In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘in-your-face’ Covid rulebreakers ‘out of control’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 7 July

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

1. Hugo Rifkind in The Times

on Brits not getting the social distancing memo

In-your-face rulebreakers are out of control

“We are all free to risk our own health by overdrinking or overeating or overscubadiving, or whatever, but responsible behaviour in a pandemic is not just about us. It speaks to a sort of social responsibility that is, or at least should be, literally step one in civilised behaviour... I had dared to dream that the pandemic might have changed that. Back in April, you might recall, people kept saying it had. Covid is a unique crisis but it is also the template for every crisis, from tax avoidance, to funding health and social care, to the big looming horror of environmental collapse. Over and again, I read that this crisis was a dress rehearsal and a test, and that humanity was on a learning curve. We are all each other, all intertwined, all responsible for attuning our own behaviour for the greater good. What a shame, though, that we keep forgetting.”

2. Paul Harrison, Downing Street press secretary under Theresa May, in The Guardian

on Downing Street’s plans for televised lobby briefings

No 10 is changing the way it does politics - and it's a major risk

“Press briefings – like newspapers – work best when the people involved have something to say. Inevitably, there will be days when No 10 doesn’t have a big announcement, and some of them will coincide with moments of real political pressure. While there’s a certain skill in saying little that makes news during a bad week (under the last prime minister we described those weeks as ‘sporty’ or, when people started resigning, ‘choppy’), it definitely won’t look tremendous on television. That is where format will be crucial. At the moment, behind closed doors, there’s nothing to stop the lobby asking the same question 100 times in their briefings (there’s usually an inverse relationship between how many times a question gets asked and how much they like the answer). Artfully dodging a question once is one thing – but refusing to answer the same question 10 times is another. Whether the new system operates more like a press conference – one outlet, one question – or the current free-for-all, will affect the public’s impressions a lot.”

3. Matrim Tait in The Independent

on the enforcing of restrictive gender stereotypes

JK Rowling’s tweets perfectly illustrate the ‘gender critical’ fixation with using gay issues against trans people

“Counter to Rowling’s assertion to the contrary, the ideas espoused by the gender-critical movement aim to persuade trans people that they are not trans, which is, in fact, a form of conversion therapy. This is because gender, much like sexuality, is innate and it is impossible and cruel to attempt to force trans children to conform to the gender they were assigned at birth. Organisations such as The Trevor Project include attempts to change gender identity in their definition of conversion therapy, because forcing people to deny their very identities, utilising a range of invasive and damaging methods, is wrong. Supporting trans children, therefore, is actually the opposite of this harmful practice. Gay children have been subjected to horrific abuse through so-called ‘reparative’ therapy. Conflating this abuse with the legitimate medical guidelines set by experts far more knowledgeable than her in this particular field trivialises a practice many are still fighting to make illegal in the UK.”

4. Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, in The Daily Telegraph

on the billion-dollar anti-vaxx industry

It’s time the tech giants cracked down on the anti-vaxx infodemic

“Social platforms chose not to alienate an anti-vaxx user base that we estimate is worth up to $1 billion a year to them. Some platforms have even broken their own promises by profiting directly from anti-vaxx content. In one mind-boggling case, we found that an advert from the pro-vaccine Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was being displayed on anti-vaxx content on YouTube, while Facebook’s Ads Library reveals that it has accepted money for anti-vaxx adverts. All of this powers a vast anti-vaxx ecosystem. It includes anti-vaxx campaigns funded by a tiny number of millionaires that have been pumping out misinformation on every social media platform for over a decade in some cases... All of these actors exploit the spaces provided by Facebook groups in order to turn vaccine sceptics into die-hard anti-vaxxers. It’s now time to bring the anti-vaxx industry to heel before it’s too late.

5. Anna Sauerbrey in The New York Times

on the long reign of Mutti Merkel 

How Germany Fell Back in Love With Angela Merkel

“Before the pandemic, with a healthy economy and the government boasting a surplus of €19 billion, over $21 billion, Ms. Merkel was criticized for not doing enough. She wasn’t leading her country and Europe; she was merely managing them. The criticism now seems excessive. As Germany held its breath during those terrifying weeks of lockdown, it saw Angela Merkel afresh. No longer overcautious and hesitant, she was instead the duteous and utterly capable leader who was there when her country needed her most. Not that she seems to care much about her new popularity. ‘When you’re in politics,’ she said last month, ‘you just have to adjust to new realities and situations. That’s our job.’”

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