Those Who Criticised Otto Warmbier’s “Privilege” Should Be Ashamed of Themselves

 

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…

Civilisation Is Good Because It Is Optimistic About Our Past

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…

We Need A Cultural Shift If We Are To Prevail In The War Against Terror

Like so many of us I have been trying for the past few days to gather my thoughts and reflections about the events in Manchester. As a political writer, the Jihadist onslaught against Western civil society over the past few years, drains the creative energy from me, replaced by anger and sorrow. I run out of new things to say about a phenomenon which is now increasingly commonplace, normalised even by some estimations. I run out of adjectives to describe the attacks and the terrorists responsible: horrifying, brutal, sadistic, evil. The English language has its limits.

That being said, something does seem to have shifted in this case. I feel a little queasy even suggesting that, as if our society didn’t get the memo a decade ago, or after one of the numerous attacks since. In just over a month, it will be twelve years to the day since the 7/7 attacks in London. Since then, the only respites we have enjoyed from the cancer of Jihadism have been granted by our security services, whose work in general has been highly praiseworthy, stopping attacks before they happen.

But still we fail. Our leaders fail us in their empty platitudes. We fail to assert the virtue of our civilisation and our corollary duty to prevail. We fail to have honest conversations about the root of the problem. We fail in our creeping normalisation of terror. Read More…

Only White People Can Be Racist? Don’t Be Absurd

As the culture war rages unabated, a war of attrition draining the mental and emotional energy of all decent sensible people with internet connections and social media accounts, we are seeing a doubling down of the most vicious and socially destructive forms of identity politics. Race, gender, sexual orientation; valid topics of discussion, to be sure, but the positions of identitarians on all sides of the political spectrum make reasonable conversation impossible by making every form of identity a zero-sum game: intersectionality on one side, bigotry on the other, no matter what the complexities of one’s views. Read More…

In These Polarised Times It Is Important To Hear The Other Side

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.

 

Theresa and Trump Are Gambling With The Support Of Their Bases

As a natural optimist, I sometimes wonder if it is wiser to be more pessimistic. Especially when it comes to politics.

Though, I am still not sure whether that means expecting that anything bad could happen or that few good things can.

One lesson I have learned well is not to put too much faith in the promises of politicians. Anyone who does will be disappointed, as they are bound to break them. Read More…