Thursday, 7 February 2013

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

‘We have sleepwalked into a world where nothing is as it seems; where reality, in fact, is the very opposite of appearance’.


Multinational oil corporations trumpet their green credentials. Shadowy billionaires orchestrate ‘grassroots’ political movements. Public-spending cuts that target the poor are billed as ‘giving power to the people’. Casually dressed employees play table football in airy open-plan offices, but work longer hours than ever before.

These are just a few examples of the growing gap between appearance and reality in modern life. With the melting away of the conflicts between East and West and Right and Left, the old ideologies were supposedly consigned to history. But this book argues that they never really went away – they just went undercover, creating a looking-glass world in which reality is spun and crude vested interests appear in seductive new disguises. A world of illusion, persuasion and coercion which aims to conceal the truth and beguile us all. It’s time to radically alter the way we perceive the world, to raise a sceptical yet optimistic eyebrow.

Get Real is a passionate and entertaining guide to spotting and decoding the delusions we live under – from ‘revolutionary’ plus-size models to ‘world-saving’ organic vegetables; from heavily scripted and edited ‘reality’ TV to ‘life-changing’ iPhone apps. Busting the jargon and unravelling the spin, Get Real reveals the secrets about modern life that we were never supposed to know. It’s an insider’s guide to understanding the present which puts the truth and the power to choose firmly in our hands. Only by telling it like it is can we improve – and maybe even save – our world for real.

About me...

I am a writer, radio producer, and an associate research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. 

My book Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life is published by Fourth Estate. 

I have written for the Guardian, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other publications, and I speak at conferences, festivals and in the media about my ideas and research. 

I blog for the Huffington Post. 

I am interested in how politicians and corporations distort reality and shape public opinion, and how our desires for progress and authenticity are co-opted and sold back to us as empty brands – from fake people-power to cyber-utopianism, from oil-company greenwash to mass-market organics.

You can contact me via my Birkbeck webpage here.

A selection of my articles is below...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Why we still need Which?

The prevailing myth of consumer clout distracts us from the reality of cartel and monopoly. We need to rethink our pushback against corporations. 

The Guardian
25 February 2014

You can read the article here.

The West's Hidden Propaganda Machine

We in the West tend to deny that public opinion is crudely manipulated, as in North Korea, but citizens are still 'nudged' – increasingly by social media

The Guardian
Friday 17 May 2013

You can read the article here

Prof Brian Cox: physicist or priest?

Instructions to appreciate the wonder of science are everywhere. But while wonder seems an innocuous element of public engagement with science, it serves to reinforce an anti-intellectual hierarchy between scientists and the public.

The Guardian
Friday 1 March 2013

You can read the article here

Trendy Twitter, groovy Google and funky Facebook wield formidable power

Twitter's suspension of a British journalist shows we should beware the commercial interests and huge power of social media sites. Their cuddly and revolutionary image is a smokescreen. 

The Guardian
Wednesday 1 August 2012

You can read the article here.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Milking Austerity

I'd rather have Thatcher's explicit ideology than the disavowed politics of coalition, cutting milk while claiming to care

The Guardian
Tuesday 19 June 2012

You can read the article here.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Why People Act Against Their Best Interests

'People aren't stupid. It sounds egalitarian, but it's actually reactionary'. This article explores the unfashionable idea of false consciousness and argues that it is key to addressing inequalities of power and status.

The Guardian
Thursday 29 March 2012

You can read the article here.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Why David Cameron's Meat and Potato Act Sticks in my Craw

'The cupcake is hegemony's new best friend'. Pastygate is yet another example of Cameron's fake authenticity – providing an alibi to the politics of austerity and inequality

The Guardian
Thursday 29 March 2012

You can read the article here.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Lessons of the Luddites

In the digital age, it seems unthinkable to resist technological progress. But we should never be ruled by our machines, or mistake powerful corporate interests with technological 'inevitability'.

The Guardian
Thursday 18 November 2011

You can read the article here.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Touching up the grassroots

Belief in ordinary voices is exploited by PRs and politicians skilled in the dark art of astroturfing, a technique that exemplifies the false promises of democratisation and enfranchisement that are sold to us; and we, in turn, are willing consumers of the myth of the level playing field.

The Guardian
Thursday 25 June 2009

Read the article here

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lost in the maelstrom

In the ‘two cultures’ war, science has won out over the humanities. Science’s new rival is religion, and a new war rages: that between creationists and evolutionists. But this battle is futile. It is the humanities, not the sciences, which have the wherewithal to challenge blind faith. But to do this, the humanities must regain their value in our culture.

The New Humanist
Volume 124 Issue 2 March/April 2009

Read the article here.

Anglican amendment

If Britain really wants to integrate all its religious minorities, it must first separate church and state.

The Guardian
Wednesday 19 December 2007

Read the article here.

‘Beyond Criticism’

Dozens of holocaust memoirs are published each year, and they are received with reverence. Confusion reigns as to whether or not it is appropriate to assess them critically, as books, and reading them becomes a matter of duty and masochistic desire.

The London Review of Books
20 November 2008

Read the article here.

Let's not sentimentalise the Shoah

Holocaust testimony and memorial culture illustrates a profound ambivalence about the status of survivors and witnesses

The Jewish Chronicle
December 11, 2008

You can read the article here.

Be tolerant or else

In the wake of the supposed failure of the multiculturalist ‘experiment’, British political leaders are resurrecting the Victorian idea of tolerance as a ‘core British value’. But the tradition of Great British Tolerance is historically questionable, and to require immigrants and minorities to subscribe to such a nebulous concept is intolerably coercive.

The New Humanist
Volume 122 Issue 3 May/June 2007

Read the article here.

Paranoia or prejudice?

Reports of a rise of ‘the new anti-semitism’ are overstated and function as a way of deflecting criticism of Israel’s actions.

The New Humanist
Volume 119 Issue 2 March/April 2004

Read the article here.

Parenting is an imperfect business, learned on the job

Motherhood is increasingly idealised in our culture, rendering the ambivalent reality of bringing up children a taboo. Our reverence for the pre-eminently natural maternal bond undermines claims that mothers and fathers should be aiming for equality in childcare.

The Guardian
Monday 25 February 2008

Read the article here.

Stitch Up!

We are fetishising 1950s domesticity and presenting it as the modern woman’s choice.


The New Humanist
Volume 121 Issue 1 January/February 2006

Read the article here.