Human Rights

Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive. Stranger things have happened in the past year than the call to boycott a publisher in the name of liberalism, but not many. Morgan’s words do not sound brave. Instead, they demonstrate some of the most basic forms of repression, cowardice and fearfulness. Books become dangerous only when we show our own closed-mindedness to open debate. A hard-hitting review of Yiannopoulos’s book would have done far more to dismiss his slander and his lies. The Chicago Review should spend its time criticising ideas themselves, and not their free expression. …

A second inconvenient truth

I  It has taken around fifty years for the Aral Sea to parch. If you look at satellite images of the Kazakh-Uzbek border today, it is as though a half-bruised eyelid has drowsed shut across tens of thousands of kilometres of water. Lake Chad – on the margins of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon – is next. Since the 1960s, it has shrivelled by 90 per cent. Roughly half of that reduction in size is attributed to climate change, but the truth is that scientists and analysts find themselves all at subjunctives with such figures. This isn’t just an ecological calamity. It’s also symptomatic of what will be one of the most persistent human rights challenges of this century. The cradle of mankind is starting to look more like a cemetery. Take Niger, a country that finds itself at the very top or the very bottom of almost every index …

Don’t Be Afraid To Listen

  “Upon my word, I think the truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with.” — George Eliot (Middlemarch) Oxford and Cambridge Universities have an awful lot in common.  And last week was no exception.  By inviting polarising political figures from the left and the right – George Galloway and Marine Le Pen, respectively – both institutions reaffirmed what is at once perhaps the most sacred and the most imperilled of all our values: the freedom of speech. Le Pen was shuffled past protesters into the Cambridge Union last Tuesday – an organisation that prides itself on being a forum for all kinds of discussion and debate – to deliver a lengthy diatribe about the EU’s dilution of national identity.  The patina of xenophilia and inclusiveness that she wanted to solidify for the audience was derided and scoured away once the floor was opened to questioning.  In short, her politics …