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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

by Will Lloyd
Monday, 25
January 2021

Xi Jinping addresses Davos — from a parallel universe

The Chinese president made no mention of his country's pandemic response

The last time China’s Xi Jinping addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos, Donald Trump was days away from becoming President, and a lockdown was defined as ‘the confinement of prisoners to their cells for all or most of the day’ — not a public health policy invented in China. 

In the four years since, Trump has come and gone, legal freedoms have been restricted in Hong Kong, countries have begun to label China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority as a genocide, and a pandemic born in Wuhan has changed the meaning of the word lockdown for good. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Xi’s keynote speech did not mention Hong Kong, or the Uyghurs; there was no mention of the role China’s secretive and clumsy response in Wuhan played in allowing Covid-19 to become a global disaster.  ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Wednesday, 13
January 2021

Don’t count Josh Hawley out

The senator is the object of enormous hatred and fear, but all may not be lost

A striding man in a blue suit, with a grim look on his face, raises his fist to the crowd out of shot.

It was only after the mob dispersed — and the pipe bombs were defused at the offices of both major parties — that Francis Chung’s photo of Senator Josh Hawley began to go viral.

Since he joined the Senate in 2019, for his social conservative supporters Hawley has picked the right fights and made the right enemies. Liberals, though some agreed with him that Big Tech should be broken up, saw someone to worry about. Hawley was Trump with a brain and a conscience — a potentially more dangerous prospect — but he never had much profile among the Donald Trump base. ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Friday, 8
January 2021

Fox News starts to pivot away from Donald Trump

Rupert Murdoch's retreat from Trumpism could unleash an epic conflict

‘At some point you’ve got to wonder’, said Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last night, ‘about where our country is putting all of its energy… All politicians whether you agree with them or not come with a shelf life… In Trump’s case, the expiration date arrives in 13 days.’ 

For Carlson, easily Trump’s most charismatic media booster, and for his employers, the final götterdämmerung weeks of the Trump presidency are a difficult time. It’s hard to tell your audience the opposite of what you’ve been telling them for half a decade — Emperor Trump has no toga. Imagine if Pravda went from lambasting the ‘running dogs of capitalism’ in its editorials, to praising the NASDAQ and Milton Friedman within the space of a few weeks in 1980. The comrades, understandably, might become confused.  ...  Continue reading