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Libertarian Home video talks summarised

Libertarian Home holds speaker meetings on the first Thursday of every month. The most recent of these meetings featured a talk by Tim Evans. You can watch and listen to the whole of this talk, which lasts 33 minutes, here. At the other end of that link you can also read a summary, by Libertarian Home’s Simon Gibbs, of the first big chunk of the talk, which consisted of Tim’s take on Jeremy Corbyn. Since that posting went up, Simon Gibbs has done another summary, of what Tim Evans said in the same talk in connection with tomorrow’s Budget.

Videos play to the strengths of human beings as communicators. We have evolved with the innate ability to talk, provided only that we start out hearing others talk, and most of us are pretty good at talking. But we have to learn reading and writing, especially writing, and even the most fluent and practised writers struggle to write down every worthwhile thought that they have ever had.

An extreme case of this is the libertarian historian and IEA apparatchik Stephen Davies, whose movement-building activities cruelly cut into his history-writing time. But: good news, there is a video of an excellent talk given by Davies to Libertarian Home in June 2013 about The History of Individualism, in which he says many of the things that he has not had the time to write about. Better yet, follow that link and you will also encounter a summary by Simon Gibbs of what Davies said. There are many other videos of Steve Davies talking and I recommend all of them. But if you want to learn quickly about a particularly good talk by Davies, follow that link.

Quite aside from their excellence at getting things said that otherwise might not be said, it’s good to see and to hear people whom you are interested in, rather than merely to read what they have written. You get to see what they are like, and something of how they feel about the world as well as how they merely think about it. When speaking, people are often able to say things, of an elusive yet true nature, with a sense of just how sure they are or are not about it all, and in a way that sometimes even surprises them a little. (I sure I am not the only one who sometimes feels that I don’t know what I think until I hear what I say.) You don’t usually receive as much information by watching and listening to someone on video as you would if you had actually been been there, although you sometimes see and hear more, rather as watching sport on television can often be more informative, in some ways, than actually being there. But the point is that video is good in the same kind of way that face-to-face contact can be.

All of which is part of why videos now abound on the internet. They communicate a lot. (The above also explains the popularity of programmes like Skype.)

The trouble is, a lot of videos can take their time, especially videos like the ones I have just been linking to which are simply videos of talks. Take their time? What I mean is: they take your time, often in large gobs.


I don’t know about you, but I am extremely fond of playing music. I possess a pathologically vast classical CD collection, and I can’t listen to one of these CDs if I am instead watching a video of someone giving a talk. I also like to watch television for pleasure, especially in the evening. I was watching a TV show when I started work on this posting, in the form of an episode of The Sky at Night, about their five favourite photos of the solar system. I could just about combine keeping half an eye on that show while working on this. But watching two videos at the same time, with two sound tracks? Or watching a video and listening to a symphony at the same time? Can’t be done. So I for one really appreciate it if someone turns a video into a chunk of words.

With lecture videos on the internet, often all you have to go on is a title, together with the news that this subject will be talked about for the best part of an hour. So, will you be interested? Or will you only be made angry about a chunk of your life that you will never get back? But, if given a quite detailed summary which you can read much more quickly, such as the two that Simon Gibbs has supplied of what Tim Evans said back on March 4th, you get a far better idea of whether spending half an hour watching this Tim Evans talk would be worth your while or be something you’d regret. The summary works both as a substitute for watching the video, and a sales pitch for watching the video.

Quite aside from the benefits and difficulties of talk videos, and the corrective and additive benefit of attaching summaries to them, for the viewers of such videos, there is also the impact on speakers to be considered. If someone summarises what I say in a talk, this gives me a good feeling. At least someone has listening carefully to what I said. And now, others will get to hear about what I said, and maybe be inclined to watch what I said. My voice has been amplified. So, if I feel all that, I presume that other speakers are similarly chuffed to see not just a hasty sentence or two about what they said, but a quite long and detailed description, even if it contains the odd criticism. Being videoed, seeing the video go up on the internet, but then not seeing anything else said about, it is not at all the same as being ignored, but it can sometimes feel a bit like it. Such an experience, you might say, feels like being ignored on a rather grander scale than usual.

The above thoughts explain why I have recently been contributing to the work of Libertarian Home by supplying a few of these video summaries myself, despite the fact that such summarising cuts cruelly into my music-listening time.

The two summaries I’ve so far done which are most likely to be of interest to Samizdata readers will probably be of the talks given by Syed Kamall MEP, and by Dominic Frisby, the latter summary being my most recent LH effort. Since giving that LH talk, Syed Kamall (I don’t assert any cause-and-effect here, I’m just saying) announced his support for Brexit. And Dominic Frisby has already had quite a few mentions here.

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13 comments to Libertarian Home video talks summarised

  • Paul Marks

    I enjoyed giving the two talks I gave to this group – one on the influence of German thought and practice on the rise of world statism (the decline of freedom) in the world, and the other talk on the history of Israel.

    They are an interesting and thoughtful group of people.

    If I lived near by (rather than so far away) I would certainly go to listen (and ask questions) at all their events.

  • Dougas2

    For videos on Youtube, take note of the little gear icon in the lower right. That will often bring up the choice of playback speed, and one can choose to play the video at 125%, 150%, or even 200% of normal speed. This changes the speed of delivery, but not the pitch of the voice.
    The professor for the HarvardX course I took was measured enough in his delivery and calm enough in his mannerisms that double-speed merely made him sound like he was speaking with a clipped mid-atlantic accent. For others I find that even 125% is intolerable because of hand-motions (seem fine at normal speed, but wierd and disracting fast) or because the sound quality on the voice is insufficient.
    I find that I often get bored with videos of lectures, but bumping up the pace of the delivery helps to retain my interest and attention.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very interesting observations, Brian. I did read your writeup at LH, which was quite helpful. As you indicate, it’s nice to have an idea of what one is getting into before one starts listening to a 29-hour talk.

