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]

How should we treat people coming over from enemy lines?

In my recent post on rent control, I quoted approvingly a comment from someone who said he had come round to our point of view on the harmfulness of rent control while still claiming to be a lefty. “You are not there yet, my friend,” I murmured. “But does not every journey begin with one step? Let us encourage this partial recantation, that it may be reproduced.” Perry de Havilland took a less tolerant view, while still encouraging reproduction. Niall Kilmartin took the middle road:

The naive young lefty, partly idealistic and partly enjoying the ego rush of being the good guy fighting the bad guys, gets successive hints from reality as they grow older. Over time, the accumulating hints force a choice: the idealism _or_ the ego rush; it can no longer be both. The more they shouted their hatred of the bad guys when they were young, the more dubious deeds they did “for the cause”, the harder it is for them to choose the idealism rather than the ego rush (as some college professors well know when they make activism part of the curriculum), but becoming “an apostate” is emotionally hard in any case. It can be a slow process. It can take years. From Robert Conquest to Thomas Sowell, some quite effective people were marxists when they were youngsters. So I’m sufficiently with Natalie to say that signs of doubt should not be discouraged (though I do understand why actual encouragement of those who are still fighting to retain their ego rush even as they admit doubt can sometimes stick in the throat).

If it sticks in the throat to welcome an incompletely-converted convert from an opinion we oppose, how much more so when the defector has joined and then abandoned a literal enemy.

Mother of five begs for rescue from Isis

THE British wife of an Isis fighter stranded in Syria with her five children is appealing for help to return home to Manchester.

In a video passed to The Sunday Times, Shukee Begum, who is of Bangladeshi origin, is heard repudiating Isis as “not Islamic” and telling how she had spent 10 months with her young children in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, where she taught English to the children of foreign fighters.

She said the final straw was when the US-led coalition bombed the house where they were living, killing seven Isis commanders and members of their families.

While her husband, Muftah el-Deen, was away fighting, she escaped and was given shelter by members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a moderate group opposed to Isis.

Begum, filmed with her three girls and two boys on what appears to be a low-quality video phone, said she left Britain and was smuggled through Turkey into Syria late last year. She claimed her aim was to persuade Deen, who had joined Isis three months earlier, to come home.

This view is typical of the most popular comments to the story:

She ran off with five children to join her jihadi husband and now she says ISIS / Daesh are not Islamic? I might have a bit of sympathy if she said she completely rejected this cult of death, but she’s just saying that now she believes that sadistic slaughter, beheading and crucifixion is going a bit too far.

She wants to come back “home” and no doubt be quite Islamic, but eschew the mindless slaughter of unbelievers. Why should we believe a single word she says?

To which my reply would be that answering exactly that question is the job of the intelligence services to whom this lady will sing like a bird as a condition of being allowed to return. I hope and trust it does work that way and the local consular staff haven’t gone completely softheaded. We want defections and should make them easy but not cheap. It is painful to see crimes go unpunished – and I consider joining a group that boasts of its murders, enslavements and rapes to be a crime in itself – but renegades can help to stop the murders, enslavements and rapes, not to mention prevent the attacks here in the West that ISIS has promised. We have long allowed known criminals to turn Queen’s evidence / State’s evidence for very similar reasons. And her children are innocent.

Someone who has not adapted to modern society

A journalist called Catherine Porter took her nine year old daughter to a “Jobs, Justice and Climate” march in Toronto. While there the child had a conversation with Ezra Levant. Ms Porter gave her account of that conversation here: My daughter’s run-in with Ezra Levant at her first protest. She made Levant out to be a big bad bully. Her account appeared in a respected newspaper, the Toronto Star, and although Levant’s reply giving his own, very different account of his dialogue with the little girl was published, by the time it appeared the narrative had been settled and it was only his word against hers anyway.

