Leon Festinger, the BBC, cognitive dissonance and Ezekiel the Alien | Brussels Blog

Leon Festinger, the BBC, cognitive dissonance and Ezekiel the Alien

posted by on 24th Aug 2017

I wrote this months ago but held off posting it after a
  discussion with an advisor as to whether referencing
Wikipedia was good enough. I have disputes with Wikipedia
but I still rely on it – after exercising my own judgement
. That is what I do when I read peer reviewed stuff
– use my judgement.  So does Eziekiel the Alien.

Leon Festinger and the Aliens

Drifting to sleep last night listening to the radio, a mention of one of my heroes woke me with a start.

In 1950, Leon Festinger had showed that people tend to befriend their neighbours. It was a brilliant piece of work which I read when I was a Research Fellow at Leeds School of Architecture. I must have read it in 1971 or 1972 because, it guided us in choosing a house to live in: We moved into a co-operative housing development in 1972. Using Festinger’s book we chose the house positioned to make it easier to know our neighbours. It was a good choice.

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The Joseph Rowntree Foundation could do better – The Angry Amateur No. 2

posted by on 22nd Aug 2017

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation
could do better
(The Angry Amateur No. 2)

Once upon a time I was a poet. Quite a good one. You can read some of my stuff on Auntie Jayne Solves Your Poem, unless you are in Morrisons Supermarket, where it is banned. Morrisons allows the Racing Post but not Oddschecker (reason=GAMBLING ). Most of my other websites are banned too but the reason fields are blank. Pity. Morrison’s customers are a refreshing change from the pretentious middle classes who shop at Waitrose – F&H, M&J and a few others are obviously excepted from this slur. (Note for US readers: In the UK the “middle class” are considered a step up the social scale from the “working class” but it’s complicated.)

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In 1972 I stopped the York Inner Ring Road – The Angry Amateur No. 1

posted by on 13th Aug 2017


The Angry Amateur No. 1

Yes. I stopped the York Inner Ring Road!

Some of my friends think I’m rather self-obsessed. It is a fairly consistent response so there may be some truth in it. Introspection tells me their view is too simple.  However, in the case of the 1970s proposal for a York Inner Ring Road, I’m not even going to pretend to be humble. If anyone stopped it, it was me. I did it.

Que moi? Yes me!

The proposed ring road crosses The Mount

In 1972 I gave evidence to the York Inner Ring Road Inquiry as an individual, having broken from the main protest group York 2000. I felt too many of them just wanted to stop their houses being knocked down.

On the other hand, my motivation was to see traffic kept away from York City Centre, allowing out-of-town development for the motoring classes to use. (Now we know the devastating toll motor cars have on the climate, my views on this have modified somewhat.)

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Benzodiazepine addiction

posted by on 24th Apr 2017

January 2018: Interesting evidence session in the Scottish Parliament

See also benzact.info

To the Daily Mail: Congratulations

A few days ago the Daily Mail published an article on the prescription of benzodiazepines. It starts

Countless thousands of Britons have become addicted to pills that have been prescribed by their doctors for pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and depression.

Tranquillisers such as benzodiazepines (also used as muscle relaxants for pain) are highly addictive, yet many medics continue to hand them out for longer than they should.

actionagainsttranquiliseres.org.uk (2003-2016)

The  article in the Daily Mail prompts me to re-post an item from an old website, actionagainsttranquiliseres.org.uk  started in 2003 -but the problem is rather older:  The Independent reported in 2010 in Drugs linked to brain damage 30 years ago. Now that’s 37 years ago.

Anyway, here is something from 2003. It’s a submission that a voluntary organisation made to government when there was even less public awareness of the benzo issue. The document was written as background information which in the late ’90s/early 2000s was still very scarce. It was one of several compiled by grassroots organisations intended to inform Government.  A Hidden Epidemic was submitted to Home Office Minister Caroline Flint in 2003.

Since then nothing much has changed for people suffering harm from drugs they have been prescribed – particularly, the benzodiazepines. A Hidden Epidemic noted that consumption of  benzodiazepines was rising and misuse was widespread. Short term benzodiazepines could be useful but long term effects are horrible:

“It is more difficult to withdraw someone from benzodiazepines than it is heroin” “the withdrawal symptoms are so intolerable that people have a great deal of problem coming off”. Lader M.1999

Cognitive impairment

“Most benzodiazepines impair and compromise a wide range of basic skills which are absolutely necessary for coping with the intellectual and psychological demands of everyday living.” Hindmarch I. 1999


Cognitive and other coping mechanisms are vital for negotiating busy streets etc. With these abilities impaired by BZs, many long-term users find themselves increasingly housebound with agoraphobic-type symptoms.


the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents/ the use of the most frequently prescribed impairing medication, the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents 32 De Gier 1998/9.

