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]

Nick Cohen takes John Le Carré away for a spot of waterboarding

After writing his three great novels — The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Perfect Spy — it is easy to agree with the conclusion ofPrivate Eye’s critic, who said le Carré had become “his own tribute band”. You know now how his books will go. There is a decent Englishman. He comes across skulduggery. He is persuaded to fight it by an honest spy, who teaches him tradecraft, but instead finds he must fight Western corporations and governments whose cynicism knows no limits. In the case of The Night Manager, the reason, of course, why the British government is unconcerned by illegal weapons sales is that MI6 is in the pay of the villainous arms dealer.

– Nick Cohen, reviewing the recent TV adaptation of The Night Manager.

For what it is worth, although I like the George Smiley books and also enjoyed A Small Town in Germany, a lot of Le Carré’s other material is as Cohen describes it.

Here is a nice appreciation of the George Smiley books, which in my view are still riveting reading, all these years’ later.

 

Samizdata tweet of the day


Any old Caravaggios?

Reports from France indicate that someone in Toulouse who went up their attic to fix a leak found an old Caravaggio worth a reputed £94,000,000 lying around.

The picture is rather grim, it shows the Jewish fighter Judith beheading Holofernes, an Assyrian general. It also seems rather close to the bone (as it were) for these times, I would ask Holofernes what he thought, but…

Sadly, the French State gets the first option on buying it.

To defeat Islamism we need more freedom not less

I wrote this in the aftermath of the last Islamic outrage and it applies just as well to this outrage as that one. The only difference is that in the interim I have become rather disillusioned about immigration and have stripped out a rather idealistic paragraph on the subject; mainly because I don’t want it to dominate the comments.

I am posting this anonymously because, well, you just never know who might be reading and how they might react.

  1. It seems obvious but there seems to be so much denial going around that it has to be said: there is a war. Islamists are seeking to impose their will upon us – libertarians, Westerners, call us what you may – by violent means.

  2. There is much to fear from an Islamist victory. You only have to look at what Islamic rule means. It is bad news for anyone who likes alcohol, opposes animal cruelty, is gay, is a woman or thinks there’s no god, or there is a god but that his name is not Allah and that he didn’t write the Koran. Perhaps most important would be the loss of freedom of thought. Islam doesn’t do freedom of thought. It is also likely that as the Islamists tear down free-ish markets, mass starvation would ensue.

  3. They are winning. People are becoming less and less willing to criticise Islam. This is particularly true in universities. More and more women are covering up in public. At the last UK general election, the leader of the opposition was calling for the introduction of blasphemy laws. Recently Douglas Murray, the anti-Islamist writer, has had to stop advertising his public appearances in advance.

  4. The key front is not in the Middle East – I regard Western adventures in that part of the world as little more than displacement activity – but here, at home, in the West. Islamo-loons in the Middle East just can’t do that much harm. In the West they can and do. To that extent maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the Islamic State became established. Let it rip. Give them all the rope they need to hang themselves. Let the world see that a state run on Islamic lines can’t work. A pity for the inhabitants but much the same was true for the Soviet Union.

  5. There is a widespread belief that there is a trade-off between freedom and security. This may sometimes be true – wartime censorship comes to mind as a possible example – but not in this case. What we need is more freedom, not less.

    Some examples:

  6. The right to keep and bear arms. Owning a gun and knowing how to use it would make it much harder – although by no means impossible – for the Jihadi. It is worth bearing in mind that during the Troubles, off-duty security-force personnel were allowed to carry Personal Protection Weapons (PPWs). No, it didn’t defeat the IRA but (one assumes) it made them rather more cautious. This was at a time when gun laws on the mainland were becoming ever more restrictive. I find it amusing that in the British Bill of Rights there is a right for “His Majesty’s protestant subjects” – or some such – to possess firearms. Why? Because at the time they were involved in a religious war with Catholics being the enemy. It is worth reminding ourselves who won that one. It is also worth reminding ourselves that by the time of the Napoleonic wars Catholicism had become more or less innocuous.

