There’s a story appearing in the Times and the Guardian upon which anti-semites and proto-totalitarian atheists are feasting like flies on dung. Read the comments to see what I mean, and bear in mind that those you see are the ones the mods did not think bad enough to delete. Yet the story that has brought forth such rage does not describe any sort of religiously-inspired persecution, cruelty or mutilation. No one is being forced to do anything. If it were not for the malign involvement of one particular sinister organisation this same story would raise a slightly condescending chuckle from the average broadsheet reader at the eccentricities of religious enthusiasts, before being forgotten.
The sinister organisation that is stirring up religious hatred is Her Majesty’s Department of Education. Sorry, Department for Education. Don’t blame me for not keeping up; the D of E / DfEE / DfES / DCSF / D for E changes its name more often than an outfit selling dodgy timeshares.
Back to the story. Apparently there is an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect called the Belz, some of whose adherents live in Stamford Hill, a part of North London where many Hasidic Jews of several different denominations make their home. This particular sect, the Belzers (both that name and “the Belz” seem to be in use), run a couple of schools. It seems that the Belzer top rabbi sent out a decree saying that women should not drive and that children attending the sect’s schools would be turned away if their mums turned up to collect them by car. Absent the government’s interference this would have been quietly dealt with in the obvious manner as described in the Times story “However, several women drove large people-carriers, apparently to collect their children from school, but parked some distance away”, and that would have been an end to it. But no. Woop-de-do, the government is on the case:
Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, has begun an investigation into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect whose rabbis have banned women from driving children to school.
Mrs Morgan, who is also minister for women and equalities, said: “This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain. If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are breaching the independent school standards.”
Consider that for a moment. A government minister pronounces on whether the voluntary and entirely legal behaviour of certain British women is “acceptable” to “modern Britain”, the role of giving or refusing acceptance on behalf of sixty-four million individuals having apparently been added to the DfE’s ever-changing remit while nobody was looking. The minister then adds that failure on the part of a so-called independent school to actively promote an officially approved emotion is in breach of some official standards.
Now the Belzers could be said to have brought this interference upon themselves if they either accepted government coin to run their “independent” schools or signed up for these “independent school standards”, whatever they are. (The papers seem remarkably coy about whether these schools are truly private or wholly or partially state-funded. I expect they are hiding something damaging to the narrative.) But when the government regularly uses legal harassment to make it next to impossible to run a private organization without accepting some government “help” and acceding to government-set standards, it is hard to blame those running the Belz schools if they did give in to the men from the Ministry. They were probably told that if they paid this symbolic tribute then they would be left alone.
What business is it of anyone else if a woman chooses to accept, or to pretend to accept, a religious ruling not to drive? Is driving compulsory now, that choosing to cease doing it is “unacceptable” to the Secretary of State? What business is it of anyone else if independent schools and independent parents come to an agreement about which pupils shall attend a particular school that is based on conditions mutually acceptable to them? So the religious ruling and the conditions of attendance seem absurd to you and me? So we and Nicky Morgan would order our acceptably modern British lives better than these relics do? So what?
I am usually a sceptic towards the idea of “dog whistles”. This is a political metaphor from the States which is meant to describe the way that allegedly racist Republicans allegedly use coded language that seems harmless but carries a secret nefarious meaning at a frequency that only fellow racist Republicans can hear. Oh, and Democrat newspaper columnists can hear it too, for some reason. Coded racism can really occur, as can racist Republicans, but most of the time this is just a way of accusing people of racism for political advantage without the necessity of providing any evidence.
But I could come round to the belief that political dog-whistles do exist. There must be some explanation of why the trivial doings of this homeopathically tiny Jewish sect of a sect are bringing forth such passionate denunciations from journalists and their readers. I think it is because the Belz act towards women like Muslims do but are not Muslims. By righteously raging at the Belz for their half-hearted pretence at oppression of women you get to demonstrate how you totally would rage at their Muslim equivalents for their much more effectively enforced actual oppression of women – only they don’t happen to be in the newspaper today. And how convenient that the Belz are few in number, low in the hierarchy of victimhood favoured by the left, and do not turn to violence when criticised.
