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

Blasts from the past

Last weekend I had a nice little surprise. Guido, in his Seen Elsewhere section, linked to a piece by Carl Packman entitled Of course I Remember When Ian Hislop was Eurosceptic. I clicked on Packman’s piece, because I too remembered when Ian Hislop was very EUrosceptic indeed. In particular, I remembered an amazing diatribe which erupted from him on BBC TV’s Have I Got News For You, way back in early 2003. I recalled this Hislop eruption because I wrote a piece for Samizdata about it at the time. Hislop is now a Remoaner, but he certainly wasn’t then, as I then noted, and as Packman recalls and records. What I did not anticipate, when I began reading Packman’s piece, was that Packman would include in his piece a quote from that same Samizdata posting of mine. Very pleasing. What goes on the internet stays on the internet, provided only that someone is curating it capably, and even if it was posted way back in May 2003.

It is no big criticism of Carl Packman to say that he seems to have read that one Samizdata posting, but not any other EUro-postings here, and maybe not any other postings here at all, apart from that one. (Fair enough. I have only read this one piece of his.) And Packman seems to have got the idea that we Samizdatistas were not then at all happy about the fierceness of Hislop’s EUro-scepticism. But I for one was delighted by it, and most of our commenters on that posting, and most Samizdata writers and commenters from that time until now, have been very critical of EUrope. It was just that in that particular posting I was concentrating on what Ian Hislop had said and on why it mattered, rather than including a lot of other stuff about why I personally agreed with him, which I did, and was delighted that he had said it, which I was. Indeed, having done some digging back into my other EUro postings here from around that time, I have been surprised by how early and how vehement my personal hatred of the EU and all its works was. Trust me, there’s plenty more EUro-detestation from me in the Samizdata archives. Not everyone who has written for Samizdata hates the EU, but it seems that I have hated it from way back. What is more, this hatred, from me and from others here, might actually have had consequences.

The other thing that occurs to me about Ian Hislop’s apparent volte face over EUrope is that there is one way in which he was and is being entirely consistent. Hislop, I believe, really does believe in speaking, if not always truth exactly then at least insults, to power, unlike a lot of the people who merely say that they do. Well, now, thanks to the Brexit vote in the EUro-referendum, Brexit is a dominant political orthodoxy. And Hislop is now determined to keep the argumentative pot good and stirred about the wisdom or lack of it of that attitude.

In 2003, on the other hand, when Prime Minister Tony Blair was riding high, very few people indeed would have then have foreseen that Brexit would eventually happen. (I certainly didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect that we would be allowed a vote about it, and until the Brexit vote actually happened, I didn’t think that it would happen.) Which means that, then and now, Hislop was and is aligning himself against the dominant orthodoxy of the time. It’s just that this orthodoxy changed. Yes, on the mere EUrope issue, Hislop is now revealed as a turncoat. But he turned his coat for a very respectable reason.

Packman, in his piece, ruminates upon what Hislop really thinks. I think that what Hislop really things is that raspberries and rotting vegetables and brickbats and mockery should always be thrown at whoever and whatever, politically, happens to be in charge at any given time. If only to keep alive the principle that this can be done. Compared to that principle, Hislop’s supposed principles about the mere details of this or that political argument are, to him, relatively unimportant.

(See also this posting by me here, also from way back, ahout John Gray, another man who has often been accused of being inconsistent. Gray is presumably even now ruminating about how the hopes now being placed by the likes of me in the benefits of Brexit will be dashed. Because: doom, doom, doom. I couldn’t find any Gray stuff yet along these lines. He seems so far to have confined his EUro-pessimism to the future of EUrope rather than the future of the UK. But once Brexit is sorted and the optimism over here really starts to kick in, trust me, Gray will be heard saying that it will all end in ruin and despair. In Gray world, everything that people think might be really good always ends in ruin and despair, regardless of whether it actually turns out like that for real. And the good news is that he is usually wrong.)

The delusion that things can’t get any worse

That’s it really. You probably know exactly what I am thinking. So get commenting.

My thoughts along these lines were provoked by a comment on this piece in The Sun by Iain Martin, who is prophesying Corbynite doom, in the event of a Corbynite victory.

