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]

Two snapshots of our times

1) Eurogamer reports,

PC Specialist ad banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes

An advert for a bespoke PC retailer was banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes of women.

The TV ad, below, for UK retailer PC Specialist, begins with a computer exploding, then shows three men getting excited over using a PC Specialist PC for gaming, making music and coding.

[…]

The Advertising Standards Authority received eight complaints from people who said the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were stereotypically male, and implied it was only men who were interested in technology and computers.

PC Specialist responded to the watchdog to say its customer base was 87.5 per cent male, aged between 15 and 35 years, and “their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad therefore represented a cross-section of the PC Specialist core customer base”.

Ten years ago the Advertising Standards Authority would have said something like, “We just want you to stop portraying women as laughably incompetent at computers until a man helps them. Surely that’s fair? After all, some women are great at computers.” At that time it must have seemed ridiculous to make a fuss about freedom of speech when faced with such a reasonable request. But when the beast is fed it grows stronger.

2) And from the BBC:

Sheffield students paid to tackle racist language on campus

A university is to hire 20 of its own students to challenge language on campus that could be seen as racist.

The University of Sheffield is to pay students to tackle so-called “microaggressions” – which it describes as “subtle but offensive comments”.

They will be trained to “lead healthy conversations” about preventing racism on campus and in student accommodation.

Vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts said the initiative wanted to “change the way people think about racism”.

The students will be paid £9.34 per hour as “race equality champions”, working between two and nine hours per week to tackle “microaggressions” in the university.

These are described as comments or actions which might be unintentional, but which can cause offence to a minority group.

It gives examples of what it means by microaggression – such as:

  • “Stop making everything a race issue”
  • “Why are you searching for things to be offended about?”
  • “Where are you really from?”
  • “I don’t want to hear about your holiday to South Africa. It’s nowhere near where I’m from”
  • “Being compared to black celebrities that I look nothing like”

    Rather than being about controlling people’s speech, the university says it is “opening up a conversation”.

  • Judging from the first two examples, they are allowed to open the conversation but you are not allowed to close it.

    25 comments to Two snapshots of our times

    • Judging from the first two examples, they are allowed to open the conversation but you are not allowed to close it.

      Judging from the first two examples, they are allowed to punish criticism of themselves and their mission first and foremost. (If time and their attention span allows, they can also take down in evidence and use against you anything they can portray as critical of some PC-patronised group.)

      Closing the circle – making it hate speech to criticise the hate speech laws – is the desired endgame of the PC.

    • Nullius in Verba

      “Judging from the first two examples, they are allowed to open the conversation but you are not allowed to close it.”

      They don’t say anything about being *not allowed* to answer back. One might wonder if this is the first step towards bringing in such a rule, but as things stand this is just them exercising their free speech.

      I gather the university got criticised for tolerating racism, so this is them “doing something about it” in as harmless a way as they can manage. Assuming we’re arguing for free speech, that implies we must also allow their free speech, which implies they can start a conversation about racism if they like. So it’s not a move anyone can logically complain about.

    • I notice one strange omission from the list of examples. They don’t say that it is unconscious racism to reply, “You’re calling stuff micro-aggressions because you’re paid to!” Presumably almost any remark against racism by anyone at Sheffield Uni can now rationally be replied to thus – unless the university publishes the names and photos of those it employs in this endeavour, in which case there may be a tendency in anyone they approach to remember neglected tasks or urgent appointments, or talk voluminously about the weather. Perhaps the omission will be rectified in the next version of their instructions. 🙂

      It’s like the Crowds on Demand rent-a-mob: if you known, or even just suspect, that’s who they are, it limits their impact – unless of course you assume, as I think any Sheffield student talking to them would be wise to, that dissenting from them may well have consequences.

    • Zerren Yeoville

      Would it be microaggressive of me to offer the observation that for members of minority groups who set great store by their group ‘heritage’ it seems distinctly odd to object to being asked ‘where are you really from?’ You as an individual may indeed have been born in Stratford-upon-Avon but if you wear your hair in cornrows it would seem vanishingly unlikely that many of the ancestors in your family tree would have been neighbours of William Shakespeare.

