• Stuck in the Middle with EU? Centrism in the UK and Beyond

    When the writer Paul Mason was booked to appear at the annual conference of Progress earlier this year, he was more or less assured a rough reception. Progress, after all, is a Blairite “ginger group” within the British Labour Party – formed in 1996, one year before their boy won power – and Mason the quasi-Marxist author of the excellent […]

    Stuck in the Middle with EU? Centrism in the UK and Beyond
  • True Colours: Identity, Class and Rightwing Populism

    Of all the flags seen at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month – the Gadsden, the Confederate, the National Socialist – none so caught the media’s attention as the one raised in its immediate aftermath. Responding to the far-right rally, and to the atrocity committed by one of the protestors, the Cheeto Jesus equivocated. There […]

    True Colours: Identity, Class and Rightwing Populism
  • Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid

    I’ll say one thing for the Cheeto Jesus: he’s done wonders for the journalistic trade in specious literary comparisons. In the year or so since Donald Trump became the GOP’s presidential nominee, I must have read hundreds of articles comparing his rise and behaviour in office to dystopias and alternative histories such as Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, Philip […]

    Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid
  • On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

    Roger Scruton and Terry Eagleton aren’t natural bedfellows. As a conservative philosopher in the Burkean mould, Scruton tends to regard the past as a country from which we have strayed too far, while the Marxist Eagleton looks forward to a world that has broken free from oppression and exploitation. But while certain fundamental differences emerge from a reading of these […]

    On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?
  • Social Murder: On the Grenfell Tower Fire

    The British have always been wary of modern architecture, the British upper crust especially so. From the Prince of Wales and his “monstrous carbuncles” to Sir John Betjeman and his iambic fantasies about “heavy bombs” raining down on Slough, a deep suspicion of architectural modernism would appear to be the default position of the bluebloods and their literary hangers-on. The […]

    Social Murder: On the Grenfell Tower Fire
  • Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive

    A question for ideology wonks: what do the following books have in common, apart from the fact that they’re all related to the issue of freedom of speech and expression? On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence, by Frank Furedi; Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?, by Mick Hume; A Duty to Offend: Selected Essays, […]

    Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive
  • Bad Hombres: Three New Books on Populism

    So, it’s happened. Donald J. Trump, the guy hardly anyone thought could win the Republican nomination, and, having won the Republican nomination, hardly anyone thought could become US President, is US President. It still doesn’t feel entirely real, and the sense that we’re living in an alternative present, a counterfactual come to life – more Back to the Future Part […]

    Bad Hombres: Three New Books on Populism
  • Meanwhile, in Europe … Wilders, Le Pen and Illiberal Liberalism

    Not much fun is it – the age of Trump? The walls, the calls, the travel bans – it’s all too much to process, don’t you find? Alec Baldwin does his best to cheer us up, but this shit is about as funny as an orphanage on fire. Some mornings I can’t get out of bed. My hair is coming […]

    Meanwhile, in Europe … Wilders, Le Pen and Illiberal Liberalism
  • Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI

    Ah, Finland! Land of saunas and heavy metal bands. Of unpronounceable nouns and the freedom to roam. Of Santa Clause and archipelagos. Of clean air, clean skin, and clean criminal records … And, now, of the world’s latest experiment in Universal Basic Income, which a whole array of public figures, from Elon Musk to Yanis Varoufakis, agrees is A Bloody […]

    Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI
  • The Dialectics of Truthiness

    So, ‘post-truth’ has entered the lexicon. And not just via the boffins at the Oxford English Dictionary, who have made it their word of the year for 2016, but also via our own Prime Minister, who this week dismissed Bill Shorten’s attempts to elicit some answers about the Bell Group affair and Senator George Brandis’ role in it as ‘the […]