As a bonus the last paragraph of the Times story contains a tacked-on paragraph showcasing a completely different way that the state, working in partnership with people of faith, can stir up resentment between Jews and non-Jews:
Aurelie Fhima, 23, has won £16,000 damages from Travel Jigsaw of Manchester, a travel firm, after her job application was rejected. She had said that she did not want to work on Saturdays because she observed the Jewish law of not working on the sabbath.
Congratulations, Aurelie, for your pioneering and profitable use of discrimination law. Who would have guessed that a working for a travel agent would involve working on a Saturday, the only day when most working people are free to visit travel agents? Good thing for you that the travel agents were not gay; your unprogressive religion would not have scored highly enough to trump them then.
“With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to healthcare, you have to realize what that implies….I’m a physician, that means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me, it means you believe in slavery. It means you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the assistants, the nurses…There’s an implied threat of force, do you have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away, and force me to take care of you? That’s is ultimately what the right to free healthcare would be.”
– Rand Paul.
I came across this quotation via Facebook, which in turn had been posted up by someone on a sort of “celebrity” website. The person who put up the posting in the first place is clearly traumatised at the statement of principle by Rand Paul about the bogus “right” to healthcare. RP is to be congratulated for spelling out in the clearest fashion what is wrong with notions of claim rights where what is involved is not the classical (correct) notion of a right to be left alone, but the contrary attitude about a “right” to demand that others give you something even if those others haven’t taken it away in the first place.
This sort of confusion, famously skewered many years ago by Isiah Berlin in his essay about two concepts of liberty, still persists. I often find Rand Paul’s sort of argument particularly powerful when putting the problem with such “rights” in human terms.
The Times reports (paywalled):
Christian bakery guilty of discrimination over ‘gay cake’
A bakery whose Christian owners refused to make a cake carrying a pro-gay marriage slogan has been found guilty of discrimination after a landmark legal action.
Ashers Baking Company discriminated against Gareth Lee when it refused to create the cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie, with a slogan “Support Gay Marriage”, a judge has found.
Ruling in the case that has split public opinion in Northern Ireland, Isobel Brownlie, the district judge, said: “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination.”
So, you can be forced to say “Support Gay Marriage”, on the grounds that if you don’t say it someone will be left feeling “like a lesser person”, to quote Mr Lee, the plaintiff in this case.
How might this principle be extended?
Added later: in answer to my own question, a scenario:
Following the Labour victory in the closely-fought election of 2020, the new prime minister made good on the pledge made to the Muslims who had formed such a reliable part of the winning “coalition of the oppressed”. (In fact the promise to outlaw Islamaphobia had first been made by Ed Miliband back in 2015.) The relevant amendments to the Equality Act 2010 having been made, it seemed a natural next step for many Muslims to press for the UK to follow the example of several Canadian cities and give legal weight to the verdicts of the existing informal network of Sharia tribunals to which Muslims could choose to bring civil cases as an alternative to the regular channels of English or Scottish Law. It was as part of the campaign for this that the plaintiff, Mr A, approached the Rainbow Baking Company, run as a family business by the defendants Mr B & Mr C. The judge ruled that “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of religious discrimination” when they refused to bake a cake bearing the message “SUPPORT SHARIA LAW”.
As it happens I am not in principle opposed to parallel systems of arbitration running in parallel to the ordinary law, so long as they are strictly voluntary. But my imaginary gay bakers might well profoundly object to being obliged to make a cake bearing that slogan. However by then the precedent that they can be forced to by law will have been set.
“It’s all very well for me to sit in my cosy leftie bubble,” writes the singer, “with my baja-sporting friends, spending our free time attending vegan popup barbecues and meeting in art centres to have a bit of a moan about Ukip; we missed the changing climate of British politics. We dismissed the growing support for the right wing as just a few comedy racists, underestimated the momentum they were gaining, and thought that by retweeting the latest Owen Jones article, we were doing our bit. Wrong.”
That is self-aware. And it never goes amiss to assert, as she does in the second sentence of her article, that the right to protest does not end just because an election goes against you. She is also right to assert that her celebrity does not invalidate her right to political speech, nor her riches her right to advocate socialism.
All rather well said, I must admit. Then she goes into the pouty whinge-n-smear mode that has become so prevalent among modern feminists that they probably no longer know they are doing it.
For Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, to describe my exercising of democratic freedom as “unbecoming” really says more than I ever could. Perhaps he thinks I should get back to the ironing and stop babbling on about air-headed notions such as protecting the NHS (a system that he himself has been most mobile in attacking), fighting for a fairer society (a concept that entirely eludes his party), and championing the plight of those in society who are less privileged than me.
What Davies actually said was,
“At the end of the day, to denigrate the electorate, who has just spoken, within 48 hours of the election, is slightly unfortunate and unbecoming.”
Note he did not deny her right to go on a protest march whenever she wanted, he merely said that it did not look good and was annoyingly timed. I am not sure what prompted her speculation that “perhaps” he wants her to get back to her ironing. Using old-fashioned but very mild terms of rebuke such as “slightly unfortunate and unbecoming” does not logically imply a wish to repeal the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870. Still, who knows the secrets of the Tory heart? Perhaps he does. Or perhaps (while we’re perhapsing) it was all a Freudian slip and it is Charlotte who dreams of a man Tory and masterful enough to carry her off to her £800,000 “Princess” yacht in Swansea Marina and have his wicked way with her on the folding ironing board in the servants’ cabin?
I’m too scared to check what use I myself have made of that “Perhaps he thinks [whatever anodyne thing he said passed through Evil Overlord Filter]” formulation. Never mind. I’m cured now. I do not wish to sound like this:
Perhaps he wants to quiet me because I threaten his status as a wealthy, privately educated, white male.
And perhaps he doesn’t. A not unreasonable assumption given that he never said a word about “quieting” you, both of you are equally white, and you are much richer than he is. That speculation all came out of your own pretty little cis-privileged head, protest princess who makes things up. Why this need to pretend you are persecuted? At least the other Princess Charlotte has an excuse for acting like a baby. By the way, I would not normally have thought it becoming to mention your racial, heteronormative and wealth privilege, only you seem to think it’s important to insert a checklist of these things for anyone you criticise, so I thought it best to defer to your preferences.
I agree with commenters on the piece I did early this morning, who said that the result of this election is a least worst outcome. All the political people whose opinions I most dislike are weeping and wailing and gnashing whatever remains of their teeth (what with the world-famed past deficiencies of British nationalised dental care). And that’s very good. But, like Rob Fisher, and despite having strong preferences concerning the national outcome, I personally ended up voting for nobody. Nobody will do much of what I want, and nobody will refrain from doing big things that I do not want, so nobody was who I voted for. I considered both the Conservative and the UKIPper, but, as the deadline got nearer and nearer, I could not bring myself to vote for either of them. I presume that the Conservative was and will remain ‘my’ MP. Yes.
But the good news is that, having spent last night and the early hours of the morning watching the story of the election unfold on the telly, I can report that voting for nobody most definitely does send a message. Turnout matters. Does low turnout signify apathy? Maybe so, but apathy is still a message, and not a message that these fanatically political people like to be told. If not voting accomplished nothing, then why all the nagging, which happens before every election, from the sort of people whose political opinions I most dislike that I should be voting? Yes, refusal to select your least unappealing lizard does definitely irk the lizards.
Most of the politicians I heard on the telly overnight just took it in turns to say that since we don’t yet know the result I won’t answer the question, and let’s just wait and see. But the now rather elderly Peter Hain bucked this conversational trend. Hain used to be an MP but is not one anymore. He wasn’t bothered about saying something interesting but off-message, and he actually did say some interesting things. This election result, Hain said, is an anti-Westminster result. In Scotland this expressed itself in the huge breakthrough success of the SNP. In England, it took the form of the impressive pile of votes amassed by UKIP, and everywhere in the relentlessly diminishing votes gained over the longer term by both Labour and the Conservatives, and by the way that the Lib Dem vote fell off a cliff at this election, following their actual participation in government. And, said Hain, this anti-Westminster animus took the form of lots of people just not voting at all, as it has done for quite a while now. We hate you bastards! That was the message, said Hain. In other words, apathy does send a message, and there it was being received loud and clear, on the telly, by a Talking Head. (Hain’s cure for all this protest and apathy is quite different from mine, but that’s a different argument.)
