Instant Opinion

‘Geronimo the alpaca is irresistibly cute - hence the public outcry’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

1

David Sapsted in The Times

Alpaca owners must accept slaughter is a necessary evil

on a doomed animal

“Let’s be honest: the public outcry that has surrounded the death sentence imposed on Geronimo the alpaca has little, if anything, to do with misgivings over the efficacy of existing Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) TB tests on camelids,” writes David Sapsted in The Times. “Rather, it is because Geronimo, with his doe-like eyes, quizzically amused expression and knot of curly black hair, looks so irresistibly cute.” But the debacle also shows that something is “awry” within the UK’s testing system. Defra “needs to convince the alpaca and llama-owning community that TB tests are a necessary evil and are as effective on camelids as they are on cattle”, writes Sapsted. “Then, perhaps, the passing of the unbearably appealing Geronimo might not turn out to have been in vain.”

2

Benjamin Weissman in The Guardian

Emojis aren’t debasing language – they’re enriching it

on modern communication

“Throughout history, writing systems have reflected available technologies,” says Benjamin Weissman in The Guardian. Ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform script, for example, “featured triangles and lines because the characters were impressed into clay with a dowel”. Today, “with electronic writing and emojis at our fingertips, even those without any artistic talent can easily ‘write’ a number of pictorial symbols, from a smirk to a syringe, from a bento box to a pregnant man”. And these emojis “give us a way to enrich the text-based medium”, Weissman argues. “Just as facial expressions and gestures are intrinsic to our face-to-face conversations, it’s easy for us to use emojis in our electronic conversations to fulfil some of the same functions.” So despite sceptics’ concerns, “emojis aren’t necessarily changing the way our brains work”, but rather “capitalise on resources we’ve already developed over thousands of years, which is integrating different streams of information into a unified meaning”.

3

Suzanne Moore in The Telegraph

A-level results week is no time to lecture our neglected children, minister

on results day

“How naïve of me to think that the last 18 months might make us re-evaluate what and who is important in life,” says Suzanne Moore in The Telegraph. But to now have to “watch a government of public schoolboys who have never done a proper job pose in hi-vis jackets, helmet or overalls for photo opportunities ahead of A-level results day sticks in my craw”. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has doubled-down on his position that parents should get over their “in-built snobbishness” and consider apprenticeships for their children. “Fine,” writes Moore. Just “let us know which ministers’ children are going into set design or bricklaying”. Or to put that another way, “show, don’t tell”. The reality is that “this generation of children has been utterly neglected”, she adds, “so let’s stop with the fake sympathy, Gavin”.

4

Helen Lewis in The Atlantic

I’ve hit my climate tipping point

on a clear crisis

“You can live through only so many ‘once in a lifetime’ rainstorms or heat waves before concluding that they are not once in a lifetime after all,” argues Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. “Something is very wrong. Climate change no longer feels like an abstract problem for the future, like an asteroid hitting the Earth or a super-earthquake wiping out the Pacific Northwest. I am scared now. I’ve reached my personal tipping point.” Like most people trying to ring the alarm bell, “I wondered how to make a subject so enormous, and so terrifying, connect with busy people living busy lives”, Lewis continues. The term “climate change”, for example, sounds “antiseptic and bloodless”, but as recent scenes from Greece have demonstrated, “‘Look at that 50-foot wall of fire’ might just do the trick”. Yet “what has given me hope, oddly enough, is the coronavirus pandemic”, she adds. Wny? Because “proximity to disaster can change minds, even among those who feel that living in a rich country can insulate them from harm”.

5

Nylah Burton in The Independent

R Kelly’s trial begins today and black women are supposed to be grateful - but I refuse

on delayed justice

“Many people first became fully aware of the extent of R. Kelly’s alleged crimes when they watched the groundbreaking 2019 documentary Surviving R. Kelly”, writes Nylah Burton in The Independent. “But it disappoints me to think of how long it took black women and girls to get here, to this moment.” So many of the claims made in the documentary were described by people in the music industry “as either an open secret among certain circles or widely known information”, says Burton. So “why did it take almost the entirety of my life for a man who was said to prey on children - a famous man, hiding in plain sight - to face a reckoning?” And “will these trials, late as they are, be enough?” Burton’s verdict is “not for me - and not for the black women and girls who had to grow up knowing we mattered so little. We will be expected to smile and show gratitude, but inside we will continue to feel the rage of injustice.”

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