Hungary fines bookshop chain over picture book with LGBT families

Líra Könyv fined £600 for selling a book with ‘a family that is different than a normal family’

A bookshop chain in Hungary has been fined for selling a children’s picture book that depicts the day to day life of a child with same-sex parents, a number of the countries officials have also publicly condemned the book.

The book is a Hungarian translation of two titles by the US author Lawrence Schimel. In it we are shown a young boys morning routine with his two mothers and the night time escapades of a girl with two fathers who doesn’t want to go to bed.

According to Reuters the fine of 250,000 forints (£600) was imposed on the bookshop chain, Líra Könyv, by Pest county, the local authority for the area surrounding Budapest. According to the county commissioner, Richard Tarnai, the bookshop chain had violated the rules on unfair commercial practices by failing to disclose that the book contained what he called “content which deviates from the norm”.

“The book was there among other fairy-tale books and thus committed a violation,” Tarnai said. “There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different than a normal family.”

Advertisements

The books author took to Twitter to accuse the Hungarian government of “trying to normalise hate and prejudice with these concerted attacks against books like mine … which represent for kids the plural and diverse world they live in.” He also spoke to the Guardian to say that the idea behind his books was to “celebrate queer families, to put more queer joy into the world, so that the only books available to children weren’t about conflicts”.

“In these stories, the fact that the parents are two mums or two dads is incidental to the story, as it is to the daily lives of children in rainbow families. These families don’t only experience homophobia, they also have fun,” he said.

Líra Könyv said in a Facebook post that it will now be putting up signs in its stores to warn shoppers that it sold “books with different content than traditional ones”.

“Rainbow families are completely normal, ordinary families,” the book’s Hungarian distributor, Foundation for Rainbow Families, said in its own statement. “These families haven’t had their own story book so far. That’s why we thought it was important to publish a fairytale book about them – and first of all for them.”

Despite what happened in Hungary Schimel has said that he is “more determined to keep trying to create books like these – books that respect the intelligence of children and offer the vast, complex world to them, in fun and accessible ways”.

These books will be published in the UK this autumn in both English and Welsh.

Trump believes Hitler did a lot of good according to new book

Remark shocked Chief of Staff John Kelly according to author MIchael Bender

During a visit to Europe to mark 100 years since the end of the first world war it is reported that Donald Trump turned to his then chief of staff, John Kelly and uttered the inexplicable words; “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”

This remark is said to have stunned Kelly, a retired US Marine Corps General, and is being reported in a new book by Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal.

The book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election” is being heavily advertised ahead of its publication next week.

According to Bender the then president Trump made the remark during a quick history lesson during which Kelly had to “[remind] the president which countries were on which side during the conflict” and had to “connect the dots from the first world war to the second world war and all of Hitler’s atrocities”.

Bender is one of a number of authors who has been able to interview Trump since he lost his second election to Joe Biden.

In a statement issued in response to this allegation a Trump spokesperson said: “This is totally false. President Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.” This sounds a little familiar if truth be told.

Bender however claims that unnamed sources have reported that Kelly; “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred”, apparently the president continued to emphasize the German economic recovery that occured under Hitler during the 1930s.

“Kelly pushed back again,” Bender writes, “and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”

Bender adds that Kelly had to tell Trump that even if that economic claim was true; “you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can’t.” I feel this is just common knowledge to most people.

This international trip saw Trump run into more trouble than normal. He controversially cancelled a trip to an American cemetery and is reported to have called US soldier who died in the war “suckers” and “losers”.

Advertisements

Kelly, who lost his own son in Afghanistan in 2010, left the White House team in 2019 and has spoken critically of the former president ever since, even calling him; “the most flawed person I have ever met in my life”.

Bender reports that Kelly tried his best to educate Trump and overcome his “stunning disregard for history”.

“Senior officials described his understanding of slavery, Jim Crow, or the Black experience in general post-civil war as vague to non-existent,” he writes. “But Trump’s indifference to Black history was similar to his disregard for the history of any race, religion or creed.”

During Trump’s presidency concern over the countries far right movement grew drastically. This concern continues as even in defeat Trump maintains a tight grip over the Republican party. He continues to make positive remarks about far-right and white-supremacist groups.

