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Best of the rest: Martin Amis’s ‘England’, Erdogan's Twitter ban, and a helluva weekend for Premier League football


By Simon O'Hagan, Editor of Independent Voices

What is this TV programme actually about, my Twitter timeline kept asking on Sunday night. No, people weren’t referring to Match of the Day 2, whose simple joys remain unalloyed. The programme that got people going was Martin Amis’s England on BBC4, and there’s a lot to enjoy in the reviews this morning. “It’s very hard to know which was worse – Martin Amis’s fiasco of clichés or director Mark Kidel’s lame montage of stereotypical images,” wrote Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian. The Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Howse was a bit kinder, welcoming “an hour given over to articulate essay on a real entity”: Meanwhile, on the excellent theartsdesk.com, Kidel himself explains how the programme came about (it was a French production) and what he was trying to achieve.

On our own site Ozan Ozavci is massively authoritative on the repressive tendencies of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and in the Financial Times, Alev Scott warms to the theme with a piece in which he likens what’s happening with Erdogan’s doomed Twitter ban to “a grandfather taking on his grandson at a computer game – an inevitably pathetic battle”.

There’s another ban that is exercising people this morning – the ban on books from UK prisons introduced by the increasingly intemperate Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. There’s a really good piece about this on politics.co.uk by Frances Crook in which she says that, of various new rules that Grayling has introduced, “book banning is in some ways the most despicable and nastiest element”.

It was a helluva weekend of Premier League football, with some amazing goals, Arsene Wenger’s 1000-game humiliation, and, in that same Chelsea-Arsenal match, a bizarre case of mistaken identity when the referee sent off the wrong player for a handball. That incident has prompted one of the best pieces I’ve read arguing for the use of video technology to help referees avoid making such mistakes: “Some will argue that video technology undermines the referee’s authority,” writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. “No it doesn’t. It stops him making a fool of himself.”

Monday means the latest edition of The New Yorker, and when Malcolm “Tipping Point” Gladwell has a piece in it, the sense of occasion is heightened further. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing but Gladwell’s latest dispatch - a re-examination of the Waco siege of 1993 and the perils of negotiating with ardent believers – looks like a must-read.

Five other things I like this morning:

A typically provocative Dominic Lawson in the Mail on how the top of the Labour party is just as privileged as the Tory leadership.

In the FT the always consoling Lucy Kellaway with a defence of wage-slave sycophants.

This piece, by Anne Fulwood in the Sydney Morning Herald, about the joys of Sydney’s public transport system (someone should do the same for London).

This New York Times obituary of actor James Rebhorn (he played Carrie Mathison’s father in Homeland), just for the quote at the end of it.

This properly important Vice piece on ‘the corporate PR industry’s sneaky war on internet activism’.


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