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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power.

– Nick Cohen in The Observer. It is long, but you should really read the whole thing, as we say. Cohen thinks of himself as on the Left, but I say we are already beyond that. It is liberals against the rest; the rest are suddenly terrifyingly strong.

31 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Patrick Crozier

    Suddenly? After 8 years of Obama?

  • bobby b

    I’m probably being dense, but I can’t see what you’re saying about Cohen or this article.

    Cohen should sell patent medicines. He’d be good at it.

  • Confused Old Misfit

    Hysteria thy name is Nick!

  • Mr Ecks

    You quote the only worthwhile portion of his crap Mr Herbert.

    He is Marxian scum trying to point out that anyone not swallowing his Marxian ordure is a gullible fool.

    Boilerplate leftist evil. They have been spewing the same for 150 years.

    Brexit/Trump has shown these people up for the scum they are. There are more of them than most sane folk ever thought there were. But they are still a tiny but dangerous minority. Dangerous because all institutions are rotten with them.

    We need to get stuck into these leftist bastards double quick. Before the next generation of even worse vermin get control of the levers of power .

  • Jacob

    “Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power.”

    I haven’t read the article, but this phrase is perfectly correct if you understand “Compulsive believers” to be the Mrxists, or the lefties in general, like this Nick, and the demagogues in power – our usual lefty governments.
    I’m not sure that his is what Nick meant.

  • Alisa

    I tried to read the thing, and gave up after a few paragraphs, because all that hand-waving was just too much for me – but I like to think that I got the gist of what Cohen is trying to get across. I don’t necessarily disagree with the overall message, except for some minor points and inaccuracies – such as the assertion that it was Trump who coined the term Fake News (no, it was the other side, although Trump is milking it for all its worth), or that Trump is a nihilist.

    But, context is everything. To echo Patrick above, what else is new? Of course Trump is a narcissist – but is he more of a narcissist than any other major politician in recent memory? Hardly. He is lying? Well duh, welcome to politics. Etc. I mean, I am worried about Trump in the White House, and I was worried about Obama being there, and Bush (both of them), and don’t even start on Hilary.

    It seems to me that what is really bothering decent people who honestly worry about Trump more than about any other President/candidate, is his disdain for political correctness – well, to me that is a feature, not a bug. Other than that, I for the life of me can’t see what is so different about him, at least so far, other than mere talk.

  • Alisa

    VDH makes a point similar to mine – not that it’s any sort of revelation anyway.

  • Laird

    I couldn’t get through it all, either, but like Alisa I got the gist of it and agree with the overall message. As Mr Ecks said, it seems that you quoted the only worthwhile portion. (And my defenses automatically deploy whenever someone quotes Brecht!)

    Substitute “climate change fanatics” for “alt-right” and it’s also correct. But I don’t think Trump is a liar, at least not in the sense of Bill Clinton (a serial liar of the first magnitude) or his execrable wife (no slouch in the lying department in her own right). It is such as they who “lie instinctively” (in Cohen’s words), not Trump, who is merely an egoist and a populist demagogue. FWIW, I don’t think that Obama was a liar either. But I’m not particularly swayed by someone who gives the mildest of offhand rebukes to Obama’s crimes while waxing hysterical over Trump’s peccadillos. Beam in your own eye and all that.

    Color me unimpressed.

  • AndrewZ

    There is a major re-alignment happening in the politics of most Western nations but the new order that’s emerging is not “liberals against the rest”. We live in a complex society where many things change at once, so there are many reasons why this re-alignment is happening now. But the form that it will take is mainly shaped by the threat of Islamist violence and the increasingly open hostility of the left to the rest of society. Both groups have made it clear that they want to destroy Western civilisation and impose their own beliefs on everybody else by force. The left has also made clear that it will support anybody who is against the West, no matter what they stand for.

    Therefore, the new dividing line is between the people who want to destroy the existing nations, society and culture of the West and the people who do not. Since there is still such a strong link between nationality and cultural values the opposition to the forces of destruction will inevitably take on a nationalist character. This is also a practical necessity. The forces of preservation must promote a form of identity that transcends the narrow tribal identities promoted by Islamists and leftists, and to have any chance of success it must be something that is already widely accepted. They will also conclude that the violent and fanatical nature of the opposition requires an equally uncompromising response.

