Welcome to the new-look spiked
New design. New features. Same attitude.
What is spiked? It is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it.
So why should you read the new-look spiked? Since it was first launched as a pioneer of online publishing in the UK more than five years ago, spiked has won a reputation for raising the difficult questions that others shy away from.
In our age of conformity, when causing offence to somebody often seems to be considered the worst offence of all, spiked writers eschew the fashionable easy line and try to look beneath the surface to see where some hard questions need to be asked.
- The stories that others ignore
The conformist mindset of too much of the media means that important stories tend to be all-but ignored if they do not fit the pre-determined script. At another time, that might have meant turning a blind eye to tales of racial or sexual discrimination. Today it is more likely to mean blanking stories which don’t sit comfortably with the dogma of political correctness.
Take the recent example of a 75-year-old anti-abortion activist who was refused a hip operation on Britain’s National Health Service because he had upset hospital staff by sending them grisly images of late-term abortions. At spiked, we are as much for legalised abortion as this old crank is against it. But we highlighted his politically-motivated treatment – or lack of it – as an outrage. The other outrage was how few others saw fit even to report the story.
- The issues that others distort
The big issues that do dominate the media and public discussion today are often wrapped up in so much obfuscating prejudice and doom-mongering that it becomes impossible to have a serious debate. There is a tendency to reduce serious issues to an infantile contest between different shades of the politics of fear, as all sides deploy their pet bogeymen in an effort to scare us like children rather than treat us like thinking adults.
Take the brewing row in Britain and elsewhere about whether we should build a new generation of nuclear power stations. On one side, the green opponents of nuclear power warn of the risk of terrible accidents and terrorist attacks. On the other, the tentative supporters of new power stations, led by prime minister Tony Blair, warn of the risks of global warming and of becoming dependent on energy sources from hostile foreign powers. On spiked we ask: what happened to a serious debate about meeting our real energy needs rather than exploiting our imaginary demons? And whatever happened to putting the positive case for nuclear power?
- The assumptions that others don’t question
The news today often appears to be dominated by the same cycle of risk-related issues going round and round – especially if they relate to the all-consuming drive to find new health risks in what we eat and drink and the way we live now. These themes are underpinned by unquestioned assumptions about the dangers of modern life, lazily repeated like a mantra through much of the media.
Take the obsession with obesity, and child obesity in particular. Most appear to have swallowed the line that it is a modern epidemic, and a health ‘time-bomb’ which means children could die before their parents. The consensus is that the government and authorities need to wage war on obesity, for instance by banning ‘junk food’ from schools and TV adverts, or by raising ‘awareness’ among parents through initiatives such as the new plan to weigh all four-year olds and slap obesity warnings on tubby tots.
spiked writers have put every one of those assumptions to question, asking how it is that humans have managed to thrive on such poor diets in the past, whether there really is any such thing as junk food, and what if any evidence exists to support either the dire warnings about an ‘obesity time-bomb’ or the authorities’ intrusive efforts to defuse it. There is a similarly fat chance of us accepting the other unquestioned assumptions underpinning misanthropic doom-mongering about health.
- The coffee that others won’t wake up and smell
Analysis and argument nowadays is continually being held back by attempts to squeeze new developments into old and familiar patterns, no matter how uncomfortable the fit might be. How much easier it is to doze on waiting for the political, economic or cultural cycles of the past to repeat themselves, rather than to confront the way in which old certainties have crumbled, leaving once-familiar landmarks of little help in navigating the world.
Take mainstream or parliamentary politics in the UK. New Labour is seemingly exhausted, the Conservative Party is undergoing a limited revival and the Liberal Democrats are ‘consolidating’ their position, while smaller parties such as the British National Party, RESPECT and the Greens make some progress. There has been much scratching of heads to find an historical precedent for this confused situation, and to work out whether we are returning to two-party, three-party or multiple-party politics.
On spiked, however, we have tried to face up to the fact that there are no real historical precedents for today. What we are witnessing is more like the emergence of no-party politics, where the crumbling of old loyalties and the shallowness of beliefs reduces all political parties to empty shells with little or no hold on a constituency. Politics has become an unstable and arbitrary affair as a consequence. Those waiting for the past to repeat itself seem destined to misunderstand the present – and to miss new opportunities to make an impact on the shifting battleground of political debate.
One consequence of spiked’s ‘question everything’ approach is that we often find ourselves going against the grain of a discussion or dissenting from a consensus. This is not because we are deliberately looking for ‘outrageous’ ideas. It simply reflects how narrow the accepted terrain of public discussion has become, at a time when ideas can be dismissed out-of-hand as being in bad taste or offensive. The dead weight of this new conformism means that society is in danger of losing its critical faculties.
We have argued for some years that the old framework of left v right is of little use in making sense of contemporary developments. This is illustrated around the issue of the Iraq war, where neither the pro- nor anti- lobby can claim to represent left or right, and the defeatism of the war’s opponents seems no more principled than the defensiveness of its supporters. If I am forced to categorise where I stand now, as the former editor of Living Marxism magazine, I might say that I am on the left, but not of it. I would still endorse a modernised version of the principles upheld by those who stood on the left side of the National Assembly at the time of the French Revolution – for democracy, secularism and Enlightenment values. But that leads me into conflict with today’s leading left-wingers, who often seem to be leading the assault on free speech or science.
Much has changed in the world since spiked launched – there are new challenges, and new opportunities. The new-look spiked, with its retooled website system behind the scenes and a fresh design out front, has been honed to make the most of them. Don’t worry, this is not a New Labour/Tory-style ‘renewal’ – aka an abandonment of everything that has gone before. We want to give a wider audience easier access to more of the sort of ideas spiked has been producing since it became the first custom-built online current affairs publication in the UK.
Please let your friends and enemies know about it. And let us know exactly what you think. We promise to do the same for you.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked.
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