A year of intellectual rebels and misanthropic moaners

spiked readers and writers name some of the men and women who helped to improve humanity’s lot in 2010 – and some of those who didn’t.

Various Authors

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Al Murray chooses…

HERO: Don Draper: as an avatar for America and modern anxieties, the man who can sleep in his office, drunkenly puke on his shirt and still be a genius in the morning is someone I aspire to being.

ZERO: Julian Assange, whose request for privacy at his bail appeal revealed far more than a skipload of Wiki-Obvious cables.

Al Murray’s latest DVD is Barrel of Fun – Live.

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Brendan O’Neill chooses…

HERO: Shaun Ryder, for his fantastically false teeth; his expletive-laden wisdom; his one-man war against Gillian McKeith’s anti-smoking, anti-meat, anti-fun vapours on I’m A Celebrity; and for many years ago opening the eyes of a certain pompous 15-year-old U2 fan to the joys of hedonism and dancing like an ape.

ZERO: Professor David Nutt, for launching a war against alcohol under the guise of a desire to liberalise cannabis laws. His demands for higher booze prices (screw the poor) and a legal drinking age of 21 (screw the young) would have Mill spinning in his grave. They’re also proof that there’s nothing squarer than a dope fan.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

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Josie Appleton chooses…

HERO: Annabel Hayter, former head of flower guild of Gloucester Cathedral, for steadfastly refusing to be vetted by cathedral authorities. Her actions have inspired rebelliousness across the land – and have shown that it is possible to stand up against the senseless rules that have crept into everyday life.

ZERO: UK licensing minister John Penrose, for presiding over an authoritarian remake of the Licensing Act, giving police and councils yet more unaccountable powers over pubs, bars and music clubs. Now Penrose has added insult to injury by cowardly backing out of his promises to remove the red tape for live music events.

Josie Appleton is convenor of the Manifesto Club.

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Greg Lukianoff chooses…

HERO: Jonathan Rauch, for his extraordinary, brilliant and principled defence of free speech as just one part of a crucial intellectual system upon which meaningful human progress relies. The best recent example of this was his speech last summer at FIRE’s student conference.

ZERO: Valdosta State University president Ronald Zaccari, for the stunning violation of an environmentalist student’s free speech rights, which was revealed in a September court opinion. Click here to find out more.

Greg Lukianoff is president of the US-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

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Nathalie Rothschild chooses…

HEROES: The Chilean miners, for rebelling against the 300-strong team of psychologists who sometimes denied them ‘psychologically inappropriate’ comforts like cigarettes, booze, iPods and family letters. They showed that humans don’t need the therapy industry in order to survive.

ZERO: The New Zealand emergency services, for not sending a rescue team down the Pike River Coal Mine because it was ‘unsafe’, effectively leaving 29 miners to die. Even families were prevented from trying to save loved ones. We all need rescuing from officialdom’s risk-aversion.

Nathalie Rothschild is commissioning editor of spiked.

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Wendy Kaminer chooses…

HERO AND ZERO: Mikhail Khodorkovsky – because his apparent transformation from rapacious oligarch to prisoner of conscience illustrates the complexities and unpredictability of character (and challenges my increasingly jaundiced view of human nature). While a great many people manage to do much more harm than good, relatively few are simply, categorically heroes or villains.

Wendy Kaminer’s latest book is Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU.

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Sean Collins chooses…

HERO: Diane Ravitch, whose bestselling book The Death and Life of the Great American School System made her the most vocal opponent of Obama’s philistine education reforms. She says we should insist on the highest standards for all children: ‘an education that includes the arts, literature, the sciences, history, geography, civics, foreign languages, economics, and physical education.’

ZERO: NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, for posing as a liberal but actually having a strong authoritarian streak. His nanny-state measures have included bans on smoking and trans-fats and even a proposal to prohibit the poor from using food stamps to buy soda.

Sean Collins is a writer based in New York.

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Jennie Bristow chooses…

HERO: IVF consultant Stuart Lavery, for arguing in a debate that women should not be denied fertility treatment because of drug, alcohol or mental health problems. Women who have these conditions can have children ‘naturally’, so why discriminate against those whose fallopian tubes do not work?

ZERO: Frank Field, the UK poverty tsar, for continuing the pernicious project of redefining poverty as a problem of ‘poor parenting’.

Jennie Bristow edits the website Parents With Attitude. She is author of Standing Up To Supernanny, and co-author of Licensed to Hug. (Buy these books from Amazon (UK) here and here.)

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Rob Lyons chooses…

HEROES: The British Airways cabin crew who stopped flights for a good reason: to make a stand against bosses trying to undermine their conditions of work when the recession was forcing many other workers to take cuts in pay and hours. The BA staff seemed to have to fight their own incompetent union leaders as well as Willie Walsh.

ZEROES: Europe’s airspace regulators and politicians who stopped flights across Europe for a bad reason: a panicky and ill-informed response to the volcanic ash cloud that spread from Iceland in April. We conquered nature by learning how to fly; now we’re told to grin and bear nature’s whims.

Rob Lyons is deputy editor of spiked.

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Tim Black chooses…

HERO: Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose advocacy of ‘knowledge for its own end’ in The Idea of the University remains a vital riposte to the social-mobility-spouting philistinism rampant in today’s higher education debate. Long dead, but sanctified this year, Newman could do with being lionised in 2011.

ZERO: David Willetts. A triumph of quantity over quality, ‘Two Brains’ Willetts not only continued the McDonaldisation of universities as a Tory minister, but also provided would-be critics of austerity with an adolescent bible of blame, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future.

Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.

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Patrick Hayes chooses…

HERO: Defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths, for his stingingly accurate critique of the International Criminal Court: ‘It was set up to try those lesser breeds without the law: the Africans. This is the same civilising mission from the late nineteenth century and I find it, as a black man, totally objectionable.’

ZERO: Geoffrey Robertson QC, for dressing up his campaign against Vatican sovereignty as a humanistic salvo against religious obscurantism, when in truth it was a cover for his ongoing attempt to trash the ideal of sovereign independence and spread his personal brand of righteousness across the globe.

Patrick Hayes is a co-founder of the Institute of Ideas’ Current Affairs Forum.

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Mick Hume chooses…

ZEROES: The entire UK political class, from A for Alexander, B for Brown and C for Cameron-Clegg through to Y for Young, with the M for Milibands in between. For holding an election campaign without political debate in the midst of a crisis and then, when the electorate rejected all of them, forming a coalition that nobody voted for and pulling up the Westminster drawbridge to protect their fixed-term parliament, thus finally reducing British democracy to a strictly-come-voting-every-five-years spectator sport.

HEROES: None of the Above. Sorry, but try as I might I cannot think of a single heroic act or individual in British politics in 2010, when ‘Austerity now!’ became the threadbare banner behind which to hide their poverty of ideas. There is an historic hole where our heroes and leaders ought to be. Never mind a referendum on the Alternative Voting system, what about some Alternative Politics worth voting for in 2011?

Mick Hume is editor-at-large at spiked.

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