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

Crash OverRide Network is not an anti-harassment campaign. It cannot be an anti-harassment campaign as it is run by someone who profits and gains notoriety by openly harassing people online. An anti harassment campaign is one that works to prevent the harassment of everyone, whether you personally like them, whether you disagree with things they have done, or whether they share your political ideals. If Quinn really wished to prevent harassment online, she would stop perpetrating it. I will surely not be the last woman she tries to remove from our industry.

Georgina Young

Of course the BBC, pretty much the worst tech reporters to be found anywhere, fail their due diligence as usual and just report it all at face value.

Happy New Year (again) – courtesy of French TV

Yes, here’s another Happy New Year to everyone, this time from French National Treasure Jean-Paul Belmondo, snapped by me (in amazement at how he looked – I think I last saw him in Borsalino) straight off of French TV (no idea which channel), at or around midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1:

BelmondoHappyNewYear

I thought Belmondo had died several years ago. After seeing him on TV, I still suspect that maybe he did die, and that the museum where they keep all the dead (human) French National Treasures has a highly sophisticated animatronics department.

What the saga of Doctor Who’s missing episodes can tell us about the nature of the state

If you’re not a Doctor Who fan it is probably best to look no further.

→ Continue reading: What the saga of Doctor Who’s missing episodes can tell us about the nature of the state

Caving in to blackmail

One of the lead stories on the UK national news today is a report that a hacking attack on Sony has led to a satirical film at the expense of the brutal regime about North Korea being pulled from Western cinemas:

Sony is canceling The Interview‘s planned theatrical release in response to all major US theater chains deciding not to show the film after attacks were threatened. “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony says in a statement, reprinted by Variety. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

The hackers who stole data from Sony threatened attacks on screenings of The Interview yesterday afternoon. In the time since, around half of all movie screens in the US declined to show the film.

Sony’s statement continues: “Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

It is hard not to see the decision by some cinemas to pull screening of the film as anything other than a dangerous capitulation to threats of violence, although one appreciates that the owners of the cinemas think they have a legitimate issue in protecting staff and audiences. But still, this sort of move is bound to encourage other criminals to target any film, of whatever stripe, that they dislike and wish to close down. A few years ago we had the Danish cartoon episode. So what next, one wonders? I wonder what would happen if someone in the West produced a film taking the piss out of the bare-chested leader of Russia?

Meanwhile, in a weird case of life imitating art, the hackers have also allegedly grabbed an early script of the newest James Bond movie. You almost wonder whether this is clever pre-publicity, but it appears this is not.

El Sistema in Venezuela probably is not that much harsher than most musical education

The moon is blue, so I shall defend a socialist prestige cultural project. East Germany had its shotputters, the USSR its grand masters of chess, Venezuela has “El Sistema” – a much lauded system of musical education. Now, however, there is a discordant note:

Author exposes ‘tyranny’ behind musical miracle for poor children

Over 40 years, El Sistema, Venezuela’s music education system, has given a million children the opportunity to play in an orchestra, enriching, they say, the lives of youngsters from the barrios.

Its methods have been emulated in 60 countries, notably Scotland, where a Sistema-style operation was pioneered on a tough housing estate in Stirling with support from the classical violinist Nicola Benedetti.

The mood music has changed, however, with the publication of El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, by Geoffrey Baker.
Aghast at the book’s claims of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism within Venezuela, a Conservative politician has questioned whether El Sistema should extend its reach any further. Yesterday, Alex Johnstone, MSP for North East Scotland, said that plans for a Sistema orchestra in Dundee must be halted while the claims are investigated.

“This book gives the impression that the system is much more authoritarian and intolerant than some were letting on,” said Mr Johnstone. “Not so much a new idea, as back to the Victorian habits of teaching piano by rapping them across the knuckles.”

