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America’s 15 year old Festival of Dangerous Ideas

I’ve been watching the Festival of Dangerous Ideas from Sydney, Australia for 2015. This is the place where you can say controversial stuff and you don’t have to put up with Fox soaked friends and relatives with that glazed look in their eyes who talk word salad to the point where you give up and go away. Longer and less self-helpy than a TED talk, these presentations include followup questions and panel discussions. I’ll link to Peter Doherty’s talk on the war on science below.

But it got me thinking in the last couple of days about all the really dangerous ideas we been subjected to in the US since the Bushies took office, got us into a destabilizing land war in Asia, and gave us a semi-police state that, unusually, includes almost complete and unfettered access to guns.

How stupid are we? Maybe we should call ours the Festival of Incredibly Stupid Dangerous Ideas.

Let’s think about this for a second. We have been indoctrinated for 14 years that the terrorists are going to get us. OoooOOOOoooooo! Be afraid, be very afraid! And, yep, it’s not surprising that malefactors of evil would turn to soft targets. Our domestic terrorists have been doing that for years.

But when we put no restraints on getting a gun, that means the foreign born or radicalized American with a foreign born batshit crazy religious fundamentalist wife can get them too. Did our homegrown terrified fundamentalist not think about this possibility? It goes like this:

“If I, a regular white anglo-saxon protestant, can walk into a gun store and buy as much ammo and ammo propellant devices as I want, then some Al Qaeda or IS terrorist guy can do it as well. Hmmm, maybe someone should do something about that because it doesn’t seem very safe, considering my favorite news channels are telling me about how all IS wants to do is behead me and shit.”

I was under the impression all this time that our misnamed Patriot Act would have some built in protections to prevent this from happening. But for some stupid reason, it is easier for two IS converts to assemble an arsenal in their own home than for a traveller to bring a full 8 oz bottle of contact lens solution onto a plane.

There is something deeply wrong with that picture and I, personally, feel lied to for the last 14 years. I was told over and over and OVER again that no precautions would be spared, that it was necessary to suspend my right to Habeas Corpus, that all my emails are belong to them, and I didn’t like it but I was forced to go along with it because millions of my fellow citizens were terrorized by our political leaders and told us we were unAmerican if we didn’t just so they could stop trembling in fear every night.

Meanwhile, we didn’t even bother to make sure that guns didn’t fall into the wrong hands. I imagine that if someone had done a background check on Farook and Malik’s passports and asked them to explain what they needed thousands of rounds of ammunition for, or at least kept a national database that kept track of thousands of rounds of ammunition bought by these two, 14 people might be looking forward to Christmas right now.

You know what’s going to happen though, right? The right wing noise machine will wind itself up with some ridiculous argument as to why we shouldn’t take sensible measures to cut back on guns and ammunition sales. And why shouldn’t it continue to do that? The oil industry guys that talked the Bushies into going into Iraq don’t care what happens to the rest of us as long as we’re still consuming oil, getting in a high dudgeon about mass transit and solar energy, and ignoring the absolutely crazy idea that there are almost no limits to anyone making himself into a one or two person avenging army of a violent, capricious and callous god, whether that god is Muslim or Christian.

By the way, I’ll insert my own dangerous idea here in that fighting religious fundamentalism with a different religious fundamentalism doesn’t work. The antidote to religious fundamentalism is enlightenment and calm, assertive energy, ala the Dog Whisperer, applied on a global scale. Also, swift and appropriate corrective action does not mean we need to engage in an all out war. Neither the right nor the left is doing itself any favors by perpetuating the idea that there are only “hawks” or “doves”.

I’ll stop there at the dangerous ideas for today, although we really should revisit why so many Americans thought the dangerous idea of going into Iraq was so great and why so many American lefties thought that taking away the only stabilizing force in the region was nifty.


Here’s Australian Peter Doherty, Nobel prize winner in Medicine for the elucidation of the immune system. I think I might have read some of his papers back in the early 90s.Yep, he was the dude who figured out the Major Histocompatibility Complex, self and non-self. There were a lot of structural biology papers related to this area of research back then. (You can take the scientist out of the science but you can’t take the science out of the scientist apparently. I still love this stuff.) Also, Doherty says read The Conversation for science related news articles that have been rigorously written by, um, scientists. In this Dangerous Ideas presentation, he talks about knowledge wars and the political and quasi religious attacks on science and reasoning when addressing energy use, nuclear energy, genetically modified plants and animals, and vaccinations. Enjoy!




4 Responses

  1. The reason why it is harder to bring an 8oz bottle onto a plane than to assemble a small arsenal etc., is because TSA is NOT aBOUT security and it NEVER WAS.. The sole and only purpose for all the security theater at airports is mass public obedience training.

  2. Agreed. The only solution is calm reasoning, and the “noise machine” in the news takes away the calm and tries to scare us into blind following.. Thank you for the post.

    • Consider that the same type of MBA suit that took your job and sent it to a Third World country is deciding what information you’ll be allowed to have. The American print and broadcast news media is a for profit business not to particular about the source of revenue. It could be advertising fees or under the table payoffs from republicans.

  3. What do “Saddam Husein has WMD’s poised to strike the East Coast” and “Gorge Zimmerman is a racist” have in common?

    The editors and staff at Pravda and ITAR-TASS wished they had as much influence over the population as the American print and broadcast news media.

    Until the public wakes to the fact that our media lies to us constantly expect more of the same, bat shit crazy republicans or republican lite Democrats ruling us.

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