On this week’s episode, we discuss Trump versus technology, the ‘new normal’ with Calamity May, and whether jargon is polluting the English language.
First up, in this week’s magazine cover piece, Niall Ferguson writes on the battle between networks and hierarchies for supremacy in a digital world. The biggest fight is between the American President and the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, who still exist in the unregulated frontier of the Wild Wild World Wide Web. Niall joined Freddy Gray, host of the Spectator’s Americano podcast, to discuss. As Niall writes:
“It may be too big a stretch to claim that Russian Facebook ads swung the election in Trump’s favour. But it seems plausible that his campaign’s use of social media, particularly Facebook, gave it a vital edge that compensated for its financial disadvantage relative to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. On that, if on nothing else, I suspect Steve Bannon and Clinton would agree. ‘Facebook is now the largest news platform in the world,’ Clinton writes in her election postmortem. ‘With that awesome power comes great responsibility.’”
Next, after a shaky performance at Tory conference, Theresa May made an inauspicious return to the limelight yesterday as she was grilled on Brexit by Iain Dale. This floundering is the new normal for the Prime Minister, writes James Forsyth in his column this week, and he joins the podcast alongside Iain to discuss. As James writes:
“‘Worst week ever’ is one of those phrases that journalists are, perhaps, too quick to use. Alastair Campbell once quipped that if you added up all Tony Blair’s worst weeks, you got a full year. The real worry for the Tories, however, is not that last week was Theresa May’s worst ever, but that it represented the new normal.”
And finally: PC-speak and jargon has overwhelmed the traditions of our language. So claims Claire Fox in the magazine this week, as she rails against the changes that she believes have confused the beautiful simplicity of English. But is this a fair judgment? Or is she just stuck in her ways? She joins the podcast alongside our literary editor Sam Leith, whose new book – Write to the Point – is out today. As Claire writes:
“Since the EU referendum result last June our nation has been divided: not only by the vote but also by language. If 62 per cent of Britons (many of whom undoubtedly voted for Brexit) now say Britain ‘sometimes feels like a foreign country’, it’s not anti-foreigner prejudice so much as a feeling that people in authority are speaking at them in a foreign language. Not Polish or Punjabi but PC-speak, that opaque code that connotes whether you are ‘on message’ and one of ‘our kind of people’ or one of those racist lizard-brained Leaver oiks.”