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]

AntifArt

“He’s holding a sign that literally just says ‘the right to openly discuss ideas must be defended.’ Let that sink in.”

Paul Joseph Watson, who sent that tweet, is editor-at-large for Alex Jones’s conspiracy website Infowars. I doubt he and I have much in common. Nonetheless, I urge you to do what he says. Look at the brief film clip to which he links in that tweet and let what you see sink in.

Apparently it relates to events reported in the Hackney Citizen as follows: “VIDEO: Anti-fascists clash with lone counter-protester at LD50 Gallery”.

A protester, who declined to give his full name and, like many in the crowd, had his face covered, countered this viewpoint: “We don’t care about annoying liberal idiots or hard-right people that want to have free debate or whatever. We care about shutting down organizing spaces…there’s enough evidence to say that they’re organizing in this space. Any kind of fascist organizing causes a physical threat down the line.”

For what it’s worth, I cannot tell what the targets of the protest, the LD50 Gallery, are playing at, but it does seem as if more than just the Antifa might regard them with disquiet:

LD50 on Tottenham Road was targeted by anti-fascists in February after news emerged that it hosted a “Neoreaction conference” in 2016 featuring leading proponents of the so-called “alt right” movement.

Speakers at the event included Brett Stevens, who has previously praised Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, saying “he chose to act where many of us write, think and dream”.

[..]

“Although it has attracted the most attention for its Neoreaction and Alt Right exhibits, LD50 represents a new brand of artist that combines trolling, provocation, surrealism and critical theory into ensconcing art experiences that raise more questions than offer answers.”

In what appears to be a veiled response to protests calling for the gallery’s closure, one of the artworks for the new show includes “six computer workstations where participants are encouraged to sit and work through the paper content and destroy it if they find it inappropriate, uninteresting or offensive”.

Actual neo-Nazis? Artists having one last scrape at the exhausted mine of art designed to épater la bourgeoisie? Who knows, perhaps actual believers in freedom of speech? It does not matter. As D.C. Miller, the man with the sign, said, “the right to openly discuss ideas must be defended.”

Rebranding North Korea

I draw the attention of Samizdata readers to this posting. This is because, although I am not a bit sure, I think that I am in favour of attention being paid to it. The posting is entitled “Snask rebrands North Korea as Love Korea with heart-focused identity”. “Snask” is not now being paid by North Korea to rebrand North Korea. They just did it, to draw attention to themselves.

Here is one of the images that Snask has provided:

Also little-red-pig focused, it would seem. (I like how the blue background does weird things when put in front of Samizdata blue.)

Why do I favour such attention? In no particular order, here are some reasons.

Hell-holes like North Korea persist partly because the rest of the world feels that there’s not a damn thing they can do to put a stop to them, so they just give up and ignore them, year after year, decade after decade. This at least stirs up some interest in North Korea, and in a new and hence news-worthy way.

This little scheme, if it is publicised enough, just might mess with the minds of the rulers of North Korea. Like me, they just might be confused about what exactly it means. But unlike me, they might be liable to brood, and to wonder how they can use it to their advantage, but whether instead, if they attempted this, it might blow up in their faces. In general, this strikes me as a way to poke this nasty little hell-hole with a stick. Well, a twig. North Korea really does, for me, I think (but am not sure), fall into the category of “something should be done this is something so this should be done”. I think. I can’t see this triggering a nuclear war. In fact I can’t see it doing much harm at all. Mostly what it will do is get people laughing, at the very incongruity of such a rebrand, and at the Little Red Pig who is in charge of the place being rebranded. And ridicule of such people is surely good. Especially when combined with more serious pressures of the sort that President Trump is now trying to apply.

When tyrannical hell-holes start deluding themselves that they can use what is known as “soft power” – softly, so to speak – that sometimes heralds their demise. Remember “glasnost”. That began as an exercise in old-school Soviet bullshit, to the effect that Soviet Communism was capable of becoming a lot nicer that it ever really could. Which encouraged the thought that the real way to make Soviet Communism a lot nicer would be to shut it down, there being no other way. It’s a long shot, but some similar delusion might be encourageable in the head of the Little Red Pig and his minions. (By the way, I also think that Trump tweeting about how he respects, or whatever was the wording, the Little Red Pig, could have a similar effect, accompanied as such thoughts have been by those serous pressures.)

