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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

After the Commons vote on Brexit last week, Davis is said to have approached Abbott for a kiss but apparently she told him to ‘fuck off’. Later, a Tory friend texted Davis to ask him about the incident. Davis texted back saying he hadn’t tried to kiss Abbott, and wouldn’t, because ‘I am not blind’. In short, he thinks Abbott is unattractive.

It is tempting at this point to say Davis’s text messages were crude. But that would be wrong, because the fact is they’re none of our business. He did not say these things for public consumption. It was an off-hand, matey remark of the kind all of us make via text or email or WhatsApp or whatever. That Davis’s texts were leaked doesn’t make it okay to haul him over the coals for them, to insist that he retract and repent, because this still amounts to shaming someone for a private conversation. The correct response to the texts would be to say: ‘This is not my concern. People can think and say whatever they like in private.’

Of course that hasn’t been the response, because such is the stifling intensity of the ‘You Can’t Say That!’ culture that now even private speech, glorified thoughts in essence, are considered fair game by the shut-it-down brigade.

Brendan O’Neill

29 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • QET

    The correct response of Davis to the would-be shamers is Abbott’s alleged response to him. Trying to reason the hyenas off of their prey will achieve nothing. Either you will fight the hyenas off or they will take you down. Tertium non datur.

  • Paul Marks

    It is not the sort of jokey thing I would have done – although D. Abbott’s response was even worse. Still I am a Puritan at heart (although I do not like them politically – I suppose my attitude could be summed up as “it should all be legal – and one should NOT do any of it”) – and I must make an effort to understand warm hearted people.

    As for anti Freedom of Speech the P.C. (Frankfurt School of Marxism “Critical Theory”) crowd. The people who insist that Mr Davis apologise for saying “I am not blind”.

    Damn them to Hell fire.

    “I thought you did not approve of swearing Paul” – I am not swearing, I mean it literally.

  • bobby b

    I would think the correct response would be to publicize the name of the person who disclosed the private texts and then shun him/her from all discourse.

  • lucklucky

    Yeah, who disclosed the text messages?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s not only text messages! Some teachers in America were overheard in a bar talking about their female students, along the lines of ‘F*ck, marry or Kill?’ Not a nice topic, but it was after hours, and we can probably expect more of this in a Trump presidency. Some parents overheard this private discussion, and sought to have the teachers sacked! Are their any really private moments anymore?

  • RAB

    He should have said…

    I have nothing to apologise for, as I have always found Diane Abbott a deeply ugly person beyond the obvious.

  • the other rob

    While O’Neill is ethically, morally and factually correct (I didn’t expect to be writing that about the editor of Living Marxism!) he’s tactically mistaken.

    These bullshit, hysterical demands for Maoist self-criticism, over “incidents” that the vast majority of ordinary people would find unremarkable and even a little bit funny, serve only to (a) desensitize people to such crap and (b) make them wonder why the fuck they ever thought such wankers were worth voting for.

    Increasingly elements of the Alinsky playbook, as executed by his modern-day disciples, are becoming counter-productive for them. They should probably blame the Internet for that, among other things.

    You have Corbyn leading Labour. With any luck we’ll get Ellison (or somebody equally odious) chairing the DNC. Ordinary people will gaze in disbelief, throw up a little bit in their mouths and say “Well, I certainly don’t want any more of that!”

  • jim jones

    Whoopi Goldberg actually makes Diane Abbott look attractive

  • It’s the way she shuts her eyes whenever she speaks… Like every word is a lie. Utterly repellent.

  • bobby b

    “With any luck we’ll get Ellison (or somebody equally odious) chairing the DNC.”

    I’m in Minnesota. Have been for a long time. I know Ellison. There is no one equally odious to Ellison. He is of the Obama ilk: America is evil and should fall.

    Sadly, his next contender is Tom Perez. Think of him as the love child of Obama and Bill Ayers, but with brains. Thank him for changing DOJ Civil Rights into a black protection racket, and for crippling voter ID laws across the country.

    We of the non-left would be best served with Ellison as chair-DNC. He’s a blowhard. Perez would be effective.