1984 by George Orwell Review

This masterpiece is more relevant today then ever before

When I first read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (hence-forth referred to as 1984) I was in school, and it didn’t really hit me as anything brilliant. I found it a little dull and dreary, and the undertones didn’t mean much to me.

Now though Orwell’s dystopian vision of our future really hits home, and it scarily feels a little familiar. We live in a world where Big Brother exists and is always listening and watching, shout out to the NSA, MI6 and the CIA, also let’s not forget to say hi to your Alexa.

Orwell gave us a dark world of never ending wars, where xenophobia is the main weapon of the government, a world where refugees being shot at sea is used for movie inspirations and is cheered in cinemas across the nation. A world where the truth doesn’t truly exist, it is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but instead it’s, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”

Our books hero though see’s it all a little bit differently than he should. Early on Winston Smith promises to reject the party line and instead promises to defend “the obvious” and “the true”. As he tells himself “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” even though his party will insist that “two and two make five”.

Within this novel Orwell gives us a dark dystopia called Oceania, a place where the government controls everything, even its own reality. Propaganda is ever present within people lives, where ridiculous tabloids and sex-filled movies are made to control them and keep their interests away from politics and history.

Books and news articles are regularly and routinely rewritten so that the past becomes a blurry mess where the truth is hidden and twisted into the parties version of reality.

Advertisements

Unsurprisingly 1984 hits harder in this modern world of fake news and ‘post-truths’, a world where nationalism is on the rise and where ‘alternative facts’ are just as relevant to people than the objective truth.

This is a world not unlike Orwell’s hellish vision of 1984.

Perhaps we should all take after Winston a little more, take a look around ourselves and rebel a bit.

It is scary to see how easily our world could fall under the control of a twisted and cruel overlord, where the truth is not what we see but what we are told. A world where an ever present and omnipotent power can see and control our every waking thought and movement. A world where our very lives are in their hands.

That I think is the most frightening but power notion that Orwell presented to us in 1984. He gave a stark warning for the entirety of the human race, a warning to resist mass control and oppression, and not blindly allow it to take control.

Rating:

Rating: 10 out of 10.

What do you think of our review? Let us know by voting below…

Michael Wolff’s new book details Trump’s confusion during Capital attack

According to Wolff’s new book Trump saw only Democrats attacking the US Capitol

On the 6th of January 2021 Donald Trump told his supporters that he would march on the US Capitol with them in an attempt to overturn the election results. He promptly abandoned them after a terse exchange with his chief of staff, this is according to the first excerpt from Michael Wolff’s third Trump White House book, entitled Landslide.

The extract has been exclusively published by New York magazine.

The journalists first book on Trump, Fire and Fury, exploded onto bookshelves in January 2018 and created a new genre of scandalous political books. While his first book did very well however his sequel, Siege, did not meet expectations.

On January 6th this year, while Congress met to confirm Biden’s election win, Trump spoke to his supporters and told them: “We’re going to walk down [to the Capitol to protest] – and I’ll be there with you.”

According to the excerpt Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was approached by concerned secret service agents but said: “No. There’s no way we are going to the Capitol.”

Wolff writes that when the president was approached by Meadows he seemed unsure of what his chief of staff was talking about.

“You said you were going to march with them to the Capitol,” Meadows reportedly said. “How would we do that? We can’t organize that. We can’t.”

“I didn’t mean it literally,” Trump then replied.

The former president is also reported to have been puzzled when his supports began a riot that led to five people losing their lives.

Wolff also claims that Trump was confused and disappointed by: “who these people were with their low-rent ‘trailer camp’ bearing and their ‘get-ups’, once joking that he should have invested in a chain of tattoo parlors and shaking his head about ‘the great unwashed’.”

Advertisements

Trump and his close family would watch the attack unfold on TV at the White House.

According to Wolff the exchange between the president and his chief of staff shed’s light on how Trump abandoned his most fervent supporters.

As Wolff reports the White House quickly came to the realisation that Mike Pence had “concluded that he was not able to reject votes unilaterally or, in effect, to do anything else, beyond playing his ceremonial role, that the president might want him to do”.

