Instant Opinion

‘Sports officials don’t want messy dealings with human rights’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Tim Culpan at Bloomberg Opinion

Novak Djokovic isn’t the only one missing from the Australian Open

on costly concerns

Over the weekend two tennis fans at the Australian Open in Melbourne were “ejected” for wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “Where is Peng Shuai”? “But it is event organizers who, perhaps unintentionally, have shone a light on a problem many sports officials seem to wish would go away,” Tim Culpan writes at Bloomberg Opinion. Since Peng alleged in November that she had been sexually assaulted by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party, her “circumstances have remained murky”. All traces of the 36-year-old “have been scrubbed from the internet in China, and she was later seen playing down her earlier remarks in what appeared to be a stage-managed chat with Beijing-friendly media”, Culpan continues. Tennis Australia “could have just ignored the two miscreant fans”. But the police were called, as the T-shirts apparently violated the event’s policy against commercial or political merchandise. “Sports officials have once again shown an inability to understand what truly matters: the welfare of the players who keep them in business.” They want to “lure sponsors… and bathe in the glory of human endeavour at its highest levels”. They don’t want “messy dealings with human rights and player welfare”.

2

Sean O’Grady at The Independent

Lord Agnew’s resignation was a study in barely confined rage

on last words

“The peaceful, somnolent, Ruritanian chamber of the House of Lords isn’t used to ‘wow’ moments,” says Sean O’Grady at The Independent. Lord Agnew of Oulton, however, delivered one this week “in politically seismic fashion”. In a study of “barely confined rage”, he “decried” the billions of pounds in Covid-19 fraud that the government has “lost”. Someone behind Agnew “snapped to attention at the shock”. The Lord who is himself a minister in charge of fighting fraud had “had enough. Snapping his red folder shut, he bid their noble lordships goodbye and walked out,” says O’Grady. “The peers applauded – a rare accolade.” Resignations tendered on matters of principle aren’t “the sort of thing we’re used to expecting from the Johnson administration. Hanging on for dear life” and “trying to lie your way out of trouble” is more like it, he continues. Covid fraud was “very much a symptom of the weaknesses at the heart of the present government”, and Lord Agnew has “done something remarkable”. The “earth-shaking irony” is that “he’d actually done nothing personally wrong” but left “out of frustration with those more arrogant, indolent and ignorant who did”.

3

Celia Walden at The Telegraph

Jamie Oliver’s ‘offence adviser’ leaves a bad taste in my mouth

on cultural connoisseurs

There’s a “new breed of professionals” that are “trained like sniffer dogs to detect even the faintest whiff of explosively un-woke material in anything that might be publicly shared”, Celia Walden says. Writing in The Telegraph, she asks if you “have got yourself an ‘offence adviser’ yet?” Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver “doesn’t just have the one”, but rather a “team of cultural appropriation specialists”, he has revealed. “All too aware of the woke minefield we’re now forced to navigate”, his team “go through his recipes with a fine tooth comb”. Oliver “has learnt a lot about inanimate foodstuffs’ power of offence over the past four years”, says Walden. His “empire roast chicken” would “be unacceptable, if not career-ending today”. Back in 2018, his Punchy Jerk Rice also caused a stir. The chef’s defence was that he learns and draws “inspiration from different countries and cultures to give a fresh twist to the food we eat every day”. And “if ‘inspiration’ had been a problematic concept throughout history”, says Walden, “chicken tikka masala would not exist”.

4

Patrick McGee at the Financial Times

The true flaw of driverless cars isn’t the tech

on going hands-free

Patrick McGee’s three-year-old daughter likes Waymo vehicles “because they look distinct”. “The fact that a robot is driving,” he writes in the Financial Times, “fails to impress her.” This “is just the reality she has been born into”, where people don’t necessarily need driving licences to get around in cars. “Already the wheels are in motion for San Francisco to be the first major city with a driverless ride-hailing service.” Waymo is valued at more than $30bn, and “investors are banking on the belief” that driverless vehicles will “turn into cash machines on wheels”. McGee says he remains sceptical. “It’s not so much the technology” but “the absence of a clear business model” that gives him pause for thought. “What made Uber so disruptive is the gig economy”, but the driverless industry “throws away” the advantages this model brought to the market, and robotaxis “risk becoming a gimmick”. They’d be “fun to try, sure, but they’ll cost the same as an Uber, arrive no faster and decline to speed up when you’re in a rush”.

5

Paul Krugman at The New York Times

Attack of the right-wing thought police

on the big picture

“Freedom,” says Paul Krugman in The New York Times, “has long been a key element of the American idea.” Now it is “under attack, on more fronts than many people realize”, he says. “Everyone knows about the Big Lie, the refusal by a large majority of Republicans to accept the legitimacy of a lost election.” But think too of “the attack on education”, says Krugman. Republicans have denounced the teaching of critical race theory, but this is “basically a cover for a much bigger agenda: an attempt to stop schools from teaching anything that makes right-wingers uncomfortable”. What Krugman thinks is “really striking” is “the idea that schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes ‘discomfort’ among students and their parents”. It would be “naive” to think this applies only to teaching about race relations. “I’m sure that some students will find that the story of how we came to invade Iraq – or for that matter how we got involved in Vietnam – makes them uncomfortable.” Then there’s the matter of science. “Once the Florida standard takes hold, how long will the teaching of evolution survive?” The “smear campaign against critical race theory is almost certainly the start of an attempt to subject education in general to rule by the right-wing thought police,” says Krugman. The “dire effects” of this will go “far beyond the specific topic of racism”.

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