Yearning for a new Saladin

Over centuries – when faced with adversity, invasions and threats – much of the Arab world has often yearned for a new Saladin.

The newest English language biography, The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin by Jonathan Phillips, recounts not only the story of Saladin’s great victories, including the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusader invaders, but how he has been regarded down the years and how figures as diverse as Nasser and Saddam Hussein have been seen as potential new Saladins. read more

Interns – sadly yet again

University public relations and communication programs work hard to make their undergraduate intern programs valuable to both students and employers.

In contrast, after graduation some students find themselves embroiled in a deeply exploitative internship system. So it must be galling to them that the industry organisation, the Public Relations Institute of Australia, has recently run an ad saying: “Photographer call out! PRIA is currently seeking an aspiring, fun and awesome photographer to capture the essence of the impending NSW Golden Target Awards.” read more

Something big – but very different – is happening in Texas

In the 43 years since the last Democrat Presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, won Texas there has been increasing speculation that it could happen again.

A growing Hispanic vote reflected in blue voting majorities in counties along much of the border from El Paso to the south east; and, demographic change which is making parts of Texas more like its liberal heartland in Austin (even if that will never amount to the 74.3% vote Beto O’Rourke won in Travis County Austin in his Senate bid against Ted Cruz) are indicators of what could happen. read more

Max Weber’s Politics as a Vocation in 2019

A century after Max Weber’s Politics as Vocation was published – and 101 years after he delivered the speech on which it was based – it is fascinating to use the speech as a yardstick against which one can evaluate politicians like Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

Whenever people think of the great German sociologist’s work on politics they instantly default to his comments about charisma and whether contemporaries either do or don’t appear to have it while ignoring the rest of his views. read more

181 CEOs take on Milton Friedman

When 181 US chief executives, organised by the Business Roundtable, issued a “collective statement on the purpose of the corporation” it caused fury among some investors and economists; joy among some activists; cynicism among other activists; and, horror among conservative commentators.

The problem was that for the critics – since 1962 Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom argued among other things now in the dustbin of history that the sole obligation of companies was to maximise shareholder value – it had provided a convenient justification for the wave of neo-liberal policies implemented by Thatcher, Reagan and Australian governments which have resulted in the mess we are now in. read more

An enigmatic philosopher

Last month one of Europe’s great, albeit enigmatic at times, philosophers walked on to a stage to receive an award.

The audience was packed with some of the richest young men in the world, dressed in elegant tailored clothes, watching and listening to the philosopher with amazement as he held forth. The philosopher was dressed rather less elegantly although his crumpled red shirt, greying bread and flat cap made him stand out from the others on the stage. read more

A postscript and a clarification

While the President was crudely falsifying hurricane maps in a vain attempt to hide yet another lie, a Washington friend emailed to say that 10 Democratic nomination candidates had “held forth – one at a time – on live TV (the CNN Town Hall meeting) for more than 30 minutes each, speaking intelligently (seriously, very intelligently) about climate change.” read more

Not so surprising US attitudes – if you have been watching beyond the Tweets

It is easy to be alternately frightened, appalled and head-shakingly despairing about what comes out of Trump’s United States. Officials deleting all references to climate change from official documents; immigration policies that make Peter Dutton look like a raging leftie; ongoing attempts to ban abortion or make them impossible to get; spiralling defence spending compared with poor health and social services; and, increasing inequality. read more

Democracy and its discontents

Much of the fevered discussion on the future and failings of democracy is based on misconceptions, particularly the fact that some see democratic discontent and growing authoritarianism as a re-run of the 1930s – something possible but extremely unlikely.

There are also serious misconceptions about the history of democracies. Most accounts of the system start with Athens despite it being a society characterised by slavery, civil wars and coups bearing little resemblance to a modern democracy. Indeed, Greece has been largely thus for much of the past couple of millennia with the last coup only 60 years ago. read more

Communication companies and physics

When PR and other communication companies start making references to science and scientific theories in promoting what they do it is time to take a deep sceptical sniff.

The alva group (not a typo but literally their lower case brand style which says something or other) started a recent blog post on its work with the statement that: “Wave theory isn’t just for physicists: it can equally be applied to the study of a company’s reputation.” read more

An insider’s view of how public relations really works