by Peter Franklin
Monday, 22
May 2023

How Right-wing is too Right-wing for Western leaders?

Joe Biden has been criticised for holding hands with Giorgia Meloni

When Donald Trump was still President and Theresa May still Prime Minister they were photographed holding hands. More than once, in fact.

May’s critics seized upon the images as a way of linking Brexit to Trump. What more proof could there be that these abominations went hand-in-hand? 

Five years on, we find ourselves gazing upon another touching scene. This time it’s Joe Biden holding hands with Italy’s Giorgia Meloni at the G7 summit in Japan. Compared to Trump and May, the body language is less awkward — indeed, they seem very happy in one another’s company.

But what will Biden’s liberal supporters make of that? Meloni, after all, is the first Right-wing populist to become the leader of a Western European country since the Second World War. Her party, the Brothers of Italy, has a convoluted history, but it can be fairly described as the successor to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which was founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini in 1946. ...  Continue reading

by Lucas Webber
Monday, 22
May 2023

The fall of Bakhmut has major implications for Ukraine

There are fears that Russian troops will make further territorial gains

At noon Ukrainian time yesterday, and exactly one year since Russia captured the coastal city of Mariupol, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin declared victory in the battle for Bakhmut in a boastful video statement. Kyiv has denied the claim, but most signs indicate that the city is now under Russian occupation. This is a significant, though costly, political and military win for the Kremlin, prevailing in the most intense conventional battle in recent European history. It is also a propaganda victory for the infamous Wagner Group, as the parastate organisation spearheaded a months-long campaign against a large, capable, and determined Ukrainian resistance.

Prigozhin stated that his Wagner Group fighters will be rotating out on May 25 and handing responsibilities for defending the city over to the Russian Ministry of Defence, since his personnel need to rest and refit after the gruelling 224-day battle. He proceeded to note that “when our country, our people, our families need us again, we will come back and defend our people, if necessary.” Notably, Prigozhin thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, General Surovikin and General Mezentsev, while taking parting shots at Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

Over the next few days, it is likely that Russian forces will push to establish a secure buffer zone around Bakhmut, just as they did after taking Severodonetsk and Lysychansk last year. There are already reports that neighbouring Khromove is in the crosshairs and that Russian forces have their eyes on Ivanivske. In congratulating Wagner, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, encouraged continued advances, saying, “we need to go further and at the same time rebuild the settlements of the DPR.” Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia, similarly tweeted about how his country’s military will take “many more” Ukrainian cities in the future.

The fall of Bakhmut could have considerable implications for the front given the interconnected nature of Ukraine’s current line of defence, with the next one being more open. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in spite of pressure from allies to withdraw from Bakhmut months ago, warned in March that Russian troops would have “open road” to advance to Kramatorsk and Slavyansk if the city were taken. Capturing Bakhmut was also a prerequisite for Russia’s campaign to take the Donbas — one of the chief objectives put forth at the onset of the invasion. Moreover, freed up Russian capacity may be used to bolster offensive pressure in other areas such as Avdiivka and Siversk.

Still, the news is not all bad for Ukraine given recent local operations that have eaten into Russia’s flanks either side of Bakhmut. Kyiv also says it is preparing a large counter-offensive possibly designed to cut into Russia’s land bridge to Crimea, and perhaps to try and make gains in other directions. What’s more, given Ukraine’s proven ability to roll back Russian occupied territory, it’s certainly conceivable that there could be a second battle for Bakhmut. This could be during the coming offensive, or further down the line.
 ...  Continue reading

by Rob Lownie
Sunday, 21
May 2023

Martin Amis was the last great literary cynic

The author has been succeeded by a far more sincere generation

“If the voice doesn’t work,” Martin Amis told the Paris Review in 1998, “you’re screwed.” It’s just as well for the novelist, who has died at the age of 73, that his literary voice did work, so much so that plot, characterisation and moral instruction were all subsumed by the irony and wordplay which guided the reader through his novels.