    The Dialectics of Truthiness
 

OTHER RECENT POSTS

Three Books on Democracy

Three Books on Democracy

A review of: A. C. Grayling, Democracy and Its Crisis (Oneworld Books) Richard Walsh, Reboot: A Democracy Makeover to Empower Australia’s Voters (MUP) Steve Richards, The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way (Atlantic Books)   In his 1984 book The Fall of Rome German historian Alexander Demandt lists all the reasons ever proffered for the decline […]

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Framing the Debate: On the Same-Sex Marriage ‘Vote’

Framing the Debate: On the Same-Sex Marriage ‘Vote’

First published in New Matilda, here. * Well, it’s happened. Australia is united. It’s only taken 230 years, and it may not last beyond September, but for now a kind of consensus reins. Everyone, it seems, from the hairiest leftist to the drippiest liberal to the hoariest Tory, agrees that the same-sex marriage survey is a crock. A laughingstock. A […]

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Where We Live: On Ian Strange’s ISLAND

Where We Live: On Ian Strange’s ISLAND

Raised in Perth and based in New York, the multidisciplinary artist Ian Strange is, like all migrants, a stranger in two lands. No doubt it is partly for this reason that he is so fascinated by the idea of home, its promise of stability but essential vulnerability. Home, and in particular the house, is for him an ambiguous symbol, a […]

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Byte Back: On Two New Books About the Internet

Byte Back: On Two New Books About the Internet

At what point, I sometimes wonder, did Google’s motto ‘Don’t Be Evil’ become a standing joke? Was it when the multinational started monetising the information collected on its users? Or was it when it decided to avoid paying taxes? Surely it can’t have been as late as 2009, when it gave the US National Security Agency direct access to its […]

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The Empathy Trap: Progressives and the Perils of Compassion

The Empathy Trap: Progressives and the Perils of Compassion

It’s the first week of winter here in Australia. Time to move the herbs to a sunnier spot; to fetch the heater up from the shed; to throw an extra blanket on the bed … And, of course, to dig out the jackets and jumpers from the walk-in robe, and stow the colourful summer gear: the sarongs, the short-sleeved shirts, […]

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A Generation for Itself? Millennials and the New Old Left

A Generation for Itself? Millennials and the New Old Left

I wonder, do you believe that children are our future? I do. In fact, I often catch myself thinking how important it is to teach them well, and indeed to let them lead the way. Hell, some days I even resolve to show them all the beauty they possess inside – you know, give them a sense of pride, to […]

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Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Most writers on utopia tend to take a ‘two cheers’ approach to the subject. Utopias are all well in theory, it is said, but attempts to put them into practice are bound to end in disaster. The political experiments of the twentieth century tell us all we need to know: utopias should be regarded, not as serious political interventions, but […]

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Political Correctness Gone Sad: On Trigger Warnings and the Appropriation of Trauma

Political Correctness Gone Sad: On Trigger Warnings and the Appropriation of Trauma

Good news for US exports this month. Australia, my adoptive country, has also adopted the trigger warning. Taking its lead from US campuses, Melbourne’s Monash University has obliged its academic staff to review their course materials with the aim of identifying content that may be “emotionally confronting” for students, and is set to attach fifteen advisory statements to subjects dealing […]

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Wolf-Whistle Politics and the Conservative ‘Case’ Against 18c

Wolf-Whistle Politics and the Conservative ‘Case’ Against 18c

If, like me, you’ve been following those who’ve been following the latest thrilling instalment of the free speech wars in the past few weeks you’ll have noticed a certain consensus forming among the Canberra commentariat. Applying its fingers to the nation’s pulse and studying the transcripts of her many summer barbecues (the barbecue being to public sentiment what the Olympic-size […]

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A Watermelon and Proud of It? On Richard Di Natale’s Press Club Speech

A Watermelon and Proud of It? On Richard Di Natale’s Press Club Speech

When Richard Di Natale became the leader of the Greens in 2015, he set about painting himself as a pragmatist, as someone in politics to Get Things Done. Perhaps sensing that the Greens are often viewed as unworldly, as political naïfs, he set out a new vision of the party as the voice of principled compromise. ‘I am not an […]

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