      If it is a question of loose phrasing – i.e. that the person so asked perceives an accusative tone suggesting that the questioner has an issue with that person’s presence in that place – then perhaps we could also ask whether, as a conversation-starter, a less specific question along the lines of ‘What part of the world would your ancestors have considered their home?’ would similarly be deemed beyond the pale. (Ooops. ‘Pale’- is that still OK?)

    • Bell Curve

      Eurogamer were on the losing side of #GamerGate so… 😆

    • Julie near Chicago

      Words escape me.

    • If the words are escaping you, Julie, you must hang onto them better. I suggest copyright.

      As to the definitions of racism, sexism et al, there’s an old saying that “everything is phallic if it’s longer than it’s wide.” If you are allowed to choose your own coordinate system, even more things are longer than they’re wide. Academe is expert at that. Give them a few more years to practice, and we’ll be worried about nano-aggression. Makes a bear want to break out the old aggression, or even some kilo-aggression, to bring back a sense of proportion.

    • Bobby b

      Really, the only logical response to the second example is for everyone not entirely in sympathy to speak as racistly, as sexistly – as objectionably – as possible. The overton window is, I think, defined in it’s place by averaging, so excess needs to be met with excess.

    • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

      Julie, that could be a good excuse! “I didn’t mean to utter those offending words, they just escaped on their own!”

    • Julie near Chicago

      Ellen and Nicholas,

      Thank you both for your helpful suggestions.

      It’s unfortunate that none of them appear here. 😥

      😆

    • Itellyounothing

      Tax payer funded informers who demonstrate loyalty to the approved orthodoxy sounds very KGB and not remotely free speech at all.

      Hopefully students stop attending and cut funding to this “institution”.

      And what kind of Creepy weirdos do they expect to take this job?

    • Paul Marks

      The “Advertising Standards Authority” SHOULD NOT EXIST.

      None of these unelected government bodies with the power to order people about should exist – this is what Chief Justice Hewart was warning of all the way back in 1929 (“The New Despotism”) – unelected people with the power to make up their own laws (under vague “Enabling Acts” from Parliament)

      Remember the questions of “Tony” Benn (a socialist) – “who elected you?” in this case NO ONE, “How do we get rid of you?” in this case WE CAN NOT, ordinary people can not get rid of the “great and the good” who make up such bodies (including the “Electoral Commission” – which is even more dangerous).

      As for the University of Sheffield – politicians are so proud of expanding the number of students in “higher education” and so indifferent to the stranglehold that Marxist “Diversity” has in the education system.

      A “conversation” is the last thing these Collectivists want – other than a “conversation” that is total-agreement with all their doctrines.

      Any dissent from their “Diversity” Collectivist Totalitarianism is PUNISHED – that is their “conversation”.

      In the United States a key change came under the Obama Administration (Barack Obama and his associates were masters at pushing the Frankfurt School agenda, by seemingly “little” moves) – when the universities were told that speech could make university an unpleasant experience for “minority” students (including women – why are actually the majority, not the minority) and, so, universities were encouraged to crush Freedom of Speech.

      Of course, once universities (or anyone else) gets in the habit of censorship they carry on doing it – Barack Obama is gone, but his censorship policy carries on without any need for government encouragement any more.

      By the way…..

      The Obama Administration (via the EPA) pushed the view that any land with water on it (and try running a farm or ranch, or anything, without water) was open to Federal Government “regulation” (read CONTROL), this was backdoor LAND NATIONALISATION (“Communist Manifesto” 1848) – and yet the “mainstream” media (the Economist magazine and so on) hardly raised any protest at all. Indeed to the Economist magazine Mr Obama was a “moderate” and they supported him – twice.

      The Obama Administration was when I gave up on the “liberal” establishment – if they supported him (and they did support him), with his agenda of the extermination of Freedom of Speech and backdoor land nationalisation (and all-the-rest-of-it, they would support anything.

      “Liberalism” and Marxism may be formally different things – but the direction, Collectivism, is the same.