Trump’s aid Jason Miller is then reported as saying, “oh shit” before turning to the president’s lawyer and election fraud cheerleader, Rudy Giuliani.

The writer reports that the former New York mayor was: “drinking heavily and in a constant state of excitation, often almost incoherent in his agitation and mania”.

Image via AP News

As the attempted insurrection escalated Trump posted a tweet attacking his vice-president and continued to ignore the numerous aids who were pleading with him to ask his supporters to stand down.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and advisor is reported to have seen the attack as nothing more than an optics issue. Wolff states that it took an hour for Trump to make the: “transition from seeing the mob as people protesting the election – defending him so he would defend them – to seeing them as ‘not our people’”.

Trump the reportedly asked Meadows: “How bad is this? This looks terrible. This is really bad. Who are these people? These aren’t our people, these idiots with these outfits. They look like Democrats.”

He then added: “We didn’t tell people to do something like this. We told people to be peaceful. I even said ‘peaceful’ and ‘patriotic’ in my speech!”

Landslide is slated for release on July 27th.

Michael Wolff will publish a third exposé of Donald Trump, covering his last days in office

Michael Wolff’s final book on Trump, Landslide, will cover his ‘tumultuous’ last months in the White House

Cover of Landslide

The American journalist Michael Wolff has announced that he will be publishing a third book about Donald Trump, this time focusing on his final days as US president. The book is set to be released in July and has the wonderfully provocative title: Landslide.

Trump lost the 202 election to his Democrat rival Joe Biden by more than 7m votes and by 306 – 232 in the electoral college, a result he himself called a landslide when it was in his favour against Hillary Clinton back in 2016.

Trump, never the one to admit defeat, has continued to spout the lie that Biden’s victory was the result of electoral fraud, a speech on this topic helped fuel the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6th of January.

Wolff published his first book on trump’s presidency in 2018, rocking the White House and Trump’s administration.

We think you’ll enjoy…

Trump attempted to block publication of the book, titled Fire and Fury, calling Wolff “a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book”. The public however ignored the president. The brilliantly explosive exposé went on to sell some 1.7m copies in just three weeks.

Wolff found himself marginalised and stripped of privileges by the White House press team, but that didn’t stop him publishing his next book, Siege, in 2019 which looked at a “presidency under fire”. The book tackled topics like Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties between Trump and Moscow. He even managed to produce another bombshell by exposing the fact that Mueller and his team had shelved an indictment against the president on three counts of obstruction of justice.

While Wolff said that he has obtained documents relating to this revelation from “sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel”. The special counsel itself rejected his claim, saying: “The documents that you’ve described do not exist.”

Advertisements

Due to this controversy, and a number of competiting Trump focused books, Siege did not sell as well as Fire and Fury.

According to his latest books publisher Wolff managed to interview the former president for an inside looks at what have been described as Trump’s “tumultuous last months at the helm of the country”.

Trump himself recently claimed to be writing “the book of all books” and according to the former president he has already “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, adding: “I do not want a deal right now. I’m writing like crazy anyway, however.”

After major figures in the publishing world said they would not touch a Trump memoir he insisted “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected”.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future,” he said. “… If my book will be the biggest of them all … does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money?”

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, has himself landed a seven-figure two book deal with Simon & Schuster, despite a staff rebellion at the publishing house.

Jared Kushner, the former presidents son in law, has already bagged himself a publishing contract with his book slated for release sometime in 2022, the details of this deal are not known.

Clearly there is still an insatiable appetite for books about the divisive Trump administration.

Trump says he’s writing ‘book of all books’ but it’s unlikely to find a big publisher

Figures at major publishing houses say it would be ‘too hard to get a book that was factually accurate’

Donald Trump has revealed he is writing “the book of all books”, this despite major figures within the US publishing industry saying it was unlikely that any big publishing house would touch the memoir of the 45th president as it may cause a “a staff uprising”, and that it would be difficult “to get a book that was factually accurate”.

To be fair that fear is not without merit. When Trump exited the White House for the final time in January the Washington Post reported that he had made 30,573 false or misleading claims while President.

