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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

by Will Lloyd
Tuesday, 5
January 2021

The Merchant of Venice deserves to be cancelled

It's hardly 'political correctness gone mad' to say the play is anti-Semitic

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that Michael Morpurgo “refused” to include ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in a forthcoming Shakespeare anthology for children due to anti-Semitism. This comes right after a year which saw the British Library compile “dossiers” on writers, including Ted Hughes, George Orwell, Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde, with historic links to colonialism. The gist of the Times’ story was clear: another day, another long-dead literary titan cancelled for upsetting contemporary mores. 

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, described Morpurgo’s decision as an example of the “dead hand of political correctness… children do not want to be protected all the time against great literature.”  ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Tuesday, 15
December 2020

Bill Barr, midwife to the dictatorship that was never born

Trump's attorney general had no desire to bring authoritarianism to America

When liberal profile writers and essayists surveyed Bill Barr this year, they saw a danger to the Republic. While Trump was lazy, stupid, and a vain pagan, Barr, his second attorney general, was known to be cerebral, ruthless and Catholic. Here was someone who might be capable of transforming the nation, executive order by executive order, into a genuine dictatorship. Writing for the New York Review of Books in November, Fintan O’Toole characterised Barr as an “extremist”:

What must be understood about Barr is that he is not a lawyer in the political arena. He is a political ideologue and operative who happens to function through the law. 
- Fintan O'Toole, New York Review of Books

Barr’s ultimate role, according to O’Toole, was to play midwife in “the transition from republican democracy to authoritarianism.” A ‘Danger to Democracy’ was the headline on a scare-quote stuffed profile of Barr in the Guardian.  ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Tuesday, 24
November 2020

Climate doomsters are giving children ‘eco-anxiety’

Scaring youngsters about the future will do them no good

One of the hobby horses that Richard Dawkins is fond of flogging is his claim that religious education is evil. Dawkins pops up around once a year to remind us that “forcing a religion on your children is as bad as child abuse.”

I thought of the evolutionary biologist when new research revealed that more than half of child psychiatrists in England are seeing young people who are depressed about climate change. In September the Royal College of Psychiatrists asked members who worked in the NHS whether they were noticing patients who were anxious about ecological issues. Child and adolescent psychiatrists, more than those working with other age groups, had seen a rapid rise in “eco-anxiety.” ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Wednesday, 11
November 2020

Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser: life should end at 75

Is the President-elect two years past his sell-by date?

Six years ago, a distinguished American oncologist published an essay in The Atlantic. In ‘Why I Hope to Die at 75’ Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel argued that for most people “creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone” by 75.

Accordingly, society as a whole would be improved if nature took “its course swiftly and promptly”. Medicine has extended life spans, but it has done little to make life worth living in old age, Emanuel argued at the time:

Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
- Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel

On Monday, Dr Emanuel was one of 10 advisory board members appointed to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force. This is potentially awkward for Biden — not least because at 77 he is a few months beyond the age Dr Emanuel believes we cease to be much use to anyone. Previously, Emanuel was a special advisor in the Obama White House, and prominent in shaping the policy for Obamacare between 2009-11. The battle over that legislation included claims by Sarah Palin that federal health insurance would lead to “death panels” — bodies of bureaucrats who would decide who was worthy of medical attention, and who would be left without it. ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Friday, 6
November 2020

Are any Republicans still backing President Trump?

Claims of voter fraud have left prominent Republicans divided

Last night, looking deflated and tired, Donald Trump addressed the nation and the world. At his press conference the President railed against mail-in ballots and Pennsylvania Democrats. He promised litigation to restore a version of the election that would see him re-elected. “If you count the legal votes,” he said “I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can steal the election from us.”

Several major networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — cut away from the speech. Fox News continued to broadcast it. As did CNN, where anchors like Jake Tapper and Dana Bash called for senior Republicans to launch an “intervention” against Trump. But would they? Or would they back his claims that the election was being stolen? ...  Continue reading

by Will Lloyd
Monday, 26
October 2020

Christopher Hitchens is still right about Borat

Fourteen years on, the writer's comments ring more true than ever

Borat is back. Rushed into production earlier this year, announced only a month ago, and streaming on Amazon Prime since Friday, Sacha Baron Cohen’s fake Kazakh is making headlines once again. Like the first Borat, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a mockumentary engineered to make real people expose themselves as ignoramuses and xenophobes.

Borat has a plastic surgeon explain what a “Jewish nose” looks like. He gets a tanning-salon attendant to explain what spray tan colour is best “for a racist family.” A dress shop owner laughs when Borat asks where the “Yes-Means-No” section is. And there are no issues when he ambles into a bakery and demands a cake with the words “Jews will not replace us” piped atop it in icing. ...  Continue reading