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The Guardian Weekly – May 11, 2018

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Vol 198 No 23 £2.90 €5.50* Exclusions apply
A week in the life of the world | 11-17 May 2018
Knock them
all down!
Time to ditch
business schools
Postmodern
n
princess
What Meghan
n
Markle meanss
Blessed be
the fruit
The Handmaid’s
Tale returns
Vladimir Putin is sworn in for
a fourth presidental term
at the Kremlin on Monday
Sasha Mordovets/Getty
How Putin broke the truth
Kremlin’s assault on facts prompts major rethink of ways to handle Russia
Patrick Wintour
The UK will use a series of international
summits this year to call for a comprehensive strategy to combat Russian
disinformation and urge a rethink
over traditional diplomatic dialogue
with Moscow, following the Kremlin’s
aggressive campaign of denials over
the use of chemical weapons in the
UK and Syria.
British diplomats plan to use four
major summits this year – the G7, the
G20, Nato and the EU – to try to deepen
the alliance against Russia built by the
Foreign Office after the poisoning of
former Russian double agent Sergei
Skripal in Salisbury in March.
“The foreign secretary regards Russia’s response to Douma [a chemical
attack on the Syrian city] and Salisbury
as a turning point and thinks there is
international support to do more,”
a Whitehall Continued on page 4 →
Inside: Luke Harding on
Russia’s ‘endless loop’
of disinformation
Abu Dhabi AED14.50 Bahrain BHD1.90 *Cyprus €2.50 Czech Rep CZK145 Denmark DKK39 Dubai AED14.50 Egypt EGP51 *Greece €3.95 Hong Kong HKD52 Hungary HUF950 *Republic of Ireland €3.30 Japan JPY900 Jordan JOD2.90 Kuwait KWD1.45
Latvia €5.50 Lebanon LBP6000 *Malta €2.20 Norway NOK52 Oman OMR1.65 Pakistan PKR385 Poland PLN14 Qatar QAR14.50 Saudi Arabia SAR15.50 Singapore SGD8 South Africa ZAR50.34 Sweden SEK55 Switzerland CHF9 Turkey TRY16.50
2 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
3. India
Packs of feral dogs kill six
children in north of country
9
1
5
8
11 2
4
7
10 3
6
Roaming packs of feral dogs killed six
children last week in northern India,
terrifying villagers who have begun
keeping their children at home and
killing any dogs they encounter. At
least two dozen more children have
been injured in attacks.
The children aged between five and
12 years old were killed in and around
the town of Sitapur, about 80km from
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, said Anand
Kulkarni, a senior police officer. Many
of the attacks occurred when children
were out gathering mangoes or when
they left their homes to use outhouse
toilets, he said.
Twelve children have been killed
in dog attacks in the area since
November, officials said.
Education officials said some
schools had seen a drop in attendance
because of the attacks. Parents have
been told to accompany their children.
1. Canada
Mystery car hanging from
bridge perplexes Toronto
4. Egypt
‘No hidden rooms’ in
Tutankhamun’s chamber
Was it the aftermath of a horrific
accident? An art project? A prank?
Police and passersby were left
perplexed and concerned after
a burned-out car was found dangling
precariously from a Toronto bridge as
traffic rumbled overhead.
Soon after the car was spotted
during the rush-hour last Wednesday,
police, firefighters and paramedics
showed up to assess the mysterious
car. Strung up by a cable, it floated
over a grassy area and posed no danger
to public safety, officials said.
Police at first said it was a prop
for a movie shoot. But after speaking
with city officials, they retracted this
explanation. No movie shoot had been
authorised, they said, and police were
now investigating how exactly the car
ended up suspended in mid-air.
The city’s fire department managed
to lower the car to the ground safely.
Police are continuing to investigate.
Egypt’s antiquities ministry announced
that new radar scans provide conclusive evidence that there are no hidden
rooms inside King Tutankhamun’s
burial chamber.
Mostafa Waziri, the secretary
general of Egypt’s Supreme Council
of Antiquities, said an Italian team
had conducted extensive studies
using ground-penetrating radar
that showed the tomb did not
contain any hidden, manmade
blocking walls, as was earlier
suspected.
In 2015 after analysis of
high-definition laser scans, a British
Egyptologist, Nicholas Reeves,
proposed that Queen Nefertiti’s
tomb could be concealed behind
wall paintings in the boy king’s
burial chamber.
The ministry said previous scans by
Japanese and American scientists had
proved inconclusive.
2. Poland
Holocaust law sparks abuse against Auschwitz museum staff
Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau
memorial and museum have described
how they were subjected to a wave of
“hate, fake news and manipulations”
as a result of the controversy
surrounding a contentious Holocaust
speech law passed by Poland’s ruling
Law and Justice party earlier this year.
The campaign of disinformation
and abuse at the hands of Polish
nationalists has raised concerns about
pressure being exerted on official guides
at the site in southern Poland, after
the home of one foreign guide was
attacked and supporters of a convicted
antisemite filmed themselves
repeatedly hectoring their guide
during a visit to the site last month.
Conceived in part as a means to
prevent facilities established by
Poland’s German occupiers from being
described as “Polish death camps”,
the legislation, which criminalises the
false attribution to the Polish state
or nation of complicity in the crimes
committed by Nazi Germany during the
Holocaust, prompted a furious reaction
in Israel and elsewhere amid concerns
it could be used to restrict open
discussion of Poland’s wartime history.
This in turn provoked an angry
backlash from nationalist and
pro-government media in Poland,
many of whom accused the museum
of downplaying the fate of the
approximately 74,000 Polish prisoners
who perished in the camp, by focusing
exclusively on its Jewish victims.
The museum has become
increasingly assertive in its rebuttals,
regularly intervening in discussions
on Twitter and publishing a long list
of false claims that have been made
about the museum.
Photos: Jacek Bednarczy/EPA; Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters;
Malcolm Thomas/Twitter
World roundup
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 3
Eyewitnessed
The week’s events in pictures
→ Centre pages 24-25
5. Hawaii
Kilauea destroys homes
At least 26 homes have been destroyed
since lava began shooting out of
openings in the ground created by
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, and some of
the more than 1,700 people who evacuated prepare for the possibility they
may not return for quite some time.
“I have no idea how soon we can get
back,” said Todd Corrigan, who left his
home in Leilani Estates with his wife
last Friday as lava burst through the
ground three or four blocks away. They
spent the night in their car and began
looking for a vacation rental.
Hawaii County civil defence officials
said last Sunday two new fissures
opened overnight, bringing the total
to nine in the neighbourhood. Officials
gave the number after an aerial survey
of the area in the district of Puna.
Scientists said Kilauea was likely to
release more lava through additional
vents, but they were unable to
predict where.
6. Australia
Climate scientists unaware of Wiki fame
8. Denmark
Outrage as wild wolf shot and killed
10. Pakistan
Interior minister shot at election rally
An academic paper on global climate zones written
by three Australians more than a decade ago has
been named the most cited source on Wikipedia,
having being referenced more than 2.8m times.
But the authors of the paper had no idea about the
wider impact of their work until recently.
The paper, published in 2007 in the journal
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, used
contemporary data to update a widely used model
for classifying the world’s climates. Known as the
Köppen Climate Classification System, the model
was first published by Wladimir Köppen in 1884, but
had not been comprehensively updated for decades.
The lead author of the paper is Dr Murray Peel of
the University of Melbourne. He co-authored the
updated climate map with professors Brian Finlayson
and Thomas McMahon. “It’s pleasing that research
you’ve done is something other people are finding
useful,” said Finlayson.
One of the first wild wolves to roam free in Denmark
for 200 years has been shot and killed, threatening
the survival of the species in the country.
Two naturalists who were observing the wolves
captured the moment the animal was shot on
camera. The film has sparked outrage.
The footage appears to show the animal, a female,
being shot by someone in a parked car. The wolf was
not posing a threat or being aggressive.
Guillaume Chapron, associate professor at the
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said the
killing was “completely unacceptable”.
“From the video recording of the animal
behaviour, there was absolutely no threat to humans
and there was also no indication whatsoever that
this animal could become a threat,” he said.
Pakistan’s interior minister was injured in a
suspected assassination attempt during an election
rally in Punjab province.
Ahsan Iqbal, 59, was shot in the right shoulder
after he addressed a crowd in the town of Narowal.
A suspect was arrested at the scene and questioned
last Sunday night.
Iqbal’s son said his father was conscious and out
of danger after being airlifted to hospital. The chief
minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, condemned the
attack and said Iqbal was “in high spirits”.
The Pakistani prime minister, Shahid Khaqan
Abbasi, demanded a report on the incident from
the provincial police chief. The shooting is likely to
increase political tensions before general elections
expected in late July.
Iqbal took charge of the interior ministry last year
and has been in the cabinet since Abbasi’s Pakistan
Mus
Muslim
League-Nawaz party came to power in 2013.
7. Dubai
Concern for princess who tried to flee
Concerns are growing for the whereabouts and
wellbeing of a daughter of Dubai’s ruler, following
reports she was forcibly returned after fleeing
United Arab Emirates in March.
Human Rights Watch said failure to disclose the
status of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammad al-Maktoum
could “qualify as an enforced disappearance, given
the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as
UAE authorities were detaining her”.
Sheikha Latifa, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed
bin Rashid al-Maktoum, appeared in a YouTube video
in March announcing she was about to flee. She said
her leaving was “the start of me claiming my life,
my freedom”. She said in the video that her sister
Shamsa also tried to run away in 2000 while on
holiday. Sheikha Latifa was reported to have escaped
Dubai aboard a yacht with the help of friends. The
yacht was intercepted on 4 March, less than 80km
off the coast of India.
→ More Middle East news, page 14
9. United States
Gibson guitars files for
or bankruptcy
Gibson Brands, the makers
of rock’s favourite Les Paul,
SG and Flying V guitars, hass
filed for bankruptcy protec-tion citing a “devastating”
financial fall after its invest-nic
ments in consumer electronic
brands failed to pay off.
The Nashville-based
company, favoured by the
d
likes of Slash (pictured), said
ng
in a statement accompanying
ling
its chapter 11 bankruptcy filing
cthat it required court protecanise
tion from creditors to reorgani
aid
its business. The company said
it planned to continue in thee
ing
business of designing, building
and selling musical instruments and equipment but
it would close the division
that makes Philips-branded
headphones and other
electronic accessories.
11. Switzerland
Lidl offers cannabis to Swiss shoppers
Lid
Y may have heard about their cut-price stollen,
You
and possibly their surprisingly flavoursome jam.
B
But you
probably won’t have sampled the latest
ran offered by the supermarket chain Lidl: locally
range
gro cannabis.
grown
Two products derived from hemp flowers are
b
being
sold in Swiss stores as an alternative to
rolling tobacco.
A 1.5g box, from plants grown indoors,
c
costs 17.99
swiss francs (£13.20). A 3g bag
is is 19.99 Swiss francs, but is made from flowers
gro in greenhouses.
grown
T packs are on sale alongside cigarettes and
The
ciga at the tills. The cost per cigarette is double
cigars
that of tobacco roll-ups.
S
Switzerland
changed the law in 2011 to
per
permit
people over 18 to purchase and use
can
cannabis
containing no more than 1% of
tetr
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),
the plant’s principal
psy
psychoactive
constituent.
4 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
International news
← Continued from page 1 official said.
“The areas the UK are most likely to
pursue are countering Russian disinformation and finding a mechanism
to enforce accountability for the use
of chemical weapons.”
A cross-party alliance in parliament
sees the question of Russian corruption no longer through the prism of
finance, but instead as a security and
foreign policy threat requiring fresh
sanctions, even if this causes shortterm economic damage to the UK.
Ministers want to pursue a broad
Russian containment strategy at the
summits covering cybersecurity,
Nato’s military posture, sanctions
against Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs
and a more comprehensive approach
to Russian disinformation.
Vladimir Putin
has been accused
of waging an
information war
on the west by
weaponising
free speech
James Nixey, head of the Russia and
Eurasia programme at the thinktank
Chatham House, said: “It’s hard to persuade even your closest allies to take
tangible measures with impact if we’re
not prepared to sacrifice some of the
Russian investment in our own country
and stick to a point of principle. Government statements on this have been
either ambiguous or all over the place.”
The UK is arguing that Russian denials over Salisbury and Douma reveal
a state uninterested in cooperating to
reach a common understanding of
the truth, but instead trying to divide
western electorates and sow doubt.
Alicia Kearns, who ran the Foreign
Office’s strategic counter-terrorism
communications in Syria and Iraq,
said: “When we are dealing with most
malign states or even terror groups,
an element of truth is expected to increase the efficacy of their disinforma-
tion, but with Russia there is no commitment or adherence to the truth.”
Russia’s critics say in case after
case – the downing of Malaysia airlines
flight MH17 in 2014, the role of official
Russian forces in Ukraine, the murder
of the former Russian spy Alexander
Litvinenko on UK soil, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons,
covert disruption in the western Balkans and repeated cyber-attacks – the
west finds itself arguing with Russia
not just about ideology or interests
but Moscow’s denial, or questioning,
of what the western governments perceive as unchallengeable facts.
“Putin is waging an information
war designed to turn our strongest
asset – freedom of speech – against
us,” said Tom Tugendhat, chairman
of the foreign affairs select committee. He argues Putin only responds if
countries stand up to him.
Kearns said: “There is a reluctance
in the Foreign Office to be forceful in
our calling out of Russian falsehoods,
fearing that it could end or frustrate
wider dialogue with Russia,” she said.
“But there has been a big shift in the
wake of Ukraine, Syria and Salisbury.
A firmer stance does not necessitate
an increase in aggression or vitriol,
but a recognition that when Russia
– or any other nation’s – actions are
unacceptable there is a responsibility
to hold them to account, and that by
doing so we can effect change.”
For some old hands in the Foreign
Office, however, demonising Russia
is a disastrous strategy. Sir Anthony
Brenton, British ambassador to Russia between 2004 and 2008, insists a
fruitful agenda with Moscow on issues
such as nuclear disarmament, Islamist terrorism and cyberwarfare is still
possible. Figures like Brenton fear
that not only would an all-out assault
on Russian mendacity simply drive
Moscow into the arms of China, a longterm strategic mistake for Europe, but
also risk British diplomatic overreach,
given the backdrop of Brexit.
Opposition leader Navalny arrested on eve of inauguration
Russia’s opposition leader, Alexei
Navalny, was one of about 1,600
of people detained by police during nationwide protests before
Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a
fourth presidential term.
Navalny, 41, was arrested shortly
after joining thousands of protesters at Moscow’s Pushkin Square
last Saturday. Officers carried the
government critic from the landmark square by his arms and legs as
he struggled and angry opposition
supporters jeered and shouted. A
police helicopter circled low, almost
drowning out chants of “Putin is a
thief! and “Down with the tsar!”
After the arrest, police said Navalny was arrested for disobeying
police, an offence punishable by
up to 15 days behind bars. He spent
two months in prison last year.
“Putin is not our tsar,” Navalny
said in an video before the rallies.
“He intends to manage Russia as his
own personal property in the interests of his allies, his family, and a
narrow ruling group.”
Police appeared to be taken by
surprise when hundreds of protesters surged from Pushkin Square on
to Strastnoi Bulvar, a key road that
leads to Tverskaya, the Russian
capital’s main thoroughfare.
Almost 600 people were taken
into custody in Moscow, according
to rights organisation OVD-Info.
Marc Bennetts Moscow
Inside Russia’s
‘endless loop’ of
disinformation
‘Deny, distract and blame’ – that’s how the Kremlin
has dealt with Salisbury, reports Luke Harding
T
he Twitter account of
the Russian embassy
in London has been
busy over the past two
months, offering numerous explanations
for the poisoning of
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia
in Salisbury. All hint at a dark and
sprawling British conspiracy.
Since the Skripals were found
stricken on a park bench, Down-
ing Street has stuck to one version
of events. Theresa May says it is
“highly likely” Moscow carried out
the attack with a nerve agent. Only
the Kremlin had the motive to kill its
former officer, she argues.
The embassy, and its boss, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov,
have offered alternative scenarios.
Lavrov has said a Swiss laboratory
used to test the poison identified another toxin called BZ. Russia did not
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 5
Falsehood via Facebook
Sri Lanka violence linked to platform
→ John Harris, page 18
Information weapon … a van of the
state-run Russian television
broadcaster is parked outside the
Kremlin Mladen Antonov/Getty
have it. The US, UK and Nato did, he
said. Moscow has further claimed
that the Skripals were not poisoned,
Yulia has been abducted and hidden, and someone injected her
with “chemicals” before tests were
carried out. Meanwhile, the British have “destroyed evidence” and
refused to abide by international
norms, it has alleged.
The embassy has published letters from what it claims are UK
citizens expressing sympathy with
Vladimir Putin. “Why include to poison his daughter Yulia who is Russian citizen and lives in Moscow?”
one “correspondent” asks.
The Skripal case illustrates how
the Kremlin has abandoned conventional diplomacy. Its foreign emissaries are now full-time trolls, with
the ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, personally approving many tweets. Moscow’s tactics
include sarcasm, denial, innuendo
and noisy counter-accusation.
David Clark, a former special
adviser to the late foreign secretary
Robin Cook, said Russia’s strategy is
to lead people into “a wilderness of
mirrors”. “There is an endless loop
of disinformation and half-formed
opinions. It gets echoed and replicated artificially, by Russian bots, as
well as by genuine means,” he said.
Clark is sceptical that Kremlin
propaganda works. He noted that
“most people in the world are not
on Twitter” and pointed to a recent
YouGov poll that found 75% of Britons thought the Russian state was
probably behind the poisoning. This
included 37% who thought Moscow
was “almost certainly” responsible.
Only 5% believed Russia was
innocent. On the continent, there
were similar suspicions. Almost 60%
of Germans, and just over half of
French people, believed the UK government’s case. This was also true
at an official level. In March, more
than 20 western countries expelled
dozens of Russian diplomats.
The Kremlin protests have had
some impact on UK politics. In the
House of Commons, Labour leader
Jeremy Corbyn appeared reluctant
to blame Russia. Foreign secretary
Boris Johnson claimed the government science facility at Porton Down
had identified Russia as the source
of the novichok poison. But it had
not: the UK’s case was based on intelligence and analysis of previous
Kremlin assassinations, including
the 2006 murder of former Russian
spy Alexander Litvinenko, killed
with a radioactive cup of tea.
Natalia Popovych, co-founder
of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center,
said Russia’s Skripal playbook was
previously seen in Ukraine. Dutch
investigators found that, in 2014,
Kremlin-backed rebels shot down
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over
eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Moscow supplied the
Buk missile. Russian state TV then
offered a series of wildly implausible counter-claims. It said that the
passengers were already dead, a
Ukrainian fighter jet had shot the
plane down, and the CIA and other
western intelligence agencies were
in on the plot.
“We monitored all the lies the
Russian media were pushing. Their
modus operandi is to deny, distract
and blame,” Popovych said.
These tactics may have limited
impact internationally, but are
pretty effective inside Russia, she
said. Even critics of Putin seem unpersuaded of Moscow’s guilt. “It’s
about broadcasting thoroughly
tailored narratives, which are not
even based on the news. This
happens on purpose on major TV
channels controlled by the Kremlin,”
Popovych said.
Russian broadcasters wage a relentless campaign against Europe,
she said, with an average of 18
negative references a day. Europe is
depicted as dangerous, decadent,
immoral, and home to fascism
and revisionism. The EU is falling
apart. Germans and Scandinavians
routinely take children away from
Russian families and give them to
“gays”, state TV claims.
The depiction of Britain inside
Russia is worse, analysis of more
than three years of content suggests.
The UK is portrayed as Europe’s
most Russophobic country and an
The Skripal poisoning
illustrates how much
the Kremlin has
abandoned regular
diplomacy
insidious and unreliable partner. A
report by the Rossiya 1 channel referred to Theresa May’s “pale, tired
flesh” and hinted that she had a
drinking problem. Only Belarus and
Switzerland get positive coverage.
So far, the Foreign Office has
taken baby steps to fight back. It has
released a mini-film setting out how
Moscow spreads fictitious stories.
The video identified three “tried and
tested” steps. These were “inventing
multiple theories to mask the truth”,
getting officials to endorse them as
being credible, and also “using bots
and fake accounts to amplify fake
information”.
None of this, the government
says, changes facts. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons confirmed novichok was
used in Salisbury. Russia’s identification of BZ was false – a “malign”
and “craven” attempt to shift the
blame elsewhere, according to the
EU and OPCW delegates.
The UK’s national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, took the
unusual step of releasing classified
intelligence. In a letter to the Nato
secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg,
Sedwill said Skripal’s former spy
agency, the GRU, had targeted Yulia
Skripal’s email account. Over the
past decade Russia had produced
small amounts of novichok, he said,
and used special units to test the
poison on door handles.
Despite this openness, critics say
Downing Street has been slow to
respond to cynical Russian attacks.
“They haven’t been proactive,”
Clark said of the Foreign Office and
politicians from all sides. “Despite
everything, the British elite is still
conflicted about how to deal with
Russia. War has been declared, but
we’re not fighting a war back.”
The government should enlighten
Russian citizens about the Kremlin’s
multiple abuses at home, he said.
These included “genuine conspiracies” such as the political murders
of Kremlin critics, as well as corruption at the highest levels, typically
featuring Putin’s friends and billionaire cronies. “I see no evidence so
far we are proactively hitting back,”
Clark said.
No one can accuse Moscow of a
lack of energy. Yakovenko has held
multiple press conferences at the
Russian embassy in Kensington.
Last Wednesday it launched an attack on Sedwill and claimed the
Skripals were being “forcibly isolated”. Their poisoning on 4 March
was a “staged provocation”, it said.
The UK’s behaviour continues
to be obstructive, Yakovenko complained. He blamed British “secret
services”, which had misled the
government. “They are making an
independent and transparent investigation impossible,” he added.
6 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
International news
Tough family …
(right) Red Ant
members on
patrol; (below)
residents’
belongings piled
on a street
James Oatway
The Red Ants, on frontline of South
Africa’s post-apartheid land conflict
Johannesburg diary
Jason Burke
T
he Red Ants are a
South African private
security company
specialising in clearing
“illegal invaders”
from properties. Two,
sometimes three times
a week, a convoy of trucks drives out
of the gates of a sprawling farm in
Gauteng province, carrying hundreds
of men and led by “officers” armed
with shotguns and handguns.
The company is rarely out of the
headlines in South Africa and has
been repeatedly accused of crimes
ranging from theft to murder. It is
fiercely criticised by human rights
campaigners. But the attitude of the
general public is more ambivalent
– and the Red Ants themselves are
fiercely loyal to each other and their
employers. “We are a family. We
look after each other … We have
built a community,” says Johan
Bosch, the farmer who founded and
owns the company.
A lack of adequate housing is
one of the most toxic legacies of
the apartheid regime that governed
South Africa for nearly 50 years.
Families, migrant workers, students
and homeless people pay middlemen for plots on wasteland around
Pretoria and Johannesburg or in
derelict buildings in the cities’
centres. Local authorities show
little sympathy and say they have
to enforce the law. Their chosen
enforcers are the police and, to
provide the manpower for evictions,
the Red Ants.
Fattis Mansions was once a
fashionable 1930s block of flats in
the heart of the banking and legal
district in Johannesburg. Wealthy,
mainly white residents fled Johannesburg’s centre during the late
1980s and early 1990s, leaving
hundreds of buildings to be taken
over by poor migrants from rural
areas. Four hundred people shared
three taps. There were no toilets
or electricity. The city authorities
have been clearing these “hijacked
buildings” one at a time for years –
often using the Red Ants.
The operation, involving 600 Red
Ants, begins in the early morning,
without warning. Wailing police
sirens fill narrow streets. The Red
Ants pour through an entrance, then
proceed on rusting iron stairways
and down filthy corridors. There is
no resistance. The pushers, gang
leaders and the rent extorters have
gone. Rubbish, furniture, mattresses
pile on the roadway outside.
The singing starts, low and
purposeful, as the Red Ants work.
Children are carried out, followed
by distressed mothers clutching
salvaged belongings in plastic
bags. Most adults knew this would
happen one day. For those too young
to understand, the sky has fallen in.
Who are the men in the
red overalls? They come from
impoverished small former mining
towns, from distant provincial
villages in parched mountains,
from Soweto, from hardscrabble
neighbourhoods half hidden amid
the urban sprawl of Johannesburg.
Most are young. Many are without
basic educational qualifications.
Some have criminal records. A few
are former convicts. All are poor.
They are paid the equivalent of $10
a day, plus some food. Many are
squatters themselves.
One left neighbouring Mozambique to work on building sites
but has struggled to find employment. “My wife said get a job … so
I did,” he says, shrugging narrow
shoulders. Another says he has
siblings to feed and clothe and send
to school: “No one likes doing this …
But I go to church every Sunday and
pray for my soul and I know my Lord
is watching over me, even here.” All
say they feel sorry for the squatters
but “work is work”.
One incident prompts a slew
of new allegations. The Red Ants
are hired to clear squatters from
land where a shopping complex is
due to be built in Lenasia, on the
southern outskirts of Johannesburg. The operation starts in the
early morning. But the squatters are
ready and fight the Red Ants with
machetes, rocks and staves.
The eviction stalls and the Red
Ants withdraw. Two squatters lie on
the ground. One is dying from head
injuries, the other is dead. Under
a tree, huddled in a plastic chair
salvaged from her makeshift hut, a
widow sobs. The violence prompts
investigation by private security
industry regulators. The Red Ants
deny wrongdoing.
South Africa is a fractured land.
It is optimistically known as the
Rainbow Nation, a reference to the
diversity of its communities. But
in a rainbow, the colours remain
separate. The most striking divide
in South Africa is economic. The
Red Ants are on the frontlines of a
conflict between those with land
and those without, the haves and
the have-nots, the winners and the
losers in one of the most unequal
countries in the world. During their
12-hour days, they are on one side.
But when their work is done, they
return to the other.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 7
International news
Israel fears ‘explosion of violence’
Palestinian protest day
coincides with divisive
US embassy move
Oliver Holmes Jerusalem
Police in Israel have started patrols
and security sweeps of a southern
Jerusalem neighbourhood, anxiously
preparing for a US embassy inauguration that Israelis and Palestinians fear
may launch a week of violence.
The move on 14 May will mark the
start of a potentially volatile week
when Israel will celebrate its 70th
anniversary and Palestinians mark
the “catastrophe”, or Nakba, of their
displacement on the 15th.
Nakba Day has previously seen
violence as the Israeli army responds
to demonstrations in the occupied
territories. This year, tensions are far
higher than usual. Six weeks of protests along the Gaza border, during
which Israeli soldiers have shot dead
nearly 40 people and wounded hundreds, will culminate that week.
There are fears that those attending
the rallies may attempt to breach the
perimeter, a move that could lead to
mass casualties as Israeli snipers are
operating under rules of engagement
that permit live fire.
“The situation between Israelis
and Palestinians could not be more
delicate,” wrote Ilan Goldenberg, who
served as part of the US team during
the 2013-14 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in an opinion piece for the
Israeli paper Haaretz.
The embassy move, he said, may
Rage ... Palestinian protester near the Israeli border Mohammed Saber/EPA
pass without significant violence. “Or
it could explode – and we could find
ourselves in the middle of a new war
between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Nobody knows, but it is irresponsible
for the US to be dumping gasoline on
this potential fire,” he said.
