Obligatory shilling. I wrote for The Critic about the murder of David Amess MP and the bizarre, self-sustaining nature of media narratives.
I wrote for my paying subscribers about the pandemic and our attitudes towards it.
Unique humiliation. Matthew Crawford reflects on hygiene theatre:
…to play one’s part in Covid theatre, as in security theatre at the airport, is to suffer the unique humiliation of a rational being who submits to moments of social control that he knows to be founded upon untruths. That these are expressed in the language of science is especially grating.
I was an advocate of masking in 2020, on the grounds that it seemed like a low impact measure that could have some protective effect as nations built up their testing capacity and medical resources.
It was naive not see how masking would become more of a symbol of righteousness, or a sop to somethingmustbedoneism, than a health resource - imposed when there are no debatable protective effects, such as in outdoor spaces, or when it becomes a high impact measure, such as when kids have to wear them in schools. The lesson I take from this is that a limited, temporary measure almost inevitably expands in scope and duration.
Whatever progressive response to a given cultural dispute is treated as dogma and given the imprimatur of truth through its promotion by an organization considered a “religion,” despite the near-total absence of any genuine religious content to its activities. The German political theorist Carl Schmitt famously said that all modern political thought occurs through “secularized theological concepts.” Unitarian Universalism does it backwards: Instead of secularizing theology into politics, it has attempted to consecrate liberal politics into a theology.
Lock, Stockholm. Einár, one of Sweden's most popular rappers, has been shot to death in Stockholm. Last year he was kidnapped in a conspiracy involving one of Sweden's other most popular rappers, Yasin. Sweden's gangland is almost entirely a recent creation - glamourised for middle-class schoolboys by rappers like Einár and Yasin. The Guardian tells us, “A report this year said [Sweden] was the only European country where fatal shootings had risen significantly since 2000, going from one of the lowest rates of gun violence on the continent to one of the highest in less than a decade.” Do revisit Malcolm Kyeyune's essay on the place, to which I linked last month.
Bombastic personas. Jane Cooper writes an excellent essay on satire and pseudonymity for Athwart. Pseudonyms have protected satirists, Cooper writes, but even when author's identity was widely known:
…pseudonyms were still useful as a means of cultivating a distinct, bombastic persona and disowning the more outrageous claims in the satires. Satirists heightened this self-reflexivity by mocking their own personas in the form of the staged malcontent, layering mask upon mask.
Twee jokes about the rain. Writing for The Mallard Samuel Martin considers the decline of Britain:
At bottom level, our problem is a near flat out denial of the British in-group. Liberal technocracy has gutted Britishness and been prancing around in its skin. Over 1000 years – roughly 300 years of them in monarchical union – the United Kingdom, a bounty of organically developing culture, has amounted to Gogglebox, PG Tips, and twee jokes about the rain.
I'm not sure, on reflection, that “liberal technocracy” is the right term for what Britain has, though I admit that it is hard to summarise a combination of the desiccated and the soggy.
Worldliness. Philip Hensher reflects on John Le Carré:
He was, like many of the best novelists, intensely knowledgeable — specifically, that strain of knowledge we call worldliness. There ought to be more of it about.
Thin ice. Terry Teachout considers film noir:
They are moral tales about the thinness of the ice on which human decency rests, told in a way so stylish that it remains fresh decades after the fact, and it seems probable that there will always be an audience for such stories of what can happen to well-meaning men and women who choose the wrong path at the wrong time.
Have a lovely week,