NEW YORK — Get ready to give your regards to Broadway: Curtain Up, a three-day festival celebrating the return and revival of theater heads back to Times Square at the end of the month. This free, live and interactive celebration of one of New York City’s most beloved attractions — by tourists and New Yorkers alike — kicks off on Sept. 30. More than 15 events are scheduled to take place on two stages around Times Square: Duffy Square, at 46th Street and Seventh Avenue, and on Broadway between 45th and 48th streets. Theater enthusiasts will be able to participate in “Chicago” and “Wicked” singa...
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I have said what I want to say about Monsieur Muskrat’s takeover of Twitter. I don’t want to give him more of my attention than what’s necessary for doing my job. I don’t want to, by giving him my attention, give you the impression that he’s all that important.
But I do want to attend to, and therefore bring your attention to, the left-liberal reaction to his enfeebling of America’s premiere public forum. There seem to be two camps, possibly a third. I see plenty of overlap among them. Each tells us something about ourselves.
READ MORE: Is Twitter a lost cause?
The first I’d describe as the professional critics. These are the pundits, journalists, scholars and writers who regularly participate in the public square, and who in turn influence lay participants. Call them “influencers” if you like. In any case, they, including me, spend most of their time doing stuff normal people don’t have time for.
This camp doubted Monsieur Muskrat’s claim of bringing free speech back. Never did they believe, as he does, that Twitter was being used as a weapon to silence “unpopular opinions.” But they did believe it was, as the top forum for democratic politics, useful for flattening the orders of power that constitute what most people see as normal.
Some went to extremes, but most practiced ordinary democratic politics. They argued against hate speech. They pressured the right people. They called for pushing the demagogues and anti-democrats to the distant margins of public discourse, where they belong. In time, key decision-makers in key positions at Twitter, Inc., agreed.
I have my share of disagreements with this camp, for instance, making a fetish of Monsieur Muskrat’s ongoing devolution into fascism. The man’s a billionaire. We know he’s dangerous. We don’t need to be told about each time he swallows a “red pill.” Democracy will not live or die according to the rigid fixedness of our focus.
Even so, the professionals have the basics right. Twitter houses democratic counter-speech. Those whose claim to fight for “free speech” and against “cancel culture” and “censorship” mask their real intentions – to silence voices they deem threatening and restore the public square’s social standing as the voice of the status quo.
The second I’d describe as the popular partisans. These are people with huge followings on Twitter who say, basically, one thing – the Republicans are bad. They are genius at finding various and sundry ways of saying one thing. But make no mistake, it’s always one thing.
The popular partisans have more influence than the professional critics, because they don’t bother with things like intellectual integrity, social realities, clear reasoning, clearer writing, etc. They don’t care about the process so much as the outcome. If the outcome of their labors keeps the Democratic faithful in line, job well done.
While the popular partisans are useful – they can bring attention to deserving people and issues that professional critics cannot – I think they often do more harm than good. They frequently hold the GOP to standards only the Democrats commit to, then announce to their Twitter armies that they can’t believe what that Republican said!
Why more harm than good? Because such behavior warps political reality. The Republicans do what Republicans do, mmm? This is not only not unbelievable. It’s expected. If we can’t believe what the Republicans do, there’s not much point to democratic politics.
The same applies to Twitter. The platform no longer enforces rules that were designed to prevent users from making and spreading misinformation and lies. It has allowed back some of those aforementioned demagogues and anti-democrats. The popular partisans will tell us that this is an outrage! But it’s all quite believable, or should be, as tilting public opinion in the direction of elite interest is what elites have done in America since forever.
This wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if it weren’t for a big deleterious consequence. I’m talking about an attitude toward democratic politics according to which the only way to advance progressive issues is by stopping the Republicans from doing what they do.
Why is this deleterious?
It’s preemptive surrender.
It puts the fate of democracy, freedom, equality and liberal republican values in the hands of people who will abuse them all – if not smother them in the cradle. When you make abusers responsible for democracy, you can pretty much expect them to do what they do.
The popular partisans send, in effect, an anti-democratic message (perhaps without knowing it). That message is, alas, that democracy depends on bad people choosing to do good things. If anything is unbelievable, it’s that. No, democracy depends on what it’s always depended on – democratic people practicing democratic politics.
What’s the third group? Well, I suppose it’s not a group as much as a tendency, but let’s call them the amused spectators. These people might be political cynics or political realists. They are definitely not political idealists. Not surprisingly, they are often Black. For instance, they believe voting is a defensive maneuver first. Ideals come later.
Their tendency is to hope for the best, but expect bad people to do bad things. It expects good people to do good things, too. It believes democracy’s greatest threat isn’t the bad people who hate it. It’s the good people who can’t or won’t believe believable things can happen.
Meanwhile, the amused spectators take pleasure in watching professional critics pushing their idea-boulders uphill while the popular partisans make those idea-boulders all the heavier.
They are not surprised to see that a billionaire born unaccountable to consequences everyone else is accountable to is busy tilting public opinion in the direction of elite interests. Elites have done it before. They do it now. They’ll do it again. The answer isn’t empty outrage.
It’s democratic people practicing democratic politics.
The UK's most senior police officer of color has said the duchess of Sussex faced "disgusting" threats to her life during her time in the royal family.
Neil Basu said that as head of counter-terrorism, he had to deal with credible threats from far-right extremists against Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry.
His comments, in an interview with Channel 4 News broadcast late Tuesday, appear to reinforce Harry's claims about security fears.
Meghan, a mixed-race former television actor, married the younger son of King Charles III in 2018, but they quit royal life in 2020 and moved to the United States.
Basu, 54, who is stepping down after 30 years with London's Metropolitan Police, was asked if there were genuine threats to Meghan's life.
"Absolutely," he replied, calling the threats "disgusting and very real".
"We had teams investigating it. People have been prosecuted for those threats."
Harry, 38, took the UK government to court to force a review of a decision to pull his state-funded protection when he was back in the country from the United States.
At the beginning of their relationship, Harry took the rare step of publicly criticizing the tone of some media coverage of Meghan.
He condemned the "racial undertones of comment pieces and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments".
The couple also accused the royal family itself of racism, in a 2021 television interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Basu, whose father was from India, also attacked what he called the "horrific" rhetoric from senior Conservative politicians of Asian heritage about migrants.
Right-wing Home Secretary Suella Braverman -- effectively Basu's boss -- has described Albanian asylum seekers as "criminals".
Braverman, who is also of Indian heritage, has backed a controversial government scheme to deport failed asylum seekers to Rwanda, which is subject to a rash of legal challenges.
Basu, a former counter-terrorism commander, also condemned senior politicians for their language towards migrants © Daniel LEAL / AFP
Basu called the language used "inexplicable" and compared it to a 1968 speech by Conservative MP Enoch Powell warning of a racial war due to immigration.
"It is unbelievable to hear a succession of very powerful politicians who look like this talking in language that my father would have remembered from 1968. It's horrific," he said.
"I was born in 1968. The 'rivers of blood' speech happened in the constituency next to where my parents lived and made their life hell. A mixed-race couple walking through the streets in the 1960s. Stoned.
"I speak about race because I know something about race because I'm a 54-year-old mixed race man."
But he acknowledged that his readiness to speak out about race issues may have prevented him taking over as the head of the National Crime Agency, to which he was linked.
© 2022 AFP
The baguette – a mix of wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a pinch of savoir-faire, and as much a symbol of France as the Eiffel Tower – has gained UNESCO recognition as the UN body on Wednesday voted to include the "artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread" on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The baguette, now a symbol of France around the world, has been a central part of the French diet for at least 100 years, and there are several myths about its origins.
One legend has it that the bakers of Napoleon Bonaparte came up with the elongated shape to make it easier for his troops to carry, while another posits that it was actually an Austrian baker named August Zang who invented the baguette.
These days a baguette - which means "wand" or "baton" - is sold for around €1 ($1.04) each. More than six billion are baked each year in France.
Made only with flour, water, salt and yeast, baguette dough must rest 15 to 20 hours at a temperature between 4 and 6 degrees Celcius (39 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the French Bakers Confederation, which fights to protect its market from industrial bakeries.
But if the ingredients are always the same, each bakery has its own subtle style, and every year there are nationwide competitions to find the best baguette in the land.
Feast on some of FRANCE 24's coverage of the baguette:
Algerian Rai music and Tunisia's harissa condiment were also among this year's contenders for recognition as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, which started deliberations Monday in Morocco.
The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to safeguard and raise awareness about the "intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned".
"Intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity," it says.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)