Norman Mailer wanted to be cancelled

The satyr is a mythological figure known for his permanent erection and unapologetic pursuit of pleasure. In 1993, the American illustrator Edward Sorel drew three literary heavyweights as satyrs, to accompany a James Atlas essay entitled ‘Laureates of the Lewd’: John Updike, Philip Roth and Gore Vidal. Icons of obscenity, they wrote novels in the late sixties which challenged propriety around sex, and are all highly cancellable, by today’s standards.

But someone who more clearly embodied the figure of the satyr, and is in the process of being cancelled, was Norman Mailer. According to an article by Michael Wolff in the Ankler, plans to publish a collection of Mailer’s essays for the centenary of his birth next year have been abandoned by his publisher Random House. Wolff writes that a junior staff member was offended by an essay Mailer wrote in the 1957 entitled “The White Negro”, in which Mailer rhapsodises about the revolutionary potential of black people in a slightly creepy way. But it’s not exactly clear why the Mailer book has been cancelled. In any case, you can still read the “The White Negro” at Dissent magazine. ...  Continue reading

The curse of the Girlboss

If things had played out just a little bit differently, Elizabeth Holmes would have been just another scammy telegenic inventor selling a product too good to be true. In this might-have-been world, there is no scandal, no downfall, no indictment on federal charges and no guilty verdict with likely prison time. Holmes would have never amassed a fortune by promising to revolutionise the multi-billion dollar blood testing industry, never made the cover of Forbes and Fortune, and never lost it all when a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that her entire empire was built on fraudulent claims about a technology that didn’t work. ...  Continue reading

Don’t silence conspiracy theorists

A year ago, riled-up by claims of a stolen election, hundreds of pro-Trump protestors forced their way inside the Capitol in Washington DC, perpetrating a secular desecration that shocked the world. 

In the aftermath, Donald Trump was impeached by House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Senate. The social media companies were not so lenient. The 45th President of the United States was de-platformed by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

The chaotic end of Trump’s presidency provided a pretext, though, for a much wider purge of anything deemed to fall under the category of conspiracy theory or misinformation. This week the Republican congresswoman, Majorie Taylor Greene, had her Twitter account permanently suspended; and Joe Rogan who has had content removed by YouTube.   ...  Continue reading

Is the pandemic over?

At the start of each new year, newspapers convince their pundits to put their reputations on the line and make predictions for the year ahead. And on the whole, those predictions are completely worthless.

That’s not necessarily because they’re wrong. It’s because they are imprecise: the pundits won’t fully commit to anything. “The year ahead will be difficult for Boris Johnson,” that sort of thing. Whatever happens, it’ll be hard to say whether that prediction came true or not.

What’s much more worthwhile is making clear, well-defined, falsifiable forecasts, with fixed timetables: forecasts that commit you to say “OK, I got that wrong.” ...  Continue reading

How the EU destroyed Italian democracy

On January 24, when Sergio Mattarella’s seven-year term comes to an end, the Italian parliament and its regional representatives will hold a secret ballot to elect the country’s new president and official head of state. Even though the appointment hasn’t garnered much attention outside of Italy, its choice will have wide-ranging implications — not just for Italy but for the entire continent.

It is generally believed that the Italian president performs a purely ceremonial and symbolic role, and throughout most of Italy’s life as a republic this has been largely the case. Italy, after all, is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, with the government dependent on the confidence of the elected legislature. ...  Continue reading

Why the online Right flirt with the Taliban

In the weeks following its capture of Afghanistan, sympathy for the Taliban emerged from an unlikely corner of the internet: the online far-Right. In awe of the Islamist terrorist organisation’s martial spirit and revolt against liberalism, a number of online dissidents took to framing the Taliban fighters as heroes on social media. From caricaturing them as ‘Chads’ (alpha males) to sharing images of other Islamist groups with captions like ‘Wahabi boy summer’ (a play on the nationalist ‘white boy summer’ slogan), many of the memes notoriously associated with fringe digital subcultures were suddenly absorbed into discussion around terrorism — including by Taliban members themselves...  Continue reading

What vegan propaganda ignores

Curious how acceptable veganism has become. George Orwell scathingly described vegetarians as “that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking to the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.” Somehow, via Linda McCartney’s textured soya sausages, veganism has become a mainstream path, not just to health, but to a bright future. As George Monbiot, the high priest of British veganism, exhorted his Guardian readers, “The best way to save the planet? Drop meat and dairy.” It’s the cows. They belch methane.

