Denial review

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In an era of fake news and “alternative facts”, Denial couldn’t have come at a better time. The film elucidates on the notorious 2000 libel case of Irving vs Penguin Books Ltd, which made huge headlines, and had huge implications for the way in which history – and reality – would furthermore be dealt with.

In 1996, the – now disgraced – historian David Irving (Timothy Spall) had been spinning a perverse and twisted version of the Holocaust for some time, denying its most significant facts. None of his musings had gone unnoticed by Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), an American professor of Holocaust studies – who criticised Irving in her book Denying the Holocaust.

The film begins at a promising pace, throwing the audience into the sharp set of events that followed Lipstadt’s book being published: Irving’s ambush at one of her lectures, and subsequent intentions to sue her in the UK, where burden of proof rests upon the accused. Lipstadt’s friends counsel that she should drop the case, but she recognises that she must fight instead. Something greater than her name is on trial; the facts of the Holocaust.

Denial is based around a very interesting case, and yet is not a very interesting film. It is such a sensitive and complicated subject matter that directors were perhaps too polite in their interpretation, and too committed to preserving – ironically – the truth, albeit around the trial.

The events of 2000 would have been much better explained in documentary form, not least because Lipstadt is far more engaging as herself, though Weisz’s performance is good indeed. I’m just not sure Lipstadt works as a film character. Her qualities of earnestness and intelligence do not make for gripping viewing, and Denial could have done with more emotional drama at its centre.

All of the acting in the film is united by its accuracy, from Spall’s ability to capture the arrogance of Irving, to Andrew Scott’s interpretation of Anthony Julius, the legal heavyweight. Central to the piece is Tom Wilkinson, who plays barrister Richard Rampton, with ease. In one scene he and Lipstadt travel to Auschwitz death camp to hunt for trial evidence. Lipstadt finds him insensitive in his pursuit of scientific material, though later understands its weight in the courtroom. Ultimately he serves to highlight the difficulties between staying objective, even on the worst cases.

In general, Denial offers a great insight into trial complexities – and how much of a fine art being a lawyer really is. It also demonstrates the importance of text and linguistic ability; which helped Irving become a revered historian, though ultimately destroyed him.

Denial has absolutely come at the right time – in an era where fake news has clouded our ability to find the truth. Had the film been developed in the last few months, it might have have expanded thematically – as a reiteration of the importance of fact over fiction. For now, it provides an essential impetus for the conversations we must have this year.

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Climate change denial is everywhere; not just in The White House

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Climate change, I’ll confess, is one of my least favourite topics of conversation. I suspect I am not alone in my disinterest; in fact, I know this to be the case. Because, until Donald Trump was elected president, absolutely none of my friends wanted to discuss it either.

But things have changed. At dinner parties, it’s now acceptable to bring up greenhouse emissions over a glass of chardonnay. Welcome even. Everyone has something to say on the subject, most of whom are terrified about Donald Trump and his relentless scepticism over whether climate change happening at all.

Among his views on the subject, he is perhaps most infamous for scrutinising the Paris Agreement – as well as the consensus among the science community that climate change is happening. In the UK and US, protesters have been out in droves to show their contempt for such thinking.

Still, I find the public outrage over Trump slightly extraordinary, and hypocritical, given that up until the US elections, we were all just as guilty of climate change denial as him, albeit less noticeably.

Some of this denialism is ongoing. For me, Monday morning is the biggest evidence of this, when I see how many of my neighbours have failed to put recyclables into the appropriate bags for bin collection. It sounds trivial, but recycling matters; just one tin can provides enough energy to power a television for three hours.

Still, at a time when people purport to care about making the planet healthier, up to 60 percent of rubbish found in dustbins could be recycled, and isn’t.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to criticise Trump over his policies (or lack of them, in regards to climate change). There’s an enormous range of evidence – from shrinking ice sheets to rising sea levels to 2016 being the hottest year on record – to suggest than mankind is, indeed, burning down the house. And we do need a huge authority to significantly alter the course of history.

It’s just that there are all sorts of other eco-friendly activities we could, but currently do not, engage in to show our concern for the environment, whether it’s using more energy efficient lightbulbs, or walking to work.

