breaking news from the world of ideas

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 26
September 2022
Reaction
10:10

Was the fake boobs teacher a hoax?

Whether or not it was satire, it shows where the power lies

Last week there was internet uproar at the discovery that a male teacher in Ontario goes to work wearing breasts so huge they’d be absurd by the standards of a seaside postcard.

Photographs of this individual, known as “Kayla Lemieux”, were reportedly leaked by students uncomfortable with the situation. The fake breasts are indeed so gargantuan, and the nipples so prominent, that it’s difficult to see how anyone could wear them except as either fetish gear or a prank. In Ontario, though, the Human Rights Code forbids discrimination against anyone on the grounds of ‘gender expression’, a category of such seemingly infinite flexibility that it appears to cover wearing absurdly enormous prosthetic breasts to your teaching job in a secondary school. Accordingly, the school has defended Lemieux. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 22
September 2022
Spotted
07:30

US commits $2bn to ‘high risk, high reward’ biotech projects

Fresh funding will be provided to gene editing and mRNA technology

Biotech is entering a new era, with massive US government support: last week the US Government signed an executive order that assigned $2 billion in government funding for ‘high risk, high reward’ biotech projects such as CRISPR gene editing, artificial meat and further development of the mRNA technology behind the Covid vaccine.

With this shift, as I noted last week, a new paradigm of “health” is emerging, not as a default state where doctors are on hand to help get us back to normal when something goes wrong. In the new, transhumanist vision, humans are a kind of meaty machine whose basic functioning can be engineered toward a vision of “health” that’s something more than the default, via biomedical interventions. And doctors are engineers we depend on in perpetuity to keep supplying new and better upgrades. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 12
September 2022
Spotted
10:15

FDA tells Americans to ‘install’ booster update

The US is now treating its citizens like smartphones

Did a US federal agency really just compare its citizens to smartphones? A new campaign by the body that regulates food and medicine in America, the FDA, calls on people “install that update” and #UpdateYourImmunity, with a bivalent Covid-19 booster vaccine.

So, yes. But so what? Isn’t this just public health communication in language people understand? Most of us have smartphone apps or computers and are familiar with the idea of updating the software in line with new developments.

The analogy, though, set off echoes in the anti-vaxxer memeplex, where a widely-circulated meme claimed “the Covid-19 vaccines are an operating system designed to program humans and hack their biological functions”. No wonder, the meme suggests, that Bill Gates is so enthusiastic: now he can programme us as well! ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 5
September 2022
Dark Web
10:30

The lesson of The Lord of the Rings ‘review bombing’

The wisdom of crowds descends into meme wars

The print era is irretrievably over. And with it, we can wave goodbye to the ideal of ‘objectivity’ — and also public support for mass democracy.

You might say this is a lot to read into the ‘review bombing’ of Amazon’s new Tolkien fanfic series, The Rings Of Power, but we should take this as a microcosm of something far greater than mere collective review mechanisms.

The back story is as follows. Amazon has released a new series intended as a prequel to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that has prompted delight and rage in equal measure, with what some fans perceive as heavy-handed ‘woke’ casting. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 31
August 2022
Debate
11:45

Western leaders are madder than I thought

They are more willing than I predicted to immiserate their populations

Europe is belatedly grappling with the (entirely foreseeable) consequences of imposing sanctions on Russia. The Nord Stream pipeline has been intermittently closed over the summer, reportedly for “maintenance” (which no one believes). Another closure has just been announced.

As a result, prices are rocketing across the continent, with the ripple effects already being felt by businesses and consumers. “The electricity market is no more a functioning market because there’s one actor — Putin — who’s systematically trying to destroy it”, EU President Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday, as she pledged emergency EU action to mitigate the impact of soaring costs on consumers and businesses. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 24
August 2022
Spotted
11:39

How Covid mobilised America’s moms

The most fearsome group in society has been politically activated

What happens when the right side of history gets on the wrong side of a nation’s mothers? Progressives on both sides of the Atlantic are rapidly discovering the answer.

In Britain, this has been the energy behind several years’ running skirmishes between Stonewall-backed trans activists, and ordinary British mums. Gathering initially on Mumsnet, first in bafflement, then outrage and finally political mobilisation against extreme gender ideology, the result has been a grassroots political mobilisation that has chalked up a number of victories.

Lacking a forum such as Mumsnet, America has hitherto been behind the curve on mum activism. That seems to be changing — and the precipitating factor turned out to be Covid, and American teaching unions. When the pandemic struck, those unions’ demands for workplace safety saw some of the developed world’s most extended Covid school closures and strictest masking policies, whose negative impact on kids’ wellbeing is now acknowledged even by those who supported or didn’t oppose it. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 15
August 2022
Factcheck
11:52

Climate change is not making children obese

Journalists are twisting facts to suit their political agenda

If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if you’re a media ecosystem with a fixation on hammers, you will do your best to make anything look like a nail.

This is the inescapable conclusion from the reporting around a recent study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Temperature, which looked at the relationship between climate change and children’s fitness — and reported the findings entirely backwards to fit a pre-existing political narrative.

The study pointed out that that children’s aerobic physical fitness is 30% lower than that of their parents at the same age, arguing that this is a problem because aerobic physical fitness is vital for tolerating higher temperatures. This in turn means that where climate change is causing temperatures to increase, obese individuals will find it harder to cope. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 28
July 2022
Debate
11:00

Don’t blame Zelenskyy for acting like a celebrity again

He is trying to reawaken awareness for the Ukrainian cause

‘How serious is the war in Ukraine?’ One commentator asked this in response to Ukrainian president Zelenskyy appearing with his wife Olena Zelenska in the fashion magazine Vogue, which was followed last night by an interview with Piers Morgan.

How a war gets reported is itself a battlefront of sorts, and media coverage has been part of war for as long as we’ve had media. The current war in Ukraine, though, is the first fully online war, and as such is subject to all the now-familiar effects that the internet has on discourse. Nowhere is this more so than in the amplification and decentralisation of propaganda. ...  Continue reading

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