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robinson Culture wars 

Mob hysteria on both sides of the aisle

Two incidents over the past few days have illustrated an alarming fact: that mob hysteria threatens the rule of law, the exercise of reason and toleration of dissent not just by ideologues on the left but also by their opponents. Two days ago, the film producer Harvey Weinstein was photographed being frogmarched into a New York court to be charged with rape and sexual assault. The court heard that he had tried to “lure young women into situations where he could violate them sexually”. Multiple accusations of sexual assault made…

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radar Culture wars 

Cultural radar leads resistance to extinction of reason

Across our species there seems to be an innate ability to lock into a cultural radar based in reality which those who subscribe to socially destructive or sinister ideologies can’t detect. In the former Soviet Union, millions were able somehow to access and absorb ideas that were ruthlessly censored. Sometimes political prisoners smuggled out their writings from jail. The intellectual dark web is our contemporary equivalent to those samizdat channels that stood up to the mind-bending process of repudiating not just certain ideas but the exercise of reason itself. Dave…

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Jews being persecuted; Rochester Chronicle, 13th century Culture wars 

Collateral damage in the smashed crucible of liberalism

Is Britain’s Jewish community becoming collateral damage in the government’s flailing attempt to combat Islamist extremism? Yesodey Hatorah is a Charedi girls’ school in Stamford Hill with excellent academic results. Recently, it was inspected by Ofsted. According to the school, the inspectors had one thing on their minds: the school’s approach to sex education on which they questioned pupils. But Yesodey Hatorah doesn’t have sex education because this is contrary to the Charedi value of extreme modesty. Ofsted says its inspectors “know how to hold these conversations in a sensitive…

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women Culture wars 

MeToo has gone too far, you think? Me too!

At a debate last week about the MeToo movement, the human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy observed that after the flood of allegations of male sexual assault and misbehaviour a backlash was always inevitable. It turned out that I was the backlash. I was seconding the motion that MeToo had “gone too far”. In essence, I said that while some powerful men had reportedly behaved shockingly badly and even criminally towards women, the MeToo movement was demonising men in general and had exhibited disproportionality, complicity and hypocrisy. Oh, and vanity, narcissism…

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women Culture wars 

Has #MeToo gone too far?

Last Tuesday, I debated the motion “Has the #MeToo movement gone too far?” in front of an audience of 1000 people at the Emmanuel Centre in London. The iconic feminist Germaine Greer and I were up against the human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy QC and Sophie Walker, founder of the Women’s Equality Party. You can watch the whole debate here; my contribution starts at 32.16 in.

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Tower-of-Babel-Pieter-Bruegel-the-Elder-1563 globalists Culture wars 

How globalists threaten Jewish survival

In a recent column in The New York Times, Bret Stephens argued in praise of “globalists.” Globalism is generally held to mean a broadly universalist approach. Stephens interpreted it as support for free trade, immigration to America and U.S. military alliances abroad. One line in particular leapt out at me. He wrote: “Oh, and I’m Jewish. Which, some say, is what happens to globalism after it’s been circumcised.” This could not be more wrong. Judaism is anti-globalist. No people could be more particularist than the Jews. The word by which…

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The Expulsion from Eden;John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, 1900 Secularism Culture wars 

Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the west’s moral codes

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion. I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society. War is being waged against Western culture from within which is in essence a war against Christianity and its moral origins in the…

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king-and-queen-of-hearts Culture wars 

Trump on trial – or kangaroo court?

This evening, I attended a panel discussion at Jewish Book Week in London entitled “Trump on trial”. The three panel members were all distinguished writers who viscerally loathe US President Donald Trump. What follows is an account of highlights of this discussion which I provide without further comment. The first panellist was historian Simon Schama, who immediately after Trump’s election called it a “cataclysmic moment” and said “democracy often brings fascists to power, it did in Germany in the 1930s”. The second was Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland whose new thriller…

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isaacs-circumcision-regensburg-pentateuch-c1300 Culture wars 

The cutting edge of secular illiberalism

The chill winds of secular intolerance are blowing ever more strongly across Europe, with Jews now struggling against the blast. A bill is being considered by Iceland’s parliament to ban circumcision for children under 18 years old. So here we go again. Back in 2012, a court in the German town of Cologne ruled that the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy constituted “bodily harm.” After an uproar, Germany hastily legalized ritual circumcisions if performed according to medical practice. German objections to circumcision nevertheless did not die down. The Icelandic…

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