It is common practice for former presidents to write their own memoirs when they leave office, Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” was a roaring success. Trump’s announcement therefore is not unexpected.

Advertisements

In a statement last week the 75 year old former president said he had already “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, which he of course did not name. “I do not want a deal right now,” he said. “I’m writing like crazy anyway, however, and when the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books.”

The New York Times recently reported that a two-book deal Mike Pence landed with Simon & Schuster was “grating” on Trump, this was denied by a Trump spokesman. The Pence deal however caused problems for the publishing company, with many of its staff saying the company should not promote bigotry. Other rightwingers have run into publishing problems since the attempted coup on the 6th of January.

Simon & Schuster itself dropped a planned book on antitrust written by the Missouri senator Josh Hawley, a man who encouraged the rioters and objected to the electoral college results. His book was eventually picked up by rightwing publisher Regnery and will still be distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Any Trump memoir looks likely to be published in a similar manner, outside of the mainstream. Politico has reported that senior figures at Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have said they would not touch a Trump penned memoir. “It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”

Another senior figure said he was “skeptical” about Trump’s claim to have had two offers, saying: “He’s screwed over so many publishers before he ran for president none of the big five would work with [him] any more.”

Keith Urbahn of Javelin, an agent who has represented numerous Trump books told Politico: “It doesn’t matter what the upside on a Trump book deal is, the headaches the project would bring would far outweigh the potential in the eyes of a major publisher.

“Any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a factchecking nightmare, an exodus of other authors and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president.”

Advertisements

Trump hit back by once again insisting that “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected”. Once again he wouldn’t name them.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future, as I have started writing the book,” he added. “If my book will be the biggest of them all, and with 39 books written or being written about me, does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money?

“Some of the biggest sleezebags [sic] on earth run these companies.”

Trump’s personal worth has plummeted since his first year in office, and now he faces extensive legal proceedings. The fact that memoirs written by his predecessor sold for $65m may have given him some idea on how to raise some more funds.

A Hunter Biden memoir about his drug addiction to be published

Hunter Biden will be publishing a memoir in April that explores his struggle with drugs.

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden recently announced that his memoir, titled Beautiful things, will be published in April.

The focus of the memoir will firmly be on the lawyer’s struggles with drug addiction and his path to sobriety. The title is taken from an expression he and his brother Beau would use after Beaus fatal brain cancer diagnosis, it allowed them to emphasise what was important in life.

In a brief extract published alongside the announcement, Hunter Biden writes; “I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love.”

The book is already receiving glowing praise from the likes of Stephen King.

“In his harrowing and compulsively readable memoir, Hunter Biden proves again that anybody, even the son of a United States president can take a ride on the pink horse down nightmare alley,” King writes. “Biden remembers it all and tells it all with a bravery that is both heartbreaking and quite gorgeous. He starts with a question: Where’s Hunter? The answer is he’s in this book, the good, the bad and the beautiful.”

Hunter Biden is the oldest surviving of the president, who sadly lost both his wife and one year old daughter Naomi in a 1972 car accident, and his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

Books by presidential family members are nothing new. During the Trump presidency his son Donald Trump Jr released two books, Triggered and Liberal Privilege, though the contents are somewhat different.

The memoir will be published by Simon & Schuster who have previously released book by Trump supporter Sean Hannity, and anti-Trump bestsellers such as national security adviser John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened and Too Much and Never Enough by the former president’s niece Mary Trump.

The publisher had also been planning to release a book by vocal Trump supporter and US senator Josh Hawley later this year. That book deal however was cancelled in the wake of his supporter for the attempted coup by Trump supporters on the 6th of January.

11.22.63 by Stephen King Review

If you could go back in time and change the course of human history would you do it? Even if it meant sacrificing so much of your own life in the process?

Well that’s the premise of Stephen Kings 54th fiction book, 11.22.63.

King gives us a new protagonist in the form of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls Maine, because of course he is. It doesn’t take long for King to uproot our heroes life and sent him hurting back through time to the world of 1958 small town America.

