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]

An unsteady defender of the First Amendment

In the aftermath of the horror yesterday in Paris, I noticed that Mr Obama gave a speech, as many other national leaders did, expressing solidarity with France at this time and supporting free speech. I am sure I am not the only person to note how hollow Mr Obama’s comments sound in the light of how his administration conducted itself around the time of the attack in Benghazi when a film about Islam had been released. This isn’t narrow political point-scoring – Republicans and others are just as capable of getting themselves wrong on this issue. The point, rather, is that Western leaders need to be as ruthlessly consistent as possible. When the Obama administration was tested on this sort of issue, it wobbled. Islamist fanatics notice – it creates incentives among those who calculate that if they create enough hysteria, are sufficiently “offended” by something, that people will cave in. The most powerful country on the planet caved.

Another point worth making, particularly as people across the political spectrum seem to be genuinely shocked and appalled by this attack, is that far too many attacks on free speech these days are justified in the name of banning “hate speech”, and so on. Certain forms of expression may indeed be hateful and unpleasant but the best defence against that is indifference, contempt, or ridicule. And another point, particularly for the more anarchist-minded out there, especially those of a leftist bent, is this: if you want to vent, do so on private property, in a consensual way. The producers of the French magazine did that: no-one was forced to buy their product or forced to read it. It is not as if they sprayed their cartoons in public streets outside a mosque.

Samizdata quote of the day

Expect more half-hearted bleating that this has nothing to do with Islam, but in any case even if it did, Islam is a religion of peace along with weasel words about “responsibility” to the effect that the magazine should not have “inflamed passions”. Simultaneously, expect a huge PR drive – supported by various lefty idiots – from Muslim groups who make it all about them, how they feel, and how they are now scared of a backlash before the bodies have even cooled. This is precisely what we saw in Australia a few weeks ago, and I don’t expect much from European politicians.

Tim Newman commenting here.

Samizdata quote of the day

To people saying “pulling The Interview means the terrorists won”: we’ve been taking our shoes off at airports for no reason for 14 years…

– @ozchrisrock (Not the real Mr Rock, but as quotable.)

It was slightly quicker to go from London to New York 55 years ago on a de Havilland Comet, including the refuelling stop in the middle, than to go direct on a modern airliner and take in the two security theatre performances at either end.

If you don’t care whether a rape really happened, you don’t care about rape

So, Rolling Stone magazine has rolled back on Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s University of Virginia gang rape story.

A typical reaction when that story first came out came from CNN Political commentator Sally Kohn: “Stop shaming victims in college rapes”. I quote:

Will Drew and UVA get off easily while Jackie’s life — and other college women like her — is shattered?

If UVA has any sense of moral rightness and wishes to remain a great university, it should conduct a thorough investigation into these and similar allegations and mete out appropriate punishment for the perpetuators [sic].

A more senior colleague might like to take Ms Kohn aside and teach her the proper meaning of two words, “allegations” and “perpetrators”. The spelling correction alone does not put right what is wrong with the way both of them combine in that last sentence.

A typical reaction now that the story has been semi-retracted came from Guardian columnist and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti. “I trust women,” she tweets. She disavows the idea that her choice to trust a person is made on the basis of any assessment of individual trustworthiness; she simply trusts the 50% of the human species who belong to the same group as she does. It is group loyalty. On the same grounds, given that she is white, she might as well say, “I trust white people.”

Kohn, Valenti and their like present themselves as the friends of rape victims. There is such a thing as toxic friendship. Before the retraction of the story, I read this account by Liz Seccuro in Time magazine. Ms Seccuro was raped, at the University of Virginia, at the same Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, thirty years ago in 1984. “Do you believe me?” she asks. The answer to that is yes. A man was convicted and jailed for her rape, though she says that there were others who escaped any punishment. But observe that I had to make it very clear that she really was raped. Because after the Duke University lacrosse team affair and this recent one, “rape at frat house” stories (including that of Jackie as described by Erdely, which will now be entirely dismissed by most even though some of it could still be true) provoke an involuntary twitch of doubt even in observers wishing to remain impartial.

Not that the feminists I’ve read on this story ever had any such wish. They said, very clearly, that unquestioning partiality was exactly what they wanted. “I trust women.” They said, as they have been saying for years now, that even the attempt to judge any rape claim on the evidence was to be a “rape apologist”, as Rachel Sklar was quoted as saying here, or was an instance of “rape denialism”, as Amanda Marcotte tweeted here, adding for good measure that it was equivalent to Holocaust denialism.

It is they who are the rape denialists. Or perhaps “deniers that rape matters” would put it better. If you don’t care whether or not a rape actually occurred, then you don’t care about rape. It is a tautology, and a separate point to the one about the trauma faced by real rape victims who seek justice being intensified by the additional scepticism with which their account will now be met. If you think that the moral force of a claim of rape cannot be diminished by evidence that it is false, then in the same act you believe that it cannot be added to by evidence that it is true.

Keeping colleagues out of the frame

I am suspicious of almost all political state apparati. But I make an exception for the State of Israel. My attitude towards the State of Israel is one of unconditional positive regard. Their fight is my fight, and they are actually fighting it. Whenever I hear that Israel has done something bad, I assume that (a) if it was bad they definitely had some very good reasons for doing it, but that (b) it almost certainly wasn’t that bad, and that whoever is telling me that it was that bad is deceiving me, either because he is himself deceived or because he is a malevolent fool.

