New Order’s oldies still sound like the future

The intimate acoustic show can denote many things for an established artist. One is that, in the infamous euphemism coined by Spinal Tap, their audience has become more ‘selective’. Attempting to make the best of a bad job, the artist shifts down a gear while aiming upmarket, much in the manner of a balding man cultivating a fancy moustache. The cosy concert is also favoured by pop stars craving some old fashioned string-and-wire authenticity. Occasionally, the urge is a creative one, propelled by the sense that the material being promoted lends itself to a less triumphalist approach. ‘My Love Mine All Mine’ is, thanks to the ludic powers of TikTok,

Supercops: the return of tough policing

40 min listen

In this week’s cover article, The Spectator‘s political editor Katy Balls takes a look at the bottom-up reform that’s happening in some parts of the country, and asks whether tough policing is making a comeback. Katy joins the podcast together with Kate Green, Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor of Crime and Policing. (00:50) Next, the war has finally gone to Moscow. Recently, a number of drone strikes have hit targets in the Russian capital. Though Ukraine hasn’t explicitly taken responsibility, in the magazine this week, Owen Matthews writes that it’s all a part of psychological warfare. Owen is the author of Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and Russia’s War Against Ukraine and he

The dangerous cult of ‘toxic parents’

Complaining about ‘toxic parents’ has been a viral hit on TikTok with videos on the topic racking up several billion views. Only one of those views is mine and there won’t be another because it was like peering through a window into a cross between a padded cell and a charnel house. In video after video, boys and girls across the English-speaking world – aged roughly 15 to 25 – share the trauma of what they’ve had to endure, courtesy of their terrible mothers and fathers. Many children suffer at the hands of the people who should protect them, but in this case what the kids find intolerable would, to

It’s time for a reckoning with Chinese big tech

It has been a bumpy week for China’s beleaguered technology giants. They are under increasing scrutiny overseas, and the communist party continues to tighten the screws on them at home. In many ways they are also their own worst enemies. The UK has become the latest government to ban the Chinese-owned TikTok from government devices over security concerns. Parliament has also banned the app from its network. This follows similar bans from the European Union and 11 countries, including France, New Zealand, Denmark and the US. Western lawmakers are unconvinced by TikTok’s often cack-handed attempts to distance itself from its Chinese parent, ByteDance, and that company’s obligations to the Chinese

The toxic women of gym TikTok

The hashtag ‘gym creep’ now has more than 37.3 million views on TikTok. Honestly, I’ve watched hundreds of these videos and the only weird behaviour I can spot in any of the clips is from the women recording the unsuspecting men while they work out. ‘Watch this creep,’ the lady will say as a confused male just happens to glance at the camera that’s been shoved in front of him. Scandalous! Gina Love is one of these women. The TikTokker, whose feed mainly consists of her trying on different shades of lipgloss, went viral after posting a video of her doing deadlifts, supposedly catching out one of these so-called #gymcreeps. ‘Watch this

Westminster grapples with TikTok craze

Whoever wins the Tory leadership on Monday will face a mountain of problems from day one. War, inflation, spiralling costs and a mutinous party: the in-tray will be veritably groaning. One issue that won’t perhaps be at the top of the list will be the future of the Prime Ministerial TikTok account: 10downingstreet. Officials have spent the past 11 months running the account, uploading videos of Boris goofing around to the page’s 292,000 followers. His presumptive successor though takes a rather more dim view of TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance has been criticised for its ties to Beijing. During the course of one leadership debate, Liz Truss said with regards

I’ve been bitten by the TikTok bug

In theory TikTok knows nothing about me. I have posted two videos: one of my grandsons kicking a football in a garden, the other of their much younger selves running through the dry desert house at Paignton zoo. They are the most unremarkable clips imaginable. The last time I looked, the football being kicked in the garden had been watched 3,700 times and ‘liked’ by 650 people. Astonishing. Apart from those two videos, I haven’t posted. My grandsons love TikTok. They are on it every day. They post videos of football cards they have collected and the ones they want to swap. Except when my grandsons post one, I never

Why TikTok reels are reshaping comedy

Bella Hull started standup six years ago. Back then, she lived in fear of a bad set being uploaded to YouTube, where a shaky camera and lacklustre crowd might stain any Google search of her forever. Now, due to the rise of video ‘reels’, popularised by TikTok, Instagram and YouTube during the pandemic, for Bella and other digital savvy comedians, creating online video is a necessity for reaching fresh, young, and more global audiences. Bella has been publishing funny short-form videos in portrait (AKA TikTok reels) for one year and has amassed over 888k likes on the platform. For a lot of circuit comedians, lockdown forced them to put down

