Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Photo: Allan Amato
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Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer to guest-edit the New Statesman

The theme of the issue, due out on 28 May, will be "saying the unsayable". 

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman will guest edit an issue of the New Statesman on 28 May, with the theme of “saying the unsayable”.

The guest-edit will be accompanied by an event at the Hackney Empire, which has already sold out.

Palmer is a ground-breaking musician and the author of the bestselling book The Art of Asking, which began as a TED talk which has received 6.8 million views. She discussed some of the issues raised - about the evolving relationship between artists and their fans - in this New Statesman piece from 2013.

Gaiman is an award-winning writer of novels, short stories, comics and television; his books Coraline and Stardust have been turned into films, and he has written two acclaimed episodes of Doctor Who. In 2013, he was interviewed by Laurie Penny for the New Statesman, which you can read here

The issue will address the ideas of censorship, taboos, offence and free speech, and contributors include Art Spiegelman, Michael Sheen, Kazuo Ishiguro and Stoya. 

Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, said: “Together and separately, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are two of the most talented, innovative and unpredictable artists in our culture. In the wake of the debates around Charlie Hebdo, 'call-out culture' and hate speech online, and with so many governments around the world repressing their citizens' ability to speak freely, this issue is incredibly timely.” 

Amanda Palmer said: “As a long-time devourer and admirer of the New Statesman, it’s thrilling to be able to curate an issue like this. We’re aiming to make it read like the footnotes to a great dinner party with an eclectic bunch of friends - where politics collide with art and economics collide with human feelings. I hope the New Statesman folks don’t regret giving over the wheel of their respectable vehicle to the artists, as we tend to drive off-road . . . but hopefully we’ll at least crash somewhere interesting. Neil and I have been working together (sometimes side-by-side, sometimes on opposite sides of the planet) to make this a real reflection of who we believe, who we trust, who we’d want over for wine at our place to discuss the state of things.”

Neil Gaiman said: “I persuaded my slightly baffled parents to get me my first subscription to the New Statesman when I was 12. I was willing to put up with the political writing, and the people who wanted to change the world* because I loved reading the competition results in the back: I liked watching people playing with literature. And I liked the points of view. I still love the New Statesman, although I'm slightly more interested in the political writing these days than I was when I was 12.

“Guest editing an issue with Amanda Palmer has been a delightful, strange, occasionally frustrating, never boring process. We have agreed and we have argued and we have carved out our respective territories. Fortunately our interests overlap, along with our desire to curate a conversation about the things people do and do not talk about, the things we can and can't say, the culture of offence vs. the notion of free speech... and then there's rock, literature, refugees and so many other things. We have as many points of view as we have contributors (and a motley and glorious bunch of contributors they are). ” 

Previous guest editors have included Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury; comedian Russell Brand, whose essay on why he was not voting went viral and led to his appearance on Newsnight; Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; Jemima Khan, who sent Hugh Grant undercover to investigate phone hacking; and Grayson Perry, who coined the influential term “Default Man”.

The issue will go on sale on Thursday, 28 May, and will also be available on iPad and Kindle. You can pre-order a single-issue by emailing sbrasher @ newstatesman co uk

 

 

*a good thing. 

 

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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High explosive, damp squibs: the history of bombing raids

Governing from the Skies by Thomas Hippler examines the changing role of aerial bombing.

Bombing from the air is about a hundred years old. As a strategic option, it eroded the distinction between combatants and non-combatants: it was, Thomas Hippler argues in his thought-provoking history of the bombing century, the quintessential weapon of total war. Civilian populations supported war efforts in myriad ways, and so, total-war theorists argued, they were a legitimate object of attack. Bombing might bring about the collapse of the enemy’s war economy, or create a sociopolitical crisis so severe that the bombed government would give up. Despite efforts to protect non-combatants under international law, civilian immunity has been and continues to be little more than an ideal.

Hippler is less concerned with the military side of bombing, and has little to say about the development of air technology, which, some would insist, has defined the nature and limits of bombing. His concern is with the political dividends that bombing was supposed to yield by undermining social cohesion and/or the general willingness to continue a war.

The model for this political conception of bombing was the colonial air policing practised principally by the British between the world wars. Hippler observes that the willingness to use air power to compel rebel “tribesmen” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa to cease insurgency became the paradigm for later large-scale campaigns during the Second World War, and has been reinvented in the age of asymmetric warfare against non-state insurgencies: once again in Iraq and Afghanistan – and, indeed, anywhere that a drone can reach.

The problem, as Hippler knows, is that this type of bombing does not work. A century of trying to find the right aerial platform and armament, from the German Gotha bombers of 1917 to the unmanned missile carriers of today, has not delivered the political and strategic promise that air-power theorists hoped for. Air power is at its best when it is either acting as an ancillary to surface forces or engaged in air-to-air combat. The Israeli strike against Arab air forces at the start of the 1967 war was a classic example of the efficient military use of air power. In the Second World War, the millions of bombs dropped on Europe produced no social upheaval, but the US ­decision to engage in all-out aerial counterattack in 1944 destroyed the Luftwaffe and opened the way to the destruction of Germany’s large and powerful ground forces.

The prophet of bombing as the means to a quick, decisive solution in modern war was the Italian strategist Giulio Douhet, whose intellectual biography Hippler has written. Douhet’s treatise The Command of the Air (1921) is often cited as the founding text of modern air power. He believed that a more humane way to wage war was to use overwhelming strength in the air to eliminate the enemy’s air force, and then drop bombs and chemical weapons in a devastating attack on enemy cities. The result would be immediate capitulation, avoiding another meat-grinder such as the First World War. The modern nation, he argued, was at its most fragile in the teeming industrial cities; social cohesion would collapse following a bombing campaign and any government, if it survived, would have to sue for peace.

It has to be said that these views were hardly original to Douhet. British airmen had formed similar views of aerial power’s potential in 1917-18, and although the generation that commanded the British bomber offensive of 1940-45 knew very little of his thinking, they tried to put into practice what could be described as a Douhetian strategy. But Douhet and the British strategists were wrong. Achieving rapid command of the air was extremely difficult, as the Battle of Britain showed. Bombing did not create the conditions for social collapse and political capitulation (despite colossal human losses and widespread urban destruction) either in Britain, Germany and Japan, or later in Korea and Vietnam. If Douhet’s theory were to work at all, it would be under conditions of a sudden nuclear exchange.

Hippler is on surer ground with the continuity in colonial and post-colonial low-­intensity conflicts. Modern asymmetric warfare, usually against non-state opponents, bears little relation to the total-war school of thinking, but it is, as Hippler stresses, the new strategy of choice in conflicts. Here too, evidently, there are limits to the bombing thesis. For all the air effort put into the conflict against Isis in Syria and Iraq, it is the slow advance on the ground that has proved all-important.

The most extraordinary paradox at the heart of Hippler’s analysis is the way that most bombing has been carried out by Britain and the United States, two countries that have long claimed the moral high ground. It might be expected that these states would have respected civilian immunity more than others, yet in the Second World War alone they killed roughly 900,000 civilians from the air.

The moral relativism of democratic states over the century is compounded of claims to military necessity, an emphasis on technological innovation and demonisation of the enemy. For all the anxieties being aired about militant Islam, the new Russian nationalism and the potential power of China, it is the United States and Britain that need to be watched most closely.

Richard Overy’s books include “The Bombing War: Europe (1939-1945)” (Penguin)

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times