In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘Brits will find a way to laugh in the time of corona’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 18 March

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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. Konstantin Kisin in The Telegraph

on dark humour for dark times

Stoic Brits will find a way to laugh in the time of corona

“Given the censorious society we have become in recent years, I predict demands from the modern-day Mary Whitehouses to ensure we cause no offence whatsoever by taking the ongoing saga as seriously as possible. And with pubs, theatres and comedy clubs rapidly shutting their doors on Government advice, the number of places where we can come together to have a laugh without a hazmat suit is rapidly approaching zero. But as doctors, firefighters and soldiers will tell you, dark humour is one of the best ways of dealing with traumatic events… We may struggle to muster a song about how the Coronavirus is short of a testicle, but we do need to come together and laugh at ourselves and each other. From a distance of over 6 feet, obviously.”

2. Rafael Behr in The Guardian

on living under martial law

British democracy is about to be tested. I believe it can pass

“Boris Johnson is deeply flawed, dishonest and cavalier, but not a thief or a murderer. His unserious style doesn’t suit the gravity of the moment, but he is a creature of British political tradition and not a despot. Those who hate seeing him in Downing Street can be consoled by the knowledge that he is not our prime minister for life. Despair at election results is tempered by the belief that other outcomes were genuinely possible. There is democratic privilege hidden in political disappointment, so long as it comes with an element of surprise.”

3. Leo Lewis in the Financial Times

on the 2020 Games

Japan Inc wrestles with the ‘unthinkable’ prospect of no Olympics

“The tacit plan has been to let the glow bathe all corporate Japan. Front of house, the organisers could talk convincingly about these being a ‘recovery games’, after the devastation of the 2011 Tohoku quake. But the subtler and more important message, said the CEO of one of the 15 gold sponsors that each paid about $100m for that privilege, is that the games would give Japan Inc its moment to finally stand tall after the 30-year shoulder-slump that followed the bursting of the 1989 stock market and property bubble. From that viewpoint, said the same CEO, even a year’s postponement would be as much a corporate disaster as a sporting one.”

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4. The editorial board at The New York Times

on reporting the truth

China’s ill-timed attack on the free press

“China’s crackdown on journalists from The Times and other American news organizations is an unfortunate echo of the Cold War, and it couldn’t come at a worse time. The global spread of the coronavirus demands independent and trusted information from the country where the scourge began... Expelling independent reporters over an intergovernmental dispute for which they have no responsibility is unwarranted and, in the current crisis, counterproductive.”

5. Tom Peck in The Independent

on the PM becoming a support act

Rishi Sunak is the star of the latest coronavirus show – but the Johnson family can’t help but add some drama

“Still nobody understands what they are and aren’t meant to be doing? What does and doesn’t constitute non-essential travel? Twenty-four hours ago, everybody, and especially the over-70s, were told to avoid such travel, and so why shouldn’t the prime minister’s 79-year-old dad, Stanley Johnson, turn up on ITV’s This Morning to tell Phillip Schofield and Vanessa Feltz: ‘Course I’ll go to the pub if I have to go to the pub.’ When does a man ‘have’ to go to the pub, you might ask? But then, you are not Stanley Johnson, a man for whom a call to a 24-hour news studio or breakfast TV sofa is indistinguishable from the village church bells that once called men to the trenches… If the prime minister can’t take any of it seriously, why should the rest of us?”

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