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by Ed West
Friday, 8
January 2021
Idea
11:25

Why funny men are the most dangerous

When the film Four Lions came out I remember a friend saying how much more effective it would have been if, rather than ending on the farcical note it did, the movie showed one of the hapless, comical jihadis stumbling into a crowded place — and the next thing, muffled screams, alarms, the shrieks of agony as innocent people died. End credits.

Hapless jihadis are often very funny in real life, too, such as the Birmingham gang nicknamed “the real Four Lions” who were caught after buying bomb-making materials on eBay under the username “terrorshop”. The leader of the gang, the 23-stone Irfan Naseer aka “Chubbs”, wrote on his Friends Reunited Page, “Oh yah i’m also a terrorist hahahaha”. His co-conspirator Ashik Ali was caught on tape telling his wife that they were like the comedy figures from the film. And so it turned out — no one was hurt. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 4
January 2021
Idea
10:05

Bring back Tony Blair!

The next few weeks of this year are going to be bleak, worse than April last year, and the most traumatic time the country has faced since the Second World War. But the good news is: Tony Blair is back.

The former PM has been vocal of late, on the subject of vaccination; he first suggested delaying the second dose so that we can offer more immediate protection to twice as many people. Now he has accused the Government of acting too slow, arguing that we need to aim towards five million doses a week.

I suppose it’s a facet of ageing that, as you get older, the politicians of your youth seem to possess more gravitas and greatness than the people currently running the country. Perhaps Gavin Williamson and Matt Hancock will in years to come feel like figures of great historical significance, political colossi standing next to whoever is in charge. But in Blair’s case, it certainly feels like he would do a more effective job than the current lot. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 14
December 2020
Idea
15:00

Christmas cancelled? Some alternative festival ideas…

Who would have thought in 2020 that the British Government would shut down pubs, close the churches, ban casual sex and make everyone wear masks? And to think people used to laugh at JihadWatch.

This is one of the great gags I’ve got lined up for the in-laws over Christmas, which is unfortunately going ahead despite my suggestions that it be abandoned. Yes, I am using the coronavirus to avoid social engagements, which I’ve done all year and has been the only tangible benefit of the pandemic.

Of course, Christmas alone would be really depressing, but dying of respiratory failure is really depressing too and if people just wait a few weeks longer they can all see each other as normal again — and enjoy many more Christmases. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Wednesday, 9
December 2020
Idea
11:13

Wanted: a female Jordan Peterson

Of all the things I regret in life, being born in the late 1970s is not one of them. 10 or 20 years earlier would have been better but I don’t envy those born towards the end of the millennium. Imprisoned by the panopticon of social media and the iPhone, facing impossible housing costs, climate change and living in a moral anarchy that has inevitably led to a stifling moral tyranny.

But the worst disadvantage younger generations (including mine) had compared to previous cohorts was a lack of cultural norms, and the tyranny of choice. Mary Harrington’s piece today shows how susceptible people are to memes, especially when they come with the backing of major corporations and the entertainment industry. You can be anything you want to be, we’re told — which is completely untrue. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 30
November 2020
Debate
12:07

Love, not money, will save the Union

Happy St Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of Scotland, and whose cross forms one part of the Union Jack. How long that flag exists is a question to which none of us have an answer.

As depressing and awful as the Brexit referendum was, it’s easily forgotten how depressing and awful the preceding Scottish independence referendum was.

To those of us down here, the most demoralising aspect was the unionist campaign itself, which focused entirely on economic and technocratic arguments for keeping the Union. The entire argument seemed to be that Scotland gained financially from staying, and with that uninspiring message they managed to squeeze through with 55% of the vote. Project Fear, or realism depending on your view, might have worked with a once-hugely successful 300-year-old union, but two years later it failed against a still-evolving 40-year-old one. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Friday, 27
November 2020
Idea
08:30

“Accentism” is real, but impossible to end

“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him” — George Bernard Shaw’s famous line from Pygmalion was always my mum’s theory for why British TV and radio is always full of Irish people (like herself). Celtic accents are outside England’s class system of resentment, distrust and competitive disadvantage, and so put people at ease.

That the wrong accent can be a huge disadvantage is a truism featuring in countless plays and novels, and is as old as time. The Shibboleth of the Bible indicates how pronunciation could be deadly in identifying an out-group, a pattern that has repeated down the years, and as recently as the Lebanese Civil war. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 24
November 2020
Idea
07:00

Why 2021 is going to be a fantastic year for Britain

I’ve been reading quite a lot about the Black Death this year, which wasn’t the best distraction as it turns out. At least it puts things into perspective — the Bubonic plague having a IFR of at least 60%. During the “Golden Age of Bacteria”, from the 14th to 19th century, communities might be hit by the plague and then soon after by other catastrophes like smallpox (IFR at least 30%) or influenza. Covid-19 would most likely not even have been noticed.

But what also comes out of the accounts are people’s zest for life once the plague retreated. “So came the day, the whole remainder of the village turned out,” Benedict Gummer describes one scene in Sutton, now a suburb of Hull: “more relieved than overjoyed, almost all were still in mourning. Yet the weather now conspired to bring a little hope, for happily it was warm and sunny.” Everyone would have turned out for the party, relieved that the nightmare was over and life could begin again (actually the plague would return within a few years but they weren’t to know that). ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 16
November 2020
Spotted
15:44

Later-life marriage means fewer conservatives

Whatever the disappointments of the US election, there is reason to be optimistic for the future — if you’re a Democrat, that is. For conservatives, it’s unending despair.

This was one conclusion from David Shor’s interview with New York Magazine, on why demographic trends favour the Left.

The data scientist, a rare example of someone who has done well from cancellation, observed that:

One big, really underappreciated social change is that, relative to 20 years ago, the average age of first marriage has gone up by almost a decade. Which is insane! And at the same time, fertility rates have dropped tremendously. I’m not going to comment on whether or not that’s good or bad in a nonpolitical context. But I think the reality is that Democrats are now going to claim a larger part of the life cycle.
- David Shor, New York Magazine

He continues:

We previously were going to start having people turn more conservative at 26. Now that’s been pushed up to 34 or 36. That’s actually very meaningful in terms of votes and in terms of how much longer we can expect millennials and zoomers to stay overwhelmingly Democratic. Also, zoomers actually seem to be incredibly liberal, even relative to older millennials, so far. So there’s reason for hope.
- David Shor, New York Magazine

Among all the US election voting data, which political nerds across the world drool over every four years, perhaps the most curious fact is the enormous voting gap between married and unmarried white women. Despite being as large as 20 points in some elections, it is also one of the least analysed, certainly compared to the much smaller gender gap (although the latter is growing, for related reasons). ...  Continue reading

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