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Putin and Xi: Our cover story this month
reminds us of the perils still posed by Russia and China (Illustration by Michael Daley)

You are reading a copy (real or virtual) of Standpoint’s 100th issue. Think for a moment what that means. The BBC can lavish licence-payers’ millions on a series on Civilisations that gives viewers nine hours of documentary that are, depending on your point of view, either a globalised and updated version of Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, or a riot of random rubbernecking and relativism (see David Herman elsewhere this issue). What is certain is that over the past  decade Standpoint has done more to celebrate Western civilisation, for a fraction of the cost, than the BBC.

Any intellectual periodical today faces formidable, at times almost insuperable, obstacles. Advertising has been monopolised, colonised and expatriated by Google et al. And so the press has followed suit. As Tibor Fischer puts it in his new novel (reviewed by Lisa Hilton), “technology has betrayed us”. It has never been cheaper to start a magazine, but it has also never been more costly to keep it going.

In his inaugural lecture at University College London last month, Anthony Julius argued that the law and the arts are mutually antagonistic, yet enjoy a symbiotic relationship. He cited Flaubert, whose Madame Bovary, charged with blasphemy and obscenity, was vindicated in court. Flaubert despised everything about the legal system, but his implicit message to his fellow authors, Julius declared, was: “Lawyer up!” That advice holds good in today’s world, where writers and publishers risk numerous forms of litigation, censorship, intimidation and worse. Courtroom dramas such as Flaubert’s, however, are now beyond the means of all but the largest media organisations. Standpoint survives only by the loyalty of its readers, the generosity of its donors (including pro bono legal services), and the grace of God. Without new donors, we will close.

Many people suppose that Western civilisation is simply a given. Yet our complex network of law and liberty, of tradition and enterprise, is quite precarious. Culture only thrives in a political and economic framework that leaves creators alone. Organs such as Standpoint act as guardians of that intellectual infrastructure.

With Voltaire’s bon mots, there usually less than meets the eye (Overrated: Voltaire). He adapted one of the best-known — “God is not on the side of the big battalions, but of the best shots” — from the Comte de Bussy-Rabutin. For one thing, Voltaire did not believe in God; for another, in war the big battalions do usually win. But if there is a place for a sharpshooter that defies the odds, then it’s Standpoint — “the Great Dissenter among magazines”, in the words of Cynthia Ozick.
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Lawrence James
April 9th, 2018
10:04 AM
The equation of Salmond's appearance on a Russian TV station with treason is evidence that the author has never read the 1351 Statute of Treason or its successors. We are not at war with Russia, save in the fevered imaginations of manic Russophobes, and so his actions did not constitute giving succour to Her Majesties enemies either at home or abroad.

Lawrence James.
April 9th, 2018
10:04 AM
William Joyce did ask for and receive a British passport and, therefore, accepted the protection of the then formidable British state. It did not matter that, like many passport-holder, he had not been born in Britain. During those weeks between his departure and taking German citizenship he was a British subject and his actions then were treason for which he was rightly hanged.

March 29th, 2018
2:03 PM
Today Mrs May announced there will be more money available for the NHS and schools because of Brexit. She didn`t say how many council houses and flats will be built. How many solar powered council houses does civilisation in the UK need? Labour has an answer and can deliver.

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