Mulgan Geoff - PIU- [firstname.lastname@example.org]
To: "'email@example.com'" Subject: Summer 2001
Wed, 8 Aug 2001
thanks for sending me a copy of Variant. I learnt a lot of things I didn't
previously know from William Clark's article:
-Apparently I was a sociology lecturer at Sheffield
-I'm in favour of reducing the power of national governments
-I despise political activism
-I'm involved in 'desperate propaganda' of some unspecified kind
- Think-tanks are 'thought police'
All of this is certainly news to me (and roughly the opposite of what
I thought), yet for all that mildly entertaining, and best summed up by
one of the sub-heads in the article: ''Manufactured, twisted .... ever
Good luck in the future!
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Subject: to William Clark
Date: Tue, 07
Thanks for sending me the summer issue of Variant. You'll be surprised,
no doubt, that I found parts of it a good read - especially the interview
with the admirable Bob Holman, whom I had the pleasure of publishing in
1998, for that demonic think-tank Demos, on income inequality. You'll
not be surprised that I found your strange essay 'The Tainted Word' -
shredding at amazing length a minor talk for SAC given in 1999 - less
enjoyable at first, although the non-stop parade of gross mistakes and
misunderstandings became funny pretty fast. I wonder if I'll be granted
a right of brief reply in Variant?
Life and the pages of your journal are too short to list and reply to
the myriad errors of fact and interpretation in the essay. Here are just
a few corrections and rejoinders.
1) You claim that I argue for the arts world simply to do Government's
bidding and that there is no need to form an arts policy distinct from
that dictated in London. Actually, no: the argument was for Scotland not
to take London's lead, and for a break with the culture of business-obsessed
subsidy-givers and the corporate subsidy-takers in what I called a London-centric
arts establishment. Shall I spell it out? I meant the reference to London
centralism disparagingly. I am for decentralisation and autonomy
- and that is not incompatible with the next point.
2) I did indeed suggest that arts communities look at ways in which they
can gain influence, funding and autonomy by aligning themselves with big
programmes for regeneration. But this is not to argue that this is all
they should do, or that they should be uncritical of how such programmes
work, or that they should 'follow the government line'. Nor does
it imply that the nature of the artistic experience is 'inconsequential'.
I did not and do not hold such views, nor could anyone listening to the
(few) talks I have ever given on the subject assume I do.
3) Your characterisation of Demos is a string of mistakes and fantasies.
The article portrays a well-heeled network of conspiratorial think-tankers
funded by big business and hand in glove with government. You must be
spending too much time on the Internet trawling sites specialising in
paranoia. The reality is that most think-tanks, including Demos, have
a hard time getting money (it's easy if you have few principles) and an
even harder time securing any influence for their ideas. Sometimes it
works, mostly it does not. You are hilariously ill-informed about who
is connected to whom and how, but it would be too tedious for me and your
readers to list the mistakes you make. Readers can visit www.demos.co.uk,
check out Demos's very diverse publications, and make up their own minds.
4) You bizarrely claim that Green Alliance is 'my' organisation: no,
it is an independent body - and your view of it is warped. Readers can
see for themselves by visiting its site and reading its publications.
5) Sorry you hate my article for Prospect - incidentally, the only
one I have written for it. You imply that among my aims in the piece is
to 'create the illusion that Marxism achieved a monopoly in the sociology
curriculum' - well, no: the point is made that its influence was greatly
exaggerated by the media as they reviewed books such as The History
Man. You also seem to think I hold a brief for postmodernism - the
opposite of my view, as is obvious in the Prospect article.
6) Am I a 'Government stooge'? Your readers might get the impression I
am permanently plotting to do down Scottish culture from my lofty perch
in Whitehall, or that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite. For the record,
I'm not a government advisor, nor have I been; and I hold no brief
for New Labour, especially in relation to its love affair with centralised
control, big business and privatisation.
If you'd bothered to get your facts straight and concentrate on a well-aimed
critique of Demos and the think-tank world - which is much too
narrow in its social make-up and is often severed from the everyday
experience of 'ordinary' people - you might have produced a decent article.
As it is, you have served up a conspiracy theory which is simply daft.
Thanks for responding with such good grace and I'm sorry if the article
seemed in any a personal attack or anything of the sort. I cannot really
argue with you if you say you were not a sociology lecturer at Sheffield.
I have made this assumption because of the use of your work in Sheffield
Uni's site which does strongly give the impression that you were involved
in a teaching position with the Political Economy Research Centre, Sheffield
University, with a February 1994 essay:
The URL is sadly now defunct, so sorry for such a vicious calumny, but
it hardly disproves any central arguments. Your colleague Ian Christie
got back to me with a very poor defence.
