breaking news from the world of ideas

by Katja Hoyer
Monday, 15
November 2021
Explainer
18:00

Angela Merkel is too soft on Russia

The Belarusian crisis shows that Putin's interests are not aligned with Germany’s

The crisis on Poland’s border is also being felt by its western neighbour. Many of the 20,000 migrants estimated to have crossed into the EU via Belarus since the middle of October are headed for Germany and reaching its borders in increasing numbers. Yet the response in Berlin has been muted.

Last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to intervene with a phone call to Moscow, from where Belarus might be reined in. She told Vladimir Putin that the situation was “completely unacceptable” as the “instrumentalisation of migrants against the European Union by the Belarusian regime is inhumane.” She ordered Putin to shorten Lukashenko’s leash. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 15
November 2021
Reaction
16:00

Will Éric Zemmour’s Bataclan stunt backfire?

The polemicist has been accused of capitalising on the 2015 terror attacks

The French far-Right pundit and likely presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour, offended against good taste and the unwritten rules of political life last week by using the anniversary and site of the Bataclan terrorist attacks in Paris to advance his election campaign.

On Saturday — the sixth anniversary of the Bataclan and other Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris which killed 130 people — Zemmour invited TV cameras to film him outside the concert hall in the French capital where 90 concert-goers were murdered on 13 November 2015.

He accused former President François Hollande of making a “criminal decision” earlier that year to allow Syrian refugees to enter France although he knew that terrorists were hiding among them. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 15
November 2021
Debate
14:15

What Durham University doesn’t understand about sex work

The student union can't make an inherently dangerous industry 'more safe'

Durham University has come under criticism for its decision to offer students an online course on working in the sex industry. The ‘opportunity’ is designed to offer students “support which is well informed and free from prejudice” so that they can be “safe and make informed choices.” For example, Level 1 involved discussions on “the laws that govern sex work”, “the challenges students can face”, “motivations for entry for students” and the “impact of Covid” on the industry.

There has, unsurprisingly, been a backlash. MP Diane Abbott called the move “horrific”; Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan warned that the university is “legitimising a dangerous industry” and Only Fans model Kaya Corbridge said that Durham is “preying on people’s vulnerability.”  ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 15
November 2021
Dispatch
12:28

Inside Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated

I've been speaking to people on the street to find out what they think

Vienna

UPDATE: Don’t miss the full story and video report, now live HERE

I’m in Vienna on day one of the world’s first lockdown for only the unvaccinated.

At first glance it seems like an ordinary, if rather grey, November day — perhaps with slightly fewer people out and about than you might expect. Medical-grade masks are much in evidence, and there are queues outside all the testing centres (a negative test is an accepted alternative to vaccination).

But this is no ordinary day. As of midnight last night, around 30% of the adult population have been legally mandated to stay inside their homes. They are allowed to leave only to buy essential food, to travel to and from essential work and for physical exercise. Leisure of any kind is forbidden. In effect, this means that two million Austrians are currently under partial house arrest. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 15
November 2021
Spotted
10:00

American voters prefer populism to wokeness

Especially if they're working class

The Rightward drift of the working-class vote is one of the most important political trends of our time. But what about the working-class voters who have yet to join this exodus?

They’re important too. The Left can’t win with the support of middle-class progressives alone — it needs to make the most of what remains of its working-class base. But how?

From an American angle, that’s a question that Jacobin, a Left-wing journal, set out to explore in collaboration with YouGov and the Center for Working-Class Politics. The study is worth delving into in detail, but this is the gist of it.

The polling focused on Americans without a college degree. Self-declared Republicans were then excluded from the sample — presumably because they’re considered a lost cause. So all of the findings relate to the opinions of working-class Democrats, swing voters and non-voters. ...  Continue reading

by Brian Pottinger
Monday, 15
November 2021
Reaction
07:00

FW de Klerk: a great South African let down by the ANC

He and Nelson Mandela held the country together after apartheid was lifted

The death of FW de Klerk last week, apartheid era President and Nobel Peace laureate, marked the passing of one of the last great forces behind South Africa’s painful and still uncompleted transition to a modern democracy.

Always counted amongst the conservative faction of the then ruling whites-only National Party, he astonished many by presiding over the country’s largely peaceful constitutional transfer of power from a white minority to a black majority in 1994.

Predictably, in death he has been described by his far lesser critics as a divisive and polarising figure; his legacy deemed unworthy and his recent apology for the sins of apartheid empty and self-serving. ...  Continue reading

by Katherine Dee
Friday, 12
November 2021
Debate
14:44

Travis Scott’s therapy app won’t heal your trauma

After the Astroworld crush the last thing people need is BetterHelp

A crush at Astroworld, the Houston music festival hosted by rapper Travis Scott, ended up killing eight people last week. In the aftermath of the tragedy, theories have taken root online that it may have been a satanic ritual. These accusations have been fuelled by the stage design, complete with an inverted cross, and the staff’s seeming nonchalance as they were informed again and again that people were being crushed in the audience. The darkness of this was compounded as it came to light that staff were instructed to refer to deceased concert goers as “smurfs.”

Then the affair became even more peculiar. Travis Scott took a long time to apologise for his role in these events. And when that apology finally came? It included a promotion: a month’s free therapy via the app BetterHelp. But don’t worry, his people reassured the sceptical, there’s no brand partnership between Travis Scott and BetterHelp. ...  Continue reading

by Amy Jones
Friday, 12
November 2021
Reaction
09:30

Instagram censorship will only help the conspiracies

The medical group Cochrane has been shadow-banned by Instagram

The Cochrane Organisation is responsible for the publication of meta analyses and systematic reviews to help doctors and patients make informed choices about health. They are considered by many to be the gold standard in scientific and health evidence. On Wednesday they were unceremoniously shadow banned by Instagram. Anyone wishing to tag the organisation’s account in their posts was greeted with a warning message, declaring that they had “repeatedly posted content that goes against our community guidelines on false content about COVID-19 or vaccines”.

This is a surprising turn of events, given that, for years, the literature produced by the Cochrane Organisation has been considered an authority in medical evidence. Each systemic review considers the findings of many studies and trials, and a well done review is often considered “level 1” evidence — the best of the best. Such reviews feed into guidelines issued by national and international organisations such as NICE, and have significant impacts on NHS policies. What happened? ...  Continue reading