All posts filed under: Top Stories

Yukio Mishima: Japan’s Cultural Martyr

The enthusiasm with which the people of Japan recently celebrated the enthronement of their new emperor, Naruhito, indicates the extent to which Japan has regained confidence in its imperial institution. Not coincidentally, in recent years Japan has also seen a resurgence in the reputation of Yukio Mishima (1925–1970), the writer and activist who most forcefully asserted the cultural importance of Japan’s emperor system at a time when it was considered inflammatory to do so. Though he remains controversial, not least for his notorious samurai-style suicide, Mishima is finally receiving the serious critical consideration he deserves. Mishima was a formidable presence in Japan’s cultural scene in the years following the nation’s catastrophic defeat in World War II. Immensely prolific, he produced hundreds of works in almost every genre. His novels Confessions of a Mask (1948) and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956) were among the first works of modern Japanese fiction to win an international readership. As a playwright, Mishima achieved success with his modern adaptations of plays from the classical Noh repertoire and his …

Mark Zuckerberg and the Changing Civil Rights Movement

On October 17, 2019, defending Facebook’s generally hands-off policy with respect to regulating the content of political advertisements, CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the podium at Georgetown University and delivered an eloquent defense of free expression. In his address, he linked speech to the historic pursuit of justice for the powerless, and made reference to his experience as a student immediately following the invasion of Iraq. This fed his later conviction that open forums for discourse are essential to the advocacy of political causes: Back then, I was building an early version of Facebook for my community, and I got to see my beliefs play out at smaller scale. When students got to express who they were and what mattered to them, they organized more social events, started more businesses, and even challenged some established ways of doing things on campus. It taught me that while the world’s attention focuses on major events and institutions, the bigger story is that most progress in our lives comes from regular people having more of a voice. This …

The Jewish Dilemma

Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid. It is hard to be a Jew. ~Sholem Aleichem When Britain’s Jews go to the polls next week, they do so at an uncomfortable moment. For the first time in at least a half century, their community—roughly 330,000 citizens—has become a major, if unwelcome, political issue. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, and a fierce opponent of Israel’s right to exist, so the prospect of him becoming Prime Minister has made Jews nervous. As the New York Times suggests, British Jews are “Labourites practically by birth,” but many of them are likely to vote Conservative this time around. The dilemma British Jews face is an increasingly common one across Europe. Britain’s Jews may not much like Boris Johnson, as they opposed Brexit by a factor of two-to-one, but many, in the words of the former Chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, see the prospect of Corbyn’s election as “an existential crisis.” Polls suggest that just six percent of UK Jews …

The Availability Heuristic and Mass Shooting Fears

Fear of mass shootings is becoming a source of pervasive anxiety for an increasing number of people in the United States. A recent APA survey of American adults found that 79 percent of respondents reported experiencing stress because of the possibility of a mass shooting; a third of the sample even said that this fear held them back from going to certain places and attending events. This widespread anxiety is starkly out of step with the level of risk presented by these events, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss it. It’s easy to cite statistics about the number of people who die in mass shootings each year (372 in 2018 according to the Gun Violence Archive) and to reassure people that their actual risk of falling victim to a mass shooting is exceedingly low, yet, on its own, this sort of thinking does little to assuage fears. But why? Why doesn’t focusing on the numbers alleviate fear? And why are people so frightened of an event that poses such a minor overall risk? Part of the answer to these …

Corbynite Economics

A review of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation by Grace Blakeley, Repeater Books (September 2019) 300 pages. It is tempting for Jeremy Corbyn’s critics to write off his electoral promises as bribes—a last-ditch attempt from the most unpopular major party leader in memory to buy his way to victory. There’s some truth to this when it comes to pledged levels of public spending. But Corbynism is not an opportunistic ideology. He and the people around him have a set of beliefs about the economy that they take very seriously, and it’s worth trying to understand them. Stolen: How To Save The World From Financialisation, by New Statesman columnist and socialist campaigner Grace Blakeley, is one of the more serious attempts to set out a version of Corbynism (compared to, say, Aaron Bastani’s buffoonish Fully Automated Luxury Communism). Blakeley, who recently tweeted that reading the Labour manifesto had moved her to tears, has tried to put modern leftism in a post-financial crisis context. Her book hopes to explain why she believes the crisis …

