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The Spectator Podcast: The digital inquisition

12 January 2018

5:08 PM

12 January 2018

5:08 PM

On this week’s episode, we examine Twitter’s mob mentality, get to the heart of PTSD, and look at how Russia is preparing for this year’s World Cup.

First up: At the end of 2017 it would’ve be hard to guess that the name of everyone’s lips during the sunrise days of the new year would be Toby Young. But thanks to a government appointment and a series of ill-advised tweets, his brief stint at the Office for Students has dominated the news cycle. In the magazine this week, Lara Prendergast writes about how our digital footprints could come back to bite us, whilst Rod Liddle laments the rise of trial by twitter. To debate the issue, we were joined by spiked editor Brendan O’Neill and the Guardian’s Dawn Foster. As Lara writes:

“I need not repeat the litany of Toby’s offending tweets. He said some bad things. He has been deliberately provocative. He deployed what Boris Johnson called his ‘caustic wit’ on occasions where silence would have been wiser. Some will consider him beyond the pale; others will be unable to see what the fuss is about. For now, however, the court of social media has passed judgment, and there is no place harsher or more frenetically outraged.”


Millions of football fans around the world are counting down the days until the first ball of the 2018 World Cup is kicked. That first match will be between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and it underlines how the competition can take on a political dimension. Owen Matthews looks at this in the magazine, considering how Putin could take advantage of Russia’s month on the global stage. He joined the pod from Moscow along with our sports columnist, Roger Alton. As Owen writes:

“The 2018 football World Cup doesn’t offer quite the same degree of validation as an Olympic Games. But for Vladimir Putin, it’s still a major opportunity to demonstrate not only Russia’s new-found greatness but also its continued membership of the civilised world. For what Putin yearns for, above all, is respect, a place at the table of great nations, and recognition from the world that Russia is no longer a poor, dysfunctional collapsed empire but once again a superpower.”

The number of people treated for PTSD has risen sharply in recent in recent years, but there are still complex issues around caring for the condition. In her column this week, Mary Wakefield asks whether therapy is really always the answer. She joined the podcast. As she writes:

“Women can be shell-shocked by life. It’s surprising — and it’s not. All sorts of recent studies show that giving birth, even to a healthy baby, can be traumatising. Most new mothers wobble like light aircraft in turbulence, then stabilise and carry on. A number nosedive. More than 8 per cent of mothers in America and in Canada develop PTSD after childbirth. Then on top of the ordinary grind there’s life’s sucker punches: losing a child; losing a spouse; miscarriage; abortion (much though we celebrate it); serious accidents; sexual abuse.”



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