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]

Repeal the new surveillance laws (Investigatory Powers Act)

If you are in the UK, please sign the petition to repeal the new surveillance laws (Investigatory Powers Act). We are half way to getting a Parliamentary debate (maybe 🙄 ).

Too many see Orwell’s “1984” not as a cautionary tale, but rather a compendium of interesting policy suggestions.

The tectonic plates are shifting

This is a statement by Geert Wilders about the attempts by the Dutch establishment to silence him for expressing a political opinion:

Now whatever you think of Wilders, this has been an astonishing attempt to simply shut down free expression in an western nation. And of course this will not silence him and will probably prove to be a spectacular establishment own-goal.

And in the UK, more and more infrastructure to censor internet porn is being put into place. Why is this related? Because once control infrastructure exists, it can and will be re-purposed, in much the same way the Department for Education’s “counter extremism unit“, set up ostensibly to prevent violent Islamic extremist views being taught in UK schools, gets re-purposed to shut down a gay secular journalist who has not called for any violence against anyone.

All across the Western World, political verities and assumption are starting to shift, and almost nothing can be accurately predicted any more. We live in times that are a danger and opportunity in equal measure, and people who care about liberty will have to get their hands dirty, making common cause with others who will not pass any purity sniff tests but with whom we share common enemies (however care does need to be taken in such matters for sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my enemy… but sometimes not), however now is the time for engagement and action.

“A huge, stifling bubble”

How sad that the “huge, stifling bubble” being described is a university. I am not quite clear who wrote the following article for student magazine The Tab. The byline says Lucy Kehoe, a co-editor of Tab Liverpool, but the introduction suggests that she is quoting someone (a male) whose name is not given. Whoever wrote it, it is good to see someone fighting back:

Shutting down the ‘Pro-Life Society’ isn’t liberal — it’s the exact opposite

The way the campus majority reacted to the new ‘Pro-Life Society’ is symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with student politics right now. It was oppressive and deeply intolerant — ironically, exactly what opponents of the society claim they want to defeat.

Speaking as an atheist and staunch pro-choicer, the attempt to shut down the Liverpool University Pro-Life Society before they’ve even had a chance to go for an ice-breaker pint strikes me as a pretty a sinister development. Without trying to sound like a badly-damaged record, simply disagreeing with someone’s opinion does not warrant this person being banned from voicing this opinion, no matter how stark or severe the disagreement may be.

Let’s confront this together, fellow pro-choicers. The members of this society probably find your pro-choice views outrageous, too. Morally reprehensible. In some cases, your views are an insult to their deeply-held religious views.

So, if the Guild was to approve a future application from a pro-choice society, should that be kicked off campus, too? Clearly, the answer is no. Because their outrage doesn’t trump free speech — and neither does yours. When people (like myself) reflect on how wonderful university was, a word we are pretty much guaranteed to use is “diversity”. Diversity of race, religion and nationality. Of accents and hometowns. Of opinion and perspective.

Campuses are places where opinions should be held freely, exchanged in good will and perhaps even debated where necessary. This is the essence of a mature democracy. It’s the basics, really. But this is under attack. No longer is the university an open, tolerant, marketplace of ideas, but a huge, stifling bubble where any group united by a conservative point of view risks being delegitimised by the opinion police.

So far as I know the society has not been banned, but everybody took quite seriously the idea that its suppression should be discussed. The petition to ban it started by a student called Katriana Ciccotto read in part:

“As a female student, I feel completely betrayed, insulted and neglected by the Guild’s recent approval of the pro-life society.

As a female whose student days are long gone, I feel completely wearied by reading political statements that start with “As a female I feel completely [insert line of sad face emoticons here]”. Honestly, kids, feminism once meant something quite different to this. At least with mansplaining you might learn something; a headache is all you get from being in range of womemoting.

“This is a society that is founded on the sole basis that women should oblige to their beliefs. One that denies a woman the right to her own body. These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful.

