Omnis determinatio est negatio.

– Hegel, The Science of Logic, 1817.


The Unprincipled Exception: A Case Study

MICHAEL BUERK: Our first witness is Dr. Phillip Cole, who’s Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England, written extensively on migration, including Debating the Ethics of Immigration: Is there a Right to Exclude? Er, is there? I don’t want the book, one word would do.

DR. COLE: No. There isn’t a right to exclude.

BUERK: So in your view, should all borders be wide open?

COLE: Yes, they should. That’s my view.


MATTHEW TAYLOR: Can I just probe this incredibly pure position that you have about open borders, with a bit of kind of reductio ad absurdum? The Sentinelese tribe of the Andaman Islands, they’re one of the most remote tribes in the world, and the international community recognizes that we should leave them alone, because they respond very badly to outsiders. Would you be completely laid back if a thousand twentysomething Westerners decided to land on the Andaman Islands tomorrow because they just fancied, you know, getting away from things?

COLE: No, I wouldn’t. Um …

TAYLOR: Why not?

COLE: Er, but I don’t think you can judge the ethics of migration on extreme cases. Um, that’s not … it’s not the same kind of case we’re facing.

TAYLOR: But why do those, why does that tribe have rights over that island, rather than the Westerners who might want to come in and use it?

COLE: Because …

TAYLOR: Because you’re not really accepting the case that being in a place gives you any more right than not being in that place.

COLE: I don’t accept that, but I do accept that in some cases, where ways of life are under threat–where, if you like, the, the nation, if that’s a nation, it’s under threat—then these are exceptional circumstances. But I don’t think you can base, er, the rules of migration around those very extreme cases. The rules about migration to the U.K. are not like that.

– “The Moral Maze”, BBC Radio Four, 16th October, 2013. (Transcribed by John Derbyshire.)

The Great Game

Inter arma enim silent leges. Oh, wait. Sorry, – that isn’t right. We’ve certainly learnt a great deal since Rome fell; nowadays, we prosecute our own soldiers for killing the enemy. Which is presumably why, after twelve years spent trying to conquer the most backwards backwater in the known universe, fighting illiterate peasants armed with 50 year old rifles and home-made explosives, we’re still no closer to victory.

It’s a good job that our blood and treasure are inexhaustible resources, or pouring them out into the sands of Central Asia whilst vainly attempting to convince the liberal media that our armed forces are not the Waffen-SS might turn out to have been a terrible mistake.

A Discourse on Idiots

It’s no great shock to discover that Russell Brand is a narcissistic bore with an undergrad’s line in sub-Lenon-esque vacuity, but who could have predicted that, just by occasionally dropping the word “revolution” into the faux-cockney gibber of his conversation, he’d have swathes of would-be serious types on the far-left behaving like 14 year-old girls? I mean – Russell Brand. In the future, if anyone has the misfortune of looking back on this sorry episode, they’re going to be doing a lot of cringing.

Take, for example, Laurie Penny and Richard “Lenin” Seymour’s toe-curling, squirm-inducing, “A Discourse on Brocialism“:

Featuring such insights as:

“Brand is precisely the sort of swaggering manarchist I usually fancy. His rousing rhetoric, his narcissism, his history of drug abuse and his habit of speaking to and about women as vapid, ‘beautiful’ afterthoughts in a future utopian scenario remind me of every lovely, troubled student demagogue whose casual sexism I ever ignored because I liked their hair.”

(Save it for your psychoanalyst, please.)

As well as High Theory from Herr Professor Doktor Seymour:

“To an extent, he genderfucks, he queers masculinity.”

(To an extent he genderfucks! There are degrees, you understand, of genderfucking. Brand might genderfuck to an extent, and that’s all very laudable, but let’s try to retain a modicum of perspective here; we’re nowhere near any effective genderfucking maxima. Although, – of course! – he does have “beautiful bird’s nest” hair. And did I mention his cheekbones?)

“Brocialism”. “Genderfuck”. “Swaggering manarchist.” The article is a mess of infantile neologisms, embarrassing hagiography and tedious clichés from two writers evidently unafraid to sacrifice their dignity for the greater glories of the total-proletarian state, – or at any rate, a half-nod from a minor celebrity and the gratitude of whoever writes the cheques at The New Statesman. I would like to say that it’s hard to believe that this tosh could get published, but given that it’s featured in the very same magazine that saw fit to rope in the author of My Booky Wook as a guest editor, unfortunately, that’s far from true. Clearly, ol’ Staggers is desperate and insensible. Won’t somebody please call a taxi and send it home, before it makes an even bigger damn fool of itself?

Free to Choose?

This raises one of the paradoxes of liberalism…. First, [liberals] want to say that the criterion of acceptable behaviour is choice – the will is, in the end, completely insulated from all influences. So a person can buy pornography until they’re blue in the face, watch pornographic movies, go to prostitutes, engage in pederasty, all of which is legal – and all of that is acceptable, because the person’s will is supposed to be so powerful that it can instantaneously stop short of other behaviour which society (and the law) deems unacceptable (for the moment), such as paedophilia or sado-masochism. But the idea that choice is all that matters puts pressure on the supposed unacceptability of even these activities, so that even children are regularly trumpeted in the liberal press as being capable of choosing for themselves. Still, as soon as the activity is considered unacceptable, according to the tastes of the time, liberals start scurrying, looking for the determining causes of such wicked behaviour – a bad childhood, deprivation, or whatever. All of a sudden choice goes out the window, because liberals refuse to believe anyone can be evil, or make evil choices of their own free will. Actually, it’s ruled out by definition in the liberal philosophy, since choice is good of itself as the act of an autonomous agent – who instantly ceases to be autonomous when he does something liberals or society at large find offensive!

— Jonathan Bowden, Apocalypse TV, 2007.



Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating the Moon, 1819.

Trends in Modern Warfare

War, which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel and squalid.

— Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission, 1930.

The development of war since Churchill’s day has seen a flourishing of squalidness, and little respite in cruelty. People, when they seem to care for no obvious reason about the means of warfare instead of the ends (drone strikes, for example), are reacting subconsciously to this horrid and dismal reality. As we go ever onwards into the depersonalisation of social relations and the total mechanisation of all life, with armies of killer robots and digitally orchestrated zones of mass extermination, those few remnants of man’s higher nature cry out against it. All to no avail, of course, and with less and less vigour as liberalism’s dominance becomes more complete. Eventually, this too shall pass, as a mass man emerges who cares not for his alienation, who does not shy away from annihilation and the end of humanity, but who celebrates the absence of man and personhood from every sphere — and his own consequent descent to the level of beasts and even of mindless automata — as a historical triumph and the summum bonum itself. Hymen Io Hymen!

(Adapted from a comment at Handle’s Haus.)

What People Mean Nowadays by a Philosopher

People mean nowadays by a philosopher, not the man who learns the great art of mastering his passions or adding to his insight, but the man who has cast off prejudices without acquiring virtues.

— Antoine de Rivarol, quoted in Irving Babbit, Rousseau and Romanticism, 1919.

Dost Thou Know Me, Fellow?

KING LEAR: What art thou?

KENT: A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.

KING LEAR: If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?

KENT: Service.

KING LEAR: Who wouldst thou serve?

KENT: You.

KING LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow?

KENT: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.

KING LEAR: What’s that?

KENT: Authority.

— William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I, Scene IV


I’ll take you through my dreams,
Out into the darkest morning,
Past the blood filled streams,
Into the garden of Jane Delawney …

— ‘In the Garden of Jane Delawney’, Trees, from The Garden of Jane Delawney, Columbia Records, 1970