Why should Vikings be diverse?

I don’t always watch ‘Strongest Viking’ competitions on cable. But the other day I was channel-hopping and became mesmerised by one. Firstly because I wasn’t previously aware that such banality was possible on television. People really watch men trying to push a stone or pull a rope? This was new data to me. But I also stayed because I was struck by the sheer lack of diversity. The cultural homogeneity of the Strongest Viking competition was appalling When the league tables flashed up, it transpired that the board was led by someone called Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, otherwise known as ‘the Mountain’ in Game of Thrones. Mr Björnsson is from Iceland,

Ron DeSantis is the Republican party’s best hope

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is shaping up as the GOP’s best hope for next year’s US presidential election. Large parts of his popular appeal are his open attack on (now fairly well-established) left-wing infiltration in education and to some extent in commerce, and his expressed intention to make Florida the state ‘where woke goes to die’. Hitherto his success has been limited. But recently there have been signs that he may be learning from his mistakes. His troubles started with a failure to grasp that a direct legal attack on left-wing influence, however electorally popular, was likely to be doomed. However fed up Floridians might be with the spoutings of left-wing professors

Joe Lycett and the trouble with wokescreening

The word ‘wokescreen’ is (like its naughty older sibling, the carelessly carbon-producing smokescreen), an alibi which hides the truth about a nefarious action. But what marks it out from old-fashioned hypocrisy is that – rather than being a mere rogue – the wokescreener poses as a social justice hero, looking down from a great height at the great unwoked. From the Sussexes’ private planes to Justin Trudeau’s blackface antics, the wokescreen is a fine example of modern Magical Thinking – if you identify as good, you can then be bad to your sanctimonious little heart’s content. A prime example is the comedian Joe Lycett who – having condemned David Beckham

Who’s to blame for our censorious students?

Without freedom of speech, you do not have a university. More than any other value, it is freedom of speech that most defines the university, that makes it a special place in society set aside for debate and inquiry in which speech and thought should be freer than in practically any other workplace or institution. And yet an alarming proportion of students seem not to have got the memo. A new study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London confirms what has been clear for some time: that today’s students, far from being rebellious free-thinkers, are if anything more supportive of censorship than the general population. The numbers are pretty

The problem with being anti-woke

I’m going to do something that will likely annoy you, dear reader: I am going to make an argument about a certain class of people without naming names. If I do name names, any response will devolve into a debate over whether I am unfairly tarring the individuals in question. That’s beside the point, because the phenomenon in question is undoubtedly real. That phenomenon is anti-wokeness curdling into reactionary crankery. Don’t get me wrong: as I’ve previously written, I think there’s a moral panic afoot in many liberal institutions. Whether you want to call it ‘wokeness’ or something else, it seems undeniably the case that a culture of illiberalism has corroded

Francis Fukuyama on Ukraine, liberalism and identity politics

This week, Sam Leith spoke to Francis Fukuyama – the author of ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ and the newly released ‘Liberalism and its Discontents’ on the latest episode of The Book Club. You can watch their conversation below, listen to it here or read this transcript. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.   Sam Leith: Liberal is a word that means something very different in Tennessee than it does in Muswell Hill. What exactly are the parameters of what you call classical liberalism? Francis Fukuyama: It does have a very different meaning in the United States than it does in Europe. My definition of it is closer

There’s no such thing as ‘woke coke’

Have you heard about ‘Woke Coke’ – ‘Wokaine’, if you will? Apparently drug dealers are now targeting the WaWs (Woke And Wealthy) with gear at £200 a gram (when I quit six years ago, £70 was the going price) and a promise that your particular little bindel of joy is ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘ethically sourced’ from ‘well-paid farmers.’  Reading about it this week, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or call the police and report myself for historical crimes against humanity. I don’t regret much in my long, louche life. But if I could go back in time and undo one thing, I’d return to 1985 when I started taking

Johnny Rotten’s war on woke

God save Johnny Rotten. The former Sex Pistols frontman, real name John Lydon, gave a beautiful interview recently. It’s a moving portrait of his life now, caring full-time for his wife, Nora Forster, who is tragically suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. And it is also a reminder that, despite his newfound responsibilities – and despite being almost five decades into his career – Lydon’s punk spirit remains undimmed. In the interview with the Sunday Times magazine, he takes aim at woke politics and the humourless narcissists it has produced.  Those who write books about their ‘lived experience’ of oppression, who start every sentence with ‘speaking as a…’, are more interested in talking

Lloyd Evans

The best “unwoke” comedy to watch during lockdown

Comedy is booming during lockdown. The clubs may be closed, indefinitely it seems, but the internet has come into its own. And the backlash against the liberal consensus is gathering pace. Here are seven of the best unwoke comedians. All are available on YouTube. The snag is that each clip is preceded by an advert for Monday.com or a bossy lecture from a web entrepreneur eager to enrol you in a free seminar which will make you a billionaire. Indian-born Sindhu Vee makes jokes about her Danish husband which might be interpreted as racist. ‘His entire parenting method is, “Darling, please be very happy, here’s some Lego.”’. When Vee got

Is the US to blame for the far-left takeover of France’s universities?