  7. Welfare State. We need much less of it. We need to make jihadism more of a part-time activity and less of a full-time one. So, less unemployment benefit, less housing benefit. It would do wonders for the deficit. As Paul Marks has pointed out from time to time, the corollary to this is that we need far fewer restrictions on employing people. So, an end to employment laws and fewer planning restrictions. Employers need to be able to build the workplaces of the future and people need to be able to live near them.

  8. Religious Discrimination. It should be legal to discriminate on grounds of religion. At very least it might make it harder for the Jihadis to get jobs and with fewer jobs they’ll have less money for arms. It might also encourage the non-Jihadi Muslims to differentiate themselves from the lunatics. Might.

  9. End Government air security. Privately-owned airports and airlines will make a much better job of security than the government. My guess is, that equipped with the right to discriminate many airlines will refuse to accept Muslims at all. Or maybe, only after they have gone through onerous security checks. Perhaps we will see the creation of Muslim Air – an airline that only takes muslims. It will, at least, be interesting to see what the jihadis’ attitude to bombing that will be.

  10. An end to government involvement in universities. Although I am far from sure of the mechanism by which state involvement translates itself into the closing down of free speech on the campus – somehow the state manages the trick. Sever the link, allow universities to become diversities and watch as free speech reigns and Islamism withers.

Samizdata quote of the day

Whatever one thinks about Trump, and I certainly don’t always agree with him, he is the first major American politician (something he clearly is now) to name directly the entity that seeks to destroy Western civilization. He didn’t even cloak it in “radical Islam.”

The assumption of the “good people” is this will only make things worse, alarm the Muslim world and stir it up (as if it could be any more stirred up). Perhaps, however, it’s the contrary. Perhaps people are sitting in the Islamic world and privately sighing in relief. At last America has a leader (a “strong horse” in their parlance) who isn’t a fool, who is willing to stand up and say what so many already think.

Roger L. Simon

Try not lying

Another story from Der Spiegel International caught my eye: Lying Press? Germans Lose Faith in the Fourth Estate. It says it is by “Spiegel staff”. Someone would rather not put their name to this.

This comment from a reader calling themselves “wildberry” summed it up well:

“How can a woman who has been reading SPIEGEL, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Badische Neueste Nachrichten for years hit upon the idea that the journalists writing for these publications are trying to manipulate her, their reader?” This sentence encapsulates the problem. This air of injured innocence betrays the utter refusal of the journalists and their employers to understand why they are mistrusted and seen no longer as telling the truth to the world and holding the establishment to account. Instead they are more and more regarded as no more trustworthy than this same establishment. In fact, as with the latest example of (at best) partial and belated attempts to confront reality, they are seen as culpable, partial, and biased. That they cannot understand their own shortcomings and their own unconscious bias is at the root of the problem. When the press is seen, not as having a slight political preference – that has ever been the case and is widely accepted and understood, but as being complicit in the deliberate twisting of news-facts, one has to recognise that newspapers have dug their own graves and cannot complain when no-one believes them any more.

Another one, this time from “Pryor Oak”:

I am amazed that Der Spiegel is suddenly allowing readers to post comments. That is a step in the correct direction to earn trust in the media. Regarding the events in Cologne on New Years Eve, the Chief of Police issued a press release on January 1, 2016, stating that it was a “peaceful New Year’s Eve”. Only after Germans posted eyewitness accounts on Twitter, Facebook and international media that people learned the truth. This event created a distrust of the German media, police and government because it appeared that these institutions wanted to create a wall of silence regarding crimes committed by migrants against German citizens.

Here are two posts from the Samizdata back catalogue with a similar theme: If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right and Politically correct evasiveness fails on its own terms. And just to show that this isn’t me jumping on the latest bandwagon, here’s a depressingly similar Biased BBC post from ten years ago: Two Beaches.