→ Continue reading: Apathy sends a message
If you do not know who she is, you should because she is quite remarkable.
Tomorrow evening, I have another of my Last Friday of the month meetings. Pete Comley will be talking about inflation, and about the book that he has recently published on that subject. More about tomorrow’s meeting in this posting at my personal blog.
What this posting here is about is something rather different, which is that since about last Christmas or thenabouts, many of the emails that I send out each month inviting my libertarian friends and acquaintances to attend my meetings have been going astray. Not all of them. Just quite a few, most especially any that end in “gmail.com”. They have either been diverted to spam folders, or else they’ve not been arriving at all.
It would appear that the big emailing enterprises, notably Gmail, have been cracking down on spammers recently, and Gmail in particular has now decided that my emails are in that category. It only needs one recipient of one of my emails to call it spam, and all the other users of Gmail (or whatever) are immediately switched by Gmail (or whatever) central command, often to their great puzzlement, to refusing to receive any emails from me, even individual and personal ones. Such as the ones I have been sending out to individuals, including to individuals I have been in close touch with for over a decade, to try to tell them about all this email disruption. Very tiresome. Very tiresome.
My meetings are a big deal for me. But for others, if the emails suddenly stop arriving, well, that may cause a twinge of disappointment, but there are other meetings, and the mysterious disappearance off the radar of mine is not their number one problem. So, the problem is mine, and mine alone. My motto for applying modern technology to my life is: do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. But now, I have a definite problem.
Several remedies have been suggested for my emailing difficulties. Pete Comley himself suggested to me a few days ago that I should use something called MailChimp. That, he said, should get me around those spam filters. That sounds like it might be a good answer.
However, I am also thinking that maybe I should make a bigger change to my life, and embrace the “social media”, those inverted commas indicating Old Man fear and befuddlement rather than any lack of respect for the media in question. I’m talking Facebook and Twitter, but maybe others also, the workings of which I know even less about. For Facebook in particular has also been recommended to me a couple of other friends as the answer to my meetings problems. And Twitter might also help in spreading the word about these meetings, and my words about other things, and my words about my other words and about the admired words of others, etc. etc. So, should I now jump into all that?
Samizdata as a whole has not done much in the way of social media-ing. We don’t have a problem so why bother with a non-solution? But maybe we do have a problem? Whether Samizdata does or does not have a problem, I genuinely don’t know, but I am certain that I do have a problem, to which the social media may well be the best solution, if perhaps not the only one. So, should this particular member of the Samizdata team perhaps be doing more with this twenty-first century version of chatting over the garden fence (if that’s what it is)?
Comments on my Samizdata postings are always, to me, very welcome, but comments would be especially welcome on this posting.
First, what about those Gmail problems? Has anyone else been suffering from, or heard about others suffering from, similar problems? I have talked with several people who have so suffered – talked face-to-face, or on the “telephone”, with those old things called spoken words about these difficulties, but can find nothing about all these dramas on the internet. I am trying hard not to blame this on the fact that I have been using the same mega-enterprise to do the searching as has been causing me most of my email miseries. My guess is that Google has been having recent very big problems on the email front, from the likes of the government of China, and that I am collateral damage in a war that dominates the answers to any searching by me for “gmail problems”.
And second, what of the social media? Comments of the sort that say that Facebook and Twitter are both works of the devil and symptomatic of the decadence, narcissism, frivolity, triviality, moral emptiness, etc. etc., of the modern world may perhaps now erupt at the bottom of this. Fair enough. If that’s what you think, feel entirely free to say so. But personally, although horribly ignorant of the workings of the social media, I am inclined to be far more respectful of them. Clearly, they do answer a lot of people’s needs. So, I’d especially appreciate hearing from people who do now use Facebook and/or Twitter, with a little bit of explication about what they use them for, and why, and how they are particularly helped, so that I can get an idea of what, along these lines, I could and should myself be doing. Maybe. Thanks in anticipation.
Many libertarians think that the answer to meetings like those Davos and Bilderberg Group get-togethers of the rich and powerful is to complain about them until they stop. This is ridiculous and pointless. Quite aside from the absurdity of libertarians objecting to people freely consorting with one another, how on earth are they going to stop the richest and most powerful people on the planet from meeting up and talking to each other from time to time?