    So, instead of “liberals against the rest” the dominant political paradigm of the next few decades will be “totalitarians against the West”, and the relentless aggression of the totalitarians will push mainstream opinion towards a nationalist reaction against them. There is currently a phenomenon of reluctant Trump voters who weren’t sure if they were making the right choice until they saw how the left reacted to his victory, and we will see this pattern repeated in multiple countries and sometimes with much more radical candidates. Classical liberals will be out in the political wilderness as usual, but it will not be possible for liberals to be equally opposed to all of “the rest” when there is so much at stake.

  • I sympathise with the reaction of Alisa (February 5, 2017 at 10:48 am) but I did find myself amused several times – and very occasionally thinking “could be worse”.

    That Nick quotes Bertold Brecht to illustrate his point is the icing on my cake. I suppose Brecht is as reliable a source for what happened during “the night Atlantis drowned” as he ever was on anything else. 🙂 I smiled to learn that it is not Nick and his friends but “… Trump supporters, who gulp down incredible falsehoods and then dismiss the “crooked media” [alternative media in Nick’s case] when the stories collapse. … “, and that it is Trump, not the PC, who operate via, “You may know I am lying. But if you contradict me, I will make you pay.” 🙂

    To Nick, the failures of left-wing thought are (re)interpreted as evidence of our continued need for them. “… while the fall of communism discredited the centrally planned economy, the centrally planned corporation, with the autocratic leader who tolerated no dissent, not only survived 1989, but blossomed.” These and other faults of “the fascist firm” have been discovered by “Academics from the University of California” (Nick doesn’t take time out from his subject to say that the solution is a lot of regulatory intervention by academics from the University of California and their friends, but it’s clear that’s what he thinks). 🙂 And he embraces rather too many accusations I know to be crudely false for me to trust his anti-Trump details on things I do not know.

    Let me be less mocking where I can. It is from reading the article, not someone else’s input, that I know that when Nick floated the ‘Hitler’ analogy past a third-reich historian, “he almost sighed”. To this sigh we doubtless owe the fact that Nick now thinks the comparison “not wholly exaggerated” rather than some stronger term. He squeezes out a drop of we’re-not-perfect honesty near the end, noting that some on the left were very tolerant of violence that embarrassed Blair and Bush; he even seems to know that that came first: “Once, the apologetics were confined to the worst elements in the liberal-left.” And his recommended solution is specifically not to embrace left-wing violence. (Maybe his Hitler analogy has room for the thought that Germany’s 1932 communists were part of the problem, not part of the solution.)

    In theory, reading this kind of stuff now and then protects us from living in a bubble. In practice? – well, long ago Natalie told me she was reading the Grauniad for the same reason. A few moments later, she said something and I replied, “The Guardian may think you’re not reading it attentively enough.” 🙂 “It’s hopeless”, she replied, “what I read there only attaches me more to my own opinions.” Since Nick’s “I am sorry if I am being “hysterical”, but … ” suggests he’s being told to cool it by a less hostile audience than us, I guess I should be glad there are enough right-wingers still cautious about Trump that I’ll likely not become an inverse of Nick.

  • Laird

    Great article, Jacob; thanks for posting it.

  • Laird

    The close of the article Jacob linked is so good I think it deserves quoting here:

    So I’m a scoundrel because I don’t pay income taxes? Maybe so, but it also makes me smart, just like all the other billionaires who are backing your campaign. So I’m a sexist because you found a video of me bragging about how my superstar status enables me to grab women by the p—y? Maybe it does, but allow me to publically introduce four of the women who have accused your husband of everything from indecent exposure to rape. So I’m a greedy businessman who stiffs my contractors? Fine. You’re a corrupt politician who sells out our national interest to line your own pockets.

    Maybe everything they say about me is true, but at least I’m authentic, at least I’m real: you on the other hand, are a bloody, disgusting hypocrite.

  • Paul Marks

    All a bit vague.

    And “read the whole thing” is not going to get me clicking on a link to the Observer newspaper. I just clicked on a link to the L.A. Times and regretted it.

    If the Observer is “liberal” then I want nothing to do with “liberalism”.

    I know who was responsible for the murder of tens of millions of people – and it was not Donald Trump.

    It was the various political leaders the Observer and the Guardian supported over the years and decades.

    Donald Trump was born in 1946 – he never supported Mao or Fidel Castro or Pol Pot or “Uncle Ho” or the rest of them.

    How many Observer writers (born in the same period) can say the same?

  • Cal Ford

    I also coulnd’t get through Cohen’s sludge. But I certainly agree that compulsive believers are terrifying. Only problem is, that’s what the left is now full of: compulsive believers who think that exercising a minor bit of border control is akin to throwing 6 million Jews into gas ovens.