I do not know what “oblige to their beliefs” means nor why it is meant to be a bad thing. The statement “These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful” is odd, too. Is it some sort of politically correct charm spell, recited to protect the speaker against accusations of Islamophobia? I am religious but would not claim for a microsecond that an idea being religious is logically incompatible with it being misogynistic and hateful. And while there certainly are those who oppose abortion on non-religious grounds, it is common knowledge that there are vast numbers, including many women of the sort modern feminists do not see, whose opposition to abortion is religious and they are proud to have it that way.

“Whilst I understand and the Guild’s policy towards freedom of speech, misogyny does not come under this category. Surely the Guild would undoubtedly disapprove of a society that promoted racism, homophobia or any other form of hate speech? Why is this different?

“If the Guild want to maintain the idea that they represent their students, they should have the moral obligation to ban this pro-life group.”

I, not Ms Ciccotto, put the phrase “misogyny does not come under this category” in bold type. It was unendearingly typical of the class of “I believe in free speech but” arguments that define free speech down to meaninglessness. There is a word called “whataboutery”, describing a style of argument by deflection pioneered in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in which people avoided facing up to the evil done by their own side by endlessly bringing up evil deeds (especially evil deeds of many years past) done by the other side. Whataboutery often is used dishonestly, but not always. A demand that all should be judged by the same rules is fair. But I really cannot see much to defend in the tactic of buttery.

UK government suppressing free speech: nothing less than scandalous

I have mixed feelings about Milo Yiannopoulos, but the notion that representatives of Her Majesties Government have pressured Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury into cancelling a speech by him on grounds of ‘extremism‘ is tantamount to a declaration of war on freedom of expression.

There needs to be push-back because this is scandalous.

Push back how? Names need to be named. Exactly who at the Department for Education was behind this? Who did Headmaster Matthew Baxter speak with? Names please. And who ordered those functionaries to contact the headmaster and press him into cancelling this event? Names please, because their reasoning needs to be subject to scrutiny.

Update: very interesting local article reporting on this. Once you get away from the London based media, you are more likely to find journalism that does not reflexively kowtow to the BBC/Guardian orthodoxy.

Samizdata quote of the day

It has been argued that Brexit will make us freer. Not just in an economic or political sense, but also in terms of individual civil liberties. spiked’s Mick Hume wrote that ‘the referendum result is a triumph for free speech and a smack in the eye for the culture of You Can’t Say That’. And it is.

Post-Brexit Britain will no longer be bound by an EU Code of Conduct that seeks to police the online speech of over 500million citizens and ban ‘illegal online hate speech’. Or an EU law that encourages the criminalisation of ‘insult’. Or a proposed EU law that undermines fundamental freedoms by purging Europe of every last shred of supposed ‘discrimination’.

We can distinguish ourselves from our European neighbours that are intent on pursuing more and more censorship. Just over the summer it was reported that prosecutors in Spain initiated criminal proceedings against the Archbishop of Valencia for preaching a homily alleged to have been ‘sexist’ and ‘homophobic’. In the Netherlands, a man was sentenced to 30 days in prison for ‘intentionally insulting’ the king on Facebook. And in Germany a prosecution was launched against a comedian who made jokes against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

These kinds of cases have become normal on the continent. So much so that they barely generate news. And they are often willingly cheered on by the EU and other European institutions. Britain can tread a different path.

There is just one, small problem: when it comes to censorship and the quashing of civil liberties, the UK doesn’t need any encouragement from the EU, or anybody else.

Paul Coleman

Concerning “concerning” opinions

A story in today’s Sunday Times provides a practical lesson in how our freedom is being whittled away. The story is paywalled, but I will quote the most relevant part:

Adoption banned in ‘gay parents’ row

A husband and wife have been prevented from trying to adopt their two young foster children after the couple said a child needed a “mummy and daddy” rather than gay parents.

