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vs naipaul: his own person | arts & culture | books & essays | obituaries

the sad news of writer vs naipaul’s death, on 11 august, came to me while i was on holiday in my birthland of mauritius and the neighbouring french department island, réunion. it was a striking coincidence: i first came across naipaul when, as a young man, i read a long 1972 essay he wrote about mauritius, bearing the unflattering title the overcrowded barracoon. it was an unkind, critical essay, albeit about a mauritius that was a very different kind of nation then, just four years after it became independent from the british empire. in the essay, he follows the country’s first election, interviewing and mocking politicians who hollowly appropriated symbols of the us black-power movement – afro hair, black leather – yet supported t...




kofi annan: frontman for western meddling | human rights and international courts | obituaries

kofi annan, the former un secretary-general who died on saturday aged 80, did not take the usual route to international statecraft. he was born in ghana (then called the gold coast) in 1938 to an ashanti aristocratic family. he was never elected as a political leader in his own country or any other. after graduating with an international relations further degree in switzerland, he served in the world health organisation and later the united nations high commission for refugees. he became secretary-general in 1997.annan’s long march through the institutions of the un was respectable if unremarkable. but changes in the role of the un after the collapse of the soviet union helped his prospects. when the soviet union was one of the permanent m...




it’s now the us v turkey

erdogan himself is well aware of turkey’s postwar history as, largely, an ally of the west. in an op-ed for the new york times last week, he wrote of turkey’s six decades of close friendship with the us, of how, from the korean war in the 1950s to the war in afghanistan in the 2000s, turkish soldiers have ‘shed blood’ alongside their american brothers.and yet, despite all this, today we have a situation where the us, and by implication the west, is now at odds with turkey, which is still, remember, a nato member. and this is not all down to trump. he, in his own inimitable way, has certainly poured oil on the flames, by ramping up a trade war, and clearly damaging further turkey’s already struggling economy. but trump is merely con...




aretha franklin, voice of freedom | arts & culture | music | obituaries

her father was the hugely influential and charismatic detroit preacher cl franklin, and from the age of five aretha sang and played piano in his church, which in the 1960s was an important focal point of the civil-rights movement in detroit. it was this training that allowed aretha to so effortlessly harness gospel’s emotional power with songs like ‘do right woman, do right man’ and ‘(you make me feel like) a natural woman’.consequently, aretha’s musical innovation – soul music – opened the door to gospel-trained singers across america. some, like shirley brown, loleatta holloway, thelma houston and al green, enjoyed popular success. but there were literally thousands more, known an...




‘we can’t let the islamists win’ | free speech | religion and atheism

spiked: is there a racist double standard in the unwillingness of liberals and the left to criticise misogynistic practices like the burqa?qanta ahmed: no, there is actually a remarkable consistency. islamist thinking has exerted a great deal of influence on left-wing and liberal thinking and this is not confined to the debate on the veil. in western universities many left-wing groups coalesce with islamist ones. the same people will say it is okay for hamas to be digging tunnels into israel, setting fire to fields or sending in jihadists. you see it also in the rise of anti-semitism, which islamism has been an extremely potent vehicle for.on university campuses, the space to criticise islamist groups like hamas or the muslim brotherhood is ...




aretha franklin, voice of freedom | arts & culture | music | obituaries

her father was the hugely influential and charismatic detroit preacher cl franklin, and from the age of five aretha sang and played piano in his church, which in the 1960s was an important focal point of the civil-rights movement in detroit. it was this training that allowed aretha to so effortlessly harness gospel’s emotional power with songs like ‘do right woman, do right man’ and ‘(you make me feel like) a natural woman’.consequently, aretha’s musical innovation – soul music – opened the door to gospel-trained singers across america. some, like shirley brown, loleatta holloway, thelma houston and al green, enjoyed popular success. but there were literally thousands more, known an...




