Phil Shannon

Denis Diderot is now remembered, if at all, only as the name of a Metro railway station in an unfashionable neighbourhood of Paris. 

In his day, however, the 18th century Enlightenment philosopher was quite the subversive intellectual who parted the ideological fog of religious, moral and political backwardness for a view of the sunnier uplands of today’s society, writes Phil Shannon.

Dr Richard Sorge, a German communist who penetrated the innermost political and military circles of the Japanese and German governments for a decade from the mid-1930s, only ever had one good thing to say about the Nazis.

Nuclear weapons need never have been built. Our world could have been free from the “frozen tableau of terror” of 9500 nuclear warheads capable of destroying the world 100 times over, as Peter Watson comprehensively shows in Fallout: Conspiracy, Cover-Up and the Deceitful Case for the Atom Bomb

Australia’s capitalists were quick to see the tremendous marketing potential of Anzac Day by aligning their consumer brand with the officially revered military brand of Anzac. As early as 1916, the “commercial appeal” of the word “Anzac” was being used to flog various foodstuffs, beverages, soaps, toys, all sorts of apparel, Rexona healing ointment (tested in the trenches!), watches, matches, jewellery, cafés and restaurants.

Mutiny on The Western Front: 1918
Greg Raffin
Big Sky Publishing, 2018
216 pages

For those who may have been living in a cave without electricity for a while, it may need pointing out that the Australian establishment likes to conduct extravagant khaki-and-slouch-hat festivals to annually celebrate the gore-filled Australian invasion of Gallipoli on April 25 in 1915.

The Club: How the Premier League Became the Richest, Most Disruptive Business in Sport|
Joshua Robinson & Jonathan Clegg
John Murray Publishing, 2019
338 pages

If football is a simple game (get the ball, pass the ball), then the football business is even simpler (buy the best players, bank the profits).

American Heiress: The Kidnapping, Crimes & Trial of Patty Hearst
Jeffrey Toobin
Profile Books, 2017, 371 pages

“Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people.” With this hyperbolic declaration by “General Field Marshall” Cinque M’tume (the nom-de-plume of a Black prison escapee), the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) introduced itself to the American people in the early 1970s.

Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers & Each Other
Matthew Sweet
Picador, 2018, 351 pages

When Footballers Were Skint: A Journey in Search of the Soul of Football
Jon Henderson
Biteback Publishing, 2018
308 pages

Bill Leivers, who played for Manchester City from 1953-1964, wryly recalls to the British journalist Jon Henderson in When Footballers Were Skint about how the football club owner once rewarded the players on the train home from a successful away game, not with a fistful of sterling for a few drinks all round, but with a packet of Polo Mints.

If the assassination-plotters and coup-conspirators in the German military had succeeded in their many attempts from 1938 to 1944 to remove Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime, then entirely different options to years of mass military deaths, civilian slaughter and horrendous concentration camps would have come into play.

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