The politics of the fake orgasm

Magnificent essay by Fintan O’Toole:

In the days after the Brexit vote, a number of rueful commentators were drawn to WB Yeats’s lines from the apocalyptic poem The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

But this is to miss the point of our particular political moment in the Anglophone world. It may be true that the best lack conviction, but the second part of Yeats’s comparison emphatically does not apply. The worst are not full of passionate intensity; they are, to borrow from a different Yeats poem, just a pretty bellows full of faux-angry wind. They have no serious intention – no plan and no means – of doing the things they say they will do.

Great stuff. Well worth reading in full. As is Kipling’s poem about phoney statesmen.

Lest we forget

While the calling of the Referendum can be laid at the door of two people, Nigel Farage and David Cameron, the catastrophe of the Brexit majority is really the work of one man — Boris Johnson. The best articulation of this salutary truth that I’ve seen is Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian piece. It’s worth reading in full, but here’s the key bit:

This week’s antics of Gove and Johnson are a useful reminder. For the way one has treated the other is the way both have treated the country. Some may be tempted to turn Johnson into an object of sympathy – poor Boris, knifed by his pal – but he deserves none. In seven days he has been exposed as an egomaniac whose vanity and ambition was so great he was prepared to lead his country on a path he knew led to disaster, so long as it fed his own appetite for status.

He didn’t believe a word of his own rhetoric, we know that now. His face last Friday morning, ashen with the terror of victory, proved it. That hot mess of a column he served up on Monday confirmed it again: he was trying to back out of the very decision he’d persuaded the country to make. And let’s not be coy: persuade it, he did. Imagine the Leave campaign without him. Gove, Nigel Farage and Gisela Stuart: they couldn’t have done it without the star power of Boris.

He knew it was best for Britain to remain in the EU. But it served his ambition to argue otherwise. We just weren’t meant to fall for it. Once we had, he panicked, vanishing during a weekend of national crisis before hiding from parliament. He lit the spark then ran away – petrified at the blaze he started.

Now Gove loses his marbles

What is wrong with these people? I don’t know Michael Gove, but when he was Education Secretary and we were campaigning for a change in the GCSE ICT curriculum he was courteous and appeared rational, or at any rate cerebral. But according to this report he has today been comparing the economists who think that leaving the EU would be a mistake for Britain to the Nazi-recruited scientists who challenged Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Justice Secretary made the historical comparison to Einstein after being asked why voters should not listen to the economic organisations warning about the impact of an Out vote.

“I think the key thing here is to interrogate the assumptions that are made and to ask if these arguments are good,” Mr Gove said during an interview with LBC Radio.

“We have to be careful about historical comparisons, but Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish. They got 100 German scientists in the pay of the government to say that he was wrong and Einstein said ‘Look, if I was wrong, one would have been enough.’”

Hmmm… Time for a lie-down in a darkened room, methinks.

What the butler saw

So it begins. As the media establishment wakes up to the realisation that this Trump nonsense might really be serious, so its organs begin to burnish the clown’s image. First up is this NYT piece about the property that will be “the Western White House” if Trump were elected President. It’s a three-sickbag piece, so be warned. Sample:

“You can always tell when the king is here,” Mr. Trump’s longtime butler here, Anthony Senecal, said of the master of the house and Republican presidential candidate.

The king was returning that day to his Versailles, a 118-room snowbird’s paradise that will become a winter White House if he is elected president. Mar-a-Lago is where Mr. Trump comes to escape, entertain and luxuriate in a Mediterranean-style manse, built 90 years ago by the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Few people here can anticipate Mr. Trump’s demands and desires better than Mr. Senecal, 74, who has worked at the property for nearly 60 years, and for Mr. Trump for nearly 30 of them.

He understands Mr. Trump’s sleeping patterns and how he likes his steak (“It would rock on the plate, it was so well done”), and how Mr. Trump insists — despite the hair salon on the premises — on doing his own hair.

And so on, seemingly ad infinitum.

And the headline over this farrago? “A King in His Castle: How Donald Trump Lives, From His Longtime Butler”.

No matter what you get up to in bed, there’s an app for it. Apparently.

This morning’s Observer column about the obsession with ‘datifying’ our bodies.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are obsessed with the datafication of their bodies and those who are not. I belong to the latter category: the only thing that interests me about my heart is that it is still beating. And when it isn’t I shall be past caring. But if the current craze for wearable devices such as fitness trackers is anything to go by, I may soon find myself a member of a despised minority, rather like cigarette smokers, whisky drinkers and followers of David Icke…

Read on

The myopia of technological determinism

Farhad Manjoo is one of the most thoughtful tech commentators around. But sometimes even he loses it. For example:

Silicon Valley luminaries are easily mocked as having a precious, narrow take on the world. People in the tech industry can’t see past themselves, critics often charge; they act as if the products they build sit at the center of everything.

But this year, the techies were right: Technology did rule many issues in 2015…

First, to understand the problem, consider the year’s headlines. From terrorism to protests over police abuse, from the scandal at Volkswagen to global tensions over energy and the climate, technology was central to just about every major news story that came across the wire.

Eh? “Just about every major news story that came across the wire”. What has this guy been smoking? Or has he just spent too much time in the Valley’s solipsistic world?

Here’s a few things he seems to have missed: the global refugee crisis; the civil war in Ukraine — and Russia’s role in it; the Eurozone crisis; the French regional elections; the Trump phenomenon; the British general election (and the subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn); the thaw in US-Cuba relations; the continued rise of ISIS; the Paris massacre…

Apart from ISIS, tech is nowhere to be found in these stories.

I like Mr Manjoo’s stuff. But really he ought to get out more.