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

Scottish questions

It is, as I type this, only a few hours since the polls closed, and this graphic is not the result of Britain’s General Election. It is merely a guess, based on asking people just after they had voted who they voted for. But, for what it’s worth, here it is:


I found it at the Guido Fawkes blog, which has been the pair of spectacles, as it were, through which I have mostly been viewing this now-concluded election campaign.

I have learned the hard way that what I hope for and what will happen in elections are not the same thing, not least because I tend to choose my electoral spectacles on the basis of pleasure rather than mere enlightenment. But the story told in the above graphic is very close to what I was and am hoping for, given the plausible possibilities or likelihoods that it made sense to be choosing between.

(What I would have liked, in a perfect, parallel-universe and wholly implausible world, would have been an election in which candidates were falling over themselves to offer swingeing tax cuts and competing about who could close down the most government departments and slash and burn the most in the way of government spending. All this, while the voters all stood around jeering, and saying: “Yeah, they say they’re going to slash and burn the public sector, but do they really mean it? They would say that, wouldn’t they?” Dream on, Micklethwait.)

The TV broadcasters have now been saying, for several hours now, that the Conservatives are doing significantly better than had been expected but not well enough to be truly happy because destined to occupy more Parliamentary seats than everyone else put together, that the Scottish Nationalists are engaged in sweeping Scotland and annihilating the Scottish Labour Party thus causing Labour, who are not doing well in England anyway, to do very badly indeed in the UK as a whole, that the Lib Dems are taking a hammering everywhere, and that the UK Independence Party is going to get a small mountain of votes, including a great many from Labour, but only a tiny molehill of seats.

The biggest story, as I watch my telly in the small but getting bigger hours of Friday morning, is the electoral earthquake (choose your preferred geological or climatological metaphor) that is erupting, exploding, sweeping across, engulfing, swamping, blah blah blah, … Scotland.

→ Continue reading: Scottish questions

Imagining a future for the BBC

The worthy IEA are hosting a panel discussion tonight called: The future of the BBC.

Guess what I would like to see for the BBC…


Indian government: a case study in stupidity?

So the Indian government has defiantly banned a BBC documentary about rape in India, presumably because it makes them look bad. So they are trying to hush it all up, which of course just makes them look ever worse. Rather than using this as a call to action in which they make themselves look good, they end up making themselves look really terribly unbelievably bad. As if the problem with endemic rape is not rape but people highlighting and talking about it.

Well a libertarian Indian chum of mine has been saying for some time that Modi’s brain is vastly overrated, and I must now conclude he was quite correct. Oh you gotta laugh. I take it they have never heard of the Streisand effect and have no conception of how the internet works.

The technical term for it is: maskirovka

Like so much electronic chaff dropped out of the back of a Tupolev bomber to confuse an incoming heat-seeking missile, the idea that there are multiple interpretations of the truth has become the founding philosophy of state disinformation in Putin’s Russia, designed to confuse those who would seek out the truth with multiple expressions of distracting PR chaff. The tactic is to create as many competing narratives as possible. And, amid all the resultant hermeneutic chaos, to quietly slip away undetected. It is a tactic straight out of Mr Putin’s KGB playbook from the 1970s. Generate a plurality of narratives, so the truth can be obscured.

Guardian editorial. Yes I know, chaff only confuses radar-guided missiles, you need flares for heat-seekers, but hey, this is the Guardian after all. Mangled metaphor aside, this is a very good editorial that will enrage all the right people.

O Good Green Earth, swallow me up

Play the audio in this story and see if you can suppress an involuntary wince of sympathy: Incredibly Awkward Interview With Natalie Bennett. (Ms Bennett – a Samizdata commenter – is currently leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.)

Kudos to Nick Ferrari who can evidently do what so many media folk cannot: order-of-magnitude mental arithmetic.

Life is unfair. If The Boris had been on the hot seat he’d have said, “Oh cripes, you’ve ker-splonked me there!” and everyone would have loved him all the more.

