Revealed: The winner of the Russell Prize for the very best writing of 2018

Bertrand Russell

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Bertrand Russell’s writing mixed plain language, pertinent erudition and ethical pressure

And so we come ultimately to that key annual second within the lifetime of licence charge payers in every single place: The Russell Prize.

For these unblessed few who had the misfortune to overlook last year’s inaugural event, this can be a prize-giving ceremony in honour of my hero, Bertrand Russell.

It’s not Russell’s politics or philosophy or life, however relatively his writing, that the Russell Prize honours. As I defined final 12 months and am delighted to repeat, the nice man’s writing achieved a pedigree and degree most likely distinctive within the 20th Century, as a result of it contained all three components of the mental trinity that distinguish nice writing from the merely good.

First, plain language. Second, pertinent erudition. And third, ethical pressure, particularly via an instinctive and visceral revulsion at injustice. Russell’s prose contained every of these components in abundance.

Robust course of

I ought to right here, by the glory of copy and paste, remind readers that recipients of those awards have been via a rigorous choice course of: they had been submitted, by me, to a discerning and neutral choice panel comprised of 1 member, additionally me, the place I’m honoured to carry the title of founder, convenor, president and chair.

So sure, once more: anybody who says The Russell Prize is simply an excuse to re-up some particular writing is totally proper… sorry, incorrect.

This 12 months’s successful candidates are very totally different in flavour from final 12 months, nonetheless. Whereas final 12 months I discovered myself usually sympathetic to the driving arguments of the successful articles, this 12 months I’m much less usually in settlement. In reality, I’ve some severe beef with arguments that this 12 months’s winners have made.

However then once more, I’ve severe beef with arguments that Russell himself made. It is a prize about what makes good writing, and the very best writing is commonly extremely unpleasant.

The winner

And the winner of this 12 months’s prize is…. drum roll…

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Jamelia has penned an open letter to the media for linking her title to crime as clickbait

Jamelia (Jamelia’s weblog): Named & Shamed… When I’m Not to Blame

A shocking, and it seems successful, late entry.

I discovered this weblog onerous to learn, do not agree with each level, and am extremely aware that a few of the criticism it contained was directed at present and former colleagues.

It’s best to learn the main points. In essence, it was an extended private criticism about the best way wherein the media use her title to drive consideration to alleged crimes, on this case about her “step-brother”, somebody whose father Jamelia’s mom had a relationship with 36 years in the past.

The principle purpose the article is tough to learn is that it’s a sustained and knowledgeable assault on my commerce. I’m instinctively defensive about, and in solidarity with, journalists and journalism. However anyone who bothers with the topic can see that we’ve an enormous disaster in our media right now, pushed not principally by industrial failure however editorial and ethical failure.

And Jamelia makes a number of pressing factors: in regards to the permanency of damaging headlines on the internet; in regards to the affect of that on kids; about the best way black ladies are handled by the media; in regards to the lack of consideration given to her frankly admirable charity work, and what that claims about our priorities within the information enterprise; in regards to the spurious, silly means superstar names are sometimes appended to tales as a way to drive viewers; and, by extension, about clickbait.

It confirmed a few of my prejudices, and challenged many others. How about you?

Runners-up, in no specific order

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Luke Johnson has taken a break from his newspaper column whereas he offers with the disaster that has rocked Patisserie Valerie

Luke Johnson (Sunday Instances): How entrepreneurs end up as fresh meat for City slickers (subscription required)

The entrepreneur Luke Johnson has stopped writing his Sunday Instances column as a way to repair his ailing Patisserie Valerie enterprise. It reported large issues about 5 minutes after he and I met correctly for the primary time, over breakfast, however I am hoping that is a coincidence.

He’s a straight talker, and his much-missed column brutally demolished lots of the vanities that prevail on the planet of enterprise. On this, his finest column, he referred to as out these metropolis slickers who’re promoting little greater than their very own upper-class pretensions.