In the latter Samizdata post I asked (without, it must be said, any serious doubts as to the answer) the British press how it thought the strategy of silence and euphemism about the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the crimes for which Rotherham is now world famous was succeeding. The same strategy was tried again in Germany with the same result. If the press of either country actually cares about diminishing the hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims it needs to try a new strategy. Try not lying.

Just when you think he cannot get any crazier

Hussein didn’t “make a living off killing terrorists.” He was a terrorist — an evil mastermind who worked every day to try to kill Americans, kill Israelis, and destabilize the Middle East. He was one of the prime financial supporters of a suicide-bombing campaign that caused greater relative casualties in Israel than 9/11 did in the United States. He funded Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. He plotted to kill a former president of the United States. He gave one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Abu Nidal, access to a government office. He sheltered Abu Abbas, responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, and Abdul Yasin, a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

David French, examining Donald Trump’s latest.

It is worth reading the whole thing. I know that a lot of libertarians, probably most who describe themselves thus, are on board with the “Iraq war was disaster and we should have left Saddam in charge” school. But the scale of the crimes SD committed, his sheltering of Islamist killers, encouragement of Islamist killers, acquisition and use of WMDs, breaking of UN resolutions/treaties, invasion of neighbours, etc, together constitute such a crushing case against his regime that I don’t regret, at all, his overthrow by external military force. It is also worth pondering the point that even if his regime had collapsed without the Coalition giving it a shove, we might still have many of the issues that grip Iraq now, although arguing over counterfactuals is always a bit of a mug’s game.

That Trump thinks that Hussein was good at dealing with terrorists is, in some ways, his must delusional statement yet and a scary insight into his view about the sort of regime he likes. For those in the US who plan to vote for this charlatan, the buyer’s remorse is going to be epic and on a scale that will make the anger about Obama look like child’s play.

 

Triply good news about free speech in Northern Ireland

Why “triply”?

– This:

Pastor who said Islam was ‘doctrine spawned in hell’ is cleared by court

A born-again Christian pastor who denounced Islam as “heathen”, “satanic” and a “doctrine spawned in hell” has been cleared after a three-day trial in a verdict that upheld the right to offend under the principle of freedom of expression.

– this:

The National Secular Society said the verdict was a “welcome reassertion of the fundamental right to freedom of expression”.
Campaigns manager Stephen Evans said the society strongly disagreed with the tone and content of McConnell’s comments, but added: “At a time when freedom of speech is being curtailed and put at risk in any number of ways, this is a much needed statement from the judge that free speech will be defended and that Islam is not off-limits.”

– and this:

An Islamic academic spoke in support of McConnell outside the court on the grounds of freedom of expression. Muhammad al-Hussaini, a senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute, said: “Against the flaming backdrop of torched Christian churches, bloody executions and massacres of faith minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is … a matter of utmost concern that, in this country, we discharge our common duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others.

“Moreover, in a free and democratic society we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.”

QSD?

So, as I regularly do, I read a recent posting at Mick Hartley, which is about what nutters the rulers of Saudi Arabians are, spreading the theology of bedlam and then griping when people do what the theology says, and all the while blaming the Jews for their own ridiculousness.

And then I read this comment underneath that posting, from someone called “Graham”:

Ironically, it’s the Israeli-Saudi alliance behind the QSD that’s defeating ISIS.

QSD? Quesque c’est?

I found my way to this piece (I love the internet):

These are Kurds, Muslim Arabs, Turkmens, and Syriac Christians. …

… which, to me: sounds good, sounds bad, sounds don’t-know, and sounds good …

… About two weeks after this EXTREMELY disparate group was created, it launched the most successful series of offensives in the entire five-year Syrian civil war. The US immediately began arming the QSD, and the Turks suddenly stopped complaining that the Kurds in this new army were up to no good.

This guy goes on to say (I think) that the “Muslim Arabs” are Tunisian special forces, the Tunisians having become very pissed off with ISIS for having recently destroyed their tourist industry. So those Muslim Arabs sound semi-sane, or as semi-sane as Arabs ever are.

And I also found my way to this piece of Kurdish Daily News (Kurdish Daily News, to me, sounds good) which says:

Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) has released a six-day balance sheet of the operation they launched against ISIS gangs in the rural areas of south Hesekê on October 31.

During the first six days of the operation, an area of 350 square kilometers has been cleared of ISIS gangs; which involves 36 villages, 10 hamlets, 2 gas factories, 3 quarry areas and some guard posts near the borderline.

The operation has thus far left 196 members of the gangs dead, 99 of whom were killed by QSD forces and 79 as a result of airstrikes by jets of the international coalition.

Part of my daily reading these days consists of Instapundit, and people linked to by Instapundit, telling me that the Middle East is going totally to hell, and that US Middle East policy now has no redeeming features at all. But I am unpersuaded that the answer to the Middle East’s many problems is for the Middle East to be totally conquered and then micro-managed by the USA, with everyone else just standing around and either waiting for their chance and getting it, or else hoping for the best and not getting it. US policy now seems to have been to back off, wait for some Good Guys to emerge out of the mess, and then when they eventually did, to back them with a few guns and a few missiles and a few airstrikes, but not with a huge US army stomping about making friends-that-are (and then abandoning them following an election) or friends-that-aren’t and enemies-that-are, and generally crowding out the best local answers. Is that – “leading from behind” (i.e. not actually leading at all) – such a very terrible idea? It sounds like a rather better idea than earlier ideas have been. Whether President Obama started out wanted that policy, I really do not know, but that now seems to be what is happening.

This more recent posting at Mick Hartley says that if QSD beats ISIL, the big winner could end up being al-Qaida. But might not QSD first defeat ISIL, and then might not QSD, or something closely related to or descended from QSD, then turn on al-Qaida and defeat al-Qaida also?

But what the hell do I know? Comments anyone?

Discussion point (Christmas edition)

Christmas celebrations banned in Somalia, Tajikistan and Brunei.

Their gaff, their rules?

Well that didn’t last long

“On November 21, Iran conducted its second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in direct contravention of two U.N. Security Council prohibitions, including one that incorporates the current nuclear agreement — which bans such tests for eight years.”

From National Review. 

Another report via Reuters

Can anyone be in serious doubt that the deal between the US/EU and Iran to lift sanctions against the latter over Iran’s supposed co-operation over being good on nuclear tests is a crock? Another blinding result for Mr Obama’s foreign policy. We have another year of this man in the White House.

There might be some truth in this …

“the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign”

… given that the International Brigades fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War were Communists who followed Stalin’s line, which was to ruthlessly suppress rival militias such as the Trotskyist POUM in which George Orwell found himself by accident. Once I would have believed that the Spanish Civil War was simply a trial run for WWII with the Republicans as the Allies and the Fascists as the Axis. Nothing will make me view Franco’s overthrow of a democratically elected government with approval, but I can no longer see either side as the good guys. That, too, is a parallel with the current situation in Syria and Iraq.

That quote, by the way, is from a piece called “Groundhog Day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing”originally published by the Stop the War Coalition (National Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP) but since removed from its website. The whole piece can be still found on the website of Matt Carr, its author, here. A fuller version of the controversial quote is:

Benn does not even seem to realise that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.

Many left wingers have reacted with anger. The sole Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, has resigned from the committee of the StW Coalition partly as a result. The Guardian commenters laud her wisdom in stepping down without questioning her wisdom in ever having anything to do with the Stop Some Wars* Coalition in the first place. It is, and has been for years, the Emu to the Rod Hull’s hand of the Socialist Workers Party. As I said in 2011,

Three quarters of the posters [at the left wing demos I attended in the 70s and 80s], and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president.

*Wars against Israel are OK.