But, like I say, I am not a bit sure about this. I am merely thinking aloud. Thinking aloud from others would be very welcome.

Some thoughts on The Prisoner

In case you didn’t already know The Prisoner is a TV series starring Patrick McGoohan, originally broadcast in 1967. Lots of libertarians get very excited about it. It was recently re-shown on True Entertainment. [Indeed the very first episode is being re-shown this very afternoon.]

1. The set-up is superb. The numbers, the clothing, “Be seeing you”, Portmeirion, the upbeat public address messages, the font, Number Two, Mini Mokes, Rover, the surveillance. Superficial pleasantness and concealed malice. Brilliant.

2. Many of the episodes hinge on the idea that medical science can manipulate and control the human mind. This is very Sixties but oddly enough doesn’t seem all that dated.

3. Number 6 is very grumpy. Yes, I suppose being kidnapped and imprisoned might get on anyone’s goat but does he have to be quite so testy when dealing with his fellow inmates?

4. Taken as a whole it is a mess. It can’t make up it’s mind whether it is spy drama (Arrival), microcosm (Free for All) or allegory (Living in Harmony). Some episodes e.g. Dance of the Dead seem beyond characterisation.

5. Although as a whole it is a mess, the individual episodes all stand up. Writing, acting, direction. All good. In this regard it rather put me in mind of Antonioni’s “Blow Up”. That has a succession of brilliant scenes that in my estimation don’t add up to a row of beans. It was released a year before The Prisoner. Coincidence? I think not.

6. Did I say all the episodes? It’s time to talk about Fall Out, the finale. When it was first broadcast viewers jammed the broadcaster’s switchboard with their complaints. And it is not difficult to see why. They were promised a logical, rational spy mystery in which the clues would lead to a solution and they were given a clunky allegory with lots of people behaving very oddly. If there is a moral to The Prisoner it is to know how the story is going to end before you start writing it.

7. When I first watched it my interpretation of Six being One was that we are our own jailers. McGoohan himself argued that One is the evil side of all of us that we have to keep in control. This would appear to imply that to be good you have to be grumpy. Hmm.

8. How libertarian is it? The late Chris Tame thought “very”. I am not so sure. Sure there’s a great speech at the beginning about not being “filed, indexed, numbered. I am a free man…” etc. But other than that the only episode where individualism is really present is Change of Mind. This is the episode which introduced us to the word “unmutual”. Even so Number Six only survives because he is too valuable to be lobotomised, can spot when he is being drugged and knows how to hypnotise people. It is not so much the individual against the state as the exceptional individual against the state. And by the way, Number Six does get filed, indexed and numbered.

9. I am far from the first Samizdatista/Libertarian Ally to have written on the subject. See here, here, here and here.

The masks conceal the lack of a proper resolution. From here

Samizdata quote of the day

Evaluating film based on the criteria of diversity can only diminish it. Rather than encouraging people to take a chance and watch films out of their comfort zone, it will instead add more weight to the idea that only certain types of people can, and should, enjoy certain types of films. It also suggests that certain films have authority not because of their artistry, but simply because they are ‘diverse’.

Maren Thom

The Walking Dead

“Walking Dead” and the rest of television and movie entertainment shows that the left still have not learned the lessons of the the colony the Mayflower founded.

In the “Walking Dead” the world is overrun by zombies – and the remaining humans are either brutal raiders and exploiters, or living in communes where people work together to produce food and so on for the common good. There is no large scale private ownership of anything and no large scale private employment – and it is NOT really because the zombie plague had destroyed the world, it is because the entertainment industry people (and the education system) hate large scale private ownership of the means of production and hate large scale private employment. The moral ideal of both the education system and the media (especially the entertainment media) is the caring-sharing community where everyone loves each other and works for the common good.

This view of humanity is not confined to the “Walking Dead” – it is basically the view offered in all popular entertainment. Either people are working together in little communal “communities” or they are being exploited by evil “capitalists” (“Big Business” – boo-hiss). To the left (i.e. the education system and the media – especially the entertainment media) a “capitalist” is not someone who invests and thus helps produce goods and services, a capitalist is a vicious sadist (such as Negan in “Walking Dead” or a million other “exploiter” examples in literature, television, film and school “history” books) who “exploits” people partly for loot (taking the “product of their labour” – Labour Theory of Value) and partly simply out of sadism, cruelty – the desire to inflict suffering for the pleasure of inflicting suffering.

