Poland, Espionage, Tom Wolfe, China, Statistics

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

A Land Without Strangers

Ben Mauk | Granta | 19th January 2017

Letter from Poland, “one of the most homogenous countries on earth”, where 97% of the population are ethnic Poles and 90% are Catholic. “Attitudes toward people of colour are especially dim. A 2013 survey found that 69 per cent of Poles do not want non-white people living in Poland.” The liberalising effect of Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004 went into reverse last year when Poles elected a far-right government “committed to an explicitly xenophobic platform” (7,030 words)

By Now, There Was No Way Back

Gavin Jacobson | New Statesman | 19th January 2017

The strange and gripping tale of Bogdan Stashinsky, the KGB agent who defected in 1961 and confessed to assassinating Ukranian nationalist leaders Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera, inspiring Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, The Man With The Golden Gun. “The CIA has never been sure about Stashinsky’s motives. Was he telling the truth when he confessed to being the assassin, or was he, as some claim, a loyal agent, sent to spread disinformation and protect the true killer? (1,060 words)

Reflections On Language

E.J. Spode | 3AM | 1st October 2016

Glorious demolition of Tom Wolfe’s book, The Kingdom Of Speech, which was Wolfe’s attempt to demolish the reputations of Chomsky and Darwin. “It is a literary Sharknado of error and self-satisfaction. It careens between being hilariously bad and tragically bad. It is irredeemable. If a fact checker removed all the howlers, there would be nothing left. Wolfe’s goal was to smash one or two of our intellectual icons, and an icon did end up smashed to pieces. Wolfe is that icon” (8,500 words)

Do We Want To Live In China’s World?

Robert Daly | ChinaFile | 19th January 2017

China is “destined to become the world’s largest market for most products and commodities, the top issuer of everything from Ph.D.s and patents to greenhouse gases, and a leading shaper of global norms and institutions”. While America “offers developing nations sermons on democracy”, China “builds their airports, harbors, and highways”. China’s power is a fact. America’s job is to influence how China uses that power — which requires constructive engagement with China and its allies (2,400 words)

How Statistics Lost Their Power

Will Davies | Guardian | 19th January 2017

National statistics are meant to be facts on which everybody can agree. But “antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right”. Polls show that most Trump voters distrust economic data published by the US government, and that most Britons believe their government is understating immigration. Statistics stoke controversy instead of resolving it. “People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence” (5,100 words)

Video of the day: Vicious Cycle

What to expect:

Parable. Machines force robots to work faster and faster, until the robots break down (3’21”)

Thought for the day

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious
Alfred North Whitehead

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