance or create a two-tier net.&nbsp;The internet got a lot of things right because it blindsided authorities, transcends nations and keeps changing faster than any law-making process.&nbsp;</p><p>The laws now being proposed are written with generous input from lobbyists, who seek to have them passed as discretely as possible. This has been surprisingly unsuccessful this year, and all credit for this goes to&nbsp;new brand of online political activists, sharing values such as the right to freedom of speech, creative freedom, democracy, privacy for individuals and transparency for the powerful players. They’re often not identified on the left/right axis, and when they are, just as likely to be libertarians as socialists. From the <a href="">streets of Poland</a> to&nbsp;<a href=" " target="_blank"></a>, from Pirate parties to Silicon valley, they’ve mobilized, spoken up and successfully thrown wrenches in the machinery, stopping laws such as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">SOPA/PIPA</a>&nbsp;(US) and ACTA (<a href="" target="_blank">killed in the European parliament</a>) in their tracks.</p><p>Much of their proposed constraints will be back under a new guise,&nbsp;(hence the proposal for an internet&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">bat signal</a>, to mobilize the minute this happens). Still these victories are, for a variety of reasons, so far more tangible than anything actually achieved by movements such as Occupy.&nbsp;</p><p>The rules of the future Internet are being written today. We should pay attention.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/bj%C3%B8rn-st%C3%A6rk/breivik-and-norwegian-immigration-debate">Breivik and the Norwegian immigration debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sindre-bangstad/norway-one-year-after-open-wound">Norway - one year after: an open wound</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mahmona-khan/power-of-hate-and-potential-of-norway">The power of hate and the potential of Norway</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Norway </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> Norway Internet Debate on Utøya Notes from the Editor-in-Chief Magnus Nome Mon, 23 Jul 2012 16:35:46 +0000 Magnus Nome 67188 at A message from the new Editor-in-Chief <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we want a functioning democracy and to understand what goes on behind the scenes we need places like openDemocracy. Our new Editor-in-Chief thanks all our contributors and asks for your support.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Dear reader,</p> <p>When I was a kid I wanted to be a private detective. I liked the idea of solving the puzzle; figuring out a complex world from shadowy outlines, wading through muddy waters to find what’s hidden below the waterline. But just as important: I hated for the bad guys to get away - especially the powerful ones.</p> <p>But realities dawned: fiction was fiction, and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed trying to catch cheating spouses, nor hack celebrities’ phones. What I did enjoy was writing, and so journalism was the logical conclusion. I studied in London, before returning to my native Oslo to work in radio, television and writing. A series of events last year brought me into contact with Anthony Barnett, founder of openDemocracy, and eventually led to me being offered the position of Editor-in-Chief. With a deep bow to those who have created this important space, I accepted.</p> <p>I’m not one to view the past with the rosy tint of nostalgia, but comparatively journalism is in an era of great challenges. As the resources available for intensive activities such as fact checking or investigative journalism have dwindled, the resources and effectiveness of those who want to influence the news agenda and media narratives for their own purposes are greater than ever. Too much news is thinly veiled entertainment, some is pure propaganda, and these are by no means mutually exclusive.</p> <p>While the amount of information available to us is increasing exponentially, accountability in how it is gained and used is lacking. Those who start wars of aggression based on lies, wreak havoc on our economy with blind greed, seed hate and division to further their own agenda or put stumbling blocks in the way of action on climate change, live comfortably and needn’t fear repercussions.</p> <p>If we want a functioning democracy and to understand what goes on behind the scenes we need places like openDemocracy, where in-depth analysis, informed commentary and sharp debate challenge our assumptions and widen our horizons.</p> <p>openDemocracy was born in the online world, unburdened by printing presses and ink – however romantic those sound today. We must continue in the great tradition of the last decade (an aeon in internet time), with high quality content professionally edited by dedicated editors like Rosemary Bechler and David Hayes, but we will also look for ways to widen our reach. We will do that through social media, more video and continuing innovation. That task will be made easier by the fact that Tony Curzon Price, whose shoes I’ll be trying to grow into, is staying on as Associate Editor and Technical Director.