Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sympathy for the Devil

History is not meant to be an emotional tutorial. It is not, I think, supposed to instruct us exactly how to live. The past may not be a foreign country, but it is certainly remote, distant from us in our current age. The lessons of history are over-rated, and in any case, if not for teaching us the nature of life, what are novels and poetry for? Continue reading

John Aubrey and Prose Style

In the course of reviewing Ruth Scurr’s marvellous first-person biography of John Aubrey (John Aubrey: My Own Life, which is without doubt available in all fine bookstores), I picked up and read a rather pleasing edition of his Brief Lives. Unlike Suetonius, for example, Aubrey is not gossipy in a way modern readers would recognise; in fact, he is not a gossip at all. He has stories which are almost as salacious as those collected by the Roman – though it must be noted that his appraisals of eminent figures do not tend as much towards the grotesque – but in many ways that was not the point. Continue reading

Palmyra and Propaganda

In Syria at the moment, nothing is as simple as it initially seems. There are always complicating factors, overlooked actors and unforeseen consequences with which to contend. Especially when considering the propaganda output of the Assad regime, it is best to treat everything said with a great degree of caution. This is especially true when considering the sort of stories the regime may promote in order to capture the world’s attention or otherwise appeal to western perspectives. Continue reading

Online Media and the New Boredom

We’re all bored, we’re all so tired of everything
We wait for trains that just aren’t coming
We show off our different scarlet letters –
Trust me, mine is better

Taylor Swift, “New Romantics”

We are all bored. Well, not exactly all of us – but boredom is everywhere; being bored, which, so our mothers told us, used to mean that we ourselves were boring, seems to be more ubiquitous, more pervasive, than ever. Continue reading

The Panama Papers and Hypocrisy

The mass data leak which has been christened the Panama Papers is one of the largest in history. It contains enormous amounts of information, much of which concerns the financial arrangements of powerful and famous people. Many of them are politicians, even national leaders. The response in the press, and from the publics of many countries, has been correspondingly outsized. Continue reading

The EU Referendum Could Become a Rallying Point for the Nastiest Impulses in British Politics

With the PR battle over Britain’s EU membership hotting up, it is a dispiriting thought to remember that the official campaigning period has not even begun.

As a country we are in for yet more of the seemingly endless, vituperative debate surrounding Europe; and some of what has been said already touches on certain subjects in a worrying manner.

There is a distinct possibility of the EU referendum campaign giving an airing to some of the nastier debates and perspectives within the British body politic, including borderline racist sentiments. Continue reading

A European View of America’s Elections

The election of America’s next president will have vast global effects. This is inevitable, due both to the United States’ pre-eminence and the nature of globalised economics, and means that the current tangle of primaries and caucuses to decide the parties’ nominees is watched with great attention around the world. Continue reading