Instant Opinion

‘Discussion around trans identity is becoming J.K. Rowling’s new brand’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Ryan Coogan at The Independent

Why do we still care so much about what JK Rowling has to say?

on a ‘new brand’

About once a month, Ryan Coogan logs on to Twitter “to see another hashtag accusing JK Rowling of bigotry against trans people, accompanied by the obligatory counter-hashtag defending her position”. Writing at The Independent, he says the author has made “a long line of questionable remarks”, and says her “position on trans identity is at once both reasonably stated and quietly troubling”. Discussion on the topic “is in many ways her new brand”. He continues: “Here is a woman whose career was built on the most popular and successful good versus evil allegory of the past century, appearing to show her hand as a potential force for the latter.” For the people she inspired, it is “hard not to try and fight back against the erosion of ideals” they were taught to champion in her own books. “Even if it’s just with a hashtag.”

2

Robert Ginzburg at The Spectator

Russian cities are returning to their Cold War state

on a Western exodus

“In Russia, the lights are going out one by one,” Robert Ginzburg writes at The Spectator. “Everything one expects from an up-to-date country – cashpoints that work, Apple products, Coca-Cola – is vanishing.” Ginzburg says that “so much of the normality of living in a Russian city comes from the Western chain-stores”. Forget that there are “creepy combat-shops” or the police there to frighten you, there’s the same “H&M sweater they’re wearing in Zurich”, you can “eat the same IKEA meatballs”, and “make the same flatpack gingerbread house as children everywhere”. Queues stretched round the block when the first McDonald’s opened in 1990, and “that was when you knew the Cold War was really over”. Now, without McDonald’s and Coke, “Russia will be forced to home-grow its own substitutes. Look out for restaurants with names like ‘Mig Mag’, ‘Nuggetsi’ and ‘McFlarri’,” he says. 

3

Jane Shilling at The Telegraph

From warlords to dementia wards, never underestimate the transformative power of music

on a ‘formidable superpower’

Baroness Sally Greengross “has urged” the government to acknowledge “the transformative power of music” in a proposed amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill. As well as being a crossbench peer, Greengross is chief executive of a think tank on ageing, which recently coordinated a report “setting out the evidence for music as a valuable therapy for the symptoms of people living with dementia”. Schoolchildren too can benefit from a music curriculum, but it isn’t “the only art with the power to unite us across generations and nations”. Vladimir Putin’s ally, “the Chechen warlord Ramzen Kadyrov, has reportedly pleaded with Boris Johnson to lift sanctions on him” so he can visit the National Portrait Gallery in London. When “a bad man turns to culture to make his argument, it reinforces the case for the arts” as “a formidable superpower, transcending age, language, history and mental capacity”.

4

Miriam Stoppard at The Mirror

Kids learned more words during lockdown compared to before the pandemic

on new vocabulary

“One by one, the long-term effects of Covid are revealing themselves,” writes Miriam Stoppard at The Mirror. Some are physical, but “one of the more serious” may be affecting young children “who suffered isolation during the lockdowns”. New research has found that “children who were read to more frequently during lockdown learned more words – relative to their peers who were read to less”. Equally unsurprising, perhaps, those children who had “increased screen time” during lockdowns said fewer words than those children who had less screen time. But “importantly”, says Stoppard, “while children were exposed to more screen time during lockdown than before, overall they gained more words than expected”. This is due, she says, to “other activities parents and carers did with children”. That at least, says Stoppard, is “reassuring”.

5

Eli Goldstone at The Guardian

Naive, narcissistic, unhinged: bad friends are my vice, and I can’t give them up

on relationship ruptures

Eli Goldstone ended a friendship two years ago. It might have been “sensible” to tell them they were “no longer serving” her needs, but instead “I swore at them over WhatsApp and didn’t respond to their messages ever again”, she writes at The Guardian. Goldstone says she “has a tendency to put up with some particularly bad friendships for much longer than is necessary”, and she’d reached “breaking point”. Close friends “have their ups and downs”, but “a bad friend is something else entirely”. She used to think she “was attracted to complex, challenging, or unsatisfying friendships because I have imagination and empathy”, and there was “a lot at stake, emotionally”. But “bad friends tend to demand a lot of support” and they can “reflect many of my worst qualities back at me”, she continues. But she recognises that she too is “almost certainly somebody else’s bad friend”.

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