  • Bruce

    A couple of (old) observations:

    Firstly, from Mark Twain:

    “There are three kinds of lies;

    Damned Lies, and

    How can you tell when a politician is lying?

    Their lips move. (See also MSM types).

    The Greatest lies in History:

    A chicken in every pot
    We’ll all be home by Christmas
    Of course I’ll still respect you in the morning
    and, the big one:

    Hello, I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.

  • Runcie Balspune

    You may find Trump’s language reeked of the Munich beer hall.

    Now Godwin’s Law has been invoked, perhaps Cohen would muse on the recent effort by the left to prevent people like Yiannopoulos from speaking, which has been going on before Trump and Brexit, because I know what I think when I hear of people using violence to silence their critics.

  • Snorri Godhi

    In 2 words: Fake News.

    I have not read the whole thing either, but at first sight, Nick Cohen has written the sort of article that got Trump elected. He says that violence against Trump supporters plays into Trump’s hands, which is true; but articles like Cohen’s also play into Trump’s hands.

    See also the article at Jacob’s link, already seconded by Laird.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I read the entire thing, and while it has its merits, they are massively outweighed by the hysteria, and also by the fault of much of the current Left, which is to voice its disgust that the proles just aren’t getting the memo any more.

    The tragedy of it all is that on some issues – such as the moral relativism of the anti-Western Left and its stance over Islamism, Cohen has a sure touch. But on the rise of Trump and Brexit, he just cannot even begin to concede the reasons why millions of voters, who aren’t bigots or idiots, voted for Trump and voted for the UK to quit the EU. On the EU, for instance, Cohen never mentions one of the main genuinely liberal reasons for wanting to quit the EU: its illiberalism, its lack of democratic accountability, and its corruption and bureaucratic mission creep. As for Trump, Cohen fails to get to grips with the public anger about Wall Street bailouts and the crappy, slow-growth US economy. There is only scorn for the mass public.

    Sure, there are aspects of Trump and Brexit I dislike intensely. I think Trump is clueless on trade and mostly so on immigration (his zero-sum views about trade, likening it to a war, would embarrass a five-year old); his impetuous style is scary not just to US foes but also to its enemies; there are some on the Brexit side who suffer from the same nativist/collectivist errors. But it would be nice if someone such as Cohen could stop to consider the manifold faults of those on the Remain/Hillary C side. For example, not once does this long article go into the sheer dishonesty of Obama, such as his repeated fibs about the ACA health legislation, Benghazi, etc. There has been a gutload of this for the past eight years.

    Unimpressed with the whole article.

  • NickM

    I was an undergraduate at Nottingham University (1992-1995). I’d heard it was a “politically apathetic” institution from the sort of people (like the NUS) who regard this as a “bad thing”.

    Fast forward and I’m teaching (maths) at Leeds. Wow. All the NUS election candidates vowed to do things like, “fight racism, sexism and homophobia on campus”. They were hammering at nails so well hammered the wood was splintering. None of them ever mentioned any real issues such as housing stock, provision of computer terminals, muggings in Hyde Park or The swill they called “beer” in the SU bar.

    The Left had clearly disconnected completely from what mattered to anybody or anything but their own creed.

    That was maybe about 15 years ago. I am no fan of Trump but I understand the frustration. I really do.

  • TDK

    I read it to the end. Consider the penultimate paragraph for the recurring defect:

    Understand the logic of polarisation and you will understand that Trump wants a violent reaction. He wants to be able to tell white Americans that his opponents are “professional anarchists”, as he said last week. He wants liberals to treat all his supporters as if they are as debased as he is. He can then turn to his base and say liberals hate them because they are white; that they see them as nothing more than stupid, deplorable bigots. Force me from power, he will conclude, and these hate-filled enemies will come for you and give the “tremendous advantages” he was pretending blacks enjoyed in the 1980s to their favoured minorities.

    I do not know if Soros really pays demonstrators but there is undoubtedly a class of regular rent-a-mob anarchists. They aren’t a new phenomena, they were present at Seattle and Occupy or any environmental camp. So whether Trump says it, is only important in so far as the media cannot “pretty up” the phenomena unchallenged as they did with Occupy. More important is why such demonstrators are tolerated by the left. Such protestors are validated again and again in the Guardian et al. Students in the USA can, in certain courses, get credit for attending demos. Do a strong cross section of “liberals” hate the their opponents’ supporters and regard them as knuckle dragging imbeciles? Does Nick not see the way his side behaved after Brexit. Why is Nick so concerned by Trump pointing this out? The extreme left have polarised the debate, not Trump.
    All in all, this article screams projection.