Social services said it would not consider the couple’s request to adopt the children because they had aired “concerning” opinions about the possibility of a same-sex couple being chosen as the adoptive parents instead.

Campaigners said the treatment of the couple was disturbing because it meant people could be penalised by the authorities simply for expressing support for traditional parenting.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting them, said: “This couple’s viewpoint is lawful and mainstream.”

There are several matters which I could address in this post but will not. The priority placed by the social workers on the interests of two formerly neglected children in finally having a stable home, for one. Or the fact that we now have “lawful” opinions in Britain, which is another way of saying that we now have opinions that are unlawful.

I will content myself with saying that this is the most effective control technique currently in use. You are still free to express dissent. It is just that if you exercise your freedom to express your dissent you and yours had better give up on wanting to do anything else with your life which requires the goodwill of officials, a category which grows ever larger. Our rulers are cannier than those of the Soviet Union. They have dispensed with the labour camps but kept the strategy that actually worked. As Andrei Sakharov said,

“Everyone wants to have a job, be married, have children, be happy, but dissidents must be prepared to see their lives destroyed and those dear to them hurt. When I look at my situation and my family’s situation and that of my country, I realize that things are getting steadily worse.”

I am not an admirer of Islam… but I support the government’s position not to ban Sharia councils

There is a petition to ban Sharia councils (incorrectly described as Sharia courts), and given my often stated critical views of Islam, you might think I would be supportive. But that is not the case, as I find myself in full agreement with HM government’s position (it is not often I write that!) and I think their response to the petition is correct (emphasis added):

Sharia councils are not courts in England and Wales. They cannot legally enforce any decision and must operate within the rule of national law. The Government has no plan to change this position.

Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices. The Government does not prevent individuals from seeking to regulate their lives through religious beliefs or cultural traditions. Nothing in the law prevents people abiding by Sharia principles if they wish, provided their actions do not conflict with the law. If they do conflict, then national law prevails.

Sharia councils are not courts, and they are not in any sense part of the legal system in this country. Sharia councils have no legal power to enforce any decisions they make. Any religious council, or other body through which people seek to resolve their disputes, must operate within the rule of national law.

The Government understands that there are concerns about Sharia councils. The full, independent review into the application of Sharia law in England and Wales, launched by the previous Home Secretary on 26 May, will enhance our understanding of any misuse of Sharia law, and the extent of any problem where it may exist.

And I would have to say that is a very good response. You cannot ban Sharia councils without the state sweeping away yet another layer of civil society and replacing it with yet more top-down statism. Voluntary arbitration is a long standing tradition in this country and a Sharia council is just that: voluntary arbitration. The amount of misinformation and disinformation swirling around is remarkable. Such councils cannot involve anyone who is not willing to participate, and cannot impose decisions that are repugnant to secular national law. It is no different to two parties deciding to settle some dispute over a cup of tea in front of a Church of England vicar. Well ok, a Sharia council might involve Turkish coffee rather than tea. But in either case, neither is permitted to step outside the bounds of secular law. If there is any role for the state, and that is a big ‘if’, then it might be to educate people from minority communities that such councils are entirely voluntary and people are free to say “No”, or even “Hell no!” when they are suggested as a means of arbitration.

Samizdata quote of the day

O’Doherty unintentionally summed up the real problem with this judgement. That is, that private businesses should never have to offer ‘justification’ for discriminating – not to the state, the Equality Commission, or anyone else. Just because you run a bakery, that doesn’t mean the state gets to intervene in your matters of conscience. What’s more, this case is not clear-cut. While Lee claimed he was discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation, McArthur insists that Ashers refused to make the cake because of the message on it, not the sexual preference of the customer.

Now, many people said that Ashers should have made the cake because it offers a public service. But this simply isn’t true. It is a private business. There is an enormous difference between discrimination by public services, which are run by the state, and private businesses, which are run by individuals. Public services must be freely accessible to all. But private individuals must be free to run their businesses according to their own moral judgement.

