Category: Society

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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Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI

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 […]

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From the archive: Katter talks through his hat about same-sex marriage

From the archive: Katter talks through his hat about same-sex marriage

This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 23, 2011. * Of all the stupid and spiteful things said at last week’s rally against same-sex marriage, one of the dumbest, and indeed most clarifying, fell from the lips of Bob Katter. Quoting from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock – ‘Belinda smiled, and all the […]

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A review of Meanjin (Vol 75, No 2)

A review of Meanjin (Vol 75, No 2)

The new issue of Meanjin arrives under a winter cloud. In a ‘note on funding’ placed next to his editorial, Jonathan Green announces that from 2017 the magazine will no longer receive financial support from the Australia Council, its application for four years of funding having been rejected in the last round of allocation decisions. Green expresses a hope that […]

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