How TikTok can turn a book into a bestseller

I have an American friend who loves reading, but is clueless about technology. The last time I visited him he was still using Internet Explorer, which even Microsoft has given up on. My friend was puzzled when he walked into his local bookshop and was met by a table of books with the sign ‘#BookTok made me read it’. Soon afterwards I received a bewildered WhatsApp message: ‘What is BookTok?!’ Until recently, I didn’t know. Before the pandemic, I was a working stand-up comic. I’ve never been on television and you probably haven’t heard of me, but I was happy. I worked six nights a week, made enough to pay

TikTok intifada: the role of new media in old conflicts

In Israel last month, a video on the social media platform TikTok encouraged users to film themselves assaulting Orthodox Jews. That video became a spark that ignited outrage across the country. A band of Jewish extremists, Lehava, organised a march in response. They clashed with Arab groups at Damascus Gate. In a situation that was already a tinderbox, things escalated from there. Why did it happen? Why would any ordinary person get pleasure from assault? ‘There is a competition for likes and views,’ a 15-year-old victim told an Israeli news organisation. ‘A video of an Arab slapping an ultra-Orthodox man will get you both.’ A violent riot set off by

Riots in Jerusalem

In 2015, I was nearly beaten by a far-right mob in Jerusalem. Thursday night’s riot in the holy city reminded me a lot of that evening. Thankfully, this time, nobody died, but that same feeling of tension, anger and violence was in the air. My run in with the mob began at a small vigil to protest against the murder of a family at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. For some reason they decided we were ‘left-wing protesters’ — the police were able to encircle us but could do nothing to stop the bottles being thrown, the spit, the curses. Our crowd of attacks moved on, beating any Arabs they

TikTok’s fake news problem

Something troubling is happening on TikTok. The video sharing app is sometimes dismissed as a place where young people go to while away the hours watching banal videos. But TikTok is more than just a quirky hobby for younger generations: it’s where many come to get their news. What’s more, during Covid it’s become a window into a world that is effectively shut. This makes the spread of fake news and misinformation on the app something that should alarm us all. This week, a TikTok video claiming that the United States was responsible for reducing Syria to rubble spread like wildfire around the app. The post – which received nearly

Labour’s TikTok paranoia

As if the Labour party didn’t have enough to worry about with its withering opinion poll ratings, yesterday’s Times reveals that party officials are warning MPs of another potential danger: malicious TikTok parodies. The paper reports that Sir Keir himself is one of several Labour MPs whose names have been used by hard-left TikTok pranksters keen to cause trouble for the party’s Leadership. One user is apparently impersonating a shadow cabinet minister while using the antifa-linked slogan ACAB (all cops are bastards). Labour is now apparently lobbying the Chinese-owned video giant to remove the false accounts to avoid confusion. Well, quelle surprise really. For all its runaway viral success (with some

The chilling rise of ‘IRA TikTok’

There’s an ever shorter period now, it seems, between the emergence of any new medium and its energetic use for promoting hatred. And no one can accuse the young fans of militant Irish republicanism of not keeping up with the times: the proliferation of ‘IRA TikTok’ is a case in point. The video-sharing network has inspired growing numbers of Irish-American and Irish youth — often those with ‘Up The Ra!’ in their TikTok profiles — to post clips of themselves clad in balaclavas, posing meaningfully with a fake gun, or mimicking planting a bomb by throwing a backpack under a car and racing away. The soundtrack is mostly provided by

From ancient Greece to TikTok: a short history of the sea shanty

Many things are now normal that would have seemed unlikely a year ago. But even in this strange new world the sudden rise of the sea shanty is, perhaps, strangest of all. It all started in December when Nathan Evans, a postman from North Lanarkshire, posted a video of himself online — a lone figure filmed in no-frills close-up, hoodie high under the chin, beanie pulled down to the eyes — singing the 19th-century whaling song ‘Wellerman’. A trickle of views became a storm, thousands turning to millions (now billions) and just like that sea shanties went from kitsch, Last Night of the Proms novelty to global phenomenon. The song

Portrait of the week: Face masks in, Huawei out and Amazon’s TikTok trouble

Home New regulations would compel people to wear a face covering in shops in England from 24 July on pain of a £100 fine. Similar regulations had been imposed in Scotland. A report requested by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said that, without lockdowns, treatments or vaccines, in a reasonable worst-case scenario, a second wave of infection could see coronavirus deaths in hospital alone range between 24,500 and 251,000, peaking in January and February. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 12 July, total deaths from Covid-19 stood at 44,798, with a seven-day average of 85 deaths a day; but in the following two days the number