Israel’s police spokesman, Micky
Rosenfeld, said officers were assessing the level of security needed for the
opening, including deploying CCTV
cameras and guards in the Jerusalem
neighbourhood of Arnona, where
the current US consulate is being
retrofitted to become the embassy.
“We’re still waiting to see if the
US president will come here for the
opening move. The level of security
will be raised accordingly,” he said.
Donald Trump has hinted he may attend, while Israeli media have speculated he will send his daughter Ivanka
Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Israeli police had not received information of any specific warnings,
Rosenfeld said, but security forces
were “taking into consideration the
period we’re going to be in and other
events, including Jerusalem celebrations and Nakba Day”.
Jerusalem’s status has been a critical obstacle in peace negotiations, and
international consensus is that sovereignty over the city should be agreed
between the two sides. Palestinians
claim East Jerusalem as a capital of a
future independent state, but Israel
captured it in 1967. It later annexed
the city and claims the entire area as
its “eternal and undivided” capital.
On the weekend ahead of the embassy opening, thousands of Israelis
are expected to mark what they say is
the city’s reunification in a Jerusalem
Day rally. Often made up of religious
settlers, these marches pass through
Muslim district of the Old City and in
previous years groups have chanted
anti-Arab insults.
In the south, demonstrations in
Gaza have been supported by Hamas,
which rules the enclave and has
fought three wars with Israel. With
two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people
being refugees or their descendants,
protesters are demanding a “right to
return” to their ancestral homes.
“The intensity of these marches
will reach its zenith on 14 May,”
said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political
scientist at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. “It’s like the US is insisting on
making the Palestinians remember
this day as a very sad day in their history and in their struggle against the
Israeli occupation.”
Meanwhile Paraguay is to move its
embassy to Jerusalem by the end of
the month, the Israeli foreign ministry said, making it the third country
to do so after the US and Guatemala.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official in
the Palestine Liberation Organisation,
told the AP: “This decision is against
international law and supports the
Israeli occupation.”
Eyewitnessed, pages 24-25 →
Either way, Trump’s contempt for Iran deal draws conflict closer
Analysis
Julian Borger
T
he use of an Israeli private
security firm to dig for dirt
on senior members of the
Obama administration
linked to the Iran nuclear
deal, revealed in last Sunday’s
Observer, shows how far Donald
Trump and the hawks around him
were willing to go to destroy the
agreement.
The 2015 deal was the last major
element of Barack Obama’s foreign
policy legacy left standing, after
nearly 16 months of the Trump era.
The drive to unravel the agreement
has been both deeply personal –
driven by Trump’s animus towards
his predecessor – and global in its
implications for international peace.
The bid to discredit the Iran deal
– the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action (JCPOA) – with compromising information on two of its
fiercest advocates from the Obama
administration came to nothing.
Instead, Trump’s campaign against
it relied on the simple repetition of
derogatory phrases about it being
the “worst deal ever” and “a major
embarrassment”. It has remained a
fixed point in Trump’s universe.
The struggle over JCPOA’s fate
came to a head this week, as Trump
pondered whether to keep a set of
sanctions suspended, or violate
the deal by reviving them. Without
Trump’s support, JCPOA could
collapse quickly, or more likely
stumble on weakened a while longer
before crashing. Either way, the
prospect of a new conflict in the
Middle East drew closer.
Given the high stakes, European
capitals had desperately sought a
compromise to satisfy Trump and
salvage JCPOA by addressing the
president’s complaints about the
deal: that it does not address ballistic missile development or Iran’s
role in conflicts across the region,
and that some of the restrictions on
Iran’s nuclear activities expire in the
coming years.
As the struggle sharpened in the
run-up to Trump’s day of judgment,
the gambits on both sides grew
bolder. By flying, one by one, to
Trump’s court in a bid to appease
him – British foreign secretary Boris
Johnson made a last-ditch effort
on Monday – the Europeans risked
exposing their impotence.
Late last month Israel’s prime
minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
pulled an extraordinary stunt,
displaying an Israeli intelligence
trove on Iran in the style of a Las
Vegas show. Netanyahu ripped
black sheets off bookcases of files
and panels emblazoned with
CD-Roms, while screens displayed
the message “Iran lied”. It was
not clear if the performance was
intended to sway Trump or provide
him with cover for a decision he
had already taken. Observer
8 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
International news
Hezbollah consolidates in Lebanon
Prime minister Hariri
weakened in blow to
civil society movement
Martin Chulov Beirut
Hezbollah has gained political ground
in Lebanon and consolidated Iran’s
influence on the fragile state’s affairs
after winning, along with its allies, a
small majority in national elections.
The Shia militia-cum-political
bloc’s gains came at the expense of
the Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri,
whose authority was weakened by a
relatively poor showing in stronghold
areas. Many of Hariri’s traditional
supporters appeared to have stayed
at home last Sunday for the country’s first parliamentary vote in nine
years. His patron, Saudi Arabia, kept
its distance in the lead-up to the vote.
Riyadh offered no immediate reaction
to the result.
Hariri’s bloc, the Future Movement, lost one-third of its seats, and
he blamed a “scheme” to “eliminate”
Hariri … suffered from low turnout
it from the political process. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said
the party’s goals had been achieved by
the ballot, which has put it in a strong
position for post-election negotiations that apportion ministries and
control over state institutions.
Despite pre-poll hopes that a
civil society movement could break
through into Lebanese politics, only
one candidate was thought to have
been elected.
A feminist candidate, Joumana
Haddad, contested the result that saw
her narrowly lose out on becoming a
second voice in a grassroots movement that had planned to challenge
a political class dominated by former
civil war figures and their scions.
Hezbollah had been a dominant
player in Lebanon before the election
and its improved showing now comes
at a time of heightened regional tensions between its patron, Iran, and
arch foe, Israel, which in reaction to
the result claimed there was no distinction between the party and state.
Iran’s influence in Lebanon,
through the powerful party, had been
a point of growing tension for Israel
and Saudi Arabia, both of which view
Beirut as a pivotal cog of Tehran’s
regional projection.
Under a system put in place when
the civil war ended in 1990, the country’s three most powerful positions
are allocated along sectarian lines: a
Maronite Christian holds the presidency, a Shia Muslim is the speaker of
the parliament and a Sunni gets the
prime ministership.
None of the three positions are
expected to change. However, Hariri,
and to a lesser extent, the president,
Michel Aoun, are likely to emerge
weaker from the post-election carveup of roles. Hezbollah, meanwhile,
can afford to be lenient with both rivals
while asserting its will on certain issues.
Hezbollah is proscribed as a terrorist group by the United States and
its hold on Lebanese affairs has been
problematic for a succession of US and
European leaders. Lebanon remains
deeply indebted to international
donors. It has one of the lowest rankings on the global transparency index
and one of the highest debt-to-GDP
ratios in the world.
Its leaders, including those in
Hezbollah, have been anxious to avoid
the perception that the state is subservient to the party. However, the election results coupled with hardening
external views about the economic
and political state of Lebanon could
pose new variables in a country that
can ill afford them.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 9
International news
Cape Town averts its water ‘day zero’
City deals with drought
by rationing, re-use and
limits on toilet flushing
Krista Mahr
Late last year, as the South African
government faced the prospect of its
largest city running out of water, it
took an unprecedented gamble. The
government announced “day zero” –
a moment when dam levels would be
so low they would turn off the taps in
Cape Town and send people to communal water collection points.
This apocalyptic notion prompted
water stockpiling and panic, caused a
drop in tourism bookings and raised
the spectre of civil unrest.
It also worked. After years of trying to convince residents to conserve,
the aggressive campaign jolted people
into action. Water use was (and still is)
restricted to 50 litres per person per
day. (In 2016 average daily per capita use in California was 321 litres.)
Households that exceed the limit face
hefty fines, or having a meter installed
that shuts off water once they go over.
Capetonians started showering standing over buckets to re-use water, recycling washing machine water and
limiting loo flushes to once a day.
“It was the most talked-about
thing in Cape Town for months when
it needed to be,” says Priya Reddy, the
city’s communication director. “It was
not a pretty solution, but it was not a
pretty problem.”
Cape Town’s water use dropped
from 600m litres per day in mid-2017
to 507m litres per day at the end of
April. That’s still short of the 450m the
city should be using, but Reddy says
Crisis management … a water queue at a Cape Town natural spring Getty
it couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. “We really did need to make it
alarming enough, otherwise day zero
would have happened.”
“The day zero campaign made us
all think twice about water,” says Sue
Fox, after collecting several litres of
drinking water from a natural spring
in Newlands, an upmarket Cape Town
enclave. “We’ll never take water for
granted again.”
As global temperatures rise, cities
around the world will have to figure
out how to do more with less water.
The Western Cape’s response to its
water crisis – from farming innovations to reducing urban water use to
diversifying water sources – could
serve as a blueprint for cities that find
themselves, like Cape Town, looking at near-empty dams. “We have
pushed the limits far more than most
other cities,” says deputy mayor Ian
Neilson, in charge of the city’s water
crisis response. “Millions of people
have responded.”
Farmers in the drought-affected
area have had to abandon as much
as a quarter of their crops, by some
estimates, and tens of thousands of
agricultural jobs have been lost.
Finding ways to farm with less water is the new normal, apple grower
Derick van Zyl says. Even if the Western Cape’s drought ends with the
coming rainy season, climate change
means warmer temperatures are on
the way, he says. “There isn’t going to
be more water. We’ll have to make do
with what we’ve got.”
The combination of measures appears to have averted water armageddon – for now. The city has pushed
back the day-zero date to 2019.
The move met with a mix of relief
and exasperation. People wondered
whether it had been a hoax, or an attempt for the city to make money out
of higher water fines. The city has also
faced criticism that it allowed political
turmoil in city hall – mayor Patricia de
Lille has been under fire for months –
to slow down its response to the crisis.
Neilson says the decision to call off
day zero came down to transparency.
“It was about being honest with the
public. People would quickly call us
out if we didn’t tell the truth.”
Now the city must make sure residents don’t go back to their old habits.
Though day zero is out of the immediate picture, the major dams that supply water to the Western Cape are still
only about 20% full. If the rains don’t
come during the South African winter,
day zero could still happen. By then,
however, the city hopes to boost the
city’s water supply through repairing
water delivery infrastructure, drilling boreholes to access groundwater,
desalination and water re-use.
Many ideas about how to bring
more water to Cape Town have come
past Neilson’s desk, including cloud
seeding, harvesting water from the
air and even towing a 100m-tonne iceberg from Antarctica. “When somebody first tells you about it, you think
it’s a crazy idea,” says Nick Sloane, a
ship salvager who has been pitching
the iceberg plan. “But the more you
learn about it, it’s like, ‘Why not?’”
Ontario victory in battle for non-binary birth certificates
Leyland Cecco Toronto
Canada’s largest province has issued
its first non-binary birth certificate,
marking the culmination of a successful human rights claim against Ontario.
Joshua Ferguson had waited nearly
a year after petitioning the provincial
government for a new birth certificate in order to change the document
from male to non-binary, as Ferguson
identifies as neither male nor female.
Instead, the film-maker uses the
pronoun “they”.
“It’s a victory for me. It’s a victory
for the trans community,” Ferguson
told reporters.
Born in Ontario but now living
in Vancouver, Ferguson had travelled to Toronto to apply for the new
birth certificate, which they said
would better reflect their identity.
Ferguson’s successful application
follows a push by the transgender
activist Gemma Hickey, whose nonbinary birth certificate in Newfoundland and Labrador last year marked a
first for Canada.
Ontario now provides several
options for gender on birth certificates. In Ferguson’s case, gender is
denoted by an “X”, but petitioners
can also have their gender removed
altogether from the official document.
Ontario issued its first genderneutral driving licences and health
identification cards last year. The federal government has said it will soon
give Canadians the options to choose a
third gender option when applying for
a passport. In 2017, California passed
legislation to allow non-binary as an
option for birth certificates.
Joshua Ferguson
identifies as
neither male nor
female and now
has a certificate
denoting gender
with an X
“I feel a sense of relief because I
know that this policy will save lives,”
said Ferguson. A study released last
year showed a significant number of
trans youths in western Canada had
contemplated suicide.
“I felt hope in my heart for the
time when all of us are valued and
respected as human beings,” Ferguson wrote on social media. “It’s what
truly matters.”
“This result pleases me greatly,”
said Susan Gapka, a trans activist in
Toronto. “We now have an ever-expanding and broadening understanding of gender categories. Joshua’s outcome should be seen as a success.”
10 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
International news
Bedtime stories for
Syria’s war children
Montreal-based radio
show seeks to soothe
displaced youngsters
Clothilde Goujard Montreal
“Attention ladies and gentlemen,
come closer! The circus – and your
favourite radio show – is about
to start,” says a veteran FrenchCanadian journalist in French. He
turns to his co-host, a Syrian storyteller, who repeats the words into her
microphone, this time in Arabic.
In the tiny downtown studio of a student radio station in Montreal, Bernard
Derome and Marya Zarif are recording a
radio show for Syrian refugee children.
Launched in 2017 with support
from the Canadian Commission for
Unesco, Radio-Dodo – or SleepytimeRadio – has already broadcast 37 episodes online at radio-dodo.info and
through Radio-Rozana, a Syrian radio
station based in Paris. The weekly show
mixes stories, songs and segments
about everything from tying your
shoelaces to why your milk teeth fall
out. The aim is to help Syrian refugee
children around the world forget about
their worries and fall asleep at night.
The woman behind the show is
Brigitte Alepin, a French Canadian
whose Syrian grandfather immigrated
to Canada in the early 20th century.
Only a few years before the Syrian war
erupted in 2011, she had visited her
grandfather’s hometown of Aleppo
with her young son.
Throughout the trip he had played
with local children; now, she couldn’t
help wondering about them. Talking with a friend, an idea formed:
radio waves could cross borders and
reach an audience anywhere around
the world. Alepin said: “ I had an
intuition: I would try to make a radio
show for children.”
She gathered a small team of Syrian, Algerian and Canadian volunteers
All ears … Marya Zarif and Bernard
Derome in the studio; below,
avid Radio-Dodo listener Rahaf
her two brothers and their parents.
Rahaf uses her brother’s laptop to listen to the show as she falls asleep; her
favourite story so far was about a dog
taking the bus by himself. “I just listen
on my bed and I sing along,” she said in
French, her new language.
Rahaf’s mother, Basma, said her
husband and sons escaped to Jordan,
but when she and Rahaf attempted to
follow, they were arrested and jailed for
18 months. After being released, they
lived in a refugee camp in Jordan for
three years; conditions were harsh, and
there was no chance for the children to
go to school. Now Rahaf is getting used
to her new life, going to school during
the day and playing at home.
Alepin wants to expand her project,
and recently found a partner radio
station in Mali to broadcast her show
to children in the French-speaking
country. She hopes Radio-Dodo
can become a radio show for child
refugees around the world.
to help her organise the show, find
content and sign up storytellers.
Most of the audience is in Turkey and
Quebec. One regular listener is Rahaf,
a 10-year-old refugee from Damascus
who came to Montreal in 2016 with
This article is part of The Upside
– a series on possible solutions to
some of the world’s most stubborn
problems. Email suggestions to
theupside@theguardian.com
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 11
International news
Can Turkey’s iron lady defeat Erdoğan?
Meral Akşener – aka
‘She Wolf’ – is the Turkish
leader’s only real rival
Akşener ... ‘It’s
time for men in
power to feel fear’
Murad Sezer/
Reuters
Kareem Shaheen
Gokce Saracoglu
Meral Akşener stood near a statue
of the Turkish republic’s founder,
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in the Black
Sea town of Giresun earlier this year,
as she mocked the ruling party of
president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
His apparatchiks had hurt their
hands, she told the farmers in the
crowd, counting the millions of euros
with which they’d enriched themselves . Across the square a giant
banner implored: “Save us, iron lady.”
Whatever the president touches
turns to dust, she said. He once
dubbed Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s
dictator, “Brother Assad”.
“I hope he never calls me Brother
Meral”, she said to roaring laughter.
The 61-year-old Akşener, nicknamed Asena or “she-wolf” by her
admirers, has emerged as the only
credible challenger to the incumbent
president – the dominant figure in
Turkish politics in the past 16 years –
since he last month called snap elections for 24 June, a year and a half
ahead of schedule.
The winner of the presidential poll
will assume an executive presidency
with sweeping powers that voters
approved in a referendum last year.
Polls show an easy victory for
Erdoğan in the first round, but a much
tighter race within the margin of error
in the second round if he is pitted
against Akşener.
“Back when everything was
up in the air, I was the first person
to declare my candidacy against
Erdoğan,” Akşener, leader of the İyi
(Good) party, said. “I have said this
since the beginning of the process,
in the first round, everyone should
simply vote for their own candidate.
In the second round, for the sake of
our democracy, for our country, the
opposition should leave aside its
bickering and support the opposition
candidate, whoever it is. This election
is one of the most important elections
of our country’s history.”
The ascendency of Erdoğan’s
ruling and Islamist-oriented Justice
and Development (AK) party has
been a fact of Turkish political life.
It dominates the conservative and
nationalist right after an alliance
with the Nationalist Movement
party (MHP) of Devlet Bahçeli, with
whose help it was able to win in
the referendum.
Akşener – a devout Muslim and
granddaughter of immigrants who
arrived from Greece in the 1920s during
the traumatic population exchanges
after the Turkish war of independence
– was a veteran of Bahçeli’s party,
serving as interior minister in the
1990s, until an insurgent challenge to
his leadership forced her to leave.
She is hoping in her campaign to
attract both defectors from the AKP’s
camp, conservative heartland voters
unhappy with the direction of the
country and allegations of corruption in the party’s ranks, and opposition members who are fed up with
What happened in last year’s
Turkish referendum?
On 16 April 2017 Turkish voters
narrowly approved a package of
constitutional amendments granting President Erdoğan sweeping
new powers. The amendments
will transform the country from a
parliamentary democracy into a
presidential system.
Under the new system
Erdoğan will be able to stand in
two more election cycles, meaning he could govern as a powerful
head of state until 2029.
The new laws will notionally
allow Erdoğan to hire and fire
judges and prosecutors, appoint a
cabinet, abolish the post of prime
minister, limit parliament’s role to
amend legislation and much more.
their political bloc’s failure to defeat
Erdoğan in any election since 2002.
Akşener has pledged to roll back
the presidential system, to put the
country’s relations with the EU back
on track, and to restore the rule
of law in Turkey, where freedoms
have been curtailed under a state of
emergency in place since a failed coup
attempt in July 2016.
“I am a practising Muslim, I have
performed the pilgrimage, but the
mind that governs us must rely on
laws. The state’s secularism makes it
possible to change laws that are made
for people and to change them according to the needs of citizens over time.”
Akşener emerged as the opposition’s almost default candidate after
Abdullah Gül, an ex-president and
founding member of Erdoğan’s AKP
who fell out with the Turkish leader,
decided not to run. The pro-Kurdish
People’s Democratic party (HDP)
nominated its leader, Selahattin
Demirtaş, despite his languishing in a
prison cell since November 2016.
The Republican People’s party
(CHP), a hardline secularist party
with limited appeal among religious
conservatives that has not won an
election since 2002, will likely end up
backing Akşener as a candidate who
can reach across the aisle.
“Turkey is mainly a rightwing
country – since the country became
a multiparty democracy in 1950, the
left has ruled for only 17 months,”
said Soner Cagaptay, director of the
Turkish research programme at the
Washington Institute and author of
a biography of Erdoğan. “Her party
will be a serious challenge, at least a
major headache to him from his soft
flank, the right.”
But that rightwing appeal means
Akşener will also have to contend with
the ultranationalist and racist history
of her political forebears, a legacy that
has earned her İyi party comparisons
with Europe’s anti-immigrant wave, a
charge she vehemently denies.
The Grey Wolves, the onceparamilitary wing of the MHP, were
implicated in numerous incidents
of political violence in the 1970s and
80s, and an attempted assassination
of Pope John Paul II.
Kurdish voters in Turkey’s southeast have always been wary of
nationalist politicians, and Akşener’s
tenure as interior minister occurred
during one of the worst periods of
human rights violations by the state
against Kurds in the region.
She will face an uphill battle in
convincing them to back her in a
possible second round of presidential elections, and she has said little on efforts to resolve the Kurdish
issue, speaking in more general terms
about preserving the nation’s identity
while respecting the rights of minority groups. Akşener has said her party,
headed as it is by the granddaughter of
immigrants, is open to all identities.
And, in a male-dominated political culture, she has another message.
“Now it is time for them, the men in
power, to feel fear,” she said.
12 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
International news
A long way from closure
on Cambridge Analytica
The company has
gone but there will
be more revelations
to come, explains
Carole Cadwalladr
L
ast weekend marks a
peculiar anniversary.
One year ago the Observer published the
article that led to the
first of a series of legal
threats from Cambridge
Analytica: threats that have dogged
the reporting of this story ever since.
And last weekend marked the end
of the week in which the company
collapsed.
It was not the first piece we had
published about the company – the
lawyers cited six previous ones –
but it was our article on 7 May 2017,
“The Great British Brexit Robbery”,
that prompted the “pre-action
protocol for defamation”. Or, as one
colleague said: “It appears that you
have put your stick into the hornets’
nest one time too many.”
Last Wednesday, Cambridge
Analytica announced that it had
gone into liquidation. It’s not the
end of the road for the company, or
the investigations into it, but it is a
remarkable moment in Cambridge
Analytica’s short and eventful life
– the zenith of which was helping
Donald Trump become US president
only 18 months ago – and in the
Observer’s involvement in it.
The Observer, along with the
Guardian, have been on Cambridge
Analytica’s heels for most of that
short history. But it was the article
in February 2017 that revealed the
central role in the company of Robert
Mercer, the US data billionaire and
supporter of rightwing causes that
triggered two UK investigations, both
of which continue: one by the Electoral Commission into whether it had
done undeclared work for the Brexit
campaign Leave.EU, the other by the
Information Commissioner’s Office.
And it was this investigation that
led to the Information Commissioner’s
Cambridge
Analytica’s corporate
structure, a web of
interlinked entities, is
confusing by design
Office announcing a wider inquiry
into the use of data in politics: an
inquiry that culminated when the
ICO raided Cambridge Analytica’s
offices in the week that the Observer
published revelations from Christopher Wylie, a former employee
turned whistleblower.
Cambridge Analytica portrayed
itself as a victim – a victim of
unwarranted press attention that
had driven away customers. It
had been the subject of “numerous unfounded accusations” and
“vilified for activities”, it claimed.
From a firm that drew on its parent
company SCL’s 30 years of expertise
in military psychological operations,
one would expect nothing less.
This is not the end of Cambridge
Analytica, and it is not the end of the
use of our personal data in ways we
may not even be aware of – but it is a
triumph of sorts. News has won over
fake news. Facts over lies. Trump’s
presidency unleashed an existential
crisis for news organisations that is
still playing out. How do you combat
articles that have no basis in fact
but that – as Cambridge Analytica’s
chief executive, Alexander Nix, told
an undercover reporter for Channel
4 – can be made to “infect the bloodstream of the internet”?
There are still no easy answers to
any of this, but what the Observer
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 13
More on the website
See the latest news and analysis
→ www.theguardian.com/news
Under fire … Alexander Nix of
Cambridge Analytica; below, Mark
Zuckerberg Antonio Cotrim/EPA
investigation into Cambridge Analytica uncovered was that none of it
was accidental. Trump has called the
press “the enemy of the American
people” but what we found was that
Mercer and Steve Bannon, Trump’s
former chief strategist, were waging a war on facts and on the mainstream media, on multiple fronts.
It remains to be seen what the
liquidation of Cambridge Analytica
and the affiliated SCL Elections
will ultimately mean. It’s unclear
what data or intellectual property
has been transferred to a new
Mercer-funded vehicle, Emerdata,
whose directors include all the main
individuals involved in Cambridge
Analytica – Mercer’s daughter
Rebekah Mercer; Alexander Tayler,
CA’s chief data officer; and Julian
Wheatland, its chairman, among
them. Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss
mathematician and data expert
whose research has been pivotal to
this investigation, said last Friday
that he suspected data had already
been migrated to Emerdata. His
start-up, personaldata.io, processes
data requests on behalf of individuals and he had noticed Cambridge
Analytica had changed its form
response to these requests.
The data is out there. That much
we know. Since the Observer published Wylie’s firsthand account
on 17 March and Facebook subsequently confirmed that as many
as 87 million people may have had
their personal information improperly harvested on Cambridge Analytica’s behalf, we have also learned
that hundreds, maybe thousands, of
other app developers did the same.
The most dramatic development
in the Cambridge Analytica story
last week was not the company’s demise. Instead, it took place, almost
unnoticed, inside Portcullis House,
the Palace of Westminster’s overspill
building where much of the routine
business of government takes place.
There, in an anonymous
committee room, Chris
Vickery, who works
for the data security
company UpGuard,
told the select committee for Digital,
Culture, Media and
Sport (DCMS) how
he had stumbled
across a data breach
online: an unsecured
repository of source
code left online by
AggregateIQ, the
company employed
by the official Vote
Leave campaign that
we reported a year ago was
Cambridge Analytica’s Canadian
affiliate. The code has proof of almost everything we reported – things
that Cambridge Analytica had denied
in long and detailed legal letters.
It was inconceivable, Vickery
said, that Trump’s campaign did
not have access to psychological
models derived from Facebook data.
Cambridge Analytica and AIQ were
technologically inseparable. And
there was “prima facie evidence”
that four different Leave campaigns
had collaborated, that they had coordinated in their efforts, and that
this had been facilitated by AIQ. Coordination which is illegal under UK
law. Coordination which had been
facilitated by Facebook.
AggregateIQ has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. It maintains
it is 100% Canadian-owned and
operated, and not a direct part, or
branch, of Cambridge Analytica. Jeff
Silvester, one of AIQ’s founders, said
that Cambridge Analytica was not in
contact with AIQ during the referendum campaign. “AIQ never worked
or even communicated in any way
with Cambridge Analytica or any
other parties related to Cambridge
Analytica with respect to the Brexit
campaign. Any claim that we shared
Vote Leave data with Cambridge
Analytica or anyone else in any
way is entirely false.” Canadian
MPs, however, have suggested the
founders of the company had been
lying to parliament. They asked
Zackary Massingham and Silvester
to give evidence about their relationship with Cambridge Analytica
and the work the company had carried out on the referendum. In an
evidence session that Charlie Angus
MP said was the most extraordinary
he had seen in Canada’s parliament
in 14 years, he told them their answers “beggar belief”. The chair of
the committee added: “Something
doesn’t smell right here.”
Last Thursday, the Canadian
committee asked the head of the
ColUK’s DCMS committee, Damian C
and
lins, to give evidence by Skype, a
another Canadian MP, F
Frank
Baylis, told him the
groups
referendum grou
were “actively coordinating” a
and
was
that “there w
a series of ccoincidences th
that
logic”. He
defy logic”
said the ev
evidence they had
pointed
seen pointe
to “SCL,
Cambridge
Analytica,
SCL Canad
Canada,
one
AIQ – all on
organisation”.
The question is
is,
next?
what happens nex
Web unravelling
How the story broke
Feb 2017
Special
report
into
Robert
Mercer’s
activities
May 2017 The Observer publish a
story that leads to first legal threat
from Cambridge Analytica
Mar 2018
Former
Cambridge
Analytica
employee
Christopher
Wylie goes
public
Mar 2018
Shahmir
Sanni, a
former
Brexit youth
campaigner,
brings
allegations
relating to
Vote Leave
Canadian MPs are pointing to a
crime that is potentially so much
bigger than breaking electoral law.