One of the best ways in which to fight climate change is to go vegetarian. Not that anyone fancies that option. Experts estimate giving up meat could reduce global food-related emissions by nearly a third in 2050. The bitter reality is that this dietary change would be far more effective than any protest against Trump.

The strange thing about the president is that he has done what no political leader has done before. He has given the green movement a huge lease of life. Of course, this was not his intention, but so fierce is his denial of climate change that the sleeping world has been forced to react. In 2017, environmentalism has become all the rage.

I just wonder how many protesters also see the value in the small, slightly burdensome activities that can reduce climate change, as well as than the grand gesture of a demonstration. Protests are important, but only if they are backed by actions as well.

For too long we have been as lazy as Trump in our efforts to curb climate change; we, in fact, have been complicit in its denial.

The Metro’s masturbation problem

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In the last month, I have counted not one, not two, but FOUR articles by The Metro about masturbation, prompting me to worry about its writers. Are they ok? Because, as far as I’m aware, masturbation isn’t in need of obsessive journalistic attention. For one, it’s not all that interesting.

But don’t just take it from me. Read “We tried masturbating at work for a week”, an investigation by one of its freelance reporters, carried out at a number of “poncy London offices”, as it’s put. Lucky employers.

Who knows how believable the investigation was, as the whole set up seems rather improbable.

What plagues me more than plausibility, though, is the ability to report on masturbating in people’s workplaces. It’s gross. Particularly for employees of the offices involved. The “stately Art Deco newspaper office in Kensington”, perhaps, or “the West End headquarters of a popular arts and culture publication”.

Still, across the Twittersphere, the article was passed around merrily by users, who thought it highly amusing. “I wept laughing”, wrote one commentator. Another said “This may be the greatest piece of journalism in our lifetime.”

This lack of condemnation is really rather startling, as a few weeks ago there was a huge outcry over men watching porn in public. BBC Woman’s Hour debated the issue after of its producers saw one engaging in the practice on transport. Everyone, including myself, seemed to reach an agreement that it’s unacceptable; even  “harassment”.

So why is it ok to boast about masturbating at work?

Clearly it does happen. According to – yet again – The Metro, 38 percent of people enjoy such an endeavour. But what stops this, and porn, from being a harassment is the privacy of both. Neither of these activities should be turned into something that can make others feel encroached.

I can’t help but suspect that The Metro writer had an easier time of it by virtue of being female, compared to the public porn watchers, largely identified as men. Though both seem to like marking their territory on landmarks across London.

Frankly, I don’t want to know about either. Not in conversation, transport, and certainly not in my morning news.

Now that Tristy’s gone, where am I to get my political eye candy?

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Tristram Hunt is gone, and I’m sad. Not that I ever enjoyed his musings as a Labour MP. Indeed, every time I used to watch him on Question Time my mind would start wandering off, focussing on something far more important; his flowing locks, schoolboy charm and fabulous suits. He made me feel like a young girl watching Justin Bieber, only I had fallen for a something worse. An MP.

Hunt was a rare breed in parliament, where the hotties never last long. Over the last years we’ve lost many a looker – Zac Goldsmith and – yes – David Miliband to name two. Even Chuka Umunna if you count his Labour Leadership withdrawal in 2015.

You’d think they’d all disbanded to go onto greater things; Hollywood, perhaps. But it’s always a rather underwhelming excuse. Hunt no longer wants to run the UK, but the Victoria and Albert Museum. Miliband now works for an NGO, leaving my heart a broken mess.

Don’t they know how hard is is, now that I have no political eye candy? I know it’s a serious business, this politics stuff, but I am a very shallow creature. And believe that, in every bit of life, one does need a little aesthetic stimulation. Especially in areas of the public domain.

But no one will say the truth; that the Houses of Parliament needs some more dazzling men. And I say men because the women are quite a vibrant lot, and too underrepresented to enter such an analysis. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this underrepresentation is partially caused by the lack of hotties. Aestheticism draws people into all sorts of things in life, even professions. People like to be where equivalent members of the opposite sex, whether that’s nightclubs, or salsa clubs. They mirror each other in all sorts of settings.

But in politics, every element, from the Houses of Parliament to Jeremy Corbyn’s clothing projects archaism. Its inhabitants are too linear in characteristics; the average age of an MP at the last General Election was 50. Which, I have nothing against – Philip Hammond is a total babe – it’s just that it would be nice to mix things up.