Samizdata quote of the day

Just three months into Ukip’s shock victory as the party of government and already Nigel Farage’s mob are starting to show their true colours: morris dancing has been made compulsory for every able-bodied male between the age of 30 and 85; in ruthlessly enforced union flag street parties, brown-skinned people are made to show their loyalty by eating red-, white- and blue-coloured Battenberg cakes until they explode. And what is that acrid smell of burnt fur now polluting Britain’s hitherto gloriously carbon-free air? Why it is all the kittens that Nigel Farage and his evil henchmen are tossing on to beacons from John O’Groats to Land’s End in order to demonstrate that Ukip are the masters now.

James Delingpole. You don’t have to be a UKIP fan (I am not) to be unimpressed by the tendentious nature of the Channel Four spoof documentary that Delingpole writes about here. Meanwhile, JD imagines what a spoof on the Greens would be like. In reality, the chances of Channel Four, a fairly leftist news channel, doing some sort of job on the Green Party is remote, but it should, given the fluorescent idiocy, authoritarianism and often just sheer ugliness of what that outfit wants to do in practice. See its latest manifesto.

I find this truly inspiring

You are probably all aware of the attack in Denmark earlier today by certain advocates of the religion of peace. But this is inspiring stuff:

Danish broadcaster DR: The freedom of speech meeting continued after shooting to send a strong signal to attackers

They had my respect regardless for simply holding the meeting in the first place, but doubly so now.

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.

Other messages besides “Je Suis Charlie”

I understand why NickM, for instance, complains about all the people waving Je Suis Charlie signs at the recent Charlie Hebdo demos just over a week ago. But at least there were demos (Hebdemos?), and big ones. Whatever the finer points of the relationship between Islam and the rest of us, thousands upon thousands of people, in France millions, disapproved of cartoonists being killed, no matter how offensive anyone might think they had been, just because of various cartoons they had done. I agree that disapproval is not much. Ooh, they disapprove. But it’s a start. I mean, would you rather that all those millions of demonstrators had just shrugged their shoulders, stayed indoors and forgotten all about it?

And yes, there was plenty of hypocrisy involved, on the part of public personages who, only weeks or days before the attacks, had been saying more like: “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie”, and who will be saying much the same as that in a few days or weeks time. But I prefer hypocrisy and inconsistency to brazen wickedness. If you demand consistency from public figures, you are liable to get consistent stupidity and consistent wickedness. The public attitudes that public people feel they need to strike, even if they strike them very insincerely or in a way that contradicts other things they have earlier said and done and will later say and do, still count for something.

I attended the demo in London’s Trafalgar Square, and I made a point of photoing signs that said other things besides Je Suis Charlie, of which this was my favourite:


For the benefit of those with no French, that means (unless my French is letting me down badly) something along the lines of: “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended”. Good one. See also the earlier posting here, in which our Prime Minister is reported as standing up for the same idea. And, see my paragraph above (which I had already written before that earlier posting had appeared) about how the public attitudes of public people do matter, however occasionally and inconsistently they may be expressed.

This next sign might have been my favourite. But, that T for Team looks too twiddly, and not clear enough and assertive enough. It’s like the guy who wrote the sign was just taking dictation and didn’t really mean it.


Or, it could just mean that here were some people demonstrating who had not done any such thing before. Because, this was not your usual demo, the sort of demo perpetrated by the demonstrating classes, so to speak. Which was another big plus, from where I was standing, photographing everything I could see.

You can view other photos that I took of signs that afternoon here.

