On Monday night we learned the sad news that Otto Warmbier, an American student who had been detained in North Korea since 2016 for allegedly (I am very sceptical) stealing a propaganda poster, has died, only a week after he was returned to his family in a vegetative state.
God only knows what happened to Otto whilst he was held captive. According to the US government’s Human Rights website, “starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, forced abortion, and infanticide are commonplace” in North Korean prison camps. These claims are supported by research undertaken by Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International, who have also reported inmate’s being forced to eat wild rats and frogs to survive. Read More…
It is common knowlege that the true measure of an artwork’s greatness is how it stands the test of time. The Civilisation documentary series, produced by the BBC in 1969 and presented by the late art historian Kenneth Clark, has certainly done so.
It is down to Clark’s excellent editorial judgment that a series with the rather grand task of curating the most iconic and influential creations of western civilisation never seems over the top. This is because Clark does not gush or sentimentalise; he seems to possess a sharp sense of realism; and he often steps back and simply lets the art speak for itself. Read More…
Megan Phelps, a former member of the incredibly divisive Westboro Baptist Church has given an inspiring TED talk on why and how she left the church – of which she was one of the most zealous and committed members.
Her decision to leave the WBC was not a Damascene conversion. It was part of a long process of engaging with people who opposed her on social media. Often they did so with anger or bemused disdain, but, occasionally, she would encounter individuals who would argue with her civilly. It was these discussions that began to slowly chip away at her harsh worldview, eventually causing it to collapse.
The story of Megan Phelps is a powerful illustration of just how important it is to listen and speak to those with whom you disagree. Especially in these polarised times where people too easily dismiss perspectives they don’t like.
On the Imagine Athena podcast I had the great pleasure of speaking to the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, one of my go-to writers and thinkers.
We discussed how simplistic moral narratives are used in political discourse to conceal harder, more complex truths about the world.
Did Britain really attain the victory it set out to in WW2? Is Britain’s relationship with the US a lot more adversarial than the two countries like to admit? And can Trump really make America great again?
The two books he mentions in the podcast are The Deluge by Adam Tooze and The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan