Featuring culture wars, DNA, Jeff Bezos, OnlyFans and Dr Johnson
June was a month that saw a sex scandal bring down a minister of state, a G7 summit invade Cornwall, and two by-elections. These have been the headline making events that British newspapers have dutifully recorded.
But elsewhere — especially in the expanding digital ecosystem of Substack — writers and journalists less tethered to the news cycle have been following their own interests, and producing superb work. Over the course of the month, UnHerd staff collected some of the best new writing.
How to explain our exhausting and seemingly endless culture wars? Angela Nagle argued that the populist moment has created a battle between a secular clerisy on one side, and everyone else on the other:
The novelist and essayist Paul Kingsnorth wrote about the “naive purity” of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his quest to conquer space:
Matt Taibbi reviewed anti-racist guru Robin DiAngelo’s new book Nice Racism:
Over at ChinaTalk, Jordan Schneider examined ‘rap propaganda’ made by Chinese Communist Party propagandists:
Is a backlash towards liberal feminist sex positivity on the way? Default Friend looked at TikTok, where a growing number of Gen Z users are making videos that warn against platforms like OnlyFans and PornHub. A new sexual conservatism is on the way, she argues.
Razib Khan summarised cutting-edge research in human genomics. The origins of humanity are much more complex, it turns out, than we thought they were:
Historian Anton Howes wondered why the agricultural revolution experienced in Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries has been eclipsed by the far more famous industrial revolution. Journalist Noah Smith blamed Pakistan’s sclerotic political system for it’s failure to grow it’s economy. Julie Burchill enjoyed seeing a smile on the Queen’s face at Ascot.
Dominic Cummings shared some old WhatsApp messages that Boris Johnson wrote about Matt Hancock. The author Freddie deBoer questioned whether the American Left could look at all the sound and fury of the year since the George Floyd protests and be happy with itself:
And Henry Oliver investigated an intriguing gap in the career of Samuel Johnson. Where was the great man in 1745, during the Jacobite uprising, which he strongly sympathised with? The truth is that we don’t know. Johnson, writes Oliver, “like many prominent conservatives throughout history… started out as a romantic radical, and that he may well have got much closer to astonishing behaviour than we are able to prove or believe.”