breaking news from the world of ideas

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 7
October 2019
07:30

Why won’t the Islamic Republics criticise China?

The Middle East Eye is reporting the deepening of diplomatic relations between China and Iran. 

With the United States waging a trade and economic war against both countries, high-ranking diplomatic, military and trade officials from Beijing and Tehran have met repeatedly in recent months.
- Middle East Eye

From China’s perspective, Iran is located at a key intersection between the Caspian Sea to the north and the Arab states to the south, offing a gateway to Europe and Turkey to the west. Iran thus forms of crucial part of the Chinese 25 year plan known as the Belt and Road initiative. This plan for what is being called a new Silk road is already understood to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in human history, and a means of expanding China’s global influence.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Saturday, 5
October 2019
07:00

Weekend Long Read: The Myth of Boundless Growth

This week’s long read pick is ‘Growing pains: the myth of boundless growth’ from Ian Christie and others at the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity. First published by Open Democracy, it looks at the implications for our world economy of a future seeking either to prioritise growth or decarbonisation.

There is no consensus in environmentalist circles at present about whether it is possible to separate economic growth from rising carbon emissions, whether a ‘relative decoupling’ – already taking place – in which the rate of emissions growth gradually slows as processes and systems become more efficient, or absolute decoupling, defined as the total separation of carbon emissions from economic growth. The authors of this blog argue that the latter is a pipe dream: ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 4
October 2019
Idea
17:55

Satire isn’t as powerful as you think

Chris Morris has been talking about satire on Channel 4 news:

“The problem is that we have got used to a kind of satire that placates the court. You do nice dissection of the way things are … and you get slapped on the back by the orthodox elite.”

He doesn’t explain who the “orthodox elite” are. Are they, for instance, the same as the “north London, metropolitan, liberal elite” as referred to by Home Secretary Priti Patel at the Conservative Party conference? – a reference that one satirist, David Baddiel, understood as dog-whistle anti-Semitism:

“Whether she knows it or not, “North London metropolitan liberal elite” is alt-right code — shit alt right code — for Jews.” ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 4
October 2019
13:39

Urban Guy versus Flyover Man

OK, so the device of an imagined dialogue between a typical ‘urban guy’ and a typical ‘flyover man’ is a bit silly. But today’s David Brooks column in the New York Times has the ring of truth about it.

‘Urban guy’ is beside himself about Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanours, but ‘flyover man’ isn’t interested in the impeachment story. This passage struck me as particularly on point:

- Flyover Man to Urban Guy
I get it. Trump said some stupid crap on a phone call. But are you going to undo my vote for that? I wouldn’t even rank this among the top 25 worst things he’s done, and I’m a supporter of his!

Listen, do you remember those months just after the election when people like you were briefly curious about people like me? You sent your reporters out on wild safaris into the hinterlands to interview Trump voters. You read “Hillbilly Elegy.” Back then it was fashionable to say that Trump is just a symptom of real problems in America. He’s the wrong answer to the right question. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 4
October 2019
Idea
07:03

Fake blood won’t do it: the climate change movement needs to lead by example

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The issue was British Government backing for fossil fuel projects around the world – in support of UK exports, but grossly inconsistent with the fight against climate change. How to draw attention to this outrage?

A group of Extinction Rebellion protestors hatched a cunning plan: get hold of a fire engine, load it up with 1,800 litres of fake blood and spray it all over the front of the Treasury building. All went well until they lost control of the fire hose, which spat and thrashed about like a mad snake, leaving the protesters literally red faced. Oops. ...  Continue reading

by Danielle Boxall
Thursday, 3
October 2019
Reaction
15:58

Marina Hyde’s selective feminism

Marina Hyde has nailed it again, and political Twitter is cock-a-hoop. Her bit about the Conservative Party conference was an instant hit, “the 2019 morale-boosting equivalent of singing We’ll Meet Again during the Blitz.” Cummings, Boris and Mark Francois all take a beating.

As do the attendees of the Bruges Group’s fringe event headlined by Francois:

“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” sighed the woman in the row behind me. I would estimate that at the Bruges Group, a scientific 83% of the women in the audience own cooking aprons printed with the torso of a French maid, would regard Boris Johnson disturbing their cobwebs as “a bit of fun”, and estimate there are between three and four units in an entire wine box. All of the above is the fault of 100% of the men at said event.
- Marina Hyde

Am I being po-faced, or is this little riff downright misogynistic?

For someone whose recent tweets include “Woman after woman after woman after woman has had to stand up tonight and plead with Boris Johnson to moderate his language for their own safety, and he just doubles down every time. What an absolutely hollowed-out human” – I think it’s fair to assume Marina considers herself an impeccable feminist. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 3
October 2019
Video
12:27

Tory MP: kleptocrat “bling” oligarchs should be unwelcome in London

Tory MP John Penrose – the PM’s “anti-corruption advisor” – made a splash at the Conservative Party conference by criticising the capitalist system in such strong terms that members in the audience complained that he sounds like a Labour MP. One quote in particular caught our eye:

You will see an incredible number of flash cars being driven by oligarchs who have got their money by stealing the GDP… They have swiped it. They are now crime lords, drug lords or kleptocrats and they have repatriated it to Britain and we have let them come into the country and they are living the high life, a really bling lifestyle, and they are some of the nastiest people on the planet and we are giving them houseroom.
- John Penrose

This is an interesting and under-explored issue. The Left tend to steer clear of it because it sounds anti-foreigner, and the Right steer clear because it sounds anti-wealth. It’s politically interesting because it’s a symptom of the liberal world order right in the heart of the cities that are supposedly the beneficiaries of it – quite apart from the ‘left-behind’ towns and people that have been the focus since Brexit. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 3
October 2019
Idea
08:07

Why do some people find more purpose in life than others?

In June, UnHerd ran a series of articles called Riven Britain, which looked beyond disparities of income to look at the other inequalities that divide us. For instance inequalities of accumulated wealth, wellbeing and the beauty of one’s surroundings. We also looked at geographical inequality and the profoundly unequal way in which people with learning disabilities are treated.

One inequality we didn’t mention, however, was what one might call existential inequality – between those who believe their lives have meaning and purpose and those who don’t.

A YouGov survey commissioned for a report by the libertarian Cato Institute reveals significant existential inequalities between Americans. ...  Continue reading