Lambasting “professionals [who] speak with posh accents”, he famous {that a} fairly astonishingly huge sector of our financial system is populated by snake-oil retailers promoting ‘recommendation’ when their defining high quality, aside from a pointy go well with and plummy vowels, is complete ignorance whereof they converse. Bravo.

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Nina Subin

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Amia Srinivasan is a contributing editor on the London Overview of Books and teaches philosophy at Oxford

Amia Srinivasan (London Overview of Books): Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex?

Trendy gender politics is commonly mis-characterised by those that cannot perceive what’s sophisticated about boys being girls and boys being women. It’s inseparable from a system of rights, wherein membership of a specific group – on this case a complete gender – confers each rights on a person, and duties on others to respect these rights. Inside that respect is the supply of dignity which, if violated, can result in profound anger.

That philosophical method, relatively than #MeToo, is the context wherein to learn Srinivasan’s tough essay on the character of gender relations. The LRB, which sits gladly between academia and the broadsheet press, publishes very admirably clear and cogent prose. I discovered this essay onerous, and truly much less enjoyable than Srinivasan’s brilliant article on the octopus, which sadly would not qualify as a result of it was revealed final 12 months, and which needs to be learn alongside David Foster Wallace’s immortal Consider the Lobster.

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The Economist

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Adrian Wooldridge is The Economist’s political editor

Adrian Wooldridge (The Economist): The shadow of Enoch Powell

Once I first pitched and mentioned the concept of a documentary on Enoch Powell final 12 months, pegged to the 50th anniversary of his “Rivers of Blood” speech, I mobilised an argument just like that of Wooldridge, the newest Bagehot columnist for The Economist.

(The Bagehot column is an evaluation of British life and politics within the custom of Walter Bagehot, who was editor of The Economist from 1861 to 1877.)

The argument was twofold: first, that Brexit married two of Powell’s biggest pursuits – Europe and immigration – within the concept of nationwide sovereignty, and subsequently some, although not all, Brexiters owed him an mental debt.

And second, that along with Roy Jenkins and Margaret Thatcher, Powell was one among three mental paradigm shapers of post-war British politics. After all different politicians had been extra profitable in elections, however it was these three, greater than others, that elucidated the arguments we’re nonetheless grappling with.

With readability, erudition and ethical pressure, Wooldridge says it significantly better than I did.

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Andrew Sullivan is a British-born American writer, editor and blogger

Andrew Sullivan (New York Journal): Why We Should Say Yes to Drugs

To the extent that there’s a dialog, and even debate, about medicine within the West right now, it largely issues the rising requires a brand new coverage method, whether or not via decriminalisation or legalisation.

Andrew Sullivan is a type of writers who, whereas deeply immersed within the political world, tries to anchor his writing in issues of final that means. He unashamedly writes in regards to the huge concepts: justice, reality, honour, love.

And his article about private use of psychedelics used these themes to take the dialog about medicine in a route not usually heard in public. It’s a route that many individuals, not least many dad and mom, will discover unfathomable, and even repulsive.

Sullivan argues that medicine needs to be seen as an avenue to deep experiences, together with reference to heightened consciousness and overwhelming love. Controversial, actually; however argued with super readability, erudition and ethical pressure. A worthy runner-up on this 12 months’s Russell Prize.

Neutral suggestions

Let me reiterate that I do not endorse or dismiss any of the arguments put ahead by this 12 months’s prize-winners.

Readers could make up their very own minds. I very a lot hope you’ll take the time to do exactly that.

Entries for the 2019 competitors open on 1 January.

Within the meantime, as I stated final 12 months, and can say with pleasure once more: might plain prose and erudition lengthy outlast the injustices our esteemed winners have sought to conquer.

In the event you’re eager about points akin to these, you may observe me on Twitter or Facebook; and subscribe to The Media Show podcast from Radio 4.

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