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LONDON — Welcome to a weekly insider’s view of life in London, a city which is home to hundreds of thousands of South Africans and occasional host to many more. Simon Lincoln Reader has lived in the city for a few years and in between catching the tube, dating his wife and directing an innovative fintech company, he finds time to keep a diary. Which he generously shares with us. Every Friday. – Alec Hogg
London Diary – Simon Lincoln Reader
On our way to the UK premiere of A Private War in Leicester Square, we hit the nerve centre of the People’s Vote march – 670,000 (apparently) people protesting the result of Britain’s democratic referendum of 2016. ‘Brexit is racist!’ reads one passing banner. Some distance away I see self-appointed, self-styled ‘EU Super Girl’ Madeleine Kay being interviewed alongside her bored-looking white dog. She calls it a wolf.
If there’s a competition between the two groups – leave and remain – as to which is the strangest, this lot wins, no contest. Its the clothes, the unhinged intransigence and the batshit-crazy eyes – the knitting (some featuring wind turbines), the teenage boys sporting dresses and nasal septum rings (‘oh Roland darling, you do make a delightfully effete little bull’), the blue and green hair, the octogenarian men wearing earrings, the cats on leads and the dogs called wolves.
Protest by all means. Scream, dance, stamp feet, accuse, demand, insult – and, if they must, inconvenience. But is it really necessary to be so weird
Nick Clegg is off to Silicon Valley. The former deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats was furious about Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and wrote a book about stopping the withdrawal process. Its no secret that the cabbies outside the Houses of Parliament loathed Clegg: one even described him on record as the most unpleasant passenger he’d ever driven. Clegg will now be an executive at Facebook, the same Facebook that he once complained shirked its tax bill – the same Facebook that the Guardian and Observer, media institutions strongly allied to his remain views – identified as being the primary source of propaganda that misled the loopy or the rural thick into voting to leave. Joy!
A reflection of journalism in two parts over the weekend. A Private War documents the life of war correspondent Marie Colvin, and Chris Vick’s analysis of the Sunday Times’ shambolic clusterf***. Few will doubt that Colvin – killed in Syria at the siege of Homs in 2012 – was brave, brilliant and damaged. Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika, formerly of the Sunday Times, were just the latter.
Both Hofstatter and wa Afrika join disgraced UK journalist Johann Hari in returning writing prizes. Hari’s crime was to plagiarise large tracts of other’s work. He was also found to have edited the Wikipedia pages of those critical of him. Hari returned the Orwell Prize, bestowed unto him in 2009, but this wasn’t taken seriously as some feel this prize is occasionally (i.e 2018) awarded to the kind of individual the great man himself would be appalled by.
The impact of Hari’s wrongdoing was superficial; Hofstatter, wa Afrika and their accomplice’s behaviour was tantamount to a breach of national security.
Teen Vogue has also been having a shocker since it decided to come on over all social justice warrior-like. Someone, somewhere thought it wise to direct this youth magazine, inextricably linked to luxury goods i.e peak capitalism, toward today’s curious modern left, where recent articles have been been composed by anti-capitalist campaigners arguing that you can’t end poverty without ending capitalism. You would expect its parent, Vogue, to discipline the wayward delinquent, but clearly nobody there appreciates that capitalism has proved the only means we’ve ever known to extract people from the grip of destitution.
The theory of the parent being just as recalcitrant as the child makes sense when you note that Vogue once featured a glowing review of none other than Asma Al-Assad in 2010, just as her husband was busy preparing to do all those nice things to his people that his old man Hafez had taught him to do. Despite issuing a set of mealy-mouthed excuses, the editors soon buckled – and now no trace of the profile exists, save for the outrage that hounded it. Maybe though, it’s the fashion industry that’s plummeting obliviously toward some state of irreversible delusion: last year the fashion director of The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman, suggested that the industry had earned itself a seat at the political table. Appreciate the conviction, but to discuss exactly what Vanessa? Animal welfare? Child slavery? Labour exploitation? Erm…
- Simon Reader lives in London.
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