Yes, of course I made that last bit up. This is the twenty-first century, you know. You know even if Catherine Porter does not. Naturally Ezra Levant made sure to get the whole thing on video and was able to conclusively – and amusingly – demonstrate that Catherine Porter’s account deviated from the truth in numerous ways. The weird thing is that she cannot have been unaware of the camera. Levant is a lawyer who has had numerous run-ins with leftists and he insisted on getting Ms Porter to state to camera that she gave permission for Levant to speak to her daughter. Incidentally, one of the details her account obscured was that it was Ms Porter who called Levant over to talk to her daughter and she who asked for the encounter to be filmed. He was initially quite reluctant to debate with a child, rightly fearing that Ms Porter Senior intended to set him up for propaganda purposes.

Why on earth did she write as she did in the Toronto Star? Good grief, it’s not as if potentially embarrassing encounters routinely being filmed at rallies as a defence against misreporting is something that only came in last month. Did she think Levant would just accept being slimed like it was 1999?

Hat tip: Bishop Hill

GamerGate explained in one easy graphic

By request…

gamergate-explained

via someone on twitter.

Getting drunk on good wine and BBQ’ing yummy animals tonight, ciao for now.

In 2001 Ken Layne said: “We can fact check your ass!”

At the very dawn of the blogosphere, Ken Layne gave voice to what became a war cry heard across the internet: “We can fact check your ass”… and being American, he was not referring to examining the veracity of donkeys.

And that continues to be true, with that ethos is being applied by sites such DeepFreeze (dealing with Gamergate) and of course Guido (who has a category of his own in the sidebar). The internet never forgets, but it sure helps to have those memories nicely collated.

GamerGate is far more important than, well, games…

This evening I went to a well attended informal meet-up in Islington of #GamerGate supporters. This proved to be very interesting indeed, hearing what by any reasonably definition were ‘libertarian’ views about tolerance and objective truth being widely trumpeted, but being agreed on by people from a broad section of the political spectrum. I listened to a thoughtful self-described left-winger deliver an angry critique of the Guardian, not just their contra-evidence based reporting of #GamerGate, but also the deeply intolerant culture being propagated there. It appears such folks are not just shocked by what they see, they are serious pissed off by the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ doing it. The very rationally argued animus was palpable.

It seems clear to me that over the eight months #GamerGate has been going on, it is now leading diverse people to re-evaluate long standing social and political views and alliances. An articulate young lady I spoke with said she has lost friends over this, and now saw certain people very differently. Even if #GamerGate was over tomorrow (fat chance), there has clearly been a tectonic social event, and the aftershock is going to be felt for quite some time. New and very spontaneous networks are forming and it will be interesting to see where this leads.

Would my libertarian socialising work better if I embraced the social media?

Tomorrow evening, I have another of my Last Friday of the month meetings. Pete Comley will be talking about inflation, and about the book that he has recently published on that subject. More about tomorrow’s meeting in this posting at my personal blog.

What this posting here is about is something rather different, which is that since about last Christmas or thenabouts, many of the emails that I send out each month inviting my libertarian friends and acquaintances to attend my meetings have been going astray. Not all of them. Just quite a few, most especially any that end in “gmail.com”. They have either been diverted to spam folders, or else they’ve not been arriving at all.

It would appear that the big emailing enterprises, notably Gmail, have been cracking down on spammers recently, and Gmail in particular has now decided that my emails are in that category. It only needs one recipient of one of my emails to call it spam, and all the other users of Gmail (or whatever) are immediately switched by Gmail (or whatever) central command, often to their great puzzlement, to refusing to receive any emails from me, even individual and personal ones. Such as the ones I have been sending out to individuals, including to individuals I have been in close touch with for over a decade, to try to tell them about all this email disruption. Very tiresome. Very tiresome.

My meetings are a big deal for me. But for others, if the emails suddenly stop arriving, well, that may cause a twinge of disappointment, but there are other meetings, and the mysterious disappearance off the radar of mine is not their number one problem. So, the problem is mine, and mine alone. My motto for applying modern technology to my life is: do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. But now, I have a definite problem.

Several remedies have been suggested for my emailing difficulties. Pete Comley himself suggested to me a few days ago that I should use something called MailChimp. That, he said, should get me around those spam filters. That sounds like it might be a good answer.

