Category: Society

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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Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid

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 […]

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On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

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 […]

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Social Murder: On the Grenfell Tower Fire

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 […]

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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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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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Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive

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, […]

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