  • Jorba

    Self awareness much?
    Substitute Tony Blair for Trump in the story, and with the exception of things specifically said by one person, it’s damn near a perfect match.

    What Mr Cohen doesnt get is that its exactly this behaviour on the illiberal left that got Trump/Brexit/Orban etc elected in the first place. It’s also fuelling all the hand wringing and public emotional masturbation thats going on currently.

    Liberals against the rest? I would rewrite that as classical liberals against the left. And it appears they dont like it up them

  • NickM

    Just to clarify they are not “my side”. I think I made that clear.

    They are desperately seeking relevance partly to the pointless and sometimes battles won long ago but mainly to each other.

  • bob

    AndrewZ speaks truth like a spent uranium scalpel.


  • Bod

    It’s clear that the US is on the up-ramp to a generation’s worth of utter morons who will be their version of the braindead fuckwits who thought Ben Elton was the epitome of political insight, who would explain every suboptimal social outcome to be due to “‘facher’s legacy”. Indeed, it may be worse, because we still have a residual corpus of Bush Derangement Syndrome lefties to add more gasoline to the fires.

    Yes, Trump’s current stance is to exploit the riots as a means to consolidate support in his borderline supporters; he’d be an idiot not to. From what I’m seeing over here, along with some relatives-by-marriage who are sympathetic to the ‘resistance’, the movement is so far distanced from reality that Trump’s going to be able to play this game for some time, even if his administration were to stop stoking the fire.

  • bobby b

    February 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    “Therefore, the new dividing line is between the people who want to destroy the existing nations, society and culture of the West and the people who do not. Since there is still such a strong link between nationality and cultural values the opposition to the forces of destruction will inevitably take on a nationalist character.

    On my pickup truck, and on one of my motorcycles, I have the same decal – a small American flag.

    Because of this decal, I cannot park either vehicle out in the open when I go into the city proper (referring to Minneapolis.) It will be vandalized. Note that I do not say “it stands a high chance of being vandalized.” It will be vandalized. So when entering the city, I drive my decal-less car.

    Knowing what sets them off so violently, I now make a special effort to show symbols of nationalism when I am present. It enrages them, but they tend to only attack property left unguarded, and so I derive joy with little risk.

    I don’t think I’m becoming more nationalistic, though. I think I’ve just learned how to taunt them more effectively.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Something else to consider- whilst I think Trump is anti-climate-change, he is just like that because regulations are bad for business. However, some people are now looking at a paper which shows there is no hiatus in global warming (put out just before the Paris agreement), and claiming the facts were cherry-picked. That would mean there still is a pause, and science still hasn’t explained it. So President Trump may have gotten lucky on that score.

  • Julie near Chicago

    From Anthony at WUWT:


    BOMBSHELL – NOAA whistleblower says Karl et al. “pausebuster” paper was hyped, broke procedures

    Anthony Watts / 3 days ago February 4, 2017

    —–They played fast and loose with the figures -NOAA whistleblower

    The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the organisation that is the world’s leading source of climate data rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming and was timed to influence the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

    –Gosh! Hard to believe. [/sarc] And that’s only the first few lines! Plus 895 comments so far.

    By the way, the posting ends with this link:

    Read the entire extraordinary expose by David Rose here:



    Mr. Watts posted a follow-up piece a few hours ago:


    More on the Bombshell David Rose Article: Instability in the Global Historical Climate Network

    Anthony Watts / 2 hours ago February 7, 2017

    There has been a visceral reaction by the defenders of the climate faith to the Mail on Sunday article by David Rose…

    [screenshot of The Daily Mail, with headline

    Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing bilions over manipulated global warming data

    and bullet points]


    More text, quotes from elsewhere, graphs.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Well, because, @Guy Herbert urged:

    “…but you should really read the whole thing…”

    – I foolishly went and did just that, thinking that I might be well-advised to expend my cognitive surplus on the matter, but it was not so. It seems to be an imbecilic kind of rant, but I’m sure the author (Nick Cohen) is unlikely to really be an imbecile and so he probably wouldn’t believe a word of what he had written, so I asked myself:

    “Under what circumstances would it make sense to pay someone to write such an article?” (assuming that he is paid for it).