The obituaries so far have focused on his status as the flagbearer of a dying breed of literary personality. He was an enfant terrible; he was a literary rock star; he was the book world’s answer to Mick Jagger. And so on. Yet the disproportionate fascination with Amis’s love life and famous friendships obscures his satirical gift: he was the Evelyn Waugh of his own consumerist age, and his brand of literary cynicism is at risk of dying with him.   ...  Continue reading

by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Friday, 19
May 2023

Why Cannes gave Johnny Depp a hero’s welcome

The film festival has reinvented itself as the capital of the anti-woke pushback

In the words of the writer and diarist Vladislav Davidzon, it was an event “indelibly connected to both the filmic exploits and monstrous predations of Harvey Weinstein… [to become] the symbolic birthplace of the #MeToo movement”. Now, the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, back in full force this year after weathering various culture wars and Covid restrictions, has reinvented itself as the capital of the anti-woke pushback.

This started a month before its official opening this week, when festival chief Thierry Frémaux unveiled the 76th edition’s official poster, a 1968 black-and-white still of Catherine Deneuve in Alain Cavalier’s La Chamade, shot in nearby Saint-Tropez. The 79-year-old actress, who has several times been a member of the Cannes Jury and presided over it with Clint Eastwood in 1994, remains quite possibly the star assoluta of French cinema. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 19
May 2023

Greece: a rare case of an effective conservative government

By talking less, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has achieved a lot more

As the Government demonstrates every day, actually being conservative can be difficult for a conservative party. A hostile press can present any deviation from Left-liberal norms as a dark slide towards fascism, while civil servants can stymie reforms, leaving governing parties to ineffectually announce policies they cannot deliver. Not so in Greece, however, where the ruling conservative New Democracy party, which goes to the polls this weekend in a challenging election, has instituted markedly Right-wing governance while maintaining an international reputation as boringly competent centre-Right technocrats. ...  Continue reading

by Ralph Schoellhammer
Friday, 19
May 2023

Chinese cars are about to wreck the German market

Government subsidies for electric vehicles are hurting domestic suppliers

Will China be the car manufacturer of the future? If one reads some of the more recent headlines in German media, it certainly seems like it. The leading tabloid paper Bild was in full panic mode, worrying that Chinese cars “will overrun Germany” and that they have “tripled their market share”. A closer look at the data, however, reveals that this 300% increase took place exclusively in the electric vehicle (EV) market, and even there Chinese cars are not the most popular. Starting from very low historic sales numbers, the market share for newly registered passenger cars between January and April 2023 was a meagre 0.8%, compared to the almost 60% share of German car manufacturers. ...  Continue reading

by Joan Smith
Friday, 19
May 2023

Finally, the BBC gets a sex attacker’s pronouns right

Unlike Isla Bryson, Andrew Miller is being referred to as a man

Everything about the case is horrendous. The ordeal of the victim, a primary school girl who was abducted from the street and sexually assaulted over 27 hours, hardly bears thinking about. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of an admission that the attacker, who is “transitioning” to be a woman, is biologically male.

“Man abducted and sexually assaulted schoolgirl while dressed as a woman”, was the BBC’s headline. It used the pronoun “he” throughout, signifying a welcome return to common sense. As recently as January, reports of the trial of a double rapist in Glasgow enraged readers when they used female pronouns and the nonsensical phrase “her penis”.  ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 19
May 2023

BuzzFeed plans to generate most of its articles from AI

The embattled company told investors it is putting its hopes in technology

BuzzFeed intends to use AI to generate headlines, quizzes and identity-based content to help it reach multicultural audiences in an “authentic voice”, an investor call revealed. During a conference with potential investors on May 11th, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti argued that AI was an “exciting new creativity tool” that could be used for “imagination, storytelling and entertainment”.

Claiming that AI would replace the “majority of static content”, Peretti was bullish about BuzzFeed’s future, despite the closure of its news division late last month. “Audiences will take more control of when, how, and whether they consume news,” he said. “Conviction about this prediction is why we made the difficult decision to wind down BuzzFeed News“. ...  Continue reading