A crime that was enabled by a company – Facebook – whose head has
refused, repeatedly, to answer questions to the British parliament.
Where does this leave British law?
British democracy? And, crucially,
parliament? What will it do with
the evidence it has gathered? Will
MPs alert the crown prosecution
service? The police? The National
Crime Agency? There have been so
many systemic failures that have
brought us to the point at which a US
technology platform can be accused
of having interfered in the democratic process.
That this story is complicated
is no accident. Cambridge Analytica’s corporate structure, a web
of interlinked entities, is confusing
by design. But there are also things
that are simple to understand:
evidence, for example. Testimony.
Witness after witness who has stood
up and told them that laws were
broken. And, while there are multiple threads to this story, there’s
also a central node: Facebook. One
company, run by one man, Mark
Zuckerberg, that governs and controls how political messages are
delivered to 2 billion voters. It’s an
insane proposition that the world
has sleepwalked into this situation
– and, as the DCMS committee has
discovered, that there appears to
be no democratic means of calling
people to account.
Last week, Collins published
his fourth letter to Zuckerberg,
issuing an extraordinary notification. If Zuckerberg did not come to
testify voluntarily, he warned, the
next time he entered British territory, he would be “summoned”
more formally.
Cambridge Analytica’s cheap and
easy fix of calling in the liquidators
is not going to cut it. We know the
company is a subject of interest to
Robert Mueller. We know that the
data operation of Trump’s campaign
is one point of his investigation into
potential collusion with the Kremlin.
We know that the same cast of characters were involved, Bannon and
Nigel Farage chief among them, in
both campaigns on both sides of the
Atlantic – or, at least, this is what Canadian lawmakers believe. We know
that parliament now has evidence
that suggests referendum campaigners colluded to break the law.
Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s
chief technology officer, was grilled
last week by British MPs on the
company’s decision to send the
Observer a legal threat the day before we published our interview
with Wylie. Jo Stevens MP pointed
out that it was only because of the
Guardian’s 2015 article that the company knew about the Cambridge Analytica data breach in the first place.
And then Julian Knight MP took up
the baton. Had he any idea what
kind of chilling effects these threats
had? Schroepfer, out of his depth,
was flustered. “My understanding is
that this is common practice in the
UK,” he said. And then: “I am sorry
that journalists feel that we are trying to prevent them from getting the
truth out.”
This is not how apologies work.
But then, none of this is how any of
this should work. And the evidence
leaking out, week by week, in Portcullis House is making that painfully
apparent. Cambridge Analytica is
gone. But what I want to know is
this: what will happen next?
14 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Finance
‘Us v the world’ – Qatar defies blockade
Action by neighbours
has spurred emirate
towards self-sufficiency
Tim Adams Doha
For most of the past year the city-state
of Qatar, the wealthiest peninsula on
the planet, has been exploring the law
of unintended consequences. The
trigger for that came last June, when
Qatar’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, escalated
a simmering disquiet about the Gulf
state’s role in the region to implement
a full land and air blockade.
Overnight, planes and cargo ships
heading for Qatar were diverted, all
diplomatic links were cut and Qatar’s
sole land border, with Saudi Arabia,
was closed. Even camels were not
spared the politics – 12,000 Qatari
animals were forcibly repatriated.
The blockade – which came with
a 10-day ultimatum of 13 demands –
was imposed in protest against what
was seen as Qatar’s singular role
in “funding terrorism” (the Saudi
line that Donald Trump swallowed
and retweeted whole). Politically, it
seemed rather an attempt to humiliate the sheikhdom and call it to heel.
However, far from destabilising Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family,
resistance to the ultimatum has lent
it an “us against the world” authority.
Among the 313,000 native Qataris (in a
population of 2.6 million) a cult of personality has grown around the youthful emir, Sheikh Tamim, whose idealised portrait now gazes across the Gulf
from the steel and glass skyscrapers of
Doha, and is almost ubiquitous in the
back window of the 4x4s that cruise
the capital’s six-lane corniche.
Isolation has also, it seems, acted as
a catalyst to Qatar’s long-term vision
for itself. One of the inbuilt ironies of
the richest per capita state on earth
was that, ever since it discovered and
exploited its vast natural gas reserves,
there has been little native necessity to
drive invention. The al-Thanis’ stated
goal has been to create a knowledge
economy that will last beyond the gas
reserves. As Sheikha Hind, younger
sister of the emir, explained to me in
Doha in a rare interview, money – and
the incentive of capital projects such as
the 2022 World Cup – solves only some
of those skills shortages.
“It is not a secret that we are a
wealthy society and that maybe
nobody even needs to work,” she said.
“But knowing that you can contribute
in developing your country, and allow
it to become even more prominent,
Pride … portraits of the Emir of Qatar at Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art; below, Sheikha Hind Karim Jaafar/Getty
is something everyone feels pride
in. If anything, the blockade helped
that. We see a big opportunity to be
self-sustainable.”
Qatar’s modern nation-building
aspirations were first expressed by
Sheikha Hind’s parents. While her
father developed the partnership with
Iran that could exploit the gas fields,
her mother, Sheikha Moza, established
the Qatar Foundation in order to
transform education, particularly for
women. Sheikha Hind, 34, a mother
of five herself, was one of the first
beneficiaries of “Education City” and
has for the past three years been chief
executive of the Qatar Foundation.
From the balcony of its offices you
can see the glass and marble evidence
of that ambition in the futuristic campuses of a dozen “partner universities”. Each was persuaded to come
here for its particular expertise in
building capacity that Qataris need.
The newest addition to Education
City is the stunning Qatari National Library, designed by the Dutch
architect Rem Koolhaa s.
Fifty-one thousand
nd Qataris
have already taken
ken out
membership and
d in the
few months since
ce the
library opened, every
one of the 150,000
,000
0
books on its shelves
ves
has been borrowed
wed
at least once.
Along with the
he
silver terraces
of books, below
ow
ground, the library
ry
houses an expennsively acquired
ed
collection of rare
are
manuscripts and calligraphy relating
to the Arab world. This collection
has been assembled in the same acquisitive spirit in which the al-Thani
billions have filled its IM Pei-designed
Museum of Islamic Art: to establish
Doha as the modern intellectual
capital of the Arab world. Later this
year a new National Museum will add
another dimension to that claim.
There is a blatant “look at us”
attitude in some of this, but also the
message that the territory that Qatar
aims to colonise is as much cultural
as economic. That principle was first
tested 22 years ago when the then
emir established and funded the Arab
broadcaster al-Jazeera. The harsh
light the television station has shone
on the internal politics of other Arab
nations (and the relatively soft focus
it gives to Qatar) is at the heart of the
current enmity. One of the 13 ultimatum demands of the blockaders was
that the broadcaster be shut down.
The Saudi-led outrage at alJazeera’s reporting and editorial
stance deepened during
d
the Arab
spring, when the station (and
family) threw its
Doha’s ruling fa
support behin
behind the popular
uprising, rathe
rather than the esruling powers. This
tablished rulin
stance was
w seen as part
wider pattern in
of a wi
which Qatar seeks to
build power at home
while fomenting
whil
dissent abroad,
diss
aiming to be all
aim
things to all peothin
ple: keeping trade
ple
and diplomatic
an
channels open
ch
to Israel while openly funding Hamas;
hosting the major American air base,
al-Udeid, while giving support to the
Islamist Muslim Brotherhood; offering
to broker peace talks on Syria while giving refuge to known al-Qaida affiliates.
For Qatar’s detractors, al-Jazeera
has become the symbol of the hypocrisies of that self-styled radicalism.
In Doha it is rather an emblem of independence and sovereignty. As Sheikha
Hind suggests: “Imagine [another nation] telling Britain to close the BBC
– you would be shocked.” She makes
a strong case for the liberalising effect
the broadcaster has had. “I think
when we are talking about where we
want our region to be, al-Jazeera is an
important part of that … ” she says.
“Maybe a lot of people are not happy
with things that have come out from
the darkness, but if you want to build a
civil society and allow people to think
for themselves and be critical, every
story has to come out.”
I ask Hind if the Qatari ruling family is secretly grateful for the blockade
in sharpening a perceived cultural
divide between itself and its Wahhabi
neighbours.
“I won’t lie to you and tell you we are
OK with the blockade,” Sheikha Hind
says, “absolutely not. We have had
students here who are terribly affected
by it – whole families have been torn
apart. It is a sad situation we are in.”
She hopes, along with every other Qatari I speak to, that there is a resolution
to the conflict soon. Still, she says, “if
anything, the push we always had here
for self-sustainability is just exploding
now.” The goal has not changed, she
suggests, “but now we are running
rather than walking”. Observer
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 15
UK news
Alcohol: scourge of the poor
Minimum pricing is now necessary
→ Nick Cohen, Page 19
Early warning missed … breast screening can pick up cancers before women notice any symptoms Burger/Phanie/Rex/Shutterstock
IT failure leads to thousands
missing breast screenings
Women’s lives may have been cut short, says health secretary
Jessica Elgot
Women’s lives may have been cut
short by a major IT error that meant
450,000 patients in England missed
crucial breast cancer screenings, the
health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said
last week.
As many as 270 women may have
died because of the 2009 computer
error, he said. Families now face the
possibility that loved ones who have
recently died from breast cancer may
have missed opportunities for early
diagnosis. Women receiving breast
cancer treatment, including those with
a terminal diagnosis, may also receive
letters informing them of missed
screenings in the coming months.
The government has ordered an
independent inquiry into the scandal, which Public Health England
(PHE) only unearthed in January after
almost a decade of errors, Hunt said.
He said between 135 and 270
women “may have had their lives
shortened as a result” of the missed
letters, which were due to be sent out
automatically to older women registered with their GPs. He said the numbers may be considerably lower, but
that statistical modelling suggested
there were “likely to be some people
in this group who would have been
alive today if this had not happened”.
Hunt told the House of Commons
that because of a computer algorithm
failure an estimated 450,000 women
aged between 68 and 71 were not
invited to their final breast screening
between 2009 and the start of 2018. He
said the error was a serious failure of
the screening programme.
Of the women who missed screenings, 309,000 were still alive and
would be contacted before the end of
May, and the first 65,000 notifications
had already gone out, Hunt said.
The letters will tell women under
72 that they will automatically be sent
an invitation for a catchup screening,
and those 72 and over will be given
access to a helpline to decide whether
a screening is appropriate, he said.
Hunt said his department would
contact the families of women who
had died of breast cancer and who
believed they had missed a screening, to apologise, and offer a process
to establish whether the missed scan
led to shortening of their life. Family
members would have their concerns
investigated and compensation may
Analysis Is Jeremy Hunt’s rhetoric overheated?
Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has
described the failure of the breast
screening programme to invite
some older women for a mammogram in apocalyptic terms, causing
huge alarm. Public Health England
is unable to give details of how
it got to what it says is 450,000
missed invites. “It is based on
modelling data,” said a spokesperson. “It is an estimation. That’s all
we know at the present.”
esent.
The possible 270
0 deaths –
hortened”
or as Hunt said, “shortened”
lives – is also in dispute.
spute.
er, statistiDavid Spiegelhalter,
he
cian and chair of the
Winton Centre for
e
Risk and Evidence
Communication att
Cambridge University, took issue
with Hunt’s statement.
“There is only weak evidence
that screening helps prolong life,
particularly for older women,” he
said in a blog. And “contrary to
popular belief, screening also does
harm … for every 200 women
attending screening between 50 and
70, we would expect one to have her
early death from breast cancer prevented, but three to be unnecessarily treated ffor a harmless cancer that
would not have troubled them.”
The growing
grow
knowledge of the
downsi
downsides as well as the upsides
of screening
sc
may be why
only two-thirds of women
att
attend their appointments.
Sa
Sarah Boseley
be payable if the error is found to have
led to an earlier death, he said.
The issue came to light because of an
upgrade to the IT system for the breast
screening invitation programme. Dr
Jenny Harries, PHE’s deputy medical
director, said the body was “very sorry
for these faults in the system”.
The problem was identified during
a review of the progress of a major
NHS trial designed to find out whether
extra screening would protect older
women from breast cancer.
Set up in 2009, the AgeX trial now
runs in 65 breast cancer units across
England. After it was noticed that
women in the trial had not been invited for their final routine screenings
before their 70th birthday, it emerged
that this had also happened to women
in the routine programme.
The inquiry is likely to raise questions for Labour, under whom the
IT errors occurred, as well as for the
Conservatives, as to why the glitch
was not picked up sooner. Hunt
said new resources would be found
where scans and treatment were
needed “to make sure other people
are not disadvantaged”.
The Royal College of Radiologists
said the catchup test would place
considerable strain on screening units
already stretched.
Cancer charities expressed deep
concern about the revelations.
More reaction, page 23 →
16 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
UK news
Voters give little comfort to left or right
Local elections point to
Brexit problems for both
Labour and the Tories
Toby Helm and
Mason Boycott-Owen
Entering the West Midlands market
town of Nuneaton, there are signs saying “Nuneaton and Bedworth – United
to Achieve”. But in the town centre the
upbeat slogan does not rest easy with
the prevailing mood. The traditional
industries – coal and textiles – have all
but disappeared. People say its centre
is dead and its shops struggling.
At every election, local or national,
politicians and political pundits pay
attention to Nuneaton, a key marginal
in the heart of England. It is a place to
gauge the national mood. It expressed
its discontent at the 2016 referendum
by voting by 66/34 for Brexit. Last
week, after eight years of Conservative national government and a backdrop of crises on immigration and the
NHS, and Brexit deadlock, Labour
hoped to benefit from Theresa May’s
troubles and consolidate its position
on the local council. Yet Labour went
backwards. Its tally of seats fell from
25 to 17 and the Conservatives’ went
up from seven to 16, depriving Jeremy
Corbyn’s party of control.
Peter Kang, 48, a financial planning
and analysis manager in the town, has
voted Ukip in recent elections. But
he now looks to the Tories to deliver
on Brexit. Yet that Ukip dividend for
the Conservatives – on a night when
the party lost 123 seats and held just
three – could become a curse as well
as a blessing, at least for those Tories
who fear the results of a hard Brexit.
As the smoke cleared after election night, one theme of importance
was identified by polling expert Prof
Shortfall … Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had disappointments Neil Hall/EPA
John Curtice. The mass defection of
the Ukip vote to the Tories in Leave
areas could spell huge problems for
Theresa May, placing the prime minister under more pressure to deliver the
kind of clean Brexit her new backers,
the ex-Ukippers, crave.
After a week in which pro-Brexit
ministers had quashed plans for a
customs partnership with the EU
that May hoped would help unlock
the Irish border question, Curtice’s
assessment was further music to their
ears. Boris Johnson took up the theme
on Twitter – Tories had to reject a customs union or partnership and buy
into a hard, clean Brexit because that
was what voters said they wanted.
But last week the Irish government
again made clear it will veto any Brexit
deal that fails to deliver a frictionless
border between north and south.
Neither in Brussels nor in Dublin, nor
in soft-Brexit circles in Westminster,
can anyone see how that frictionless
border can be achieved without some
form of customs union – one that ever
more people who vote Tory say would
amount to a Brexit betrayal.
Labour is contemplating a set of results that deepen its own angst over
what to say and do about Brexit. The
party scored some notable successes,
robbing the Tories of control of
Trafford in Manchester and taking
Plymouth. It performed better in
London than at any time since 1971.
But there were similar stories to that
of Nuneaton in too many other areas
of provincial England.
Last Saturday Labour’s Angela
Smith, a member of the parliamentary
committee representing backbenchers, said it was time for the party to
“take a long hard look at ourselves
as many voters don’t like what they
see”. Former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “After eight
years of Tory misrule, most people
thoroughly tired of austerity, a disastrous Brexit negotiation, the Windrush outrage and four cabinet resignations in six months, we should be well
ahead and we are not. If we don’t ask
why, then we risk losing a fourth time
at the next general election.”
In Derby Labour ceded overall
control. In Basildon, Essex, the Conservatives took control as they picked
up half of 10 seats lost by Ukip. In Redditch, another Leave-voting area, the
Tories took control of the council.
Labour also failed to take, or make
headway, in any of the Conservative
strongholds in London – Wandsworth,
Westminster and Barnet (where the
row over alleged antisemitism in the
party had a devastating effect). The
relief among Tories, even though
they lost 33 seats, was palpable. The
national picture showed them neck
and neck with Labour, but they had
outperformed expectations. The
Liberal Democrats also celebrated,
retaking Richmond and Kingston
upon Thames councils.
When Corbyn next addresses
Labour’s parliamentary party he will
face calls for changes of direction
on many fronts. But for both parties
last Thursday’s elections above all
revealed just how much of British
politics is being refracted through the
prism of Brexit. The Tories must work
out how to appease their increasingly
hardline support (70% of Tory voters
are now Leave supporters, compared
with 30% of Labour ones, according to
polling analyst Rob Ford). For its part,
Labour requires a strategy that stiffens
its Remain resolve without alienating
voters in the passionately pro-Leave
towns of provincial England. Observer
Highly skilled migrants ‘wrongly facing deportation’
Amelia Hill
At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants
seeking indefinite leave to remain
(ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing
deportation under a section of the
Immigration Act designed in part
to tackle terrorists and individuals judged to be a threat to national
security, MPs and experts have said.
In the latest scandal to hit the Home
Office, MPs and immigration experts
criticised use of the controversial section 322(5) of the act, with some saying
the crisis-hit department is abusing its
power. Experts say the highly skilled
workers – including teachers, doctors,
lawyers, engineers and IT professionals – are refused ILR after being
accused of lying in their applications
either for making minor and legal
amendments to tax records, or having discrepancies in declared income.
In one case the applicant’s tax returns were scrutinised by three different appeal courts who found no evidence of any irregularities. The same
figures are nevertheless used as basis
for a 322(5) refusal because of basic tax
errors allegedly made by the Home Office itself. Highly Skilled Migrants, a
support group that represents more
than 600 workers and states it is in
contact with over 400 more, says it
has raised £40,000 ($54,000) to challenge the Home Office in the courts.
Paul Garlick, a former QC who specialises in extradition and human
rights law, said: “The decisions of the
Home Office are beyond belief and
deplorable … My feeling is that caseworkers have been told to look for
discrepancies that could form the basis
of an accusation the applicant is lying,
because that’s the quickest way to dispose of an application.” Afzal Khan
MP, shadow immigration minister,
said the Home Office has gone after
“what they perceive as easy targets in
the form of the Windrush generation
and highly skilled migrants”.
A Home Office spokesperson said
it refuses applications “only where
the evidence shows applicants have
deliberately provided false information to the government”.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 17
Kew the praise ‘Greatest glasshouse in the world’ reopens
It would have been very difficult
to find a more glorious corner of
England than Kew Gardens last
Saturday. Under a perfect blue sky,
pilgrims were paying homage at the
botanists’ equivalent of Valhalla.
They had returned to their gleaming cathedral to perform a very
secular form of worship. After five
years of renovations the Temperate
House, home to more than 10,000
plants from the world’s “Goldilocks
zones” where temperatures are not
too hot or too cold, was open again.
The £41m ($55.5m) project to
return the 1863 triumph of Victorian
engineering – the size of three jumbo
jets – to its original design, but using
modern materials, had garnered
lavish praise from the architecture
critics at a private opening.
But the more important question
was what would the public make of
Decimus Burton’s metal-and-glass
paean to biodiversity after its comprehensive overhaul? Kew wants
the Temperate House to convey an
urgent message: that plants are the
foundation of all life on Earth, and
they are in trouble. Its cathedral
needs to wow if that message is to
reach beyond the converted.
As the temperature outside what
Kew is now billing as “the greatest
glasshouse in the world” rose into
the mid-20s Celsius, the pilgrims
were emphatic in their response.
Christine Bacani, 28, from Canada, saw the house as a refuge from
modernity. “It’s so different from
social media. You are right here. It’s
green in Canada, too. But it’s a different kind. Standing here to be able to
see the life around us, it’s cool.”
Steve Ketley, 65, was a little emotional as he examined a Chilean wine
palm. Ketley worked at Kew for 40
years until he retired in January and
helped grow many of the plants now
on display in the house from seed.
“I have a soft spot for the Temperate House because the plants are
more familiar to the hardy gardener,”
he said. “People will recognise
many of the plants here, unlike, say,
tropical plants.”
Boran Djokic, 51, originally from
Serbia, was visiting with his daughter Mia, 13, and his mother, Sasha.
“For us, the gardens are like relief
and now this reopened glass house
will be another addition,” he said.
“I have been in London for 25 years
and today when I walked in I saw it
in a different way.”
Helen Smith, 37, came with her
partner, Chris. As the sun streamed
through the house’s 15,000 panes
of glass, Chris made shadow puppets with his hands and produced
a bewildering array of tiny kaleidoscopes from a bracelet on his wrist.
Viewed through them, the Temperate House was reduced to endless
patterns in which people, plants and
the building were all magically fused
together. For Helen, the trinity of
house, plants and people offered a
connection to something half lost.
“I was four when my parents took
me here first. It’s all coming back
now. They are no more. So this visit
is special.” Jamie Doward Observer
Photograph: Andy Hall
Trump: guns answer to UK knife crime
Jamie Grierson
The suggestion by Donald Trump
that guns are part of the solution to
knife crime in London is ridiculous,
a trauma surgeon in the capital has
said. The US president told the National Rifle Association convention
in Dallas last Friday that a “once very
prestigious hospital” in London was
like a “warzone”.
He appeared to be referring to
comments by Martin Griffiths, a lead
trauma surgeon at the Royal London
hospital in Whitechapel, who likened
stabbing victims coming there to
scenes in a military hospital.
Prof Karim Brohi, another surgeon
at the hospital and the director of
London’s major trauma system, said
knife violence was a serious issue for
London. “We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our
violence reduction programmes,” he
said in a statement last Saturday.
“There is more we can all do to
combat this violence, but to suggest
guns are part of the solution is ridiculous. Gunshot wounds are at least
twice as lethal as knife injuries.”
Five people were shot over the
last weekend in the city – including 17-year-old Rhyhiem Ainsworth
Barton, who was found dead in
Southwark last Saturday.
The most recent official data on
US crime , the 2016 uniform crime
report published by the FBI, showed
that there were 5.3 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters per 100,000
people: 53 per million.
Police-recorded crime in England
and Wales for the same period, published by the Office for National Statistics, showed 10 homicides per million.
News in brief
UK news
• Every person in Britain
should receive £10,000
($13,500) when they turn 25
to help fix the “broken” intergenerational contract between
millennials and baby boomers, the Resolution Foundation thinktank has proposed
following a two-year study.
The payment, described as
a “citizen’s inheritance”,
is intended to redistribute
wealth at a time when young
people need it most to find
housing, return to education
or start a business.
• HM Revenue & Customs
has been accused of being
soft on VAT fraud committed
by rogue traders using online
marketplaces such as Amazon
and eBay. The accusation
comes after a senior HMRC
official said last week that his
department had never seized
goods from traders suspected
of being part of a £1.2bn-ayear ($1.6bn) VAT fraud via
Amazon’s marketplace and
other online sites. The scam
involves foreign companies
warehousing products in the
UK and selling them without
charging VAT via internet marketplaces. Legitimate traders
say the scam gives the fraudsters an unfair advantage.
• Thousands marched
through London under the
banner of free speech last
Sunday after Tommy Robinson, a former leader of the
far-right English Defence
League, was permanently
banned from Twitter.
Protesters rallied at Whitehall
after marching through central London from Speakers’
Corner in Hyde Park. Robinson called for the demonstration last week in response to
Twitter’s decision to ban him
for “hateful conduct” after he
posted a message saying: “Islam promotes killing people.”
• Criminal barristers are in the
grip of a mental health crisis
caused by increases in the
amount of digital evidence,
the number of historical
sexual assault cases and long
hours, the body that represents them has said. Changes
to the legal system, including
to the fee structure and proposals to extend court hours,
were likely to further damage
a profession already struggling
to cope, according to the Criminal Bar Association, which
represents members of the bar
in England and Wales.
18 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Comment&Debate
In Sri Lanka, Facebook has cost lives
John Harris
As the tech giant spreads to poor
countries around the globe,
a pattern of false information
leading to violence is emerging
F
or the past six weeks or so, the snowballing
story of Facebook’s crisis has been framed
almost exclusively in terms of the Cambridge
Analytica fiasco, the ethics of privacy and
data harvesting, and the role the platform
seems to have played in the election of
Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum.
But there is another set of Facebook stories that
shines even more glaring light on the company’s mismatch of power and responsibility. A good place to start
is Sri Lanka: one of many countries where “fake news”
is not the slightly jokey notion regularly played up by
Trump, but sometimes a matter of life and death.
I know about this thanks to the laudable work of the
New York Times journalists Amanda Taub and Max
Fisher. A few weeks ago, that newspaper ran a jawdropping story about the surge of hatred and violence towards Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority by the country’s majority Sinhalese Buddhist population, sparked and then
further inflamed by material on Facebook. The details
centre on the kind of pernicious falsehoods and inflammatory material that routinely circulate on the platform,
and which its overlords too often leave untouched.
One such viral lie, earlier this year, was about the
alleged seizure of 23,000 sterilisation pills by police from
a Muslim pharmacist in the eastern town of Ampara.
Then everything exploded after an incident in one of the
town’s restaurants. A Sinhalese customer found something in his food and claimed it was one of the supposed
pills, put there by the owners. What happened next was
filmed on a smartphone: 18 innocuous-looking seconds
in which a disembodied voice raged on and on; and,
wrongly understanding the complaint to be about a lump
of flour, one of the owners replied, in broken Sinhalese:
“I don’t know. Yes … we put?”
A Facebook group called the Buddhist Information
Centre then spread the video, citing it as proof of a
plot to wipe out Sri Lanka’s Buddhists. The restaurant
owner was beaten up, his premises were destroyed,
and a local mosque was set on fire. Less than a week
later the murder of a Sinhalese truck driver in central Sri
Lanka was presented on Facebook as part of the same
supposed Muslim conspiracy. One post simply said, “Kill
all Muslims, don’t even save an infant”, as mobs began
destruction and violence that left three people dead. Researchers at the Sri Lankan Centre for Policy Alternatives
flagged such material using Facebook’s reporting tools,
only to hit a brick wall. “You report to Facebook, they
do nothing,” said one insider. The wider story was one
of allegedly paltry numbers of Sinhalese-speaking Facebook moderators, and the absence of a Facebook office in
a country where 5 million people use its services.
There are other high-profile cases of Facebook sitting
at the heart of violence and strife – most notably, the
role played by the platform in the horrific persecution of
Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and a story about pernicious online posts. In India, there was a run of lynchings
last year in the eastern state of Jharkhand, triggered by
false rumours on WhatsApp – which, of course, is owned
Nathalie Lees
Facebook often cites
the fact that it employs
15,000 moderators
– but in the context of
2.2 billion users, that
number is pitiful
by Facebook – that outsiders were abducting local
children. A similar story, also involving Facebook posts,
played out in rural Indonesia, where grisly rumours
spread of child kidnapping related to organ harvesting.
Some of this goes back to 2011, when Facebook
bought out an Israeli startup called Snaptu, which had
successfully created technology that allowed smartphone apps to be used on less sophisticated “feature
phones”. The way was opened for Facebook to push into
new markets in developing countries – and in 2013 the
company came up with an initiative that accelerated
such expansion. The service, known as Free Basics,
gives its users unlimited access to Facebook, but
restricts their use of the internet – so that, for example,
even proper use of a search engine depends on data payments that many people will be unable to afford.