There is a belief in some quarters of the Anglosphere that the French are too wise to succumb to what is known across the Channel as ‘wokisme’. It’s true that in recent weeks Emmanuel Macron and his education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, have expressed their concern about what the latter described as a battle against ‘an intellectual matrix from American universities’. But the battle has already been won by the far-left in France who are largely in control of all forms of education.  The front cover of this week’s edition of the conservative magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, says it all: ‘Universities: laboratory of the lunatics’ Inside, the magazine describes how radical feminism,

In defence of Kew Gardens’ ‘woke’ signs

Forget statues: the latest victims of the colonialism culture war are racist plants. Ah yes, those menacing snowdrops with their overly white petals and dangerous daffodils. As Mr Steerpike reports, Kew Gardens has entered the fray with a promise to ‘decolonise’ its collections. Presumably the next step is for its sister site in Sussex to be renamed Wokehurst Place. The Royal Botanic Gardens’ director Richard Deverell has said that ‘We’re looking at our collections and how we bring new narratives’; while his organisation’s recently-published ‘manifesto for change’ promises that by 2030, ‘we will move quickly to ‘de-colonise’ our collections, re-examining them to acknowledge and address any exploitative or racist legacies, and

Nick Tyrone

The left’s illiberal turn

In the House of Lords this week, Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green party said she thought that a way to combat violence against women was to institute a six o’clock curfew on all men. She added, strangely, that ‘discrimination of all kinds would be lessened’ by such a move. Mark Drakeford took that sentiment a step further when he said he’d ‘consider all measures’ when asked if would implement a curfew on men — a sentiment he has now, thankfully, rowed back on. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking Jones was suggesting something patently ridiculous in order to demonstrate that it always seems to be women who have to


The Mash Report 2017-2021, greatest hits

So, farewell then, The Mash Report. This morning the Sun reports that the newly appointed BBC director general Tim Davie has ordered the axing of the notoriously unfunny BBC Two show after four series. The show’s creators were told at the time of the appointment to find a better balance of targets than ‘digs at the Tories’. Not that this seems to have been taken on board by the show’s hosts.  Sources close to the Beeb’s top man report reportedly thought it disproportionately critical of Brexit — perhaps unsurprising given its main star Nish Kumar declared to the Guardian in 2019 that he had ‘still not got over it’. With the programme canned to ‘make

Is Boris Johnson woke?

Is Boris Johnson woke? That’s a question the Prime Minister’s spokesperson struggled to answer today in a lobby briefing. Instead of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, they responded by saying Johnson was committed to levelling up all communities. The reason for the question in the first place relates to an interview shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy gave to the Guardian in which she asserted that new US president Joe Biden was ‘woke’ (that may come as news to him, given he was confused what the term meant during his presidential campaign).   This, in turn, led to the Prime Minister being asked whether he agreed that Biden was woke – to which Johnson looked lost for words. Eventually he embarked


Boris’s woke nightmare

Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, opened a Pandora’s box yesterday in an interview with the Guardian, in which she praised the new US President Joe Biden for being a ‘woke guy’ and, according to the paper, appeared to suggest that those defending the Parliament square statue of Churchill were comparable to white supremacists marching in America. Mr S imagines that isn’t quite the strategy the party had in mind to win back Red Wall towns lost in 2019. Nonetheless, it appeared to be Boris Johnson who was struggling most with the idea of a ‘woke’ US President yesterday. In an interview with Sky News, the PM was asked if

A woke church is doomed to fail

My church attendance leaves something to be desired and I can’t cite Bible verses for every occasion. Yet for as long as I can remember, I have been a staunch supporter of the Christian church. But while I’m always willing to speak up for the church, it is not always willing to defend itself. Iceland became a Christian country over a thousand years ago. Here, as in other Western countries, the teachings of Christianity and the work of the church have been enormously influential in shaping our societies. Yet all too often nowadays, the church in Western societies is silent on the issues that matter. All too often, it fails to

Seven problematic films that are yet to be cancelled

Avatar (2009) Can you a cancel a film that’s all but forgotten? I challenge you to name one character besides Sully (the protagonist, whom you’ve probably forgotten as well). Yet when the woke charge comes, it’ll take Avatar in its wake. After all, what is it but a colonial guilt fantasy with a white saviour character to save the day? The indigenous Na’vi people are losing their ancestral lands to an American corporation that wants to mine their planet’s materials, but only Sully, an employee of that very corporation can help save them. Its dated forebear Dances With Wolves can go with it, as well as The Blind Side, where

If I don’t like being fat, I should be allowed to say so

The game was up when I put on a pair of size 14 jodhpurs at the country store and they almost fit me. ‘No no no no no no no!’ I said, backing away from the mirror. The builder boyfriend looked over from where he was taking the blonde wig off a mannequin and putting it on his head in an attempt to entertain the other customers, who were not laughing at all. He is the worst shopping companion. I looked back at myself in the mirror. Never have I been bigger than a 10 and now it seems I have passed from 10 to 14 without even pausing at

The trans-sceptic academic who now needs bodyguards for protection

‘You can’t change sex – biologically, that is impossible.’ That, by most people’s standards, is a simple observable truth. But by the standards of campus activists, it is tantamount to hate speech, deserving of merciless retribution. The quote above is from Selina Todd, a professor of modern history at the University of Oxford. And for daring to express what most other people in this country would take to be common sense, she has been marginalised and threatened. Today the Telegraph reveals that she has been assigned two bodyguards to accompany her to all of her lectures for the rest of the year, after threats were made against her and circulated