All posts tagged: UK

The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation

This is a contribution to “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series. Submissions related to this series may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. In the present era of growing polarization, one thing that people from across the political spectrum now agree on is their dislike of Big Tech. The political Left complains that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have become “monopolies.” They also blame global technology platforms for Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and white nationalism. It is much easier, after all, to blame online manipulation for the downfall of the center-left than acknowledge the disconnect between the intelligentsia and the working-class voters that the Left once represented. Meanwhile, critics on the Right blame Big Tech for a comparable shopping list of evils, including being biased against conservatives, giving a platform to terrorists, enabling pedophiles to groom children and distribute indecent images, and boosting populist figures on the Left and Right who threaten the center-right’s own electoral base. This is mixed, particularly in the U.K., with a traditional conservative refrain of “Please, won’t someone think of the …

ISIS Bride Should Be Judged for What She Did, Not Who She Is

In 2015, Shamima Begum was one of three teenage girls from Bethnal Green, London, who flew to Turkey and then travelled across the border into Syria with the intention of joining ISIS. The girls had done their research, raised funds, and made travel arrangements all (apparently) without the knowledge of their parents, who heard nothing more from their daughters after they entered Syria. It seemed unlikely that they would ever return, even if they wanted to. But then last week The Times published a remarkable story: One of their journalists had found Begum in a refugee camp in Syria, who had fled the collapsing Caliphate and lost contact with her husband, a Dutch Jihadi. Begum was nine months pregnant (she’s now had the child) and, having already lost two children to disease and malnutrition, wants to return to the UK, if only for the sake of her new baby. She has expressed no remorse about her decision to join the terrorist group. In the audio recording of her interview, Begum sounds eerily calm, at one …

The Case for a Second Brexit Referendum Revisited: A Response to Madeline Grant

In her article “The Case Against a Second Referendum,” Madeline Grant has written an extensive critique of my “The Case For a Second Referendum.” Restrictions of space preclude a detailed consideration of the numerous objections she raises. I ignore altogether the personal comments she makes in the section portentiously titled “Bias,” and elsewhere, on the basis that they are irrelevant. It is worth standing back and re-iterating the basic, and quite simple, position set out in my article—that the best argument for a second referendum is that the “Leave” proposition in the first referendum in 2016 was, necessarily, extremely general, and that the terms of Theresa May’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement are, by contrast, very specific. The Withdrawal Agreement provides a glide-path to a future which many Leave voters did not and indeed could not have anticipated in 2016. The two most prominent advocates for the Leave proposition, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, have both said in terms that the Withdrawal Agreement is worse than staying in the EU. They also insist that the electorate not be …

The Case Against a Second EU Referendum

The possibility of a second referendum offers, to many, a tantalizing prospect of rescue from political deadlock. Since Parliament cannot decide on a deal and largely refuses to contemplate “No Deal,” this argument goes, we should allow the people to “choose” once more. Barrister Oliver Conolly has offered a well-written and thoughtful case for a second referendum here on Quillette, which acknowledges some of the flaws that advocates of this plan often ignore. Yet his analysis, in my view, suffers several major drawbacks. I will discuss these in loose categories, starting with the least important before broadening my analysis out to more substantive complaints. Bias The first category consists of examples of bias. To his credit, Conolly restricts his discussion to the official campaign groups in the 2016 referendum, rather than appealing to the excesses of the unofficial campaign groups. Yet he still maintains that the Leave campaign was more deceitful than Remain—a debatable proposition. Conolly also uses the loaded term “People’s Vote” throughout the article—not always in inverted commas. As numerous objectors have pointed …

The Case for a Second EU Referendum

There is a great deal of talk in Britain at the moment about a “People’s Vote”—a referendum on the terms of the withdrawal agreement between the UK government and the EU, with an option to remain in the EU. It was predictable in June 2016 that sooner or later minds would focus on the terms of the agreement that would need to be reached as part of the process when the British government triggered Article 50, the clause of the Treaty on European Union that enables member states to secede. One of the advantages of the time-limited nature of the Article 50 process is that it means the issue cannot be delayed indefinitely. This focusing of minds has, unsurprisingly, led to widespread calls for a “People’s Vote.” It is equally unsurprising that the proposal should encounter stiff resistance. Many voters were led to believe, not least by the British Government, that their vote in the 2016 referendum would settle the matter of the UK’s EU membership once and for all. Against that backdrop, many people …