within touching distance of the sun | science and technology | space

scientists also hope to learn more about the mystery of the temperature within the sun’s corona, the outermost part of the sun’s own ‘atmosphere’. in theory, as one’s distance from the sun increases, you would expect temperatures to cool. but temperatures within the corona can reach into the millions of degrees celsius – a huge spike from the 6,000 degrees celsius found at the sun’s surface. parker will therefore have to withstand some high temperatures.so how close is parker actually going to get to the sun? at its closest point, the probe will get to within 3.85million miles of the sun’s surface. scientists say that this qualifies as touching distance. to put 3.85million miles into perspective, earth is almost 93million mil...




press freedom is too important to entrust to judges – or government | free speech | press freedom

the bbc’s alternative, however, seems almost as unpromising. instead of going back to court it now wants the government ‘to consider a review of the law in this important area, to protect the right to properly and fairly report criminal investigations, and to name the person under investigation’. it says there is ‘a fundamental principle at stake here and one upon which we believe parliament, as our lawmakers, should decide’.of course, getting the lawmakers of parliament to review privacy law looks preferable to leaving press freedom to the mercies of unelected judges. but in the current climate, few would bet on parliament passing any new law ‘to protect the right to properly and fairly report criminal investigations’ or anyth...




mark thomas: the fringe’s great storyteller

mark thomas’s new show, check up: our nhs at 70, offers an authoritative overview of the history of the nhs, and what he perceives to be its decline. the material for the show came from a range of interviews he did with medical professionals, time he spent shadowing various doctors, and an interview he conducted with a gp, who told him everything that could go wrong with his health before he dies. as ever, thomas mixes his polemical points into a highly entertaining, emotionally involving show.he has a fantastic knack for mixing personal moments with broader insights, using...




within touching distance of the sun | science and technology | space

scientists also hope to learn more about the mystery of the temperature within the sun’s corona, the outermost part of the sun’s own ‘atmosphere’. in theory, as one’s distance from the sun increases, you would expect temperatures to cool. but temperatures within the corona can reach into the millions of degrees celsius – a huge spike from the 6,000 degrees celsius found at the sun’s core. parker will therefore have to withstand some high temperatures.so how close is parker actually going to get to the sun? at its closest point, the probe will get to within 3.85million miles of the sun’s surface. scientists say that this qualifies as touching distance. to put 3.85million miles into perspective, earth is almost 93million miles ...




barcelona, one year on | europe | terrorism

these people’s violent misanthropy makes america’s white-nationalist movement look like a hippy outfit in comparison. a suspected hard-right fanatic killed one person at charlottesville, in a foul assault on life and liberty; extreme islamists have killed more than 450 people in europe in the past four years.and yet after barcelona, as is the case after every islamist attack, there was an awkward, shuffling silence in left and liberal circles. there was media coverage, of course. lots of it, as there should be. there were condemnations and offers of solidarity with barcelona. that was all good. but politics? anger? a demand that we recognise the gravity of the threat posed by radical islamists and get together to do something about it? c...




press freedom is too important to entrust to judges – or government | free speech | press freedom

the bbc’s alternative, however, seems almost as unpromising. instead of going back to court it now wants the government ‘to consider a review of the law in this important area, to protect the right to properly and fairly report criminal investigations, and to name the person under investigation’. it says there is ‘a fundamental principle at stake here and one upon which we believe parliament, as our lawmakers, should decide’.of course, getting the lawmakers of parliament to review privacy law looks preferable to leaving press freedom to the mercies of unelected judges. but in the current climate, few would bet on parliament passing any new law ‘to protect the right to properly and fairly report criminal investigations’ or anyth...




the terrible price of a ‘people’s vote’ | british politics | for europe, against the eu

the remainer elite is feeling excited. why? because it thinks it might finally have beaten down the democratic desires of ordinary people, especially the poorer, less educated ones. it is hopeful that its relentless fearmongering, its highly moneyed, deeply cynical campaign to depict brexit as the worst thing to happen to britain since the war, might finally be paying off. this is the truth behind the remainer elite’s wild cheering of a poll analysis that seems to reveal that more and more constituencies have shifted towards having remain majorities: it spies in this alleged shift an important victory for its campaign of delegitimising the democratic vote for brexit and sidelining the rough, ill-informed people responsible for that vote.of...




