Alternative histories of major conflicts warnings for complacent Americans

... if at some future date the Ukrainian army, starved of ammunition, were overrun by its Russian adversaries.

And how will we react if — say, later this year — we are informed that Iran has successfully built a nuclear weapon and has unleashed its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to rain missiles down on Israel?

Or what if we hear news that Taiwan has been blockaded by the People’s Liberation Army ... How much attention will we devote to the end of Taiwan’s democracy and the imposition of Chinese Communist Party rule on its people? More than we pay to the next Grammy awards ceremony or Super Bowl?

Kabul in 2021

Re-reading Len Deighton’s novel SS-GB 

By comparison with Robert Harris’s more ambitious Fatherland — published in 1992 and set long after a German victory — SS-GB is imbued with gritty realism.

A quarter of a century has passed since I persuaded Andrew Roberts to write a chapter of the book Virtual History devoted to the historical plausibility of Deighton’s scenario. 

 It is now exactly 40 years since the release of Red Dawn, one of the few commercially successful attempts to envision a Soviet invasion of the US.

 When Americans watched Contagion (2011), few appear to have imagined a real pandemic sweeping the land. When one arrived in the early months of 2020, I still remember the deep-seated reluctance of even well-educated people to believe that Covid-19 was something a lot more serious than seasonal influenza.

The closest thing is Leave the World Behind, which vividly depicts the chaos into which this country would descend if all our technology — from our iPhones to our Teslas — simultaneously stopped working.

When Americans switch on their flat-screen TVs, they seriously want to Leave the World Behind. Rather than contemplate dystopian futures, they prefer to immerse themselves in the Taylor Swift cult — a form of mass escapism that recalls the mania for screen goddesses in the isolationist 1930s.

Niall Ferguson Bloomberg 11 februari 2024

Taylor Swift svepte öl – och stal showen

Super Bowl 2024 was most watched US TV broadcast since 1969 Moon landing

Virtual History: Alternatives And Counterfactuals by Niall Ferguson


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