Why ‘fake news’ is such a problematic term – and what we can do about it

There’s been a growing call for people to stop using the term ‘fake news’ and replace it with something more suitable. While the rationale for this makes perfect sense, in practical terms things aren’t quite so simple. So what can we do to prevent the term itself doing as much damage as the phenomenon it […]

Political fashion statements, or Re-evaluating the postmodern critique on language in the era of Trump

I started reading Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth while I was still reading Laurent Binet’s The 7th Function of Language. The first of these is an elegant critique of Trump’s assault on truth, which tracks the development of a sort of nihilistic epistemology through the literature of the past seventy odd years. The second […]

Political blowjobs, or The power of expletive-filled personalised number plates

Blowjobs have played an occasional but important part in political history. The most notable recent example, of course, involved Bill Clinton. It was his equivocation over the nature of his relations with Monica Lewinsky that led to him being impeached on perjury charges. A century before Clinton, another president had an even more decisive oral […]

The stubborn persistence of ‘fake news’, or Why we’re stuck with the term for the time being

One of the notable recommendations from parliament’s investigation into ‘fake news’ was that the term itself should be retired. ‘“Fake news” is bandied around with no clear idea of what it means, or agreed definition’, they write, and so is no longer fit for purpose. Of course, it’s not the only word currently dominating political […]

Politics and the power of storytelling, or How strong narratives help win elections

It’s become a mantra of our time that winning elections is about emotion not rational argument. That feelings, in today’s politics, trump facts. But how do you go about harnessing emotion? How do you convert it into electoral success? One of the most powerful tools for playing on people’s emotions is storytelling – and this […]

The meaninglessness of meaning, or Brexit as a metaphor

Yesterday afternoon during Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May was asked by one of her own MPs if she could ‘inform the House at what time it was decided that Brexit means Remain?’ The question capped a week of chaotic wrangling within the government about how this single, seemingly straight-forward word should be defined, and who […]

Sentimental education, or The serious study of swearing [video]

We made a film about swearing. About cursing, profanity and obscene language. About why we do it and what it can tell us about the culture in which we live. It was made in collaboration with the creatively vulgar people at Tilt, the charmingly foul-mouthed Adam Woollard and Theo Marlow, and expletive-filled insight from Emma Byrne, Jean-Marc […]