Corruption, mismanagement and nepotism in a socialist show project would astound me only by their absence. But authoritarianism is the norm when teaching children to play musical instruments the world over, and has been since forever. The exception is the namby-pamby modern Western middle classes, and not all of them. The common opinion of that portion of mankind that gives music lessons or pays for them is that you won’t be going anywhere until you have done your quota of scales, sweetums, and if your name is Wei or Xiuying, these days that quota is likely to be big.

Do not misunderstand me. I like namby pamby. I’ve been uncomfortable with compulsion in education for decades now, and if not convinced that it can be dispensed with altogether for the very youngest children, am certainly convinced that it can be phased out at a far younger age than most people think. In most contexts I am convinced that education without force is immeasurably better education.

But how do you get them to practise – or don’t you? Given that it takes unfailing hours of daily practice to make a great player, and that for most instruments the great players invariably start young, would the price of freeing children from the slavery of music practice be no more great classical musicians? If so, would it be worth it?

The silence of Shia LaBeouf

What to make of this?

Shia LaBeouf: I was raped during performance art project

In an interview with Dazed, the actor says that a woman ‘whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me’ during his silent performance art work #IAMSORRY

My question “what to make of this?” is a real one. There is a whole slew of issues involved in this story, ranging from the double standard surrounding female-on-male rape (or allegations of rape), to the extent to which silence can be taken to be consent (particularly the absence of any appeal to bystanders when they were present), and including issues of fairness to the woman accused of rape and to the spectators implicitly accused of indifference to it, and the propriety of staging such an event “starring” a person whom all sides admit has mental issues, which leads us to the politically-charged question of how far one should question the testimony of one who is or may be mentally incapable . . .

Frustratingly, the Guardian story gives much more detail on LaBeouf’s philosophy of art than on what actually happened. A follow-up story quotes his collaborators in the art project as saying they “put a stop to it” as soon as they became aware of it. No mention is made of force being used; apparently she did stop when told to.

So why didn’t Mr LaBeouf say a word to stop her himself? As far as I can make out his reason was because the point of his performance was that he should sit still and not react. On its own, “I could not object because it would have spoiled my artwork” appears ridiculous. Yet people do sometimes freeze when subjected to sexual assault in a public place; it is a common reaction when women are groped on trains, for instance. Then again, what might the woman say in her own defence if these charges were put to her? Was not the whole point of this famous artwork that Mr LaBeouf consented to being humiliated? What did the spectators think was going on? If, as seems to have been the case, his artistic collaborators held that this was something to which a stop should be put, why was no attempt made to arrest the woman? In general I reject the blanket assumption that a person initiating sexual activity must obtain explicit and ongoing verbal assent before continuing. Such an assumption would only apply to creatures not human; the vast majority of all voluntary sexual intercourse takes place without anything remotely resembling such a procedure. But the vast majority of all sexual intercourse does not take place between strangers in public during performance art.

My bewilderment is genuine. All serious comments are welcome, and I would not be surprised to see serious disagreement among the comments. I do not expect to delete remotely as high a proportion of comments as the Guardian moderators did to the comments to the account in the link, but will not hesitate to delete any of which I disapprove.

Samizdata quote of the day

This, I think, is my main objection to Band Aid 30: it is all predicated on a belief that the British public are mean-spirited and uncharitable, when in actual fact nothing could be further from the truth. It’s time the likes of Geldof stopped asking us to give money, and like Adele, started donating some themselves. Charity, after all, begins at home.

Bryony Gordon

The whole article is a magnificent demolition of celebrity “charity culture” and the cant that is associated with it. Given how some people, such as that now-dead monster, Jimmy Savile, used charity as a shield to ward off questions about his behaviour, and given that at a less odious level, people with interesting personal tax affairs like to go on with charity efforts to get good PR, this sort of analysis is overdue. “Sir” Bob Geldof should perhaps tend rather more to his personal family affairs, which appear to be in a bad way, than making sneering remarks about someone who wants to get on with developing her career as a singer. How selfish of her!

“I’m a politician . . . get me out of here!”

As reported in most entertaining style by the Guardian, Ed Miliband had rather an ordeal at the hands of Myleene Klass.

Looking at the picture Guido has up, the converse is also true.

