To End a Civil War

  Just heard from the publishers that the book is finally going to the typesetters today. So should be on course for publication by the end of July: watch this space for more information . . . Between 1983 and 2009 the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger guerillas engaged in a bitter civil war, with the Tiger’s goal of an independent Tamil polity the key issue of contention. The conflict’s end came in May 2009 with the Tiger’s crushing defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan army. Prior to this grim finale, however, for some time there… More

Charlie Hebdo and free speech: France’s murky past

In the aftermath of the murderous attacks on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo at the beginning of 2015, calls to rally to the defence of French ‘republican values’ have resounded throughout the country and indeed, much of the rest of the world. Beyond a simple enumeration of the fundamental human rights these values are supposed to represent, what does the historical record look likes when it comes to the actual application of those rights to citizens of la patrie? The answer to that question, it turns out, very much depended on who you were. Simply put, from 1881, all… More

1984 or Brave New World? Who was right – Orwell or Huxley?

The cartoon sequence below,  a visual adaptation of passages from Neil Postman’s seminal Amusing Ourselves to Death by artist Stuart McMillan, is featured in a stimulating openDemocracy article just published  under the title ‘Are you cultivating knowledge – or just consuming information?’ I’m reproducing it here because I think it speaks to some fundamental concerns of our times. While highlighting the main thrust of the cartoon’s warnings regarding the dangers of ‘amusing ourselves to death’, article author Gregory Ciotti nonetheless argues that it, along with much contemporary discussion of the internet’s impact on human behaviour and consciousness, is in danger… More

Nigeria’s favourite satirist goes global after ambushing Robert Mugabe

It’s the inauguration of your country’s newly-elected President, and you’re a sharp, enterprising young female journalist covering the event. One of the guests at the ceremony turns out to be Robert Mugabe, that African paragon of democratic virtue. This is what you do as a consequence – if you’re Nigeran satirist Adeola Fayehun at least – as revealed in a YouTube clip that’s already scored over 270,000 views since it was first broacast following the 29 May inauguration ceremony for the country’s newly-elected president Muhammadu Buhari: Fayehun has been beavering away at this kind of thing for some years: since… More

Beyond Acccountability: The Struggle For Co-Existence

Here’s a very strong piece from two Sri Lankans looking at the uses – and abuses – of the demand for accountability in post-war Sri Lanka. In particular the politicization – domestic and international – of the accountability agenda and the way in which it is used by hard-liners on both sides of the ethnic divide to attempt to ‘discipline’ their only people. Don’t give into demands for international involvement in war crimes investigations – that’s imperialism pure and simple (Sinhalese version). And don’t countenance, let alone attempt to accomodate proposals for a domestic accountability mechanism – that the siren… More

Digital Journalism: How Good Is It?

A stimulating piece by Michael Massing in the latest edition of The New York Review of Books takes a look at the present state of online media: tunrs out in fact, it’s the first of three articles on the subject. While understandably skewed in the direction of US media, plenty of the points he makes are relevant for a much wider audience, Europe included. Online media outlets covered in a wide-ranging analysis include Huffington Post (of course), Andrew Sullivan’s popular but now discontinued blog The Dish, The Drudge Report,, Politico and ProPublica – most, but not all, of these… More