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Showing posts from January, 2021

What is 'whataboutery'?

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Photo by  Adi Goldstein  on  Unsplash Whataboutism or whataboutery is to respond to an accusation with a counter-attack. Mr X says Ms Y ate all the cakes in the cupboard. Ms Y responds: 'Why you hypocrite! What about that time Mr X ate FOUR slices of pizza...' This technique has a long history. In Latin it is expressed as tu quoque -  or  'you too'. As the video below explains, it was a favoured tool for 20th Century totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  On social media platforms like Twitter, sophisticated rhetoric is not required. If your guy is accused of (allegedly) feeding puppies to an alligator, remind them of the time their guy (allegedly) set fire to the children's zoo.  Whataboutery is particularly popular when linked to issues with opposing camps with entrenched positions e.g. the Brexit debate and the political polarisation in the USA.

Where does the word vaccination come from?

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According to legend, provincial doctor Edward Jenner once overheard a young dairymaid boasting:  “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox."​  This eventually lead to Jenner establishing that smallpox inoculation could provide protection against its far more lethal virological cousin. With a scientist's precision, Jenner called this process 'vaccination' - after vaccinia  the Latin word for cowpox. The cow connection proved great branding - the alleged vanity of the anonymous dairymaid has amused children for two hundred years. It also proved a gift to the original anti-vax movement, who were deeply suspicious of Jenner's devilish new life-saver.  

What is Ulysses about? Is it worth reading?

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Mr Bloom prepares breakfast for himself, his wife & his cat. Photo by  Vital Sinkevich  on  Unsplash Ulysses (1922) is long novel in which, on the surface, very little happens. Over a single summer's day (June 16, 1904) we share the lives of three Dubliners: Stephen Dedalus  (a recently bereaved young graduate), Leopold Bloom (a middle-aged sales representative of Jewish origin) and Molly Bloom (unfaithful wife of Leopold and occasional singer).  All the action takes place in and around Dublin. Within this framework, Joyce experiments with a multitude of literary techniques in a daring attempt to find a literary form to express the complexity of the modern world. This demands a lot of the reader but offers rich rewards.  Read More