Now that’s what I call a comment

I just read a comment, written by someone calling himself “Jonny Overcat”, which (a) tells me that the art of invective is not dead, and which (b), I think, deserves wider circulation. At the time of me concocting this posting, it is comment number six on this take-down of the appalling Mehdi Hassan. Here it is in full:

I can hardly put into words how viscerally disgusted I’ve felt the past couple of days with a significant number of allegedly “progressive” writers in American media who just trip all over themselves to denounce Charlie Hebdo as racist, wrong, oppressors and likely people who fuck puppies for fun. The forceful ignorance, the utter lack of even the most basic research or familiarity with the publication and people they are crassly denouncing, and the apologism (is that even a word? Now it is I guess) for the murderers are just utterly subhuman. A big part of it is that I’ve lived in Paris, I have family in Paris and I’ve pounded the pavement in every arrondissement pretty extensively (I do a lot of street photography). I absolutely love that city and its people, and any sort of terrorist attack there is deeply upsetting to me. I’m quite familiar with the neighborhood where Charlie Hebdo’s offices are, I have friends I used to visit who lived just a couple of blocks away from there. I take a terrorist attack in Paris kind of personally, even though I realize that it’s not all about me. I’ve been there during terrorist events in Europe (the Madrid train bombing) and I’ve seen the squads of soldiers patrolling the streets due to that, and the fear on people’s faces in the Metro etc.

So over on Slate, there’s the walking abortion that is Jordan Weissmann, who, before the puddles of blood of the murdered were even dry, valiantly asserts that Charlie Hebdo is just some racist rag and does everything short of just coming right out and saying that they had it coming to them. Never mind, of course, that he quite clearly demonstrates with his mischaracterizations, outright falsehoods and quite obvious lack of actual knowledge about the publication or its staff, that he just hasn’t got a fucking clue. An opportunist piece of shit trying to burnish his PC cred by symbolically standing over the corpses of the murdered and screaming “RACISTS!”

Then over at Salon there’s a specimen called Falguni A. Sheth, who ideally should’ve been fed into a wood chipper as an infant, whose article asserts that the REAL issue is Muslim feelings and how utterly horrifically Muslims are treated by everyone and boo fucking hoo because the world doesn’t bow low enough to Islam. Of course she asserts that the murderers who invoked Islam as their motivation before and during the attacks weren’t motivated by Islam at all, because whitey is racist. Yep. She hilariously states that Charlie Hebdo, a paper that has been published weekly for about 35 years, which amounts to roughly 1800 or so editions, “disproportionately targets Muslims” because they’ve published about 10 or 12 images satirizing radical Islam in the past ten or so years. Thus they are just some Muslim bashing rag, and basically had it coming. Don’t say what we don’t want you to say or we’ll kill you, and it’s your own fault. Never mind, of course that ten or twelve editions satirizing radical Islam don’t even amount to one percent of Charlie Hebdo’s total published works. Yeah, “disproportionate”, but she can barely bring herself to denounce the killers in anything but a passing fashion, as though their murdering is some minor technicality to be glossed over, because the REAL issue is that some fucking Muslim somewhere has had their religious sensibilities sullied by these evil, evil cartoonists. Because cartoonists do such irreparable harm to society. Muslims, of course, are all saints.

Seriously, fuck these people, all of them, and anyone who agrees with them.

I’ve always been socially and politically liberal, never a lockstep liberal, but always generally liberal. I’ve always had a problem with the significant number of so called American liberals and progressives who are rigidly doctrinaire to the point of stupidity, but over this issue, my disgust is reaching critical mass. I need to seriously consider whether I really have common cause with the unfortunately significant number of so called liberals and progressives who are more enamored of finding common cause with the severely illiberal tenets of Islamic fundamentalist thinking. When Bill Maher called Islam “the motherlode of bad ideas”, he was seriously understating his point. These supposedly liberal pieces of shit who find common cause with Islamic fundamentalism, whose basic grasp of the nature/purpose/context of satire is just as tenuous, or even weaker, than that of their braindead counterparts on the right, are just a bit more than I can stomach anymore.

I just needed to get that off my chest …

For someone who can “hardly put into words” how disgusted he is, Jonny Overcat sure does have a way with words, doesn’t he?

I do love the internet.

Mohammed makes the cover of Charlie Hebdo again

The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover. This is when we see who are the men, and who are the boys, so… well done to all the various newspapers who have shown some defiance to those who urged submission, and republished the image.


Samizdata quote of the day

Dear Electoral Commission,

Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.

Yours in freedom,

Paul Staines
Editor Guido Fawkes’ Blog

Guido makes his position clear.