Equal Pay for Unequal Work—A Symptom of Prosperity

On Monday, 4 November 2019, Australian media outlets announced a historic deal brokered between the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and the Professional Footballers Association after a year of negotiations. This new arrangement will see the Matildas (the Australian women’s soccer team) and the Socceroos (the Australian men’s soccer team) evenly splitting the sport’s commercial revenue, rather than each team receiving a cut of their own generated revenue. This follows a number of other nations arranging similar collective bargaining agreements. This change has been described as a major win for women’s sport, but detractors have been quick to point out some logical and ethical inconsistencies. Chief among these is the Matildas’ highly publicised 7-0 loss to a team of teenage boys from Newcastle in 2016 which raised questions about the standards of Australian women’s soccer. At that time, goalkeepers Melissa Barbieri and Mark Bosnich engaged in an online exchange, during which Barbieri argued it was not the intention of female soccer players to be paid the same as their male counterparts. facts continued: we don't …

What Would It Take to Run a 1:50 Marathon?

For the past five years, I have participated in workshops and symposia dedicated to the optimization of human performance. What follows is a transcript of a fictional speech on the subject, which I’ve chosen to imagine as the 12th annual Victor Conte, Jr. Memorial Lecture, as presented to the 2091 instalment of The Society for Human Performance Enhancement annual meeting. The presenter is my imaginary granddaughter, Dr. Mikaela Joyner. * * * Last year, a signal event in the field of human-performance enhancement occurred when Alberto Lanza-Fuerte of Bolivia broke the 1-hour-and-50 minute marathon barrier. The achievement marked a vindication of the prediction offered in the 1960s by American runner Leonard “Buddy” Edelen, who believed that someday a 1:50 marathon might be possible. It also provides a fitting backdrop for the Conte Lecture, because many facets of the performance-enhancement landscape created by Mr. Conte contributed to this achievement. Before I delve into what made a sub-1:50 marathon possible, let me offer a few words about Mr. Conte. Victor Conte Jr. was a junior-college-educated musician-turned-nutrition-entrepreneur who …

YouTube Censored My Interview With Posie Parker

One of the crucial debates in the modern online space in recent years has been about the limits of permitted speech. While the First Amendment protects the rights of Americans to speak their mind, those of us living in Europe and much of the rest of the world are increasingly subjected to restrictions on what we are and aren’t allowed to say. In 2016, the British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for saying the “wrong” thing on social media. A recent example of this style of policing is the ex-cop who was told by the police that he needed to “check his thinking” after he retweeted an offensive limerick. He has brought a case against the police and has launched a crowdfunder to pay his costs. Traditionally, “hate speech” has been understood to mean words aimed at stirring hatred and violence towards members of various protected groups. But today hate speech means whatever tech giants want it to mean. Earlier this year, Francis Foster and I interviewed transgender TV presenter India Willoughby about life …

The Case Against Galileo: A Book Excerpt

Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican was published in Florence in February, 1632. It was well received in scientific circles. But a number of rumors and complaints began emerging and circulating among clergymen and officials, especially in Rome. The most serious complaint was that the book violated a precept issued by the Inquisition to Galileo in 1616; this was the special injunction to stop holding, defending or teaching the Earth’s motion in any way whatever. The Inquisition proceedings contain a notary memorandum dated February 26, 1616, which reads like a report of what happened on that day to implement the orders of Pope Paul V from the Inquisition meeting on the previous day. The document states that, first, Cardinal Bellarmine gave Galileo the informal warning to abandon Copernicanism (that is, to stop holding or defending the Earth’s motion as true or as compatible with Scripture); and immediately afterwards, Commissary Seghizzi issued Galileo the formal injunction. The charge was that Galileo’s just published book was a clear violation of this special …