To the left, the education system and media, a company is a “psychopath” because businessmen seek to maximise profits, and profit (in the minds of the education system and the media) means loot, the exploitation of the workers and consumers. That many media companies are, well, companies does not change this – even many high ranking business executives subscribe to the world view that business is evil as they have never been taught any other world view. Even if they went to a private school and university they were, mostly likely, taught that private property is evil (“selfish”) and that the highest good is a caring-sharing local commune – as we see in “Walking Dead” and a thousand other shows. In their own business dealings they are often indeed very treacherous and seek to cheat both employees and customers – as they have been taught that is what “capitalists” are like, and like the late Robert Maxwell they regard their own immoral conduct as proof that “capitalism” is evil. The obsessive, and dishonest, greed of many on “Wall Street” and their leftist politics are not in contradiction – they are mutually reinforcing.

→ Continue reading: The Walking Dead

Film Review – Bitter Harvest (Stalin’s Terror Famine)

Today I went to the cinema, Cineworld, a round trip of some 100 miles, to see the film Bitter Harvest, a film about the Stalin’s Terror Famine in the Ukraine in 1932/3. The film takes the form of a dramatic ‘love story’, starting in a Ukrainian village (most likely but it unspoken – Cossack) as the Bolshevik Revolution has started, and news of the Tsar’s death breaks. The Revolution seems far away in this idyll and the couple who are the heroes are young children. There is an echo of Tolkien’s shire about the place, very beautiful even if life is hard. Then Lenin dies and Stalin (called ‘Koba’ by his Comrades) comes to power. The local Commissar comes around, backed by Red Army troops, and the village is to be collectivised. All land belongs to the State, as the Commissar reminds everyone, and evidently he has some targets to meet, enemies of the people to kill, kulaks to be purged, icons to be seized (for sale) and Collective Farms to be formed. His brutality is probably only tempered only by his anxiety at which target he has the greatest need to meet, something which diverts him occasionally from the most brutal option available.

The heroes of the film are a couple Yuri and Natalka from that same village. Yuri is one of several artists, he is a painter, and all his friends in his age group are keen to go to the Big City Kiev, some eagerly noting how the State has work for artists. Eventually Yuri goes to Kiev (on his internal passport*), leaving behind Natalka. On the way to Kiev, there are encounters with the starving peasantry, a passenger talks about the famine and gets arrested by the NKVD. There is a constant theme of the starving and dying, with an unmechanised disposal system of horse and carts scouring the streets for corpses for mass burials here and there, and corpses in open train wagons. The starving flock to Kiev, simply to die in the streets. The film is simply and properly unrelentingly grim, and it does not shy from showing the brutality of the Bolsheviks.

Stalin is informed of the resistance to collectivisation and the starvation that his policy is causing, he implements Lenin’s plans but without mercy, and the greater the resistance, the higher the targets become until all food is to be seized. The official line is that there is ‘malnutrition’ but not famine, a lie that Walter Duranty and the New York Times were happy to peddle, the latter partially recanting many decades later.

Yuri in Kiev meets up with his friends, and awkwardly hints and the famine and its increasingly visible consequences. He finds himself working as a painter, with his friends all doing political work, but his art lacks the necessary ideological flavour, his boss is purged (we infer) and he is then fired, working as a ‘rag and bone man‘, sorting through the possessions of the dead for sale, the only growth industry apart from terror. His friend from the village, who has risen in Kiev to be local party chief, shows some perhaps surprising independence, before shooting himself as the NKVD close in. Yuri gets arrested after a brawl, but manages to escape. Yuri’s family have been arrested for anti-Soviet activity after realising that they are doomed in the village as it is collectivised. Yuri meets up with Ukrainian partisans, and manages to spring some of his family. The film gives the impression that there was a significant amount of resistance to the Soviets, and also that people in the early 1930s spoke more freely that you might have imagined. Perhaps this has been overlooked in the face of the apparently monolithic Soviet police state. Yuri and Natalka realise that they have to escape, and they hope to make it to Canada, (long before the Trudeaus starting fawning over Castro). They head for the Polish border before making for a break chased by shooting Soviet Border Guards.