However, I am also thinking that maybe I should make a bigger change to my life, and embrace the “social media”, those inverted commas indicating Old Man fear and befuddlement rather than any lack of respect for the media in question. I’m talking Facebook and Twitter, but maybe others also, the workings of which I know even less about. For Facebook in particular has also been recommended to me a couple of other friends as the answer to my meetings problems. And Twitter might also help in spreading the word about these meetings, and my words about other things, and my words about my other words and about the admired words of others, etc. etc. So, should I now jump into all that?

Samizdata as a whole has not done much in the way of social media-ing. We don’t have a problem so why bother with a non-solution? But maybe we do have a problem? Whether Samizdata does or does not have a problem, I genuinely don’t know, but I am certain that I do have a problem, to which the social media may well be the best solution, if perhaps not the only one. So, should this particular member of the Samizdata team perhaps be doing more with this twenty-first century version of chatting over the garden fence (if that’s what it is)?

Comments on my Samizdata postings are always, to me, very welcome, but comments would be especially welcome on this posting.

First, what about those Gmail problems? Has anyone else been suffering from, or heard about others suffering from, similar problems? I have talked with several people who have so suffered – talked face-to-face, or on the “telephone”, with those old things called spoken words about these difficulties, but can find nothing about all these dramas on the internet. I am trying hard not to blame this on the fact that I have been using the same mega-enterprise to do the searching as has been causing me most of my email miseries. My guess is that Google has been having recent very big problems on the email front, from the likes of the government of China, and that I am collateral damage in a war that dominates the answers to any searching by me for “gmail problems”.

And second, what of the social media? Comments of the sort that say that Facebook and Twitter are both works of the devil and symptomatic of the decadence, narcissism, frivolity, triviality, moral emptiness, etc. etc., of the modern world may perhaps now erupt at the bottom of this. Fair enough. If that’s what you think, feel entirely free to say so. But personally, although horribly ignorant of the workings of the social media, I am inclined to be far more respectful of them. Clearly, they do answer a lot of people’s needs. So, I’d especially appreciate hearing from people who do now use Facebook and/or Twitter, with a little bit of explication about what they use them for, and why, and how they are particularly helped, so that I can get an idea of what, along these lines, I could and should myself be doing. Maybe. Thanks in anticipation.

Christina Annesley

Here is Christina Annesley, talking about the Leeds Liberty League, which she founded:

Libertarianism is the political philosophy that holds the individual as sovereign and wishes to minimize the role of the state. We believe that every human being is born free and equal and has the right to be free to do what he or she wishes so long as he or she does not violate the rights of another human being. In practical terms, that means that we tend to be extremely liberal on social issues but conservative on economic ones. Consequentially many of our members are members of the Conservative Party, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, but equally many are non-party aligned. Libertarianism is an ideology unto itself and therefore Liberty League attracts people from all walks of political life who share a common love of freedom.

I never got to know Christina Annesley, and now I never will.

For the same sorts of reasons that her life was so great, her death is truly terrible news.

LATER: More about Christina Annesley’s death from Simon Gibbs. The Libertarian Home crowd did get to know her, and will miss her even more.

LATER: A proper obituary, again at Libertarian Home.

Goodbye Rose and Crown

A change of ownership at the Rose and Crown in Southwark means that Simon Gibbs (whose contribution as the Libertarian Home events organiser to the London libertarian scene featured prominently in the posting I did here at the very end of last year about all the 2014 speakers at my Last Friday of the Month meetings (Simon was my speaker in July)) is having to shift his ongoing programme of Libertarian Home meetings out of the Rose and Crown, and to go looking for a new regular venue. Tomorrow evening’s Libertarian Home meeting will be taking place in the Crown Tavern, Clerkenwell Green.

Simon says:

Immediately however I need a couple of things. I need you to spread the word about the new venue tomorrow, …

I hope this helps.

… and again as needed. I also need you to tell me what sort of venue you want. Does it need to be a pub? Is food important? What did you think of the beer at the Rose and Crown? Is the day of the week important? Do you value a speaker every month or are the socials as valuable?

My immediate reaction to the above is that this new venue is a bit of a walk from a tube station, more than was the old venue. Food does help. I don’t drink beer.

Perhaps rather more significantly, I quickly found, when I started organising my Last Friday meetings around 1990, that a speaker does help, if only by by ensuring that we didn’t just have the same damn conversation month after month. I personally like being formally addressed, and then getting to hear the responses of others (perhaps including myself) to what was said, one person at a time, rather than us all just standing around shouting in a pub. Socials are not speaker meetings, but speaker meetings can and should also be socials.

As it happens, there will be a speaker at this Clerkenwell Libertarian Home get-together tomorrow evening. Martin Keegan will be speaking about “The Evolution of Private Cooperation”, which I’m looking forward to hearing, and makes me more eager to attend. (Someone please comment to this effect, if this is not the Martin Keegan who will be speaking, or for that matter if I have it right.)

As for the first Thursday of the month thing (and as also for my Last Friday of the Month thing), well, what I have learned is that there is something to be said against this sort of arrangement, as well as in favour of it. For many, a particular, regular day of the week can be a real problem, because they regularly do something else that day of the week, or they regularly commune with their families over the weekend (weekends which often start on Friday rather than on Saturday morning). By calling his meetings 6/20 meetings, and by holding his meetings on the 6th and 20th of each month, the noted London Libertarian Christian Michel ensures that his meetings do not keep on occurring on the same day of the week. This means that people for whom weekends, or Mondays, or whatever, are permanently occupied, can still attend some of his meetings. Nobody of the sort who would really like to be showing up from time to time is permanently excluded. Maybe Simon might want to consider making a change of that sort. I’m not saying he definitely should make such a change, mind you, because keeping the regular First Thursday of the Month formula even as the venue is being tinkered with makes a lot of sense also. I’m just, as they say, saying.

My year in speakers

So here I am in Brittany, alternating between writing this and getting stuck into a New Year’s Eve feast, which explains any typos in what follows, and which is also making me ponder New Year resolutions. One of mine is to write rather more for Samizdata than I have been doing lately, which will not be hard. The idea was that resuming my Last Friday of the Month meetings, which I did in January 2013, would give me more to write about here, but the truth is that there is never any shortage of stuff to write about for Samizdata. The world abounds with good things and bad things, amusing things and annoying things. What sometimes fades is the will to write. But I’ll start as I mean to resume by writing a little about each of the speakers at my Last Friday meetings during this year. I hope these speakers will all agree that me now writing too little, too late, about their various excellent performances is better than nothing.

In January 2014, Alex Singleton spoke about his new book on PR, The PR Masterclass. Not the least of this book’s virtues is that it calls Public Relations Public Relations, rather than something more pompous and evasive. I did at least write here at the time about this book’s launch, which was a definite success, as is the book, packed as it is with what reads to me like lots of common-sense. Alex, however, is still a man worth hiring if you have a PR problem, because it is one thing to read a lot of common-sense in a book, quite another to be able to deploy it in the heat of a PR battle. Talking of the heat of a PR battle, Alex tells me that his next book is to be about Crisis Management. So, if your oil pipeline springs a leak, google Alex Singleton at once and hope that this book is by then available as a download, and that it starts with a short summary of all the wisdom that follows. Seriously, if you run a big organisation, buy this next Alex Singleton book as soon as it appears, and then give it more than a precautionary glance. You won’t be wasting any time, and you could save yourself and your underlings a world of grief.

In February, Dominic Frisby spoke about his then forthcoming book on Bitcoin, which has now forthcome. Our own Rob Fisher, who attended this talk, and who helped Dominic out with some technical details on the software front, later described the book in the first Amazon review of it (see the link above) as “concise, complete, correct, entertaining”. I first wrote, very admiringly, about Frisby and his writing here in this posting. My admiration for Frisby has not dimmed, and I very much hope that more Frisby books will follow.
→ Continue reading: My year in speakers

A good article by a Marxist about “safe spaces” for women

I found this article by Yassamine Mather in Weekly Worker, which describes itself as “A paper of Marxist polemic and Marxist unity”. The “safe spaces” policy put forward by Felicity Dowling to which Yassamine Mather refers is described here.

Comrade Mather writes,

The idea that women in leftwing organisations need ‘protection’, as opposed to ‘empowerment’, is what is patronising. No doubt Felicity Dowling’s extensive work in dealing with child abuse cases and fighting for children’s rights is commendable. However, time and time again when she speaks about safe spaces she starts with abused children, before moving swiftly to the need for safe places for women, gays, blacks in society and, by extension, in the organisations of the left. I disagree with such a classification of women, gays and blacks as weak creatures – actual and potential victims who constantly need ‘protection’ from the rest of society.

And

In an echo chamber nobody learns anything new or expands their perspectives. Similarly if women, blacks or LGBTQ activists refuse to confront their opponents, ‘safe spaces’ risk becoming ‘echo chambers’. A 1998 study by Robert Boostrom questions the ‘safety’ aspect of ‘safe spaces’ in universities as counterposed to the mission of higher education to promote critical thinking. If critical thinking is desirable in higher education, it is essential in a political organisation of the left.

Any group has the right to exclude people or behaviours it does not like. It tends to be self-marginalising politically, though.

An open(ed) letter to Professor Stephen L. Carter

Funny. I read the SQOTD from today, and suddenly recalled a long-forgotten e-mail I sent in the wee hours of the morning six or so months ago. The fact I had sent the e-mail in the first place was unusual for me, as I was moved to compose and send it to Bloomberg columnist and Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter after reading the good professor’s column, and I cannot recall another occasion when I have got in touch with a journalist over something of theirs that I’d read. Professor Carter’s article must have made a big impact on me.

It did. Here it is, if you would like to have a read for yourself. Basically, the professor is making the same perfectly valid point as Brendan O’Neill regarding the hive mind mentality of a significant number of today’s university students, and chucking in a good intergenerational sneer for luck. It is the latter that particularly shat me off when I read Carter’s column, and prompted me to send the following to Professor Carter six months ago and late at night when I should have been working on something else:

Dear Professor Carter

I agree with your observations regarding the (in)abilities of the current crop of graduates, but seeing as though you decided to target that generation so explicitly, I thought maybe you might consider how the conditions that characterised your own generation’s formative years came to be.

When recounting “your day”, you wrote of an intellectual culture which “celebrated a diversity of ideas”; where “pure argument” trumped all, and a contrarian point of view was celebrated and even utilised to orient one’s own perspectives. This is the academic process at its very best, and you were most fortunate to benefit from it.Unfortunately, to channel your President, you didn’t build that. You didn’t build that. And not only did you not build it – you subsequently tore it down. And you replaced it with the appparatus that has created the mindless, chanting drones you decried in your Bloomberg piece.

Am I being unfair to target you? Well, about as unfair as you were being to the current crop of graduates. Your generation unquestionably ripped apart that which you claim to revere, and the Class of 2014 is simply a manifestation of the values your generation cherishes. So why are you training your guns on those kids when the true vandals are at still at large – and are in fact running the show?

I don’t mind catty articles – I really don’t. They’re often the most entertaining. However, I don’t understand why you’re thrashing a bunch of 20 year olds who are the product of an education system that your generation dominates – and that system has equipped them so poorly to deal with rational discourse that you could probably expect little more than an effete ‘whatever’ in response to your criticisms of them. Surely you know this. Attacking them smacks of cowardice to me. You’re aiming at the easiest targets.

If you really want to castigate a group of people for allowing academia to degenerate from what it was in your undergraduate years to what we see today, go and seek out faculty and policymakers who look about your age.

Yours faithfully
James Waterton

I received no response. Not that this surprised me.

I agree with Carter in that much of the student body – and most of those who consider themselves “activists” – are intellectually incurious ideologues primarily concerned with feeling that they are Good People, and indicating this to other Good People. But who moulded them? The answer is implicit in Carter’s article, when he reflects on how things were different back when he was at university. It is a pity he lacked the even-handedness to consider what changed between then and now, and decided to instead chastise those responsible for the mindlessness of the modern student activist. I’m talking about the Boomers, of course, and the muses that inspired them. They really did screw up an awful lot, and like Professor Carter in this instance, I suspect they will never admit to what they have destroyed.

Samizdata quote of the day

A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.

– Guy Fawkes, political activist, performance artist and architectural critic (1570-1606)