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The dangerous fantasies of defensive elites

My fascination with the technological fantasies of billionaires might seem like a peculiarly nerdy version of a familiar preoccupation with the super rich. However as Yuval Noah Harari observes on loc 3304 of Homo Deus, the dreams of technological salvation which the rich and powerful invest themselves in have important […]

Post-Truth as Personal Incapacity

The evidence would suggest I’m not alone in being somewhat gripped by Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury. One of the central themes of the book is how no one, including the candidate himself, expected Trump would win and what we have seen since then has been a rapid […]

The global fourth estate

In his recently released book Collusion, Luke Harding briefly discusses the media cooperation taking place behind the scenes, as media organisations grappled with a rapidly changing landscape. On loc 898 he writes: At the Guardian we were pursuing leads from both sides of the Atlantic. Among them, how UK spy agencies […]

How to trash the political rulebook

A fascinating insight from Steve Howell, deputy to Seumas Milne, concerning how to kick back against the ‘political rulebook’ beloved of the centrists: In his interview, Howell, who is writing a book called How the Lights Get In – Inside Corbyn’s Election machine, also described how the team around the leader faced […]

What Happened? The end of modernisation

In the last few days, I’ve been reading Hilary Clinton’s What Happened and reflecting on it as an expression of a political centrism which I suspect is coming to an end. These self-defined ‘modernisers’ sought to adapt their respective political parties to what they saw as a new reality, necessitating […]

The notion of a ‘playbook’

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself using the term ‘playbook’ in a number of contexts. It’s typically defined as “a book containing a sports team’s strategies and plays, especially in American football” but I’m not quite sure where I picked up the phrase from as someone who hasn’t […]

Public Intellectuals and the Shock Doctrine

In the last year, I’ve been preoccupied by the relationship between periods of political flux and public intellectualism. These aren’t longer term processes, in which the coordinates of an established consensus begin to disintegrate, but rather short term periods of intense public confusion e.g. the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote or […]

Brand Corbyn and Brand Trump

What do Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have in common? On the face of it, two people could not be more dissimilar but I’m curious about what might be their analogous position in relation to mainstream political culture. After all, in a sense Corbyn came from outside party politics, albeit not in […]

A playbook for merchandising doubt

I’m currently reading Merchants of Doubt, a fascinating study of the tobacco industry’s deployment of academic experts to cast doubt on the harm caused by cigarettes. Being in the mood to read the book in an ultra-cynical way, here’s my playbook for merchandising doubt, derived from reading these cases through the […]

The disruptive presidency of Donald Trump

One of the more irritating framings of Donald Trump’s rise to power has been to stress his ‘disruptive’ credentials*. Such accounts often focus on the role of Jared Kushner, who has been granted a dizzying array of responsibilities in the Trump Whitehouse, prompting Gary Sernovitz to observe the overlap with recent […]

Against the ‘political rulebook’

Much of the reaction to Labour’s election success last week has been framed in terms of their ‘rewriting the rules’. One particularly explicit example of this can be seen in an article by Jonathan Freedland, an enthusiastic critic of Corbyn, pontificating that Corbyn took “the traditional political rulebook” and “put […]