Ever since the ISIS murderer and propagandist ‘Jihadi John’ was revealed to be a British engineering graduate called Mohammed Emwazi, our news media has been saturated with reports about his school days, his personality, and the possible causes of his radicalisation: he ran into a goalpost as a kid; he went to school with Tulisa…
The coverage grates. Its full of cod-psychological comments from former pupils at his school, noting the fact that he was a ‘loner’. Reading these quotes, I’m reminded of one of the insights from Serial, the podcast phenomenon about the murder of a Baltimore schoolgirl Hae Min Lee in 1999. That series makes the point that people are susceptible to a confirmation bias in their memories. When told that someone is a murderer, people naturally recall those incidents where the person acted weird or like a ‘loner’. But alternatively, those who are convinced that the convicted person is innocent remember him as friendly and outgoing. Continue reading Building the Mythology of Jihadi John→
I was listening Magic 105.4 earlier. They played Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna. The girl in the song pleads with her Dad to let her see someone he disapproves of.
Next in the playlist was Uptown Girl by Billy Joel. A young man laments that the woman he has fallen for is from a different social class.
It occurs to me that these two songs are Pop Pairs. They could be two views on the same relationship.
My sense is that you could probably make a Pop Pair out of any two songs where the singer declares their love for someone else. But the really great pop pairs will be two songs that present two sides of a less conventional relationship. For example,Young Girl by Gary Puckett, paired with Born Too Late by the Poni-Tails; or Money Money Money by ABBA, paired with Gold Digger by Kanye West.
Three schoolgirls from East London have left the UK to join ISIS, and everyone has an opinion. Some people say they are no better than Jihadi John, and that joining the fighters for Islamic state is tantamount to participating in the beheading of aid workers. they should be considered enemy combatants and we should not care one joy for their safety.
Other people say that these girls are victims: of brainwashing, of a culture that doesn’t value them, or of a society that offers the youth no aspirations. They’re essentially kidnap victims and we should mobilise to secure their safe return.
The year 2015 has begun with a great deal of debate about free speech. The fanatics who murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists saw to that—their sympathisers in Copenhagen have kept the fire burning.
The discussion has largely been about what one can say about your ideological opponents. Is it Okay to blaspheme? What are the limits to giving offence? When does criticism of one group or another slide into hate speech and incitement. In these examples we usually debate whether the law can interfere with our speech.
Last week, the Community Security Trust, a charity that records attacks and harassment against Jews living in the UK, recorded 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 — double the figure reported in the previous year.
On Monday, a group of British MPs published a report noting that whenever there is heightened conflict in the Middle-East, the rate of crime against Jews in the UK increases. The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (APPGAA) also noted that the problem “continues to emanate from Islamist extremists, far-left and far-right groups” and made a number of recommendations to government, the police and the media to combat the issue.
The Scottish Law Commission has said it will include a review of the defamation law in its ninth programme of reform. That’s fantastic news for those of us in the Libel Reform Campaign who want to ensure that the space for free speech is just as wide in every corner of the United Kingdom.
David Leask at the Daily Heraldreported the story and his article puts the review in context. Yrstrly is actually quoted briefly in the piece, but I prefer this quote from my colleagues at Scottish PEN:
We’re not just campaigning on this to plug a loophole – we’re trying to put in place a structure that supports a healthier media landscape in Scotland.
In honour of the publication of The Good Shabti last month, I was invited onto the Tor.com podcast Midnight In Karachi, hosted by Mahvesh Murad. The show is a one-on-one interview format, and the previous guests are all incredibly accomplished SF writers such as Audrey Niffenegger, Patrick Ness,
Lord King is author of amendments tabled last week to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill. They would have granted the government surveillance powers without proper checks and balances. Arguing in favour of the changes, Lord King admitted he did not use social media and did not understand apps like WhatsApp or SnapChat. Continue reading Dear Lord King: Ludditry is not cool, it’s dangerous→