The film is very well shot, CGI is minimal, and barely noticeable. The grimy, shrunken starving hordes are a constant presence, very well done. The clothing and fashion are convincing, and whilst the dialogue is a little forced sometimes, the message that the State is your executioner (which it was) is well put across. It also mentioned famines in Kazhakstan and amongst the Jews in Belarus. The plot feels slightly fanciful, being necessarily at the high end of expectations, not in that it obviously shows a fight-back, but that there was so much spirit in those fighting the Soviets. However, it at least tells a story that should be told again and again.

That the film has had minimal publicity is a shame, even in the cinema showing it, it was not advertised except for a partial listing. In its first and only week, 11 people came to this Sunday showing, the nearest to me at 50 miles away. I enjoyed it, I appreciated it, and it was nice to be somewhere watching an anti-Soviet film feeling pretty damn certain that I wouldn’t end up sitting next to Jeremy Corbyn.

As I write, some speeches are perhaps being polished for the Oscars. I’m sure that the people in this film heading for a border as a matter of life and death won’t feature in the minds of the speech makers, and you won’t hear an actor not called, say, Sterile Weep, making a heart-renching condemnation of the system that led to an estimated 7,000,000 to 10,000,000 deaths.

* per Wikipedia, The Ukraine only scrapped internal passports in 2016.

This is indeed the way to deal with attacks… turn them into a badge of honour

D’Souza thanked the academy for the prizes, saying in a recorded message that “being dissed by you guys, this is absolutely fantastic.

“My audience loves the fact that you hate me.”

“The reason you are giving it to me is because you’re very upset Trump won.

“You’ve never got over it, you probably never will.”

– Dinesh D’Souza, as quoted in the Guardian upon getting four Razzies for the worst film of the year for his Hillary Clinton exposé.

This approach works equally well against both left and right.

Sticking it to Ken Loach

Comedy might not be Loach’s forte. But there is splendid unintentional humour in this class warrior standing up at a dinner sponsored by large corporations to denounce the Government that pays him so handsomely to keep churning out his Marxist drivel.

Harry Phibbs

New materialism, old feudalism

Ruth Potts, writing in the Guardian with a quill pen, says that,

…a deeper understanding of humankind’s place in a living world of materials suggests the need and opportunity for a different kind of love affair with “stuff” – a long-term relationship of appreciation, slow pleasures, care and respect.

Instead of abstinence and austerity, embracing the New Materialism could have profoundly positive effects. Inverting classic expectations of productivity in which fewer people produce more stuff for consumption, the New Materialism points to an economy in which, in effect, more people produce less stuff for consumption.

and

There are other steps we can take to accelerate this healthier relationship with stuff: a minimum 10-year guarantee would help end the scourge of built-in obsolescence. Community Supported Agriculture reconnects communities with the people who grow food. The same approach could be applied to more of the objects we use: Community-supported potteries could deliver tableware, gradually, by subscription. The same could apply to clothing and furniture. A culture of repair and re-imagining would create ample skilled employment; high street making and mending hubs could bring life back to the hearts of our towns and cities.

Speaking as the last woman in England who can properly darn a sock, I know well the pleasure to be had from “make do and mend”. Darning is quite satisfying. By plying my darning needle I have kept going heirloom socks knitted by deceased great aunts. I have been known to darn a hole in a beloved Fair Isle jumper in multiple colours of antique darning wool, which I acquired from an eBay seller in France. Don’t think I don’t see the appeal of caring for a dear old thing rather than buying a rubbishy new thing.