Luke Gittos

An easy mistake to make

Apparently the Queen ‘confused Vladimir Putin with Andrew Marr’ during a state visit.

It can be difficult to tell apart all these ex-communists who have kept their taste for being “engineers of the human soul”. There was little spiritual difference between Vladimir Putin and Andrew Marr when Marr said this:

“… though teachers are the most effective anti-racist campaigners in the country, this means more than education in other religions it means a form of political education. Only people who understand the economic forces changing their world, threatening them but also creating new opportunities, have a chance of being immune to the old tribal chants. And the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain ‘natural’ beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off. The police are first in line to be burdened further, but a new Race Relations Act will impose the will of the state on millions of other lives too.”

Emphasis added. The Guardian article from which the quote is taken can be read here.

Encryption, terrorism, privacy and security

Ars Technica ran a story about a man in Cardiff charged with using encryption to aid terrorism. A VPN provider wrote about it on their blog. Scotland Yard supplied more details about the charges.

Count 3: Preparation for terrorism. Between 31 December 2015 and 22 September 2016 Samata Ullah, with the intention of assisting another or others to commit acts of terrorism, engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to his intention namely, by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site and publishing the instructions around the use of programme on his blog site. Contrary to section 5 Terrorism Act 2006.

It appears the charges include that he used encryption (probably HTTPS) to secure his blog, and that he had a USB stick with an operating system on it (probably Tails). This is just silly. Use of encryption is not related to terrorism. We use exactly the same encryption to protect our communication with shopping sites and banks as we do share our family photos with other members of our families. Learning about encryption or teaching others about encryption is not a crime, so why is doing these things in relation to terrorism listed as a separate charge? Terrorists might eat eggs for breakfast but they are not charged with eating an egg in connection with terrorism. If there is evidence he was doing terrorism, charge him with that. There is no need to bring encryption into it at all.

There is a risk in connecting such things with crime in the public psyche. People need to be encouraged to make use of privacy tools, not be afraid of them. They need to use these tools to protect themselves from crime. It is not helpful if encryption becomes to be seen simply as a tool of terrorists and criminals.

It is a short step from there to demands for the state to Do Something About It. The state will inevitably do silly things, like insisting on back doors in encryption systems. As our own Perry Metzger pointed out on Fox Business, it is impossible to weaken encryption used by terrorists to communicate without also putting people at risk from fraudsters attempting to manipulate their bank accounts.

A television show about what happens to ex-Muslims

I just spotted, in the Radio Times, this:

exposureislamnonbelievers

I seem to recall reading not that long ago about this TV show, at Mick Hartley’s blog. Yes, in this posting. The show goes out on ITV, this coming Thursday, at 10.40pm. I love my Gogglebox (see above right) and will be watching this show, and recording it. I may even, although I promise nothing, have more to say about the show here, after I have actually seen it.

Judging by the blurb about this programme that I just read here, it deals with a quite wide range of nastinesses that ex-Muslims get subjected to by Muslims, nastinesses both legal and illegal, from merely nasty to downright evil.

Although this show will describe and criticise the merely nasty things that ex-Muslims are subjected to (being ostracised by their families, for instance), I doubt if it will go as far as saying that nastiness of that sort should be illegal, any more than I would. On the other hand, the programme will also be noting that many Muslims favour doing things which in Britain are illegal and which elsewhere ought to be illegal if they now aren’t. I refer to things like murder, incitement to murder, assault and the forcible denial of the right of ex-Muslims to express ex-Muslim opinions in public. For that I applaud this programme, and its maker, Deeyah Khan.