Gone are the cell phones and tablet computers, now Jake finds himself in a world filled with Elvis, Plymouth cars, a beautiful librarian called Sadie Dunhill, and of course a troubled loner called Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who slowly comes to dominate Jake’s life.

11.22.63 is Stephen King at something resembling his best. His prowess with weaving together political, social and popular culture into this version of baby-boom America is exquisite. The suspense is palpable across most of its many pages, not to mention its many trips through time.

King is best known for his out and out horror novels, and while this certainly isn’t a horror book it does have enough existential and psychological dread to keep the heart pounding and the mind racing.

The complexities and ethical dilemmas of time travel are well explored in 11.22.63, what will altering the past do to the future? What will it mean for Jake personally? Will he really be creating a better world or is that some naïve hope he must cling to to see his mission fulfilled?

We think you’ll enjoy…

You see no matter how long Jake spends in the past when he returns to his own time only two minutes will have elapsed, this allows him the chance to go back in time over and over again to the same point and keep trying to change the past and the future. If something doesn’t work out to his liking, and quite often it doesn’t, he can try again, but something, perhaps the past itself, really doesn’t like being changed. The closer Jake gets to his goal the more something out their in the universe wants him to fail.

Advertisements

While this was a good read, with many interesting questions to ponder, it does get bogged down a little during the middle section. Across many of the middle chapters the suspense and tension we had come to love waned slightly, never disappearing but certainly lessening its grip upon you. During this part King focuses on the romance between Jake and Sadie, which while interesting was certainly a good deal longer than it needed to be, about two hundred pages longer if I’m honest.

Once we get into the final third of the book though the action picks up once again and King does a good job at answering most of the questions he posed at the beginning. It’s a mostly satisfying conclusion which wasn’t quite worth the lengthy wait but rounded out the story nicely enough.

All in all this was a good read that I’d recommend for fans of King or time travel stories in general. Just be warned it is a long slog and the ending isn’t quite worth the time invested. King is great at creating his characters, and Jake is no exception, he’s a down on his luck teacher striving to find purpose in the mess that his life has become, he’s no larger than life hero, he’s simply a man doing what he believes is right. But not amount of interesting characters will improve the poor pacing on offer here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

11.22.63 is available from Amazon.

French book I Hate Men sees sales boom after government minister calls for ban

A French government official’s futile attempt to ban an essay entitled I Hate Men because of its “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender” have since  backfired and has sent sales of the feminist pamphlet into the stratosphere.

Pauline Harmange’s Moi les hommes, je les déteste is an essay that explores whether women “have good reason to hate men”, and whether “anger towards men is actually a joyful and emancipatory path, if it is allowed to be expressed”.

The small French publisher, Monstrograph, called it a “feminist and iconoclastic book” that “defends misandry as a way of making room for sisterhood”.

Ralph Zurmély is a special adviser to France’s ministry for gender equality and he called it an “ode to misandry”. Zurmély emailed Monstrograph and called the work “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender is a criminal offence”, and asked the publisher to pull the book from publication “on pain of criminal prosecution”.

The ministry subsequently distanced themselves from the remarks and said that the threat of prosecution was “a personal initiative and completely independent of the ministry”, yet Zurmély went on to say that if Monstrograph continued to sell the book, the publisher would be “directly complicit in the offence and I would then be obliged to send it to the prosecution for legal proceedings”.

Monstrograph stressed to French media that the book was not an incitement to hatred. “The title is provocative but the purpose measured. It is an invitation not to force oneself to associate with men or to deal with them. At no time does the author incite violence,” said its editor.

Harmange is a 25-year-old activist from Lille and said that the book is simply an invitation to women “to imagine a new way of being, to take less account of the often unsupported opinions of men, to consider the adage ‘it is better to be alone than in bad company’ seriously, and to rediscover the strength of female relationships full of reciprocity, gentleness and strength”.

She went on to criticise Zurmély’s response to her work. “A state official who has a power crisis facing an 80-page book released in 400 copies, I find that very problematic,” she said.

It is interesting to note that Monstrograph set out to initially set out to print just 400 copies when the essay was first published in August but after these attacks almost 2500 copies have sold and now a major publisher is set to take over the title.