A
s a result, reading material on Facebook
is easy, but checking its veracity may be
impossible. Two years ago the scheme
was introduced in Myanmar, where the
number of Facebook users rose from
2 million in 2014 to 14 million today –
though it was brought to an end in that
country last year. At the same time, Free Basics is being
launched or expanded in Cameroon, Indonesia, Sudan,
Ivory Coast, Colombia and Peru.
What happens if things go wrong? Facebook often cites
the fact that it employs 15,000 moderators, with plans to
add another 5,000, as proof of how seriously it takes its
ever-growing responsibilities – but clearly, in the context
of its 2.2 billion users and place at the heart of communication in any number of often volatile and troubled
places, that number is pitifully small.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg addressed his company’s annual conference for product developers. He
touched briefly on what Facebook was doing about the
dangers of “provably false hoaxes”, before enthusing
about immersive photography (“It is wild!”) and Facebook’s new dating app. But from the CEO of a company
at the heart of storms raging across the world, what he
delivered had a fingers-down-a-blackboard quality: news
of toys for the users Facebook seems to care about, with
the people and countries it fails a pitiful afterthought.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 19
Comment&Debate
Putting up
alcohol
prices is not
class war
Nick Cohen
Scotland’s radical policy
is a welcome move
towards curbing an
industry that makes
most of its money from
exploiting addicts
H
atred of the nanny state is not only found
among Conservatives raised by nannies.
The left can be as libertarian as the right
and as repelled by a culture dominated
by prigs and killjoys. Left libertarianism
powers the modern feminist approval
of prostitution and its damning of
traditional campaigners against the sale of women’s
bodies as “whorephobes” and “swerfs” (sex worker
exclusionary radical feminists, in the clunky jargon).
As Scotland becomes the first country in the
world to try to price drinkers out of alcoholism with
minimum booze charges, the same resistance to the
paternalist state is evident. The modern left is an
overwhelmingly bourgeois movement and liberal guilt
can always be exploited.
In Scotland, four cans of beer or a bottle of wine
cannot cost less than £4.50 ($6), a three-litre bottle
of cider £11.25 and a bottle of vodka £13.13. Wealthy
drinkers buy craft beers and fine wines and won’t be
affected. Minimum pricing looks like class war from
above: the prosperous telling the lower orders to “do
what I say, not what I do”.
From George Orwell on, a strain of leftwing writing
holds it natural for the overworked and exhausted to
want the hit of fatty food and cheap booze. “We walked
through the door at midnight at the end of a shift,” said
journalist James Bloodworth of his time undercover
in an Amazon warehouse, “kicked off our boots and
collapsed on to our beds with a bag of McDonald’s and a
can of beer.”
As far as he and his colleagues were concerned,
foodies telling them to eat a healthy diet “could go
to hell”. Bloodworth, like Orwell before him, doesn’t
believe a high-calorie, high-alcohol diet does anything
but harm. But their subtleties are lost in the general fear
of seeming a snob.
I’m all for liberal guilt. If liberals have a fault, it is
that they are not guilty enough. But left libertarianism
fails in theory and in practice. Only those who do
not know what alcoholism is, or how the poor live,
could entertain it. Most on low incomes don’t drink
as much as the middle classes. (They can’t afford to.)
Minimum pricing does not target moderate drinkers
but the 5% of generally, but not exclusively, poor
people, lost in addiction.
It is a truth universally unacknowledged that, like
drugs cartels, the drink industry makes most of its money
from addicts. It thrives on hooked customers, who
put boosting the brewers’ profits before their and their
families’ health and happiness. Sixty per cent of alcohol
sales – worth £27bn a year in England – are to “increasing
risk” drinkers taking more than 21 units of alcohol a
week, in the case of men (about 10 pints or two bottles of
Unlike the trade in
illegal drugs, the
sale of alcohol is not
conducted with
violence. Instead,
it provokes violence
Michael Driver
wine), and “harmful” drinkers taking more than 50.
Twenty-one units (14 for women) does not sound
much in my world of journalism, but it is a sign of
people who cannot go a day without a shot of their
drug, which is as good a definition of an addiction
as any. Even at that rate, the afflicted bring on
the risk of cancer, stroke, brain damage and liver
failure. By the time you are topping more than 50
units (35 if you are a woman) you are at risk of full
degeneration. Don’t think I’m talking only about old
men on park benches.
In a vain attempt to persuade Westminster to
introduce minimum pricing, researchers at Sheffield
University said it would limit the 63,000 alcohol-related
deaths in the next five years in England and Wales.
Before they go, the afflicted will have reached the stage
where they can only feel well when they drink.
They will sweat, vomit, succumb to an alcoholic
dementia that destroys their co-ordination and
memories and see their liver fail and stomach distend.
As Ken Kesey described the process in One Flew Over
the Cuckoo’s Nest: “He was blind and diseased from
drinking. And every time he put the bottle to his mouth,
he didn’t suck out of it, it sucked out of him.”
W
hen you clear away the old
snobbery about fine wines
and the new snobberies about
single-estate gins and craft
beers, you are left with a clear
view of a drinks business
whose main source of revenue
is sucking the life out of its customers. And out of
anyone unlucky enough to know them.
John Stuart Mill’s principle that adults should be
free to harm themselves as long as they don’t harm
others does not help the alcohol conglomerates. Unlike
the trade in illegal drugs, the sale of alcohol is not
conducted with violence.
Instead, it provokes violence. So much violence
that the British Crime Survey estimated half of all
violent crime was alcohol-related. The partners and
children of alcoholics take the hardest hits, a fact we
seem to have forgotten.
The original feminist movement was well aware
of the relationship between booze, rape and abuse.
Christabel Pankhurst wrote against “the great scourge”
of men driven by “foul thinking and alcohol” to infect
their wives with syphilis, which was incurable in the
early 20th century. Josephine Butler, who led the
campaign in the 1860s against the forcible genital
examination of women, but not men, to see if they
were carrying sexually transmitted diseases, was also
a temperance campaigner. Their successors do not
want prohibition today.
Just prudent public health
measures: minimum
pricing, mandatory health
warnings on bottles, and
an advertising ban. They
do not receive the support
they deserve because the old
knowledge that alcohol is a
feminist and socialist issue
has all but died.
Few want to seem an
uncool prude or risk the
accusation of being the
world’s first Derf (drink
exclusionary radical feminist,
if I may coin a phrase). Fewer
still know that coolness can
kill, and the only way to stop
the killing is to become a
killjoy. Observer
20 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Comment&Debate
Making
peace
requires
dialogue
Jonathan Powell
Jasper Rietman
Just as in Northern
Ireland, political leaders
who were willing to talk
with a terrorist group
have finally helped
bring peace to Spain
I
n Belfast last month we celebrated the 20th
anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, which
ended political violence in Northern Ireland for
good. Last week in the small town of Cambo-lesBains, in the Basque part of France, some of us who
were involved in Northern Ireland participated in
a gathering to mark the permanent end of Eta.
Eta issued a statement last week wrapping up the
militant Basque separatist organisation for good after
more than 40 years of violence, in which hundreds of
lives were lost and thousands of people were injured.
The statement marks the end of the last violent conflict
in Europe. But it should also be an occasion to draw
lessons. There are plenty of other violent conflicts
around the world, and we should not be complacent
about the danger of such violence returning to Europe.
The Spanish government may well claim that the
conflict was ended by tough security measures alone,
but that is not the whole story. If there is a political
problem at the heart of the conflict then there will need
to be a political solution that requires dialogue.
If John Major had not been willing to engage in
a secret correspondence with Martin McGuinness
even as the IRA bombing campaign continued in
Northern Ireland and on the British mainland,
there would have been no peace. And if successive
governments in Spain had not engaged with Eta –
while publicly denying they were doing so – then Eta
would not have disbanded.
In 2004 the Socialist government of José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero engaged in a secret dialogue with
Eta. Sadly the agreements they reached in the mid-90s
collapsed when both sides failed to implement their
promises. But, as in Northern Ireland, eventual success
was built on a series of failures.
The election of a conservative government in Spain
in 2011 brought an end to the engagement, and made it
much harder to deal with the remaining issues left over
by the conflict – including the guns, the prisoners, the
exiles and, above all, the need for reconciliation. Even in
opposition, the People’s party (PP) had tried to complicate
Zapatero’s negotiations as much as it could, by mounting
a campaign of crispación, or “tension”, around the peace
process, and in government the PP leader, Mariano Rajoy,
ended contacts with Eta. We in Britain had a much easier
time in negotiating because both Labour and the Conservatives supported each other’s efforts to make peace.
Even in the face of the opposition of the PP government, however, it was possible to decommission all
Eta’s weapons with the help of international monitors
last year. And a few weeks ago the group issued a
statement in which it came as close to an apology to the
victims of its violence as I have ever seen from such an
organisation, even if it was not enough to satisfy some.
The right lesson to draw from the lengthy process
that brought us to this point is that unless you combine
effective security and intelligence pressure with
dialogue, you are unlikely to solve the problem.
The same applies to starting conflicts. The risk of
the Spanish government’s approach in Catalonia is that
it could tip us into another period of political violence
just as the Basque one ends. And without attempts to
open a political dialogue with the pro-independence
forces there, there will be no political solution.
Rajoy’s dilemma is a painful one. He is outflanked by
an even more radical party, centre-right Ciudadanos,
and the right wing of his own, which is opposed to negotiation. But sometimes political courage is required if
a conflict is to be avoided. It requires strong leadership,
patience and a willingness to talk to your enemies.
Jonathan Powell was chief British negotiator on
Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007
More at theguardian.com/opinion
Opinion In brief
Even new mums can suffer from loneliness
Freedom from email tyranny – sort of …
It is the strange lot of young
mothers to be never alone, but often
lonely. You may have a baby stuck
limpet-like to your breast, hip or lap,
but for many women, particularly
those heroic superbeings we call
single mothers, loneliness stalks
the days like a tiger.
According to research by the British Red Cross and the Co-op, more
than 80% of mums under 30 feel
lonely some of the time, while more
than 40% are lonely often or always.
Yet it feels somehow taboo to
admit to loneliness when you’re
in the constant company of your
own child. Mothers are somehow
assumed to need no more stimulation than to stare adoringly into
the wet eyes of their baby from
birth: the amusement of a hiccup
should be substitute enough for
adult conversation; the feel of a
chubby hand around your finger
There are scores of messages in
my inbox to which I have every
intention of replying and yet that
continue, rather glumly, to sit there.
Until recently, this would have
struck me as bad form: allowing
days, and occasionally weeks, to go
by before engaging with non-urgent
requests. Recently, however, I’ve
noticed a new etiquette: what feels
like a free pass to put emails on ice
until you break the seal and begin
the exchange.
I raise this because it seems as if
we’re in another transitional moment, a correction to the first two
decades of email enslavement and
a move towards a slightly more
manageable protocol. Where once
a same-day reply seemed not just
ideal but mandatory, now a slow
response indicates freedom of mind
and a robust push back against the
tyranny of one’s inbox.
should wipe away any interest in
your friends, going on holiday, resting your head on another person’s
shoulder, talking about your day …
Half the women surveyed in the
UK by the National Childbirth Trust
last year reported that they experienced mental health or emotional
difficulties at some time during
pregnancy or in the year after birth.
I would bet my spit-soaked shoulder
that much of that is due, in part at
least, to loneliness. Motherhood can
be lonely for everyone – but for the
millions of British women on low or
no incomes, living alone, trying to
survive off food banks and uncertain
benefits, without a job to return to
or a support network to fall back on,
the situation can appear desperate.
If we have money for war, Brexit,
business and a royal family, then we
really should be able to find it for
mums. Nell Frizzell
Or at least, that is the story we
can tell ourselves. The best thing
about the new rules of engagement,
if that’s what they are, is the overwhelming sense of self-righteousness they confer. It’s not that I can’t
be bothered to reply or am trying to
avoid you; it’s that I have liberated
myself from the yoke of technology.
My lassitude, rather than a sign of
organisational failure, is in fact an
ideological victory.
As technology extends its reach,
so we find new ways to avoid it.
These days, I make sure all my
WhatsApp messages come up as
notifications on my phone, so I can
read them without activating the
app, alerting the sender to the fact I
have seen them. I’m not out having
a life with the tiny bit of time these
strategies free up, but the dream is
that I may occasionally look up from
my phone. Emma Brockes
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 21
Comment&Debate
Donald Trump and his team continue to release contradictory statements about the origin of a $130,000 payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels
Death by
sex and
television
Marina Hyde
How perfect it would be
if, rather than Russia or
corruption allegations,
it was Stormy Daniels
who sank the president
“
T
he Storm rolls back in,” ran some promotional material Stormy Daniels posted last
Friday, and – as is increasingly the case – it
was not clear whether it related to her adult
film work or her gathering legal battle with
the president of the United States.
Whichever it was, I enjoy Stormy’s
relentless message discipline. In so many ways,
her attorney, Michael Avenatti – who loves to go on
television, and has yet to make a mistake on it – has
a dream client. Stormy is smart and self-aware. By
contrast, everyone in the enemy camp loves to go on
television, and they only make mistakes on it.
They then make matters worse. As Rudy Giuliani
later said of his surprise Fox News announcement that,
contrary to previous statements, Donald Trump had
paid back Stormy’s $130,000 hush money to his lawyer
during the presidential election campaign: “I was going
to get this over with.” Do expect Giuliani to go on TV
shortly to explain why, having revealed the original
potentially incriminating mistake, he then described
this revelation itself as something to be got over with,
presumably on account of its potentially incriminating
nature. As that classic law of US political scandals runs:
it’s not the crime; it’s the inability to stop going on television and revealing that you have committed a crime.
It’s notable how much of this particular story involves
people “getting something over with”. Before Stormy
Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) signed her
confidentiality agreement in 2016, she gave an interview
about her liaison with Trump. (He still denies it, despite
having paid $130,000 – making you wonder what
he’d do to bury something if he was compromised.)
Stormy’s “5,500 words of cray” were eventually
published in January, and mark her emergence as
a hilariously affectless picaresque heroine. When she
emerges from the bathroom at their first hook-up, she
finds Trump sitting on the bed. “Ugh, here we go,” she
recalls thinking. The sex is categorised as “textbook
generic”. Stormy doesn’t say which genre – and she’s
worked across a few – but implies a vanilla quality.
“I actually don’t even know why I did it,” she muses at
one point, “but I do remember while we were having
sex, I was like: ‘Please don’t try to pay me.’” That was
the heat of the moment. Eventually, Stormy would come
round to the idea of payment of another sort.
Despite maintaining “one position” during sex with
Stormy, Trump has now adopted several conflicting
ones on the payment. Arguably the most ridiculous is
the tone of Victorian gentility written into a series of
stiff tweets last Thursday.
“Prior to its violation by Ms Clifford and her attorney,”
this refined communique sniffed, “this was a private
agreement.” I’m not sure you can carry off this whole
“Ms Clifford” tone when the entire world has online
access to the claim that you interspersed bad sex with
obsessive watching of the Discovery Channel’s Shark
Week, delivering post-coital lectures on how you wished
all the sharks would die and you would “never donate
to a charity that helps sharks”. Many will find Daniels’s
kissing-and-telling distasteful. But perhaps you have to
set a shark to catch a shark.
Quite how much or little of a toss American voters
give about being told barefaced lies by the White House
will become clear in November’s midterm elections.
But if the results enable the Democrats to impeach
Trump, there would be something appropriately vanilla
about the Stormy storm being Trump’s downfall.
For all the Russian election meddling, and the
accusations of baroque international financial
corruption, there would be a certain poetic justice
if Donald Trump’s nemesis proved to be a woman,
of all things, with the medium of television as her
accomplice. If you were writing this one, you’d certainly
have all the international conspiracy stuff as a subplot.
But death by sex and television is so much more perfect.
History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce,
and finally as porn.
22 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Civilian deaths in war
Be honest and investigate
In Kate Atkinson’s dazzling 2015 novel, A God in
Ruins, about war and the shadow it casts, there
is an exchange between the main character,
an RAF pilot who is involved in the terrible
aerial bombardment of Hamburg in 1943, and
his sister, in which she probes how heavy the
deaths of civilians weigh on his conscience.
She asks: “The civilian population considered
to be a legitimate target – innocent people. It
doesn’t make you feel … uncomfortable?” His
reply is loaded with Old Testament spite and
vengeance. “We don’t target civilians! Can
you devise a war where no one is killed? We
have to destroy their industry, their economy,
if we’re to win. Their housing, too, if necessary. I’m doing – we’re doing – what’s been
asked of us to defend our country, to defend
freedom. We’re waging war against a deadly
foe and we’re risking our lives every time we
fly.” As the novel unfolds, history teaches the
main character that Hamburg was no turning
point, but rather a staging post in the violence
that led to Hiroshima. Ultimately he is broken
by this knowledge, a “god in ruins” to borrow
Atkinson’s resonant phrase.
Last week the British defence secretary
admitted for the first time in the four years
of anti-Isis operations in Iraq and Syria that
UK forces caused civilian harm. Ministers
said a missile fired from a drone this March
“unintentionally killed” a civilian in eastern
Syria. While the Ministry of Defence’s concession of a single civilian fatality is a welcome
step towards greater accountability, it is also
a tiny one.
There is an astonishing disparity between
official statistics and the findings of
researchers like those at Airwars, a not-forprofit organisation that tracks military action
in combat zones, which estimates that 6,000
civilian deaths have been caused by coalition
attacks since operations began. This means,
like the main character in Ms Atkinson’s novel,
the armed forces appear to wage wars without
a true understanding of the costs.
Coalition forces are fighting a brutal enemy
that, unlike them, has no concerns about killing civilians. But western militaries have a
moral responsibility to take extraordinary
care that innocent lives are not lost. This is
harder when nations like Britain are unable
to confess to the scale of our own mistakes.
Undercounting civilian casualties after
airstrikes may affect the pre-strike assessment
of expected civilian casualties. If allowed to
continue unchallenged, military operations
might fail to take adequate precautions to
avoid non-combatant deaths.
These are live concerns: campaigners have
won the right to appeal against a decision to
allow UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia because
they “might be used in the commission of a
serious violation of international humanitarian
law”. Britain ought to shrink the credibility
gap in accounting for civilian casualties – and
properly investigate claims of harm.
Nobel prize for literature
A discredited authority
There will be no Nobel prize for literature
this year. The decision not to award one was
motivated by the lack of foreign confidence
in the Swedish Academy, which awards it,
after a series of scandals. But this is something more than a morality tale about the
alleged misdeeds of a predatory man and his
enablers coming to light. That is certainly part
of it. The energetic sexual advances of which
the French photographer and arts entrepreneur Jean-Claude Arnault stands accused can
hardly have been unknown to his friends in
the academy. As well as the 18 women who
spoke to the Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter
about his behaviour in the autumn, there was
also, according to the latest twist in the story,
Crown Princess Victoria.
Mr Arnault, who denies all the charges,
was not himself one of the 18 members of the
academy, although his wife, the poet Katarina
Frostenson, was; but he is said to have thought
of himself as the 19th member, although there
are only 18 seats. The club the pair owned and
ran took money from the academy for many
years. The academy is down to 10 functioning
members now after a series of resignations and
expulsions, when some members demanded
that Ms Frostenson withdraw, while her
defenders demanded the head of the permanent secretary, Sara Danius. The institution
itself is now a shambling undead thing.
This scandal has been about squandered
authority as well as the misuse of power. The
Nobel prizes are worth having because people
think they are. The world wants cultural
authorities it can believe in.
When the prize was founded, it seemed
entirely possible that the entirety of world
literature could be judged from Stockholm by
scholars who could all read fluently in the four
or five European languages they considered
civilised. The cultural and political authority
of western Europe has collapsed since then.
So has the ideal of a global high culture. That
dream, rather than the academy’s reputation,
is the loss to mourn in this rather squalid farce.
From the archive
11 May 1912
Sound and vision
come together
At a meeting of the Royal Institution
last night Professor W. Stirling, of
Manchester University, delivered a
lecture on the Gaumont speaking
cinematograph films. M. Gaumont
conducted a demonstration of his
machine’s capabilities.
The following speaking films were
exhibited by means of the “Chronophone,” showing its applicability
to the reproduction of all kinds of
vocal sounds:
(1) A gallic cock placed on a pedestal, where he crows right lustily so
that the whole audience could hear.
(2) A den of lions with their
trainer: the growling of the animals
and the dull thud of the iron bar on
the floor of the cage are reproduced
with startling realism.
(3) The reproduction of speech
and gestures by a person who is
speaking through a telephone.
(4) A musician playing on a banjo
exhibiting the movements of the
fingers over the strings.
(5) A festive gathering of Frenchmen, one of whom gives the toast of
“The King,” and the company unite
in singing “God Save the King.”
(6) A sailor reproduces in stentorian tones Kipling’s “Ballad of the
Clampherdown.”
Editorial: The Speaking
Cinematograph
Professor W Stirling had a remarkable story to tell last night about the
Gaumont speaking cinematograph.
The problem M. Gaumont had to
solve was the simultaneous taking
of combined pictorial and audible
records. Earlier experiments proved
that the sounds and movements
in a common scene could not be
reproduced exactly by obtaining
independently cinematograph and
phonograph records and then reproducing them together. A fraction
of a second is a long time in a living
being’s history when the correlation
of activities is in question.
This problem, which had long
exercised the mind of Edison, has
now, so Professor Stirling tells us,
found its solution. And few of his audience last night, who were also interested spectators of M. Gaumont’s
demonstration, can have disagreed.
Perhaps the whole thing appears
simple to these who have not
studied it, but they should consider
the immense difficulties involved in
the absolute synchronism between
phonograph and cinematograph.
That is the one great difficulty, but it
is enough to have puzzled many an
acute and laborious mind.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 23
Reply
I was disappointed to read Simon
Tisdall’s piece Israel rejoices but
hears drums of war (27 April). It is
difficult to understand how in 2018
such an unbalanced view could be
written of a state with the longest
colonial expansionist project in
recent history.
Now weeks into the massacres
of Palestinian protesters, your
author’s only mention of the
country occupied by Israel is
“endless confrontations with the
Palestinians, for whom Israel’s
independence is known as the
Nakba”. He then focuses the whole
piece on Syria, Iran and on Israel’s
fears. Palestine, experiencing daily
far more than mere fears from its
occupier, is made invisible once
more. Its catastrophe, the region’s
ethnic cleansing and its continuing
oppression are referenced only in
the author’s bracketed explanation
of the term Nakba. No joy there.
The rejoicing Israelis, we are
informed, however, celebrated
with drones displaying “favourite
Israeli symbols”, including “a dove
with an olive branch in its mouth”.
The Palestinians can of course look
forward to the upcoming loss of
their capital, East Jerusalem, when
Tisdall will no doubt see more jolly
drones and tedious confrontations,
rather than the desperate, courageous resistance of the Palestinians.
Elizabeth Eastmond
Auckland, New Zealand
• Was Andrew Rawnsley’s call for
western intervention in Syria (20
April) satire or cynicism? Few of the
world’s regions have had to endure
the benefits of western intervention
more so than the Middle East.
As to his lament about “shredded international norms about the
conduct of war” in Syria, the world’s
response to the use of gas by the Syrian regime concedes that respect for
the Geneva conventions among the
great powers has been reduced to
hand-wringing and finger-wagging.
The Geneva conventions do not
tolerate the killing of civilians. Nor
do they permit the bombing of
hospitals and schools, or the virtual
imprisonment and denial of access
Letters for publication
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Editorial
Editor: Will Dean
Guardian Weekly, Kings Place,
90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK
Gary Kempston
Meddling in the Middle East
to food and health services to entire
populations, even if done in the pursuit of political or strategic goals.
The history of western nations
engaged in the Middle East is not a
proud one. It is dominated by economic self-interest. It is high time
for western powers to allow their
decisions to be guided by the principles of the Geneva conventions, not
just in Syria, but in the entire region.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
• If we accept that military intervention has a poor record of success
and there is no sign that intervention in Syria will be different, then
what can we do? Perhaps the strongest peace-building alternative is to
not sell weapons into these areas.
Easy to say, I know, because that
means not making them or selling
them to subsidise our own stockpile.
Then we can lobby other governments to do the same.
Oops, I forgot! The big arms
companies lobby governments.
Colin Hardie
Balwyn, Victoria, Australia
Football is not about money
Jonathan Wilson tries bravely, but
unconvincingly, in your 20 April
piece, Scintillating City deserve
plaudits, to praise Manchester City
for having won the Premier League
title. His polite references to the vast
amount of money spent in buying
the team cannot disguise the fact
such an approach is a denial of what
makes football a worldwide game.
To contact the editor directly:
editorial.feedback@theguardian.com
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facebook.com/guardianweekly
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Or manage your subscription at
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He surely knows the game of
football isn’t fundamentally about
money, much as it has come to
infect the game. He is aware that,
globally, it’s still about people without money playing on just about any
surface using anything for goalposts
and any kind of ball.
Wilson is up against it then, in
trying to make Manchester City
extraordinary for doing what the
side were expected to do in a small
field. I suggest he might be better
occupied in examining the ways in
which money has harmed the game.
Bill Finn
St Paul, Alberta, Canada
Briefly
• Australia doesn’t exist (27 April):
that’s good news for some of us
who don’t want any more people
poking around down here. Let the
7.5 billion people on the planet
remain in ignorance: we have tried
to frighten them off with our 50C
deserts, cyclones, floods, bushfires,
toxic plants, deadly snakes, spiders,
crocodiles, sharks, blue-ringed
octopi, box and irukandji jellyfish,
but still they come. Spread the
word that we don’t exist: it would
be much appreciated.
Rhys Winterburn
Perth, Western Australia
• Over two pages of the Guardian
Weekly (13 April) I learnt about the
molecular structure of bird eggs,
a star that emitted light 9bn light
years ago, bowhead whales that sing
for six months straight, and dinosaur tracks on the Isle of Skye, not to
mention new rivers in Argentina and
Antarctic melt-off. I have read the
paper from front to back, but I think
the Discovery section deserves the
prize for the most real news.
Richard Holland
Grafton, Ontario, Canada
• Regarding the Mind & Relationships column by Oliver Burkeman in
the 27 April issue: Are the headlines
giving you anxiety? I’m sure I am
not the only one to notice that this
article provides the perfect reason
for reading the Guardian Weekly.
Tony Le May
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Or contact: UK, Europe and Rest of World
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Britain’s view on ...
The breast cancer scandal
Yorkshire Post
‘Computers an excuse’
“Many a miserable receptionist
and jobsworth administrator
has hidden behind the excuse of
computer problems. While it’s
ridiculous to suggest a return to
paper filing cards, there must
be a happy medium. Somebody,
somewhere, should have noticed
the drop in women coming
forward for screening. Then
maybe, just maybe, if a human
had been involved, alarm bells
could have been rung earlier.”
iNews
‘Catastrophic failure’
“Women, especially older women,
tend not to make a fuss, or worse,
have their health concerns dismissed. We put our trust in the
NHS, and it moves mountains to
earn that trust every day. But to
overlook this problem for eight
years is a catastrophic failure, and
one that cannot be repeated.”
The Daily Telegraph
‘Prioritise the simple’
“We are often bad at tracking
time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have
a text message reminder that the
follow-up colonoscopy recommended five years ago is due?
Millions have been spent setting
up failed IT systems. If we spent
a fraction of that on making
electronic systems fit for purpose,
we could have the simple things –
like checking tests we expected to
be done actually were.”