I did not state that you were in favour of reducing the power of national
governments. I argue this from a de facto position, I claim that the end
result of specific policies is to abrogate power to financial concerns.
It is a generalisation but, I think a great deal of 'policy entrepreneurs'
do despise political activism and have turned away from former left-wing
positions. Are you trying to suggest that you are in favour of direct
action and civil disobedience? I don't think they go for that sort of
thing at the CO.
I think I claimed that the PIU did have an enforcing and propaganda role
and that this was specifically related to pushing the ideas which formed
the basis of the previous Social Inclusion Unit's 'work' and are based
around trying to legitimise rather fraudulent government policy and insinuate
'social inclusion' into arts policy. The other propaganda side of things
I set out related to the Third Way, which was heavily propagandised in
Ian's talk and is rather 'embedded' as Mr Giddens would say, in a great
deal of your work for the government in the PAT teams and no doubt will
still influence your position on the new Blue Yonder Team.
If I erroneously think that think tanks are 'thought police' (it was a
metaphor) perhaps you could tell me what the precise role of the Ditchley
Foundation, Bilderberg and so forth is, how do they work? Do the Labour
government make no attempts to police thought, make no attempt to news
manage or influence? Ian Christie believes Demos to be largely ineffectual.
But one can hardly say this of all think tanks: when one looks at the
American experience [...]
I'm pleased you found it entertaining, if it is 'best summed up by one
of the sub-heads in the article: ''Manufactured, twisted .... ever more
tenuous.' I would remind you that the line comes from your own writing,
from that article on Sheffield Uni's site, which seemed to put forward
the notion that this was the case with all writing, except presumably
I don't think that you've come up with much of an argument against what
I have no intention of printing your response in the next Variant. Since
you feel you should have some right of reply all I am willing to do is
to put your reply together with my own response up on the web site.
It is all very well for you to say you 'meant' references disparagingly.
I interpreted what you actually wrote - not what intentions you had in
mind. 'Cultural policy' fell prey to easy manipulation by New Labour and
assistance) has had a deleterious adverse effect on the arts world here
in Scotland and elsewhere. But culture is more than just what Arts Councils
favour or governments proscribe. The arts operate in an increasingly politicised
environment, yet artists and administrators are not informed of the ideological
basis controlling the flow of funds. Demos' paid contribution to this
politicisation is offering a version of culture that directly supports
never really criticises government (and by extension big business) it
also (perhaps inadvertently) serves to eliminate entire areas of artistic
expression. One of these is critical engagement. Lectures such as your
own smother legitimate debate.
The fact is that you concede that I have 'shredded' your work, and by
extension your rather seedy attempts to insinuate all this 'social inclusion'
guff into arts policy. How much were you paid Ian - do you do this sort
of thing just for expenses or actual pieces of silver? Can you be hired
to say the opposite?
(1) I can see nothing in your essay which states any argument for Scotland
not to follow government dictates. There are certainly no elements of
refusal or counter criticism or analysis. Your phrase on "all the
empowering the regions" rings rather hollow now in the light of the
removal of the regional arts bodies by the ACE. I state that you inferiorise
the debate with your remarks trivialising the work of Harold Pinter and
the ACE. The false dichotomy you offer lets you insinuate a third position
which is that of the government aided by think tanks like Demos. You make
no specific reference to Scottish culture which demonstrates any understanding
of it. You support decentralisation and autonomy the way a rope supports
a hanged man. All you offer in your essay is that the government's line
is adopted. The crux of your essay states that:
"Above all, the arts could make new alliances with those engaged
in the modernisation of Scotland's public services and in regeneration
of rundown estates and environments, promoting public health, lifelong
learning and 'social inclusion' for communities that have been marginalised
and disadvantaged for decades. Such partnerships could be a key source
of new energies, skills and funds, and would reconnect 'the arts' with
the rest of civic life and with many new audiences."
It is dishonest to deny that the language and terminology here are the
government's. This is straight out of the government's Policy Action Team
10 (PAT) report. As I say the source you cite to back up your argument
Geoff Mulgan, would you deny your own sources? Am I supposed to take you
seriously? You have been caught red-handed.
(2) These remarkable 'big programmes for regeneration' these partnerships,
are bound by the same policy directives. You present them as an alternative.
You say a 'joined up' arts world will fit into 'policies for social and
economic regeneration'. Your use of inverted commas indicates that this
is also a phrase used in the government's (PAT) reports (one of which
was called 'Joined up Government') which also involved Mulgan. The little
boxes (full of complete nonsense) which accompany your essay use the terms
from Mulgan's book 'Connexity' and are 'embedded' with promotion for the
Third Way. One of these advances the perverse idea that "New ways
to fund the development of audiences" can come through "mergers,
acquisitions and closures." Nothing new there.
