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]

If you really think “2000 Mules” has been debunked, allow comments

The Guardian has acknowledged there might be an elephant a mule in the room.

Trump’s ‘big lie’ hits cinemas: the film claiming to investigate voter fraud

2000 Mules has been resoundingly debunked by factcheckers, but the film has earned praise from Trump and other Republicans

Not having seen 2000 Mules, I will offer no opinion on how convincing it is. But I do have some advice for the Guardian, and other media outlets too, and it is advice that would be exactly the same whether the claims made in Dinesh D’Souza’s film turn out to be right or wrong. If you genuinely want the truth to come out, allow comments.

The Guardian‘s opinion section used to be called Comment Is Free, taken from the words of C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1872 until 1929, “Facts are sacred but comment is free”. CiF was great. Although the majority of the commenters were left wing, they were kept on their toes by a strong minority who were not. Equally important, the Guardian‘s writers were kept on their toes. A badly researched or tendentious article would not go unchallenged. For instance, see the comments to this article about the George Zimmerman case. After she became the paper’s first female editor, Katharine Viner replaced “Comment is Free” by an initiative called “The Web We Want”. The web she wanted was one in which comment was no longer free: ever since then, comments have been disallowed on most articles, especially those where the response was likely to be hostile to the Guardian worldview.

Their gaff, their rules. But didn’t Ms Viner’s birthing parent ever tell her that what we want is not always good for us? As I argued in a post called “It pays to brief your own side properly”,

The mainstream media has passed a milestone in its decline to irrelevance when someone who wants to successfully argue for the same things the MSM argues for must use other sources besides the MSM.

Since CiF became TWwW in April 2016 the repose of the Guardian-reading classes has been disturbed by some unpleasant shocks. Among them were Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in the US, and, ten days after I wrote the post on briefing your own side properly, the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. A reader in 2021 who relied on the Guardian alone would have had no idea that was coming. A reader in 2013 who kept half an eye on the below-the-line comments to stories like this and this would have certainly known that George Zimmerman’s acquittal was a strong possibility.

So? No one asked me to be the guardian of Guardian readers from nasty surprises. Maybe they prefer the curtains of their mansion drawn, even if that does mean that trouble in the street only becomes apparent when a brick comes through the window. But that is to assume the worst of them. Judging from the number who took part in the arguments back when comment was free, there were plenty who, quaint though it might seem, wanted to know the truth. And it seems to me that vigorous, uncensored argument between people from all political tribes would be an excellent tool in itself to settle the truth or falsehood of the claims made in 2000 Mules. What’s this about the accuracy of geolocation data? The Guardian has an educated readership. Ask the audience.

Sadly, saying that a factchecker working for the Associated Press has deemed the documentary to have “gaping holes” does not impress as much as it once did. Here is what the Associated Press said in 2020 about Hunter Biden’s laptop: “AP Explains: Trump seizes on dubious Biden-Ukraine story”:

ARE THE NEW EMAILS AUTHENTIC?

The actual origins of the emails are unclear. And disinformation experts say there are multiple red flags that raise doubts about their authenticity, including questions about whether the laptop actually belongs to Hunter Biden, said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center in Washington.

Nina Jankowicz? That name sounds familiar. Well, the AP did get it right when their fact-checkers called her a “disinformation expert”.

Samizdata quote of the day

The consensus on Ukraine has only been held together because the country’s plight speaks to different traditions within the Left and Right. Yet on matters of peace, the hawks and the doves will not agree: the age-old mistakes of appeasement and compromise are already rearing their heads, and, in my view, are likely to win again.

The hawks will be outmanoeuvred by the looming economic catastrophe, caused partly by the financial burden of the West adopting China’s autocratic solutions to Covid. Steered by the kingpins of Germany and France, the EU will eventually ease sanctions against Russia. In so doing it will go against the collective wisdom of the peoples of Europe. But globalisation and appeasement will win untampered, and the liberal consensus will resume.

