The Brexit trilemma

Nice analysis of this by Emily Jones and Calum Miller of the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford. Summary:

The country’s leaders need to accept that the primary objectives of Brexit are, and always have been, mutually incompatible. Sadly, their refusal to acknowledge this is indicative of the kind of leadership that led to the current impasse.

With the European Union’s latest extension of the United Kingdom’s membership in the bloc, onlookers around the world are right to wonder why the Brexit process has proved so intractable. The short answer is that the UK’s government and parliament are trying to achieve three incompatible goals: preserving the country’s territorial integrity, preventing the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and enabling the UK to strike its own trade deals.

The British are finally confronting the fact that only two of these objectives can be met at any one time. This implies that there are three basic scenarios for moving ahead with Brexit…

Worth reading in full.

Finally, a government takes on the tech companies

This morning’s Observer column:

On Monday last week, the government published its long-awaited white paper on online harms. It was launched at the British Library by the two cabinet ministers responsible for it – Jeremy Wright of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the home secretary, Sajid Javid. Wright was calm, modest and workmanlike in his introduction. Javid was, well, more macho. The social media companies had had their chances to put their houses in order. “They failed,” he declared. “I won’t let them fail again.” One couldn’t help feeling that he had one eye on the forthcoming hustings for the Tory leadership.

Nevertheless, this white paper is a significant document…

Read on

Skewed reporting of white vs Islamic ‘terrorism’

Interesting study of how mainstream media reports and categorises terrorist attacks.

Why does the media refuse to call white murderers terrorists? Why, instead, are these killers humanised and we, the reader, encouraged to feel for or relate to them? These questions have surfaced time and time again during the increasingly prevalent white-supremacist and far-right attacks of recent years. Both in terms of the language used, and the quantity of coverage, media treatment of differing forms of extremism is skewed. A Muslim can be expected to be immediately labelled a terrorist, whilst the media is hesitant to apply this term to white people. Research by the University of Alabama has shown that, between 2006 and 2015, terror attacks committed by Muslim extremists received 357% more US press coverage than those committed by non-Muslims, despite the fact that majority of domestic extremist killings in this period were linked to right-wing radicalism.

On March 15, a white supremacist committed the deadliest act of terrorism in New Zealand’s modern history. A shooter began attacking the Al Noor Mosque before continuing on to the Linwood Islamic Centre. 50 people were killed, and 50 others injured. The first of these attacks was streamed live on Facebook.

The media fallout and coverage of this event has been intense. In the two weeks after the attack there were over 200,000 pieces covering the shooting and its aftermath.

The Daily Mail and the Mirror described the shooter as “angelic” and a “little blond boy” respectively. Both have been criticised for doing so, but how pervasive is this type of language in the media?

The article reports on a statistical analysis of over 200,000 news items published in the two weeks following the Christchurch attack. These articles come from around 80 different languages. It compares these pieces to ones on recent Islamic extremist attacks and other recent far-right attacks. In particular, there is a focus as to what extent these attacks are linked to terrorism with the language used in them.

Key takeaways:

The media continues to use language unevenly when reporting on acts by white supremacists compared with Islamic extremists.

In over 200, 000 articles on 11 different attacks, Islamic extremists were labelled terrorists 78.4% of the time, whereas far-right extremists were only identified as terrorists 23.6% of the time.

Reporting on the Christchurch shooting is the exception that proves the rule for an attack by a white person, in how willing the media was to label the attacker a terrorist.

Quote of the day

”We erect a statue in our own image inside ourselves – idealised, you know, but still recognisable – and then spend our lives engaged in the effort to make ourselves into its likeness.”

Denis Diderot

Lessons of Brexit: a discussion

On March 29 I chaired an event at my college about the lessons we might learn from the Brexit experience. I was lucky to have four stellar panellists — Professors Kenneth Armstrong, Chris Grey, and Aoife O’Donoghue and Dr Julie Smith (Baroness Smith of Newnham). Here’s the video of the discussion.

Quote of the Day

“Benedict’s Law of Headlines: If an opinion piece uses ‘Artificial Intelligence’ instead of ‘machine learning’, you know in advance that its arguments will be weak.”

Benedict Evans.

Shooting yourself in the behind

Now here is something you could not make up:

The Netherlands’ Defense Safety Inspection Agency (Inspectie Veiligheid Defensie) is investigating an incident during a January military exercise in which a Dutch Air Force F-16 was damaged by live fire from a 20-millimeter cannon—its own 20-millimeter cannon. At least one round fired from the aircraft’s M61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun struck the aircraft as it fired at targets on the Dutch military’s Vliehors range on the island of Vlieland, according to a report from the Netherlands’ NOS news service.

Two F-16s were conducting firing exercises on January 21. It appears that the damaged aircraft actually caught up with the 20mm rounds it fired as it pulled out of its firing run. At least one of them struck the side of the F-16’s fuselage, and parts of a round were ingested by the aircraft’s engine. The F-16’s pilot managed to land the aircraft safely at Leeuwarden Air Base.

The incident reflects why guns on a high-performance jet are perhaps a less than ideal weapon. The Vulcan is capable of firing over 6,000 shots per minute, but its magazine carries only 511 rounds—just enough for five seconds of fury. The rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3,450 feet per second (1050 meters per second). That is speed boosted initially by the aircraft itself, but atmospheric drag slows the shells down eventually. And if a pilot accelerates and maneuvers in the wrong way after firing the cannon, the aircraft could be unexpectedly reunited with its recently departed rounds.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Quote of the Day

“If it’s your algorithm, it’s your responsibility. This is the only way that we can sort of sustain a world where we know who is responsible for what.”

Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner