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]

The tectonic plates are shifting

This is a statement by Geert Wilders about the attempts by the Dutch establishment to silence him for expressing a political opinion:

Now whatever you think of Wilders, this has been an astonishing attempt to simply shut down free expression in an western nation. And of course this will not silence him and will probably prove to be a spectacular establishment own-goal.

And in the UK, more and more infrastructure to censor internet porn is being put into place. Why is this related? Because once control infrastructure exists, it can and will be re-purposed, in much the same way the Department for Education’s “counter extremism unit“, set up ostensibly to prevent violent Islamic extremist views being taught in UK schools, gets re-purposed to shut down a gay secular journalist who has not called for any violence against anyone.

All across the Western World, political verities and assumption are starting to shift, and almost nothing can be accurately predicted any more. We live in times that are a danger and opportunity in equal measure, and people who care about liberty will have to get their hands dirty, making common cause with others who will not pass any purity sniff tests but with whom we share common enemies (however care does need to be taken in such matters for sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my enemy… but sometimes not), however now is the time for engagement and action.

A picture of the Alt-Right

A chap called Ricky Vaughn posted this to Gab:

No Reagan or Thatcher. No Paul Joseph Watson or Stefan Molyneux either.

No Reagan or Thatcher. No Paul Joseph Watson or Stefan Molyneux either.


“Ah, it’s a homage to The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. How clever.” I thought.

“Let’s see who’s here.”

“Well there’s Nige, Ron Paul, Pepe (of course), Ann Coulter, Milo, Harambe (heh!), Joseph McCarthy, Scott Adams. All good or good-ish stuff. Well maybe not Pepe. Or Harambe.”

“Who’s that skulking in the shadows?”

“Oh shit, it’s that Norwegian mass murderer!”

“And hang about that’s Gaddafi!”

“And that’s…”

By my count it’s 4 tyrants, 1 fascist leader, 2 mass murderers and 1 serial killer. And that’s the ones I recognise.

The disturbing thing is that this image may well be accurate. These people represent the intellectual (stop sniggering. Seriously, stop sniggering) underpinnings of the Trump presidency. Obviously, there are serious differences which will probably lead to serious subsidence.

But there are things that unite them. With the exception of Farage, I cannot think of any who would have been on the right side of history in 1939. Which is remarkable. Even Neville Chamberlain got that one right.

They are also united by a loathing of the establishment. Which I loathe too. The UN, the EU, the welfare state, crony capitalism, fiat money, political correctness, climate alarmism, regulation after regulation after regulation: they’ve all got to go. But in all of that happening all sorts of other things may happen. One can only hope those things are nearer the Farage than Mosley end of the spectrum.

“A huge, stifling bubble”

How sad that the “huge, stifling bubble” being described is a university. I am not quite clear who wrote the following article for student magazine The Tab. The byline says Lucy Kehoe, a co-editor of Tab Liverpool, but the introduction suggests that she is quoting someone (a male) whose name is not given. Whoever wrote it, it is good to see someone fighting back:

Shutting down the ‘Pro-Life Society’ isn’t liberal — it’s the exact opposite

The way the campus majority reacted to the new ‘Pro-Life Society’ is symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with student politics right now. It was oppressive and deeply intolerant — ironically, exactly what opponents of the society claim they want to defeat.

Speaking as an atheist and staunch pro-choicer, the attempt to shut down the Liverpool University Pro-Life Society before they’ve even had a chance to go for an ice-breaker pint strikes me as a pretty a sinister development. Without trying to sound like a badly-damaged record, simply disagreeing with someone’s opinion does not warrant this person being banned from voicing this opinion, no matter how stark or severe the disagreement may be.

Let’s confront this together, fellow pro-choicers. The members of this society probably find your pro-choice views outrageous, too. Morally reprehensible. In some cases, your views are an insult to their deeply-held religious views.

So, if the Guild was to approve a future application from a pro-choice society, should that be kicked off campus, too? Clearly, the answer is no. Because their outrage doesn’t trump free speech — and neither does yours. When people (like myself) reflect on how wonderful university was, a word we are pretty much guaranteed to use is “diversity”. Diversity of race, religion and nationality. Of accents and hometowns. Of opinion and perspective.

Campuses are places where opinions should be held freely, exchanged in good will and perhaps even debated where necessary. This is the essence of a mature democracy. It’s the basics, really. But this is under attack. No longer is the university an open, tolerant, marketplace of ideas, but a huge, stifling bubble where any group united by a conservative point of view risks being delegitimised by the opinion police.

So far as I know the society has not been banned, but everybody took quite seriously the idea that its suppression should be discussed. The petition to ban it started by a student called Katriana Ciccotto read in part:

“As a female student, I feel completely betrayed, insulted and neglected by the Guild’s recent approval of the pro-life society.

As a female whose student days are long gone, I feel completely wearied by reading political statements that start with “As a female I feel completely [insert line of sad face emoticons here]”. Honestly, kids, feminism once meant something quite different to this. At least with mansplaining you might learn something; a headache is all you get from being in range of womemoting.

“This is a society that is founded on the sole basis that women should oblige to their beliefs. One that denies a woman the right to her own body. These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful.

I do not know what “oblige to their beliefs” means nor why it is meant to be a bad thing. The statement “These are not religious ideas, they are misogynistic and hateful” is odd, too. Is it some sort of politically correct charm spell, recited to protect the speaker against accusations of Islamophobia? I am religious but would not claim for a microsecond that an idea being religious is logically incompatible with it being misogynistic and hateful. And while there certainly are those who oppose abortion on non-religious grounds, it is common knowledge that there are vast numbers, including many women of the sort modern feminists do not see, whose opposition to abortion is religious and they are proud to have it that way.

“Whilst I understand and the Guild’s policy towards freedom of speech, misogyny does not come under this category. Surely the Guild would undoubtedly disapprove of a society that promoted racism, homophobia or any other form of hate speech? Why is this different?

“If the Guild want to maintain the idea that they represent their students, they should have the moral obligation to ban this pro-life group.”

I, not Ms Ciccotto, put the phrase “misogyny does not come under this category” in bold type. It was unendearingly typical of the class of “I believe in free speech but” arguments that define free speech down to meaninglessness. There is a word called “whataboutery”, describing a style of argument by deflection pioneered in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in which people avoided facing up to the evil done by their own side by endlessly bringing up evil deeds (especially evil deeds of many years past) done by the other side. Whataboutery often is used dishonestly, but not always. A demand that all should be judged by the same rules is fair. But I really cannot see much to defend in the tactic of buttery.

Samizdata quotes of the day

Bluntly when you’ve been called a bigot by the media and the left and you know you aren’t one, the chances are pretty high that you’ll discount the claims that others are the same. Especially when the same people also make the same false claims again and again. The activist who cried “racist” is meeting the same result as the boy who cried “wolf”.

Francis Turner

-Racist
-Sexist
-Misogynist
You burned those words.
They carried weight, until you used them on everybody.
Important words, meaningless now.

Alejandro Argandona

Samizdata quote of the day

In his comments over the past week, Obama has sounded some of the same themes we discussed back in 2013. He told Remnick: “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us.” The 2009 revelations from the East Anglia emails that scientists had manipulated data and abused the peer-review process? Down the memory hole.

Remnick himself described the Obama presidency as “two terms long on dignity and short on scandal.” The IRS? The State Department scandal that arguably sank Mrs. Clinton’s campaign? Again, the memory hole.

In Lima on Sunday the president himself declared: “I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations.” That’s either delusional or very carefully worded: To our knowledge no other administration has used the IRS to punish ordinary citizens for dissent, nor faced FBI findings that the secretary of state treated classified information in an “extremely careless” fashion.

James Taranto

UK government suppressing free speech: nothing less than scandalous

I have mixed feelings about Milo Yiannopoulos, but the notion that representatives of Her Majesties Government have pressured Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury into cancelling a speech by him on grounds of ‘extremism‘ is tantamount to a declaration of war on freedom of expression.

There needs to be push-back because this is scandalous.

Push back how? Names need to be named. Exactly who at the Department for Education was behind this? Who did Headmaster Matthew Baxter speak with? Names please. And who ordered those functionaries to contact the headmaster and press him into cancelling this event? Names please, because their reasoning needs to be subject to scrutiny.

Update: very interesting local article reporting on this. Once you get away from the London based media, you are more likely to find journalism that does not reflexively kowtow to the BBC/Guardian orthodoxy.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

Ewen MacAskill

Patrick Schumacher on solving the housing crisis

Incoming, from a libertarian friend whose views I always pay attention to:

Have you seen article about Patrick Schumacher of Zaha Hadid on Dezeen? Uncompromising libertarian attitude to solving housing crisis. Worth linking to …

Yes I have seen it, but have not yet read it (or watched it). I was definitely already going to attend to this, and now I definitely will. But, no need for me to do that before mentioning it here. Read and watch here.

Earlier Samizdata Patrick Schumacher posting here.

Schumacher will also be speaking, at this Adam Smith Institute event in early December, about “Governing private cities”. I already have my ticket.

Right. We’re going in. Those trees gonna die.

Jennifer Saul, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, has a had a figurative and literal rude awakening. Writing in the Huffington Post, she says,

Authoritarianism in Sheffield

…you might think, local Labour councils would be on the side of the good—fighting authoritarianism and working to preserve what they can of the quality of life in their cities.

This morning, however, Sheffield’s Labour council showed us beyond a shadow of a doubt how they feel about the authoritarianism on the rise round the world. Overruling their own hand-picked Independent Tree Panels, they decided to descend on Rustlings Road, a quiet residential street, in the wee hours of the morning with 22 police officers, to fell 8 trees (6 of which the tree panels said should be saved). Residents were awakened in the middle of the night by police demanding that they move their cars. Three were arrested, including two pensioners. Police in the middle of the night, knocking on doors, dragging people out of bed? Arresting elderly law-abiding citizens? This is not the lovely left-wing city I thought I was moving to back in 1995.

