The politics of showmanship has increasingly real consequences

Trump supporters, including QAnon members, unlawfully enter the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Getty)

In Death to 2020, Charlie Brooker’s latest mockumentary rounding up the year, one of the comedy interviewees — a Brit with wide green eyes and a deadpan blink — describes her box-set binges:

I got into this show called America. They have this sort of election fight happening between a bloke who looked like a ticket inspector on a ghost train, and an inflatable orange maniac who didn’t seem to be dealing with the plague. … I’m thinking this storyline’s farfetched, but I’m well into this, I’m bingeing the shit out of it. …

The future belongs to those who don’t belong to their phones


Before we discovered he had whipped his dick out at women, Louis C.K. made a decent point. Sitting across from one of the late-night guys — Conan, I think — the stand-up comedian delivered a soliloquy about why he didn’t allow his kids to have smartphones. “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away.” Basically, in reaching for our phones we numb away the sense that we are by ourselves in the world.

Moment to moment, that feels like a good thing. Nobody enjoys being struck…

Boris Johnson has trumpeted the U.K.’s world-leading credentials — this is not what he had in mind

View of London by night. (Universal History Archive/Getty)

Being a “Brexit government” was always going to mean aggressively championing brand Britannia on the world stage. Since Boris Johnson took the premiership in 2019, efforts to boast of a global Britain have been a key priority. Doubtless, being the first nation in the world to roll out an approved vaccine was truly a moment of great soft power PR, not to mention a bit euphoric for so many Brits cooped up and cash-strapped for much of 2020.

What a sobering moment it was at 4 p.m. (GMT) today, then, when Johnson announced what we had only heard and read…

The precarity of the gig economy is fertile ground for “side hustle” sex work

Over the weekend, journalists at The New York Post picked a random nobody and threw a grenade at her life. I’m talking of course about that 23-year-old NY-based paramedic — let’s call her Ms. K — posting racy pictures on OnlyFans to supplement her pay.

For anyone still catching up with the more recent iterations of the gig economy, OnlyFans is a portal where content creators set up profiles, and monthly subscribers (“fans”) pay to access pictures and videos — frequently explicit ones. …

How ill-qualified cronies are getting rich at the people’s expense


It feels like a lifetime ago now, but who could forget that infamous Trump speech near the start of the pandemic — when he announced his coronavirus action plan in the rose garden, flanked by executives from some of America’s household-name brands?

Scheduling the required this-means-war statement that leaders everywhere were doing, Trump — ever the showman and supposed “dealmaker in chief” — put a WWE twist on it, giving the speech a kind of “Coronavirus: Sponsored By” feel. Enthusing about the men and women beside him as executives from “some of the largest companies and greatest retailers and medical…

Will normality reassert itself?

Fireworks as President-elect Joe Biden watches in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020. (Angela Weiss/Getty)

It’s done.

For politics watchers, the last few days have been a lucid dream. Rolling over, checking the numbers, getting up, making coffee, checking the numbers, plugging into the chatter, doom-scrolling, memeing, resolving to be productive, doom-scrolling, hitting refresh, writing angry responses to stupid tweets you then delete, resolving to be productive, angry responses to stupid tweets you then delete, texting sweary commentary to friends, shaking your head, resolving to be productive, hitting refresh.

I awoke on Wednesday morning London time, having uninstalled Twitter from my phone before bed, knowing I wouldn’t resist if I stirred in the night. …

Party-identity politics make for social division

A protest event gathers on October 31 in Parliament Square, London, United Kingdom. (Maciek Musialek/Getty)

When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold, goes the saying. And perhaps nowhere is this more suspected than in Old Blighty.

Every Brit knows of the American culture wars. We’ve all seen the documentaries and the news footage — splenetic ideological foes waving banners screaming hey-hey-ho-ho insert policy has got to go/ho ho, hey hey, insert policy is here to stay. Working next door to the Supreme Court, I saw these dynamics up close. And, like any Brit living in America, I reasoned that at least my home country was less divided.

In recent times however…

Promoters of the meditation technique make big claims — but do they stack up?


The monetisation of spirituality is nothing new. From televangelists to gurus, there’s a tangled thread between the dollar and the dharma. McMindfulness, Ronald Purser’s exploration of the popular awareness and meditation technique’s embeddedness in corporate life, chronicles the most recent incarnation.

In the last couple of decades, mindfulness has become a big deal. Courses have found their way into U.S. schools, massive corporations like Google, the U.K. National Health Service and even the British Houses of Parliament. Democratic Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is a devotee. The app stores teem with downloadables, YouTube has a gazillion free meditations, there’s a plethora…

Weaponizing drug policy hurts civil liberties — not the drug trade

A police officer walks near a line of yellow evidence markers in north-east London, England. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

What do you get when you cross political gimmicking with the war on drugs? Ineffective policy that, far from tackling narcotics’ most egregious problems, throws a right hook at civil liberties instead.

American readers will be more than familiar with this dynamic. And while the U.K. lags behind its more draconian cousin, some British politicians appear eager to catch up.

Recently, Conservative Party London mayoral contender Shaun Bailey announced a major policy proposal: compel firms in the capital employing 250 or more people to sign up to a drug testing charter. …

No, there isn’t a progressive consensus on “cancel culture”


If you are not on Twitter you are probably blissfully unaware of the intellectual blood-sport that passes for inquiry among many thinkers and politicians. You may know little of the intramural call-outs and cat-fights among the chattering classes — but my guess is you are hearing more. You are hearing more because media, commerce, and academe increasingly attach importance to these spats.

Against such a backdrop, an open letter appeared in Harper’s magazine — The Letter — signed by 153 politically and ethnically diverse writers, academics, and activists, decrying our greatest current threat — right-wing authoritarianism — before warning against…

Bonny Brooks

Associate Editor at Arc Digital. Former IPS Research Fellow at Library of Congress & AHRC researcher. Writer. Politics geek.

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