The concord between great powers carved at Vienna lasted 99 years. Versailles lasted less than 20 years, Potsdam just 18 months. If the new elites get their way with a future settlement over Ukraine, peace may be even more short-lived. In our democratic age, we should do better than rely on compromise, appeasement, and financial entanglement to try and preserve peace, which in reality may only delay a far worse confrontation.

Francis Dearnley (£)

“In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.”

You have probably heard the shocking story, reported worldwide, of the discovery of mass graves in Canada containing the bodies of what were then called Indian and are now called First Nations children sent to residential schools.

What you heard was exactly that, a story. It is not true.

Canada’s National Post carries an important and well-researched article by Terry Glavin: “The year of the graves: How the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves”.

As for the most recent uproars: not a single mass grave was discovered in Canada last year. The several sites of unmarked graves that captured international headlines were either already-known cemeteries, or they remain sites of speculation even now, unverified as genuine grave sites. Not a single child among the 3,201 children on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 registry of residential school deaths was located in any of these places. In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.

Mr Gavin rightly acknowledges that the treatment of these children was shameful. It was denounced as such a full century ago:

…it was exactly 100 years ago this year that Peter Henderson Bryce, the former medical inspector for the Department of Indian Affairs, published a shocking account of the federal government’s indifference to deaths from infectious diseases and heartless neglect in the Indian residential schools. The 24-page booklet was titled, “The Story of a National Crime: Being an Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada; The Wards of The Nation, Our Allies in the Revolutionary War, Our Brothers-in-Arms in the Great War.”

The passage of a century has added other charges to the heartless neglect that Peter Henderson Bryce denounced. Beatings and sexual abuse were common at these schools, most of which were run on behalf of the government by the Catholic church. Their openly-stated purpose, at least at first, was to strip away the children’s native languages and cultures. While not every child’s experience was bad, the policy of taking children away from their parents en masse to be compulsorily educated in the majority culture was a monstrous act of repression.

The historical facts were not dramatic enough for the media. Perhaps not maliciously, but certainly recklessly, they promoted a different story, a new story:

The “discovery” of unmarked graves at the Marieval cemetery was one of the most dramatic front-page sensations that circled the world last summer. The June 24 headline in the Washington Post was typical: Hundreds of Graves Found at Former Residential School for Indigenous Children in Canada. The number of graves reportedly discovered: 751.

Except that’s not what happened.

The Cowessess people noted from the outset that they didn’t discover any graves; the crosses and headstones had gone missing under disputed circumstances decades earlier, and ground-penetrating radar had been brought in to enumerate and pinpoint the location of each burial. Cowesses Chief Cadmus Delorme told CBC News: “This is a Roman Catholic grave site. It’s not a residential school grave site.”

The predictable result of the sensationalist reporting of this and other grave sites was a wave of church burnings and vandalism that in any other context would have been called “hate crimes” but in Canada are known as “protests”. (Official Canadian terminology inverts the previous meanings of these two terms – peaceful protests for unapproved causes are deemed to be hate crimes and suppressed by force, as the disabled Indigenous woman trampled by police horses at the truckers’ Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa could tell you.) I know from reading the comments to many of these news stories that an awful lot of people got the impression that the children buried in these graveyards were murdered. That might simply be because many people are happy to comment on newspaper stories they have not read past the headline, or it might be that some reporters do not work very hard to dispel misunderstandings that will get them more clicks, or it might be due to the existence of a full-blown conspiracy theory to that effect. Mr Glavin links to this piece by Frances Widdowson that describes how Kevin Annett, a defrocked United Church Minister,

…has been disseminating the stories of Combes and others about the residential schools for about 25 years. One of these stories, recounted by Annett, claimed that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a group of students from the Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) on a picnic and then abducted them. Thorough fact-checking has shown that the Royals did not even travel to Kamloops in 1964.

While the Queen Elizabeth abduction story probably would be regarded with skepticism by most, many similar improbable accounts of “murders” and “missing children” are being repeated by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc “Knowledge Keepers” and are now accepted as “truth.” Knowledge Keepers, after all, cannot be questioned, because to do so would be perceived as “disrespectful.” This raises questions about the extent to which the “oral tellings” of the Knowledge Keepers, which have been provided as evidence for the existence of “secret burials” at KIRS, have been influenced by the lurid stories circulating over the past 25 years. These stories were given additional momentum in May 2021 and are now firmly ensconced within the Canadian consciousness.

