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"Those who remain silent today - despite themselves or secretly with a certain complicity - are serving the cause of a new imperialism, a contemporary cynicism that is destroying the world order," Macron said in a 30-minute speech that called on countries to no longer sit on the fence.

Reuters.

Is "despite" a verb or a preposition in the paragraph above?

In what way could the phrase "despite themselves" be paraphrased in the context above?

Comments  
fold navy 285Is "despite" a verb or a preposition in the paragraph above?

Preposition.

fold navy 285In what way could the phrase "despite themselves" be paraphrased in the context above?

They botched the translation, understandable in that the French is malgré eux, literally "despite themselves". The English of it is "in spite of themselves", however, not "despite themselves", even though "despite" and "in spite of" are completely interchangeable outside this expression. It means that they don't want to be complicit, but they are forced to be by circumstances.