    • Rudolph Hucker

      Harry Miller (a former police officer and co-founder of Fair Cop) produced a very educational video : The Police Told Me To “Check My Thinking”.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUuZMyqhUUk

      It shows how a pressure group’s “guidelines” become UK Police “policy” and then are enforced as “unofficial law” (crime non-crime)

      Does anyone know how far his FairCop group has got with its application for Judical Review?

      I wonder how we will tell our DNA to “think correctly”.

      * Two X chromosomes: you are a woman
      * One Y and one X: you are male.

      Or will biology and all medical science text books have to be rewritten?

    • And what kind of Creepy weirdos do they expect to take this job? (Itellyounothing, January 15, 2020 at 7:17 am)

      The same people who complained of the ‘racism’ in the first place and so assisted the colluding administrators to offer them.

      This playbook goes back to the late 60s and was satirised in “The History Man”. I quote the relevant verse from a good poetic summary of that book’s plot:

      The revolting young students back Howard,
      Because he’s not ivory-towered.
      For averting their sit-in
      (which he’s done his bit in
      promoting)
      , with plaudits he’s showered.

      My bolding makes my point.

    • Natalie Solent

      Nullius in Verba writes,

      They don’t say anything about being *not allowed* to answer back. One might wonder if this is the first step towards bringing in such a rule, but as things stand this is just them exercising their free speech.

      I gather the university got criticised for tolerating racism, so this is them “doing something about it” in as harmless a way as they can manage. Assuming we’re arguing for free speech, that implies we must also allow their free speech, which implies they can start a conversation about racism if they like. So it’s not a move anyone can logically complain about.

      I do indeed wonder if it is the first step towards bringing in some sort of penalties for the other parties in the “conversation” if they either refuse to take part or respond in an unapproved manner. I wonder in the way that a country that sees the neighbouring hostile power mass its armies at the border wonders if maaaybe it would be a good idea to look to its defences.

      The University of Sheffield is paying people to initiate these “conversations”. The university will at the very least require its employees to report back on what they did to earn their wage. Do you think it will accept, “Oh, I tried to start a chat about structural racism with some people but they didn’t seem interested, so I let the subject drop”?

    • Nullius in Verba

      “Really, the only logical response to the second example is for everyone not entirely in sympathy to speak as racistly, as sexistly – as objectionably – as possible.”

      I would suggest instead that somebody starts a similar campaign starting conversations on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Belief. If anyone uses language that disrespects or offends against other people’s Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Belief, then we employ someone to challenge them on it to a ‘healthy conversation’ about it.

      Also, broaden the discussion to other cultures and groups. Point out that the laws on sexism and racism don’t take sides, so straight white males are also protected from offensive remarks and implications. Ask how many of the faculty are politically right-wing, and ask what they’re doing to address this lack of diversity. Philosophical beliefs are also potentially a protected category. And so on. They’re offering a debate, so use the opportunity. Educate them.

      Kicking back doesn’t work very well, because that gives people the impression that you only disagree with their goals (who to kick) rather than their methods (kicking people). It also gives independent observers the impression that both sides are as bad as one another. “A plague on both your houses.” You have to defeat them on their methods first – only then can you hold a civilised debate about their goals.

      “Or will biology and all medical science text books have to be rewritten?”

      You’re waaay behind the times! They were all rewritten 30 years ago. See Chapter 8 of Matt Ridley’s book ‘The Red Queen’ published back in 1993, discussing the science done in the 1980s.

      “I do indeed wonder if it is the first step towards bringing in some sort of penalties for the other parties in the “conversation” if they either refuse to take part or respond in an unapproved manner.”

      I think that was what they were expected/intended to do by those criticising them. Instead they did this.

      The curious thing is, if they had brought in the rules first, then this is what we would have recommended they do instead. We have free speech so that when one of these controversies about how society should be pops up, we can debate the pros and cons, understand the arguments and the evidence and people’s reasons and motivations, and maybe negotiate some sort of consensus. We don’t want anyone, from either side, telling us we can’t even discuss this. And maybe as a result of holding these ‘healthy conversations’, people may be able to learn about the arguments for free speech and freedom of belief. They won’t if you don’t ever talk about it; if you don’t ever allow them to talk about it.

      Thus, this scheme looks like exactly what a free speech advocate would have come up with in response to the criticism about pervasive ‘racist microaggressions’. Debate, not shutting people up.