</p> <p>While creating this platform was a great deed, it would be nothing without the thousands of contributors who have dedicated their time and minds to help the world get to grips with thorny issues and see the world from fresh angles.</p> <p>openDemocracy is like a room full of wise people; listening to them talk is great, overhearing them argue even better, but nothing beats joining the conversation.</p> <p>And there is rent to pay. openDemocracy will always be free for all to read, but running it is not - although it’s a lean and effective organisation. <strong>Support from those who understand the importance of our project is necessary for our existence</strong>. We don’t only want to keep doing what we do, but to do it better, extend our influence and become an important platform and resource for many more. I hope you’ll consider contributing what you can spare, and spread the word to others.&nbsp; <a href="">You can do so here</a>.</p> <p>Many thanks,</p> <p>Magnus </p> Magnus Nome Mon, 28 May 2012 08:33:43 +0000 Magnus Nome 66080 at Magnus Nome <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Magnus Nome </div> </div> </div> <p>Magnus Nome is a former Editor-in-Chief of openDemocracy (May 2012 - July 2014). Before he joined oD he worked as a writer, journalist and broadcaster in Oslo, and was Editor-in-Chief&nbsp;of Teddy TV. Twitter: <a href="">@magnusnome&nbsp;</a></p> Magnus Nome Mon, 08 Aug 2011 06:23:46 +0000 Magnus Nome 60771 at Why let facts ruin the story? Norwegian comments on US coverage of the Norway terror <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of getting the facts, the US media seemed most concerned making reality fit their pre-fabricated narrative.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Being in a sleepy Texas town when my home country was struck by a double terrorism attack was eerie. Following the story developing in American and Norwegian media simultaneously didn’t make the experience less bizarre.</p> <p>I found the US coverage to be slow, riddled with inaccuracies and at times patronizing towards a nation still in shock. Almost an hour after Norwegian press reported that police had upgraded the death toll to over 80, CNN were reporting 17 dead. But worse: hours after it was clear that an ethnic Norwegian man was arrested, and those with local knowledge had surmised that Utøya was an unlikely target for Muslim fundamentalists in the first place, CNN and FOX still talked Jihad like it was the only show in town.&nbsp;</p> <p>When facts about the perpetrator finally made their desks, a <em>good disguise</em> or <em>a convert</em> were immediately floated as possibilities, the willingness to jump to conclusions suddenly dampened by already having settled on one. In retrospect they’ve tried to hide behind the fact that someone on a jihadist online forum claimed responsibility. But somebody always does. Since when did we let an anonymous online forum poster, claiming to represent an organization nobody has heard of, set the agenda of all newsrooms in the world?</p> <p>When indications started to emerge, suggesting another explanation, the news seemed very reluctant to even consider them. The experts on Islamist terror were already seated, they’d already done a good job justifying why Norway was in fact not such an unlikely target; soldiers in Afghanistan, planes over Libya, the early reprinting of the Danish cartoons, the effort to secure the deportation of Oslo resident extremist Mullah Krekar. So of course the Muslims would attack Norway. Except they didn’t.</p> <p>Fox News didn’t let that stop them: “Islamic terrorism is a problem in Scandinavian countries”, we were told, <em>after</em> we knew who the actual perpetrator was, "where they're just sort of turning a blind eye to it." And indeed it seemed we were. The proof? After a UN speech where former president George W. Bush had kept to his favourite subject "the War On Terror", the Norwegian PM was the next speaker and had focused on the threat of (gasp!) Climate Change. Such naïveté.</p> <p>Except Norway has never been the victim of Islamic terrorism. There have been some examples of political violence in the last decades: hate killings and bombings of a labour day parade, a mosque, immigrant corner shops and a left wing book store. Behind all these were right-wing extremists; loathed, few in number, but willing to use indiscriminate violence.</p> <p>FOX were at pains to paint as irrelevant certain features of the terrorist – or "madman",&nbsp;as he was suddenly relegated to – his professed conservative Christianity, his extensive use of crusader imagery, his admiration for the Pope and his stated mission to protect Christian values against lefties and Muslims. While a good case can be made that his religion was not the source of his deeds, how irrelevant would his faith be had he been a Muslim? Would we hear of madmen and lone wolves then?</p> <p>The news coverage over the following days taught me a lot of interesting new ‘facts’ about the innocent nation of Norway.</p> <p>1. Apparently we don’t lock our doors at night. Wrong. We do.&nbsp;</p> <p>2. There is no public debate about immigration. Wrong. Immigration generally, and Islam specifically, have been high on the agenda for more than a decade.</p> <p>3. We’re all white. Wrong. Norway has become an increasingly diverse society since the early 1970s: almost a third of Oslo now has non-Norwegian origin, more than one in ten being Muslim.