When, four years ago and at the age of fifteen, Shamima Begum first left her family and her country to join a group of religiously-inspired murderers in the Levant, I doubt she expected that her future life would include so many TV interviews. Continue reading
In France, the release of Serotonin, the latest novel by Michel Houellebecq, attracted the sales and comment his work usually receives. Around the same time, France’s former infant terrible was awarded the légion d’honneur. The author, popularly held to be brutal, unromantic, also married Qianyum Lysis Li late last year. In the pictures, Houellebecq was dressed strangely, but looked happy. His new book is, so far, unavailable in English. Continue reading
If Britain’s media culture can be thought of, in abstract, as Victor Frankenstein, Katie Hopkins thinks of herself as its monster. She is proud of the phrase but likely not of some of its implications. Hopkins wanted absolution from blame, painting herself almost as a Newtonian reaction. This is unsustainable. But she is a little like Shelley’s monster in another, different way. Cobbled together from other people’s opinions as much as the character was made of other people, Hopkins’ media profile is nonetheless unique – its animating influence the worst aspects of her character. Continue reading
‘Public history’ is something of a misnomer. The degree to which history which can influence policy is ‘public’ is a difficult question. E. H. Carr writes in his What Is History? that, when he was working in a junior capacity at the Paris peace conference in 1919, all the diplomats and their staffs took extra care to empty their wastepaper baskets. They were thinking of the discussions surrounding the peace treaty after Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, and the history they used to inform their actions was a titbit of information about that time: that nefarious negotiators spied on their opposite numbers’ plans by going through their waste paper. Carr uses this to illustrate the fallacy of thinking one can ultimately ‘learn from history’ in a way which is total and all-encompassing. Each moment in time presents new and unique challenges. One cannot rely simply on knowing the past to know the present, or indeed to predict the future. Continue reading
When Osama bin Laden was found by the special forces of the United States and met his end, there was surprising attention paid to this bookshelf. First, and understandably, the volumes present were the subject of understandable interest. That bin Laden appeared to like the books of Noam Chomsky, at least enough to include them in his collection, elicited a little amusement. Continue reading
Adieu, then, to the Weekly Standard, which is to close. Continue reading
After legal and political drama seemingly spanning years, a final move has been made in Hungry, as the Central European University (CEU) prepares to leave the country.
The university has been under threat for a while, actively targeted by the government of Viktor Orban, including the recent passage of a law designed to make the operation of foreign-run universities a more bureaucratically challenging enterprise. Continue reading