breaking news from the world of ideas

by James Billot
Monday, 25
October 2021
Reaction
15:00

Barack Obama gives up on a united America

The former president has given up any pretence of a post-partisan USA

There was once a time when Barack Obama dreamt of leading a post-racial, post-partisan America. Back in 2004, the then Senate candidate famously declared: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America.” This was no doubt a sincerely held belief, and one that he ran with during his presidential run three years later: “I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.”

Then, reality intervened. Obama left office as the most polarising president in history (before the arrival of you-know-who), with virtually all of his major achievements coming from party-line votes or executive actions. By his own admission, he failed: “There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 25
October 2021
Chart
13:00

Globalisation has ruined Hollywood

These days it's nothing but sequels and movie ‘franchises’

Do you ever get the impression that most films these days are sequels and remakes?

Well I’ve got some good news — it’s not just your imagination. According to a chart tweeted out this weekend by Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, original films really are dying out: 

Here’s the original source for the chart, which covers the top 50 highest grossing films each year. One can quibble with precise methods and suggest alternative measures, but there’s little doubt that sequels and movie ‘franchises’ have come to dominate Hollywood’s output. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 25
October 2021
Response
10:06

Judith Butler: neoliberalism’s accidental cheerleader

The theorist can't see that a world without boundaries is profoundly un-feminist

Plenty has already been written about Judith Butler’s latest fusillade against those who dissent from her gender utopia.

On the central charge of ‘incoherent’, I will only observe that many groups who agree on little else think her ideas are nuts. This may be less of a slam-dunk argument in Butler’s favour than she seems to imagine.

Butler presents herself as an opponent both of something called ‘neoliberalism’, and also of those bad wicked fascists. What she ignores, though, is the profoundly neoliberal nature of her own gender revolution — born of a boomer anti-materialism nourished in an age of abundance, that dreamt of bottomless resources and leisure for all. ...  Continue reading

by Toby Green
Monday, 25
October 2021
Debate
07:00

Why are liberals blind to vaccine passport discrimination?

They are backing a plainly illiberal policy that will deepen racial division

The Observer reported yesterday that the British government was consulting local authorities over plans to bring in vaccine passports, even though government ministers have repeatedly rejected claims to move to Plan B “for now”. What passes for the Left-leaning media has been among the most in favour of vaccine mandates, with articles often pointedly comparing the UK’s failure to adopt a tougher European “green pass” mode of mandates and Covid management. In the US, meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has argued that “Covid-19 vaccination mandates can be consistent with civil liberties principles”. ...  Continue reading

by Ed Prideaux
Friday, 22
October 2021
Spotted
15:45

The latest advocates for magic mushrooms? High Tories

Crispin Blunt urged the PM to look into their exciting potential

In one of the stranger moments in the Commons this month (even year), Crispin Blunt — the decidedly un-dreadlocked Conservative MP for Reigate — urged Boris Johnson in PMQs this week to “cut through” legal restrictions on psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to enable further research on its “exciting potential” for “depression, trauma and addiction”.  

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt urges the prime minister to "cut through" barriers to research into psilocybin – the psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms – which "has potential to help people suffering with depression, trauma and addiction"#PMQs https://t.co/txBJvNx4gp pic.twitter.com/yvq4ingdk4 ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 22
October 2021
Explainer
13:00

Does Germany have a mercenary problem?

Private armies have a long and undistinguished history in the country

Two former German soldiers have been arrested for planning to create a paramilitary group to fight in Yemen. The men were taken in under terrorism charges for attempting to recruit others to their mercenary band.

The project must have seemed a lucrative one for ‘Arend-Adolf G.’ and ‘Achim A.’, as they are called in the German press for privacy reasons. They had hoped that the Saudi government would finance the project. Each member of the 150-strong combat group, made up of ex-soldiers and police officers, was to receive up to €40,000 a month for their services.

These ex-soldiers saw an opportunity to generate a sizeable income after their careers in the Bundeswehr. While the German system involves tight legislation to support those leaving military service, this largely benefits specialised units rather than general infantry. Those who served in combat roles with few transferable skills often struggle to find a job. ...  Continue reading

by Madeleine Stone
Friday, 22
October 2021
Reaction
10:52

Why is Tony Blair obsessed with vaccine passports?

The former PM should find a new pet project

He’s at it again. For the third time, Tony Blair and his Institute are calling on the Government to introduce Covid passes as “a matter of priority”, asserting that they will reduce cases to a “fraction” of their current rate. With so many things he might be turning his attention to at this time, the former PM’s obsession with vaccine passports is starting to seem odd.

Vaccine passes are no solution to coronavirus transmission. Their proposal rests on the assumption that unvaccinated people are responsible for the spread of coronavirus, and that vaccinated-only gatherings are the only safe space. If drinking, dancing and socialising were limited only to those who have received two doses of a Covid jab, this line of reasoning assumes, we’d get on top of case rates.  ...  Continue reading

by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Friday, 22
October 2021
Dispatch
07:30

Le Woke has arrived at French newsrooms

Intergenerational wars are erupting inside France's liberal bastions

Whenever the French huff that some unwished-for social development, from school shootings to “safe spaces” in universities, could “only happen in America” (or, more broadly, “chez les Anglo-Saxons”), you can reliably bet on it reaching France within five years. And so it is with new intergenerational woke wars among the staff of liberal media institutions like Libération (founder: Jean-Paul Sartre, 1972, at the height of his Maoist phase), now restyled as “Libé”; or Le Nouvel Observateur (now “L’Obs”), the anti-colonial newsweekly founded by Jean Daniel in 1950; or even — whisper it — in some departments of the venerable Le Monde. ...  Continue reading

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