Event: Dr. Stephen Baker — The Propaganda of Peace

McHugh’s Bar, Queens Square [map],
The Lucan Room (above the restaurant),
Thursday 1st November 7.30pm.

Facebook event page

We are very pleased to announce this month’s speaker: Dr Steven Baker, Lecturer in Film and Television Studies and author — yes, it’s on 1st Nov, but don’t let that fool you, it’s still our October event!

With the media being such an intrinsic part of our lives, understanding and deciphering the bias and uncovering the truth from the untruth can be difficult. Specifically, what impact did the media in Northern Ireland have on the peace process?

Stephen Baker is a Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Ulster. He is the co-author, with Greg McLaughlin, of The Propaganda of Peace: The role of the media and culture in the Northern Ireland Peace Process (2010) and together they are currently working on a new book entitled The British Media and Bloody Sunday (forthcoming 2013). Stephen also researches and publishes work analysing representations of class in British film and television drama.

The Propaganda of Peace considers the media and broader cultural representation of Northern Ireland during the peace process. In particular it argues that the media played a significant role in persuading the public to accept the new political dispensation. The argues that to really appreciate the cultural shift that attended Northern Ireland’s political transformation, requires us to look across a broad range of factual and fictional representations, from journalism and public museum exhibitions to film, television drama and situation comedy. Ultimately the authors ask whether the ‘propaganda of peace’ actually promotes the abandonment of a politically engaged public sphere at the very moment when public debate about neo-liberalism, financial meltdown and social and economic inequality make it most necessary.

Before enrolling as a mature student in Media Studies at the University of Ulster in the mid-1990s, Stephen made a series of ill-fated attempts at working for living; as a van driver’s mate, a shop assistant and a civil servant. For a short time he was an ineffective shop steward for the Transport and General Workers’ Union and in 1996 stood in the Northern Ireland Forum elections as a Labour Coalition candidate in the Strangford constituency. He didn’t get elected but has the consolation of being on first name terms with just about everyone who voted for him, so few were there.

Stephen is a socialist of no fixed political abode, who defies the maxim that as you get older you get more right-wing.

QEDcon: Question, Explore, Discover — Tickets on sale today

Tickets for to QEDcon: Question, Explore, Discover conference in Manchester 13-14 April 2013 — We’ll be there, and we’re very excited!

The line-up so far includes: Stevyn Colgan, Richard Dawkins, Rachael Dunlop, Ben Goldacre, Natalie Haynes, Mark Lynas, Brooke Magnanti, Rose Shapiro, Brian Thompson (JREF) with more to be announced.

Some of us went to the conference in 2011: Conor penned a rather beautiful post titled ‘A letter to QED‘ detailing the events which took place and generally how amazing it was. And amazing, it was.

QED is is a two-day science and skepticism convention taking place at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester on the 13th-14th April 2013. The conference features a diverse set of speakers on a range of topics of general Skepticism and popular science: enriching minds and motivating people.

The event is organised by North West Skeptical Events Ltd on behalf of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. The nominated charity this year is Good Thinking Society, a fantastic organisation set up to “to encourage curiosity and promote rational thinking”.

We’ll be tweeting and blogging from the event as much as possible. We’ll also be harassing (no not sexually!) as many of the speakers as we can. Also, books will be signed!

Tickets costs £99/£59 it’s set to be great event. Let us know if you’re interested in joining us.
QED Facebook, Twitter, Web.

Skeptics in the Pub September Social Event — McHugh’s Bar 26th Sept

After a break from events and gatherings in the physical realm we’re back this month and we have a lovely new city centre venue!

McHugh’s Bar,
2nd Floor Room,
Queens Square, 7.30pm.

Feels like we’re moving up in the world, a lovely central location and a private room on the 2nd floor which I didn’t even know existed. You could say I was sceptical until I saw it. So grab a beverage and we’ll chat about what’s going on in the world of freethough, and not-so-freethough. From creationism and how it appears to be taking a greater hold on society than ever, let alone their influence within NI politics, integrated education in Northern Ireland, and who in Stormont is in favour of this,

We will also discuss where Belfast Skeptics is heading in this version titled BelfastSkeptics 2.0: Social justice and being a positive source of good. Good without God. Sounds like the title of a talk, though not one I plan to give as such, but something I have thoughts on, and will expand on in a post.