Tristy, Zac and the studs weren’t just eye candy. They provided a magnetism that the political sphere hasn’t had for yonks. Who knows; it was possibly their national duty to stay put, and attract more women into the field. So that the idea of being an MP would become more House of Cards, not House of Bowls.

Theresa May is someone who understands the importance aesthetic plays in politics; her indulgence in fashion may even be a sly tactic to entice more women into the area. The leopard print shoes may be a green flag to say, “go on, roar with me!” Indeed, she confessed that a woman had once said of her exciting footwear collection: “Your shoes got me into politics”.

She knows, even if Hunt never truly realised, that looks have enormous significance – he should have used his.

Trump doesn’t want America great again, but silent

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One of the most deceptive tactics of Donald Trump during his quest to become US president was his use of simple, practical language to capture audiences. He is not alone in this respect; Nigel Farage deploys a similar sort of discourse, that can be deeply compelling to voters.

Indeed, hardly any Republicans seemed upset last year when tapes emerged, showing that Trump had once boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy”. I suspect some of them might have liked this revelation, taking his Chaucerian statement as evidence of a testosterone-loaded president, rather than buffoon.

Sharp, forceful language is very much of the political zeitgeist at the moment, and Trump and Farage have reaped the benefits. It becomes most effective in times when voters are scared, as many are at the moment, with the continued threat of ISIS. People look for a language that mirrors the harshness of the world; they hear Trump and like the violence in his voice. The softer musings of Clinton and Obama don’t hit the spot.

But with all his bold talk, Trump lured the public into a false sense of security. Trump voters falsely assumed that having a president who abhors political correctness would mean that they could talk more openly. Though, in fact, Trump has proven himself to be an enemy of free speech, as shown yesterday at his first post-election press conference. There, he displayed the sort of behaviour you might expect from Kim Jong-un, not leader of the Free World, denying facts and silencing dissenters.

So distressed are many by what they’ve seen that journalists from the Left, and Right, are suddenly united; terrified of the tongue tyrant unleashed on the world.

Trump’s performance yesterday indicated that he, himself, is now going to shape the narrative of America, filtering the truth so as to suit him. According to the President Elect, media outlets are liars; so is his intelligence team, which he treats with the same contempt. He will not dare acknowledge their high confidence reports that Russia interfered with the US election. Trump does not hate fake news, he just wants to author it.

It’s not just the President Elect who’s the problem. His advisor Kellyanne Conway has delivered some utterly bizarre excuses for his recent behaviour, asking members of the public to judge him with his “heart” and not his mouth. I wonder what we’ll hear next: Donald Trump is magical; Donald Trump invented the hamburger, or Donald Trump had a supernatural birth. It is not difficult to imagine these lies the North Korean regime told about Kim Jong-Il repurposed from Trump, given yesterday’s performance – that of a fantasist.

In the most shocking part of the conference, Trump shut down CNN reporter Jim Acosta, accusing him of spreading “fake news”, as if shouting out “witch!”. Acosta was bold, and brave, and determined to press the President Elect with his questions. But it was no use. Trump had the louder microphone.

Later on he blocked another member of the CNN team, and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage” that would suffer the consequences of publishing the Russia story. Clearly it is nonsense, but why does Trump deserve the truth when he will not uphold it himself?

What we are learning – the hard, worst way – is that Trump is a censor, and can only give – not take, in linguistic terms. His Twitter account is littered with attacks on artists who have dared to criticise him or his politics; Hamilton and SNL being just two of his recent victims. It is a slippery slope; actors become fearful about being singled out, the press follows, and no one wants to call Trump into question.

In fact, even as someone who finds pontificating celebrities deeply unhelpful, I think Meryl Streep did us all a favour when she attacked Trump at the Golden Globes a few days ago. It’s important that everyone stays vocal.

Trump was meant to be divisive, but actually brought people together everyone in their concerns for future society. In recent years, the freedom of speech issue has been widely pedalled by right-leaning journalists, but those on the left will be equally frightened by the attack on Acosta yesterday. One Twitter user even suggested that other attendees should have protested in solidarity with the CNN reporter. I hope this is what we will all do when this – inevitably – happens in the future. A censorship for one of us paves the way for the censorship of us all.