The comment, in response to what Martin and the first few commenters all say, went thus:

But standards of living are falling and poverty is increasing while those that rule over us get richer and this is happening under a Tory government, so how is this any better than the nightmare scenario that you portray. Truth is that any system that leads to the politicians thinking that the rule over us rather than govern on our behalf is flawed.

Some systems, however, are more flawed than others.

Sliding down a hill is very troubling, but the idea that jumping off a cliff is the answer is crazy. Unless, and this is my real fear, enough British voters are now so angry at the world and the way it is treating them that they are willing totally to ruin their own lives in order to at least knock a little of the stuffing out of the bastards who are doing this to them. Wreck the country would it? Boo hoo. That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. The fucking country fucking deserves to be fucking wrecked. The vote as suicide bomb, you might say.

This, I believe, was the psychological fuel behind a significant chunk of the Brexit vote, and if anything could make me regret voting Brexit myself, it is the knowledge that if we get Brexit and then full-on, in-our-faces Corbynism, we really will be in a bad way, every bit as bad as the Remainers have been saying.

The result of the recent British general election was very bad. But it did, perhaps, have this mitigating feature, that it created a country full of people who are seriously scared of Corbynism (that being a link to another piece of writing very similar to Martin’s), before Corbynism has actually struck, and who are able and willing to get their act together to stop such a national catastrophe.

It may be that the electoral rise of Corbyn will, for him and for his cadre of demented followers, turn out to have been premature. From the point of view of the socialists-that-really-mean-it, the time for a country to be realising for the first time what a catastrophe socialism-that-really-means-it would be, needs to be after the socialists-that-really-mean-it have seized command, and when, from the point of view of all those of us who would prefer to live in a half decent country, it’s too late.

What were you doing a year ago this day, this hour, this minute?

While we are on the subject of reminiscences… The moment they knew.

And here is the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.

Fun with Daniel

I am posting this clip from Daniel Hannan for no better reason than it has a rather high yum to yawn ratio.

Hannan offers us a spoonful of political wisdom:

“There is one charge against which I’d always defend members of this house, and that’s the widespread belief in many of our members states that MEPs are lazy, that we come here and sit around and do nothing. Frankly the world would be a much better place if that charge were true – if instead of constantly legislating, people would come here and clock in for their very generous attendance allowance and then go and work on their golf handicap, or read a novel, or do something other than meddling in the lives of everybody else.”

And a smidgin of political insult:

“I am being heckled by a sort of lefty yahoo over there who is gibbering and ranting like a stricken animal”

Finally a Monsieur Marias does well in the role of straight man:

I would like to ask the chair to censor this so-called colleague who is insulting the whole house.

Samizdata quote of the day

Post-Brexit Britain will no longer be bound by an EU Code of Conduct that seeks to police the online speech of over 500 million 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’ […] 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

The EU Fairy

Shot 1: An office, somewhere in Europe. Well-dressed yet approachable EUROPEAN PEOPLE of diverse race and gender TALK SERIOUSLY.

Back in 2015 the organisation Européens Sans Frontières (Europeans Without Borders) sponsored a competition to make a short film to raise public awareness of the issue of migration in Europe. The European Commission was involved in financing it somehow, though I am not clear whether it was funding just this film or the Européens Sans Frontières organization as a whole.

Shot 2: A studio full of keen, passionate young EUROPEAN FILM STUDENTS, hipster but not too hipster, you know what I mean, are doing FILM THINGS.

The film that won the competition was called “Eurodame, Help!”

It’s the weirdest thing since Captain Euro, not the new ironic Captain Euro, the original “yes, they actually did think this was a good idea” Captain Euro.

Anyway, back to Eurodame. On April 26th the film appeared on YouTube.

Shot 3: a EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGICAL PERSON clicks a mouse and sits back with a SIGH of SATISFACTION, conscious of a job well done.

Then the plot goes off the rails. Jack Montgomery of Breitbart London found the film on YouTube and posted about it today: Fairy Godmother’ Brings Migrants to Europe on a Flying Carpet in EU-Backed Cartoon. Oh dear. This is not going to end well.