Benzodiazepine misuse

– Increased drug-related deaths

– Risks to the unborn child

– Crime and criminal behaviour


Next time I get a chance, I will ask Caroline Flint whether A Hidden Epidemic got through the departmental filter and she got a chance to read it.

After 37 years it’s good to see the Daily Mail on the case. The problem hasn’t disappeared.

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A second note for the Commission on the Future of Work

posted by on 18th Apr 2017

Every tool in the box – even Realpolitik

Special Interest Propaganda

This second note has a slightly a perspective than my first note. It has been prompted by the sugar conspiracy as reported in the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC Radio 4 or the New York Times. The NYT said

The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

Special interests hide truth with well funded propaganda campaigns. The most documented is the way the tobacco industry hid the link between smoking and cancer. The US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health in The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll. The NIH reported

Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the [lung cancer] epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales…

As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established.

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Plotlands and prefabs on ProgressOnline

posted by on 16th Mar 2017


ProgressOnline were kind enough to publish my The return of plotlands and prefabs?

There wasn’t enough room for more than one image of a prefab so I reproduce some more here by permission of The Prefab Museum and Wolverhampton History & Heritage Website.

Unflattering visual images of prefabs too often fuel misleading prejudices. The prejudice against prefabs may have blinded planners and academics to their success. As PrefabsAreForPeople put it more crudely:

  • People liked prefabs
  • Multistorey mass housing failed
  • The planners didn’t notice
  • They will get it wrong again

Three images from the Prefab Museum

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Prefabs are for People (2004)

posted by on 16th Mar 2017

This is the contents of an old website www.prefabsareforpeople.org.uk.

Welcome to www.prefabsareforpeople.org, started 21st March 2004.

Prefabs are for People.

Here is an initial statement of the objectives of www.prefabsareforpeople.org.uk.


  • People liked prefabs
  • Multistorey mass housing failed
  • The planners didn’t notice
  • They will get it wrong again

PrefabsAreForPeople – planners ignore happy residents

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Robot revolution, growth, and global warming

posted by on 10th Mar 2017

This is a minor rewording of a submission to Tom Watson’s Commission
on the future of work. It introduces an extra element to discussions

about the robot revolution: Climate change.

The original can be down loaded as a PDF here.

Robot revolution, growth, and global warming

Note for the Commission on the Future of Work

A robot revolution?

Scene from Karel Čapek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots

In Robot wars – Automation and the Labour Market, Adam Corlett asks, ‘Should we be concerned that robots will ‘take all the jobs’?’ He contrdicts Frey and Osborne who, in The Future of Employment, claim that, ‘as many as 47 per cent of jobs in the US are susceptible to automation over the next two decades’. Corlett points to OECD research, which suggests, ‘in the US only 9 per cent of jobs are threatened over the next 20 years’.

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The BBC is a trusted source, says Tony Hall

posted by on 3rd Jan 2017

Oh no it isn’t says George Monbiot.

Prospect Magazine

I don’t always read my copy of Prospect Magazine – the writing in it is top quality but it seems firmly inside one of those bubbles my social betters inhabit – but, on New Year’s Eve, I had an hour to kill in the pub and I had just collected the January edition with my post from my previous address.


It was good to see Tom Watson’s piece Robotisation: time to face the future because we are at a time when labour-saving technologies must cause a fall in the value of labour that cannot be counteracted by economic growth. Now we must decrease consumption to cut carbon emissions. This means we have less production at a time when the labour content of production is reducing. (See Jobs, the AI revolution and climate change and Labour’s Industrial Strategy. A wrong place to start.)

Our profitable universities

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Will the government restart plotlands?

posted by on 18th Oct 2016


There are signs that the Government’s White Paper on
Housing will bring in a form of plotland development.
Will it deliver affordability and sustainability?

Can we avoid the motorists?

One of the last plotlands houses to be built

I grew up in Kent in a house built by my father on a plot of land bought as a wedding present. My parents were married just before the World War II so building did not start until 1946.

Under construction in 1946

Its construction was not what you would see today. The “bricks” were very heavy concrete and cinder blocks. They were in a figure of eight. They had two vertical holes. I remember my father showing me the machine that made the blocks. It was rather like the Wizard Block Making Unit described by Preservation in Action. It had other odd features like very hard floors containing sawdust. It was a Magnesium Oxychloride Composition Floor. My father altered the internal walls from time to time. I particularly remember that he mended a bathroom tap through a hole he made in my bedroom wall. He filled the hole in a year later – after moving a wardrobe to hide it – temporally.

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