In Western capitals, Israel’s right to defend itself is an article of faith. It often comes bundled with another right, indeed an orthodoxy sometimes imposed on press reports — the right to exist. For example:

As DW [Deutsche Welle], we never question Israel’s right to exist as a state [my italics] or allow people in our coverage to do so,” the broadcaster’s Editor-in-Chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge told the staff.

And Deutsche Welle also reported that

“The right of existence of the state of Israel must never be questioned,” Merkel said at a gala event in Washington celebrating the 100th anniversary of…

74 million people voted for Trump. Something like a few thousand marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Of these, a few hundred demonstrators confronted the police. The confrontation was poorly policed. As a result, some of the demonstrators got inside the Capitol building and ran around, for the most part frolicking despite some menacing talk. One of them, unarmed, was shot dead. A policeman was hit by a fire extinguisher, reported back to his division office, collapsed, and died the next day. Three more demonstrators died: one trampled; one of a heart attack; one of a stroke. No member…

Some have rightly pointed out that the cartoon-linked violence challenges the sovereignty of the French government. The implications of this take are much more radical than typically understood.

Sovereignty is, in mainstream political science, nothing more than a monopoly on violence in a certain territory. Some thinkers like H.L.A. Hart claim that some principled form of ‘legitimacy’ is essential, but it couldn’t be clearer that legitimacy has nothing to do with the realities of international relations. Invoking legitimacy is nothing more than an excuse when one nation, often for excellent reasons, wants to interfere in the affairs of another. No…


Some say that toppling statues according to the person’s moral badness is ‘rational’ — hence the approval of Julian Baggini’s supposedly measured take on the issue in the Times Literary Supplement. Here’s what he comes up with. It’s a good way to see why the moralising approach is bankrupt.

I’ve suggested three questions that we need to ask of the people standing on our public plinths. Is the achievement for which they are being celebrated intimately or causally tied to their sins? Were they significantly worse than others of their time? How recent was the offence? These questions do…

When cops kill an innocent black man, scolding about racism explodes. It’s a big obstacle to solutions.

After cops kill, there are basically two responses, scolding and rioting. By ‘scolding’ I mean expressions of outrage and non-violent demonstrations whose function is convey outrage. The scolding response, unlike the rioting response, is, as politics, irrational.

Scolding has proven ineffective time after time, yet the scolds, irrationally, think rioting is counterproductive. People who oppose the riots seem to think that rioting, which actually produces consequences the authorities hate, is a foolish response, but scolding, communication, which authorities rightly regard as a mere…

What’s wrong with the current explosion of disparaging references to ‘white people’? (From now on, white people talk is short for such references.) The obvious complaint would be that it’s racist. But the deep nastiness of white people talk involves something far from obvious. The problem isn’t racism.

White people talk is indeed racist, because it attributes negative characteristics to a biologically defined group. But racism against whites isn’t always, in my view, a big deal.

When Elijah Mohammed preached that white people “were a race of “devils” created by a scientist named Yakub, that was too looney to get…

I don’t understand the apparently universal verdict, from both sides of the controversy, that the UK government and/or Theresa May is incompetent, hopeless, incapable of knowing what it wants.

The vote to reject a no-deal Brexit passed by 312 to 308. To my mind that means that almost half, the minority, really really want Brexit, even at a very high cost. That must mean a majority want a lower-cost Brexit, Brexit with a deal. That May’s deal was overwhelmingly rejected is hardly an indicator of indecision. Her deal didn’t offer Brexit at all, because the backstop clause raised the very…

Reparations and restitution

Public debates about restitution (usually return of objects) and reparations (usually payments to individuals or groups) focus on the victims of wrong-doing. When the wrongs are in the distant past, and the victims are dead, who’s going to pay? And why?

In the case of reparations, you need to ask two things about the wrong:

· Is the injury inflicted inheritable?

· Is responsibility for the injury inheritable?

In the case of restitution, you need to ask

· whether ownership of the object is inheritable,

· whether the responsibility to restore ownership is inheritable.

I will focus…

Christophe Guilluy’s work deserves to effect an upheaval in how we view Western domestic politics. He takes a geographical rather than a political, social or economic point of departure. This doesn’t change everything, but it changes and clarifies a great deal.

Here are his main points.

First and foremost he holds that, politically, socially, economically, the Western world is best understood as divided, not by social class or by the preoccupations of contemporary leftists and rightists, but by those who benefit from globalization and those who do not.

Those who benefit live where the economy is dynamic. These urban and…

A study entitled “Vote Switching in the 2016 Election: How Racial and Immigration Attitudes, Not Economics, Explain Shifts in White Voting”, though in pre-print, has already been triumphantly cited to show that racism is the real cause of working-class white votes for Trump. It shows nothing of the kind. Indeed, at least where racism and economic motives are concerned, it shows nothing at all. What follows explains why.

Racial Factors:

To see the study’s weaknesses, you have to look at its foundations. Where racial attitudes are concerned, these foundations lie in the survey designed to root out ‘racially conservative’ views…

Intensional Inexistence

For 36 years, Michael Neumann taught philosophy at a Canadian university. He blogs at, mostly on Syria and Egypt.

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