genoa: notes on a disaster | architecture and planning | for europe, against the eu | italy

the appalling tragedy of the morandi bridge, which collapsed on tuesday, 14 august 2018, is a disaster that is still under investigation. at the moment, there are reports of 40 lives lost, but not much is known about the causes or the wider consequences. i am loath to speculate about either, but there needs to be a wider conversation and not simply kneejerk demands for corporate manslaughter charges against the private bridge-operating company, autostrade per l’italia. heads will roll – deservedly so – but we must look at wider concerns about infrastructure, per se. (i caveat all of this by saying that pre-empting the ongoing investigation may reveal me to be wide of the mark.)firstly, the collapse was extraordinary. the bridge – bui...




why shouldn’t straight actors play gay characters? | arts & culture | film

who exactly are the media referring to when they refer to the lgbt community? two stories this week confirm that, usually, they just mean a few hysterical types on twitter. it has been reported that ‘the community’ is appalled by the casting of two actors in gay roles. the actors haven’t even learned their lines yet, but lgbt people are already supposedly ‘threatened’ and ‘upset’. first it was announced that british comedian jack whitehall will play a gay character in jungle cruise, an upcoming film from disney based on a theme-park ride. a source told the sun that whitehall would be playing a character ‘who is hugely effete, very camp and very funny’. cue outrage that a straight man would be cast to play a gay character. w...




johannes leak on the boris-burqa scandal

for permission to republish spiked ...




underground railroad game: extraordinary theatre

underground railroad game is an extraordinary piece of theatre playing at the traverse. devised and performed by jennifer kidwell and scott r sheppard, the show fearlessly, and often hilariously, explores the past and present of race relations in america. the show was originally produced by famed new york theatre company ars nova. it comes to edinburgh after an off-broadway run in which it won best new american theatre work at the obie awards. after edinburgh, it will have a run in london’s soho theatre. the play contrasts two teachers – one white, one black – who reenact scenes from the era of slavery for a middle-school class. there is nothing tokenistic or ...




why idris elba shouldn’t play james bond | arts & culture | film | race

james bond has embodied this facet of british self-image for the past 60 years, ever since sean connery saved the world from dr no in 1962, all the while charming the bikini-clad ursula andress. for many, connery still epitomises the bond archetype. he introduced the look, the gadgets, the cars, the theme tune, the martinis, the girls and the quips. it was bond against the exotic other, usually the russians or, even worse, a megalomaniacal villain, usually an unholy mix of deranged german and another, even weirder race. but bond made it to the present day. his more unpalatable qualities are still there, but over time have been discreetly moved off-screen. timothy dalton could slap ass in the living daylights (1987) through the suggestion of ...




where are all the white supremacists? | politics | race | us election 2016 | usa

the real reason for the lower-than-expected turnout is that the size and threat of the so-called alt-right has been vastly exaggerated. the number of white supremacists in the us is infinitesimally small. but their influence has been exaggerated largely as a consequence of donald trump’s election – both by trump himself and his critics. many figures in the alt-right viewed trump’s election as a victory for their cause and have heaped praise on the president. in his infinite narcissism, trump has largely been unwilling to challenge anyone who praises him. hence his infamous declaration following the charlottesville car attack, that there were ‘many bad people’ among the alt-right demonstrators, but also ‘very fine people on both s...




identity politics has conquered the westminster bubble | anti-semitism | british politics | religion and atheism

i could write an article questioning the wisdom of comparing someone who expresses dislike of a head-dress with someone who expresses hatred for the jews… but i will leave that assignment to a later date. what is more interesting right now – and also more disturbing – is the ease with which charges and counter-charges of racism have become the medium through which public discourse is conducted. politicians and media commentators seem irresistibly drawn towards trying to make sense of the world through the simplistic idiom of identity politics.identity politics continually feeds on itself. a few months ago, commentators were obsessed with sexual harassment in political parties. making mps resign over their alleged sexual misdemeanours b...