breaking news from the world of ideas

by James Billot
Monday, 18
January 2021
Video
07:00

Michael Gove’s three point plan for tackling wokeness

Ever since Boris Johnson came to power, the Conservative Party’s “war on woke” has become increasingly explicit. Towards the end of last year, Tory MP John Hayes launched the Common Sense Group of around 60 or so MPs and peers in a bid to celebrate “British values” that are not “coloured by Marxist dogma, colloquially known as the ‘woke agenda'”. A month later, International Trade Minister Liz Truss gave a speech in which she claimed that the case for equality was being driven too much by identity politics.

The ubiquity of the word has made it something of a cliché, and so far Tory ministers have refrained from using it. But when Michael Gove was directly questioned about how to combat wokeness in last week’s Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation event, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave an interesting answer. Having fought his own proto-culture war when he served as Education Minister between 2010-2014, Gove is clearly well-attuned to the dynamics, as he makes clear, in his three point plan: ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 11
January 2021
Explainer
07:00

After Twitter, where will Donald Trump go next?

56,571 tweets, 88 million followers and a 12-year career on the channel. Donald Trump is said to have gone “ballistic” after Twitter permanently closed his account this week, marking an end to a fractious and weirdly co-dependent relationship with the social media giant. Though his presidential account remains intact, it will only be in Trump’s hands for nine more days until it is passed on to Joe Biden (in another example of norm-breaking behaviour, the Trump team has decided to erase the account of its followers instead of passing them down).

With Trump also banned from Facebook until he is out of office, the President, according to a White House statement (in a now-deleted tweet), is now “negotiating with various other sites” as to where he will go next. Here are his options. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 7
January 2021
Spotted
11:23

Will the New York Times commission Senator Cotton now?

Few members of America’s political class have covered themselves in glory over the past 24 hours, but some have fared better than others. Yesterday evening, Sen. Tom Cotton, a Trump loyalist from Arkansas and potential 2024 presidential candidate produced this statement:

“Last summer, as insurrection gripped the streets, I called to send in the troops if necessary to restore order. Today, insurrectionists occupied our Capitol. Fortunately, the Capitol Police and other law-enforcement agencies restored order without the need for federal troops. But the principle remains the same: no quarter for insurrectionists. Those who attacked the Capitol today should face the full extent of federal law.

It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence. And the senators and representatives who fanned the flames by encouraging the president and leading their supporters to believe that their objections could reverse the election results should withdraw those objections. In any event, the Congress will complete its constitutional responsibilities tonight.”

- Tom Cotton Statement on violence at Capitol

This is the same Tom Cotton who was widely decried by the America’s liberal elite as a fascist for suggesting that Trump send in the federal troops to break up the Black Lives Matter protests. His infamous op-ed in The New York Times resulted in editor James Bennet’s dismissal, a staff revolt and a frenzy of online denunciations ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 23
October 2020
Event
09:51

Was Donald Trump saying goodbye?

Perhaps it had a deterrent effect, but the much-discussed mute button was rarely used at last night’s presidential debate. Donald Trump was far more cordial — even gracious — this time round, largely honouring the time limits and even thanking the host for inviting him to speak.

There were, of course, flashes of the old Trump, interrupting Biden when it came to Hunter Biden and the “China plague”. At other points, he reeled himself in just in time, like a footballer on a yellow card pleading for penance after a dubious tackle. But by and large, the President avoided getting himself into trouble. In fact, he was so restrained that, for the first 30 minutes, Trump came across as decidedly flat. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 6
July 2020
Explainer
07:00

Briefing: what are Kanye West’s politics?

So, as all the world knows by now, rapper Kanye West has tweeted that he is running for president. 

https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/1279575273365594112?s=20

It just so happens that West is launching new music and shoes at the same time as this announcement, and the deadline has already passed to run as an independent in many states including New York and Texas.

But let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine a world in which the rapper does manage to mount a campaign for president. On the evidence of West’s previous comments and lyrics, what sort of platform would he run on? There are three themes that emerge clearly. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 22
April 2020
Explainer
07:00

The Groypers’ new battleground: TikTok

The Groypers are on the move again. As part of their full-scale assault on ‘Conservative Inc.,’ this Extremely Online group of young ethnonationalists are waging war on a new front: TikTok. According to self-proclaimed Groyper King, Nicholas Fuentes, the reason for the move is to expose a generation of Zoomers to the America First philosophy of strong borders and isolationism (that they are using a Chinese platform to proselytise about the virtues of American labour is neither here nor there).

With a dedicated legion of followers, Fuentes is using similar guerrilla-style tactics on TikTok to what he employed on college campuses. In the same way that he tried to goad prominent conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro and Turning Point president Charlie Kirk into debating him, Fuentes is flooding the social media channels of conservative TikTokers with Groypers calling them out for their ‘fake’ conservatism. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 16
March 2020
Spotted
15:05

A handy Encyclopedia of Social Justice

Raise your hands if you have heard of any of the following words (bonus marks if you can define them): ablenormativity, anthropocentrism, antiessentialism and aversive racism.

Credit: New Discourses

No? How about: Corporeality, regulatory fiction, responsibilizing and ressentiment?

For those finding themselves at a loss, don’t worry — you’re not alone. It seems like every time you refresh your Twitter feed or read an article from Vice, a new word or phrase pops up that everyone is supposed to know. Quite often it feels like a different language entirely.

That’s why someone has taken on the Sisyphean task of creating a plain-language encyclopaedia of all the social justice terminology out there. With a newly launched website, James Lindsay’s New Discourses aims to provide the ‘politically homeless’ with a travel guide into the confusing world of wokery. He writes: ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 12
March 2020
Audio
14:00

Trevor Phillips: Islamophobia has been warped by ‘orcs’

There were many layers of irony in Labour’s decision to suspend Trevor Phillips last week. Notwithstanding that a lifelong anti-racism campaigner and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission was deemed Islamophobic by the party, but it was Phillips himself who popularised the term. In 1997, he commissioned the ‘Runnymede Report’, which sought to shed light on the rising levels of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam hatred in the UK.

In the two or so decades since, critics have argued that the term has become so warped (and even weaponised) in everyday discourse that it has lost meaning. During a Quilliam talk at the Hallam Centre with Maajid Nawaz last night, Phillips said that he was sympathetic to this argument. When asked if he regretted introducing the word into the British lexicon, he said: ...  Continue reading