This article, by Matti Friedman, explains some of the many reasons why I think and feel as I do about Israel. The article focuses in on, so to speak, a subject that has been very dear to my heart for the last decade and more, which is the vital role in the modern world played by photography, professional and amateur, and especially in its digital and hence instantaneously communicable form. Friedman includes a very telling photograph in his article, of a sort you don’t usually see, of a rally in Jerusalem in support of Islamic Jihad. Does the camera ever lie? It certainly squirts out a stream of lies by omission.

Says Friedman:

Hamas is aided in its manipulation of the media by the old reportorial belief, a kind of reflex, according to which reporters shouldn’t mention the existence of reporters. In a conflict like ours, this ends up requiring considerable exertions: So many photographers cover protests in Israel and the Palestinian territories, for example, that one of the challenges for anyone taking pictures is keeping colleagues out of the frame. That the other photographers are as important to the story as Palestinian protesters or Israeli soldiers – this does not seem to be considered.

In Gaza, this goes from being a curious detail of press psychology to a major deficiency. Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. One of the reasons it works is because of the reflex I mentioned. If you report that Hamas has a strategy based on co-opting the media, this raises several difficult questions, like, What exactly is the relationship between the media and Hamas? And has this relationship corrupted the media? It is easier just to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them.

Mick Hartley, at whose blog I first learned of this article and first read the above quote, thinks that Friedman’s article is worth reading in full. I agree.

Is the Daily Mail completely inventing ‘news’?

According to the Daily Mail, one of the largest circulation MSM publications in the UK, British special forces are in ground combat against the daesh Islamic State in Iraq. As in “boots-on-the-ground” ground combat.

One might think this would get a mention from Dave Cameron and the MOD. Now whilst I have never been a great fan of the Daily Mail (to put it mildly), surely they cannot just be completely inventing what would be a MASSIVE story, can they? And if so, why is that not front page news in other newspapers?

Samizdata quote of the day

President Vladimir Putin sees his country in an “information war” with the West. The underlying assumption is that Western media organizations are linked in a vast conspiracy to defame and undermine Russia, so the Kremlin has no choice but to reply in kind. Since the beginning of the month, Russia’s state media holding Rossiya Segodnya has launched an international news agency, called Sputnik, as well as RT Deutsch, a German-language version of broadcaster Russia Today.

The purpose of the media offensive isn’t so much to present an alternative point of view as to create a parallel reality where crackpots become experts and conspiracy theories offer explanations for the injustices of the world. The target audience is Western citizens skeptical of their own system of government. The goal is obfuscation.

Lucian Kim

The Financial Times does what?

Simon Gibbs has an excellent article pointing out a ‘media worthy’ story that the media probably will not cover. Short version: the 2014 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year award has gone to a book ripped into tiny bleeding shreds previously in… the Financial Times.

And lets not forget Piketty and the Shoe Event Horizon!

Samizdata quote of the day

Normally it’s rather difficult to get the news media to lose their shit like a bunch of screeching schoolkids over a story like, “Defense Manufacturer Offers New Product That Makes Incremental Advances on Existing, Widely-Used Technology.” But fortunately for Israeli defense manufacturer Rafael, the maker of the Iron Dome short-range air defense system, reporters don’t always understand what it is they’re reporting on.

Ryan Faith

Who needs the Comedy Channel when you can have Russia Today?

I was only vaguely aware that Russia Today existed until our venerable chum Paul Marks mentioned it for the hundredth time, usually whilst he was sharpening a cavalry sabre (I may have imagined that last bit). So eventually I just bit the bullet (picked up on a battlefield in the Crimea I might add) and I actually went and found the damn thing on-line.

Oh boy what fun I was missing! Russia Today is as much of a hoot as listening to Radio Tirana back in the great old days of Enver Hoxha, which is to say, it is AWESOME. These guys actually play it dead pan most of the time, as if people are going to take them seriously! I really do LOVE them! Of course I am sure the people who work there don’t really think that, but hey, as long as they keep getting a pay check for providing us with giggles, it is a win-win for all concerned!

I mean they even have Steven Seagal! How cool is that? Seagal always wanted to be a good actor, a respected commentator and a friend of gay icon and all round great guy Vlad Putin… do not scoff! Do not titter! Face it, achieving one out of three of your life’s ambitions is more than most people ever do!

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.

Repainting the stable purple after the horse has bolted

Some future historian, in search of a telling detail to exemplify the primitive superstition of early twenty-first century thought, will seize upon this:

“Savile Dr Who show removed by BBC chiefs,” reports the Times.

The BBC has withdrawn an episode of Doctor Who from its DVD collection because of a link with Jimmy Savile.
The disgraced television presenter appeared in the introduction to a ten-minute special episode entitled A Fix with Sontarans and again at the end to interview Colin Baker, the sixth actor to portray the title character. BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, decided to remove the recording in its entirety rather than cut Savile’s appearance.

The unannounced removal of the episode from The Two Doctors, a DVD featuring episodes starring Baker and Patrick Troughton, means that it is the only Doctor Who story that is not officially available. All other episodes, including early ones for which only the audio recording survives, are currently on DVD release.

Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who magazine, said that the reissue of the DVD will irritate completist fans of the science fiction stories. “It doesn’t really include Jimmy Savile — he just introduces it and appears at the very end — so it would be very easy to just present it without the bits with Jimmy Savile. I don’t know why they’ve not tried to do it that way.”