Jihadi John, Insurrectionists, Toast, Civil War, Stan Laurel, Banking


Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Finding Jihadi John

Souad Mekhennet | Longreads | 16th August 2017

German journalist explains how she uncovered the true identity of Jihadi John, Islamic State’s hooded sadist, with the help of burner phones, deep throats, much travelling, and inspired guesses. The breakthrough came in the form of a text message from a source inside Islamic State confirming John’s name and home-country: “Go to London, Emwazi had tried to solve his problems with help of a group, ask CAGE. Delete this message and throw away this SIM now. Wa’alaikum as’ salam” (2,700 words)

Efficacy And The New Civics

Ethan Zuckerman | My Heart's In Accra | 18th August 2017

The new political divide is between institutionalists and insurrectionists. The old divide is between left and right. Overlay the two and you can see Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan as institutionalists of the left and right; Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as insurrectionists. “Understanding that successful revolutions beget institutions is helpful for understanding insurrectionism as a political pole. Some insurrectionists will win their battles and find themselves defending the institutions they build”

A Bit More Toaster

Ian Bogost | Atlantic | 20th July 2017

In praise of the “Bit More” button on Breville toasters, and its inventor, Keith Hensel. “The button is nothing short of brilliant. It highlights an obvious but still unseen problem with electric toasters, devices that have been around for more than a century. Your bread comes up too light, so you put it back down, then get distracted and forget, and it goes through a full cycle and burns. Keith thought: Why can’t the consumer have more control? Why can’t they have a bit more?” (2,070 words)

Southern Comfort

James McPherson | New York Review Of Books | 12th April 2001

The Civil War was about slavery. The argument that it was about the constitutional rights of the states is, almost literally, whitewash. “Since the 1950s most professional historians have come to agree with Lincoln’s assertion that slavery ‘was, somehow, the cause of the war’. Outside universities, however, Lost Cause denial is still popular, especially among Southern heritage groups that insist the Confederate flag stands not for slavery but for a legacy of courage and honour in defence of principle” (2,100 words)

The Love Affairs Of Stan Laurel

John Connelly | New Statesman | 18th August 2017

Stan Laurel was a complicated man, and “complicated men lead complicated lives”. In Laurel’s case the complications were mostly romantic. His Laurel-and-Hardy persona masked his looks and charm. “Women fell for him, and fell hard. He amassed more ex-wives than is wise for any gentleman. In 1946, he was forced to reveal in open court that alimony and child support payments left him with just $200 at the end of every month, and he had only $2,000 in his bank account” (2,100 words)

Hold The Most Powerful To Account

Guy Rolnik | Pro-Market | 8th August 2017

Interview with Eliot Spitzer about financial regulation, regulatory capture and anti-trust. “I’m a big fan of banks that run properly. I’m a big fan of financial services. But there’s a reason that banking, throughout history, has gotten a very nice, steady, low, single-digit return, in real dollars, real inflation-adjusted numbers. That’s what it should get if it’s doing its proper job. When you’re doing a whole lot higher than that, you’re beginning to do things that aren’t smart for the economy” (2,100 words)

Video of the day: Visual Sounds Of The Amazon

What to expect:

Stunning. Animal-cries from the Amazon rendered as computer graphics. By Andy Thomas (4’27”)

Thought for the day

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure
Charles Goodhart

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