The Sun
‘Too big a bureaucracy’
“The NHS has always had one
simple problem. It is funded
nationally, but experienced
locally. It is too big a bureaucracy.
The six restructures over the past
70 years have not fixed it. And
when we look at scandals such
as this, we are reminded of the
human cost of that.”
24 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Eyewitnessed
Israeli security forces try to suppress Palestinian protests with teargas near the Gaza-Israel border, as tensions escalate in the runup to Israel’s 70th anniversary on 14 May, and Nakba day – Palest
Coal miners await news after a mine collapsed in Quetta, Pakistan, killing at least 16 people.
Seven more died the same day after a landslide at Surrang coalfields Jamal Taraqai/EPA
A McDonald’s restaurant in Paris is hit with petrol bombs thrown by masked protesters. The
attacks took place during a planned peaceful May Day rally organised by unions Francois Mori/AP
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 25
tinians’ ‘catastrophe’, their displacement – on 15 May Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty
People await help in the open water after leaving Libya trying to reach European soil aboard
an overcrowded rubber boat. In total 105 refugees and migrants were rescued Felipe Dana/AP
Men prepare to create an enormous marijuana joint in Medellin, Colombia, part of a globally
Cyclists climb through Haworth’s cobbles during the Tour de Yorkshire from Halifax to Leeds.
organised cannabis culture march that takes place on the first Saturday in May Fredy Builes/Reuters Greg Van Avermaet and Megan Guarnier took the men’s and women’s titles Danny Lawson/PA
26 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
05.18
Bulldoze the
business
school!
The world being produced
by management graduates
is not pleasant. It’s a
utopia for the wealthy
and powerful.
By Martin Parker
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 27
Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of
capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also
suggested that business schools were complicit in
producing the crash.
Having taught in business schools for 20 years,
I have come to believe that the best solution to
these problems is to shut down business schools
altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much
criticism of business schools over the past decade
has come from inside the schools themselves.
Many business school professors, particularly in
north America, have argued that their institutions
have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money,
teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers
for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more
likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most
business-school graduates won’t become highlevel managers anyway, just precarious cubicle
drones in anonymous office blocks.
These are not complaints from professors of
sociology, state policymakers or even outraged
Illustrations byy Michael Kirkham
V
isit the average university campus
and it is likely that the newest and
most ostentatious building will be
occupied by the business school. The
business school has the best building
because it makes the biggest profits
(or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) –
as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that
teaches people how to make profits.
Business schools have huge influence, yet they
are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and
greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what
MBA – Master of Business Administration – really
stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management
by
by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit
Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come
in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that
graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices
scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about
Smart about exercise
The art of living well, not just longer
→ Discovery, pages 34-35
an
anti-capitalist
activists. These are views in books
written by insiders, by employees of business
wr
schools who themselves feel some sense of dissch
quiet or even disgust at what they are getting up
qu
to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those
of a minority. Most work within business schools is
blithely
b
li
unconcerned with any expression of doubt,
participants being too busy oiling the wheels to
pa
worry about where the engine is going. Still, this
wo
internal criticism is loud and significant.
int
The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has
become
so thoroughly institutionalised within the
b
e
well-carpeted corridors that it now passes unrewe
marked, just an everyday counterpoint to business
ma
as usual. Careers are made by wailing loudly in
books
b
o
and papers about the problems with business
schools. The business school has been described by
sch
two insiders as “a cancerous machine spewing out
tw
sick and irrelevant detritus”. Even titles such as
sic
Against Management, Fucking Management and
Ag
The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not
Th
to cause any particular difficulties for their authors.
this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly,
I know
k
the idea that I was permitted to get away with this
speaks volumes about the extent to which this sort
spe
of ccriticism means anything very much at all. In fact,
it is
i rewarded, because the fact that I publish is more
important than what I publish.
im
Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy
away from radical restructuring, and instead tend
aw
to suggest a return to supposedly more traditional
business
b
u
practices, or a form of moral rearmament
decorated with terms such as “responsibility” and
de
“ethics”. All of these leave the basic problem un“et
touched, that the business school only teaches one
tou
form of organising – market managerialism.
for
That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinkdo
ing about management, business and markets. If we
want those in power to become more responsible,
wa
then we must stop teaching students that heroic
the
transformational leaders are the answer to every
tra
problem, or that the purpose of learning about
pro
taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating
tax
new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every
ne
case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling
cas
ideology as if it were science.
ide
Universities have been around for a millennium,
but
b
u the vast majority of business schools only came
into existence in the last century. Despite loud and
int
continual claims that they were a US invention,
co
the first was probably the École Supérieure de
Commerce de Paris, founded in 1819 as a privately
Co
funded attempt to produce a grande école for busifun
ness. A century later, hundreds of business schools
ne
had popped up across Europe and the US, and from
ha
the 1950s onwards, they began to grow rapidly in
other parts of the world.
oth
In 2011, the Association to Advance Collegiate
Schools of Business estimated that there were
Sc
nearly 13,000 business schools. India alone is esne
timated to have 3,000 private schools of business.
tim
Consider that figure. Think about the huge numbers
Co
people employed by those institutions, about the
of p
armies of graduates marching out with business dearm
grees, about the gigantic sums of money circulating
gre
in the name of business education.
For the most part, business schools all assume a
similar form. The architecture is generic modern –
sim
glass, panel, brick. Outside, there’s some expensive
gla
signage offering an inoffensive logo, probably in
sig
blue,
blu probably with a square on it. The door opens,
automatically.
au
Inside, there’s a female receptionist dressed office-smart. There will be plush lecture
tur theatres with thick Continued on page 28 →
28 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Weekly review
← Continued from page 27 carpet, perhaps named
after companies or personal donors. The lectern
bears the logo of the business school. In fact, pretty
much everything bears the weight of the logo, like
someone who worries their possessions might get
stolen and so marks them with their name. Unlike
some of the shabby buildings in other parts of the
university, the business school tries hard to project
efficiency and confidence. It knows what it is doing
and has its well-scrubbed face aimed firmly at the
busy future. It cares about what people think of it.
What do business schools actually teach? This is
a more complicated question than it first appears.
Much writing on education has explored the ways
in which a “hidden curriculum” supplies lessons
to students without doing so explicitly. From the
1970s onwards, researchers explored how social
class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and so on were
being implicitly taught in the classroom. This
might involve segregating students into separate
classes – the girls doing domestic science and the
boys doing metalwork, say – which, in turn, implies
what is natural or appropriate for different groups
of people. The hidden curriculum can be taught in
other ways too, by the ways in which teaching and
assessment are practised, or through what is or isn’t
included in the curriculum. The hidden curriculum
tells us what matters and who matters, which places
are most important and what topics can be ignored.
In many countries, a lot of work has been done on
trying to deal with these issues. Materials on black
history, women in science or pop songs as poetry
are now fairly routine. That doesn’t mean that the
hidden curriculum is no longer a problem, but at
least in many of the more enlightened educational
systems, it is not now routinely assumed that there
is one way of telling the story.
But in the business school, both the explicit and
hidden curriculums sing the same song. The things
taught and the way that they are taught generally
mean that the virtues of capitalist market managerialism are told and sold as if there were no other
ways of seeing the world.
If we educate our graduates in the inevitability
of tooth-and-claw capitalism, it is hardly surprising that we end up with justifications for massive
salary payments to people who take huge risks
with other people’s money. If we teach that there
is nothing else below the bottom line, then ideas
about sustainability, diversity, responsibility and
so on become mere decoration. The message that
management research and teaching often provides
is that capitalism is inevitable, and that the financial
and legal techniques for running capitalism are a
form of science. This combination of ideology and
technocracy is what has made the business school
into such an effective, and dangerous, institution.
We can see how this works if we look a bit
more closely at the business-school curriculum
The message is that
capitalism is inevitable,
and the techniques for
running it are a science
and how it is taught. Take finance, for instance.
This is a field concerned with understanding how
people with money invest it. It assumes that there
are people with money or capital that can be used
as security for money, and hence it also assumes
substantial inequalities of income and wealth.
The greater the inequalities within any given
society, the greater the interest in finance, as well
as the market in luxury yachts. Finance academics
almost always assume that earning rent on capital is a legitimate and perhaps even praiseworthy
activity, with skilful investors being lionised for
their technical skills and success. The purpose of
this form of knowledge is to maximise the rent
from wealth, often by developing mathematical
or legal mechanisms that can multiply it. Successful financial strategies are those that produce
the maximum return in the shortest period, and
hence that further exacerbate the social inequalities that made them possible.
Or consider human resource management. This
field applies theories of rational egoism – roughly the
idea that people act according to rational calculations
about what will maximise their own interest – to the
management of human beings in organisations. The
name of the field is telling, since it implies that human beings are akin to technological or financial resources insofar as they are an element to be used by
management in order to produce a successful organisation. Despite its use of the word, human resource
management is not particularly interested in what it
is like to be a human being. Its objects of interest are
categories – women, ethnic minorities, the underperforming employee – and their relationship to the
functioning of the organisation. It is also the part of
the business school most likely to be dealing with
the problem of organised resistance to management
strategies, usually in the form of trade unions. And in
case it needs saying, human resource management
is not on the side of the trade union. That would be
partisan. It is a function that, in its most ambitious
manifestation, seeks to become “strategic”, to assist
senior management in the formulation of their plans
to open a factory here, or close a branch office there.
A similar kind of lens could be applied to other
modules found in most business schools – accounting, marketing, international business, innovation,
logistics – but I’ll conclude with business ethics
and corporate social responsibility – pretty much
the only areas within the business school that have
developed a sustained critique of the consequences
of management education and practice. These are
domains that pride themselves on being gadflies
to the business school, insisting that its dominant
forms of education, teaching and research require
reform. The complaints that propel writing and
teaching in these areas are predictable but important – sustainability, inequality, the production of
graduates who are taught that greed is good.
The problem is that business ethics and corporate
social responsibility are subjects used as window
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 29
dressing in the marketing of the
t business school,
and as a fig leaf to cover the con
conscience of B-school
deans – as if talking about ethics
ethic and responsibility
were the same as doing somet
something about it. They
almost never systematically add
address the simple idea
that since current social and economic relations
produce the problems that ethics
et
and corporate
social responsibility courses treat
tr
as subjects to be
studied, it is those social and economic relations
that need to be changed.
You might think that each of
o these areas of reinnocuous enough, and
search and teaching are inno
collectively they just appear to cover all the different dimensions of business act
activity – money, peoselling and so on. But it is
ple, technology, transport, selli
worth spelling out the shared as
assumptions of every
subject studied at business sch
school.
share is a powThe first thing that all these areas
a
forms of social
erful sense that market managerial
manag
order are desirable. The acceler
acceleration of global trade,
the use of market mechanism
mechanisms and managerial
technologies such as
techniques, the extension of te
operations are not quesaccounting, finance and opera
tioned. This is a progressive acc
account of the modern
of technolworld, one that relies on the promise
p
ogy, choice, plenty and wealth. Within the business
school, capitalism is assumed to be the end of history, an economic model that has trumped all the
others, and is taught as science
science, not ideology.
The second is the assumption that human behavcustomers, managers and so
iour – of employees, customer
on – is best understood as if we are all rational egoists. This provides a set of background assumptions
that allow for the development of models of how
human beings might be managed in the interests of
the business organisation. Motivating employees,
correcting market failures, designing lean management systems or persuading consumers to spend
money are all instances of the same sort of problem.
The foregrounded interest here is that of the person
who wants control, and the people who are the objects of that interest can then be treated as people
who can be manipulated.
The final similarity I want to point to concerns
the nature of the knowledge being produced and
disseminated by the business school itself. Because
it borrows the gown and mortarboard of the university, and cloaks its knowledge in the apparatus
of science – journals, professors, big words – it is
relatively easy to imagine that the knowledge the
business
b
usiness school sells and the way it sells it is somehow less vulgar and stupid than it really is.
The easiest summary of the above, and one
that would inform most people’s understandings
of what goes on in the B-school, is that they are
places that teach people how to get money out
of the pockets of ordinary people and keep it for
fo
or
themselves. In some senses, that’s a
description of capitalism,
but there is also a sense here that business schools
actually teach that “greed is good”. As Joel M
Podolny, the former dean of Yale School of Management, once opined: “The way business schools
today compete leads students to ask, ‘What can I
do to make the most money?’ and the manner in
which faculty members teach allows students to
regard the moral consequences of their actions as
mere afterthoughts.”
This picture is, to some extent, backed up by research, although some of this is of dubious quality.
There are various surveys of business-school students that suggest that they have an instrumental
approach to education; that is to say, they want
what marketing and branding tells them that they
want. In terms of the classroom, they expect the
teaching of uncomplicated and practical concepts
and tools that they deem will be helpful to them
in their future careers. Philosophy is for the birds.
This sort of finding doesn’t surprise me, though
others suggest rather more incendiary findings. One
US survey compared MBA students to people who
were imprisoned in low-security prisons and found
At B-schools, capitalism is
assumed to be the end of
history – a model that has
trumped all others
that the latter were more ethical. Another suggested
that the likelihood of committing some form of corporate crime increased if the individual concerned
had experience of graduate business education, or
military service. Other surveys suggest that students come in believing in employee wellbeing and
customer satisfaction and leave thinking that shareholder value is the most important issue, and that
business-school students are more likely to cheat
than students in other subjects.
Whether the causes and effects are as neat as
surveys like this might suggest is something that I
doubt, but it would be equally daft to suggest that
the business school has no effect on its graduates.
Having an MBA might not make a student greedy,
impatient or unethical, but both the B-school’s
explicit and hidden curriculums do teach lessons.
Not that these lessons are acknowledged when
something goes wrong, because then the business
school usually denies all responsibility. That’s a
tricky position, though, because, as a 2009 Economist editorial put it, “You cannot claim that your
mission is to ‘educate the leaders who make a difference to the world’ and then wash your hands of your
alumni when the difference they make is malign.”
After the 2007 crash, there was a game of passthe-blame-parcel going on, so it’s not surprising
most B-school deans were also trying to blame
consumers for borrowing too much, the bankers for
behaving so riskily, rotten apples for being so bad
and the system for being the system. Who, after all,
would want to claim that they merely taught greed?
The sorts of doors to knowledge we find in universities are based on exclusions. We cannot study
everything, all the time, which is why there are
names of departments over the doors.
However, the B-school is an even more extreme
case. It is constituted through separating commercial life from the rest of life, but then undergoes a
further specialisation. The business school assumes
capitalism, corporations and managers as the default
form of organisation, and everything else as history,
anomaly, exception, alternative. In terms of curriculum and research, everything else is peripheral.
Most business schools exist as parts of universities, and universities are generally understood as
institutions with responsibilities to the societies
they serve. Why then do we assume that degree
courses in business should only teach one form of
organisation – capitalism – as if that were the only
way in which human life could be arranged?
The sort of world that is being produced by the
market managerialism that the business school
sells is not a pleasant one. It’s a sort of utopia for
the wealthy and powerful, a group that the students
are encouraged to imagine themselves joining, but
such privilege is bought at a very high cost, resulting
in environmental catastrophe, resource wars and
forced migration, inequality, the encouragement
of hyper-consumption as well as persistently antidemocratic practices at work.
Selling the business school works by ignoring
these problems, or by mentioning them as challenges and then ignoring them in the practises of
teaching and research. If we want to be able to respond to the challenges that face human life on this
planet, then we need to research and teach about as
many different forms of organising as we are able to
collectively imagine. For us to assume that global
capitalism can continue as it is means to assume a
path to destruction. So if we are going to move away
from business as usual, then we also need to radically reimagine the business school as usual. And
this means more than pious murmurings about corporate social responsibility. It means doing away
with what we have, and starting again.
Martin
M
artin Parker is the author of Shut Down
the Business School: What’s Wrong with
Management Education (Pluto Press)
M
30 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Weekly review
Changing of the guard
This month sees a royal wedding, but Meghan Markle is no Cinderella.
So what role can she create in the Windsor dynasty, asks Margo Jefferson
I
n February I saw a photo of Meghan Markle
and the Duchess of Cambridge sitting next
to each other at the Royal Foundation Forum, wearing colour coordinated dresses:
lavender for Kate, deep purple-blue for
Meghan. It wasn’t their dresses I minded, it
was how they sat – legs crossed neatly at the ankle,
knees pressed firmly together.
It was that dulce et decorum pose passed down
to generations of girls and young women expected
to demonstrate their good breeding on social
occasions – expected to show they are “ladies”. Both
Kate and Meghan had folded their hands in their
laps, the arms forming a gentle circle, the hands quietly clasped, as if ready to shelter a child or calm a
kingdom’s cares. But it was the legs that haunted me
– in part because I’d been taught that same bit of etiquette when I was a young black midwestern girl in
the 1950s and early 60s, a child of the manners-and
achievement-conscious black bourgeoisie, which
in those days we called the Negro elite.
In fact, things turned out better than I’d feared.
In a subsequent photo Kate crossed her legs at the
knee. And when both women were asked in the video
about the causes they planned to take up, Meghan
spoke out. The words “MeToo” and “Time’sUp”
flowed from her lips. So did the words “I fundamentally disagree”, as in: “What’s interesting is … when
speaking about girls’ and women’s empowerment
you’ll often hear people say: ‘Well, you’re helping
women find their voices,’ and I fundamentally disagree with that. Women don’t need to find a voice,
they have a voice, and they need to feel empowered
to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.”
Rachel Meghan Markle, for those who have chosen or somehow managed to miss the ceaseless
chronicling of her life thus far, is the only daughter
of Thomas Markle (white), an Emmy award-winning
cinematographer and lighting designer, and Doria
Ragland (black), a social worker and yoga instructor who focuses on community mental health. This
union of white Hollywood and black social-spiritual
activism made her the offspring of a modern and
ever more varied biracial bourgeoisie.
The family settled in Woodland Hills, a prosperous Los Angeles neighbourhood. Prosperous and
largely white: Meghan’s mother was regularly mistaken for her nanny there. This must have happened
in the 80s and early 90s when she was a young girl; it
still happens in the US to every black woman I know
who has a mixed-race child.
Meghan’s parents divorced when she was six, and
she lived with her mother after that, although she
saw her father regularly. There are two half-siblings
from his previous marriage, both quite a bit older.
Relations with them, at least since the courtship and
engagement, have been strained.
Markle majored in international relations and
theatre at Northwestern University, Illinois. Besides becoming an actor, she became a feminist who
worked for UN Women as an advocate for political
participation and leadership. Yes, she has been
praised and criticised as “outspoken”, but her style
never risks being “aggressive” or “combative”, or
any of the other words thrown at women who are
deemed insufficiently graceful when they disagree
with men. Even when she makes staunch political statements, her manner astutely – sometimes
cloyingly – balances the forthright and the pleasing.
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 31
She’s learned to use political maxims and assertions
very effectively. As in: “It’s time to focus less on
glass slippers and more on glass ceilings.” With the
word “fairytale” now a ubiquitous tagline for the
royal romance, this should be a useful daily mantra.
The Cinderella story refuses to dwindle into a
period piece; in the last 20 years alone there have been
six film remakes with white, black and Latina leads.
But Markle has not been plucked from poverty or – like
the heroines of such romcom adaptations as Pretty
Woman and Maid in Manhattan – from the low-status
toil and trouble of working-class life. Her net worth as
an actor has been estimated at around $5m. An actor’s
fortunes can fluctuate, especially when that actor is a
woman. But so can the fortunes of a wife. If the royal
marriage were to end in divorce, Markle would not
have to depend on the Windsor millions.
Love that results in the bride’s near magical
social ascent is the key element in Cinderella tales.
But is Markle automatically marrying up by marrying
a prince? In the old school way, yes: any “commoner”
who marries into any royal family is seen as marrying
up. But Harry is marrying up too. He’s marrying up by
marrying out – out of long-entwined bloodlines, out
of entrenched rituals and hierarchies, out of a lineage
as constricted as it is privileged. We always ascribe
social ambitions to commoners, but aristocrats have
their own longings for a world elsewhere. Harry is
marrying into all the possibilities of postmodernity.
In this world-elsewhere that is here and now,
Markle’s identities as a progressive biracial and
black feminist are impeccable. When speaking of her
role on TV series Suits, as the biracial lawyer with a
black father, she said: “Some households may never
have had a black person in their house as a guest, or
someone biracial. Well, now there are a lot of us on
your TV and in your home with you.” And now there
are even a few of us in the castles you see on TV.
How would a global marketer for the royal family
describe their marriage? Charles is not going to help
the royal brand become fresh and contemporary.
William and Kate are contemporary royals – unpretentious, decent and likable. But they do not suggest
risk or daring. Today the House of Windsor is like a
venerable and all too predictable fashion house. Its
cultural currency depends on history packaged as
costume drama: The Queen, The Crown, The King’s
Speech, Darkest Hour. To flourish it must attract new
designers, new ideas and new muses.
Perhaps a better genre through which to read the
complexities of the Meghan-Harry narrative is the
romantic comedy. In the best romcoms, attraction is
ignited by tension and difference. Thwarted too. The
characters have to learn something from each other
and something about themselves; negotiate across
troublesome boundaries (gender and class privilege,
temperament), and learn to take emotional risks.
For this union, Harry has had to renounce his
protected status as a vivaciously shallow party boy
whose transgressions took the form of booze-fuelled
pranks, such as showing up at a friend’s birthday
party in a Nazi desert uniform with a swastika armband (the party’s theme was “colonial and native”),
or hosting a game of strip poker in a Las Vegas hotel
room. Reformation followed in three stages, each
appealing to a different constituency. He served in
Afghanistan. He recently confessed to emotional and
mental health problems that began soon after his
mother’s death: a shutdown of feelings, bouts of rage
and anxiety followed by psychological counselling.
Finally, there came his involvement with Markle. A professional woman, an educated woman, a
36-year-old divorced American woman, a woman
of colour and a feminist whose presence in his life
would soon require that he forcefully denounce
racism and sexism in the British press. “I’ve never
wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted
to be a woman who works,” Markle once said. In show
business she worked her way up. She didn’t become
a Hollywood superstar; she did become a skilled,
well-paid lead in a highly rated TV series. She had a
social conscience, which she acted on. And now, she
is more famous and more influential than she was
ever likely to be on her own. It remains the way of the
world. Does Amal Clooney have more resources as a
human rights lawyer and philanthropist now that she
is married to George Clooney? No doubt. Whatever we think of her new job requirements,
Markle will remain a working woman with a lifetime
of public performances ahead. Every word, every
gesture, every detail of dress will be scrutinised and
read for subtext. The touches of white on her navy J
Crew coat? A tribute to the British suffragettes. Bare
legs instead of tights for the engagement photos? A
subtle flouting of royal dress proscriptions.
Once a woman enters a royal family, every
aspect and function of her body becomes a site of
proprietary fantasy. The female body as a nation’s
procreative destiny: the only real change through
the centuries is that fantasy has replaced realpolitik.
For Diana Spencer, that meant her uncle certifying
her virgin status in a tabloid newspaper interview
shortly after her engagement to Charles. As if his
niece’s body parts were a bride price to be flaunted,
eliciting leers and cheers. Continued on page 32 →
32 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Weekly review
All in the family … Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty
← Continued from page 31 For Markle, it means media
warnings that she is 36 and shouldn’t wait much
longer. “Meghan, Oh Baby! Meghan and Harry Planning a Honeymoon Knock-Up” went one headline.
“Meghan Markle Looks Gorgeous With Naturally
Curly Hair in Childhood.” The published photo was
charming, as is the video of her at 11, with a curly
frizzy ponytail, chastising the ad industry for its
sexism. Many of us used to ask if we’d ever see
Michelle Obama in an updated version of the afro
she wore in her pre-public figure days. Many of us
used to answer that the furore it would cause – the
afro as proof of the first lady’s secret allegiance
to white-hating black militants – probably wasn’t
worth the gesture. And since a small dust-up followed Meghan’s recent appearance in a bun with
wavy tendrils around her face, it’s hard alas to imagine how anything, including the claim of biographer
Andrew Morton that she is a direct descendant of
Robert the Bruce, would atone for a full display of
those racially marked curly/wavy/frizzy locks.
But if she never wears her version of a natural,
she has already done race history a real service. She
has helped scuttle false, foolish constructs of “the
mulatto” that were developed a few centuries ago to
counter the very real threat that mixed-race people
posed to the constructs of white supremacy. To serve
popular culture, the female mulatto became a source
of social and erotic intrigue, a figure who needed
strict narrative policing. She could be a scheming
seductress (see Lydia Brown in DW Griffith’s The Birth
of a Nation, the mistress of a gullible white abolitionist played by a panting and grimacing white actress).
Or she could be tragic (as in Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon of 1859, and Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars of 1900), a beautiful, seemingly white
woman of faultlessly refined bearing, doomed by the
taint of black ancestry. The tragic version attracts the
love of a well-born young white man who does not
know her secret. She tries – she hopes, she longs –
to pass for white, and the ruse works for a time. But,
when the innocent gentleman proposes marriage, the
plot dictates that her shame be revealed and she must
die, by her own hand or from a fatal disease.
A key theme in these stories is the heroine’s
terror that, if she marries her white hero, she might
bear a child whose skin colour would reveal the
dreaded racial truth. I imagine there’s plenty of
spiteful, behind-the-scenes chatter about whether
this “touch of the tarbrush” will taint Meghan and
Harry’s offspring. Perhaps the “blackamoor” brooch
that Princess Michael of Kent was photographed
wearing on her way to a royal event with Harry and
Meghan was meant to signify such a dread: Meghan
as the black ewe tupped by a white ram, who will
produce a shamefully black offspring.
And surely the Daily Mail was gesturing towards
this when it ran a story about the ostensibly tawdry
origins of Markle and her mother, titled: “Harry’s
girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gangscarred home of her mother revealed – so will he be
Once a woman enters a
royal family, every aspect
of her body becomes a site
of proprietary fantasy
dropping by for tea?” Doria Ragland was cast as “a
dreadlocked African American lady from the wrong
side of the tracks”. One whose career as a yoga instructor and social worker suddenly made her the
equivalent of the mulatta’s disreputable mother,
who gathers roots and practises hoodoo. Early rumours had it that Ragland would walk
her daughter down the aisle. Now it’s reported that
Markle’s father will, or that they will share the duty.
I vote for Ragland alone. Still, to watch a divorced,
interracial couple walk the royal red carpet has its
own rewards when, once upon a time just 51 years
ago, US law forbade their marriage.
In 2015 Markle wrote an essay for Elle in which she
quite eloquently established that she is both biracial
and black. She started with the blunt racial slurs of
her childhood, which turned, as she grew, into the
patronising queries and assumptions favoured by
adults who think themselves liberal. An example was
the teacher who told her to fill in “white” on a census
because “that’s how you look, Meghan”. Intended as
a compliment, no doubt. Having described both her
struggles with, and her pride in, being biracial, she
ended the essay with a tribute to her black ancestry.
“You create the identity you want for yourself,
just as my ancestors did when they were given their
freedom. Because in 1865 (which is so shatteringly
recent), when slavery was abolished in the United
States, former slaves had to choose a name. A surname, to be exact. Perhaps the closest thing to connecting me to my ever-complex family tree, my
longing to know where I come from, and the commonality that links me to my bloodline, is the choice
that my great-great-great grandfather made to start
anew. He chose the last name Wisdom. He drew his
own box.” Excellently done, I thought. She’s refusing to let white readers white out her black identity.
