On this week’s podcast, we look at the global silence around the protests in Iran. We’ll also be asking whether Wilfred Owen might have been a paedophile, and railing against unnecessary subtitling on internet videos.
First, in the magazine this week Douglas Murray turns his attention to the recent turbulence in Iran. Not since 2009 has the country seen such widespread disruption, but will this be another abortive uprising, like the so-called ‘Green Revolution’, or is this the descendant of the 1979 revolution, whose leaders are still in power? Douglas joins the podcast to discuss, along with Iranian journalist Nazenin Ansari, Managing Editor of Persian-language newspaper Kayhan London. As Douglas writes:
“If there is one lesson the world should have learned from Iran’s ‘Green Revolution’ of 2009 and the so-called Arab Spring that followed, it is this: the worst regimes stay. Rulers who are only averagely appalling (Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak) can be toppled by uprisings. Those who are willing to kill every one of their countrymen stay. So it is that after almost half a million dead we enter 2018 with Bashar al-Assad still President of Syria and with Iran’s mullahs approaching the 40th anniversary of their seizure of power in 1979.”
Next, we turn our gaze to perhaps the greatest of the 21st century war poets. Wilfred Owen has long been taught in schools and in 2018, the centenary of his untimely death, there will be much celebration of his life. But are we ignoring the uncomfortable facts of his homosexuality, denied by his family and recent biographers, and predilection for younger, sometimes underage, boys? And can we ever separate that from his poetry? Nigel Jones tackles this question in the magazine and he joins the podcast along with our Literary Editor, Sam Leith. As Nigel writes:
“Most troubling of all, in our paedophilia–obsessed society, are the indications of Owen’s fondness for young boys. Aged 19, he enjoyed a romantic friendship with a lad of 13; as an English teacher at the Berlitz school in Bordeaux just before the war, he writes home of ‘altar boys, boys in the park, and boys in the YMCA’; and recovering from shell shock at Craiglockhart officers’ hospital in Edinburgh, he virtually adopted a seven-year-old, taking the boy on treats and outings to the zoo.”
And finally, one of the benefits of a podcast is avoiding the distracting subtitles that now seem to accompany any social media video. For Mark Mason, they are a nuisance that should have been eradicated by the boffins in the technology sector. Mark joins the podcast to discuss this, along with our Deputy Editor, and subtitles aficionado, Freddy Gray (and a guest appearance by Mark’s 8-year-old son, Barney). As Mark writes:
“‘Don’t look at the subtitles,’ comes the reply. But that’s the really annoying thing: you have to look at them. There’s something about a subtitle that grabs your attention, won’t let you look away, even though you know what it’s going to say. I’ve tried watching videos from the knees up, as it were, and it simply isn’t possible. You might hold out for a minute or so, but eventually your attention drifts downwards like a stone in a pond.”