There are highlights from my weekly reading and viewing.

Glenn Greenwald Interviews Rep. Thomas Massie About Gaza and Israel,” December 5, 2023.

Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, “New Evidence on George Floyd’s Death Changes Everything,” December 5, 2023.

I had been positive that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Now I, like Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, am not.

There’s Nothing Mystical about the Idea that Ideas Change History,” Matt Johnson interview with Steven Pinker, Quillette, December 1, 2023.


And for all its fiascoes, the UN has accomplished a lot. Its peacekeeping forces really do lower the chance of a return to war—not in every case, but on average. And members of the UN are signatories to an agreement that war is illegal, except for self-defense or with the authorization of the Security Council. Even though that’s sometimes breached, most flagrantly with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have to remember that whenever there are laws there are scofflaws, but that doesn’t mean the laws are useless. The legal scholars Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro have argued that even though the outlawry of war did not eliminate war, it reduced it by making conquests no longer recognized by the community of nations. That is, if Russia holds onto territory taken from Ukraine, it cannot count on other nations recognizing the conquest—which is a big change from the practice of millennia, when the policy was “to the victor go the spoils.”

As it happens, I recently debated John Mearsheimer, the foremost Realist theorist. “Realism” is a misnomer—it’s a highly unrealistic idealization of the relationships among states, barely more sophisticated than the board game Risk. It assumes that countries seek nothing but power and expansion, because the only defense against being invaded is to go on offense first.

I think I sometimes dump too much on the UN. This is a nice bit of offsetting reasoning. Also, my opinion of Mearsheimer had been fairly high but after seeing him speak about 6 weeks ago, I thought less of him. Pinker puts his finger on a big part of what I saw and found unsatisfactory.

Russ Roberts, “Does [sic] the Media Hate Israel?Listening to the Sirens, December 3, 2023.

The incentives of the information landscape ratchet up the outrage on both sides. The New York Times will eagerly repeat stories that make Israel look bad. That’s what their readership wants. They want to feel outrage about the oppressor. The BBC will eagerly repeat stories that show the suffering of the Palestinians to further cement the feelings of their viewers that the Palestinians are oppressed and deserve sympathy. Of course their coverage is more nuanced than this, but for those of us who support Israel, it feels like the coverage is completely one-sided. It isn’t. But our news feeds make it feel even more extreme than it actually is.

The same is true for people on the conservative side. Fox News and the social media feed of pro-Israel users will be filled with example after example of Hamas cruelty, vindicating the view that this is not just about Israel but about the future of civilization. Stories that make Israel look less civilized will either not show up or will be glossed over or excused. Stories of Palestinian suffering will either not show up or will be excused—after all, they will say, so many Palestinians support Hamas. Did you see how ordinary citizens treated those Red Cross vehicles carrying the hostages home from Gaza? Somehow, a crowd of 100 jeering Palestinians becomes a representative sample.