A recent Slate article proposes a neurological mechanism for why human behaviour so frequently consists of choices where we harm our own long-term future prospects and those of others in order to satisfy near-term preferences. Not only do our brains seem to regard our future selves as strangers, but most people rarely think about the […]


Charley Tilley has studied social movements overall and activism specifically as a set of “contentious performances”, in which organizers choose from a “repertoire” on the basis of who they want to influence and what opportunities exist for doing so. Repertoires which are familiar can easily become stale and ineffective, as Micah White discusses in the […]


With the possible exception of short spur-of-the-moment missives or a transcribed stream of consciousness, it seems to me that all writing is a process of successive approximation in which you begin with something which isn’t what you want at the end, but which provides a structure that allows you to reach the objective. In part, […]


One convincing argument made by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness) is that we intuitively misjudge the importance of the newest information, which is actually the most likely to be trivial and wrong. I wrote about this before. It’s an especially important point in the Trump era, where I […]


Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum has been making the media rounds with some thought-provoking ideas about the Trump presidency and the risk that protests which lack a specific focus or which come across as a threat to public order may empower rather than constrain him. In “What Effective Protest Could Look Like“, Frum […]


The January 21st issue of The Economist provides another strong example of how poorly our emotions serve us where it comes to evaluating and responding to abstract threats. They say: NOx emissions cause the premature deaths of an estimated 72,000 Europeans a year. This is in the context of carmakers like Volkswagen using software to […]


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs […]


This [claim by Al Qaeda military commander Saif al-Adel that Osama bin Laden deliberately provoked the United States into attacking Afghanistan] was a post facto rationalization of Al-Qaeda’s strategic failure. The whole point of the 9/11 attacks had been to get the United States out of the Muslim world, not to provoke it into invading […]

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A paper by Pearce, Brown, Nerlich, Koteyko (“Communicating climate change: conduits, content, and consensus“, 2015) contains some interesting ideas about effective communication about climate change. They cite one “best practice guide” which explains that: in order for climate science information to be fully absorbed by audiences, it must be actively communicated with appropriate language, metaphor, […]