    Random thoughts….

    I would plead yet again that the makers and uploaders of video talks include the Q&A sessions. However good the presentations, the Q&A’s are often, very often, the best part. I am far from the only person to have enpixellated this observation.

    (I can see at least three possible difficulties with doing this, but I still beg and plead with tears in my eyes. Think of the widows and orphans! Why do you deprive us?!)

    For instance, I do regret not having the Q&A for both of Paul’s talks at LH– as well as yours.

    I’m a big fan of Simon’s videos. Mostly he has interesting speakers, and the writeups are the most thorough and detailed summaries I’ve ever seen. (Any more detailed and they would be transcripts.)

    Personally, I’d rather see and hear the videos of the talks than read the summaries or even transcripts. But I have a harder time focussing on reading than I used to. Anyhow, that’s just me.

    Brian, I’ll be glad to come over and help out by listening to selections from your voluminous collection of classical music. My own is by no means mean, but yours sounds even more extensive. That way you can concentrate on watching videos and TV. :>))

    Thanks for your posting.

  • Sigivald

    … which is why I never, ever watch videos of people talking.

    Want my mental attention? Use text.

    (Additional bonuses: Text is indexable and searchable and robust. Video is none of those things.)

  • Being able to add a criticism to a summary is actually quite important. For example, we could hear important points about free speech from a crazy islamaphobe and say, in the summary, that this is what happened. I try not to invite crazy people but a better example is the often delightful Sam Bowman who made important points about the minimum wage but said nice things about the crazy policy of citizens basic income. Since I dislike that policy I would have felt far less comfortable hosting that event without the opportunity to do a summary, with that criticism.

    Q&A’s could be transcripted, which I think is the most appropriate medium for them, but that would require money to sustain.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Simon, I’ve written you about that a few times by now….

    –J.

  • Chester Draws

    Speech is more persuasive, because it doesn’t give the listener time to reflect on any issues they might have. It’s good for firing up a person to change, letting them get carried away on the emotion.

    However that message might not make any actual sense when thought through carefully afterwards. I’ve been to lots of seminars and talks where the crowd comes away inspired, but not actually very much wiser.

    Text is harder because it makes your arguments’ holes much harder to hide. Hence, if I want to see if a person’s case is valid, I want to see it in writing.

  • Alisa

    What Chester said. I am interested in ideas – the message, as it were, and written medium is best suited for this, as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes I am also interested to see who the messenger is, both to give a fuller context to the message, and to get a fuller impression of the person behind the writing – and videos help with that. When I know a person whose ideas I’m interested in well enough, I’d much rather they wrote an article than gave a talk – unless that person is a better speaker than a writer.

  • RRS

    Thank you again Brian.

    On a broader, but concurring view of that history:

    Oakeshott’s The masses in representative democracy 1961 (1991 Liberty Fund reprint)

    And much detailed scholarship from Alan Macfarlane.

  • RRS

    Much wine and many words might flow at LH if the subject of the emergence of anti-individuality and the reasons for its rise were taken up.

  • CaptDMO

    ‘…We have evolved with the innate ability to talk, provided only that we start out hearing others talk,..”
    Here’s the thing, two people, separated by two standard deviations (about 30 pts.) in IQ, or two/three “servings” of alcohol (or other) may very well be speaking/hearing separate languages, and differing definitions for the same words, at the Tower of Babel construction site.
    Then, there’s the Telephone Game.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I have to say something about what seems to be rather a consensus, and that is that most of us are aware of the difficulties inherent in communications that proceed only in writing. There are no clues as to interpretation of the speaker’s meaning from his body language, facial expressions, even the pauses between words or sentences and the rise and fall of his voice. From the voice alone you can get some clues. For instance, what words does he emphasize?

    There is also real interest in watching some speakers (not all), if they are animated for instance; or have some attractive quirk of physical expression.

    In other words, What Brian Said, and said a whole lot better, in one of his paragraphs in the posting.

    The ones who are dull to watch often have interesting things to say, but they are openly reading their speeches and seem to be speaking to the written pages, and sometimes they do so in an extremely toneless and uninflected manner.

    Actually, I often watch the video lectures or listen to the audio ones while playing a game of computer solitaire that I can do almost on autopilot. Mostly because it’s something to do with my hands, I think.

    Perhaps Brian would like to add playing solitaire while viewing a video, listening to his records, and preparing a posting. It would give him something to do. :>)

  • I was really grateful for Brian’s very sympathetic write-up of my talk; I’d offered to do this for Simon myself, but never got round to doing it properly.

    The videos mean that the words remain, slightly out of context; to a group of libertarians, it doesn’t need to be said that if you a rich ecosystem of institutions whereby strangers co-operate to achieve without a profit motive goals that could not be achieved by individuals acting alone, then you can have a commensurately smaller state, and indeed I largely avoided expressing this implication; people coming cold to such a recording might miss the point entirely.

    You can speak much more freely in the Q&A afterwards when the camera is off. I found myself self-consciously self-censoring and being much more careful about how I expressed myself when the camera was on. I notice watching the recording that I unconsciously lapse into sounding like Lynn Arnold, which is a worry.