UPDATE: Second link seems to have collapsed. Here’s the Twitter post (including the [ADDED LATER: fake] relevant photo) from Mark Flanagan’s twitter feed that Guido linked to.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: In fairness, a lot of people, including Mark Flanagan himself and many who are no friends to Ed Miliband, are saying the picture has been maliciously photoshopped. The transition between hand and wrist does look odd. The more I look at it the more sure I am it’s fake, made by manipulating this picture here. Guido’s link has changed, and the picture no longer appears on his post.

Understanding GamerGate

I had an e-mail asking if Samizdata had any views on the GamerGate issue, and where are the best places to read about it.

So… for those of you who do not know, it is a scandal about corruption in the games industry and the serious lack of journalistic ethics in sections of the games press. Indeed the sites who cover games in the Samizdata sidebar are specifically ones who actually have some notion of journalistic ethics like, you know, real journalists should.

If you do not see any of the large mainstream games sites linked, there is a very good reason for that: they are not worthy of your clicks so I sure as hell do not want to send traffic their way. IGN is actually a noteworthy exception to the ‘mainstream = corrupt’ paradigm, in that they actually accepted that yes, there is a problem. So kudos for that. The only reason I am not linking them in the sidebar is not that they are corrupt, it is that they are crap.

I do not actually propose to expound on GamerGate at length other than to say “I support the objectives of #gamergate” and link to various articles about it.

The TL:DR version: many games companies have been getting the best product reviews that money can buy, and also many of the reviewers are a networked coterie of far-left Critical Theory fans who sometimes do hatchet jobs on games for purely ideological reasons. This annoys the hell out of many gamers who are not interested in “does this game objectify women?” but rather just want to know if the cover mechanics work well and is the game-play fun?

Also part of the whole GamerGate thing is an attempt by the anti-GamerGate side to re-frame it all as being about misogyny. To wit, a number of the principal actors (actresses actually) have claimed to have received ‘death threats’ as part of a plot to “force women out of the games industry”. However there is, to put it politely, some speculation that some of these ‘threats’ may be part of a viral marketing campaign to sell stuff to the beta-male/feminist demographic.

The best overall explanation of the pro- and anti- side was written on TechRaptor. Other good sources are found on Niche Gamer. There is also good stuff on GamesNosh, also here. Breitbart Network has been covering this rather awesome soap opera. And there are the twitter hashtags of #GamerGate and #NotYourShield.

And for a rather, ahem, robust set of views, there is the vastly entertaining Internet Aristocrat.

Oh and Gawker takes an arrow to the knee over this. How cool is that?

The spectacle of the cultural left getting absolutely reamed over and over again by angry villagers with pitchforks in full view of anyone who cares, is something that really makes for compulsive viewing, even if you are not a self-described ‘gamer’ (I am, I might add).

Grab some popcorn and enjoy :-D

UPDATE: also some articles on Reason.com here and here.

Pro Bono

Ever since Rob Fisher wrote this post saying he was almost starting to like Bono, I’ve been wanting to write a post called Pro Bono. And now I can.

From the Observer:

Bono: controversial tax laws have brought Ireland the only prosperity it’s ever known

U2 singer says capitalism and commerce play a vital role in lifting people out of poverty and that Ireland’s tax policies benefit the country’s economy

The comments are mostly against him. I’m pro him.

Anti-racister than thou

Twice in the last few days artworks projecting a self-consciously anti-racist message have been removed from show – on the grounds that they were racist.

Council removes Banksy artwork after complaints of racism

Barbican criticises protesters who forced Exhibit B cancellation

Margin Call on TV

At 10.30pm tomorrow, Saturday September 27th, BBC2 TV is showing Margin Call, a movie about the beginnings of the financial meltdown we now all live in the becalmed and depressed and resentful aftermath of.

I wrote admiringly about this movie when it was first being shown in British cinemas, to near-zero audiences if my experience was anything to go by. Maybe this time around more people will pay attention to it, what with the BBC’s Radio Times giving it four stars.