    • I’m with Natalie:

      I wonder in the way that a country that sees the neighbouring hostile power mass its armies at the border wonders if maaaybe it would be a good idea to look to its defences.

      As I remarked above, this is an old playbook, much in use today. I find the naivety that would imagine an adversarial rather than collusive relationship between the accusers and the University that will now pay them hard to credit.

      I would suggest instead that somebody starts a similar campaign starting conversations on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Belief. (Nullius in Verba, January 15, 2020 at 6:06 pm)

      If anyone can get the University of Sheffield to pay for starting such conversations, then Nullius’ point is established. Until that happy day, replying (unpaid) by making the discussion about free speech is indeed one tactic. Using the payment issue to discredit the sincerity of the woke conversers is another. A third is replying “Well, if you truly thought that was a micro-aggression then I’m sure you’ll accept my micro-apology.” A fourth is being ‘racist’ in the sense of refusing the demand that you believe in or apologise for the ‘unconscious micro-aggression’ you’re accused of but do not agree you were guilty of.

      The last seems the fastest way (for those brave enough) to discover whether these conversations are indeed consequence-free or, as Natalie suggests, the woke conversers will report back, and the names of the insufficiently woke will be noted, and so on. Time will tell.

    • Fraser Orr

      I have two observations:

      1. It just shows how ridiculously sloppy the University is with their budget. They seriously thought they have to PAY people to do this kind of thing?

      2. Based on my prior experience, if words fail the ever perceptive and loquacious “Julie Near Chicago” then we are all in trouble.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Even on the leeward side of the Internet (as well as on UT) I see lots of voices [sic *g*] yelling at me shrilly that it is a Great Mistake to value Freedom of Speech to the point that Hate Speech (or speech that somebody finds, or claims to find, hurtful) goes unsuppressed.

      So much for derailing the Woke Train by trying to focus the issue on Free Speech. 😡

      .

      Oh, sometimes it will work. But the other guy has to listen to you long enough for you to argue for Free Speech (and to note that the phrase means that GOV may not suppress speech of any kind, with a few narrow restrictions). And the Truly Woke/Proggies/SJW’s are not about to open their minds that far, lest what little brains they have fall out.

      😈

      . . .

      ETA: What do people think about laws against “disorderliness,” in particular in the case of people who walk down the street yelling obscenities at the passing throng, as if they suffer from Tourette’s, even though they don’t? Free Speech or Disorderliness?

    • It just shows how ridiculously sloppy the University is with their budget. They seriously thought they have to PAY people to do this kind of thing? (Fraser Orr, January 17, 2020 at 5:14 am)

      I think the university seriously thought that they did not have to pay people merely to do this kind of thing – and knew that even before they received complaints from people who were obviously in the mood to do this kind of thing. (I first wrote “in the business of doing this kind of thing – but then realised it only became a business when they began being paid. 🙂 )

      Hence Natalie’s and my assumption that the paymasters will expect more than a mere vague verbal assurance that the recipients had and/or will have some conversations with other students. They will expect them to provide details – at least so a stronger complaint can be documented, and very possibly so that dissenters can be narced. What the university rewards, it will get more of (though some university administrators might be too left wing to know that).

      (Anyone at Sheffield who wanted to test this and was brave enough could see if they could get the job without already being a member in good PC standing of the complaining pressure group or similar. If they passed that hurdle while planning to pursue “free speech is the best defence against racism” discussions, complete with illustrations from the Weimar Republic’s hate speech laws, then I do not think they would get through the “training” unless they were willing to lie a lot.)

    • bobby b

      “They will expect them to provide details – at least so a stronger complaint can be documented, and very possibly so that dissenters can be narced.”

      Bounty hunters get paid when they drag the body in. I can’t see this as being much different. You’ll see quotas, and the blurring of lines and expansion of “crimes” that that brings.

    • Nullius in Verba

      “I have sufficiently discussed that I have more faith in that possibility than in Nullius’ suggestion IIUC that they might approve.”

      I haven’t suggested that they’d necessarily approve of free speech arguments. All I said was that it’s the sort of scheme a free speech advocate would come up with.

