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There are good reasons for ignoring the news | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/03/2018 - 8:00pm in

Wealthy American Erik Hagerman has entirely cut himself off from current affairs following the election of Trump. Here’s why I support him

Did you hear about the rich American who’s cut himself off from all news since Donald Trump was elected? There’s no reason why you should. He wouldn’t have done, if it hadn’t actually been him. His name’s Erik Hagerman and he used to be a Nike executive, but now lives on a pig farm and doesn’t even farm pigs. He just works on his art and goes for coffee and plays guitar and gives interviews to the New York Times. Which presumably he then doesn’t read, so the interviewer could have indulged in a rare consequence-free, easy-to-write hatchet job, but didn’t.

I don’t mean to be snide – things I say neutrally just come out like that. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of people whose faces’ resting expressions look deeply sad or intensely cross, so they have to smile to seem normal (which must cumulatively be depressing or irritating, thus retrospectively giving them temperaments to match their looks). Because, as it happens, I support Erik Hagerman’s life choice.

I think I’ll always value a vague sense of what seems to be generally going on

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Post Truth by Matthew D’Ancona and Post-Truth by Evan Davis review – is this really a new era of politics?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 4:30pm in

Lying as the norm has been with us for a while. Is the idea of post-truth another example of liberals understanding people wrongly?

“In practice,” Evan Davis writes, “we evidently are quite happy to believe untruths.” Davis is stating what is, perhaps, the most indisputable fact regarding what has been trumpeted as the rise of a new kind of “post-truth” politics. Shrewdly, he describes the belief that we a living in a post-truth era as “an expression of frustration and anguish from a liberal class discombobulated by the political disruptions of 2016”. A catch-all term used by today’s liberals to describe upheavals that confounded their most basic beliefs, “post-truth” politics is like “populism” in implying that these unexpected shifts occurred because reason had been subverted. Duped by demagogues deploying new information technologies, voters disregarded argument and evidence in favour of manipulated emotion and fake news. The idea of truth was lost in a morass of relativism, and the politicians who controlled government for decades were abruptly dislodged from power.

Related: Fake news: an insidious trend that's fast becoming a global problem

Contrary to those who think 'peak populism' has come and gone, despair will continue to fuel extremism in Europe

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Say goodbye to capitalism: welcome to the Republic of Wellbeing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/09/2015 - 11:30pm in

If governments and companies are serious about meeting the Sustainable Development Goals then they’ll need to ditch their bad habits

Imagine a country genuinely committed to pursuing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), set to be agreed on by the international community later this month. It would place emphasis on human and ecosystem wellbeing as the ultimate objective of progress. This country – let’s call it the Republic of Wellbeing – and its business sector would need to embark on a profound transformation to achieve durable, long-term change.

Around the world today, companies and governments do precisely the opposite: they put more emphasis on short-term economic dynamics, or what Hillary Clinton criticised as “quarterly capitalism”. If we are serious about meeting the SDGs then this cannot continue.

Related: Climate change is killing us. We must use the law to fight it | Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Related: Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism

Related: Good, natural, malignant: five ways people frame economic growth

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Climate change is killing us. We must use the law to fight it | Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/06/2015 - 7:59pm in

The ‘Claim the Sky’ campaign aims to save lives by protecting the atmosphere as a global asset, with governments taking legal action against those who pollute it

How many deaths does climate change have to cause before someone takes responsibility? Our current use of fossil fuels has “potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival”, according to a major new report released on Tuesday by medical journal the Lancet and University College London. And it’s not as if we still have time before climate change starts to bite.

Related: Climate change threatens 50 years of progress in global health, study says

Related: The TTIP trade deal will throw equality before the law on the corporate bonfire | George Monbiot

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What scares the new atheists | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/03/2015 - 5:00pm in

The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing

In 1929, the Thinker’s Library, a series established by the Rationalist Press Association to advance secular thinking and counter the influence of religion in Britain, published an English translation of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1899 book The Riddle of the Universe. Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.

The Thinker’s Library also featured works by Julian Huxley, grandson of TH Huxley, the Victorian biologist who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his fierce defence of evolutionary theory. A proponent of “evolutionary humanism”, which he described as “religion without revelation”, Julian Huxley shared some of Haeckel’s views, including advocacy of eugenics. In 1931, Huxley wrote that there was “a certain amount of evidence that the negro is an earlier product of human evolution than the Mongolian or the European, and as such might be expected to have advanced less, both in body and mind”. Statements of this kind were then commonplace: there were many in the secular intelligentsia – including HG Wells, also a contributor to the Thinker’s Library – who looked forward to a time when “backward” peoples would be remade in a western mould or else vanish from the world.

Related: New atheists are not scared, but they are angry | Letters

It’s inconceivable that a professed unbeliever could become president of the United States

If only the world wasn’t plagued by these troublesome God-botherers, they are always lamenting

“It is not only possible, but, on present evidence, probable that most conceptions of the good, and most ways of life, which are typical of commercial, liberal, industrialised societies will often seem altogether hateful to substantial minorities within these societies and even more hateful to most of the populations within traditional societies … As a liberal by philosophical conviction, I think I ought to expect to be hated, and to be found superficial and contemptible, by a large part of mankind.”

