There can be no claims to social good when arms dealers are involved

The University of Sheffield made a major announcement on June 6th: it has secured £43million in funding to build a new research facility for the aerospace manufacturing industry. Fantastic, you might think. New jobs at a time of seemingly never-ending economic depression? Exactly what we need. More publicity and a better international standing for the University? Great. Professor Keith Ridgway, Executive Dean of the facility, has even described it as “the most advanced factory in the world”. That all sounds brilliant, right? Continue reading There can be no claims to social good when arms dealers are involved

Striking the balance: food sovereignty and the question of aid

After running the London Marathon last year, I have to admit I felt smug. 26.2 miles – not everybody can do that. However, I was abruptly removed from my high horse when I spent the next three months living in rural Madagascar. There I met fishermen who thought nothing of running the sixteen miles from town to the sea, and sixteen miles back – carrying their catch! – every morning before lunchtime.

The fish in the seas on the coast of the Anosy region in south-east Madagascar, where I was based, are more than just food. They are livelihoods, a way of life. In a region where 90% of people live below the poverty line, and where over 50% of children in some villages suffer from growth defects caused by malnutrition, the nutritional value of fish is near priceless. However, it is also completely out of the financial reach of most people.

Continue reading Striking the balance: food sovereignty and the question of aid

Distractions and divisions are exactly what Thatcher would have wanted

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet, a television or even just another human being over the last three to four hours, you might have heard the news that Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister and unwavering crusader for neoconservative politics, has died. Don’t worry, though – she passed away doing what she did best: distracting and dividing the Left.

Blanket coverage of her death has already begun – as I write this, five of the ten top stories on the BBC News website concern Thatcher’s demise, and the Twitter servers seem close to breaking point with the 140-character emotional frenzy currently exploding from the fingers of keyboard warriors everywhere.

Continue reading Distractions and divisions are exactly what Thatcher would have wanted

Atoms for Peace

Thom Yorke’s supergroup, Atoms for Peace, are releasing their first album on February 25th. Here’s a bit of information about the history behind the name.


In December 1953, then-President of the United States of America, Dwight D. Eisenhower, gave a speech of the same title: Atoms for Peace. The speech, what it represented, and the following program was a key indicator of Eisenhower’s personal belief in the effectiveness of psychological warfare as an integral tactic in the Cold War. It was catalysed by a change in propaganda tactics of the USSR following the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953. Whilst the Eisenhower administration had already been talking keenly of the need to step up the scale and seriousness of America’s propaganda offensive as part of the wider Cold War, the USSR’s actions after Stalin’s death prompted the implementation of these ideas. Overtures of peace from Georgy Malenkov on the part of the Soviet Union raised concerns in the USA that the Soviet image would be softened by this “peace offensive”. As America sought to prevail without resorting the full-blown nuclear warfare, and thus to coerce the peoples of the world to conform to the way of life they were propagating, peace-based rhetoric from the Soviet Union threatened the removal of the very demonic enemy they had set themselves up in opposition against. Thus began Eisenhower’s campaign of psychological warfare. Continue reading Atoms for Peace

In defence of public media, or, why we need to save the BBC

The BBC had it coming. Not because of systemic problems or “shoddy journalism” inherent in a crumbling institution. But because from the very first day that the current government was in power, the BBC has been under sustained attack from those whose vested interests would like to see it gone. Last year, an open letter to the government signed by over fifty public figures (including, for example, Jo Brand and David Tennant) warned against the Tory plans to derail the BBC, saying that “It is, of course, right that there is a national debate about the future of the BBC. But attacking the BBC to serve the interests of its commercial rivals would be short-sighted and threatens to devalue not just the BBC itself, but our culture as a whole”. The events of the past twenty-four hours, and the lead-up over the past month and more, has provided a prime opportunity for those out to destroy the BBC to make their voices heard – and in the midst of the attack, those who have been voiceless for many years after suffering terrible abuse as children have once again been drowned out by people in positions of power serving their own interests. Continue reading In defence of public media, or, why we need to save the BBC

let’s be positive: campaigning works

It’s #oct20 and this is a blog about why protest, campaigning and being loud pay off.

Last Thursday, Sheffield Students’ Union voted in a policy to end all dealings with arms companies, and to lobby the University to do the same. ‘Fund Education, Not War’ passed with a majority of over 1,000 votes – the total number of students who voted was less than 5,000. Thus, Sheffield SU now not only has an anti-arms policy, it has an anti-arms policy with an incredible strong mandate for action. Whilst the build-up to the referendum was intense, stressful and at time discouraging, the success of the end result proves that when you stand up for something that matters, eventually people are going to listen. Continue reading let’s be positive: campaigning works

the noisy majority

Every so often, I will find myself reading the comments section of online newspaper articles. Every time this happens I will, without fail, immediately regret my decision as I become angrier and more astounded at the stupidity of the human race. However, there is something that draws me back; something almost addictive, perhaps founded on the naïve belief that people will one day engage in reasonable discussion and leave offensive, over-emotional, poorly spelt rhetoric behind them. Every time, my hope is in vain.

This is not just true of YouTube comments, Facebook discussions or the Daily Mail Online. The attitude behind offensive, irrational and angry responses to pretty much any piece of news or opinion published online extends into the wider realms of the Internet as well, seeping into long blog posts about the evils of government or religion or environmentalism. It is an attitude that the Internet, wonderful and vast vehicle of self-expression that it is, inevitably cultivates. Here is a forum where you can hide behind a computer screen, where the target of your abuse need never see your face (and you need never see theirs), and where emotionally-charged language and dodgy research are the norm. Continue reading the noisy majority

consumption and prosperity

Sheffield, over the past couple of weeks, has paid testament to the enduring health of a consumer society despite the recessions, crashes and debt crises of recent years. With rising tuition fees, depressing job prospects and soaring costs of living, students have been one of the major groups in society affected by the government’s desperate scramble to cut spending in the belief that austerity measures will fix the struggling economy. An average student receiving base maintenance and tuition fee loans will now graduate with around £38,000 of debt. And yet retailers continue to target students in a way that would belie this financial burden, encouraging spiralling spending on commodities that a student budget simply can’t afford. Nowhere has this been more obvious recently than in the “student lock-in” event hosted by shopping centre Meadowhall last week.

Continue reading consumption and prosperity