On Optimism and Despair

A talk given in Berlin on November 10th, two days after the American presidential election:

'Sometimes it is put far more explicitly, like so: “You were such a champion of ‘multiculturalism.’ Can you admit now that it has failed?” When I hear these questions I am reminded that to have grown up in a homogeneous culture in a corner of rural England, say, or France, or Poland, during the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s, is to think of oneself as having been simply alive in the world, untroubled by history, whereas to have been raised in London during the same period, with, say, Pakistani Muslims in the house next door, Indian Hindus downstairs, and Latvian Jews across the street, is thought of, by others, as evidence of a specific historical social experiment, now discredited.'

Popular This Week

The most read and shared articles from across the web

Carl Zimmer, a columnist for the New York Times and a national correspondent at STAT, writes about science.

“[Criticism] doesn’t change the truth. You know? Global warming is still happening. Vaccines still work. Evolution is still true. No matter what someone on Twitter or someone in an administration is going to say, it’s still true. So, we science writers have to still be letting people know about what science has discovered, what we with our minds have discovered about the world—to the best of our abilities. That’s our duty as science writers, and we can’t let these things scare us off.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week's episode.

Russia’s Role In This Year’s Presidential Election, Explained By A Media Historian

A conversation with Vasily Gotov:

"Russia undoubtedly celebrated the reports in American media about its activities. They want to instill doubt. They want to be part of the agenda. They want to penetrate our media culture. Russian penetration is dramatically overstated in American media, but that only serves them better. It creates the impression that they're more powerful than they are. That discussions like this are necessary at all is a tremendous win for Russia."

Thirty Years in Captivity

Rosie grew up in a succession of decrepit houses in South London with one man and a rotating cast of women, who claimed that they had found her on the streets as an infant. The man, Aravindan Balakrishnan—Comrade Bala, as he wanted to be called—was the head of the household. He instructed the women to deny Rosie’s existence to outsiders, and forbade them from comforting her when she cried.

Inside The Dark, Dangerous World of Chemsex

Throughout 2015 and 2016, amid a series of conversations I had socially with gay and bisexual men about chemsex, new, darker elements to this scene began to emerge; details from unconnected participants that mirrored each other – the same incidents, the same crimes, sometimes even the same culprits. Together they formed a picture: that beneath the surface reports about chemsex – the endless hedonism, the irresistibly intense sex – there is a much blacker sea, unmapped.