breaking news from the world of ideas

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

by James Billot
Friday, 6
March 2020
Seen Elsewhere
09:51

The real dangers of a Biden presidency

For those watching BBC’s Newsnight programme on Tuesday, you might have spotted an unfamiliar face sitting next to Emily Maitlis. Krystal Ball is the co-host of a weekday show ‘Rising‘, which offers an alternative political commentary to the mainstream cable news programmes like MSNBC, Fox and others. Unlike these shows, she (a Left-leaning Democrat) and co-host Saagar Enjeti (a conservative), fuse populist Left and Right critiques to explain the rise of the Sanders and Trump movements. In doing so, the pair routinely lambast the political establishment and a pliant corporate media for their elitism and ignoring the plight of the working class. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 4
March 2020
Event
08:52

Will liberalism kill the coronavirus, or will the coronavirus kill liberalism?

New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik was at a Jewish Book Week event in King’s Cross this week to talk about his new book ‘A Thousand Small Sanities: the Moral Adventure of Liberalism.’ When the conversation inevitably got to Coronavirus, he suggested that tests like this will reveal the superiority of liberal democracies at handling threats to their people:

For dealing with the world’s big problems, autocracy won’t work for two reasons. Firstly, it will only provoke dissent and secondly, you’ll cut off the necessary feedback that enables you to thrive.

It’s not an accident that the coronavirus has become endemic in Iran before anywhere else because you don’t have the necessary means of social intercourse and social feedback — it is limited and wounded in some way. We can’t survive without the possibility of that kind of feedback. We have to accelerate liberal democratic institutions if we’re going to solve those problems

- Adam Gopnik

Hmmm. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 26
February 2020
Audio
10:08

Is Red Toryism a gateway to the far Left?

Was the recent Conservative victory a Red Tory victory? Does it expose a fundamental hesitation about Capitalism?

At a Henry Jackson Society discussion on ‘Priorities for a Red Tory Administration’ at the House of Commons last night, these questions were centre-stage as Rakib Ehsan, Brendan Clarke-Smith MP, The Telegraph’s Sherrelle Jacobs and Philip Blond argued about the merits and limitations of the current system.

The tension was best captured by this exchange between Thatcherite Sherrelle Jacobs and the original Red Tory, Philip Blond:

Sherelle Jacobs: If you go down the route of saying ‘oh yes, capitalism is awful’, then you are opening the doors to a far more radical agenda and I think that it’s quite interesting to see what is happening in the Left in other places where they’ve cracked that formula of Left-wing patriotism. You can see it in Ireland and Bernie Sanders may well give Trump a run for his money. ...  Continue reading