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The truth about evil | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/10/2014 - 4:00pm in

Our leaders talk a great deal about vanquishing the forces of evil. But their rhetoric reveals a failure to accept that cruelty and conflict are basic human traits

When Barack Obama vows to destroy Isis’s “brand of evil” and David Cameron declares that Isis is an “evil organisation” that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair’s judgment of Saddam Hussein: “But the man’s uniquely evil, isn’t he?” Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over 35 years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war. These dangers left the prime minster unmoved. What mattered was Saddam’s moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.

If Saddam was uniquely evil 12 years ago, we have it on the authority of our leaders that Isis is uniquely evil today. Until it swept into Iraq a few months ago, the jihadist group was just one of several that had benefited from the campaign being waged by western governments and their authoritarian allies in the Gulf in support of the Syrian opposition’s struggle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Since then Isis has been denounced continuously and with increasing intensity; but there has been no change in the ruthless ferocity of the group, which has always practised what a radical Islamist theorist writing under the name Abu Bakr Naji described in an internet handbook in 2006 as “the management of savagery”.

Most western leaders reject the insight that destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings

Aiming to exorcise evil from the modern mind, secular liberals have ended up constructing another version of demonology

“Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation … On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm.”

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Gamergate: the internet is the toughest game in town – if you’re playing as a woman | Charlie Brooker

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/10/2014 - 6:00am in

It’s a stealth adventure with nowhere to hide and hundreds of respawning enemies waiting to attack you the moment you stand out in any way

I haven’t always been the kind of man who plays videogames. I used to be the kind of boy who played videogames. We’re inseparable, games and I. If you cut me, I’d bleed pixels. Or blood. Probably blood, come to think of it.

Games get a bad press compared with, say, opera – even though they’re obviously better, because no opera has ever compelled an audience member to collect a giant mushroom and jump across some clouds. Nobody writes articles in which opera-lovers are mocked as adult babies who never grew out of make-believe and sing-song; obsessive misfits who flock to weird “opening nights” wearing elaborate “tuxedo” cosplay outfits.

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Why Dilma Rousseff could win Brazil’s presidential election | Mark Weisbrot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/10/2014 - 9:13pm in

The country has widely reported problems, but improvements in income and conditions for many workers mean a lot of Brazilians have done well over the past decade

When challenger Marina Silva pulled ahead of incumbent Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in the polls a few weeks ago there was a lot of excitement in the US business press, and Brazilian financial markets.

Rousseff’s Workers’ party (PT) has been in power for 12 years, and a lot of rich and powerful people were ready for a change. Fortune seemed to favour them: the Brazilian economy, having slowed considerably over the past few years, officially went into recession this year – something that would spell the end for many incumbent presidents. Before that, there were street protests over the rising cost of public transport and government spending on the World Cup, and the event itself ended in disaster with a humiliating 7-1 defeat for the national team at the hands of Germany.

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Rotherham child sex abuse: it is our duty to ask difficult questions | Slavoj Žižek

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/09/2014 - 11:45pm in

Anyone who wants to fight for emancipation should not be afraid to examine religion and culture

The outline of what happened in Rotherham is now more or less clear: at least 1,400 children were subjected to brutal sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013; children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities, beaten and intimidated. The perpetrators were (almost exclusively) of Pakistani origin, and their victims were often white schoolgirls.

Reactions were predictable. The left exhibited the worst of political correctness, mostly via generalisations: perpetrators were vaguely designated as “Asians”, claims were made that it was not about ethnicity and religion but about the domination of men over women, plus who are we – with our church paedophilia and Jimmy Savile – to adopt a high moral ground against a victimised minority … can one imagine a more effective way to open up the field to Ukip and other anti-immigrant populists who exploit the worries of ordinary people? Such anti-racism is effectively a barely covert racism, condescendingly treating Pakistanis as morally inferior beings who should not be held to our standards.

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Isis: an apocalyptic cult carving a place in the modern world | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/08/2014 - 4:00pm in

History has witnessed millenarian violence before. But Islamic State’s modern barbarism is a daunting new threat

The rapid advance of Islamic State (Isis) through Iraq has produced panic in the west – not all of it irrational. In part this comes from a dawning recognition of the scale of the disaster that western intervention has inflicted throughout the region. By dismantling Saddam’s regime the west broke the Iraqi state. There were no jihadist groups operating in Iraq before regime change. Now the country has been torn apart by one of them. The same is true in Libya, where the overthrow of Gaddafi has produced a complete collapse of government and an “Islamic Emirate” was recently declared in Benghazi. Grandiose schemes of regime change aiming to replace tyranny by democracy have created chaos, leaving zones of anarchy in which jihadist forces can thrive.

Western intervention played an important role in the rise of Isis. By backing the Syrian rebels against Assad – another secular despot – the west gave the group an impetus it would otherwise not have had. With jihadist forces including Isis being funded from Saudi and Qatari sources, there was never much chance of a “moderate opposition” taking over in the event of Assad’s defeat. A radical Islamist regime, another failed state or some mix of the two were – and remain – the likeliest upshot. As things stand, there is not much the west can do to disable Isis in any lasting way. No one can seriously believe that this now self-financing, media-savvy and militarily skilful organisation will be snuffed out by a bombing campaign. At the same time the prospect of being sucked into an unending ground war is deeply disturbing.

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