Here it is direct from the creators: EURODAME, HELP!

As well as the French original, they also made versions in several languages, including Arabic.

Questions abound. Why is the entrance to Europe guarded by one rude man in short sleeves and a baseball cap? Why does the Euro-fairy need glasses? Who is the Obi-wan Kenobi bloke with the flying carpet? How is he different from the evil people-smuggler? How does the portrayal of Eastern Europeans contribute to intra-EU solidarity?

That really is an issue, you know. Here is an excerpt from the official script:

Shot 14:
The carpet arrives in an Eastern European country where they meet a hostile crowd.
The shopkeeper:
– There are refugees here, also seeking asylum.
The crowd:
– Immigrants!
The shopkeeper:
– But it’s their right!
The crowd shouting:
– No refugees here!

Shot 15:
The carpet resumes its course to the compass and turns west (W).

Shot 16:
The carpet arrives in a Western country. Eurodame is there to greet them.
Eurodame: – Welcome to our home!
The shopkeeper invites them to step down from the carpet. He smiles.
An eager crowd takes care of them, gives them food and clothing.

Shot 17:
Eurodame shows them into a nice house.

Why are the comments still on?

Who was the audience meant to be?

What on earth were they trying to achieve?

Britain’s tribal allegiances are changing

Politics is about many things, but one of the big things that it is about is which political tribe you are a member of, and about how big the various tribes are. So, when a whole tranche of voters manage to persuade themselves out of membership of one of the big tribes, it’s a very big deal.

As Guido puts it:

Voting UKIP was in hindsight a gateway to voting Tory.

Key word there: “gateway”. A general election is about more than what voters merely think. It is about how they see themselves. It is about who they are, and about which self-definitional barriers they might now be willing to cross, which gateways they might now be willing to pass through.

For many decades, millions of people in Britain didn’t just vote Labour. They were Labour. Not a few millions still are Labour and will vote accordingly. But the rise of UKIP, and then the Brexit referendum which UKIP made happen, spoke to an at least equally deep idea of who many Labour voters are, comparable even with being Labour. They are: British, English, not European. (See also: Scotland.)

In retrospect, I think we can see that the rise of UKIP and the subsequent Brexit referendum didn’t just change Britain’s relationship with EUrope. They also changed Britain itself, by creating new allegiances and new connections between hitherto hostile tribesmen, and it weakened many old loyalties and connections and created new tribal divisions. Both the Labour and the Conservative tribes emerged from the UKIP/referendum episode changed. The Conservative tribe emerged stronger and bigger. The Labour tribe emerged weaker and smaller.

Add to the above the toxic Jeremy Corbyn, who is the most anti-English, anti-British front-line English/British politician in my lifetime, and you can see why those Labour tribal allegiances have started seriously to fray. Echoing Barack Obama, Jeremy Corbyn’s view of the world is that Anglo-America needs to count for less in that world and that whoever else thinks that too is a friend. Luckily for us Brits, Corbyn has little of Obama’s duplicity or rhetorical skill. And nor can Corbyn or his supporters play the race card.

So, what Corbyn communicates to all those wavering Labour tribespersons is not that they are now betraying their tribe, but that Corbyn and his leftist gang have already betrayed them. Corbyn is pushing potential Labour deserters through Guido’s gateway.

Meanwhile, those toxically exclusive Etonian Conservatives – Cameron and Osborne – have been replaced by that quintessence of inclusive Middle Englishness, Theresa May. We libertarians are all grumbling about what Theresa May believes, and we are quite right to do so. But it is what she is that is now making the difference.

Interesting times.

Any of our Scottish readers up for this?

Young Scot needed to raise awareness of the value of the EU in France

This is a fully funded placement in Dijon, France, for 12 months. The volunteers will focus on raising awareness of the European Union’s history and its importance in creating cultural diversity.

[…]

Product Description

Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe is a youth mobility project in Dijon, France, focusing on raising the awareness of the European Union’s history, its construction and current situation, as well as the international role played by its institutions. Promoting a greater sense of European citizenship, Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe aims to enable the people of Dijon to better understand the EU and its valuable cultural diversity.