But that appeal is strictly contingent on it being a hobby not a necessity. For generations of women, darning was the most wretched of tasks, ruining their eyes and wasting their lives trying to eke out a little more use from a garment that was certain to “go” again almost on the next wearing. Men had it no better. George Orwell wrote in Homage to Catalonia of seeing the type of tools in use in 1930s Spain:

A broken ploughshare, for instance, was patched, and then patched again, till sometimes it was mainly patches. Rakes and pitchforks were made of wood. Spades, among a people who seldom possessed boots, were unknown; they did their digging with a clumsy hoe like those used in India. There was a kind of harrow that took one straight back to the later Stone Age. It was made of boards joined together, to about the size of a kitchen table; in the boards hundreds of holes were morticed, and into each hole was jammed a piece of flint which had been chipped into shape exactly as men used to chip them ten thousand years ago. I remember my feelings almost of horror when I first came upon one of these things in a derelict hut in no man’s land. I had to puzzle over it for a long while before grasping that it was a harrow. It made me sick to think of the work that must go into the making of such a thing, and the poverty that was obliged to use flint in place of steel. I have felt more kindly towards industrialism ever since

That’s because Orwell, though a Socialist, had trained himself to the habit of opening the door when reality came knocking. Ms Potts has not. Every pretty vision she describes, the minimum ten year guarantee, the “Community supported agriculture”, the idea that “Community-supported potteries could deliver tableware, gradually, by subscription” (sounds lovely, all the family sharing one plate while waiting for the rest to arrive); they all boil down to deliberately making things more expensive and people poorer.

A triumph of world culture

A few years back one of my children introduced me to the glory that was Star War The Third Gathers: The Backstroke of the West.

Now I see that Mark Liberman of Language Log has flagged up this piece by Patrick Shanley for the Hollywood Reporter:

‘Revenge of the Sith’ Dubbed With Bootleg Chinese Dialogue Is a Fan-Made Masterpiece

YouTuber GratefulDeadpool has done the unthinkable: He’s made Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith cool.

Using the original Chinese subtitles, which feature multiple lost-in-translation misinterpretations, GratefulDeadpool redubbed the prequel trilogy’s final installment — with hilarious results.

Entitled Backstroke of the West Highlights Part 1 (Star War: The Third Gathers), the recut features such memorable lines as “I has been hating you,” from the villainous Count Dooku, and “The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly,” spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi while piloting a careening starship.

Dorkly explains the bizarre translations likely “began with a machine translation of the Chinese script to [Revenge of the Sith], which attempted to literally translate from Mandarin to English, despite the multitude of barriers between the two languages.” The end result was great quips, such as “Smelly boy” from General Grievous to Kenobi and “Your dead period arrived, teacher” from a rebellious Anakin Skywalker during his fateful lightsaber duel with his master on Mustafar.

You can view either edited highlights of this semi-accidental masterpiece or the whole thing by following the links in the Hollywood Reporter piece. Back at Language Log, one of the commenters, Jonathan Smith, rightly says that, “This latest editor’s genius was to get voice actors to read it with straight faces.”

However I cannot endorse Mark Liberman’s view when he writes, “I’m skeptical of the machine-translation idea, because I seriously doubt that there has ever been an MT system that rendered “the Jedi Council” as “the Presbyterian Church”.

Doesn’t he know what happens when you say things like that about Star Wars?

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Saki walks the walk

H H Monro – who wrote under the pen name Saki – was a writer of mainly short stories. In most of them the innocent and gullible find themselves in an unequal struggle with the sly and devious.

In his novel When William Came he wrote about what would happen in the event of a German invasion. It is not a particularly good novel but it does describe the process by which die-hard patriots find themselves ever more isolated as more and more of the smart set – desperate to carry on as before – adapt themselves to occupation

When war came, Monro was a man in his 40s and as such could have stood aside. Instead he joined up. He was killed on the Somme a hundred years ago yesterday.

One our regular-ish commenters posts under the same name as one of Saki’s recurring characters so it will be interesting to hear Clovis Sangrail’s take.

saki_s

Samizdata quote of the day

By obsessing over politics above all else, identitarian artists of the twenty-first century resemble the Socialist Realists from the Soviet Union in the early- to mid-twentieth century. One could charitably call Socialist Realism an artistic style, one that glorified peasants, factory workers, and Communist values, but it was nurtured by a totalitarian police state and was the only “style” allowed by the government lest hapless artists wished to live out the remaining days of their lives in a Siberian slave labor camp. “Like Socialist Realism,” Ahmari writes, “identitarian art claims to be revolutionary, but in fact rigidly adheres to a set of political dictates. Master its political grammar, and you can easily decode any piece of identitarian art. For all its claims to ‘transgressiveness,’ identity art is drearily conformist.”

Michael Totten