  • Thailover

    Jim Jones, you have that backwards. Abbott is the fugliest water buffalo I’ve ever seen.

  • staghounds

    First, there’s no such thing as a private conversation. There may be such a thing a a secret you don’t want revealed, but once you reveal it to someone it’s just a question of how many people know.

    Second, there’s never been such a thing as a “private opinion” that’s not fair game. It just depends on the content of the private conversation. If it’s “Let’s you and me kidnap and kill Diane Abbott”, that is a solicitation to murder and the Queen’s justice will lock you away. If it’s “Let’s you and me run off to Paris for the week end”, the private nature of the conversation doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t allowed to act on it when he sees your emails. If I overhear a shopkeeper talking privately about giving another customer short weight, I don’t have to pretend I don’t think he’s a crook because he didn’t mean for me to hear.

    “I think Diane Abbott is ugly” is an opinion you may or may not agree with. It’s not “sexist” or “racist”, but it is revelatory about the speaker. If discovering that someone harbors visually based dislike to Diane Abbot upsets you, that’s fair game just as discovering he has any other private opinion with which you disagree.

    And no you won’t reason the hyenas off, they aren’t on him because of reason. He’s stupid to apologise, not because it’s something private but because the apology is a lie.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . not because it’s something private but because the apology is a lie.”

    Not a lie. He’s very very sorry he got caught.

    But you’re right in every aspect. We’ve known this long enough to know with little need for contemplation that we don’t put things out there we don’t want showcased.

    Why, I’ve even known people who won’t cast their writings free out there on the internet without using a fake name! Plausible deniability, always.

    And we can complain forever that private talk should remain private, but the fact is, the people doing the deploring aren’t complaining, to us, about Wrongspeak, but to each other, about Wrongthink, and so the speaking rules don’t apply. You can’t join the club unless you Think Correctly ™, and this is merely an intramural lesson in keeping your thoughts Correct. It’s more important that they use this lesson to educate each other in how not to offend than the fact that this guy gets punished for what he said. That’s why an apology is like spitting into the wind: they weren’t talking to you.

  • Lee Moore

    Actually Diane Abbott was rather a good looking young woman :


    though she quickly began to struggle with her weight and she’s no oil painting now.

    And although she has always been a loon, she used to be sound on Europe, and that was once good enough to get her my vote when the Tories put up a Europhile against her.

    It goes without saying that Davis is entirely blameless in expressing a private opinion of her charms, and the cad is the person who leaked it, perhaps embarrassing poor Diane.

  • Laird

    A politician should never apologize to anyone except his wife. Trump showed us the way: when attacked, embrace it, perhaps even double down, and counter-attack. But never apologize. Especially if you’re truly sorry for it.

  • Richard Thomas

    Laird: Absolutely correct. Whatever Trump’s political actions, hopefully he at least will lead the way in standing up to these assholes instead of cowering in self flagellation.

    As the tactic has been learned, the answer is not to give ground but to double down. Especially since 80% of the time, they are misrepresenting or just flat out lying. For some reason, I’m reminded of that monologue from “The Untouchables” (a movie I should really get around to watching one day). Though I’m not sure if I’d recommend it since one HRC appears to take the “put one of theirs in the morgue” bit a bit too literally (allegedly).

  • Apparently what really happened was DD leaned close to Abbott and said “thanks for the vote” to which she replied “fuck off”

  • Alisa

    harbors visually based dislike

    I have long ago come to the conclusion that what makes people (of both male and female persuasion, and everyone in between) attractive is their personality, much more so than their purely physical attributes. This may be less true when the person in question is totally unknown to the observer, in which case the physical may be more striking than the “internal”, for better or for worse. But I doubt this was the case with Davis vs Abbot. And yes, she was rather cute when young – maybe she could have kept some of it if she didn’t go into politics?

  • Alisa

    And here’s another case of a ‘private conversation’.

  • staghounds

    Alisa is right- eventually you have to talk to them.

    And your appearance is the one thing about yourself that you have nothing at all to do with. Your parents gave you that DNA nine months before you were born. Everything else- what you say, your tastes and outlook on life, how pleasant you are- all the things that make for genuine personal attraction vel non- are you.

