breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 14
May 2021

The psychic powers of the contemporary Left

It is one thing to tell people what they ought to believe; quite another to tell them what they do believe. 

That, however, is the special privilege of the woke Left. It would seem that their superior political opinions come with psychic powers and, as a result, they know your mind better than you do. 

For instance, here from last night is Owen Jones’ reaction to the furore surrounding the suspension of Howard Beckett by the Labour Party:

And this is utterly disgraceful from the Labour leadership.

They don’t care about racism. They don’t even understand what it is. They just see an opportunity to gain factional advantage. ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Friday, 14
May 2021

Prince Harry has swapped one zoo for another

Vladimir Nabokov claimed that his inspiration for Lolita came from a newspaper story. It was late in 1939, or 1940, when he opened up his paper and came across an account of an ape in the Jardin des Plantes. This ape, after months of coaxing and teasing by scientists, produced the first ever charcoals drawn by an animal.

The sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.

I have no idea whether our renegade Prince Harry can sketch, but he can certainly talk, and he sounds rather like Nabokov’s ape. Yesterday in an interview on the (sigh) American Actor Dax Shepard’s podcast, he again described the monarchy as prison: ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 14
May 2021
Behind the news

Ceasefire declared in the great Jersey-France whelk war

A ceasefire has been declared in the great Jersey-France whelk war of 2021.

Who has won and who has lost? Nobody so far — but the Jersey government was the first to blink.

The restrictions unilaterally imposed by the Jersey government on Norman and Breton boats have been withdrawn until 1 July. Talks with France and the EU will resume.

The dispute was front-page news in all UK newspapers and the top of radio and TV bulletins last Thursday and Friday. Very little has been reported on the truce.

The last we heard from the UK tabloids was that the Royal Navy (two small patrol boats) had put to flight an invasion fleet of 100 French fishing boats which protested in St Helier harbour last Thursday. The French said, au contraire, that they left when they intended to leave — to go fishing for whelks, scallops and lobsters. ...  Continue reading

by Amy Jones
Friday, 14
May 2021

The focus on Covid variants is becoming an obsession

It is tempting to feel sorry for SAGE, given the criticism they receive from all sides. This week, the fuss is over a meeting they called regarding the B.1.617.2 variant of the coronavirus (among other matters).

Normally such a meeting would be unremarkable. After all, SAGE exists to advise the Government on unfolding developments. It is entirely routine and proper for them to meet when a new variant arises. But against the backdrop of loosening restrictions and plans to drop compulsory face coverings in schools from the 17th May, the meeting was taken by some as a sign that this progress might be halted or reversed. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 13
May 2021
Seen Elsewhere

Is Christianity the anti-green religion?

Paul Kingsnorth is the deepest of deep greens. And yet he became a Christian. Should that surprise us?

In a remarkable piece for First Things, Kingsnorth tells the story of his conversion — and why it took him most of his life to get to that point:

I wanted something more serious, something with structure, rules, a tradition. It didn’t even occur to me to go and ask the vicars. I knew that Christianity, with its instructions to man to “dominate and subdue” the Earth, was part of the problem. And so, I looked east.
- Paul Kingsnorth, First Things

Yes, that’s the problem right there. Christianity, as the religion of the West, is perceived as the ideological foundation of westernisation — including industrialisation and the despoliation that has followed in its wake.

The Bible can be read for passages that appear to justify our impact upon the natural world. Most obviously there is the Biblical passage (Genesis 1:28), to which Kingsnorth alludes, where God says to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Thursday, 13
May 2021

Tiger mum Amy Chua on Asian-American tensions

As the country’s ‘model-minority’, Asian-Americans have experienced different forms of discrimination compared to other ethnic groups, but the recent spate of Asian-American violence and rise in anti-China rhetoric has thrown this tension into sharper focus.

There is perhaps no public intellectual better equipped to give an insight into these issues than Amy Chua, a Law Professor at Yale and author of five books, including the famous book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, which advocated strict Chinese-style parenting. Chua is the child of two ethnically Chinese parents, who emigrated from the Philippines to the US when she was a baby. She has written extensively about her Confuscian upbringing at home (respect for elders, deference to authority) as well as her schooling in America, both of which gave her a deeper understanding of the values that underpin those two countries. ...  Continue reading

by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 13
May 2021

The digital world won’t harm you

Each generation has its own moral panic about emerging technologies. Silent movies were said to provoke crime; violent TV and, later, violent video games said to cause violence.

Forty years ago, we had a debate in Parliament about the harmful effects of ‘Space Invaders and other electronic games’ on children. These days it’s social media. It’s seen as addictive, tuned to hot-wire our brains’ reward functions. We talk of social media hacking our dopamine systems, as though it’s a drug. And, of course, as it does so, it is damaging us: making us depressed, lonely, anxious.

The trouble is, no one keeps their eye on the ball: as each new technology comes out, we forget the last one. But violent video games haven’t gone away. In fact, they’ve got rather better. There was a huge scare about Doom, back in the early 1990s; but if you play it now, it’s almost laughable. If its crude, blocky, pixellated graphics could inspire a generation of children to violence, what might Apex Legends be capable of? Or Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Thursday, 13
May 2021

Are we on the cusp of a suburban renaissance?

Every day, I walk my dog on a route that takes me past Augustus W. Pugin’s Grange, the fantasy medieval house the great Victorian Gothic architect built in Ramsgate for himself and his family. Perched on a clifftop on what was then the edge of town, the Grange would have seemed a bizarre break from the symmetrical ranks of neoclassical townhouses that epitomised the middle-class dream in the 1840s. Asymmetric with pointed gables, a crenellated watchtower, and mullioned windows, the Grange would then have represented a quixotic leap back into the Middle Ages. 

Yet to us, its vernacular form seems immediately familiar: the half-timbered 1930s detached and semi-detached houses that now surround it (like their simplified, tile-hung 1960s descendants) are recognisably the aesthetic children and grandchildren of Pugin’s folly. Indeed, one could argue that the characteristic form of British suburban architecture, the bucolic Merrie England fantasy that sprawls across the edges of every town and city in the country, was born on this Kentish clifftop 180 years ago. ...  Continue reading

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