I laughed at her political naivety until I remembered that I shared it. Whether the local authority was Labour, Conservative, or any other party, I would not have expected to read of vanloads of police with arc lights and bullhorns descending at dawn on any street of the UK for anything short of a raid on armed and dangerous gangsters.

Nor should Sheffield City Council get away with this less dramatic but equally ominous manipulation of the law:

We learned their recommendation today [i.e the decision of the Tree Panel], only after the felling. (Although the recommendation was dated 22 July, it was only published this morning at 4.30.) The council’s hand-picked experts recommended against felling 6 of the 8 trees. And yet the council was so determined to destroy them anyway that they engaged in a massive police action against law-abiding citizens in the middle of the night.

Other accounts of the incident can be read here and here.

Samizdata quote of the day

Perhaps it is as hard for those who are part of the Gaelic nomenklatura to imagine a world without subsidy as it would be for an Ancient Pict to imagine a discussion about aerodynamics. But BBC staff have the same problem in imaging life without the TV licence fee.

Mr. Ed, who may or may not identify as a horse of course.

Shocking a language back into life

“WITH THIS SHORT film, director Paul Duane and I are hoping to accomplish the near impossible,” writes Eoin Butler in TheJournal.ie. “That is, to start a conversation about the Irish language that is rational, unswayed by emotion, dogma or any political agenda, and informed by the facts as they are, rather than how we might wish them to be.”

Here’s a link to the article, and click on the video link within to see the film, which is twelve minutes long.

“We spend mind-boggling amounts of public money on the Irish language. Cén fáth?”

The film is well worth a look to libertarians and people interested in revitalising minority languages, and practically compulsory* (OK, not literally compulsory. Libertarian purity police, stand easy!) for anyone like me who is both. It starts off in nostalgic sepia with Butler speaking in subtitled and platitudinous Irish. Thirty seconds in, the colour comes on and he switches to English and says, “Actually everything I just said there is an easily debunked lie.”

I’d like to zoom in to a section near the end of the film. Starting at the ten minute mark, Mr Butler argues that compulsory Irish is a failed policy but a network of vested interests has grown up around it. This network, he says, “does nothing to really promote the language or broaden its appeal. Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life.”

At this point I would imagine that most of those anxious about the future of Irish shrivel a little inside and think, that sounds like a strategy of last resort. To which I would respond, it is. Irish is at the point of last resort. As detailed in the first few minutes of the film, the strategy of compulsory Irish lessons in every state school has failed utterly to stem the decline of Irish as a community language, as have other state measures such as making the Irish rather than the English version into the definitive version of each of Ireland’s laws. Quite soon the legal texts and the schoolbooks may be the only places where Irish lives on. When all else fails, why not try something crazy, like acting as if the Irish language were a good thing that people might choose to have?

And as a matter of fact, Mr Butler does give an example of an aspect of Gaelic culture that turned off the pressure and thrived thereby. He says, “I mean, look at Gaelic games. For seventy years the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] had a closed, defensive mentality. Its members were banned not just from playing but even attending rugby and soccer matches Today the ban is long gone […] the GAA, with minimal state subvention and zero compulsion on anyone to participate has never been as popular.”

It is not a perfect analogy. The GAA is a private club, not a state, and I would defend its right to impose whatever rules it wishes on its members who joined it voluntarily. But it is notable that when the GAA changed from a strategy of “push” to one of “pull” its fortunes revived.

A hat tip for the finding of Mr Butler’s film to the Irish Republican site, An Sionnach Fionn (The White Fox) although the writer of that site was not such a fan of the film as I was, describing it as “simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country.”

Crying wolf on Trump

Certain words are losing all meaning. Over at Slate Star Codex, where the author is far from a fan of Trump, is a very thoughtful analysis with evidence about why cries of all the various -isms and -emacists are a load of nonsense. We know all this, but this is a good source of dialectic rather than rhetorical argument.

Caring about who the alt-right supports is a lot like caring about who Satanists support. It’s not something you would do if you wanted to understand real political forces. It’s only something you would do if you want to connect an opposing candidate to the most outrageous caricature of evil you can find on short notice.

Okay, I am picking the most rhetorical sounding parts, but it is all backed with evidence in the article.

Dog whistling seems to be the theory that if you want to know what someone really believes, you have to throw away decades of consistent statements supporting the side of an issue that everyone else in the world supports, and instead pay attention only to one weird out-of-character non-statement which implies he supports a totally taboo position which is perhaps literally the most unpopular thing it is possible to think.

And then you have to imagine some of the most brilliant rhetoricians and persuaders in the world are calculating that it’s worth risking exposure this taboo belief in order to win support from a tiny group with five-digit membership whose support nobody wants, by sending a secret message, which inevitably every single media outlet in the world instantly picks up on and makes the focus of all their coverage for the rest of the election.

Here’s another good bit:

Stop fearmongering. Somewhere in America, there are still like three or four people who believe the media, and those people are cowering in their houses waiting for the death squads.