EVS volunteers will be directly involved in the Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe project, giving their contribution to spread the European values within the local community of Dijon, and to encourage the civic participation of its youth. Furthermore, EVS volunteers will help develop the project for its future editions and implementation in other European contexts. Previous EVS volunteers in Dijon have been able to organise the Children’s Rights Day and participate in local festivals promoting multiculturalism and the European Voluntary Service.

[…]

Volunteers will receive insurance, accommodation (an apartment shared with other volunteers), food, local transportation and a regular stipend. Travel to/from France will also be funded.

This project is open to young people aged 17-30 and resident in the UK (Scottish applicants are particularly welcome!). EVS volunteers for this project will be selected according to their interest in the European Union values. A minimum knowledge of French will be appreciated.

Samizdata quote of the day

“France will be led by a woman – it will be either me or Mrs Merkel.”

– Marine Le Pen, as quoted by Brendan O’Neill.

Say what you like about Le Pen (I dislike her protectionist politics), but she has probably minted the best political quote of this year, as Brendan says. Of course, being a classical liberal, I’d prefer it if countries were not “led” by anyone at all.

Samizdata quote of the day

Unfortunately the Greek crisis is now all about politics in the countries that lent the money. That money, or a goodly chunk of it at least, is already gone. The continued economic devastation of Greece isn’t about getting the money back; it’s about not having to admit that the money is gone. That isn’t the way to run a continent, is it?

Tim Worstall

Economists behaving like activists

I do not know enough to assess the views of Paul Romer, the chief economist for the World Bank, when it comes to his specialism. I need no special knowledge to assess his views as reported in the Times on restoring the standing of his profession. He gets it.

Economists need to stop acting as if they own the moral high ground and start behaving with more humility if they are to win back the public’s trust after Brexit, according to the World Bank’s chief economist.

Paul Romer said that a popular backlash against experts needed to be taken seriously and that Brexit had been partly a reaction to the perceived hypocrisy of economists who claimed to be making unbiased judgments but were actually taking political positions.

Dr Romer, one of the leading economists of his generation, is known for speaking out against his profession. Last September he published a paper, The Trouble with Macroeconomics, in which he accused colleagues of practising a “pseudoscience” underpinned by an “honour code” that prohibits challenge to figures of authority even when their facts are wrong.

Dr Romer said: “To me, Brexit was a vote against the expert advice of economists. We have to earn back our credibility as professionals who will give an unbiased answer. In political discourse, activists often claim that their position is morally superior and no one seems to care, but when economists did so, voters reacted very negatively, perhaps because they are alert to even a whiff of hypocrisy and they sensed that economists were behaving like activists yet invoking the authority of science.

And if any smartarse wants to bring up Michael Gove’s remark about the British people having “had enough of experts”, tell them to listen to his actual words before he was shouted down. He wasn’t talking about any expert on any subject; he was referring specifically to those who said their predictions of Brexit disaster should be believed on grounds of their business and economic expertise, yet who had egregiously got their predictions wrong on the Euro and failed to predict the 2008 crisis at all.

Speech codes

EU mulls legislation in the fight against online hate speech, reports Reuters.

Glad we’re leaving. But do not expect our current prime minister to fight for free speech. That would violate her programming.

Added later: Posterity, and one or two bewildered humans, demanded that I explain the foregoing. Our revered Foreign Secretary, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in a recent column for the Sun called Jeremy Corbyn “that mutton-headed old mugwump”. The Sun helpfully provided a glossary for its readers, defining the terms “mugwump” and “revanchist”, though not “glossary”. Mind you, it got the Harry Potter reference wrong; it’s International Confederation of Wizards, not Internal. What do they teach them in these schools? Soon the whole country was googling “mugwump”.

When all they really had to do was ask Theresa May. She has the answer to all our questions.

Added still later, but less late at night: I cannot now remember how I ended up with two links to the same, possibly spliced, audio clip of Theresa May’s definition of a mugwump. Let it be.

Never mind her. If you want to know the up-and-coming political candidate whose name you should look out for, take a look at this leaflet.