We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

I suppose it’ll add some spice to history exams though. Get the wrong answer and you not only fail: you get carted off to jail as well.

– The concluding sentences of a piece by Mick Hartley criticising a new French law which, once President Sarkozy signs it, will make it a criminal offence to deny that genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians.

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • RW

    Well it’s one way of blocking Turkey from joining the EU I suppose.

  • Alisa

    Well it’s one way of blocking Turkey from joining the EU I suppose.

    That presumes that they are still stupid enough to want to join?

  • Alisa

    I haven’t read the linked article (it may be very good), but I have a problem with the general debating tactic employed by that particular quote – that tactic being what I’ll call ‘the extreme-case scenario’. The problem is that when you make an extreme-case-scenario argument, you lose a large percentage of your potential audience’s sympathy right there. Most people would say: “Oh, don’t be silly now, something like that will never happen”, and they would most probably be right, and they’d stop taking you seriously. To me at least, a better argument would be one pointing out the impediment such laws present to historical research in the quest of finding the actual facts as they really happened, however unpleasant they may be to this or that side of that particular debate, however politically incorrect, etc. And no, correctly or not, most people do not think of history exams as historical research, no more than they see students giving a wrong answer in such an exam resulting in being dragged off to jail as a realistic possibility.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I think you’re taking that way too seriously. It was a lighthearted way of casting scorn on a foolish law. It’s a joke, and like many jokes relies on hyperbole. And also like many jokes, it contains a deeper message. That approach is often better suited to making the point than some turgid polemic. Very much like a political cartoon. Do you take them literally, too?

  • RRS

    However, is it not reassuring to know that in some advanced societies whatever history really was can become firmly known and fixed by legislation (not Law) promulgated by a fixed number of individuals who have osmotically absorbed all the knowledge of the millions of other individuals in that society.

    And, they are applauded!

  • RAB

    I’m afraid they are still stupid enough Alisa.

    The “Truth” is a slippery and elusive beast, one man’s Terrorist is another man’s Freedom fighter etc. Facts are always open to different interpretations.

    To pass a law like this, which perports to uphold an officially sactioned version of “the Truth” and impose criminal penalties for deniers of said sanctioned truth, is insane. It also sets a dangerous precedent doesn’t it? Will it be AGW deniers next?

  • Valerie

    The scholar Bernard Lewis himself doesn’t feel that the Armenian case was genocide, at least as measured against the Jewish Holocaust. By this, I ASSUME that he means the Turk’s didn’t plan mass murder from the highest reaches of the government and with all it’s resources.

  • Laird

    OK, RRS, I’ll bite: what is your distinction between “legislation” and “law”?

  • Alisa

    Laird: are you implying that I should have read the link before I commented?;-P

  • Rob

    A cynic might think that there were more French citizens who thought of themselves as of Armenian descent rather than Turkish.

  • RRS


    OMG! I’ve stepped in it again!

    Though I could with some review on my part cite Hayek for examples and distinction, which you may know far better than I, my own sets of distinctions would require a conversation that would not merit online splatter for my views and examples, or for citations of better thinkers.

    That said, legislation may be given the force of Law , but, it is ephemeral. Law, born as it is out of broad social adherance to rules, is less so.

    Law used to be found by judges in, and sometimes codified from, the observed rules of human relationships.

    Much (today probably most) legislation represents attempts to adjust human relationships by consructing rules.

    One of the old sayings I made up: We used to have a Rule of Law, now we have the ‘law’ of Rules.

  • Laird

    Sounds like you’re basically distinguishing between common law and statutory law. Anyway, I don’t think it matters much*, at least not in this context, so I’ll let it go.

    I do agree with your “old saying”!

    * A “distinction without a difference” is the phrase, I believe. Isn’t there an old latin maxim to that effect?

  • RRS

    L –

    Well, yes, because statutory is legislated (even by edicts).

    It is interesting you cite Common Law as the comparative. In the English experience, those now almost fossilized rules of Equity were distinguished, but there was little difference in objective with regard to human relations.

    There is much other Law, e.g., in religions, cannons that developed as distinguished from Cannon Law.

    There are often distinctions without differences, but here the difference is not just in the means, but in the objectives. The objective to adjust human relations differs from observing them for guidance in resolving the effects of those relations.

  • PeterT

    We used to have a Rule of Law, now we have the ‘law’ of Rules.

    QOTD anyone?