by Mary Harrington
Monday, 4
December 2023

Canada’s suicide hotline reveals Justin Trudeau’s dystopia

Euthanasia has been reduced to a bureaucratic detail

Canadian leader Justin Trudeau recently launched a new suicide hotline. Internet jokers wondered whether its aim is to dissuade or to find new takers for Canada’s notoriously liberal state-supported euthanasia programme. Surely it is paradoxical for the same government to offer both pro and anti-suicide services? 

But what if this isn’t a paradox? Then it becomes clear that, for Canada, the meaning of death is now less a moral question than a bureaucratic one. This in turn offers insight into the trajectory and ambitions of the post-democratic, managerialist politics of which Canada is a leading exponent, and which is now spreading throughout the liberal West. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 27
November 2023
Off grid

Why is my family getting peerage spam?

A booming industry is helping clients buy honours

You know something is rotten in the British political order when your spouse starts getting marketing emails for a service offering to grease his application for the House of Lords. Not, I hasten to add, because there’s anything wildly unsuitable about my husband as a candidate. But the sheer tawdriness of the “service” offered by Awards Intelligence took me aback. 

A sheaf of media coverage  confirms that it is indeed a real business, started in 2007 by former Bell Pottinger PR Mark Llwellyn-Slade. A regular on Royal Honours news segments, on his own website Llwellyn-Slade describes how he set up the business after realising that awards offer a significant PR opportunity for business clients. It was this realisation that, he recounts, gave him the germ of the idea for a concierge service for obtaining what money can’t buy.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 20
November 2023

What does Palestine have to do with climate change?

Just Stop Oil is the latest protest group to fall prey to the Omnicause

The Omnicause has claimed another single-issue group. The climate change campaigners Just Stop Oil organised a sit-in protest at Waterloo Station on Saturday — not in itself surprising, except that it wasn’t about oil at all, but instead a ceasefire in Gaza. 

What does Palestine have to do with climate change? Nor is Just Stop Oil the only such case: a great many other apparently unrelated campaigns, such as the feminist domestic violence campaign Sisters Uncut, have recently abandoned whatever they were focusing on and erupted onto the streets in support of the Omnicause.

I say “Omnicause” rather than “Palestine” because while part of London’s recent street gaiety is clearly provided by those Islamists and their sympathisers, for whom the conflict in Gaza is a crucial Muslim political and religious cause, it takes more than Britain’s Islamists to provide the sheer number now clambering over war memorials and posing for selfies with the police. And it’s equally clear that much of the turnout that isn’t Islamists and their fellow travellers is drawn, by and large, from the same coalition that turned out for the BLM riots during Covid. (Indeed, one of the protesters interviewed recently by UnHerd said as much.) ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 13
November 2023

South Africa blocks trade from farms which are ‘too white’

Opposition parties are lobbying the UK to challenge the initiative

The South African government has quietly issued new rules stipulating farms with an annual turnover of more than 10 million rand (about £436,000) will not be permitted to export to the UK or EU if they are too whiteThe restrictions, published at the beginning of November, specify that farms which are less than 51% black-owned must undergo a convoluted black economic empowerment (BEE) certification process, with an accredited BEE certifier, in order to qualify for an export permit.

In response, the South African Agri Initiative (SAAI) and the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, last week lodged a complaint with the trade offices of the EU and UK, arguing that these rules will strangle investment and growth, and violate the rules of fair trade. The head of SAAI argues that these regulations raise insuperable obstacles to the export market for family farms with few employees but a good turnover — that is, farms which employ advanced technology to ensure good yields.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 6
November 2023
Dark Web

Your tweets will be powering Elon Musk’s new AI

The hive mind is finally becoming a product in Grok

On Sunday Elon Musk’s X AI team launched an early testing model of Grok, a new AI “for understanding the universe”. Grok will, according to the promotional blurb, “answer questions with a bit of wit” and “a rebellious streak”. It will also “answer spicy questions that are rejected by most other AI systems”, which we can assume means it will not have as many of the “safety” restrictions that currently forbid models such as Chat-GPT responding on taboo themes such as race.

Far more significantly, though, the development team boasts that Grok “has real-time knowledge of the world via the X platform”. That is: unlike other large language models trained on a set of text that — however large — is static and finite, Grok will base its knowledge of the world on the live, fast-moving hive mind that is the website formerly known as Twitter. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Tuesday, 31
October 2023

AI fakes herald the end of war photography

The authenticity of images from Gaza is now automatically doubted

Are we entering a new age of CGI war propaganda? At the weekend Chei Wenhua, a reporter for the CCP-run China Daily propaganda outlet, tweeted an image purportedly from Gaza alongside the caption, “Atrocities endorsed by the collective West.” The image depicts a man helping five small children through blasted rubble: three on his back, a baby in his arms, another holding his hand.

Twitter’s Community Notes fact-checking group swiftly flagged the image as AI-generated, pointing out a number of suspect features — including an odd distribution of limbs, the wrong number of toes, and other “uncanny valley” quirks typical of AI imagery. Even so, the picture has received 1.1m views at the time of writing, and a glance down the quote tweets suggests at least some have taken it at face value.   ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 16
October 2023
Campus Wars

The case of Artemis Langford divides American media

A trans person's entry into an all-female sorority has been polarising

Another glimpse into the abyss of America’s media bifurcation, as the Washington Post takes up the cudgel on behalf of Artemis Langford, a transgender student activist for the Democrats who became the first biological male to join an all-female sorority at the University of Wyoming.

The report from the weekend depicts Langford as a lonely, queer, autistic trans individual from a Mormon background, who “thought she’d finally found sisterhood and a place to belong after years of shame and loneliness” in the “forever home” of a sorority. Instead, we learn, Langford “became a target” of conservative media hostility and lawsuits by sorority members.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Tuesday, 10
October 2023

Syriza’s gay leader plans surrogacy baby

Stefanos Kasselakis says it is part of his wish for 'complete equality'

Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, caused a stir recently when he was elected as leader of Syriza, becoming Greece’s first openly gay political leader. He has since caused further shockwaves, telling Alpha TV in recent days that he and his American partner, Tyler McBeth, plan to have sons via surrogacy. 

“As a society,” Kasselakis said, “we need to provide complete equality.”  This encapsulates, in one sentence, the whole post-industrial transformation of the Left. Once a movement that sought to redress a critical imbalance of power between social classes — labour and capital — it has become a movement led by capital, to extend the reach of markets ever further into human bodies and relationships in the name of “equality”.  ...  Continue reading

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