The UK is a world leader in veganism, the first country to have a Vegan Society. Here, more than a million people will stop eating animal products this month as part of Veganuary, of which Monbiot is an “Ambassador”. After that, who knows? You may want — and the Ambassadors certainly desire — that you embrace the whole vegan testament, and deny yourself not just meat, fish, eggs and dairy, but all animal products. The wool jumper on your back. The leather shoes on your feet. ...  Continue reading

Three ways Macron could lose France

In the best of times and the worst of times, France has a habit of guillotining its leaders. No French President has won a second term for 20 years. No French government has been endorsed by the electorate since 1978. Presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac were re-elected in 1988 and 2002, but only after they had lost de facto power in parliamentary elections two and five years before.

Emmanuel Macron, who faces a two-round Presidential election on 10 and 24 April, has a good chance of escaping the tumbril this year. He has been running ahead of the pack with 23-25% of first-round voting intentions for months. ...  Continue reading

The enabling of Ghislaine Maxwell

The conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell has divided feminists. I don’t know any who would suggest she is innocent. But there are those who would argue she was nothing but a handmaiden, coerced and abused by Jeffrey Epstein into luring those poor girls to be raped and prostituted. Others say she is both victim and perpetrator, and that her behaviour was a direct result of being sexually abused by her father, the late Robert Maxwell.

My take is pretty straightforward. Yes, there is evidence to suggest she was abused by her father, and it is clear that Epstein had a certain level of power and control over her. But Maxwell is a woman with immense privilege and power of her own. She was not convicted for associating with Epstein, she was convicted for procuring young women into prostitution. There is nothing of the victim about Maxwell. ...  Continue reading

Is this the end of progressive America?

Over the past several decades, the progressive Left has successfully fulfilled Antonio Gramsci’s famed admonition of a “long march through the institutions”. In almost every Western country, its adherents now dominate the education system, media, cultural institutions, and financial behemoths.

But what do they have to show for it? Not as much as they might have expected. Rather than a Bolshevik-style assumption of power, there’s every chance this institutional triumph will not produce an enduring political victory, let alone substantially change public opinion.

Even before Biden’s botched Build Back Better initiative, American progressives faced opposition to their wildly impractical claims about achieving “zero Covid” and “zero emissions”, confronting “systemic racism” by defunding the police, regulating speech, and redefining two biological sexes into a multiplicity. ...  Continue reading

How Albania became a pyramid scheme

In early 1997, a tiny, semi-literate Roma former shoe factory worker, Maksude Kadena, went to the balcony of her shabby Communist-era apartment in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Beneath her stood hundreds of people who had invested in her company, Sude, which had been offering big rewards: 5-10% returns per month. But suddenly the interest payments had dried up, investors were being prevented from retrieving their capital. And so here they were — baying for her.

In her hand, Kadena held a megaphone. Now, she put it to her lips.

“My game is over,” she told the crowd below. “It was a pyramid game. My company is bankrupt. And you shouldn’t ask for the money.” ...  Continue reading

The importance of an angry woman

Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Katy Perry’s Firework was perhaps the ultimate chin-up-tits-out song for the first generation to be fully net-native from childhood onwards. And not just because in the official video Perry shot sparklers from her boobs.

Her song struck a chord with many: Firework peaked at number three in the UK charts, and number one in the US. Her prescription for feeling bad is simple: don’t feel bad. Instead, all you have to do is “own the night like the 4th of July”.

But how, in practice, is one meant to “own the night”? ...  Continue reading