      I expect the most likely situation is that they don’t want to get involved at all. It gets in the way of business. But they’re caught between two warring groups – the anti-racist campaigners and the racist-tolerant free speech campaigners – and the former have issued some sort of report on pervasive racism that the university have been told they have got to “do something about”. The simplest option obviously to do so would be to introduce a speech code and employ the students to enforce it, but they haven’t done that. They know perfectly well if they did they’d be lambasted by the other side for the offence against free speech. So they’ve tried to come up with a solution tolerable to *both* sides.

      But of course, people who are “on a side” won’t see it that way. The authoritarians on the left will be outraged it’s not compulsory. The authoritarians on the right will be outraged that the left are allowed to even raise the subject with random people, let alone get paid for it. Nobody wants a debate – they want their own cultural norms to dominate unquestioned and unchallenged. So one side are going to see it as a racist society’s weak capitulation using the excuse of ‘so-called free speech’ that allows the problem of racism to persist, and the other side are still going to see it as speech code enforcement by paid political correctness police, with the backing of officialdom, who intend to compel, whatever they might say officially. Anti-racism campaigners will assume the university is on our side, because they didn’t clamp down. Pro-racism campaigners will assume the university is on their side, because they didn’t tell the anti-racism campaigners to shut up about it.

      The authoritarians on both sides don’t want a debate about it, they want their own cultural norm to prevail unchallenged, and for violations of their norm to get stamped on and silenced. Conversations between the sides are either angry shouting matches where nobody listens, or sullen silence, as one side is cowed by threat/force but not persuaded. Such non-debate changes nobody’s mind. The requirement to have an actual debate – to muster your own reasoning and justifications, and address those of the other side – is the only civilised way to resolve such conflicts. If there is to be any hope of turning the younger generation around, you have to educate them, persuade them, change their minds, and that requires having a debate with them. To let them know how offended, upset, and fearful their enforcement of political correctness makes you feel – how you’re just the same as all the other people, and how their actions are just the same as those of other oppressors. You have to gain their sympathy for your culture, as they sympathise with other downtrodden cultures. Humans split the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’, with eternal total war justified absolutely against ‘them’. It’s hardwired into our brains, and so the only way to stop such cultural conflict is for all of us to get classed as ‘us’.

      How can we bring that about if the two sides never talk, except with battle lines drawn? Well maybe a first step is to *pay* them to engage in such debates, with rules set, and constrained to use reason to persuade rather than use force.

      I have no idea what the university’s actual views on racism-vs-free-speech are, or which side the faculty take personally. But whether accidentally or intentionally, they’ve gone for a more-or-less libertarian solution. It’s an opportunity to explain your side of the argument to them in circumstances where they’re required to listen to you, and to think about what you say. Do you have a good argument?

    • bobby b

      “All I said was that it’s the sort of scheme a free speech advocate would come up with.”

      Perhaps the disconnect here is that some are accepting that these students are being paid only to converse, while others are (more cynically, perhaps) expecting this to quickly turn into a reporting function.

    • Fraser Orr

      @Niall Kilmartin
      Hence Natalie’s and my assumption that the paymasters will expect more than a mere vague verbal assurance that the recipients had and/or will have some conversations with other students. They will expect them to provide details – at least so a stronger complaint can be documented, and very possibly so that dissenters can be narced.

      FWIW, I don’t think they have to pay them to do that either. Don’t universities get a tsunami of complaints about various putative misconducts? Honestly, I think a more likely explanation is that they are paying people so that the can show that they are “doing something” about the apparently growing tide of Nazi-ism at the University of Sheffield….

    • Fraser Orr

      And isn’t 9 quid below the minimum wage? I don’t know what the law is there in Britain right now.

      FWIW, on an only vaguely related topic, if I was advising the Trump campaign what I would do is insist that Bernie or Joe follow the policies that they advocate in their campaign. Minimum wage of $15 an hour, with abundant family leave. Full healthcare coverage for all workers. Unionization of all their staff. No travel on atmosphere destroying aircraft, and electric cars only. No using big evil corporations like Twitter or Facebook to shill for you by putting out your adverts.

      It’d be a landslide.

    Leave a Reply

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>