Recordings in English

What has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for us?

Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough

As one of the victorious parties that emerged from the Second World War in 1945, the United Kingdom has played a key role in drafting new binding laws for Europe’s common future to prevent the abuse of state powers witnessed during the war and before. This set of laws, overseen by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, would soon emerge as the ‚Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’. In our time, it is known (and further developed!) as The European Convention of Human Rights.

In June 2016, however, the electorate of the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether it should stay in the European Union at all. With a majority of 1,9% and an overall 37% of the populace, the decision was made to leave the Union. Despite grave concerns about its legitimacy, e.g. in relation to resource spending of the Vote Leave/BeLeave campaigns as well as the manipulative data usage including Facebook profiles of firms like SCL-Group/Cambridge Analytica a.o., the ‚Article 50’ of the Treaty of Lisbon to unilaterally leave the Union was triggered by the new Prime Minister Theresa May on March 29th, 2017. This development is now known in popular culture as ‚Brexit’, as in: Britain´s Exit from Europe. It is putting to end a 43 years long process of membership in the ongoing evolution of economic, academic, juridical, environmental and other aspects of European culture and lifestyle.

A fact less known is that Theresa May had already argued before that Britain should leave the European Convention on Human Rights and create a ‚British Bill of Rights’ due to her experiences as Home Secretary starting in 2010. In reaction to her ongoing controversial statements on the issue, the Guardian published this satirical play by Dan Susman featuring actor Patrick Stewart, most widely known for his role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise, and other important British actors and authors.

In their take on the classic scene from Monty Python’s movie ‚The Life of Brian’ (1979) where a group of plotting revolutionaries discuss the merits of life under Roman reign while mimicking the dynamics of contemporary ideological discourse, Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough and Sarah Solemani expose the problems in the Conservative plan for a ‘British Bill of Rights’.

Just as the Roman Empire had nothing substantial to offer to Monty Python’s zealots - apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, fresh water system, and public health – Stewart’s prime minister can’t find anything positive about the European Convention on Human Rights. Apart from the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, freedom from slavery and freedom from torture, that is. And of course, that it was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that helped to bring it to life in the first place.

The European Union lacks a sense of its own history

Timothy Snyder

The European Union is among the largest economies in the history of the world and the most important zones of contiguous democracies today. What it lacks is a sense of its own history, which creates a surprisingly important opportunity for those who wish it ill, above all in Moscow. Here, a historical perspective is employed to explain what has made the European Union possible, and what will be necessary to defend its future.

Timothy Snyder is a historian at Yale University, specializing in Eastern Europe, totalitarianism, and the holocaust. In his most recent book, “The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America,” he reveals the big picture on how the rise of populism, the British vote against the EU, and the election of Donald Trump were all Russian goals, and how these achievements reveal the vulnerability of Western societies. He is also the author of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” which explores the everyday ways a citizen can resist the authoritarianism of today. His other works include “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” and “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.”

This video is part of an ongoing series called ‘Timothy Snyder Speaks’ published online.

An Insight, an Idea

Joi Ito, David Kirkpatrick

Joi Ito, the director of the MIT media lab, attended the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland). In this interview, he elaborates on what he calls the “power of pull,” that is, the possibilities that arise from using technology to bring together people and ideas quickly and efficiently while outmaneuvering the constraints that come with hierarchies and authorities.

Drawing on comparisons with the history of the early internet and its effects on communication, Ito argues that Bitcoin - and, to a certain degree, cryptocurriencies in general - will continue to empower individuals by reducing society’s need for centralized services and governance.

We are in jeopardy of losing our democracies

William Binney

This is a special keynote the whistleblower and former NSA intelligence official Bill Binney gave in Munich in January 2014 on the occasion of the annual Handelsblatt-Tagung “Strategisches IT-Management”.

During his speech, he outlined the procedures he helped to develop to manage the enormous amount of data gathered via automated analysis of electronic communication, ways to analyze metadata to generate profiles of suspicious groups, and how to use this information to predict potential dangers.

In the second part of his presentation, Binney emphasized that NSA operations (as well as the use of their data by other agencies) are fundamentally unconstitutional, as the US constitution does not only prohibit intelligence agencies from gathering information on domestic matters, but also from using or dispersing it for other purposes, such as criminal investigations.

With reference to the technical specifics of the fiber optic network used by phone companies, he deduced that all officials who claimed that they did not intentionally collect data on US citizens were deliberately lying and obfuscating their operations, and that secrecy and dishonesty have thus become general characteristics of the US intelligence agencies and their allies in other countries.

Throughout his talk, Binney linked these practices to the inner workings of totalitarian states, such as the GDR, and to the totalitarian reign of English king George III which had directly preceded the Declaration of Independence. He expressed his worries that not only the US, but democracies all over the world are endangered by an erosion of their fundamental principles.


Keywords: English, William Binney

"Freedom Box": Internet free of government control?

Eben Moglen, Peter Eckersley

What if there were a network of computers all over the world that operated outside government or corporate control? As Daniel Sieberg reports, that is the premise for the so-called “freedom box”.