Harmange wrote on her blog that her head was “spinning” at the response to her work. “As a gigantic snub to this man who wanted to ban my words, this book which should have been printed only at 500, maybe 700 copies max, has been ordered more than 2,000 times … We have withdrawn the book from sale, not because we are afraid but because we can no longer keep pace [with demand]. (And not forever, I promise),” she wrote. “In all of this, I admit, there is still a little voice that gives me hope that all of you who have bought my book – just as one gives a middle finger to a cop – will find it interesting in spite of everything.”

How do the pigs maintain their authority on Animal Farm?

An exploration of the methods used to assert control by the pigs in George Orwell’s political allegory, Animal Farm.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm explores the Machiavellian way in which politicians are able to abuse their power to dissolve a democracy and create a totalitarian regime in its place.

But just how are the pigs able to maintain their power?

From the outset of the rebellion it was violence, or at least the threat of it, that the pigs used to further their own agenda. However, while the attack dogs keep the other animals obedient this physical intimidation doesn’t prevent silent dissent, or the whispered questions about Napoleon’s actions and motives.

To neutralise this threat to his and the other pigs power Napoleon relies on something more subtle than violence. He uses rousing slogans, phrases, and songs to instil a sense of patriotism and camaraderie amongst the animals.

On Animal Farm it is language and rhetoric that are the most effective tools at the pigs disposal for social control.

Crucially the pigs realise that the songs and slogans must be simple to memorise and easy to repeat so the other animals are able to internalise their principles.

When written commandments prove difficult for some of the animals the pigs transform them into one brief catchphrase that they repeat everywhere: “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

You might also be interested in our review of Animal Farm

This slogan inspires loyalty and commitment towards the pigs, and fear against the humans. This blind commitment and loyalty to the pigs is most strongly emphasised in Boxer, the cart-horse. Boxer constantly reaffirms his loyalty with the slogans “Napoleon is always right,” and “I will work harder.”

These slogans become increasingly effective to the point that they are used by the animals as a means of self-policing. During a protest against Napoleons decision to sell farm products to humans it is not the “tremendous growling from the dogs,” that calms the angry voices, what breaks the tension is when the sheep begin to recite the mantra “Four legs good, two legs bad!”

During this key scene Orwell explicitly contrasts the strength of brute force with the power of language, demonstrating that while violence may work in the short term, it is only language that can create lasting affects.

The importance of language within the pigs regime is shown with the powerful role given to Squealer, the spokespig of the authorities, and the presence of Minimus, the government poet pig.

Alongside the songs, poems, and commandments, Napoleon and the rest of the pigs also use language in the form of oral and written histories of the Farm to maintain their authority.

Advertisements

As soon as Napoleon violently seizes power he uses language to justify his actions and secure his own position. He denounces his former ally and fellow revolutionary, Snowball, calling him a human sympathiser and an enemy of the animals.

This story of Snowball’s betrayal is told again and again until Snowball’s role in the revolution and founding of Animal Farm is erased from history.

Somehow even though many of the animals remember Snowball being given a medal for his bravery in the Battle of the Cowshed, Squealer convinces them he actually fought alongside Mr Jones against the animals.

The ever loyal Boxer struggles to believe this lie when first told, though he is convinced with the intervention of Squealer who tells him that Napoleon knows it to be true. “Ah, that is different,” exclaims Boxer. “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”

When the pigs eventually move into the farmhouse Squealer makes some revisions to the commandments to better benefit the pigs and their new found luxuries. The commandment “No animal shall sleep in a bed” to “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,” while the rule about drinking becomes “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”

Even the mantra that had so effectively created loyalty is changed, becoming the wildly different “Four legs good, two legs better,” until it ultimately becomes the famous quote, “All animal are equal, except some are more equal than others.”

Even when Squealer is caught changing these commandments the animals don’t suspect anything, the power of the pigs rhetoric and language has made them blind to the obvious truths.

The other animals have been brainwashed by the pigs use and implementation of language, so much so that even when the pigs have their dogs slaughter dozens of animals for colluding with Snowball their actions aren’t questioned, especially once the sheep begin their bleating of “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

Yet language is not always used in a negative way in Animal Farm. Old Major’s rousing use of “The Beats of England,” initially leads to the overthrow of the tyrant Farmer Jones and the creation of their own government.

