In Depth

Instant Opinion: An ‘unholy mess’ in Iowa

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 4 February


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

1. Frank Bruni in The New York Times

on chaos at the caucus

Iowa’s unholy mess

“Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, sent a tweet out before midnight Eastern time. ‘Democrat party meltdown,’ he wrote. ‘They can’t even run a caucus and they want to run the government. No thank you.’ Lovely — and not the last of it. Trump himself was sure to join the gloating and taunting, which, after golf, are his favorite sports. He, Parscale and the rest of their wretched gang will fold what happened in Iowa into their persistent narrative: Democrats are hapless, and the traditions and institutions that Americans are asked to trust don’t deserve that deference. Iowa is a prompt for cynicism. Cynicism is Trump’s lifeblood.”

2. Zoe Williams in The Guardian

on where candidates really stand

Labour’s leadership battle is playing havoc with the old left-right divide

“Jess Phillips threw a spanner in the consensus when, upon withdrawing, she threw her support behind Nandy, who thereby became de facto the candidate of the centre (history doesn’t relate how she felt about this favour). Many still hold Starmer as the natural centrist, his popularity a sign that ‘sensible Labour’ (as Paddy Ashdown used to call it) is returning to its senses and dominance. This is mainly visual. He has none of the sartorial cues of radicalism – Michael Foot chic, if you like – therefore, if he says anything radical, then he’s taken to be strategically tilting left. This analysis offers no clue as to why he never says anything remotely centrist.”

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3. Zainab Mudallal in The Washington Post

on an Arabic expression at the Super Bowl

Why it isn’t surprising that no one knew what Shakira’s ‘tongue thing’ was

“Sunday night’s Super Bowl was full of twists, turns and a historic comeback for the ultimately victorious Kansas City Chiefs. But only one moment got me on my feet. In the middle of the halftime show, the singer Shakira let loose a stadium-shaking wail, high-pitched and accompanied by her tongue flicking up and down... Twitter was immediately flooded with memes of the moment, mostly making unflattering comparisons, particularly to turkeys, SpongeBob SquarePants and even sexual acts. The confusion surrounding the act, whose origin dates to the pre-Islamic era, was understandable. It’s a symptom of the West’s broader problem of poor representation of Arab and Middle Eastern life. For once, an Arabic expression of utter delight, not the violent stereotypes that plague American TV and movies, was on one of our biggest national stages. And next to no one recognised it.”

4. The editorial board in the Financial Times

on the containment of infection

Coronavirus has put globalisation into reverse

“The spread of the epidemic amounts to an experiment in deglobalisation. Barriers are being put up not to halt trade and migration flows but to stymie the spread of infection. The economic effects, however, are similar: snarled-up supply chains, lower business confidence and less international trade. Policymakers can provide stimulus to support growth but can do little against the shock to economies’ capacity to produce goods and services. This leaves the global economy largely at the mercy of nature. How much worse the impact on global growth becomes will depend on how quickly the virus can be contained.”

5. Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times

on defrosting politics

It is time for Sinn Fein to come in from the cold

“There can be no progressive government in Ireland without Sinn Fein. That is not a value judgment. It is merely a fact that anyone who wants to see radical change on the four great issues of housing, healthcare, climate change and child poverty has to face. If the polls are even vaguely right, Sinn Fein will be the overwhelmingly dominant force on the Irish left. To treat it as a political pariah is, in effect, to deny any serious possibility of breaking the duopoly that has created the status quo. This is an uncomfortable reality for many of us. But it is undeniable: to keep Sinn Fein out in the cold is to keep Irish politics frozen in its all-too-familiar postures.”


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