The best things I’ve read recently (30/11/16)

The ‘fears of old men’ edition

The Moral Weakness of Pope Benedict’s “Last Testament” by James Carroll (the New Yorker)

That there is something tragic in Benedict’s story does not mitigate its negative weight, but it is impossible to read “Last Testament” without feeling sorry for a man whose life has been so branded by fear. Of course, entering manhood when and where he did, he came by fear naturally, but he never shook it. He was not afraid for himself, perhaps—he seems a man of personal courage—but he was terrified for the institution he served and over which he came to preside. It was this fear that, across decades, sparked the peculiar ruthlessness of his ecclesiastical boundary protection. When, as Pope, Benedict presided over the great Eucharistic celebrations in St. Peter’s Square, he made it a point always to firmly place the sacred host on the outstretched tongues of the faithful—this despite the liturgical change of Vatican II that called for the host to be placed in the communicants’ cupped hands. When Seewald asks him why, Benedict explains that among “the many people on St. Peter’s Square” there were surely those who might, as he puts it, “pocket the Host” and take it away. For what, a papal souvenir? How far that seems from casting bread upon the waters, or from passing bread around a table at which misfits and trouble-makers are welcome, or, for that matter, from prizing the bread, as the Mass does, for its having been broken.

Donald Trump is now questioning the legitimacy of the election he won by Ezra Klein (Vox)

I’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter seem to think Trump’s tweet is scary because it’s false, but the actually scary interpretation is that he believes it’s true, which he probably does. It seems likely that Trump got his “information” from conspiracy theorist site Infowars.com, or someone else retweeting or rewriting Infowars — a lot of weird things Trump says later prove to emerged in the pro-Trump, conspiracy theory-corners of the internet. The problem with Trump isn’t the lies he tells as much as it’s the information he chooses to believe.

The right must stop explaining away the crimes of Thomas Mair by Stephen Bush (the New Statesman)

Yesterday, the Mail ran an article asking “Did Neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he’d lose council house he grew up in?” Mair, the paper claimed, suspected that the three-bedroom council house he’d lived alone in following the death of his parents “would be given to foreigners moving into his West Yorkshire town and believed the Labour MP would not help him”.

Again, the fear that the council house they grew up in will be taken away from them is not a novel one in my part of the world, and yet, at time of writing, no-one I went to school with has assassinated an MP. It’s worth noting, too, that the Mail’s pages have not exactly oozed sympathy for people facing eviction from council houses that are now too large for them – quite the opposite, in fact.

The Mail even goes so far as to suggest that Mair’s housing woes “may offer some clue as to what was behind the obsessive recluse’s decision to commit such an appalling crime”.  Just a small problem here: we’ve just come to the end of a two-week long trial which offered us “some clue” as to what was behind Mair’s act of terrorism.

And I don’t use words like “terrorism” or “white supremacist” lightly. Mair was tried and convicted as a terrorist, which is why the trial took place in London and not Yorkshire. During the trial, jurors heard that he perused white supremacist websites and magazines, and had an prolonged interest in “collaborators”, that is white people who defended the interests of minorities, particularly in the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

Tweet of the week (1)

Tweet of the week (2)

Video of the week

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