Festival of Dangerous Ideas

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Poster for the 2015 edition

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas was an annual event co-founded by Sydney Opera House and The Ethics Centre (formerly known as the St James Ethics Centre) in 2009. It was presented at the Sydney Opera House for eight years until 2016. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas was created to bring leading thinkers and culture creators from around Australia and the world to discuss and debate some of the most important issues of our time.

In the inaugural 2009 event, the festival's opening address was given by atheism advocate Christopher Hitchens on the topic of "Religion Poisons Everything", which was countered by Australian Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell in a session titled "Without God We Are Nothing".[1]

In 2010 Geoffrey Robertson and Alan Dershowitz gave the opening address about sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church in the debate, "The Sins of the Fathers: Should the Pope be held to account?" Christian Lander, author of the satirical blog and book, "Stuff White People Like" discussed the meaning behind his tongue-in-cheek etiquette guide to Caucasian culture. New York newspaper columnist, Lenore Skenazy told how she was labeled "America's Worst Mom" after she let her nine-year-old son ride the subway home and how she fought back in the midst of a media maelstrom, by starting movement for "free range kids".

In 2011, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas featured a host of international and local speakers including: Julian Assange, Jonathan Safran Foer, Alexander McCall Smith, Jon Ronson, Slavoj Žižek, Mona Eltahawy and Philip Nitschke. The topics covered included: "Wikileaks has not gone far enough"; "Footballers are Barbarians not role models"; "Psychopaths Make the World Go Around"; "Ecstasy is No More Dangerous Than Horse-riding"; "All Women are Sluts" and that "Australia is a third-rate country".

In 2012, speakers included: Sam Harris, Germaine Greer, Brian Morris, Tara Moss, Illan Pappe, Jason Silva, Shiv Malik, Ed Howker, Jane Bussmann, Jesse Bering and Tim Harford. Over 50 speakers examined topics including: "The Coming Civil War Between Young & Old", "The Delusion of Free Will", "All Women Hate Each Other", "Israel is an Apartheid State", "The Devil is Real", "Genital Cutting is Normal", "We are all Sexual Perverts", "A Foetus is not a Person" and " You are Being Greenwashed".

In 2013, speakers included: Arlie Hochschild, David Simon, Hanna Rosin, Evgeny Morozov, Vandana Shiva, Dan Savage, John Safran and Peter Hitchens. The topics covered included: "We Have Outsourced Ourselves", "This is not a Conspiracy Theory", "The End of Men", "Some People are More Equal than Others", "A Killer Can Be A Good Neighbour" and "There is No War on Drugs".

In 2014, FODI (30–31 August 2014) tackled issues that questioned our view of ourselves and our place in the world, featuring discussions about topics including loneliness, masculinity, narcissism, modern slavery and the return of the class system in Australia. Speakers include: Sir Salman Rushdie, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina (Pussy Riot), Masha Gessen, Steven Pinker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Malcolm Fraser, Lydia Cacho, Alissa Nutting, Tim Flannery and Mark Latham. Talks include "Russia is a Penal Colony", "Surrogacy is Child Trafficking", "Freedom to Write", "Stop Trying to Fix Human Nature", "Slavery is Big Business" and "The Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys".

In 2015, the seventh Festival of Dangerous Ideas (5-6 September 2015) was made up of solo sessions and panels featuring speakers such as Tariq Ali, Naomi Klein, Peter Greste, Gabriella Coleman, Sarai Walker, AC Grayling, Marc Lewis, Paul Krugman, Laurie Penny, Jon Ronson, Eric Schlosser and Gideon Raff, exploring themes including the economy, artificial intelligence, climate change, cybersexism, addiction and sugar. For the first time, "FODI Melbourne" also took place as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

In 2016, the final Festival of Dangerous Ideas (3-4 September 2016) was held at the Sydney Opera House. It featured speakers such as Jesse Bering, Andrew Bolt, Molly Crabapple, Alicia Garza (Black Lives Matter), Henry Rollins (Black Flag (band)) and Lionel Shriver.

In 2017 the Sydney Opera House announced that it was no longer presenting the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. It announced ANTIDOTE: a festival of art, ideas and action featuring speakers such as Janet Mock, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Tamika D. Mallory (Women's March on Washington) and Micah White (Occupy Wall Street) and artists such as Noemi Lakmaier, Anne Collod and Kaleider.


The 2014 Festival was criticised due to the links between the St James Ethics Centre and companies that profit from the mandatory indefinite detention of asylum seekers.[2]

2009 speakers[edit]

2010 speakers[edit]

2011 speakers[edit]

2012 speakers[edit]

2013 speakers[edit]

2014 speakers[edit]

2015 speakers[edit]

2016 speakers[edit]


  1. ^ "Festival Of Dangerous Ideas". News.com.au. 28 September 2009.
  2. ^ "A request to Nadya and Masha"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Verbal grenades at speakers' corner". The Sydney Morning Herald. Linda Morris. 23 September 2009.
  4. ^ "You want dangerous ideas? These are dangerous ideas". The Crikey. Guy Rundle. Tuesday, 6 October 2009.
  5. ^ "We need to debate conscription". WAtoday. Chris Barrie. 4 October 2009
  6. ^ "Festival of Dangerous Ideas". Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Simon, David (7 December 2012). "There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show". The Guardian The Observer. Sydney,Australia. Retrieved 11 December 2012. .
  8. ^ Pinker addressed FODI on the topic "A History of Violence" in which "using a ruthless examination of the data" he showed that "violence is declining and has been for centuries". Video of Pinker's presentation
SOH 2011 Festival of Dangerous Ideas Sydney Morning Herald 27 September 2011

External links[edit]