  • Mr Ed


    ‘And your appearance is the one thing about yourself that you have nothing at all to do with.’

    Well, who controls the cake hole?

    It seems to me that Lefties often have a sort of ‘snarl‘ look about them. Nothing I can describe, or put into a scientific analysis (well not yet, anyway) but often easy to recognise. Perhaps an inner burning hatred of all that is good and decent takes its toll and leaves its mark?

  • Alisa

    Staghounds, most times you don’t even have to talk to them or even meet them in person – more often than not it is enough to watch them talk on a screen, if they are famous enough to get screen time. Facial expressions, body language, the way the treat others taking part in a conversation – all these can make a person look attractive or the opposite, their actual physical attributes notwithstanding. Mr. Ed’s observation is apt in that regard.

  • Watchman

    To illustrate Alisa’s point with reference to Jim Jones odd introduction of Whoopi Goldberg (I am still convinced she abducted the name of a Jewish clown…) above, whilst there is probably little to choose between her and Ms Abbot physically if you analyse it purely in physical appearance, there is a marked difference in attractiveness. Ms Goldberg, probably because she is a pretty good actress, can actually appear attractive and appealing, whilst Ms Abbot seems to be generally off-putting, presumably due to a sort of distrust of people. And the photo of the young Ms Abbot suggests she was more physically attractive but does not seem to reflect anything more approachable.

    Or in other words, Ms Goldberg looks like she could provide a good evening and night of mutual entertainment (I’m open minded OK), whilst Ms Abbot does not…

  • staghounds

    Of course there’s not one attractiveness, because there are lots of attractees. For example, from my experience I know that there are plenty of men who prefer a weak, ineffective, helpless appearance in women. That affect suggests that they are more likely to be easier domestic violence targets. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would find Ms. Abbot utterly magnetic.

  • It is strange that saying ‘F** off’ publicly in the house of commons, in reply to someone who said “Thanks for the vote”, is OK and needs no apology, but texting privately to a friend (an indiscreet friend, I take it) that “I am not blind” is not OK, when said friend asks if more was intended than a verbal thanks. Between a hypothetical reply of “I thought of kissing/hugging her on this rare occasion of our voting together, but refrained”, which would get accusations of sexual harassment and/or demeaning attitudes, and the actual reply of “I am not blind” that got accusations of rudeness, it would seem some care is required to say anything at all; you must deny any suggestion of familiar behaviour – but not too strongly or you’re rude. 🙂

    “It is tempting at this point to say Davis’s text messages were crude.” I’m glad the OP objected at all, but it is sad to see a conceding remark like that within the protest. I am not the least tempted to say that. “I am not blind” is less direct than many ways of responding. Today, the beeb and others are running her “I – er, I mean women – have so much to endure, people are so mean to me” rubbish as if it were news – and as if it deserved respect. That is far uglier than Abbott’s appearance, however one views it.

  • Gareth

    Lee Moore said:

    though she quickly began to struggle with her weight and she’s no oil painting now.

    Abbott is an oil painting. One taxpayers paid for.

    MPs splurge £250,000 of public money on ‘expensive’ portraits

  • Runcie Balspune

    Some parents overheard this private discussion, and sought to have the teachers sacked!

    Goes both ways.

    I recall having being counseled by my son’s primary school teacher over a private remark the boy made to his friend that was perceived as casting doubt on the existence of Santa Claus, as this was overhead by another class mate and caused emotional upset.

    I kid you not.

  • Beyond broad support for the Brexit cause, the major observation I can make of the Brexit brouhaha is that the Brexiteers must be absolutely delighted by Tony Blair inserting himself into the proceedings. Honestly, what more could you ask for. Thanks, Tony!

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Having no idea what Diane Abbott looks like, I Googled her photo and see nothing wrong with her appearance, beyond her being what Alexander McCall Smith usefully describes as “a traditionally-built woman”.

    But then, I have always found Whoopi Goldberg to have a certain appeal, in a not-descended-from-the-same-monkey-as-the-rest-of-us kind of way. So maybe I’m just weird.