Instant Opinion

‘Learning about the Holocaust is not supposed to be a comfortable experience’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Rupert Hawksley for The Independent

Banning books about the Holocaust is a dangerous step towards revising history

on censorship in schools

News that an education board in Tennessee has removed Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale from its curriculum struck Rupert Hawksley as “so odd” that he thought “this can’t be true”. “I would be delighted to discover that I have been fooled,” he writes at The Independent. Ten members of the McMinn County Board of Education “voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel” due to its “‘vulgar and inappropriate’ content”. Spiegelman uses illustrations of cats and mice to depict the Holocaust, and “it should hardly need pointing out, of course, that you can’t convey the full horror of the Holocuast by sanitising it.” Learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust “is not supposed to be a comfortable experience”, and to remove the “graphic parts” is “revising history”. That, says Hawksley, “is dangerous”. The issue is not just about Maus. It’s “the censoring of information and it can never be tolerated”.

2

Scotsman Comment

Coronavirus Bill would hand Scottish government ministers too much power

on threats to liberty

“Most people in a free country accept that it is sometimes necessary for the government to introduce emergency powers to deal with an immediate crisis,” says The Scotsman. Such was the case when the pandemic began, and both Holyrood and Westminster “introduced Draconian rules that put the country in lockdown”. Now, as the health crisis “appears to be diminishing”, the Scottish government has introduced a bill that could make “some of those emergency powers permanent”. Ministers would have the power to “curtail fundamental civil liberties on their say-so, without first winning the approval of our elected representatives”. In a democracy “that is simply unacceptable”. Nicola Sturgeon’s government “may have only the best of intentions”, but “politicians come and go, while laws remain until they are repealed”.

3

Eva Simpson for The Mirror

School should scrap hair rules and let kids embrace their heritage

on exclusionary policies

Eva Simpson was “on the verge of tears” when a teacher at her son’s new secondary school told her that his haircut was in “contravention” of its hair policy. Writing in The Mirror, she describes her son’s “perfectly normal hair cut”, “a short crop”. But “as far as the school was concerned” it was “‘extreme’” because it was “too short”. There have been “too many incidents of black children being penalised for their hair ‘transgressions’” by “ricidulous” uniform policies that “ignore children’s cultural heritage”. A “lack of diversity among school governors” is part of the problem, she says. “Many schools, especially those with a large black student body, have practically no black representation among the governing body and that needs to change.” Simpson was heartened to hear about a headteacher in St Albans “who has ripped up the school’s rule book on hair and thrown it out the window”. The kids “can come in with cornrows, Afros, short hair, whatever, without being put into isolation and missing valuable teaching time”. She hopes more headteachers will “take a leaf out of her book”.

4

David Aaronovitch for The Times

It’s the intimacy of podcasts that makes them addictive

on spoken stories

“Of all mediums, audio is the most intimate,” David Aaronovitch writes in The Times. Yet for years “speech audio had become the poor media relation”. Back in the 1990s, when Aaronovitch had “the Derek and Clive job of allocating the BBC’s political correspondents to speaker or screen, none of them wanted the radio shifts”. But the 2014 true crime podcast Serial “broke through that prejudice”. It was “a leader” for its time, and has subsequently been followed by other hits like Sweet Bobby. Now, “there are news-based podcasts, single interview podcasts, podcasts of radio programmes with a few bits added, music podcasts, podcasts for enthusiasts, podcasts with Giles Coren in them”, says Aaronovitch. There’s been recent “moral-panicky ballyhoo about shortened attention spans”, but “the result of technical innovation has not been a loss of concentration or an inability to follow a story or argument”. Rather, “people invest considerable time and attention in following a series at length”. The podcast boom provides “an optimistic lesson in how dynamic culture really works”.

5

Anna Nicolaou for the Financial Times

Netflix stock market woe is warning to Hollywood

on declining returns

“The corporate narrative on Netflix has always been high drama,” says Anna Nicolaou in the Financial Times. Is it “a savvy disrupter that will live on forever as the first mover of online entertainment”, or “a house of cards, pushing an unsustainable business model that all of Hollywood foolishly followed”? With its share price down, recently “investors have leaned towards the more steely-eyed view of Netflix’s prospects”. Normally, its rivals “would enjoy the schadenfreude”. Instead, “the sell-off has been unsettling because all of these companies copied the Netflix model”. As Nicolaou says, “the problem is that the long-term business case for streaming is still being tested”. Netflix “broke the dam” but “now it is surrounded by competition”. And its results reveal something that is “fundamentally scary for Hollywood: streaming is going to make less money – maybe a lot less money – for entertainment companies than cable did”.

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