Monthly Archives: July 2005

One of the problems of modern newspaper publishing is the question of how to fill the blank pages of the newspaper every day. After all, even though there’s a lot of news out in the world, journalists only have a finite amount of time each day to turn reality into news, so sometimes they’re glad when the news comes prepackaged for them and it’s even better when it’s not just a press release, but an entire study allowing them to quote a whole host of spurious facts, stick in a couple of pictures and they’ve filled a page with the news that watching four or more DVDs a day can help lower cholesterol.
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How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

The British blogosphere is up in arms, some of them quite literally. We’re under attack by nihilistic terrorists, with whom there is no negotiation. Their goals are ludicrous enough that it is almost impossible to countenance considering them, and thus we are at war. Even if it were possible and even moral to withdraw all of our, and all of the the rest of the West’s, troops from the Middle East, a move which would almost certainly destroy any chance of democracy taking root in their soil and which would condemn the people to rule by despots, dictators, and fundamentalist medieval-mindset clerics, we still shouldn’t do it for purely strategic reasons. This post was prompted by this, over at Chicken Yoghurt, where a few of us agreed that we really don’t know much about terrorism, and that the discussion that the British blogosphere is having is missing the point.
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Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s murderer was today sentenced to life imprisonment. This is just as well: killing people for making films is a Bad Thing, irrespective of the films’ content (which is just as well for Michael Winner).

However, I’m somewhat fed up with all the sanctimonious humbug that gets talked about Mr Van Gogh. Even among the reasonably sensible press, and especially among more hawkish, anti-Muslim commentators, he gets referred to as “a critic of Islam” – as if he were someone akin to Irshad Manji, and as if he’d been killed for voicing unpleasant truths about the religion or for suggesting that the religion required reform.
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“Best practice” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days. I first encountered it three years ago working for a transatlantic fellowship programme out of Washington, and while I disapprove in general of government-based managerialist buzzwords, today I am going to use it for the first time.

I was thinking about the 2002 class gift to my university. I began musing about the history and current political climate facing UNC-Chapel Hill, its fifteen sister universities in North Carolina, and, by extension, state-run university systems in other countries, such as Britain, say. I began to wonder what we could learn, what is “best practice.”
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In the same way as the Windsors are Britain’s best royal family and George W Bush is the best President the USA has at the moment, the Evening Standard is London’s best evening newspaper. As long as I can remember, it has included on its banner “incorporating the EVENING NEWS”, the market having demonstrated however many decades ago that, however many newspapers we can sustain in the morning, in the evening there’s only room for one. Or perhaps it was just that the Standard was able to force the News down because it also had the power of the Daily Mail. Whatever. What’s clear is that the lack of competition does not exactly motivate the Standard to get its facts right. In the wake of the 7th July bombings, it has circulated demonstrably false information on several occasions.

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OK, first point. I don’t want to hear about the “split second decision” taken by the police last Friday. Once Jean Charles De Menezes decided to bolt from the cops he was dead. That’s why it’s called a shoot to kill policy. If a suspected suicide bomber runs, he dies – or she, should it come to that – in the same way that night follows day. Once a suspect is identified, no further decision making is necessary, though no doubt the cops on the ground will refer back up the chain via radio. This is an extra judicial execution and the people who do it have the same discretion as hangmen. Or, should it come to that, hangwomen. Read More

We have borrowed the tardis, travelled to the future, and have brought back a dictionary of British English from late in the 21st century. The British Potato Council will be pleased to know that ‘couch potato’ isn’t in there.

A few excerpts after the jump for your perusal and approval. Feel free to add your own submissions in the comments and we’ll highlight the best.
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This all started at Steve’s place (if you’re not reading already, you should be), with a great parody of apologism:

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. On 11 July 1995, the Bosnian Serb Army, led by Ratko Mladic, disarmed UN peacekeepers and systematically murdered 8,000 Muslim captives. The atrocity shocked the world and Mladic and his boss Radovan Karadzic are still being hunted for war crimes.

Before we condemn the perpetrators, though, we need to understand the underlying causes of this massacre. For 500 years, the Serbs lived under Muslim rule. The Bosnian Muslims are the descendants either of the Turkish conquerors or of South Slavs who converted to Islam. Their ancestors lorded it over the Serbs, oppressing and enslaving them. When Yugoslavia fell apart, many Serbs feared that Bosnia would again become a Muslim dominated state. Others simply wanted to settle some old scores. Southern Serbia was not liberated from Ottoman rule until the 1900s. It is still just within living memory that Serbs were ruled by Muslims. Many Serbs would have grown up with stories about members of their families being brutally treated by their overlords. While we should not condone the massacre at Srebrenica, we should try to understand the historic resentment of colonial rule that drove the perpetrators to such atrocities.

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Lord knows I’m innocent of public spirit, but seeing all those veterans parading down Pall Mall last Sunday while being flower-bombed by a Lancaster brought a tear to the eye and a drip to the nose. And I suppose that there comes a time when the finger of conscience points at the flabby bloke typing away at his blog and says: well, young fellow. What would you have done had you been tested? Read More