I focus on the illegal and thoroughly wicked things that are done by Muslims to ex-Muslims because this particular issue strikes me as one that ought particularly to be focussed on, by all who dislike either the general influence of Islam (as I do – I believe in being nasty to Islam), or by those who merely wish Muslims to stop doing uncontroversially terrible and terror-inducing things to ex-Muslims, and to infidels generally. Me, I think that the content of Islamic doctrine leads pretty directly to Muslims doing terrible things, but that is a different argument, and one that divides those who merely want “Islamic extremism” to abate.

The matter of what is divisive, and for whom, is important. When engaged in an ideological war, it can help to focus particularly on issues which will unite the people on your side, while dividing your opponents. Whatever your opinions about the nastiness of Islam in general (I think it very nasty), you will surely agree with me (even as you perhaps denounce me for telling all Muslims that their religion is nasty and thereby uniting them all against all infidels) that murdering ex-Muslims merely for being ex-Muslims is wrong and should be cracked down on with the full force of the law. So, the illegally evil things that happen to ex-Muslims are an issue that should be focussed on with particular enthusiasm. Hence my particular enthusiasm about this televlsion show.

I recently heard about how a quite prominent British Muslim, of the sort who argues that Western Civilisation, and Islam in approximately its present large and very influential form (just somewhat nicer), are capable of getting along amicably, and even in a state of mutual creativity. I think something like this may one day happen also, but only after Islam has at least been put on the ideological defensive (hence my belief in criticising Islam in general), in other words not for a longish while.

So anyway, this “good Muslim” was asked whether he condemned the murdering of ex-Muslims. He equivocated. I say that people like this should be faced again and again with this question, and made to pick their team. Is he so terrified of offending the many Muslims who, although not themselves murderers, nevertheless side with those who do murder ex-Muslims, that he is instead willing to offend all of the rest of us, including those Muslims who vehemently oppose such murders? Make up your damn mind, mate. In the not inconceivable event that he reads this, he may recognise himself. Good.

And Muslims who do pick their team, by unequivocally and publicly supporting such murders, should be confronted even more severely, in ways that perhaps include them being prosecuted for incitement to murder:

The programme finds that a number of senior British Bangladeshi imams, mainstream figures in society, have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, claiming they have insulted Islam, and making a number of anti-atheist statements.

Making “anti-atheist statements” is fine, from the strictly legal point of view, provided no incitement to murder or to violence is involved. Just calling atheists wicked and mistaken shouldn’t be illegal. But nor should “insulting Islam”. However, calling for the murder of ex-Muslims is utterly vile, and it is a very good idea to make such Imams either squirm and equivocate in front of television cameras, or else show their true and vile colours, whichever they choose to go with, and for the rest of us to sneer at them for the morally and intellectually vacuous individuals that they are.

More importantly, we should be supplying moral and practical support to all those ex-Muslims who speak out about their beliefs. We should all try to make this an easier path to follow than it is now. This most definitely includes making, and watching and blogging about, television shows about ex-Muslims, full of admiration for them and for their courage and their wisdom, and full of contempt and denunciation of those who want them to shut up.

Not “Maggie” May

Theresa May:

Government can and should be a force for good; the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; we should employ the power of government for the good of the people. Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people.

Guido:

Claiming to reject ideology is nonsense – May is advocating an ideology of “centrism”, statist, intervening in the economy, acceptance of perpetual borrowing and over-spending, coupled with greater intrusion by the state into the lives of individuals. Remember her Snoopers’ Charter, giving the state powers to intercept personal online data of every individual. Her conference speech last year, lest we forget, was panned by the Institute of Directors and described as “chilling and bitter”. May, whilst claiming the state is a “force for good”, is proposing to force companies to list foreign workers, an ominous and pointless intervention in the private contracts of business. She will also hint this afternoon at imposing price controls on energy companies, another interventionist policy for which the Tories rightly monstered Ed Miliband. Thatcher wanted to “roll back the frontiers of the state”. May wants “government to step up, not back”. So who do you vote for now if you want a balanced budget, free markets and to get the state out of your life?

Quite.