Media Archipelago

If [journalists] have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? It hardly ever happens because it would damage sales. — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Solzhenitsyn, a long standing critic of he Soviet Union and communism, knew much about the use and abuse of public opinion....

June 10, 2020 · 4 min read · 689 words

The Better Part of Valour

Obama made sure to bring together the past with the present. Memory stalking the impatiently advancing future. Into the party marched the honour ghosts, the generation of the revolution. A band of colonists rising up against an empire. The generation that had fought world war II. The civil rights generation that had the courage to sit at the lunch counter and brave fire houses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedoms cause....

June 9, 2020 · 2 min read · 393 words

Modern Pocket Boroughs

Writing in 1821, Sydney Smith railed that: The country belongs to the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lonsdale, the Duke of Newcastle, and about twenty other holders of boroughs. They are our masters! He was writing in protest of a practise, too often forgotten in our age, of the ‘pocket borough’. These were areas of England and Wales which returned MPs to parliament who were not freely voted for by the people, but put in office by the pressure of a powerful landowner or rich merchant....

June 7, 2020 · 3 min read · 443 words

Into the Jaws of Death

Though born more than thirty after the end of the Second World War, the global conflagration suffused my childhood. My father served in the War and carried the scars throughout his life. He was one of the lucky ones. As a consequence, every year I take a moment to remember those who put their lives on the line to secure the freedoms I have enjoyed all my life. #onthisday (6 June) 1944, Operation Neptune began....

June 6, 2020 · 2 min read · 244 words

Airbrushing Memory

In his seminal 1920 book Liberty and the News, Walter Lippmann warned: [those] who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo . . . can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information. In a sense this is both self-evident and the justification for journalists and whistle-blowers the world over....

May 23, 2020 · 3 min read · 460 words

A Marvellous Idea for a Blog

A young poet once said to Mallarmé, “I had the most marvellous idea for a poem this afternoon.” “Oh dear,” said Mallarmé, “what a pity.” “What do you mean?” said the young poet, stung. “Well,” said Mallarmé, “poems aren’t made of ideas, are they? They’re made of words.” — Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus Though an apocryphal tale, it is nonetheless useful in understanding the challenges of blogging, particularly on as regular a basis as 100daystooffload....

May 21, 2020 · 2 min read · 218 words

Dead Certainties

In a New York Times book review in 2016, Michiko Kakutani delivered an assessment of Volker Ullrich biography of Hitler which was perceived as drawing a comparison between Trump and der Führer. One does not need to know much about the rise of Hitler and the NSDAP to see that even though Kakutani never mentioned Trump by name, the comparison was so thinly veiled as to be positively naked. While the approach is but one of a long line of ‘historical’ comparisons which pervades political discourse, what is of particular interest is that while many historical comparisons are used to normalise a present event or set of choices, comparisons involving Trump leverage history to abnormalise him....

May 20, 2020 · 3 min read · 490 words

Constantine: Divine Emperor or Christian Saint?

The pulvinar was the consecrated bed, on which the images of the gods reposed. To this bed the early Roman Emperors only repaired in the long sleep of death, conscious of the fate which had befallen their progenitor Julius. Recognition by the Senate as divus was a posthumous honour, termed consecratio, following a good reign. Yet divine status was not a simple all or nothing, god or man situation as a ruler could be linked with aspects of divinity....

November 28, 2014 · 24 min read · 4966 words

Age, Evil And A Better World

Age hit me the other day. To be precise it hit my right hamstring. It was cold and I got up too quickly. These were the words of old men, who I have mocked remorselessly over the years, coming from the mouth of a babe (here I mean it in the child sense); or one who use to be a babe. Now age gnaws at me in winter, an ever present reminder that after the heady immortality of youth, I grow old and wither on the vine....

June 26, 2010 · 4 min read · 658 words

Company Men

In Calcutta a statue was erected to Lord Bentinck, Governor-General of India. Its inscription bears citing at length as it is testament to the moral zeitgeist with which the British believed their empire to be infused: [To] William Cavendish Bentinck, who during seven years ruled India with eminent prudence, integrity, and benevolence; who, placed at the head of a great Empire, never laid aside the simplicity and moderation of a private citizen; who infused into Oriental despotism the spirit of British freedom; who never forgot that the end of Government is the happiness of the governed; who abolished cruel rites; who effaced humiliating distinctions; who gave liberty to the expression of public opinion; whose constant study it was to elevate the intellectual and moral character of the nation committed to his charge, [This Monument] Was erected by men who, differing in race, in manners, in language, and in religion, cherish with equal veneration and gratitude the memory of his wise, reforming, and paternal administration....

May 18, 2010 · 15 min read · 3000 words