The Sappho Prize is an award given annually by the Free Press Society of Denmark, and as I remarked on receiving it recently, it has sometimes seemed as though I am the only person I know who hasn’t received it.
This is a good time to bury bad news. And sure enough it turns out that a cross-party group of MPs and peers that includes the failed MP Baroness Warsi has chosen this moment to try to persuade the government to adopt their own definition of ‘Islamophobia’.
I am reluctant to write about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not just because she is written about quite enough already. But because she has developed an almost Trumpian habit of saying things that are largely untrue but assured to get her attention.
Twenty years ago almost no one in the West had heard of Female Genital Mutilation. Then in the 2000s, thanks to a few brave and vocal campaigners like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, knowledge of this barbaric practice began to spread.
In between the small amount of other news this week there has been a certain amount of attention on the plight of the Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi and her family. Bibi has spent most of this decade on death-row in Pakistan. Her crime is that a bigoted Muslim neighbour of hers made up a crock accusation against her and said she had blasphemed against Islam.
Until about a decade ago it seemed as though every figure in literary history was owed a doorstop-sized account of his life. The trade of literary biography boomed, publishers still doled out advances, and universities even set up “life writing” courses, as though a dearth of trained practitioners was a risk.
Almost nothing is discussed as badly in America or Europe as the subject of immigration. And one reason is that it remains almost impossible to have any sensible or rational public discussion of its consequences. Or rather it is eminently possible to have a discussion about the upsides (“diversity,” talent, etc.) but almost impossible to have any rational discussion about its downsides.
There are times when you wonder whether our culture is too stupid to survive. The thought has kept occurring over recent days as I have watched the cooked-up furore over the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton to chair a British government commission looking into beauty in architecture.