How exactly is one to be critical of these schemes: in the application
form? in the pages of Variant? in quiet desperation?
I stated that you relegated 'the artistic experience' you clearly do this
"'Audience development' might mean paying as much attention to...
the ease of making telephone bookings, or the 'family friendliness' of
venues, as to the nature of the artistic experience on offer."
Thus the art experience is relegated to the inconsequential level of a
telephone booking: a commercial transaction. You also equate artistic
value with 'Audience development' - the two have no intrinsic relation,
it is just more government and consultant orientated drivel. You disguise
the government's policies as new thinking and ignore Demos' and Mulgan's
role in this.
As regards artistic integrity (in your letter you have the audacity to
suggest that you have principles) I feel that what you advocate is jumping
on any bandwagon that comes along. You exhibit blind trust in these 'big
programmes for regeneration' when they are chiefly efforts to pass money
to big business. This was Holman's testimony on what has happened in Easterhouse.
This was my contention concerning Common Purpose run by another Demos
'consultant', Julia Middleton.
I am not alone in my suspicions of Demos and the dissimulation of your
other little earner 'sustainable development', a version of which you
seem to offer for the arts. But Correct me on my mistakes about Demos.
Have you seen the list of corporate sponsors on the web site. I portray
you as funded by big business because you say that you are funded by big
business and then provide a list of their names: if that is paranoia it
must be a very mild form. If it is a conspiracy theory then it is of your
own devising. I would suggest that you read something worthwhile and informative
on the other think tanks the Demos site promotes: I'd be happy to send
you some material which outlines the corrupt past of The Heritage Foundation
(which has serves as an umbrella organisation for a variety of institutions
of the extremes right and for terrorist groups, the Moon system,
the RENAMO lobby and so on).
I do not characterise Demos along the lines you accuse me of. I depict
them as providing a service which is used by government and private business
(and indeed the SAC) as a pitiful attempt to masquerade contrived spurious
academic evidence as a valid independent endorsement. It think I used
the term 'intellectual prostitution' and inferred that you do what you
do largely for the money. But what did the SAC think they were buying
when they hired you?
"Demos is an organisation which gives advice on future policy developments
based on statistical analysis, and is an advisor to the current government.
(My apologies for the London-centric example in the text)."
That little message - written by an individual within the SAC - accompanied
a copy of your essay and the debate which was passed on to me by a senior
figure in the Scottish Arts world. That's what the SAC thought they were
buying. But OK have it your way: Demos has a hard time getting money and
rarely ever secures any influence for its ideas. You infer you don't really
know how it works and that 'mostly it does not.' Sorry to have reduced
you to such a blubbering heap.
Why don't you correct me about who is connected to who. Write your own
expose of your colleagues before they throw you to the wolves. The Foreign
Policy Centre (which you share an office with, alongside all those other
rather odd little organisations) is most certainly connected to MI6 with
Baroness Ramsay on board because she works for MI6. Martin Taylor is most
certainly a member of the Bilderberg Group, but according to you I am
mistaken here. I do seem to have made an error by saying Geoff Mulgan
was a Sociology Lecturer. Sheffield University's Web site (where I got
his article which was part of their sociology resources) gave this impression,
but his involvement would appear more to do with the Political Economy
Research Centre, yet another think tank.
(4) As to Green Alliance (two or three guys in a room at best) you would
have to prove it for me to make any response. Do you collect the names
of ecological activists at all - there are people who pay for this kind
of thing. Tell us all more. You don't really come up with anything which
discredits my analysis - whereas I provided a great deal of fairly conclusive
evidence to 'shred' (as you put it) your own. I'm surprised that you didn't
argue that using Mulgan's stuff was ecological recycling.
(5) I have no emotional involvement with your writing for Prospect and
I am not entirely bewildered to hear that they did not commission any
more. You gigantically contradict yourself by saying that this essay made
that Marxist influence and the History Man's "influence was greatly
exaggerated by the media". Your article says this, which I quoted:
"The influence of continental theory grew - and generated a huge
amount of posturing, barely exaggerated in Bradbury's lethal portrait
of his 'history man'." Did your tutors at Oxford ever lose
patience with you? Do you have trouble with the cognitive process?
Demos is influenced (and was founded) by Martin Jacques (who works with
Hall on postmodernist thought). Mulgan's work is also influenced by their
and other postmodern thought, chiefly Baudrilliard it would seem. You
seem more interested in post-rational thought. I don't think you know
what you think, Ian. At best your position seems very confused. Thank
God you're not a government advisor. The next time you're up in Glasgow
giving us all a little talk - get in touch.