Yet as Orwell shows language can be used for insidious purposes. Napoleon seizes control and uses language for the purposes of social manipulation and control.

The most important lesson he leaves us with is that rhetoric is often more powerful than state-sanctioned violence or the threat thereof.

You may also enjoy this essay

An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

Animal Farm by George Orwell Review

Animal Farm is an allegorical tale about intelligent animals that overthrow their ruling farmers and set about creating a society of equals.

Yet this co-operative doesn’t quite work out as well as it did on paper. You see some of the animals recieve a bigger share of the spoils than others do and some of the animals begin to question this supposed utopia.

It doesn’t take long before the rules of this society begin to change to give the pigs more and more power. The new found freedom the other animals had hoped for does not seem to be as forthcoming as had been promised.

Animal Farm is easily the most famous political allegory ever written. Its depiction of power hungry pigs taking advantage of the other animals is a brilliant description of what happens when a social revolution goes wrong.

Allegory is not an easy thing to achieve successfully and yet Orwell manages it with exceptional skill. While you need at least something of an understanding of the Russian revolution to fully appreciate Animal Farm you’ll still get the point without knowing anything about it. It can even be enjoyed as a straight up animal story with no political message, I know that’s how I first enjoyed it when I was a child.

The story shows humankind at its worst but also its best, it is a simple yet moving look at the demons within every human, the demons of greed, jealousy, cruelty, and a lust for power.

The way the novel slowly twists the original Commandments put forth to keep order and unity within Animal Farm into a means of control shows how easily political dogma is poisoned into propaganda.

The greatest example of this corruption of the original premise of the revolution is given by the new commandments, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, and “Four legs good, two legs better!

The pigs change from hating the former ruling farmers to wanting to be just like them.

Animal Farm is a moving and bitter warning from history. Except we’ll ignore it all of course, we humans excel at repeating all our errors and mistakes.

This is a must read for everyone.

The Room Where It Happened By John Bolton Review

The fallout between president and national security adviser makes for an interesting but grandiose ego stoking read

Most Washington insiders knew it wouldn’t work, it was a bad idea, but did Trump listen? No of course he didn’t, listening to others is not really something narcissists do well. When Trump first hired John Bolton as national security adviser they had a sort of good cop, bad cop recipe in mind. For that to work though one of them actually has to have some qualities of a good cop.

After just 18 months this at best rocky relationship fell apart spectacularly. Bolton claims he quit while Trump claims he fired him, shock horror.

Now Bolton is openly declaring Trump unfit for the office of President, and is also accusing him of using foreign dictators and tyrants for an electoral leg-up in Novembers elections. According to Bolton Trump is quite happy to ignore Chinese concentration camps for Muslims if they can somehow help him.

Trump provides no defence for himself from these claims and has instead fallen back on his favourite tactic of name-calling, specifically he has called Bolton both a “wacko” and a “sick puppy.” I’m not sure calling somebody disgusting and in need of being put down is all that presidential. This is political warfare at its most loathsome, its most based and perverse, but that seems to be the only level within which Trump can feel at home.

Advertisements

Bolton of course is no better.

Bolton is a cold warrior, or as Roger Ailes once referred to him, a “bomb thrower.” In just this vein of cold heartlessness Bolton’s book is a sneering attack on the diplomatic peace process of “international governance,” he even goes on to attack and blindly label Europeans as weak-kneed ninnies.

Like Trump, Bolton seems to enjoying showcasing himself as a fighter, going so far as to say that juggling phone calls at a G7 event made him feel like he was “[part] of the Light Brigade,” or that his “scar tissue had scars.” These powerful metaphors are just that though, Bolton may love sending men and bombs at the enemy but when it came time for him to serve he dodged the draft and joined the non-combatant guard instead, citing that he did not want to join a losing war.

John Bolton pictured here with Donald Trump at a G7 meeting.

Like Bolton himself the Trump outlined in this tell-all book seems eager for conflict. “Hit ’em, finish ’em,” he yells during a dispute with the Turkish president, “Kick their ass,” he orders an envoy to China during the well publicised trade dispute.

