In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘The Russians are... complicated!’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 9 August

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Jon Evans in TechCrunch

on Russia not being all that meets the eye

The Russians are coming! The Russians are... complicated!

“But exactly which Russian organisations are doing what, and why — that’s a lot harder to establish. I’m reminded of old Cold War spy novels in which Kremlinologists analysed the few public appearances of Politburo members, wrongfully reading great significance into who stood where and when, because they had little else to go on. Just like those bad old days, our instinct nowadays is to treat “Russia” as a single, well-oiled, tightly-orchestrated malignant machine. Of course it’s nothing of the sort. Instead it is a complex, seething, tiered morass of many figures and institutions, often incentivised against one another, in a time of profound and rapid change. Today I attended a Black Hat talk by Kimberley Zenz, who opened with a plea for nuanced consideration of Russia and Russian activities. She’s right, of course, but sadly the Internet tends to be where nuance goes to die.”

2. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

on the UK’s next inevitable constitutional crisis

Independence for Scotland is inevitable – we need a plan for it

“Referendum voters asked to decide on their nation’s destiny rarely look to personal gain or commercial advantage. England’s Brexit voters were concentrated in parts of Britain with most to lose from Brexit. Economists may assert that big countries enjoy economies of scale. The Scots may be told time and again by England that they are better off under London and its subsidies. But voters are more concerned with national identity, pride, self-reliance and local accountability.”

3. Douglas Murray in UnHerd

on the New York Times’ controversial take on the El Paso shooting

It’s your fault newspapers don’t tell the truth

“If the public berates the media when they are actually doing the job of reporting then the public should not be surprised if the media continue to drift further and further away from reportage and more and more into the realms not just of comment, but of whatever comment they think their readers might want to hear. The momentary thrill of a headline or Tweet that once again panders to your political world view comes with an enormously high price for the public as a whole to pay.”

4. Judith Woods in The Daily Telegraph

on the worth of standing up to micro-aggressions

Sexism is alive and well, but ladies - pick your battles

“Take the PM’s trip to Scotland when he met Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outside her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, and then attempted to usher her into her own home. Sturgeon, not one to meekly conform, and the very definition of a ‘nippy sweetie’, gave short shrift to Johnson’s noblesse oblige gesture and held back until he had stepped inside. Was she rude? Was he? One man’s chivalry is another woman’s chauvinism. I doubt very much that blustering Boris was unaware of the optics; as PM he wanted to pull rank. I don’t doubt that wee Nicola was determined to stymie any demonstrations of patronising paternalism. I’m glad she did.”

5. Amruta Khandekar in the Asia Times

on the political weaponisation of sexual crimes

Opportunists prey on violence against women in India

“An absolutely perverse trend of countering one rape or sexual assault with another has emerged; if a leftist makes a statement about a rape case in a BJP-governed state, a rightist will usually respond maliciously by making references to a similar crime in a state not governed by the saffron party. A majority of leftists, on the other hand, choose to maintain silence on those crimes that do not suit their narratives while aggressively politicizing those that do. This does not imply that the politics of violence against women should be ignored. History stands witness to the use of sexual violence as a weapon to subjugate and break the morale of a social, religious or ethnic group.”

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