Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at Dangerous Festival

Now in its third year, the 2011 Festival of Dangerous Ideas brings important questions to light as a catalyst for sharp and vibrant discussion. Traversing a broad terrain, the festival features a host of international and local speakers including: Julian Assange, Jonathan Safran-Foer, Alexander McCall-Smith, Jon Ronson, Slavoj Zizek , Mona Eltahawy and Philip Nitschke.
They will join others and the audience in negotiating a range of dangerous ideas including, that: Wikileaks has not gone far enough; Footballers are Barbarians not role models; Psychopaths Make the World Go Around; Ecstasy is No More Dangerous Than Horse-riding; All Women are Sluts and that Australia is a third-rate country.
Sydney Opera House Chief Executive Officer, Richard Evans says, “Sydney Opera House has always pushed boundaries: whether in design and engineering or creativity and performance. It is incumbent upon us to continue this spirit of curiosity and daring. In the current political environment, the battle of ideas and the battle for the hearts and minds of people is paramount”.
Sydney Opera House Head of Public Programs and curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Ann Mossop, says, “This year, our program is looking at some of the most momentous events of the past year with Wikileaks and the Arab Spring under discussion. Dangerous ideas will take many forms. For anyone who likes their public intellectuals lively and unpredictable, with a radical and dangerous edge, Slavoj Zizek will be the star attraction. Jonathan Safran Foer’s message about ‘What we are and what we eat’ will be quite challenging for meat-loving Australians”.
Festival Co-curator and Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, Simon Longstaff says, “I’m hoping that we’ll disturb the tranquility of dinner tables across the city – prompting squabbles, straining relationships and inciting spirited debate – all in the cause of clarifying what we REALLY think about matters seemingly long-settled.” Opening this year’s festival on September 30, the world’s most “dangerous” man, Julian Assange will speak about how Wikileaks has not gone far enough. If Assange is unable to travel, he will speak via video link about how his high-tech activism has brought radical transparency to matters long shrouded in secrecy – including; ongoing wars and the workings of the US Government.
American novelist and vegetarian, Jonathan Safran Foer, claims that our lust for cheap animal protein has made the torture and degradation of living creatures an unseen but integral part of life and that we should no longer ignore the costs.
Slovenian philosopher and one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, Slavoj Zizek, claims that events of recent years – such as 9/11, the Arab Spring and the GFC \006 have caused capitalism’s ideological gloss to fade, “Society should Let Us Be Realists and Demand the Impossible: Communism.”
Given the West’s dependence on oil produced by non-democratic and repressive regimes, Egyptian-born, New York-based commentator, Mona Eltahawy, wonders whether the West can afford to prefer Arab democrats to Arab dictators.
Much-loved author, Alexander McCall-Smith, tells us why he thinks that Society is Broken to the point that respect and decency are almost forgotten: a tragic loss at a time when we there has never been a greater need for basic civility.
In “If You Want Fidelity, Get a Dog,” Christopher Ryan, psychologist and author of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistorc Origins of Modern Sexuality,” explores the idea that human monogamy is unnatural and ‘affairs’ the key to a lasting marriage.
Master American monologist, Mike Daisey, argues that “Collaborating with Corporations Sells Out the Human Race.” Former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, Marc Thiessen, defends the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in his talk, “Is Torture Necessary?”
Former BBC war correspondent, Kate Adie, and former Sudanese child soldier, Emmanuel Jal, have both seen the horrors of war, firsthand. They share their insights in a very special conversation, “War: Keep Out of Reach of Children.” Secretary-general of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty believes that Western politicians should ‘bite their tongues’ and “Stop Lecturing Others About Human Rights.”
In the rolling wake of the British phone-hacking scandal, this year’s IQ2 debate will focus on the provocative debate that: The Media Have No Morals. The panel of speakers will be announced in September.
Alongside these extraordinary international speakers are our home-grown controversialists. Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby will cover a range of dangerous ideas including, gay marriage, gay rights, animal welfare and drug reform. Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke will discuss his book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, a book deemed so dangerous that it is the only book banned in Australia.
Walkley-award winning journalist, David Marr, will debate Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace, on the notion that “Gays & Lesbians Do Not Belong in the Classroom.” Barrister, Julian Burnside, will argue that “We Care More about Animals on Boats than People” and Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Richard Denniss will contend that “Environmentalists should give up on Sustainability.”
Panel discussions include What’s Killing Australian Innovation; that All Women are Sluts; Australia is a Third-rate country; Some Aboriginal people are more Aborignal than others; and ask Why are we Poisoning our children? A new segment, On Second Thoughts …, will features presentations by three prominent Australians who have changed their mind – Cheryl Kernot, Philip Nitschke and Dick Smith.
In a Choose-Your-Own Adventure style interactive performance, The Snail Piece artist collective, Appelspiel look at how collective-decision making works in a group of strangers. With a hammer and a snail, they leave it to the audience to decide what happens … Closing the Festival, A Very Dangerous Variety Hour presents the best of the festival, featuring festival speakers and special guests presenting music, satire and conversation.

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