Despite the alleged “dumbing-down” of our culture, there is a startlingly large audience for public lectures and debates. The most striking example of this that I have come across was when I spoke at an Intelligence Squared debate in London, a few months ago, opposing the motion “Latin America will be the 21st century’s superpower”. Latin America is a minority interest at the best of times, and this was the week that the war in Libya had broken out. It was a rainy Tuesday night and the panel was largely made up of academics and journalists – all worthy people, but none of them Mick Jagger. And, to cap it all, there was a £25 entry fee. I expected about three people to show up. In fact, the Royal Geographical Society in London was packed. The audience ran into hundreds.
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