My attitude has always been, not that such gatherings are automatically evil, but that we need our people to be right there in among them, and to make them less evil. People like Peter Thiel, who strikes me as being one of the smartest and most interesting people on the planet. The usual come-back about allegedly smart people goes: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” Peter Thiel has some very good answers to that line of attack. Around 2.2 billion answers, according to Forbes magazine. This short Forbes profile describes Thiel as being “ideological to the point of eccentricity”, his particular eccentricity being that he is a libertarian. I don’t know if Peter Thiel spends any of his time bending the ears of fellow plutocrats and billionaires at gatherings like those alluded to above, but if he does, good.
And, if he does, maybe this excellent video performance provides clues about the kinds of things he says. (You might want to skip the rather numerous thankyous to other people at the start from the Independent Institute’s David Theroux, and go straight to where Thiel himself starts talking, at 7 minutes 45 seconds.)
I have ordered a copy of Thiel’s latest book, and not just because I want to read it, although I definitely do. I think of a book order as being like voting for an idea that I like the sound of, or in this case an author that I like the sound of.
Incoming from UK Liberty League, telling me about Liberty League Freedom Forum 2015, which will take place from the evening of Friday March 27th until Sunday March 29th, and tickets for which are now on sale.
Panels and seminars with leading academics, activists and professionals will discuss key areas of contemporary libertarian debate, with sessions for everyone from the new and curious to even the most seasoned liberty-lover.
“Seasoned” liberty-lover. Sounds like I’ll fit in. Again. For I have written about earlier iterations of this event, in 2013 and in 2014. LLFF15 is being pitched at “Pro-Liberty Students and Young Professionals”. But if you are willing to pay a bit more, you can be a “student aged 30+” and still show up. I will pay over-the-odds for my ticket, and I and my camera will both attend, although I’ll be hosting a gathering of my own on the Friday night.
So far, twelve speakers for LLFF15 have been announced. I am personally acquainted with five of them, all excellent. Seven I am now hearing about for the first time. That seems to me like a good mix.
One of the speakers whom I am not acquainted with is Nichi Hodgson, Director of the Ethical Porn Partnership. What exactly do they mean by “ethical”? A glance at that website is quite encouraging. Porn is one thing, but sex slavery is quite another. On the other hand, they talk about “best practice”. Is that just not being part of the slave trade, or does it mean, as it usually does, something more restrictive? Where, in short, are they wanting to draw the line? We shall see. The important thing here is that other kinds of liberty besides the merely “economic” are being flagged up at this gathering. The presence of such a person on the speaker list is a sign that these LLFFs really are about freedom in all its aspects, rather than merely about the sorts of innocuously pious generalities that the majority of political people already feel comfortable talking about (even as they immediately turn to explaining why even these freedoms should routinely be violated). The safe and respectable freedoms cannot be forcefully defended unless you are willing to talk also about the unsafe and disreputable freedoms, because even if you choose not talk about such things, the enemies of freedom will, especially if they twig that you don’t want to.
Here is Christina Annesley, talking about the Leeds Liberty League, which she founded:
Libertarianism is the political philosophy that holds the individual as sovereign and wishes to minimize the role of the state. We believe that every human being is born free and equal and has the right to be free to do what he or she wishes so long as he or she does not violate the rights of another human being. In practical terms, that means that we tend to be extremely liberal on social issues but conservative on economic ones. Consequentially many of our members are members of the Conservative Party, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, but equally many are non-party aligned. Libertarianism is an ideology unto itself and therefore Liberty League attracts people from all walks of political life who share a common love of freedom.
I never got to know Christina Annesley, and now I never will.
For the same sorts of reasons that her life was so great, her death is truly terrible news.
LATER: More about Christina Annesley’s death from Simon Gibbs. The Libertarian Home crowd did get to know her, and will miss her even more.
LATER: A proper obituary, again at Libertarian Home.
Incoming from David J. Theroux of the Independent Institute:
Could I interest you in please posting a notice on your blog of the following new YouTube video from the C.S. Lewis Society of California of my keynote talk at the first annual conference of Christians for Liberty, that was held at St. Edwards University in San Antonio, TX, August 2, 2014?
The talk is entitled “C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism”.
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.