When it comes to issues of race, gender, sexuality
and class, how much can Meghan Markle say and
do? How much does she want to say and do? We
simply don’t know yet. Like any black and biracial
woman, she has had a lifetime of learning to both
confront and dextrously navigate codes that range
from the puzzling to the vehemently punitive. Like
every actress she’s had to confront misogyny. But
she has options that previous generations did not.
The speech she gave at the 2015 UN women’s
conference began in rousing, declamatory mode:
“I am proud to be a woman and a feminist”; moved
to personal narrative (this part grounded in the
story of how she organised her campaign against
that sexist television ad at age 11); then built up to
inspirational political exhortation. “It is said that
girls with dreams become women with vision. May
we empower each other to carry out this vision,
because it isn’t enough to simply talk about equality, one must believe in it, and it isn’t enough to
believe in it, one must work for it.” May the work
recommence once the wedding is done.
Margo Jefferson is a Pulitzer prize-winning cultural
critic and author of Negroland
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.
11.05.18 33
Diversions
Shortcuts
Oink! Peppa Pig gets
censored in China
The latest subversive symbol in
China is a small pink cartoon pig:
Peppa Pig to be precise.
The wildly popular children’s
character was recently scrubbed
from Douyin, a video-sharing
platform in China, which deleted
more than 30,000 clips. The hashtag
#PeppaPig was also banned,
according to the Global Times, a
state-run tabloid newspaper.
The seemingly innocuous
cartoon’s downfall appears to be
no fault of its creators. Instead the
problem is Peppa’s association with
counterculture memes and “society
people” – a slang term for lowlifes
and gangsters.
People who upload videos of
Peppa Pig tattoos and merchandise
and make Peppa-related jokes “run
counter to the mainstream value
and are usually poorly educated
with no stable
e job”, the Global
Times said. “They
They are unruly
slackers roaming
ming around
and the antithesis
hesis of the
young generation
ation the
[Communist]] party tries
to cultivate.”
Footage off tattoos,
both real and temporary, have become
come
viral hits, as have fan
videos of the pig speaking in variouss regional
dialects. Some
me memes
have taken on
n dark
undertones,
occasionally
veering into
violent or
pornographicc
territory.
Pornography is
illegal in China
na.
This is not the first time the
cartoon has fallen foul of the
censors. Peppa Pig was swept up
in a crackdown last year aimed at
children’s picture books, when
authorities ordered publishers
to reduce the number of foreign
titles in China, part of a wider
campaign against western influence.
Benjamin Haas
Faux pas – museum
duped by art fakes
An art museum in the south of
France has discovered that more
than half of its collection consists
of fakes, in what the local mayor
described as a “catastrophe”.
The tiny 8,000-strong
community of Elne just outside
Perpignan re-opened its extensively
renovated Étienne Terrus Museum,
dedicated to the works of the local
artist, who was born in 1857 and
died in 1922.
brought in
But an art historian bro
to reorganise the museu
museum following the
th recent
acq
acquisition of
ar
around 80
pa
paintings,
fou
found that
nearly 60% of
near
the entire
ent collection was fa
fake.
“Étienne Terrus
was Elne’s great
painter. He was part of
the commun
community, he was
our painter,”
painte said
mayor Yves
m
B
Barniol.
“Knowpeople
ing that p
have visited
vis
the
museum and seen
a collec
collection, most
of whic
which is fake
– that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for
the municipality.”
Eric Forcada, the art historian
who uncovered the counterfeits,
said that he had seen straight away
that most of the works were fake.
“On one painting, the ink
signature was wiped away when I
passed my white glove over it.”
In all, out of the 140 works in the
collection, 82 were fake.
Barniol said that the investigation
would be continued until the culprits
had been found. “We’re not giving
up,” he said. Agence France-Presse
The cinema eventually
switched off the screen, and
later offered audience members
complimentary tickets as a gesture
of goodwill. A spokesperson for
the cinema’s parent company,
Event Hospitality & Entertainment,
said that the issue was being
“investigated internally to ensure
situations like this do not occur
again”. Gwilym Mumford
Peter Rabbit fans see
‘scariest’ horror trailer
Families were forced to flee an
Australian cinema when a trailer
for a horror film dubbed “the year’s
scariest film” was accidentally
shown before a school holidays
showing of Peter Rabbit.
Western Australia news website
WAtoday reported that the incident
occurred during an Anzac Day
holiday screening of the Beatrix
Potter adaptation at Event Cinemas
in Innaloo, Perth. As audience
members settled down for the
film, a trailer for Hereditary began
to play. The film, which stars Toni
Collette, has received an MA15+
rating in Australia for “themes of
strong horror”. Its trailer features
a number of unsettling scenes,
including one in which a child
appears to cut the head off a dead
pigeon with a pair of scissors.
“It was dreadful. Very quickly
you could tell this was not a kid’s
film,” an audience member told
the newspaper. “Parents were
yelling at the projectionist to stop,
covering their kids’ eyes and ears.
Some parents fled the cinema with
their kids in tow.”
The 800-year-old heart of
Dublin’s patron saint has been
recovered by police, six years
after it was stolen from a cathedral
in the city. The relic – the heart
of Saint Laurence O’Toole – was
taken from the city’s Christ
Church Cathedral in 2012. It has no
monetary value but is “a priceless
treasure” for the church, said the
cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev Dermot Dunne. The theft of the relic,
which had been kept in a wooden
heart-shaped box within a small
iron-barred cage, sparked a six-year
investigation by gardaí (Irish police).
The relic was presented to the
archbishop of Dublin, Michael
Jackson, last month by garda
assistant commissioner Pat Leahy.
A choir sang, with churchgoers
queueing up to catch a glimpse and
give prayers of thanks. Its return
“brings great joy to the people of
Dublin as Dubliners”, he said.
Leahy commended officers
who had “kept their radars on and
their minds open in this ongoing
investigation”. No arrests have been
made, gardaí said.
The church said there would
now be a shrine in the cathedral
to St Laurence, who died in 1180.
Press Association
Wordplay
Cryptic
Wordpool
In foreign parts one minor
thoroughfare (6)
Dublin’s patron saint
gets his heart back
Maslanka puzzles
1 As I walked in on Pedanticus in the
kitchen, I was just in time to hear on
the news that “the bomb has been
successfully diffused” and to see the
old buffer explode. He kicked the radio through the balcony door. What
might have triggered this explosion?
2 The picture shows another view of
the two cubes from
Pembish’s cube
calendar. Each
face of each cube
is marked with a
single digit and the
idea is that the two
front faces may be
chosen to show the
current day of the month. What are
the unseen digits on the lower cube?
3 You cut off any centimetre length
from a length of wire and it weighs
exactly the same. Does it follow that
the wire is uniform?
4 You place three balls in an urn.
Each ball is as likely to be black as
white. You then withdraw one at random. It is black. What are the most
likely colours of the remaining two
balls? What are the chances that they
are these most likely colours? You
now replace the black ball and shake
up the contents. What now are your
chances of withdrawing a black ball?
Twitter: @ChrisMaslanka
Find the correct definition:
ERF
a) sci-fi novel
b) unit of immovability
c) Emergency Research Facilities
d) plot of land in South Africa
Same Difference
Identify the two words the
spelling of which differs only in
the letters shown:
M**** (insult!)
B**** (element)
Missing Links
Find a word that follows the first
word in the clue and precedes
the second, in each case making
a fresh word or phrase. Eg the
answer to fish mix could be cake
(fishcake & cake mix) …
a) Venetian date
b) river missile
c) spare pressure
d) basket game
e) queen swing
f) rogue factor
©CMM2018. For solutions see page 47
34 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Discovery
The Federer effect
– how to stay young
What allows athletes such as Serena Williams to
defy the years? Smart exercise, says Neil Tweedie
S
low down: that used to be the mantra for middle age. The dread halfcentury reached, fiftysomethings
were expected to take up less challenging physical activities – if they were
physical at all.
Physical decline as the body aged was inevitable, something to be grumbled about, accepted and
dealt with. That fundamental law has not changed,
but the way we manage ageing has.
It is not ageing that causes a decline in fitness;
rather, that a decline in fitness causes ageing. This
is the simple thesis of Play On: How to Get Better
with Age by the American journalist Jeff Bercovici.
Bercovici, a sometime amateur football
player, seeks to dispel conventional wisdom
about longevity: that life is essentially a dispiriting linear process in which the human machine
gradually winds down, clogging here and rusting
there before falling into decrepitude. Instead,
he argues, we can not only extend our lives by
occasionally punishing our bodies but extend our
“peak years” of fitness into the autumn and winter
of existence. Functionality, rather than a long
lifespan, is what matters.
To do this, he examines the lives of sportsmen
and women whose fitness regime has allowed them
to keep performing at the top level into their 30s.
Like Roger Federer, 36, the Swiss tennis player who
many would say is the greatest exponent of his sport
in history, and Serena Williams, his female opposite
number, also 36. Beneficiaries of the latest findings
in sports science and medicine, these athletes
lead the way on a journey that we can all follow, at
whatever level of performance.
The buzz technique that has gained favour is
high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in which
bursts of intense activity – such as sprinting and
cycling – are interspersed with periods of lower-intensity exercise. You know you are at high intensity
when muscles burn and you get out of breath.
“Ageing science supports that we should do
high intensity every week, getting your heart rate
up to at least 80% of its maximum,” says Bercovici.
“Even 10 or 20 minutes a week will produce results
– that means getting up to the point where it feels
unpleasant. It should be a feeling that you can’t keep
this up much longer.
“High intensity activates different pathways
in your body, with benefits at the cellular level.
Together with gentler exercise, it improves overall
fitness. The trick is getting the balance: say, 20%
high to 80% low.”
Strength training is also important, building muscle and helping to prevent later-life injuries. There
is also a neurological benefit from this type of exercise. Instinct tells us that playing bridge and doing
the crossword are good for the brain, but workouts
also improve cognitive function, although the
process is poorly understood.
Many symptoms of ageing are linked to decreased hormone levels, particularly testosterone.
The less testosterone you have, the harder it is to
retain and build skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle
burns a lot of calories. As you lose skeletal muscle,
your metabolism slows, meaning any calories you
consume are more likely to end up as fat. And fat secretes the hormone oestrogen and proteins that promote chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.
As the writer Bill Gifford puts it in Spring Chicken,
a 2015 tour of anti-ageing science, “Ageing makes us
fat, and then our fat makes us age.” It gets worse. After
45, osteoarthritis – painful inflammation of the bones
at the joints – becomes much more common. This
happens as the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber
in those joints, particularly in the knees, wears down
and the cells that help it regrow get worse at their
job, again for reasons not totally understood.
The shocks that cushion the vertebrae of your
spine take a beating, too. By the age of 50, more people than not have at least one bulging intervertebral
disk, even if they don’t experience any symptoms.
Life on Mars? Solving the great Martian methane mystery
Robin McKie Observer
Scientists have begun an experiment aimed at
solving one of astronomy’s most intriguing puzzles:
the great Martian methane mystery.
In the next few months they hope to determine
whether whiffs of the gas that have been detected
on the red planet in recent years are geological in
origin – or are produced by living organisms.
On Earth, methane is produced mostly by
microbes, although the gas can also be generated by
geological processes. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter,
which has been manoeuvring itself above Mars for
more than a year, has been designed to determine
which of these sources is responsible. Last month
sensors on the craft began making their first
measurements of the planet’s atmosphere.
“If we find traces of methane that
are mixed with more complex organic
molecules, it will be a strong sign that
methane on Mars has a biological
source and that it is being produced
– or was once produced – by living
organisms,” said Mark McCaughrean,
senior adviser for science and exploration at the
European Space Agency. “However, if we find it is
mixed with gases such as sulphur dioxide, that will
suggest its source is geological, not biological.”
Scientists expect it will take more than a year
to complete a full survey of the planet’s methane hotspots but are hopeful that within a
month or two they will have a good idea if
its source is biological or geological in origin.
Astronomers have found hints of methane on Mars on previous occasions. In 2004,
Europe’s Mars Express orbiter detected levels
Nate Kitch
of methane in the atmosphere at about 10 parts in
a billion. Ten years later, Nasa’s Curiosity rover recorded the presence of the gas on the surface. Crucially, atmospheric methane breaks up quickly in the
presence of ultraviolet solar radiation. Its continued
presence on Mars therefore suggests it is being replenished from a source somewhere on the planet.
“We will look at sunlight as it passes through the
Martian atmosphere and study how it is absorbed
by methane molecules there,” said Håkan Svedhem,
the orbiter’s project scientist. “We should be able to
detect the presence of the gas to an accuracy of one
molecule in every 10 billion molecules.”
If the methane is found to be biological in origin,
two scenarios will have to be considered: either
long-extinct microbes have left the methane to
As you exit your 40s, your risk of a herniated disk
shrinks. Great – except that it is because the disks
themselves are shrinking, which not only predisposes you to new types of pain but explains why you
will get a little shorter with each passing decade.
Your nervous system is changing, too. Reaction
times are at their best around age 24 and become
slower from then on. This has to do with the reduced
speed at which nerve signals travel. As the protective casings of protein around peripheral nerves degrade, they cannot conduct impulses as efficiently.
This is one reason that the simple act of balancing
requires more conscious effort in the elderly.
But here’s the good news: most of these major
changes can be attenuated, delayed or reversed
through frequent and vigorous exercise. Bercovici
says it won’t keep your hair dark or stop you needing
glasses, but the most pernicious symptoms of ageing – cognitive impairment, muscle wasting, bone
thinning, cardiovascular damage – just don’t happen in the same way in people who work out often.
Take Tour de France cyclists: they enjoy an
eight-year boost to their lifespans over us couch
potatoes. Athletes in endurance sports or sports
that demand a mix of endurance and power, such
as football or basketball, fare better than pure power
athletes, such as weightlifters.
Elite sports performers continue to succeed well
past the peak age for their sport, not because they
train more but because they train more efficiently.
They use periodisation – interweaving intense training with rest – to avoid fatigue and injury. This is
something laymen can learn from.
Public Health England (PHE) says some 6 million
people between 40 and 60 in England are endangering their health by not taking so much as a brisk walk
for 10 minutes once a month. But there is always
the chance to change. One of the benefits of being
a couch potato in youth and early middle-age is the
lack of stress damage accrued by serious athletes
that can leave some of them old before their time.
“By walking just 10 continuous minutes at a brisk
pace every day, an individual can reduce their risk
of early death by 15%,” says Prof Muir Gray, adviser
to PHE. “They can also prevent or delay the onset
of disability and further reduce their risk of serious
health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease,
dementia and some cancers.”
Emma Stevenson, professor of sport and exercise at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing,
says it is all about functionality – living well, not
just longer. “Age is not a reason not to be doing
things,” she says. “That way, we age more quickly.
We may be living longer but without good nutrition
and exercise we lose functionality – like simply
being able to get out of a chair – and that is not good
quality of life.” Observer
seep slowly to the surface – or some very resistant
methane-producing organisms still survive underground. “Life could still be clinging on under the
Martian surface,” said Svedhem. However, if the
gas is found to be geological in origin, the discovery
could still have important implications. On Earth,
methane is produced – geologically – by a process
known as “serpentinisation”, which occurs when
olivine, a mineral present on Mars, reacts with water.
McCaughrean added: “If we do find that methane
is produced by geochemical processes on Mars, that
will at least indicate that there must be liquid water
beneath the planet’s surface – and given that water
is crucial to life as we know it, that would be good
news for those of us hoping to find living organisms
on Mars one day.”
Dispatches
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 35
MDMA may help ease
post-traumatic stress
MDMA, the main ingredient of the
party drug ecstasy, could help reduce
symptoms among those living with
post-traumatic stress disorder, research
suggests. The disorder is commonly
treated with drugs, psychotherapies or
both. However, some find little benefit.
Now scientists have released the latest
of several small studies showing that
MDMA, when combined with talking
therapies, could prove effective in
reducing symptoms. “It is thought that
the MDMA is catalysing the therapy,
[rather than] just being effective on
its own,” said Dr Allison Feduccia,
co-author of the research by the MAPS
Public Benefit Corporation, a US-based
charity that funded the study.
DiCaprio beetle named
ed
A new species of water beetle
eetle
found clinging to a
sandstone rock in a
stream in Malaysian
Borneo has been named
after the actor Leonardo
sect, which
DiCaprio. The tiny black insect,
has a partially retractable head and
slightly protruding eyes, was named
after the film star for his environmental activism. Citizen scientists
who took part in an expedition to
Borneo’s Maliau Basin recovered the
first known specimen of Grouvellinus
leonardodicaprioi from a shallow stream
about a kilometre above sea level.
McBoatface to Antarctic
The precarious state of a vast, remote
Antarctic glacier will provide an inaugural mission for the British vessel
once dubbed Boaty McBoatface, as
scientists from the UK and US set up
a new £20m ($27m) research operation. Scientists are to collaborate on
the five-year project to examine the
Thwaites glacier in west Antarctica.
One of the principal research vessels
will be the RSS Sir David Attenborough,
the £200m research ship originally
voted to be christened Boaty McBoatface in an online poll two years ago.
The joke name lives on in the ship’s
remotely operated submarine.
Sex a factor for over 65s
Sex is a key part of life for adults in
their later years, a poll has revealed. A
US survey has found that 40% of those
aged between 65 and 80 report being
sexually active, with more than half of
those who have a partner saying they
indulge. “We recognise that sex and
sexual health is something that is very
important to the health and wellbeing
of older people but is not something
that gets a lot of attention,” said Dr Erica
Solway of the University of Michigan.
36 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Culture
‘This is happening in your life.
Wake up, people, wake up’
Season two of The Handmaid’s Tale is darker and more relevant than ever. The cast, including Elisabeth Moss, talk to Jane Mulkerrins
W
e knew that we were doing
something important,” says
Samira Wiley, reflecting on
the feelings of the cast and
creators of The Handmaid’s
Tale in the months running
up to the show’s launch last spring. “We knew that
we were making something with a lot of integrity.
But we definitely didn’t mean for it to be that timely
and that relevant.”
Nine months later, the television adaptation of
Margaret Atwood’s seminal dystopian novel was not
only sweeping the boards at every awards ceremony
– remarkable for a new show, with such dark, brutal
themes – but had rapidly become a social phenomenon, too: a symbol of the new resistance, with the
handmaids’ uniform co-opted by protesters at US
courthouses, on marches, and in Hollywood itself.
“When we were arriving at the Golden Globes,
there were a bunch of handmaids outside,” recalls
Wiley, who plays Moira, rebellious best friend of the
main protagonist Offred. The group, calling themselves the Hollywood Handmaids, were holding a
silent protest to demand an end to sexual assaults
and inequalities in the industry.
“It has been absolutely crazy,” says Wiley,
shaking her head in disbelief.
Certainly, the fervour surrounding the series is
unprecedented, which is all the more exceptional
considering that Atwood wrote the story in 1984.
There have been previous adaptations, too: a 1990
film written by Harold Pinter and starring Natasha
Richardson, plus an opera and a ballet. But none
have sparked the torrent of memes, slogan T-shirts
bearing lines from the book, and even, apparently,
tattoos of its quotable mantras.
The phenomenal success of the series has, of
course, been assisted by the story’s prescience: it’s
set in a fundamentalist theocracy where women
and minorities have been stripped of all rights, and
all but the top 1% forced into servitude and ranked
according to their fertility. And if, a few short
months into the Trump presidency, season one
arrived into an atmosphere of bewildered anxiety,
then season two, which has begun airing in many
parts of the world, has landed in an atmosphere of
radicalised action, with the #MeToo and Time’s Up
movements demanding the end of widespread cultures of misogyny, sexual harassment and abuse.
On a sub-zero day in Toronto, Canada, I visit the set
of the show. Such is the secrecy surrounding the production that correspondence with the team regarding
my visit refers to the show as “Rocket Woman”, a
security measure designed to avert overexcited fans,
but also any fundamentalist groups who might object
to its themes, I am told. As season one ended exactly
as the novel did – with a pregnant Offred bundled into
a van – this second series moves beyond the content of
Atwood’s classic text. She is a consultant on the show,
Women of Gilead … clockwise from top, Aunt
Lydia (Ann Dowd) and Offred (Elisabeth Moss);
Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and Offred;
Moira (Samira Wiley)
and approves the scripts. However, “that doesn’t
mean I have veto power”, the author recently told
Newsweek. “No one would ever give an author that;
you’d be really foolish to do so.” That bestows both
freedom and pressure on the show’s writers, on top
of already enormous expectations.
“The way we made the first season, which was in
great ignorance, is exactly the way we’re trying to
make the second season,” says showrunner Bruce
Miller, as he takes me around the set. “We try not
to think about people out there dissecting it, but instead just think about making something that’s cool.’
Elisabeth Moss, a producer on the show as well
as its star, also points out that the first season was
not a facsimile of the book, either: timelines were
altered, some details were changed, entire scenes
and stories expanded. “We were faithful to the
idea and the tone and the messages of the book,”
she says, “but we kept characters alive that died
and we did things that were never in the book, so
we’re not afraid of that.”
Nor, if the season opener is anything to go by, are
the team afraid of pushing the barbarism into even
darker places. It is tense, harrowing and bloody; the
very opposite of an easy watch. In a timely echo of
2018, one theme explored is that of solidarity. “One
of the saddest things about season one for me was
Serena [the Commander’s wife, for whom Offred is
meant to be bearing a child] not having any solidarity with Offred, or with any of the handmaids,” says
Moss. “In season two, we start to think about the fact
that if these women actually banded together, they
could overthrow Gilead. That’s a very powerful idea.”
This season will also see an expansion of the
world that Atwood created: the Colonies, the toxic
waste dumps to which “Unwomen” are exiled; and
Little America, in Canada, where refugees from
Gilead live. “There’s also a scene that addresses journalism in Gilead,” says Moss. “It’s really intense. But
it needs to be addressed. Because, what would have
happened to journalists?” she asks, rhetorically.
In Gilead, environmental factors have caused
the birthrate to plunge to near zero and the few
fertile women are installed as forced breeders for
the barren wives of the Commanders of the Faithful.
The ages of Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), along
with that of her husband, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), were a major detail altered
for the adaptation; both are significantly younger
on screen than in the book. “[Offred] and I being
the same age adds an extra layer of jealousy and
a devastation,” says Strahovski. “Here’s a woman
who is my age, who can do the things that I want to
do – ie have children – but I can’t.”
For Fiennes, whose character has sex with Offred
every month, against her will, in a bid to get her
pregnant, the burden of playing a rapist – albeit one
committing an act sanctioned by the ruling order
– does not sit easily. “I am repulsed by it,” he says,
simply. “I am very affected by some of the things we
have to do, this season in particular, I have found
some of it very difficult.”
Much of the most egregious brutality of season one was meted out by – or on the orders of – Aunt
Lydia, the enforcer of the handmaids’ compliance,
played by Ann Dowd. “I think she thought, ‘This
is not going to be tough, not at all. I’m going to get
these girls in order,’” reflects Dowd. “I think the
difference for her, for season two, is that she’s far
more challenged than she anticipated she would be.
I don’t mean to say that she is subversive – she’s all
in [with the regime], still – but she realises it’s not
such a straight shot, and all these young women are
not all the same.”
In seeking to build an authentic world beyond
that outlined in the book, Miller and his team drew
– as Atwood did in her original story – on history,
creating a meticulously detailed mythology for
Gilead. This explains why the outwardly pious
Commanders of the Faith have based themselves in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles river
from Boston, rather than Washington DC. “It’s not
the traditional seat of power, but in America it’s the
seat of intellectual power, and Boston has such a
huge place in our Puritan history,” Miller explains.
He says he has an unusual advantage in being able
to question Atwood directly about her own inspirations. “Usually when you adapt a classic, the author
is long gone,” says Miller. “But not only is Margaret
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 37
The Handmaid’s Tale, season two review
A bleak dystopia that speaks to now
Crimson resistance …
Elisabeth Moss as Offred
James Minchin/Hulu
very much around, she also has a spectacular memory about what she was thinking when she wrote
The Handmaid’s Tale.”
One criticism levelled at the first season was the
show’s depiction of race. While Miller deliberately
created a multiracial world (unlike in the original
book, in which minorities had been exiled), the
show did not deal with, or mention, racism. How
those criticisms have been taken on board in the
storylines for season two remains to be seen, but
some cast members say that such issues are influencing their performances.
“I watched a lot of movies on slavery, just to see
how characters moved,” says Amanda Brugel, the
mixed-race actor who plays Rita, one of Gilead’s
low-ranking domestic servants, whose story
will be more prominent this season. “I especially
watched the women who were slaves, versus a
character in our show like Serena Joy, who’s lived
a life of freedom. I very much lean on past experiences in which I felt like I have actually been a
different class, and a slave, in situations just because
of my colour,” she says.
Moss and I speak again, a few weeks after my visit
to the set, on the day of the March for Our Lives,
held across US cities and organised by the surviving students of the Parkland school shootings.
Donald Trump has suggested, as a solution to the
growing tide of similar tragedies, arming teachers
in schools. “When I heard that, I got chills,” says
The small-screen adaptation of Margaret
Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale rode a wave
of timely, Trump-era resonance all the way to
Emmy awards glory. That a series as grim and
unforgiving as this one could pull off an awardsseason sweep spoke to how felicitous its timing
was. The image of handmaids in blood-red
robes and white bonnets became totemic. At
anti-Trump demonstrations women sported
the handmaid’s cloak, suggesting wokeness or
political dissent. In Gilead, though, the theocratic hellscape that was once America, such
displays of female solidarity are fraught with
peril. For Elisabeth Moss’s June, who at the end
of season one refused to stone a fellow handmaid, it meant a ride in the back of a black van to
where we knew not.
The van was headed, we find out in the
opening sequence, to Fenway Park, the Boston
Red Sox stadium, where weeds have sprouted
and gallows await the dissenting handmaids. To
the haunting tune of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s
Work, the scene lasts an excruciating eight minutes, which felt more like the length of an entire
episode. But, it prepares you psychologically for
what follows, which is gloomier, harsher and
more frightening than season one.
While The Handmaid’s Tale remains
impeccably made and extraordinarily acted –
with Moss once again turning in the single best
performance on television – to give the show a
ringing endorsement would be dishonest. Not
so much because it bears a jarring resemblance
to the current US administration – if you watch
the show, you’ll know the putative links are
overstated but because it’s so unrelenting in its
presentation of familiar spaces, like Fenway or
an old, run-down school gym, as sites of torture
and oppression. Those sites are often shot aerially, referencing the “eye” under which the
handmaids live. The show emphasises monochromatic colouring, sharp angles and visual order. It also seems that showrunner Bruce Miller
has doubled down on what Susan Sontag, in
an essay on the director Leni Riefenstahl, once
called the “fascist aesthetic”, in which “the relations of domination and enslavement take the
form of a characteristic pageantry”.
The show is never better than when it’s
focused on Moss, who delivers some of the most
remarkable acting I’ve ever seen. Most strikingly, though, this is both intensely unenjoyable
but unquestionably worthwhile TV, an artistic
achievement that reinvents what it means to
hate-watch. Jake Nevins
Moss. “Because I’m on set with a man pretending
to hold a machine-gun, in a situation that he just
shouldn’t have one in.”
She has no tolerance, however, for people who
find the show itself frightening. “I hate hearing
that someone couldn’t watch it because it was too
scary,” she says. “Not because I care about whether
or not they watch my TV show; I don’t give a shit.
But I’m like, ‘Really? You don’t have the balls to
watch a TV show? This is happening in your real
life. Wake up, people. Wake up.’”
