breaking news from the world of ideas

by Rob Lownie
Friday, 9
December 2022

Meghan and Harry are right about the royal briefing war

Courtiers are the real power behind the throne

Yesterday saw the release of the first three episodes of Harry and Meghan, and with it a climax to the royal briefing war which had given the programme so much publicity. In the Netflix series Prince Harry claims, “There’s leaking but there’s also planting of stories […] It’s a dirty game.” Though he doesn’t name the dirty players, it’s not difficult to imagine who he is referring to

Underhand tricks? Isn’t this more the preserve of politicians, rather than the Crown? Really, though, Britain’s two metonymic palaces — Buckingham and Westminster — are far closer in their media strategy than we might imagine. Most indicative of this is how many royal PR bigwigs previously worked in Whitehall, and indeed vice versa: the current head of the Civil Service, Simon Case, was previously Private Secretary to Prince William and before that held the same position for David Cameron. ...  Continue reading

by Flo Read
Friday, 9
December 2022

Freddie deBoer: We should forgive Kanye West

What lessons can we take from the public's treatment of the rapper?

In the space of a few months Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, has gone from world-famous rapper to appearing on Alex Jones’s InfoWars praising Hitler. It’s not clear if he will ever recover reputationally from the stigma of this episode.

Here’s the problem: it’s no secret that West has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition that could lead to periods of mania and strange or anti-social behaviour. Mental health awareness, as it’s often called, has never been more prominent in public discourse. But does awareness equate to understanding? And are we reserving it for only the most palatable cases? ...  Continue reading

by Philip Cunliffe
Friday, 9
December 2022

ChatGPT: a morbid symptom of our declining universities

The AI chatbot threatens academics because teaching quality is now so low

The threat Artificial Intelligence (AI) poses to white-collar professions seemed to escalate earlier this week as ChatGPT, a text-generating AI crafted by an Elon Musk-founded company, expanded on bot capabilities which two years ago wrote an op-ed for the Guardian. It is not just journalists under threat, however: academics recounted on Twitter how they fed exam questions into the chatbot, prompting it to produce answers that would merit decent marks, and which would be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from work submitted by a student. 

Having signed up to test the software myself, I would assess its output roughly at the level of Zoe Williams, or maybe at a push Owen Jones – it is not yet quite at the level of a Polly Toynbee. Yet if ChatGPT only threatened the jobs of Guardian op-ed writers and the increasingly prolific essay mills that produce undergraduate essays to order, there would be little to worry about. What is more worrying about ChatGPT is what it tells us about the degraded state of academic teaching and the orthodoxies that dominate its hallowed corridors.  ...  Continue reading

by Lucas Webber
Friday, 9
December 2022

The future of the Wagner Group rests on Bakhmut

The mercenary force is leading the charge for a key battleground in Ukraine

Since late May, Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast has been the site of extremely heavy fighting. Yet, until recently, the city had garnered relatively little media attention compared to the successive Ukrainian victories in Kharkov and Kherson. This has changed as of late, with #Bakhmut trending regularly on Twitter and a flood of news reports and opinion pieces on the battle published daily.

Taking Bakhmut is requisite to Russia winning the wider war in the Donbas — a chief strategic objective for Moscow and another step toward its goal of ultimately turning Ukraine into a dysfunctional rump state. It is therefore heavily fortified, and the Ukrainians have dug in deep, thus far fending off Russian advances. This is despite being under constant heavy artillery fire and air bombardment that has levelled entire sections of the city. In doing so, the defenders have sustained serious hits, with the New York Times detailing how doctors at the city’s only hospital report ‘an almost unending stream of Ukrainian casualties.’ ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 9
December 2022

Welcome to the Dyson Zone: your isolated world

The latest gadget from the British inventor is dystopian

At the height of the Covid culture wars, the people who really hated face masks came up with a derogatory name for them: face nappies.

But I wonder if one day we’ll look back on the face nappy era with longing. You see, things can always get worse. Consider, for instance, the latest gadget from Dyson: it’s a pair of noise-cancelling headphones combined with a personal air purifier. Called the Dyson Zone, the earphone cups contain filters, which pass a stream of purified air down to the mouth and nose via an attachable visor. 

Thus, as well as fighting noise pollution, it also protects the wearer against air pollution. Dyson promised the product earlier this year and is now about to deliver it — but at a cost. According to Engadget and Gizmodo the Dyson Zone could be yours for the price of $949.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 8
December 2022

Canada’s euthanasia regime is a cautionary tale for the UK

British MPs' enquiry into assisted dying is a dangerous move

Only months after the last effort to legalise euthanasia was halted in the House of Lords, MPs have announced a new enquiry into assisted dying, ‘with a focus on the healthcare aspects’.

The enquiry proposes to explore issues such as quality of palliative care provision in the UK, the professional and ethical implications of permitting doctors to end someone’s life, and what provisions could be put in place to prevent people being coerced into it.

But it should surely only be necessary to look across the Atlantic, to the horror stories now pouring out of Canada. Since 2016, this nation has by degrees rolled out the world’s most permissive euthanasia regime, in which proposals are now being considered to extend the right to die to the mentally ill, and to so-called ‘mature minors’ — in other words, children. ...  Continue reading

by Thomas Fazi
Thursday, 8
December 2022

The greatest threat to free speech is the EU

Unlike in the US, compulsory 'moderation' of social media is already written in law

Elon Musk’s recent release of the so-called Twitter Files, via journalist Matt Taibbi, is profoundly concerning. The correspondence — as well as various leaks, FOIA requests and ongoing lawsuits has begun to shed light on the level of collusion between the US administration, not to mention its countless three-letter federal agencies, and social media companies. As many suspected, the so-called “war on disinformation” has little to do with protecting the public from false, misleading or dangerous content, but is really about censoring and suppressing dissenting voices, even at the cost of exposing the public to state-sanctioned disinformation.  ...  Continue reading

by Panda La Terriere
Thursday, 8
December 2022

Chinese anti-lockdown protestors: heroes, not loons

The establishment media is adopting a very different tone for the latest protests

The media response in the West to Chinese protests over Zero Covid policies has been remarkably supportive. ‘Their bravery is a profound affirmation that freedom of expression, dissent and protest are values held by people all over the world,” boomed a New York Times editorial. “These events should remind [China] that relying on repression has its limits,” the Guardian agreed. Meanwhile, the BBC warned that China’s “censorship machine” was “going to great lengths to prevent people seeing scenes of protest”.

It must be observed that these were the very same outlets that strongly criticised protesters in the West for taking a similar stand against their own governments during lockdowns. Instead of brave freedom fighters, protesters in Western countries were branded as far-Right extremists and street fighters. ...  Continue reading

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