Yet Trump is all bark and no bite, he could never bring himself to actually follow through on any threat made. This is no different according to Bolton from the way Obama “graced the world with his views, doing nothing to see them carried out.” Like the president Bolton also hated Obama, and just like Trump Bolton never quite explains why, presumably they hated his ability to maintain graceful and keep his class even when under pressure.

Advertisements

To give Trump a little bit of praise though he resisted Bolton’s continued attempts at what he called a “kinetic response.” First Trump called off joint exercises in an attempt to ease tensions with North Korea, then he called off a strike on Iran because 150 civilian casualties were predicted.

Apparently even changing his mind about invading Venezuela gives Bolton cause for frustration. Bolton’s Trump is a coward in his eyes, eyes that appear to love the thought of American soldiers standing on hostile foreign soil the world over.

Easing tensions with North Korea led to the first meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

There was one topic of conversation though that Bolton admits he was too afraid to broach, the topic of Putin. Bolton states he was “afraid of what I might hear.” Bolton sells this book as “The Room Where It Happened” referencing a meeting between Putin and Trump, a meeting Bolton was not present for and neither does he ever explain what “It” refers to.

If we ignore all the bravado and false impressions Bolton gives us this book really is nothing more than a catalogue of his failings to incite American showdowns with the EU, Nato, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and more. Bolton gave up his greatest shot at changing American history when he refused to stand up and testify during Trump’s impeachment hearing. In the books epilogue Bolton gives us a rather familiar excuse for his absence from the trial, why bother when impeachment was a lost cause. Clearly Bolton’s moral compass is not just broken, I think it’s fucking missing.

The Room Where It Happened is a book of two halves, on one hand it’s a book attacking Donald Trump, and on the other it’s a monument to Bolton and his own ego. For Bolton Trump is akin to Julius Caesar, a tyrant looking to change the political landscape for his own gain while Bolton is a true Republican standing up for the values his country was built upon. It’s a lofty standard and one that Bolton falls far short of. Bolton colluded with a vicious and morally corrupt man and only now that he has fallen from favour does he paint himself in this manner.

No matter how much Bolton may try and blindfold the reader to the truth it is quite clear that he and Trump, the man he so vehemently attacks, are one and the same. They are cut from the same cloth and rather than vindicating himself with this book all he has done is make it clear that he should be nothing more than a footnote in American history.

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

You can grab copy for yourself at Amazon.

If you’re a writer we want to read your work

Survival Year Review

Can you imagine a world where every citizen could directly weigh in on politics and the actions of his or her host government from their cell phone?

In this not-so-distant sci-fi future, Jennifer French’s Survival Year offers this scenario as a true possibility. There’s international betrayal, a love triangle and a common desire to bring the world together in the face of global political upheaval, not unlike the current events we’re now experiencing. The more I read of Survival Year the more I was convinced that what the characters had planned could potentially work. However, It was impossible not to recognise the negative possibilities, as well.

If there was ever a more in-the-now fictional story regarding the geopolitical landscape I have yet to read it. This is one hell of a political thriller.

French outlines what could potentially be an answer to the global political decline – financial, commodities, communications – 100% government transparency. French is well aware of the potential world she lays out in her book; she’s got a background in cyber ethics. But there’s not just political intrigue within these pages, there’s also love, action, and even a few assassination attempts to keep the plot moving and interesting, after all the political aspects can get a little dry.

As far as her writing style goes French warmed up and the plot moved along more naturally as the book entered its second half. Katarina, part of the Survival Year committee, is the main character. She’s got some co-stars and they have some focus where it matters but Katarina is very much the heart of the tale. She is a confident woman who is more than willing to give it all up in hopes of changing the political climate for the greater good. Despite a few flaws she is a compelling character and is more than able to hold her own as the focus of the story.

For those paying attention to the various political events happening around the real world, this book will give pause. I had a rather strong reaction to it, and there are few books about which I can make that statement. Survival Year is a relatively short read, but it has the qualities you’d find in a much longer book.

Highly recommended.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.