The Handmaid’s Tale is on Hulu in the US; on
Bravo in Canada; on SBS in Australia; and on
Channel 4 in the UK later this month
38 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Culture
Marx would love it … The Communist Manifesto:
A Graphic Novel Martin Rowson/SelfMadeHero
Marx power! Why I drew
The Communist Manifesto
Martin Rowson on why he had to turn the world-changing
pamphlet into a comic book
K
arl Marx and I go back a long way.
Like a lot of children growing up
in the 1960s, I was obsessed with
the Soviet Union and its unreachable otherness. At about 15, I read
The Communist Manifesto and it
made complete sense. I instantly got the Dialectic,
the inexorable, tectonic grindings of All History
Hitherto, the Class Conflict and the inevitability of
the ultimate victory of the downtrodden over their
oppressors. Moreover, in its compelling combination of reason and romanticism, I was entranced
not only by the manifesto’s universal scope but also
its playfulness. Parts of it are very funny.
Soon I’d visited the Soviet Union and, aged 19,
wrote a thankfully unpublished novel that hinges
round a fictitious Marxist uprising. As a student,
I joined the Communist party, although I only
hung around for a week. After I graduated I sold
a cartoon series to New Statesman titled Scenes
from the Lives of the Great Socialists.
When these cartoons came out as a book in
1983, there were calls for it to be banned from
Collets, the old leftie bookshop in London. This
was one reason why I hadn’t bothered making
a fist of it in the CP: I’ve always subscribed to
Orwell’s line about every joke being a tiny revolution. And I reckon Marx would have done so, too.
Not nearly enough people struggling through
Theories of Surplus Value give themselves a
break by reading, for instance, Marx’s journalism
from the 1850s for the New York Tribune, which
matches Simon Hoggart, and occasionally even
Jonathan Swift, in its scathing hilarity.
Marx stuck with me in the following 30 years:
I illustrated a couple of books by the Australian
Marxist Kevin Killane, and Marx himself made
appearances in my comic-book adaptations of
TS Eliot’s The Waste Land and Laurence Sterne’s
Tristram Shandy. It was after that last book was
reissued in 2010 by SelfMadeHero that the publisher commissioned me to adapt Francis Wheen’s
wonderful 1999 biography of Marx.
Like Marx, I dice with deadlines. Then aged 29,
Marx knocked off The Communist Manifesto over
a weekend in Brussels at the end of January 1848
after he received an ultimatum from the Communist League in London, who had commissioned
the work from him the previous autumn and were
still waiting. It had also been my practice to eschew storyboards and make it up as I went along.
But confronted by the Wheen book, I decided to
pay my son to write the script. He did an excellent job, but it left me with nothing to do except
draw to his direction. I was, in fact, alienated from
my labour in a textbook Marxist way and, in line
with pure Marxist theory, I rebelled. Having taken
seven months to draw just five pages of finished
artwork I gave up and returned my advance.
When the same publishers asked if I fancied
adapting The Communist Manifesto as a comic
book for Marx’s 200th birthday, the whole thing
came instantly into my head. I clearly envisioned
the manifesto as made up in equal parts of bloodand-iron industrialised steampunk, apocalyptic
John Martin and mounting fury that builds up
to a climax at the end of Section One: Bourgeois
and Proletarians, before breaking on the beach of
History and turning into straightforward standup
comedy. It’s leavened throughout with private
gags, personal score-settling and the kind of
Rabelaisian filthiness Marx would have enjoyed.
I hope that is what I’ve achieved.
The most important part of The Communist
Manifesto remains its analysis of how the
mechanics of capitalism commodify human
beings and reduce them to meat machines
existing solely to be milked to make the already
rich even richer. Which by anyone’s reckoning
is no fun at all. And 170 years after he wrote The
Communist Manifesto when, by the latest count,
43 individuals possess as much wealth as half of
the rest of humanity, Marx still has a lot to say, and
I hope I’ve helped him say it yet again.
Martin Rowson is a Guardian political cartoonist
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 39
Culture Reviews
Music
Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Film
The Wound
T
he Wound of the title has a number of
metaphorical applications, mostly to do
with the agony involved in suppressing
the truth about your sexuality, and
also in revealing it. It could be a symbol for the
secret emotional pain that exists alongside
the male aggression and male adventure that
is effectively using it as fuel. It is an intimate
and boldly transgressive drama from the white
South African director John Trengove, about
circumcision and initiation rituals.
Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) is a Xhosa city
kid from Johannesburg whose father, Khwalo
(Gabriel Mini), thinks he is getting a little too
pampered. So he arranges for his son to have
the traditional circumcision on a remote
mountain retreat with other young “initiates”
who will be cut and then live in huts until their
wounds heal, bonding, and promising never to
speak again about what they have experienced.
They will be under the control of elders,
volunteers who eagerly take time away from
their own dull jobs to administer this traditional
rite of passage – and possibly to relive something
they have come to think of as the most intensely
real experience of their lives.
Xolani (Nakhane Touré) is Kwanda’s
mentor – but far from being at ease with his
Theatre
The Iceman Cometh
H
ere’s Broadway’s pipe dream: it’s still
a place for serious American drama.
This season has offered only three new
American plays; they’ve all closed. But
Broadway is still a place for revivals, especially if
those revivals are star-spangled and scheduled
for a limited run, which explains why Denzel
Washington has poured himself into a droopy
suit and loped on to the ramshackle set of Eugene
O’Neill’s epic downer, The Iceman Cometh.
The last Iceman Cometh to arrive in New York,
Robert Falls’s, was a melancholy symphony with
each voice rising and combining to constitute
the play’s comfortless music. That’s not present
in George C Wolfe’s production, a series of solos,
Kino Lorber/Allstar
A
own masculinity, Xolani (pictured) is deeply
conflicted. This mountain is the only place
where he can have sex with another mentor,
the more macho Vija (Bongile Mantsai), a
married father. Coming out here is almost a
“Brokeback” holiday for their hidden sexualities.
The film even suggests obliquely that there is
a natural way of soothing the young initiates’
raw wounds that has become a key undiscussed
initiation in itself. Moreover, Kwanda himself is
gay, and wishing to be open about it, is impatient
with this ritualised denial. He tells Xolani that
he himself is the real man, not these supposed
elders whose rituals are regressive and a way of
retreating from actual manhood.
Even without these complicating factors,
the spectacle of circumcision is startling. The
boys are wrapped in traditional blankets.
When the doctor comes with his blades, they
are curtly told to “Spread!”, and when the act
itself is performed, they are expected to bear
the agony stoically, and to cry out in a kind of
triumph: “I am a man!”
As Xolani, Touré’s performance has a kind off
pointed introspection. The opening sequence
contrasts his job as fork-lift driver with the
intensity of this ritual. “Coming of age” is usually
lly
a syrupy Hollywood genre, and it’s bracing to
find it given such an unsentimental expression – and to see that it applies not only to
adolescents, but to adults, too. Peter Bradshaw
many of them from the horn section. One
experiences less a world and more a room full
of actors, mostly good ones, each waiting for a
chance to monologue.
The big monologue belongs to Washington’ss
Hickey – it’s a doozy about the life and death off
his wife. For most of it, Washington is playing
Washington, letting his looks and charm do most
ost
of the work, though the play’s most exciting
moments are when he shows something uglier
and more ravaged underneath.
The play is a difficult one. It’s a roughly mixed
ed
cocktail of poetry, psychodrama and bombast
that’s only rarely wise to itself. But like O’Neill’ss
best works it has a power that outpaces the scenes
nes
and the lines. Here, the punches are sometimess
packed and sometimes pulled. Alexis Soloski
At the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, NYC, until 1 July
ly
t first glance, Dirty Computer looks like
business as usual for Janelle Monáe. Like
its predecessor, 2013’s The Electric Lady,
it’s a concept album with a title that
posits its creator as a part-human, part-cyborg
figure, and it comes accompanied by a film in
which the heroine struggles against a futuristic
dystopia. Once more, the influence of Prince
hangs over proceedings. On The Electric Lady he
was to be found duetting with Monáe and firing
off a typically incredible guitar solo on Givin’ ‘Em
What They Love, and he was apparently working on Dirty Computer at the time of his death.
Echoes of his music resonate throughout: from
the Let’s Go Crazy-ish beat of Americans – as
unexpectedly euphoric an excoriation of that
country’s current ills as you could wish to hear –
to the chord changes in So Afraid, to the Kiss-like
jangle of guitar that opens Screwed.
And yet, there are clearly changes afoot on
Dirty Computer. The one thing the gushing profiles about Monáe never mention is that the singer
can’t get a hit: not one of the singles released
from The ArchAndroid or The Electric Lady made
the Billboard Hot 100. Dirty Computer takes some
decisive steps to try to rectify this. The more outré aspects of its predecessor are gone and there’s
something commonplace and risk-averse about
the pop-R&B backing of Crazy, Classic, Life and
I Got the Juice. They’re not bad songs, but they
pale next to Dirty Computer’s highlights: Django
Jane, on which Monáe unleashes a ferocious rap,
skilful and funny enough, as it shifts its focus
from racism to sexism (“let the vagina have a
monologue”), to suggest she could make
a straightforward hip-hop album were she so
inclined; the drifting ballad Don’t Judge Me,
shimmering with electronic effects that make it
sound as if it was recorded under water; the
irresistible 80s pop of Take a Byte.
Elsewhe
Elsewhere, she reaches out beyond
her tight-k
tight-knit Wondaland collective
to the kind of songwriters you pay
to get you into the charts. Make Me
Feel was co-written by Sweden’s
Mattman & Robin and current
Mattma
gol
golden team Justin Tranter
and Julia Michaels. The
an
end result is a brilliantly
e
e
executed, hook-laden and
ssupremely funky Prince
homage, a song that seems
h
tto have the same undenia
able multi-platinum-selling
pop power as Uptown Funk
p
or pre-outcry
p
Blurred Lines.
Th
There are plenty of reasons
(pictured) should be
why Monáe
M
a huge star. She can act, sing, rap,
pay homage
hom
to her idols without
descending into pastiche, and
descend
she can write
w
about the kind of hottopics that artists currently
button topi
feel obliged to address regardless of
whether they
th have anything to say
about them,
them with real wit and infecanger. But she is as
tiously righteous
rig
elusive as ever, and her mystery
intact. Without a true
remains in
loosening of her poise, her position
on the margins
mar
of pop could remain
well. Alexis Petridis
intact as wel
40 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Books
Clear and present danger
Warnings about the tech-driven
apocalypse just can’t keep up
with events, finds Emily Bell
The People vs Tech: How the Internet Is
Killing Democracy (and How We Save It)
by Jamie Bartlett
Ebury, 256pp
There is a clear, algorithmic formula for writing books about technology and society in 2018.
Authors are generally required to be male, their
documented personal journey must have been from
that of techno-optimist to techno-sceptic to technopanicker. There must be an urgent existential threat
to either democracy or humanity lurking in the code
base of Silicon Valley companies. The intractable
crisis is not so profound, however, that it cannot
be solved by a hail of partially thought-through
remedies tacked on in the appendix.
This recipe is producing a growing body of what
might be termed “techlash” literature: the backlash
against Silicon Valley and its seemingly unstoppable
accretion of wealth, data and cultural and political
capital. Where once we might have read expansive
works of science fiction creating vivid and ambiguous alternative realities, now we have worrisome
documentaries of threats so present they have often
played out by the time the galley hits the review pile.
Jamie Bartlett, a technology journalist and the
head of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media
at the thinktank Demos, brings another title to the
genre. The People vs Tech is a lively read, which attempts to pull a grand theory out of the current political crises surrounding the surprise victories of Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the unauthorised laundering of
millions of personal data profiles. Although Bartlett’s
tone is unusually upbeat for someone facing an imminent democalypse, his meta-thesis is far darker
than those of authors who simply moan that the
internet has ruined everything. Bartlett lays out an
argument that democracy is being rendered obsolete
by an increasingly quantified society, nudged gently
toward surrendering its political agency to smarterdecision-making machines. The public sphere is obscure and corrupted, the middle classes are facing
robotic unemployment, and authoritarians are stepping into the void left by our declining institutions.
“At a deep level these two grand systems –
technology and democracy – are locked in a bitter
conflict,” writes Bartlett. “They are products of completely different eras and run according to different
rules and principles.” At one point Bartlett makes
the unsubstantiated assertion that “democracy
is analogue rather than digital” – in other words,
slow, deliberative and grounded in physical space.
Each of Bartlett’s six conditions for functioning
democracy – active citizens, shared culture, free
elections, stakeholder equality, competitive and
civic freedom, and trust in authority – he argues,
are either already subsumed in bots and distraction
or are about to be worn away by a combination of
self-driving cars and programmatic advertising.
Bartlett could have mined a fascinating book
from just one subject on his laundry list of threats
to democracy. But for all six he struggles to lash the
billowing themes together into a coherent whole.
And often his arguments are just infuriatingly
inconsistent. On one page, for instance, he describes
algorithms as running autonomously of any human
control, yet he later refers to the implicit human bias
baked into the same systems. He is convinced that
the powerful narcotic of smartphone apps will anaesthetise the general population, isolating them from
civic engagement. However, instances of collective
action and protest, particularly in the US, are higher
than they have been for decades. His major criticisms
revolve largely around the supply side of the equation – monopolistic institutions hoarding our data
– but he rarely acknowledges that the demand side
has a role to play, too. His depiction of the population
as dazed, confused and addicted by Silicon Valley’s
trickery just does not feel grounded in fact.
He rightly characterises journalism as a weakened element of the public commons and worries
that questions such as “What new injustices are tech
creating?” are extremely difficult to answer, and that
the complexity of investigating platform power will
just be too expensive or difficult. This might become
true. However, Mark Zuckerberg sweated through
two hearings on Capitol Hill only because he was
dragged there by the work of journalists and academics unearthing the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
As a policy wonk and journalist, Bartlett has more
insight when writing about election processes and
political communications than when he ranges
further into the technical landscape. The details of
the dynamics during the Trump campaign are particularly compelling. Although not new, and written about at exhaustive length in the US press, the
alchemy of micro-targeting in close campaigns such
as the 2016 presidential election is the strongest evidence he has to support his overarching claim that
democracy is, in fact, screwed.
Unfortunately, the book itself falls foul of the dynamics of the very systems Bartlett critiques. Book
deadlines, like democracy, are analogue, slow and
deliberative, while the subject matter of this book
changes every day. Early on, Bartlett writes extensively about the use of targeting data in the Trump
campaign and interviews Alexander Nix, the chief
executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, but he is
missing the final and most exciting part of the story.
This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about
the profusion of treatises inviting us to peer into the
techno-abyss: they could have arrived a little earlier.
All the evidence for supporting arguments of technological overreach, a muddied public sphere and a
communications ecosystem it is impossible to parse
has been available for years. And yet were it not for
Donald Trump’s presidency I doubt we would be
having these discussions even now.
The original techlash authors, such as Evgeny
Morozov (The Net Delusion) or Jaron Lanier (You
Are Not a Gadget), were ahead of their time in
terms of one set of white men complaining about
the empowerment of another set of white men. For
the women and minorities who never enjoyed the
full advantages of a free press, functioning democracies and elite positions in society, the ongoing
oppression of an out-of-control technocracy seems
less of a surprise. Observer
In conflict … technology and democracy are at
loggerheads USA Today/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 41
Unbelievers need to
believe in something
Seven Types of Atheism
by John Gray
Allen Lane, 176pp
Terry Eagleton
There has been a rash of books in
recent years by thinkers for whom
the human race is getting nicer and
nicer. Richard Dawkins, Steven
Pinker, Matt Ridley and Sam Harris
are rational humanists who believe
in progress, however many famines
and genocides may disfigure the
planet. The philosopher John Gray’s role has been
to act as a Jeremiah among these Pollyannas, insisting that we are every bit as nasty as we ever were. If
there is anything he detests, it is schemes of
visionary transformation. He is a card-carrying misanthrope for whom human life has no unique
importance, and for whom history has been little
more than the sound of hacking and gouging. One
might note that Christianity is as pessimistic as Gray
but a lot more hopeful as well.
The answer to the question of whether history
has been improving is surely a decisive yes and
no. For Marx, the modern age was both an enthralling emancipation and one long nightmare. The
wide-eyed optimism of Pinker or Ridley is just as
one-sided as the prophets of doom who refuse to
concede that there is something to be said for such
modern inventions as feminism, spin-dryers and
antibiotics. The truth is that everyone believes in
progress, but only a dwindling band of Victorian
relics such as Dawkins believe in Progress. So this
book is really hammering at an open door. How
many champions of a vastly improved future are
there in a postmodern culture?
Gray also believes that humanists are in bad faith.
Most of them are atheists, but all they have done is
substitute humanity for God. They thus remain in
thrall to the very religious faith they reject. In fact,
most supposedly secular thought in Gray’s view is
repressed religion. The popular belief that atheism
and religion are opposites is, in his view, a mistake.
He also takes a swipe at the kind of atheism that
sees religion as a primitive stab at understanding the
universe, one that science will later replace. Gray,
to his credit, sees that religions are not theories of
the world but forms of life. They are less systems of
belief than acts of faith. Fanatical God-haters such
as the Marquis de Sade, Dostoevsky and the literary
critic William Empson are also sent packing as no
more than inverted believers.
Gray belongs to that group of contemporary
thinkers who disdain the secular but can’t quite drag
themselves to the church or synagogue. They turn,
instead, to a kind of transcendence without content,
of which there is no finer example than what one
might call Hollywood spirituality. Those celebrities
who dabble in Kabbalah or Scientology do so as a refuge from a material world crammed with too many
chauffeurs and swimming pools. The spiritual for
them is the opposite of the material, a mistake that
Gray also makes in his less luxury-laden way.
Seven Types of Atheism is an impressively erudite work, ranging from the Gnostics to Joseph
Conrad, St Augustine to Bertrand Russell. In the
end, it settles for a brand of atheism that finds
enough mystery in the material world itself without needing to supplement it with a higher one. Yet
this, too, is just as much a throwback to the Victorian age as Dawkins’s evangelical campaign against
religious evangelism. Authors such as George Eliot,
reeling from the death of God, took solace in the
unfathomable intricacies of the universe. Gray
condemns secular humanism as the continuation
of religion by other means, but his own faith in some
vague, inexplicable enigma beyond the material is
open to exactly the same charge.
Dangerous relations
Trick
by Domenico Starnone,
translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
Europa, 192pp
Tim Parks
Domenico Starnone is one of those
novelists who from page one invite
us to expect catastrophe. The main
character is vulnerable, physically
and mentally; a situation develops
t h at c a n o n l y ex p o s e t h at
vulnerability. We hope our hero will
come through, consoling ourselves
in the meantime with a story well told.
Only two characters matter in Trick, a grandfather and grandchild. Artist Daniele Mallarico is
in his 70s, like Starnone. Widowed and recovering too slowly from painful surgery, he is asked to
travel from Milan to his childhood home in Naples
to look after grandson Mario while the boy’s parents
are away. Telling his tale in the first person, Daniele
knows he is not up to it. Worse, he is behind with an
urgent commission to illustrate a book. His talent
has deserted him. No sooner has he arrived in Naples than his editor is phoning to say the drawings
he has sent so far are no good. He will have to do the
work again, while looking after the child.
The boy’s bickering parents, both professors,
are sketched in only to be dismissed; he’s chubby,
neurotic, pedantic, insanely jealous; she’s slim,
overdressed, overworked, at her wits’ end. We are
relieved to have the door closed behind them so as
to focus on the coming calamity. Daniele sees danger everywhere. He exhausts himself with worrying. Mario is a splendid whirlwind of precocious
middle-class competence, setting the table for
dinner, pulling food out of the fridge, climbing on
a chair to put the coffee pot on, handling the phone
and his father’s heavy toolbox. Nothing daunts him.
The two complement each other beautifully.
We learn more about the parents’ bourgeois values
through the boy’s parroting of them than through
their earlier presence. And the old man rediscovers his rejection of those values. He just wants to
work. The boy wants to play. Frequent reminders of
the old man’s distracted state of mind and anaemic
condition keep us on tenterhooks.
There is more. The story Daniele is illustrating
is Henry James’s The Jolly Corner, in which the
author’s alter ego returns to New York after more
than 30 years and has a terrifying encounter, in the
house he grew up in, with the ghost of the vulgar
businessman he could have become had he not left
the US for Europe. Daniele decides to improve his
drawings by switching from James’s Yankee ghosts
to the ghosts of his own Continued on page 42 →
42 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Books
The logic of dreams
← Continued from page 41 earlier self lurking here
in the apartment. As in James’s story, a lifetime’s
vocation is called into question, with much panicky
rumination on how we become who we are, what is
genetic, what is willed, and so on.
In her introduction translator Jhumpa Lahiri enthuses over this intertextuality. But all the explicit
discussion of James and ghosts, of genes and DNA,
reflections resumed and repeated in a 20-page
appendix that, together with Lahiri’s introduction,
pads out this fine novella to novel length, will for
many readers seem exactly the kind of energy-sapping intellectualisation that Daniele fears is ruining
his drawings. The real meat of this story is an old
man’s breakfasts and bath times with a wired-up
four-year-old. Starnone, one of Italy’s most accomplished novelists, knows the territory and delivers
it wonderfully. And whatever reservations we may
have about the narrator’s cerebral distractions, they
do at last allow little Mario to play a terrible trick on
his granddad. All at once we have the novel’s title
and our calamity. It doesn’t disappoint.
Murmur
by Will Eaves
CB Editions, 184pp
Alexandra Harris
Goddess, know thyself
Circe
by Madeline Miller
Bloomsbury, 352pp
Aida Edemariam
In her first novel, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller retold the siege
of Troy from the point of view of
Patroclus, whose death Achilles
avenged by unleashing outsize destruction on Troy and especially on
Hector, whose body he tied to his
chariot and dragged around the city
walls. Homer did not spell out the exact nature of a
relationship that might trigger such a reaction;
Miller made it a love story, tender and loyal, and by
clearly showing what Achilles’ hubris would cost
him gave it not only intimacy but the arc of true
tragedy. The Song of Achilles now exists in 23 languages and despite disapproving mutterings in
some quarters – it had “the head of a young adult
novel, the body of The Iliad and the hindquarters of
Barbara Cartland”, according to the New York Times
– won what was then called the Orange prize.
A striking aspect of The Song of Achilles was
the degree to which Miller was alive to gendered
inequalities of power. Circe, the subject of her
second book, is like Achilles’ mother, a nymph.
“Brides, nymphs were called, but that is not really
how the world saw us. We were an endless feast laid
out upon a table, beautiful and renewing. And so
very bad at getting away.”
Daughter of a naiad and Helios the sun god,
Circe is immortal, and this first-person account is
a kind of greatest hits of the ancient Greek world:
Prometheus, Scylla and Charybdis, Hermes, Apollo,
Athena, Daedalus and his son Icarus, Ariadne and
the Minotaur (who is Circe’s nephew), Jason and
the Golden Fleece – and Odysseus, of course, who
in Book 10 of The Odyssey encounters Circe when
he lands on her island and she changes some of his
sailors into pigs. As so often, the gods are portrayed
as vain and retribution-minded; born bursting with
“excellences”, as Miller’s Circe puts it, “they find
their fame by proving what they can mar: destroying cities, starting wars, breeding plagues and
Self-knowledge and self-preservation … Circe
was vengeful for a reason JW Waterhouse (1892)
monsters”. If this was all there was, Miller would
be dealing with a problem familiar from magic
realism: if literally anything can happen, if there is
always some new monster or god with new powers,
then why care about any of it? But Miller also knows
that, as with the best magical realism, the real power
doesn’t lie in the ostensible facts of the narrative,
but in its psychology.
And that is where Miller anchors her story – in
the emotional life of a woman. She is not the first
to see the potential in Circe, who over the centuries
has been interpreted as everything from a parable
against drunkenness to an embodiment of emasculation. From the moment Circe realises, as a young
girl, that she is scorned for her ungainliness, to her
rebellion against her family with a good-looking
ne’er-do–well; from her self-harming rages to the
joys and lonelinesses of independence; from finding a vocation to the challenges of single motherhood (even goddesses, in this telling, can run out
of nappies), Miller’s is a feminist version in which
everything is at stake. In this context, turning ravening sailors into pigs is not just another hurdle for
Odysseus to overcome, but necessary self-defence.
What is gained by Circe’s immortality is, in the
main, what is gained in any long life if you are willing to look past yourself. We discover that even gods
would improve by experiencing “guilt and shame,
remorse, ambivalence” – which are other ways of
saying self-knowledge – but most never do. It is out
of these insights that Miller achieves real narrative
propulsion. Some will consider her prose too purple, her plotting too neat, but others will find it supple, pitched in a register that bridges man and myth.
The premise is startlingly ambitious:
what if we could think our way into
Alan Turing’s dreams? It’s the sort of
thing Turing himself might have
attempted as he tried to move between minds, questing for the limits
of shared comprehension. But a novelist imagining the unconscious of a
genius and finding words for his visions – can that
be wise? Yes, if the writer is Will Eaves. Scrupulous,
humane, sad and strange, this novel is as bracingly
intelligent as it is brave.
Murmur is based on Turing’s experience during
the period of his punishment for gross indecency,
when he submitted himself to the injection of hormones that effected chemical castration. As his body
and mind underwent disturbing changes, he talked
to the Jungian therapist Franz Greenbaum. In the
sessions of analysis and outside them, in sleep and
waking, Turing pressed towards an understanding of singular and multiple identity, memory and
desire. The cryptanalyst who, at Bletchley, had
programmed machines to break the German naval
code now applied himself to the cipher of his own
trance-like visions.
It’s hard to imagine a more challenging subject
for a novel. The nature of consciousness is at the
heart of it, inseparable from the exploration of sexuality and artificial intelligence. But in fact there is
nobody called Turing or Greenbaum in the novel.
Instead there is a fictional Alec Pryor and his analyst
Stallbrook (who doubles, in the book’s mirror world,
as a schoolmaster who in Pryor’s youth played an
analogous role as observer and examiner). Eaves
works with a kind of shadow history. Like the many
reflected or “transposed” images in Turing-Pryor’s
dreams, these characters have lives of their own but
they emanate from real people and bend the light
back to illuminate history’s questions.
The first part of Murmur invents Alec Pryor’s
personal journal. There follows a series of dream
narratives framed by letters to and from Alec’s former fiancee, June (a movingly portrayed version of
the woman who was briefly Turing’s fiancee, Joan
Clarke). Each of these sections might work autonomously, though the novel accrues and arcs to
become much more than the sum of its story’s parts.
The most beautiful section is Alec’s dream of
watching himself as a boy at school, swimming
across a lake with the fellow pupil he loves. Shivering in their nakedness they reach the far shore,
where raspberries grow, and spend the night side
by side in a summerhouse. As Pryor’s body changes,
he examines the constancy of this first and defining
love. All the novel’s allusions to Ovid’s Metamorphoses concern the steadfastness with which love
persists through bodily transformation. They are
also about loneliness. The imagery is extravagant,
as one might expect from a novel engaged with
Jungian analysis, but one hears, at every turn, the
formal grammar of a Latinist and the strenuous logic
of the mathematician. Eaves knows that Turing’s
theories of consciousness have implications for
fiction, and that fiction can operate at the frontiers
of what we know about the workings of our minds.
44 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Diversions
Notes & Queries
Nature watch
Wenlock Edge
Make sure there are enough
boats for the departing rats
• I and my soulmates. But I always
ask permission first so as not to
cause offence.
