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  • Writer's pictureNishant Mittal

3rd book of 2021: The Powerful and the Damned, by Lionel Barber

Mr. Suhel Seth recommended this book and I thank him for his congeniality.

Lionel Barber served as the Chief Editor of Financial Times for fifteen years. To understand the significance of that, you ought to know that FT is a British media house of global repute (and importance, supposedly). Power in society usually juggles in the hands of politicians, businessmen, folks in the media and entertainment industry; and despite the clear decline of mainstream media in the west, people like Mr. Barber still represent the absolute top of the pyramid. Is that a good news? Depends on whom you're asking. I'm on the fence.

This book is a collection of private diary entries of Mr. Barber during the tenure of his Editorship. 2005 - 2020. To me, it felt like a world tour in a time machine. At one moment, the guy's interviewing the Prime Minister of UK; in the next, he's talking to Mohammed Bin Salman. Stakes are high and he's walking on water. Everyday. Can you imagine? No, you can't. The dynamism is unbelievable and Mr. Barber must be a superhero for managing it all without picking up a fight. I mean, the guy's got to be in good books of everyone, right? The owners of his paper, rival politicians, businessmen, global leaders...everyone. How do you make sure you don't slip? I wouldn't have lasted for a week.

But as the saying goes, even Superman has a weakness. And the flipside of Mr. Barber's universal appeal is his (disturbing) political correctness. Every opinion is wrapped in a contradictory condition, every compliment rounded with a cautionary note. The guy can't say anything without balancing it with a counterview, mostly without depth and sincerity. Also, I think it's not a coincidence that he had wrong opinions about most things I personally knew very well. But how does that matter, right? He got the job he wanted, and kept it for longer than anyone else could. Kudos to him for that!

If you're interested in learning about European (specifically British) politics, please do read this book. Mr. Barber is a terrific writer and the book flows like a river.

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