by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 6
June 2023

Why is Holly Willoughby trying to be my therapist?

The host turned This Morning into a sermon

Holly Willoughby wants to know, “Are you okay?” Not about the cost of living crisis, or the massive counterattack in Ukraine, or the pressure on mortgages. No, Holly wants to know if you are feeling “shaken, troubled, let down” by “someone who you gave your love and support”, and if you feel a “desire to heal” and “process”. She is, of course, talking about Philip Schofield’s resignation after he admitted to having an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a younger colleague. 

Her address on Monday morning was a sermon of schmaltzy spin-doctor sorcery. Dressed in an angelic white dress with glacial poise, Willoughby delivered empty, predictable platitudes with the infantalising tone of a children’s TV presenter having to explain a devastating natural disaster. I’m surprised she didn’t ask everyone if they would like to hug it out. The BBC described her as “emotional”, when in reality she vacantly read from an autocued PR-perfect script like a modern Nurse Ratched: cold, clinical, and regurgitating pseudoscientific psychobabble. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Friday, 12
May 2023
Dark Web

Welcome to the lucrative world of AI girlfriends

An online influencer is capitalising on modern loneliness

In Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her, a lonely, recently-divorced ghostwriter falls in love with his artificially intelligent virtual assistant Samantha. In another twist of life imitating art, you now can too — except she’s called CarynAI.

CarynAI is a cyber clone of Caryn Marjorie, a 23-year-old content creator with over 1.8 million subscribers on Snapchat. To create this e-escort, designers trawled through thousands of hours of now-deleted YouTube content to create a parallel personality to whom you can chat for $1 a minute via text message or voice notes. Marjorie has made $70,000 in her first week, and estimates she could make $5 million a month if 20,000 of her followers get a membership. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Friday, 21
April 2023

Why aren’t Britain’s students coming back to school?

A teenage mental health crisis is being ignored

Student absence is a hidden crisis across the Western world, and recent analysis from TES has also revealed the scale of the impact this is having on exam year groups. Year 11s missed 75% more lessons over the autumn and spring terms this academic year than pre-Covid levels. The absence rate among disadvantaged Year 11s is more than double their more privileged peers’ rates; other surveys suggest that up to a third of disadvantaged 15-year-olds have been persistently absent this year.

According to the Centre for Social Justice, just under two million school pupils (roughly one in four) are classified as ‘persistently absent’, meaning they have an attendance rate of under 90%: double pre-pandemic levels. The number of pupils who are ‘severely absent’ — spending more time out of classrooms than in them — has also risen by 134%, and is now the equivalent of around 140 schools. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Friday, 7
April 2023

Meet Daniel Kebede, the new far-Left head of the NEU

The UK's largest teaching union is being taken over by an extreme ideologue

In September, NEU, the largest teaching union in the UK, will have a new leader: new academic year, new start. It has not been a good couple of years for teaching unions, who have been accused of hijacking the pandemic for political leverage and failing to put children first by calling for longer, more stringent lockdowns; the damage to their reputation was neatly summarised by Gavin Williamson’s text message that ‘teaching unions really do just hate work.’

Yet the incoming General Secretary Daniel Kebede does not seem to be the moderate, temperate figurehead needed to persuade the public, and teachers, that the NEU is about prioritising pupils over politics. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 13
December 2022

Azadeh Moshiri exposes the flaws of diversity schemes

A superficial focus on race ignores a more important element: class

As a teacher, it can often be difficult to explain irony to students, but this weekend I found a fitting example. Azadeh Moshiri, senior journalist for BBC World News, said her career would never have happened without the help of the John Schofield Trust, a charity mentoring scheme to improve access to journalism. The irony? Moshiri’s father is Farhad Moshiri, owner of Everton FC and worth an estimated £2.4billion, while her mother is Nazenin Ansari, a journalist who has worked for the BBC, Sky News and CNN.

The trust has made clear that, at the time of Azadeh Moshiri’s acceptance onto the scheme, its aim was to support all young journalists, regardless of social class, and that it only switched its focus to become a “social mobility charity” a year later in 2019. Still, as the Telegraph has pointed out, the organisation was publicly calling for social mobility in the industry before this supposed shift. The fact that Moshiri was considered a suitable candidate for consideration proves once again that discussions about diversity without class are effectively meaningless.  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 23
November 2022

Balenciaga is sexualising children

The label has apologised for photographing young girls in BDSM outfits

Sometimes the hardest thing about discerning what is real or fake on the internet is that the truth can be so absurd and unbelievable. For example, if you came across this advertisement on Twitter, featuring a young child holding a teddy bear in bondage gear, you would be forgiven for assuming you were being trolled. Yet this is a real campaign by Balenciaga, the high-end fashion line with over 11 million followers on Instagram.

The more you look, the worse it gets. This picture features a young girl holding a toy wearing fishnets, restraints and a padlock, with bruised purple and blue eyes (Balenciaga have been called out before for glamourising domestic violence, after they painted black eyes and a bloody nose on a model). This picture focuses on a girl lying down on a sofa surrounded by empty wine glasses, while this photo includes tape with the letters BAAL: a pagan God who demanded child sacrifice. This picture shows documents from the court case Ashcroft v Free Speech Coalition, a controversial ruling that struck down a portion of the Child Pornography Protection Act after it deemed that online child pornography is protected free speech. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Friday, 11
November 2022

Elon Musk is not a national security threat — TikTok is

Joe Biden is focusing on the wrong social media giant

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden was asked if the U.S. government should investigate Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter on national security grounds. The President responded that it was “worthy of being looked at”. Yet, strangely, there was no mention of TikTok, which poses a far greater threat to American national security.

For months now Twitter has struggled to keep its most active users engaged, and has plateaued at around 300 million monthly users (by comparison, TikTok has over 1 billion). Twitter has also been struggling financially because it has forgotten that the future is video: relentlessly addictive, auto-playing, effectively infinite video. In 2021, Android phone users spent over 16 trillion minutes on Tikok; in 2022, they spent an average of 95 minutes a day on the app. Facebook reports far greater engagement with video content than other media, and head of Instagram Adam Mosseri confirmed that the app is moving towards becoming a video-sharing platform. It’s no wonder that Twitter is under pressure to reinvent itself. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 19
October 2022

TikTok is turning into OnlyFans

The app is profiting from children's exposure to sexualised content

For years, the boundaries between social media platforms have become increasingly blurred. Instagram is full of Snapchat-style stories and TikTok-style reels; Twitter’s use of multimedia has brought it closer to Tumblr; TikTok has moved from harmless dance routines to the kind of political clickbait more commonly associated with YouTube.

Now there is another potential crossover emerging: TikTok is monetising livestreams in a similar fashion to OnlyFans. The app has just announced that it is adding a feature which will allow users to only broadcast live streams to over-18s, and that users will have to be 18 rather than 16 to start a livestream in the first place. In theory this is to stop under-18s from coming across more mature content. A spokesperson from TikTok gave the naively chaste examples of a “comedic act more suitable for adults” or “a host talking about a difficult life experience.” Let’s be clear, though: this is about revenue rather than responsibility. ...  Continue reading

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