As the anti-theism and rational thinking “movement” gains momentum worldwide, Northern Ireland is still far behind, much like it is on everything else. I learned recently that Northern Ireland is 12 years behind England in terms of arts audiences and participation. Giving it a value changes one’s perspective on the situation. In terms of religious, attitudes it is known that we have a lot of work to do.

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub is a place for those who want change to take place in Northern Ireland; whether it relates to how the politicians deal with banning blood from gay people, how long we have to wait before marriage is equal and opened up to same-sex couples, why are our shops still only open for 5hrs on a Sunday resulting in a ghost-town effect and hindering economic growth and valued tourism, or a whole plethora of aspects of live in Northern Ireland in which it is clear no logic was used whatsoever, certainly not the sort that would ensure that beliefs and ideals of some will be enforced on the masses.

Register your attendance on Facebook.

belfast skeptics in the pub september poster

Caleb Press Officer to Speak at NI Humanists Event — 13th September

Tomorrow, Thursday 13th September, David McConaghie, Press Officer of the Caleb Foundation is to speak at the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland event on the ‘Origins of the Giant’s Causeway’. This will certainly be an interesting evening and attendance is likely to be high.

David McConaghie said in a piece in the Newsletter in July:

The inclusion in the new centre of an acknowledgement of an alternative explanation of its origins, and of the continuing debate about it, is an encouraging step. We’ve had collective hysteria from those who would conceal evidence, suppress facts, withhold data, obstruct enquiry and stifle debate – but that was expected.

Where once the only view on display was of an old earth, there is now reference to another perspective. The availability of more information will promote healthy, informed debate – surely that is a good thing.

While it is good to see the Caleb Foundation encourage public and open debate about what they do and what they want, it is unfortunate that it has come to this despite requests and promises from the National Trust regarding the inclusion of the “alternative” view at the Giant’s Causeway exhibition, an official response has yet to be received following their supposed review. While McConaghie says “surely [the debate] is a good thing”, our answer is: No. It is not a good thing. There is no debate.

This talk, and the Q&A (unless they forbid questioning their ideas) will likely be “interesting” and no doubt full of the same nonsense about God, taking certain parts of the Old Testament literally and failing to understand scientific research in an area which is no longer considered up for debate within the scientific community.

We will be in attendance on the evening.

What: David McConaghie, Caleb Foundation Press Officer — ‘Origins of the Giant’s Causeway’
Where: Malone Lodge, 60 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast
When: 8pm

April Event :: New Age Psychic & Holistic Fair

This Saturday, 28th April, the King’s Hall Complex [map] is hosting the New Age Psychic & Holistic Fair. With only £3 cover charge and a number of free talks throughout the day on spiritual awaking, meditation, love and astrology, the benefits of herbalism and palmistry, we will be there to take it in and analyse the bullshit at work. The event promises to be “full of things to uplift and inspire you.” We’ll see about that.

As there are no specific times of talks/events taking place, some of us will be there from 1pm.
Follow us on Twitter (@BelfastSkeptics) to follow us and see where we are. DM or @reply and we’ll meet anyone. However, I suggest we gather at 3pm, which will lead nicely to going for a drink and post-event discussion at 5.30pm.

We will meet at the King’s Head pub [map] opposite the King’s Hall at around 5.30pm for a few drinks and discuss the event.

Full details of the fair and the speakers can be found at www.newageholisticfair.com.

February Event :: Brian McClinton

On Thursday 16th February, Belfast Skeptics in the Pub will present Brian McClinton, retired school teacher, author of ‘The Shakespeare Conspiracies’ and ‘Ulster’s Third Way’, a director of the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland, and editor of the all-Ireland magazine ‘Humanism Ireland’. He will argue that scepticism is not enough. Humanism goes beyond scepticism to place a trust (faith?) in humanity and that we can create a better world based on humane principles: “Remember your humanity and forget the rest”.

As always, this event is open to everyone and anyone and is completely free.
As with all Skeptics in the Pub events, come along, have a drink, listen to the speaker, and feel free to stick around afterwards for a chat and another pint!

Register your attendance on Eventbrite and Facebook.
Date: Thursday, 16th February

Time: 7.30pm sharp

Location: The Parlour Club Room (up the stairs and around to the left),
2-4 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AY [map].

