Review – A Line in the River: Khartoum, City of Memory by Jamal Mahjoub
Home does strange things to us. There’s an entire sub-genre of autobiographical writing to attest to that. But for Jamal Mahjoub, a novelist whose life has been nothing if not international, home is less than fixed, and therefore difficult to pin down, let alone document. Continue reading →
For some people, these islands seem just too small to satisfy their ambitions. Not content with Britain, many want to be known around the world; they want to be famous in a new and different way. Continue reading →
Television is in bad shape. Facing competition from video games, social media and online streaming services – all of which seek to overturn its long-established dominance – TV faces the toughest commercial challenges in its history. And those voices that criticise television for being too low-brow, for being, in their view, an entirely unintellectual form of entertainment, have never gone away. Historical television is a frequent target for those critics, who say history on TV (when it is produced at all) is often represented by nothing more than a collection of platitudes read over an emotive soundtrack and embarrassing reconstructions of dubious accuracy. Continue reading →
RT, formerly Russia Today, the state-funded broadcasting arm of that expansionist European nation, has recently launched a British subsidiary. If the thought of Putin’s own propaganda operation descending upon our media landscape does not give you a small frisson of trepidation, you’re probably part of its target demographic. Continue reading →
Review – Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
For a generation such as mine, which attained political consciousness after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet system in the last century, it can sometimes seem strange that the iron fist of dictatorship persists in this era. New technologies have made speech, dissent and discourse practical possibilities for many in nations previously in thrall to tyranny. Satire and dark humour thrive in the shadow of oppression and even horror – much can be made funny even when contemplating the rise and expansion of Islamic State, for example – and dictators are, or so we believe, ever fearful of the destructive power of a joke.
Occasionally, however, we must update our perceptions. Russia has seen the creation of a postmodern dictatorship, one which uses the tricks and pitfalls of new media – the unpleasantness, the clamour, the tendency among many to eschew authority in pursuit of the “real story” – to advance its stranglehold at home and to proliferate its propaganda abroad. Continue reading →