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by Will Lloyd
Monday, 23
August 2021
Seen Elsewhere

David Graeber’s last essay

The anarchist intellectual had one final message for the post-pandemic world

David Graeber, anthropologist, anarchist, author, and leading light of the Occupy movement, died suddenly in Venice last September. His work in economic anthropology — particularly Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Bullshit Jobs (2018) — was startlingly original, and made him an intellectual superstar. “He was a real intellectual” wrote Nassim Nicholas Taleb when Graeber passed away, “not one fake cell in his brain, not one fake bone in his body.”

Now, Graeber’s last essay has been published in the American socialist monthly Jacobin. After the pandemic, he argues, we cannot go back to the way things were. When the crisis is “declared over… we will be able to return to our ‘nonessential jobs’. For many, this will be like waking from a dream.” ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Thursday, 8
July 2021

The sad decline of Oliver Stone

The filmmaker has sold himself to some of the worst tyrannies on earth

Writer-director Oliver Stone is one of the most gifted filmmakers the United States ever produced. In the late 1980s, Stone had a remarkable run, with Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July making him one of the most discussed, imitated, and controversial figures in Hollywood.

Left-wing but idiosyncratic in his politics, uber-literate and a maximal drug user, for a time Stone was the baby boom generation’s foremost guru.

So how deflating to see that Stone is reduced to shilling for Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former President of Kazakhstan. Qazaq: History of the Golden Man is an eight-hour documentary about Nazarbayev and his near three decades long, quasi-monarchical rule of the central Asian state. The film premiered on the autocrat’s 81st birthday — one of several gifts, which also included the unveiling of two new Nazarbayev statues in Kazakh cities. ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Friday, 2
July 2021

Labour’s problem is not George Galloway: it’s Arthur Balfour

Victory in Batley and Spen will not make the Palestinian question go away

There were three main issues on the doorstep during the by-election in Batley and Spen: police, potholes, and Palestine. A new police station can be built. Potholes can be fixed. But for Labour, even after narrowly winning the seat, Palestine won’t go away. 

Last Saturday a senior Labour official told the Mail on Sunday that the party was “hemorrhaging votes” among Muslims in the constituency. Reports in the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News were jammed with vox pops that explained why.  

Residents told the JC that “the Zionist lobby” was why they turned their backs on Labour. In Batley, the seat’s largest town, Jewish News found that “the number one issue at stake for the vast majority is that of Palestine”. Voters of South Asian origin make up around 20% of the electorate in the constituency, and 19% of them are Muslim. The party lost their vote in this by-election.  ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Monday, 7
June 2021

The ‘old normal’ is alive and well in Venice

Returning cruiseliners hint that post-pandemic life will be much the same

Last Thursday, fifteen months into the pandemic, something happened that was suggestively, eerily, absurdly normal. A cruise liner, MSC Orchestra, floated into Venice. 

Catastrophic events like Covid-19 always summon prophecies. Throughout this crisis we have been told that the nature of work has fundamentally shifted, that there have been remarkable breakthroughs in medical technology, and that we are on the cusp of a revolution in green energy. Tourism was another industry in the process of being “reinvented” too — otherwise it was finished. 

Tech guru Peter Thiel argued for years that the world was trapped in a “Great Stagnation”. But in late 2020 he said that Covid marked the beginning of a new era: the 21st century had begun.  ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Wednesday, 2
June 2021

Will Steven Pinker lose the bet of the century?

There's a lot riding on the psychologist's wager with astronomer Martin Rees

Long Bets calls itself ‘The Arena for Accountable Predictions’. It’s a website that lets soothsayers and prognosticators test themselves by trying to predict the future, gambling for real stakes.

The featured bet that currently leads the website is between the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. Given the events of the last 18 months, this has arguably become the most significant wager of the century so far — even if the stake is a relatively piddling $400.

Rees will win that sum if the following prediction is substantiated:

“A bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event within a six-month period starting no later than Dec 31 2020.” ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Friday, 14
May 2021

Prince Harry has swapped one zoo for another

He could have chosen the quiet life — but opted for Hollywood instead

Vladimir Nabokov claimed that his inspiration for Lolita came from a newspaper story. It was late in 1939, or 1940, when he opened up his paper and came across an account of an ape in the Jardin des Plantes. This ape, after months of coaxing and teasing by scientists, produced the first ever charcoals drawn by an animal.

The sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.

I have no idea whether our renegade Prince Harry can sketch, but he can certainly talk, and he sounds rather like Nabokov’s ape. Yesterday in an interview on the (sigh) American Actor Dax Shepard’s podcast, he again described the monarchy as prison: ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Tuesday, 13
April 2021
Campus Wars

The decline of Standard English is not progress

Hull University betrays its students by not docking marks for spelling mistakes

There is something rather melancholy about Hull University’s decision not to dock marks for spelling mistakes because requiring good English could be seen as “homogenous North European, white, male, elite.” 

Hull is one of several universities that are adopting “inclusive assessments”. These are designed to narrow the attainment gaps between different ethnic groups in higher education. Hull insisted that dropping the requirement for a high level of proficiency in written and spoken English will “challenge the status quo”. The University of the Arts has issued similar guidelines, telling staff they should: ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Monday, 22
March 2021
Behind the news

Bristolians have always loved rioting

The city has a long and illustrious history of setting itself on fire

It’s difficult to pick out the most surreal moment from the footage of Bristol’s riots yesterday. Was it the guy who, in a spirit of generosity, tried to feed a police officer’s dog a slice of takeaway pizza? Maybe it was the moment two women urinated in front of a shieldwall of riot police? For me it was the man who drove through the crowd of very middle-class protestors on a mobility scooter, blaring Jungle before the disturbances began later in the evening. 

Ostensibly last night’s protest was about the right to protest. Online, our finest journo-activists shoehorned Bristol’s torched police vans, graffitied buildings, and smashed windows into a political narrative of generational inequality and authoritarian Tory government. Nigel Farage said it was all about BLM ...  Continue reading