Read more at CBS News

European Copyright Directive rejected by European Parliament

Catherine Stihler; Pavel Telička; Axel Voss

On July 5, 2018, the European parliament voted on the EU committee’s proposal for a new European Copyright Bill. The video clip shows the last two speeches before votes were cast: one by German MEP Axel Voss, a member of the European People’s Party Group, in support of the EU committee’s position, and another by British MEP Catherine Stihler of the Socialists & Democrats group against.

The new law, particularly articles 11 and 13, had faced serious opposition by prominent internet personalities such as Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf, digital rights activists, and YouTube content creators alike. Had the law been passed, it would have likely resulted in an even more widespread implementation of automated content filters on platforms for user-generated content. At the same time, article 11 would have led to mandatory licensing fees for preview snippets of linked content. In the worst-case scenario, this would have led to smaller news platforms being forced to shut down for being unable to afford those fees.

In the end, votes against the proposed copyright bill prevailed by a very slight margin of only 40 of a total of 596 votes (and 31 abstentions). 

An English translation of the German parts of the video is available at the bottom of the transcript.

For more information on the Copyright Directive and its potential impact, visit

The Chinese Room Argument revisited

John Searle

In the midst of 2015’s debates on the risks and possibilities of artificial intelligence which were fueled by the progress of self-driving cars, autonomous robotics, and the signature of an open letter in favor of AI security, Google invited philosopher John Searle to elaborate once more on his Chinese Room Argument of 1980.

The Chinese Room Argument was designed to demonstrate the impossibility of creating true intelligence out of computer code by comparing it to a hotel room that contains detailed instructions on how to respond to sequences of Mandarin characters. While a person who follows these instructions impeccably could lead an observer to believe that a dialogue between two Chinese speakers is taking place, the user of these instructions would in fact not need to understand a single character. Therefore, Searle argued, the Turing Test is inadequate, as it does not take true understanding of the input into account, but rather judges only the quality of the output. At its core, the Chinese Room Argument defends the notion of intelligence as a unique property of biological entities, something machines can at best simulate but never replace.

For an in-depth discussion of the thought experiment and its reception over the last three decades, see e.g. the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Keywords: English, John Searle

'Excuse me' by - delta t, 1984

Minus Delta T

- delta t (Minus Delta t) has been - and still, in variants, is - a group of artists who created seminal works in performance and media art since 1978. Early members included Bernhard Müller, Mike Hentz and Karel Dudesek as well as Chrislo Haas or Gerard Couty. Aiming to initiate a processual and participatory form of art, many of them would re-join their expertise to develop emancipatory structures and novel modes of using new media technology for art experiments. The Iron Curtain had just fallen when in 1992, the “Piazza Virtuale” project connected 17 studios on three continents over satellite from its headquarter, hosted in containers in central Germany.

de: Die Gruppe verfolgte einen prozeßhaften und partizipatorischen Kunstbegriff, der zunehmend den emanzipatorischen Gebrauch der Medien umfasste. Ihr wichtigstes Projekt war Anfang der achtziger Jahre das »Bangkok Projekt« – es wurde ein Felsblock auf dem Landweg bis nach Bangkok transportiert, um Ereignisse im öffentlichen Raum auszulösen. Ab Mitte der achtziger Jahre begann Minus Delta t, sich umzuorientieren, die Medien wurden immer mehr als der zentrale Ansatzpunkt für eine Kunst, die einen gesellschaftsverändernden Anspruch hat, erkannt; Nutzung eines Busses ab 1985 als mobiles Medienlabor; die Gruppe nannte sich dann »Ponton« als Label für übergreifende Aktivitäten.” Mitglieder der ursprünglichen Gruppe sind später unter den Pionieren von Interaktionskunst in alten Medien mittels neuer Mit-Schaltungen des Diskurses unter Sendeformaten wie “Eye of Moby Dick” oder XYZ.

This sound piece is taken from their album “The Bangkok Project”, published at the Ata Tak label, Germany 1984. 

Excuse me!” - First released on the LP record The Bangkok Project, Ata Tak, Germany 1984.

The Yes Men and Edward Snowden at Roskilde Festival

The Yes Men; Roskilde Festival 16; Edward Snowden

During the Roskilde festival 2016, activist art group The Yes Men had set up fake signs stating that the festival would be collecting and infinitely storing all text and phone conversations of visitors on festival grounds.

Before the nature of the signs was revealed as a provocative prank, many festival-goers showed both despair and anger. The group’s stunt culminated in a live performance with a fake Edward Snowden who got on stage in the role of an almost tech-illiterate imposter, and finally a talk given by the real Snowden via web stream.

The whole process has been documented by The Yes Men as a 12-minute film about digital surveillance, the data stunt, and Edward Snowden’s talk.

Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age

Manuel Castells

Sociologist Manuel Castells examines the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other social movements that have emerged in the Internet Age. He shares his observations on the recurring patterns in these movements: their origins, their use of new media, and their goal of transforming politics in the interest of the people. Castells presents what he sees to be the shape of the social movements of the Internet age, and discusses the implications of these movements for social and political change.