</p> <p>4. Owning a gun is practically illegal. Wrong. Hunting and sport shooting are popular recreational activities, and Norway ranks high in gun ownership.</p> <p>5. The Utøya victims were all white, and the terrorist did not kill any Muslims. Wrong. The victims reflected a diverse Norwegian society. Several of the dead were Muslims, several were of African or Middle Eastern ancestry. This information was available. It is extremely disrespectful to airbrush them out of the story to make it more coherent.</p> <p>We were all horrified that so many of the victims were young, indeed most were in their teens. But the US news seemed to prefer the term ‘children’, not exactly accurate when the victims’ ages ranged from 14 to 61.&nbsp;</p> <p>Later came the outrage, from Piers Morgan and others, that Norway has a maximum prison sentence of 21 years, as well as relatively comfortable prisons, “with flatscreen TVs”, as gasped in horror. Never mind that he might get 30 for crimes against humanity and that the law allows for unlimited ‘containment’ for the most dangerous of criminals. Forget that the prisons referred to are low security prisons, that all TVs are flat in 2011, and that he might not get one at all.</p> <p>Others lament the lack of the death penalty in Norway, calling for the blood of the killer. This is not what the victims’ families say. In a Facebook poll, 80% of Norwegians oppose death penalty for the killer. The terrorist wanted the death penalty re-instated. He will not get his way on this. We won’t let a murderer make us murderers.</p> <p>Some commentators even claim that the laws against carrying weapons for self-defence are to blame. In all likelihood, all this would have meant is that one of the dead bodies would be clutching a pistol. Lecturing a country that has a murder rate about one eighth of the US one is disingenuous.</p> <p>Some made a point out of the ‘naïve’ openness of Norwegian society, and one can indeed meet cabinet ministers strolling alone down the streets of Oslo. But this has nothing to do with naivety, they are all too aware of the murders of their Swedish colleagues Olof Palme (1986) and Anna Lindh (2003). Norwegian ministers refuse to let fear rule their private lives, and are willing to take this small risk as a principled stand. Nobody suggests this would be a good idea for Obama, but we insist this is how it should be in our country. It’s not naivety, it’s refusal to give up their freedom, being cordoned off from the people, just to mitigate a small risk. It's a risk they'd rather accept.&nbsp;</p> <p>While FOX were patronizing Norway, one CNN anchor interviewed a surviving victim from Utøya. While he was probably in shock and not up to going on live TV, he did an incredible job describing how his friends were mowed down and he played dead amongst their corpses. Instead of letting the brave and articulate young man tell his story, the anchorwoman kept interrupting him to tell him how he (must surely have) felt, filling in detail in his story by guessing. She ‘understood exactly how he must feel’? I think not.</p> <p>While American cable news was not very good at its job, the Hall of Shame is reserved for others.&nbsp; Worst of them all, former FOX employee Glenn Beck, who <a href="">saw fit to compare</a> the slaughtered youth of a democratic organisation in a free country to the compulsory, paramilitary, racist Hitlerjugend. I was horrified to learn this insane agitator has just <a href="">addressed</a> the democratic heart of Israel, Knesset. Nobody respectable should lend this man a soapbox ever again.</p> <p>Journalism is not an exact science, and the flow of information in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic incident is chaotic and confused. While trying to sort false information from facts, errors will be made, and the former will be broadcast as the latter. This is what we expect and accept, as long as the uttermost effort is made to verify or falsify what is reported, if all reported information found to be false is rectified and if one mostly refrains from speculation and conjecture. &nbsp;</p> <p>The coverage I saw did not uphold this standard. Maybe they thought accuracy wasn’t that important: their viewers didn’t know much about this country anyway, they’d accept whatever they were told.</p> <p>Norway is a multicultural society. While many rural areas are almost completely white, in my Oslo school in the 80s, there were several dozen nationalities. Half my friends were Muslims, others were Christians, atheists, agnostics. Every world faith was represented on our streets, and it worked pretty well. It still does. That is not to say there aren’t problems, issues to be discussed. But that’s not because of the Labour Party, or because of Islam. That’s because it’s reality, and reality is never obvious or streamlined.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Norway </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Norway United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics europe & islam WFD 2015: media freedom in an age of terror Debate on Utøya world forum democracy – media-freedom Magnus Nome Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other Security in Europe Mon, 08 Aug 2011 06:20:58 +0000 Magnus Nome 60770 at