In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘The middle class is trapped in The Matrix’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 15 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. Sherelle Jacobs in The Daily Telegraph

on the importance of independent thought

The robotic middle class is trapped in The Matrix, but is there a way to escape?

“The internet is a backwards plutocracy where human value does not derive from profit-driving labour but from personal data, seized by our tech masters in the shadows without any payment in exchange. From accounting to brain surgery, AI robots are elbowing the middle class out of the jobs market on a scale that will eventually lead to unprecedented unemployment.”

2. Martin Kettle in The Guardian

on Boris Johnson’s appeal

The UK faces a nation-defining battle that will split the Tory party

“Johnson’s domestic political priorities should be taken more seriously. To dismiss him as an extreme rightwinger is lazy and complacent. His emphasis on law and order in the past three weeks engages with real concerns. So did his extra spending on the NHS. His focus on northern infrastructure speaks to a nascent regional strategy for neglected parts of England. One Tory strategist told me this week he would be astonished if within the next few weeks Johnson doesn’t make a speech bashing bankers and attacking the big bonus culture.”

3. Matthew d’Ancona in the London Evening Standard

on the people vs. parliament

Parliament must wake up to the peril it is now in and show its strength

“So there may or may not be a new government. There may or may not be a no-deal Brexit. But whatever happens, Parliament will emerge from the fray with its reputation radically enhanced or dangerously diminished. One of the sins of the political and media class is a tendency to insist that there is always greater resilience, continuity and institutional stability than the cacophony of the daily news suggests. And — to be fair — there are occasions when that is true. But absolutely not now. Not in August 2019, with 78 days until Brexit, and the battlefield disposed as it is. If you’re not worried now, you’re just not looking.”

4. James Marriot in The Times

on the definition of freedom

Millennials have been scarred by free speech

“If you’ve grown up online, the awfulness of human beings is pressed into your face at all times. We are all angry puritan preachers jostled by unsavoury types in a crowded market. The urge to purify can be hard to resist. To a baby boomer, ‘free speech’ means something noble: the right of Times columnists to criticise the government. To millennials, free speech looks ugly. It conjures the Reddit forum dedicated to posting pictures of dead children and sick young men congratulating mass shooters on achieving a new ‘high score’ on the website 8chan.”

5. John Gray in the New Statesman

on populism

Why liberals now believe in conspiracies

“The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and the advance of populism have shaken the faith in reason, and liberals have invoked concealed forces to explain an ongoing shift in politics that does not square with their view of history. A conspiratorial mindset is now common among bien-pensants who only two or three summers ago would have regarded the idea that politics is shaped by covert actors as a sick fantasy. In this new liberal world-view, progress has not just stalled. It is being wilfully undermined and reversed by clandestine means.”

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