What makes an idea dangerous?

Earlier today, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas released its 2014 program. Amongst the line-up was an event on honour killings being morally justified with a spokesperson from the Islamic fundamentalist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Understandably there has been uproar on social media over the event and even calls for a boycott. Destroy the Joint has called for people to contact the curators of the event and call for the event to be withdrawn.

The overwhelming majority of people would agree that the idea that honour killings are acceptable is repugnant and morally objectionable but does that actually make it a dangerous idea?

Joint founder and co-curator of the festival Simon Longstaff has said that point of the event is to push boundaries “to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable”. I would disagree with Simon that pushing the boundaries of comfort equates to a dangerous idea.

The parent word ‘danger’ is derived from the Middle English word ‘daunger’ meaning “power, dominion, peril” and goes back to the Latin word ‘dominus’ meaning “lord, master” while the Old French word ‘dangereus’ means “threatening, difficult”. The word ‘dangerous’ is tied up with power, authority and threats.

To me, an idea is dangerous if can cause harm to the powerful by threatening their vested interests. Ideas that challenge their power, control, authority and influence. None of the sessions at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas do that. The aim of the festival’s events clearly is to shock bourgeois sensibilities to drive ticket sales.

A more appropriate title would be the Festival of Unpopular Ideas but it probably wouldn’t sell as many tickets.

UPDATE: The Opera House has released a statement saying the event has been cancelled.

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One thought on “What makes an idea dangerous?

  1. If the event was something like: “the west is responsible for honour killings”, that would be a ‘dangerous’ idea. Letting someone get up on a stage and defend an act of murder is not dangerous, it’s irresponsible

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