Speakers’ Corner at the British Library

SCT collaborated with the British Library on a series of mini debates during the Library’s ground-breaking Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition which ran from May to September 2013.

Four open-air lunchtime debates took place over 45 minutes between 2 and 5 September in the Poet’s Circle in the Library’s piazza. Distinguished experts in their fields made brief introductions to themes – which addressed such questions as whether propaganda can serve a public interest, how it interacts with new media, its influence on the news and its relationship with free speech – before opening up the debate to all comers. All the events took place in warm sunshine and stimulated lively debate among attentive and appreciative audiences.

Evan Harris kicks off the programme

The Programme featured

Monday 2 September
Is the News Propaganda?
introduced  by Dr Evan Harris
Associate Director, Hacked Off Campaign
What we read in our daily paper is shaped by the interests of the proprietor, the preoccupations of the editor, the resources of the news desk and competition with its rivals to win audiences and advertisers. How likely is it that we will find the truth?

Ruth Fox asks: was Tufty the Squirrel a propagandist?

Tuesday 3 September
Thank Goodness for Propaganda!
introduced  by Ruth Fox
Director of the Hansard Society

Can propaganda ever serve a public interest? If so, where should the line be drawn and by whom?

You can read a summary of Ruth Fox’s opening remarks.

Agnès Callamard: how does a free society deal with hate propaganda?

Wednesday 4 September
New Media – New Propaganda?
introduced  by Antony Barnett
Founder of openDemocracy

Does the internet spell an end to propaganda, allowing more democratic communication and quicker responses to events – or does it simply provide new means for the state, and others, to manipulate information and opinion?

Thursday 5 September
Your Propaganda – My Free Speech
introduced  by Agnès Callamard
Executive Director of Article 19

How should we deal with the propaganda of hate? How do we challenge it? Does propaganda have a role to play in democracy’s defence? Can censorship ever be justified and if so in what circumstances?

Jocelyn Spottiswoode, who attended the debate, wrote a fascinating blog about it which you can read here.

Ian Cooke of the British Library provides a valuable summary of all four debates in his blog on the Library’s website.



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