AV Debate Follow-up

Thanks to everyone who came along and enjoyed the debate and post-debate discussion on the AV referendum, we’re extremely pleased with the turnout, and appreciate our two speakers taking the time to prepare their arguments and spend the evening with us. Michael has a run-down of the speakers’ points.

I’ve attached the audio for from the debate, beginning with Stephen Glenn’s for argument, then to Brian Wilson who is against AV, followed by questions from the floor.
The audio isn’t perfect, though I’ve done my best to increase the volume where necessary so hopefully it is audible and at a more-or-less standard volume throughout.

You can listen here using the SoundCloud player or download the MP3 file using the arrow on the right of the player.

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – The AV Showdown

For our 6th event, we have something particularly special lined up. In the spirit of the referendum season, we’re delighted to announce that we will be hosting a debate an the Alternative Voting system. Speaker in favour of the referendum on AV, we’ll have Stephen Glenn, the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign Manager. Speaking against the referendum will be Green Party MLA Brian Wilson. The host for this event is to be confirmed. Each speaker will first have a short time to speak on the topic of the vote, then questions will be posed from the audience to get a discussion going. The aim by the end of the debate is that people will have a clear idea of what AV is and is not and whether they think they should vote for it or not.

Facebook page is here and Eventbrite page is here.

As always, if this is your first event, read our helpful ‘Being nice to newbies’ policy on our website – but don’t worry, you can just turn up and we won’t bite. If you’ve been to events before, we’d really appreciate some feedback in the comments below.

The event is taking place upstairs in the Club Room in the Parlour bar, out in the University Area of Belfast (map). It’ll take place on Thursday the 21st April from 19:30 sharp. The air conditioning will be all fixed, good news! Do arrive early (7pm onwards) to make sure you get a seat!

Follow-Up to Rebecca O’Neill’s talk

Sorry this blog post took so long coming and that the next event hasn’t been announced yet. This are pretty busy at the moment, although that’s no excuse. A huge to thanks to everyone who came along to our last talk – Rebecca O’Neill from the Dublin Skeptics in the Pub spoke about the time she has spent working in a health food shop in Dublin. While the room was very cold (we’ll have that sorted for next time) there were plenty of seats for all the people who turned up – almost 40 people and our biggest audience so far! Rebecca and I mentioned a number of resources that might be of interest:

  • The Nightingale Collaboration – An initiative to share knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in healthcare advertising.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – The UK’s independent advertising regulator. If you see a claim that you don’t think can be supported, it’s a quick and easy process to report it to the ASA. Here’s a guide from the Nightingale Collaboration on reporting misleading claims in homeopathy.
  • Dublin Skeptics in the Pub – The monthly meetings for drinking sceptics in Dublin, from whence we found Rebecca.
  • Information is Beautiful – Snake Oil? – A graphic that Rebecca mentioned, which pitches the scientific evidence for dietary supplements against the popularity according to searches on Google and a ‘worth it’ line. A great graphic. Check the bottom of the page for disclaimers, more information and the source data – all really interesting and a very open way of working.

That’s all for now, keep an eye out for our next event. If you were at Rebecca’s talk, we’d love to get some feedback from you. Plus, sign up to our newsletter, just on the right of this page.

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – Rebecca O’Neill

In March, we are lucky enough to be welcoming Rebecca O’Neill from the Dublin Skeptics in the Pub to speak at Belfast Skeptics in the Pub. Rebecca will be giving a talk entitled ‘Confessions of a Health Food Store Worker’. This talk will cover the three years that she spent working in a health food shop, the experiences she had there and how it turned her from a believer in to a skeptic.

You can find out more about the Dublin Skeptics in the Pub here!

If this is your first event, read our helpful ‘Being nice to newbies’ policy here – but don’t worry, you can just turn up and we won’t bite. If you’ve been to events before, we’d really appreciate some feedback.

The Eventbrite page is here, so register there please to give us an idea of the number of people who will turn up. The Facebook event page can be found here.

The event is taking place upstairs in the Club Room in the Parlour bar, out in the University Area of Belfast (map). It’ll take place on Thursday the 10th March from 19:30 sharp. There were a few people standing last time, so arrive early (7pm onwards) to make sure you get a seat!