Instant Opinion

‘Content warnings mean classics is apologising for its existence’

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

1

Marie Daouda in The Telegraph

The woke war on our classical past is as lazy as it is wrong-headed

on modern sensibilities 

“Cambridge University’s archaeology museum has decided to put up signs explaining the ‘whiteness’ of its plaster casts collections,” Marie Daouda wrote in The Telegraph. “This is to avoid giving the ‘misleading impression’ that Greek and Roman society suffered from an ‘absence of diversity’,” she explained. “One might well wonder what will be written on the signs: ‘The Romans and Greeks were, in fact, not all greyish-white with rigid faces and blank eyes’,” she said. “Concern about diversity in classics has become a prominent question in higher education in recent years,” but “putting content warnings on Greek or Roman literature, or adding awkward explanations about the whiteness of plaster, only gives the impression that the classics are apologising for their very existence”.

2

Weeda Mehran in The Guardian

How social media helped the tech-savvy Taliban retake Afghanistan

on online propaganda 

While many factors contributed to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, “notable among them was a successful modern media strategy”, said Weeda Mehran in The Guardian. The modernisation of the country’s infrastructure has “proved a great boon to the Islamist group”, with the majority of the country now able to access the internet through mobile phones – “dramatically increasing the in-country reach of online Taliban propaganda and recruitment materials”. The Taliban has had a successful media strategy over the past two decades because it has been able “to get out their message faster than their enemies. They managed to publish their side of the story much earlier than the Afghan government and international forces could process theirs through bureaucratic channels.”

3

Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times

UK truck driver shortage signals a broken labour market

on an invisible workforce

“A shortage of truck drivers has led to empty shelves in British supermarkets,” wrote Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times. “There is even talk of the army being called in to help. For those who wanted the UK to remain in the EU, it feels like a moment to say: ‘We told you so, Brexit was a disaster’,” she said. “But that misses the point. The empty shelves are a visible message from a workforce that’s usually invisible. They tell a story about what’s gone wrong in this corner of the 21st-century economy – and not just in the UK.” Indeed, the shortages are “a moment of reckoning”, said O’Connor. “If we just use them to bicker about Brexit, we’ll drown out the real lessons in the noise.”

4

Peter Ricketts in the New Statesman

The Afghanistan crisis has exposed Global Britain’s delusions of grandeur

on an ‘act of betrayal’

“The bewilderment on the faces of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during Westminster’s parliamentary debate over Afghanistan on 18 August was telling,” said Peter Ricketts in the New Statesman. The two “seemed stunned by the anger at government impotence and complacency that erupted on the Tory benches”. Their response was “yet further indication that neither Johnson nor Raab has the slightest affinity with the military world and the values that underpin it” and “they seem to have failed to comprehend that, for many people, abandoning Afghanistan in such a manner is an act of betrayal that besmirches British honour”. The Afghanistan crisis “has exposed in detail the delusions of grandeur that have passed for British foreign policy in recent years. It is time at last to define our priorities clearly and pursue them relentlessly.”

5

Ben Kelly in The Spectator

Can facial recognition be stopped?

on sinister technology

“In recent years, facial recognition technology has been introduced into our lives in various benign ways,” Ben Kelly said in The Spectator. “The ease of using it to unlock our phones, make purchases, replace passwords, and manage our digital wallets is irresistible,” he went on. “Unfortunately, our love of convenience may be distracting us from the fact that facial recognition technology is the most sinister and uniquely dangerous surveillance mechanism yet invented.” In fact, “as it increasingly plays a central role in our lives, we are being lulled into accepting its use by the police. And if it is not resisted now, it will become a ubiquitous part of the security apparatus.”

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