    If he is getting paid for such tripe, then maybe that’s the legitimate intention and he’s just making a crust whilst milking the situation for all it’s worth and being harmlessly creatively entertaining, maybe encouraging us to “think outside the box” with a little distraction, and maybe trying to retain a reputation for (say) being avant-garde and “out there” and relevant, or something. I mean, one of the hardest things for many journalists/writers would seem to be to remain consistently relevant in the public eye, over time, and they can fall out of favour at a moment’s notice if they try too hard and make a misstep, and then be rejected, pilloried, defenestrated and dumped unceremoniously down the memory-hole by a cynically hypocritical industry – e.g., journalist Johann Hari.

    The post by the author (Nick Cohen) could seem to be rather amusing, in a way, if one does not take it seriously. He’s evidently not running for president and for all we know he could be having a great wheeze and it was intentionally done tongue-in-cheek to play to the liberal luvvies and their cognitive bias and poke the borax at the chattering classes to spark them into sort of “outrage” discussions…

    “Do you see what he wrote?! He can’t say that!”, etc.

    When, of course, he can and he did, and maybe:

    “Ha, ha, ha, can you believe they actually seem to think that I was being serious?”, etc.

    If that happens, then there’s no harm done, there are eyeballs and clicks on his articles and he’s still relevant and seemingly on message whilst his seemingly barmy ideas are being seriously discussed and knocked around by those who might actually want to believe them and those who might reject them.

    It seems to put forward such an artificial and “nice” construction of silly propositions that I reckon he could be just provocatively trolling and pulling our plonkers and probably having fun at the reader’s expense. Good on ‘im, if so. Freedom of speech and all that. It’s potentially entertaining, at the very least, like Milo’s presentation probably would have been had it been allowed to go ahead at UC Berkely.

    Speaking of which (Milo’s blocked presentation): whilst the highly amusing irony of using classic fascistic methods of violence to shut down free speech at an American bastion of free speech (UC Berkeley) did not escape me, it did make me wonder whether in fact the rioting might not have been orchestrated by (say) the Republicans rather than the likely “usual suspects” – the Democrats. I mean, if there is one thing that would seem to have been ably demonstrated by Americans via their public behaviours over the last 12 months or so, it is that a decent education, ethics and critical thinking apparently do not necessarily stand out as being strong points in American society in general or the American ethos – and that is putting it mildly. Millions of Iranians could probably agree with that.

    Thus, whatever her motivation, Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate and apparently frustrated remark about “deplorables” in the Trump camp could have equally been ascribed to those in her camp, but she would not have said that, of course.

    History shows that where a mass of people are uneducated, they can also tend to be more gullible and easily manipulated than well-educated people. So, if they are thick on the ground (pun intended) in the US – as Hillary was apparently suggesting and as could seem to arguably be the case and by demonstration – then the UC Berkeley riot may have been a very good lesson in fascism communicated to those generally deplorable US citizens that, if one does not conform, then “it could happen to you”. The message does not necessarily have had to have come from the Left either, even though it might have been made to appear on the face of it to have probably come from there. It could have been a deliberate misdirection. For example, just as the Republicans rejected Trump, one could not be sure that they would necessarily fondly welcome into their arms someone who claims to be a Conservative but whom they might regard as an untouchable – a jumped-up smartass “…homosexual immigrant Jew boy who has an African-American boyfriend” – to paraphrase Scott Adams.

    So maybe the UC Berkeley riot could have cleverly killed two or four birds with one stone – it stopped Milo from speaking, he got what he deserved, it taught the lesson, and it seemed to come from the Left of stage.
    Stranger things have happened at sea.

  • Trump is close to Steve Barron. Steve publishes articles by James Delingpole on climate change. James Delingpole can present the scientific argument against Global Warming competently, and keeps an eye on the writings of Anthony Watt, Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry et al. I suspect Trump is aware that a strong scientific argument can be made against climate change. He may feel he’s not the expert presenter of it. More probably, I suspect he thinks that at a rust-belt rally, diverging from jobs into discussion of the hockey stick, proxy data, etc. was not the way to win the presidency.

    As regards Slartibartfarst’s post above, I am fairly confident that in the surface layer of his mind Nick thinks he believes what he writes, whatever absurdities and contradictions one might detect in his behaviour and assumptions, let alone in the article. And I would happily bet my life savings that the protestors at Berkeley were exactly what they seemed to be: social justice warriors getting enthusiastic about the warrior part when they’re sure noone will (literally, that is) fight back.