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16 October 2019

Letter of the week: Why we still need experts

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Michael Gove compared Remain-backing economists to Nazi scientists who denounced Einstein in the 1930s (“Murdering the language”, 4 October). Gove might have later apologised, but not for his dismal knowledge of history.

He was half-remembering the book A Hundred Authors Against Einstein, published in 1931 while Germany was still ruled by the Weimar government. These “authors” were a ragbag of alleged intellectuals among whom there was only one real physicist. They had no expertise and no idea what to make of Einstein’s relativity. The book was obviously motivated by anti-Semitism, as well as objections to Einstein’s internationalism.

Will Gove concede that we still have some use for experts?

Philip Ball
London SE22


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Brexit buccaneers

Robert Saunders (“Myths from a small island”, 11 October) reminds us how often Tory Brexiteers use the words “swashbuckling” and “buccaneer”. The Chambers Dictionary defines a swashbuckler as “a bully; a blusterer; a swaggering dare-devil”, and buccaneer as “an unscrupulous opportunist”: enough said.

Gavin Ross
Harpenden, Hertfordshire


Kick it out

I can sympathise with the defence of John Barnes in Peter Lock’s letter (Correspondence, 11 October), but his suggesting “positive change” at Anfield ignores a significant factor. When Luis Suárez was found guilty of player-on-player racism in 2011, Liverpool FC and manager Kenny Dalglish continued to support him and cast doubt on the FA’s findings. The victim, Patrice Evra, has been subjected to appalling treatment by the crowd on his return to Liverpool. Last season he was booed at every touch of the ball playing for West Ham.

Michael Matejtschuk


Minding language

Pippa Bailey is right in two respects (Out of the Ordinary, 11 October): “unwavering pedantry” is rarely a good thing, and expanding our vocabulary is not a sign of linguistic “obesity”. Yet she is wrong to conclude that “there is no such thing as linguistic decline”. The proliferation of the back-to-front use of “literally” is rendering a once useful term useless. This does not expand or enrich language, it erodes it. Like, literally!

Sean Cordell

In her excellent column, most of which I agree with, Pippa Bailey refers to “impostor syndrome”. On page 34, Ian Leslie refers to “imposter syndrome” (Left Field, 11 October). Can Pippa please tell us why she didn’t sub Ian’s column and advise on the approved NS orthography?

Paul Evans
Crickhowell, Powys


Abbey birthday

I enjoyed David Hepworth’s article on the anniversary of the Beatles’ album Abbey Road (“The 50-year Abbey Road trip”, 11 October). I recall its original LP appearance vividly. I returned home from school in 1969 to find a copy of the LP lying on my bed, even though it was neither my birthday nor Christmas. My mother had bought it for me. I never forgot her act of kindness.

Jeffrey Davis
Rotherfield, East Sussex


I was interested to see your use of Iain Macmillan’s famous Abbey Road photograph. It’s a pity you didn’t credit his name. He was my photography tutor at college and a most generous and creative man. He printed the other five frames from the Abbey Road shoot in 1977 and we mounted and framed them in his Notting Hill flat to be auctioned for charity.

He went on to work with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in New York recording their art projects. His name deserves
to be remembered.

Adam Stinson
Hazleton, Gloucestershire


History lessons

Susan Neiman’s thoughts on “sentimentalism about the Second World War” rang a bell (Observations, 4 October). It is sentimentalism driving the environmentally unfriendly proposal to build a Holocaust Memorial and underground Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in London. The promoters claim it will tell a different story from the Imperial War Museum and that we and parliamentarians will be taught lessons from the past. I imagine present day decision-makers are well aware of the facts of the Holocaust, yet they still respond coldly to today’s asylum seekers.

Lucy Peck
London SW1


Rebels with a cause

Is Peter Wilby being disingenuous when he suggests that Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists should engage with the “sources of political power” (First Thoughts, 11 October)? XR have concluded that 40 years of such engagement has hardly made a dent, either in public unawareness of the unfolding catastrophe or the carapace of a decrepit political system.

It took the Green Party 20 years to deliver its first MP to the Commons.  XR activists know that we don’t have time to mess about on the political sidelines waiting to be let in. 

Kate Gilbert


Beautiful gulag

Further to Philip Norman’s Diary (11 October), I see his malapropism “It’s one of those Jeremy Corbyn and Stephen King restaurants” and raise him my sister asking whether Manchester United is still managed by Solzhenitsyn.

John Pritchard


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This article appears in the 16 Oct 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Syria’s forever war