David King,
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
Would we expect to find lifeboats on
the Ship of Fools?
Why, yes: how else would the rats
abandon ship?
R De Braganza, Kilifi, Kenya
• Anyone who has never had
children.
Len Owen,
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada
• No. It’s too crowded.
Richard Orlando,
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
• I do. I also have “write to my MP”
on my to-do list.
Christian Ensslin,
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
• It’s about as likely as finding a
humble politician in parliament.
David Turner,
Bellevue Heights, South Australia
• No – like Donald Trump, we’d
just have to put our faith in the Old
Buoys Club.
Noel Bird,
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia
• Perhaps, but if lifeboats are on
board, expect them to be unable to
be launched or unseaworthy.
Lawrie Bradly,
Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
Only time will tell the tale
What is the most accurate method
for measuring greatness?
By reviewing the evidence 25 years
after the death of the subject.
Philip Stigger,
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
• By using the formula “c minus t”,
where c equals the most impactful
contribution to the greatest number
of people and t equals the tendency
to blow one’s own trumpet.
Charlie Bamforth,
Davis, California, US
• A humility test.
Neil Johnson, Birmingham, UK
Fantastic and fabulous too!
Ship of Fools ... Hieronymus Bosch
• A ruler?
Bernard Galton,
St-Nazaire-sur-Charente, France
• Imperial measures.
Stewart Dutfield,
Delmar, New York, US
• Measure head size.
Jenefer Warwick James,
Paddington, NSW, Australia
• True greatness is unmeasurable.
Avril Taylor,
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
Anyone without children
What sort of person squares up
picture frames in other people’s
houses?
The same type of person who
straightens out armchair covers
and reverses toilet rolls on bathroom
walls. They have obsessive
compulsive disorder. The condition
is inherited. I blame the parents.
Paul Wentworth,
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Is anything truly incredible?
Something must be, otherwise I’d
have to believe everything.
Stephen Schafer,
Leichhardt, NSW, Australia
• Why yes – nearly everything is.
Where have you been? They’re also
awesome, fantastic and fabulous.
Jake Sigg,
San Francisco, California, US
More Notes & Queries
See additional answers online
bit.ly/notesandqueries
Any answers?
What is the difference between
a populist and a demagogue?
John Geffroy,
Las Vegas, New Mexico, US
Is airport security safe?
E Slack,
L’Isle Jourdain, France
Send answers to weekly.nandq@
theguardian.com or Guardian
Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, UK
Good to meet you Lowenna Norton
In hot, remote Africa the sun glares
down all day and it is only cool
indoors, so in our sitting room we
can read the Guardian Weekly. I
began to take interest in it about two
years ago, but my parents have been
reading since I was born: all of my
12 years.
I enjoy the Eyewitnessed pictures
in the middle of the paper; they’re
awfully fun and interesting to see.
My family also enjoy the Missing
Links on the Diversions page and
we do them with friends as well.
First we all wildly try to guess
the answers, then Mum reads the
solutions from the next page.
By reading the film reviews, we
discovered an entertaining but
touching film, Florence Foster
Jenkins. It has hilarious singing and
is a great family film.
My parents read the Guardian
Weekly more than I do, but if there
is an article that would appeal to
me, they show it to me. One of these
“How could a purse / squeeze under the rickety door and sit, / full
of satisfaction, in a man’s house?”
wrote the poet Norman MacCaig in
Toad. This toad, a soft yellow-brown
and ornamentally purse-like, had
come through the back door somehow and was squatting defiantly on
quarry tiles. It was seeking asylum
from an extraordinarily brilliant
morning, unfamiliar heat and ultraviolet light that the weather forecast
said was moderate but to toadskin
was extreme radiation. It did not
seem full of satisfaction to me but
then Bufo bufo’s narrowing eyes with
horizontal pupils and that enigmatic
smile may be mistaken for smugness.
The place in the toad’s head
that myth says contains a jewel is
hidden by an inscrutable mask that
is somewhere between divine and
reprobate. The bulging paratoid
glands on its head, the warty skin
excrescences that secrete toxins,
and the sumo stance, all suggest
was The letters that make a writer
by Ben Blatt (7 April 2017). I was
interested to read about Vladimir
Nabokov and his coloured hearing,
or synaesthesia, since we have
noticed that names and objects have
colours for me too.
My whole family loves the
Guardian Weekly, and I know I will
my whole life! But being so far from
Britain we normally get our papers
very late, so I probably won’t see my
own Good to meet you article for a
couple of months.
If you would like to appear in
this space, send a brief note to
guardian.weekly@theguardian.com
repulsion but its soft yellowishness
is the colour of fading daffs, with
hints of celandine, primrose, agate
and potting sand. Toads can control
their skin tone and this was being
dressed to “a-wooing go”.
Perhaps the toad was migrating
back at night to its natal pond and,
in the absence of any seductive
croaking, wandered around a party
that hadn’t started yet, hesitating
until it had to take cover from the
fierce morning light. As MacCaig
did, I picked the toad up in “my
purse hand”, and put it down next
to the pond. There was a very green,
duckweedy silence to the water and
a line across the surface that may
have been drawn by a grass snake.
All around, the April song was
filled with dunnock, chaffinch, blackcap and chiffchaff. Queen bumblebees crashed through the air, investigating holes, bundling through open
windows and getting evicted. The air
was fizzing with courtship, with all
its rules and codes and the making
of spaces for instincts to create the
next wave of life. The toad seemed
reluctant to submit to any amphibious impulses and, with dignity, the
sage walked away from the water and
under the shed, “a tiny radiance in
a dark place”. Paul Evans
Read more Nature watch online
bit.ly/naturewatch
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 45
Quick crossword
1
2
Cryptic crossword by Chifonie
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
22
20
23
24
25
Across
1 He brought the souls of the
dead across the river Styx (6)
4 Compensate for (6)
9 Keep going forward (5,2)
10 Conjure up (5)
11 River whose waters caused
the souls of the dead to
forget completely their life
on Earth (5)
12 Sneer at (anag) – serious (7)
13 Famous folk (11)
18 Boorish driver (4,3)
20 Edge along, laterally (5)
22 Old London prison (5)
23 Shake with fear (7)
24 With a pleasantly unreal
quality (6)
25 Worthless (6)
Down
1
2
3
5
6
7
21
Dome (6)
Vigilantly attentive (5)
Indecent (7)
Less restrained (5)
Well I never! (5,2)
Indulgences (6)
8 Cross-examine (11)
14 Prevaricating (7)
15 Reseats (anag) – small tile
used in a mosaic (7)
16 Prepared for a setback (6)
17 Opinion opposed to
conventional belief (6)
19 Sentimental nonsense (5)
21 Sum removed from a bank
account (5)
R A V I S H
E
A
A
C O R F U
A
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N
R
P R O R A T A
E
U
B
S I M P E
S
I
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L O T U S
Q
I
V
S
U
V E S T I G E
E
E
O
R A T I N G
A Z
A
R M
B
E
Z
R I
U A
G
A
T
T E
O R E S
U
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E N I A
U
P
X P E L
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U
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R T E T
L
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P E R Y
S
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A S E R
Last week’s solution, No 14,940
First published in the Guardian
2 April 2018, No 14,945
Across
1 Multitudes sign to
have spymaster
imprisoned (6)
4 Put pressure on one
involved in a row (6)
9 Fish in burn (4)
10 Renown for coppers
capturing errant
minor (10)
11 Ploughman makes
lines in row (6)
12 Go over and scrape
it off (8)
13 Workman’s first wife
died in supermarket
(9)
15 Boundaries some
defend successfully
(4)
16 Gasp like a man in
gym (4)
17 One man begged to
be moved (9)
21 Present and
organise race (8)
22 Fabric for belt
requires input
of skill (6)
24 Weird game title I
authorised (10)
25 Parking by the verge
is proper (4)
26 Restrain Paddy (6)
27 Moral taint engulfs
sinister despot (6)
Down
1 Sceptic engaged in
armed robbery? (7)
2 Lesson master put
into speech (5)
3 Old relationship
Ruby brought to an
end (7)
5 Native boy appears
in distress (6)
6 Frank individuals
producing subtle
innuendoes (9)
Futoshiki Easy
©Clarity Media Ltd
Fill in the grid so that
every row and column
contains the numbers
1-5. The “greater than”
or “less than” signs
indicate where a number
is larger or smaller than
its neighbour.
5 > 3 < 4 > 2
∧
∧
4 > 1
5
3
∨
∧
3 > 2
1
4
∨
∨
2
5
3
1
∨
1
4 > 2
5 >
Last week’s solution
∧
∨
2
4
∨
3
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
24
23
25
26
7 Copper in Essex
demolished feeble
defences (7)
8 Commander, a bit
crazy, is sectioned
(13)
14 Criminal damage?
Museum gets
woefully slim
support! (9)
16 Object to vermin
carrying decay (7)
18 Withdraw soldier’s
entertainment (7)
19 High spirits leading
to broken toenail (7)
20 Forceful and
disagreeable when
imprisoning taxmen
once (6)
23 Agent the Spanish
hold off (5)
First published in the Guardian
3 April 2018, No 27,473
27
C
B
H A R B
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P U T O
A
G A L I
O
W A G O
N
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S P O N
V
D R A M
U
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C A N T
K
I
F
B
A
D
C
O U R E D
O Z O
U
A
H
F
R
N
N E E D F U L
D
D
S
E
L E O
I R O N O
I
O
R
N
N
D R E
D O N
G
E
A
S O R
Q U I X O
A
U
N
X
M A F
A T I S E
V
L
N
E
O
O
E C C E N T R
W
D
H
T
D
B
N E
V
L Y
R E
N
S S
U
T E
I A
R
I C
H
Last week’s solution, No 27,466
Sudoku classic Hard
1
5
1
<
4 >
∨
∧
∨
>
4 >
∨
>
∧
Fill in the grid so that
every row, every column
and every 3x3 box
contains the numbers 1
to 9. We will publish the
solution next week.
<
Free puzzles at
theguardian.com/sudoku
3
>
∨
Last week’s solution
46 The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18
Sport
“
W
ords like ‘feminine’ and ‘fighter’
can go together,”
Garbiñe Muguruza says with
charming force
on a cold but sun-kissed morning in
Madrid. “You can be feminine and you
can say, ‘I really want to beat her. But I
don’t want to look like a little monster
in the corner.’ I want to take this wall
down which says you are one thing or
the other. If you are a feminine athlete
people say: ‘Oh, she wants to be a
model or she’s not concentrating.’ No.
We are concentrating.”
Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion and world No 3, is a formidable competitor. In a ridiculously
stylish hotel, where we meet before
this week’s Madrid Open, she is also
relaxed and refreshingly forthright.
“It’s a delicate thing because for
some people it’s very hard to allow
an athlete to be feminine. For me
it’s easy. I want to fight on court but
I also want to wear something I like.
You can be angry and competitive and
a fighter and you can also be nice and
wear something by Stella McCartney.
I feel good in that and it’s important
for your esteem because you’ve got
to be resilient. I’m a tennis player,
and that’s my priority. I like fashion but I would never want to be a
model. I don’t want to forget what
I’m good at because as soon as you do
you’re screwed.”
The 24-year-old Spaniard, who
was born in Venezuela, smiles at that
blunt truth. And when Muguruza tells
me about being invited to the Oscars
in March, she ensures that the most
telling line is one where her concern
for ordinary women is obvious. “I
wore black,” she says, in honour of the
#MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, “but it wasn’t
like the Golden Globes where everybody wore black. It’s a problem that
was quiet before but it was there all
the time. It got more exposure because
the women who spoke out are famous
and it’s Hollywood. If an Oscar winner speaks about it then it goes everywhere. But if the waitress says this has
happened to her nobody really listens.”
The impact of that last sentence
is powerful – and Muguruza nods
calmly. “It’s everywhere.”
Hollywood, obviously, is not the
real world but did she enjoy the Oscars? “At the beginning I was like,
‘What the hell am I doing here? I’m
not part of this world.’ You see all these
glam celebrities and it’s a place to just
be good-looking. It was also long, like
a six-hour ceremony, but I had fun. ”
Muguruza also met Billie Jean King,
whose defeat of Bobby Riggs in 1973
has been turned into a Hollywood
film. “I want to see it because I heard
it’s good,” Muguruza says of Battle of
the Sexes, which captures the way
King took on Riggs and sexism. “But,
‘It’s hard to allow an
athlete to be feminine’
Garbiñe Muguruza has hammered both Williams sisters and won Wimbledon.
The fashion-conscious Spaniard won’t be put in a box, she tells Donald McRae
usually, when I watch a movie I want
to see Fast and Furious or the Expendables. I just want to chill out, turn up
the volume and stare at the screen.”
She laughs at her terrible taste in
movies before acknowledging the
I wore black to the
Oscars for #MeToo.
It’s a problem that was
quiet before, but it
was there all the time
debt all female tennis players owe to
King and another pioneer for equality in Venus Williams. Women now
receive the same pay as men in grand
slam tournaments. Muguruza won
£2.2m ($3m) after beating Venus in
the Wimbledon final last year but the
tennis circuit, particularly for lowerranked players, is testing. “Tennis is
very lonely,” she stresses, “especially
when you are younger and don’t have
family around. But everybody is in
the same situation. You have incredible moments and very bad moments
when you are alone. You miss your
family but tennis just lasts for a short
period. You make sacrifices but I don’t
miss having a young life. I’m happy
and very privileged.”
Four years ago, at the French Open,
Muguruza’s full power was revealed
for the first time when she gave
Serena Williams the worst beating of
her illustrious grand slam career in the
second round. “If you told me before I
was going to win 6-2, 6-2 I would be surprised. But I never stopped believing
I could beat anybody – even if Serena
is one of the best players in history. ”
In 2016 Muguruza won her first
grand slam, at Roland Garros, when
she again beat Serena in straight sets
in the final. “I was nervous because I
had made the 2015 Wimbledon final
but it only matters that Serena won. So
in the French I was like, ‘I don’t want
to lose again.’ I was also motivated
because beating a Williams
ms sister has
extra value. If you win a grand
and slam by
beating them it feels more important.
It was an explosion of happiness.”
piness.”
Last year was much more
re difficult
in Paris when she lost against
nst the local favourite Kristina Mladenovic
denovic in
the fourth round. Muguruza’s
za’s errors
were cheered and she left the court
visibly upset. “I had tears in
n the press
conference and showed people
ople how
athletes feel. Some people were surprised but I’m like: ‘Come
e on, I’ve
been three hours on courtt and it’s
emotional. That’s what everybody
erybody
does in the locker room but
ut you
don’t see them.’ The French Open
will always be the most special
ecial
tournament to me. It was my first
grand slam and the tournament
ent I
wanted to win when I was little.”
tle.”
Winning mentality ...
on
Muguruza winning Wimbledon
id
last year and (above) in Madrid
Tom Jenkins; Denis Doyle
The Guardian Weekly 11.05.18 47
Sport in brief
• The football world united with
messages of concern and support
for Sir Alex Ferguson after the
former Manchester United manager
underwent emergency surgery for
a brain haemorrhage last Saturday.
The 76-year-old was in a serious
condition at the Salford Royal
Hospital following the procedure,
and was expected to face a period of
recovery in intensive care. Ferguson
had appeared fit and well when he
presented his old sparring partner
Arsène Wenger with a memento at
Old Trafford late last month, ahead
of the Frenchman’s departure from
Arsenal. Ferguson won 38 trophies
and became the most successful
manager in the history of British
football during a career lasting
almost 27 years at Old Trafford until
his retirement in 2013.
• In the Premier League, Stoke
City’s relegation was confirmed after
a 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace.
Cardiff City, who took the runnersup slot in the second-tier Championship, won promoted into the top division alongside first-placed Wolves.
• Mark Williams held his nerve in
the face of a late charge from John
Cross-town support … Manchester City send a message for Sir Alex Ferguson Getty
Higgins in the final of snooker’s
World Championship in Sheffield,
UK. Having been 14-7 down in the
first-to-18 match, Higgins took eight
of the next nine frames to level at 1515, but the Welshman – who failed to
qualify for last year’s tournament –
rallied to take an 18-16 victory. It was
Williams’s third world title, 15 years
on from his last win at the Crucible.
• Jason Day won the Wells Fargo
Championship at Quail Hollow,
North Carolina to claim a second
win on golf’s PGA Tour in 2018.
Chess
The former world No1 hit a final
round two-under par 69 to seal a
two-stroke victory.
• Justify won the 144th running
of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill
Downs in Louisville, becoming the
first horse since Apollo in 1882 to
win the “Run for the Roses” without
a start as a two-year-old. On a muddy
track, the 5-2 favourite rocketed out
of the gate and was neck and neck
with longshot Promises Fulfilled
before jockey Mike Smith pushed the
colt into gear for a comfortable win.
Maslanka solutions
Leonard Barden
8
Sam Shankland is the new US
champion after the California
26-year-old outscored America’s
elite trio of Fabiano Caruana,
Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura,
who between them had won the
previous three titles. Shankland
totalled an impressive 8.5/11 and
was awarded the $50,000 first prize.
Caruana, who challenges Magnus
Carlsen for the world crown in
November, was the favourite, but
was half a point short at the end.
Meanwhile, in Shamkir,
Azerbaijan, Carlsen won the elite
event with three wins and six draws.
Shankland’s 15-year-old opponent
in the final round, Awonder Liang,
tried to surprise with a recent CaroKann novelty 7...e5!? only to be met
by the still more recent 8 h3! when
the critical line runs 8...Na5 7 Qc2
exf4 10 hxg4 Nxg4 11 Kf1 h5. Liang’s
8...exf4? followed by 11..g6?! (g5!) was
weaker and White soon had a clear
edge. When Shankland’s 18 Nb3!
switched to an attack against the
black king, Liang had no answer and
32 Bxc6+! led to a winning endgame.
7
5 c3 Nf6 6 Bf4 Bg4 7 Qb3 e5!? 8 h3!
exf4? 9 hxg4 Qe7+ 10 Kf1 O-O-O
11 Nd2 g6?! 12 Re1 Qc7 13 g5 Nh5
14 Be2 Ng7 15 Ngf3 Ne6 16 Bb5 Bg7
17 Qa4 Rd6 18 Nb3! b6 19 Nc1 Nb8
20 Nd3 Kb7 21 Nb4 Qd8 22 Ne5 Qc7
23 Qb3 Rhd8 24 Rxh7 a6 25 Bd3
Ka7 26 Qa4 a5 27 Bb5 Kb7 28 Nbd3
Rg8 29 Nf3 Rh8 30 Rxh8 Bxh8 31 a3
Nc6 32 Bxc6+! Rxc6 33 Nde5 Bxe5
34 Nxe5 Rd6 35 Qe8 Rd8 36 Qxf7
Nxg5 37 Qxc7+ Kxc7 38 Nxg6 f3
39 Nf4 Kc6 40 gxf3 Nxf3 41 Re6+ Kb5
42 Ke2 Ng1+ 43 Kd3 1-0
Sam Shankland v Awonder Liang
1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 Bd3 Nc6
3565 1 d4 Nh6 2 Bxh6 g5 2 Bxf8 Nc6 4 Bxe7 Nxd4
5 Bxd8 Nb3 6 Bxg5 Nc1 7 Bxc1 (Werner Keym).
Winning Wimbledon was thrilling.
“I was emotional because when I lost
to Serena in 2015 I didn’t know if I’d
get another chance as grass is unpredictable. So to beat Venus and win it
two years later? I was like: ‘Whew!’”
Muguruza, who jokes about her
serious salsa dancing, was mortified
at the Wimbledon dinner. “People
had told me, ‘There’s a ball and you
can dance.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God I’m
going to dance with Roger Federer?
Yes, I’m ready for that.’ Then someone told me there’s not a dance since
1992. ‘What?’”
She has a chance of winning both
the French Open and Wimbledon
again this year – because she clearly
raises her game in major tournaments.
Her recent tour win in Monterrey gave
her a sixth WTA title – but there was a
time when her four tournament wins
included two grand slams. Her inconsistency almost amuses her.
“Everybody asks about Eastbourne
before Wimbledon last year. What a
disaster. I lost 6-1, 6-0 [against Barbora Strycova] and then won Wimbledon. What is this? ‘You lost 6-1, 6-0
and then you win Wimbledon? What
happened?’ Nothing. It was just a bad
day. I’m happy to not have any WTA
titles but to have one grand slam.”
Beyond her drive to win important
titles, Muguruza’s rounded attitude
means she has begun to explore her
interest in fashion design. “My mum
and I always talk about it because her
dream was to be a designer. Of course
I’m always wearing sports clothes so,
even more, I want to wear high heels.
I’ve now started to do some designs. I
take my tablet when I’m travelling and
I look at magazines and make notes.
Then I design the way I like.
“It’s good to escape because since
I was very young everything
y
has been
tennis, tennis, tennis. Now I have
more perspective and space in my
head
head. So when
the time is right
will be OK for
it w
me to close this
chapter on tenchap
nis. I’ll
I probably
have a family
and do something
related to fashion.”
Her ease in front of
the camera is obvious
shoot
during the photo
p
in hotel garde
garden, but Muguruza is fiercel
ercely competitive and says: “I also
a fear the
end because tenn
tennis is a life.
I’m happiest when I win. You
enjoy not knowing if you’re
going to win and you can love
hating the court.”
Muguruza breaks into
int a smile.
“When you shake hands,
han
and
that’s such a
think, ‘Yes, I won,’ that’
good feeling. All the hours of training feel worth it. So the best moment
won.”
is when it’s over and you’ve w
6
5
4
3
2
1
a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
3565 The position after White’s seventh
move. Can you reconstruct the game?
1 It is hard to know whether this is a
pronunciation error or the wrong choice of
word. To diffuse means to scatter, spread
outwards over a wide area; to defuse means to
remove or decouple the fuse from an explosive
device to prevent it exploding.
2 The top cube must have the digits 0, 1 & 2;
the lower one must also have 0, 1 & 2 and since
it also shows 6, 7 & 8 we know all the digits on
the top cube; so the unseen digits on the top
cube are 0, 1 & 2; we may deduce the bottom
cube must carry 0, 1, 2 and 3, 4 & 5. But 2 is
visible so the unseen digits are 0, 1, 3, 4 & 5.
In fact we need only show the top cube in that
position to deduce all of this and the clue of 2
on the lower cube is supernumerary.
3 No. The variation of the density along the wire
needs only to be periodic for any fixed length
equal to a multiple of the repeat length to have
the same weight. To detect variations in density
with distance along the wire you need to sample
segments whose length is not a multiple of the
length of the period of variation.
D
L
4 They are both black with probability 1/4;
both white with probability 1/2; and mixed
with probability 1/4; so most likely two black
balls. Replacing the black ball, the chances are
now (1/3) + (2/3)[(1/2)(1/2) + (1/4)] = 2/3.
Wordpool d); Same Difference MORON,
BORON; Cryptic ABROAD (a B-road)
Missing Links a) Venetian/blind/date;
b) river/cruise/missile; c) spare/tyre/pressure;
d) basket/ball/game; e) queen/bee/swing;
f) rogue/male/factor
Guardian News & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by Guardian News & Media Ltd.,
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
Editor: Will Dean.
Printed by Trinity Mirror Printing Ltd, Watford. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office.
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Quarterly subscription rates:
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To subscribe visit gu.com/subscribe/weekly
Drawing the revolution
Why Martin Rowson turned
the Communist Manifesto
into a graphic novel
Culture, page 38
Eddie Bower
From humble beginnings, Mohamed Salah’s journey
to footballing superstardom has made him an Egyptian
national icon in a country that is grateful for a hero
T
he village where Mohamed Salah
grew up is a cluster of red-brick
houses surrounded by green fields.
In its centre, Ahmed al-Masery sits
in an empty coffee shop watching
highlights on a tiny, wall-hung TV of
his old friend playing for Liverpool
against Roma. “I used to play football games on
PlayStation with him back in the day,” says the
35-year-old, gesturing at the screen.
Back then, Salah would pick Liverpool to
play video games with his friend. Now the
player is the Merseyside club’s favourite adopted
son, a striker whose goals have inspired his
team into the Champions League final later this
month. Fans are devoted to their “Egyptian
king” – one song includes the line “if he scores
another few, I’ll be Muslim too”.
For the people of Nagrig, a small farming community two buses and a train-ride north of Cairo,
Salah’s rise is scarcely believable. The 25-year-old
comes back to the village about once a year, alMasery says, but he’s been totally unspoilt by fame:
“He walks around the streets like everyone else,
speaking to anyone who wants to talk to him.”
In Britain, Salah is an emerging phenomenon.
In Egypt, his progress has been charted for years.
It’s difficult to overemphasise his popularity. Every
coffee shop has a Salah poster. Murals featuring
him alongside other icons of Egyptian culture,
such as singer Umm Kulthum and novelist Naguib
Mahfouz, have appeared around the capital. He
beams out from billboards, selling everything
from chocolate bars to soft drinks, mobile phone
tariffs and bank accounts. Such is the power of the
Mo Salah brand, that when he lent his name to a
government-sponsored anti-drugs campaign, they
reported a 400% increase in calls to their hotline.
Much has been made in the Egyptian press of
Salah’s charity work. It’s been widely reported
that he regularly helps newlyweds furnish their
new homes, although the recipients of these
gifts have never come out publicly. Newspaper
columnists and talkshow hosts delight in sharing
examples of Salah’s good nature, but al-Masery is
one of many Nagrig residents who are sceptical.
“Most of these stories are just hearsay,” he says.
One Salah story came after a substantial
amount of money was stolen from Salah’s father.
The thief was caught and in an act of forgiveness,
Salah’s family did not press charges. Retellings
of the story in the press, however, have Salah
intervening to help the man find work. One
version has Salah giving the man a wad of cash.
“The media just wants to talk about Salah,
Salah, Salah,” al-Masery says. “He’s a nice guy,
and very respectful, but not everything written
about him is true.”
Not everybody shares al-Masery’s scepticism. In
Cairo, where 200 punters crammed onto the pavement at an outdoor coffee shop to watch Liverpool
secure their place in the Champion’s League final
last week, 29-year-old football fan Omar Salem
says he “doesn’t care” if certain details about the
striker are false. “People want to believe these
things about him,” he says. “At this point he’s so
loved that nobody would ever deny them.”
Salem says it was Egypt’s match against Congo
in October that marked the beginning of his
‘He’s a nice guy and
very respectful, but not
everything written
about him is true’
People’s champion … Mohamed Salah’s portrait
adorns a wall in Cairo Khaled Desouki/Getty
status as a national icon. Salah’s penalty, four
minutes into injury time, put Egypt 2-1 up and
secured his team a place in its first World Cup
in 28 years. “When he celebrated that goal,” says
Salem, “that’s the image people will remember
from that match.”
Salem calls Salah the first big Egyptian player
“that people can actually relate to”. His story is
that of a humble teenager, who through sheer grit
and determination earned the chance to represent his country in the big leagues of Europe.
For the kids of Nagrig, at least, the legend of
Mohamed Salah is very real. His former school
was renamed in his honour, and to talk to pupils
here, you’d think his story was part of the
curriculum. One such pupil, 13-year-old Osama
Eid, relates Salah’s rise to fame as if reciting his
12-times-tables. “He’s very respectful and kind,”
he says, “and well-mannered and does a lot of
work to help the poor.”
According to Eid’s friends, he’s the best
footballer of their gang. When asked if he’d like
to be like Salah one day, he doesn’t skip a beat:
“Inshallah.” Observer
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