A Tale of Two Cities: The Modern Soothsayers

Five weeks on from the #GiletsJaunes, managerial elites in London conspire to chain the United Kingdom to ever closer union with the fate of Europe. There is something profoundly emblematic about the sight of Emmanuel Macron facing down the people of his once great nation. Condescending, Napoleonic, and completely without self-awareness, he is the living embodiment of the vision of the anointed. As French citizens riot because of increases in their fuel taxes, he has been utterly indifferent in telling them to take their thin gruel because the predictive models of his shaman class say so. It is an almost perfect encapsulation of the Rousseauian top-down state versus the people that it subjugates. Meanwhile, across the channel in London—where, despite their civic and intellectual history, the ruling class have long sought to mimic their Gallic counterparts— the Bank of England’s Mark Carney has been playing a similar game. He has been issuing regular doomsday forecasts based on predictive models by alleged experts. I wonder how much longer people are going to listen to these modern …

The Divided Kingdom

A Review of  National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, Pelican (October 25, 2018), 336 pages. While reading National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, I got the impression authors Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin were betting men. They point out—in the first few pages—had you bet £100 on Leave winning the 2016 Referendum on the day of the vote, June 23, you’d have won £300 in the morning and £900 in the evening. That betting markets tacked against Leave during the course of polling gives one a sense of the groupthink among much of the UK’s commentariat—something Goodwin, in particular, doesn’t share, even though he voted Remain. I suppose I should confess to being a betting woman. The day before Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered, I put AUD$100 on Leave. After her murder, however, I changed my mind. Like some of the pollsters, I thought a single, terrible event would change the course of an entire political campaign, something that’s actually quite rare—although I didn’t know it …

What We Talk About When We Talk About Immigration

My father moved to the UK from Iran in the 1970s to study engineering when he met and married my mother, who is from a small town in the Welsh valleys. Many people from that town would not have met a non-white person before they met my father. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, my parents made the eminently sensible decision that they would build their life together in Wales and not Iran. To this day my father remains the hardest working person I know. He always worked two jobs, became a successful engineer and I recall watching him take part in publicity photos in the 1990s as the first non-white retained fireman in Wales, which he went on to do for 25 years. He is by any measure a credit to his community and can easily be held up as a model for “integration.” However, he is just one person. I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if there had been even one or two other Iranian families living on our street. …

Warning: Telling a Lame Joke in an Elevator can Endanger Your Career

I am a professor of international political theory at King’s College London and bye-fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. I am a fellow of the British Academy and a member of the International Studies Association (ISA). Several years back the ISA voted me the “distinguished scholar of the year.” This year it censured me, not once but twice. I was guilty of saying “ladies lingerie” in a lift, and more disturbingly in their eyes, of writing a conciliatory email to the woman who had overheard me in the lift and filed a complaint. I appealed against this decision, but earlier this month was told my appeal had been rejected. During the second week of April 2018, the ISA had its annual meeting in San Francisco. It attracts many thousands of members from multiple disciplines who do research on international relations. The meeting consists mostly of panels at which scholarly papers are presented and discussed. I stayed in the San Francisco Hilton, the venue of the meeting. On the third afternoon, I was going up to my …

The Public Humiliation Diet

Reading about James Gunn’s defenestration by Disney for having tweeted some off-color jokes 10 years ago, I was reminded of my own ordeal at the beginning of this year. I’m British, not American, a conservative rather than a liberal, and I didn’t have as far to fall as Gunn. I’m a journalist who helped set up one of England’s first charter schools, which we call ‘free schools,’ and I’ve sat on the board of various not-for-profits, but I’m not the co-creator of Guardians of the Galaxy. In some respects, though, my reversal was even more brutal than Gunn’s because I have spent a large part of the past 10 years doing voluntary work intended to help disadvantaged children. It is one thing to lose a high-paying job because of your ‘offensive attitudes,’ but to be denied further opportunities to do good hits you deep down in your soul. At least Gunn can now engage in charity work to try and redeem himself, as others in his situation have done. I had to give up all the charity …