Samizdata quote of the day

“There is no winner to the victimhood Olympics,”

Vivek Ramaswamy, interviewed here by Texan Congressman Dan Crenshaw.

Ramaswamy has founded a new investment business, Strive, that, shockingly, focuses more on building returns for investors than engaging in political positions. He is the author also of Woke Inc, an indictment of ideas that are hostile to free enterprise taking root in the boardroom. More power to this chap, I say.

HSBC’s internal cancel culture

A few days ago, HSBC (which is listed in London and Hong Kong) suspended Stuart Kirk, head of responsible investing at the lender, because of how he scorned efforts by regulators to exaggerate the financial and market impact of Man-made global warming. He gave a presentation, “Why investors need not worry about climate risk”, and this seems to have ruffled a few feathers at the bank. (Here is a link to his presentation.)

As the Wall Street Journal comments:

“Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,” one of his slides noted. He highlighted sky-is-falling quotes from banking potentates such as Mark Carney, the former Bank of England Governor, who recently said the damage from climate change will dwarf the current pain from rising prices. Tell that to the working folks dealing with 8% inflation.

But then of course scoring virtue points about climate change is so much easier than not printing lots of money and trying to control inflation, I suppose.

By the way, I love Mr Kirk’s business title, “head of responsible investing”. As opposed to what, “head of irresponsible investing”, or “lazy investing” or “immoral investing”?

There appears to have been quite a bit of pushback, and I am thinking of ordering some popcorn. Standard Chartered chief Bill Winters is reported to have said that all should be free to “speak their mind” on environmental issues, even if executives disagree with them. (Standard Chartered, which is listed in the UK, makes much of its money in places such as Asia.)

And here’s another point: both HSBC and Standard Chartered, given the importance of Asia to their earnings, in 2020 backed Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, designed to crush democratic opposition to moves around ending Hong Kong’s independence in legal terms under the agreement signed with the UK. Both these banks make much of their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials. Where does their defence of China’s bullying of Hong Kong leave their “social” or “governance” credentials, may I ask?

ESG is now a corporate religion in the industry that I report on. It is impossible to seriously criticise it, it seems, without endangering one’s career. That said, I think the hypocrisies and cognitive dissonance involved is showing strains. HSBC may regret suspending a man for telling what is essentially the truth. He is right that there is a lot of self-serving nonsense around ESG and that some people are making a fat living out of it. I hope Mr Kirk, if he is forced out, sues the pants off the bank.

The aforementioned WSJ article notes:

If climate change poses such an enormous economic threat, Mr. Kirk asked, why did asset prices surge as doomsday warnings increased? Either climate risk is negligible, climate risk is already in the prices, or all investors are wrong, he said. If you believe the latter, then you don’t believe in markets and shouldn’t be regulating them.

Credit to Mr. Kirk for exposing the hubris of the regulatory climate emperors even as his superiors shrink in fear.

Passing the port from left to right at the Science Fiction Writers of America dinner

“Dammit, Clive, don’t be a bloody fool. Think of your wife. And the children. And the regiment.”

It was a British thing. One passed the port from right to left. When in a moment of madness poor, doomed Clive passed the port to the right, there was only one way to atone.

Back in 1979 when that episode of Ripping Yarns came out, I expect our colonial cousins were amused at our former belief that right-to-left was fine yet left-to-right was abominable. Such absurd stress on an insignificant difference in the manner of performing an everyday action!

The Yanks of 1979 laughed at Brits of 1979 laughing at Brits of 1879. The Yanks of 2022 say, “Hold my beer.”

Jim Treacher retweeted this from “Undoomed”:

Read their statement and was like: Holy shit, what did she do? Did she drop N-bombs on stage while wearing a white hood and setting a cross on fire??

Undoomed is referring to the following statement by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on the removal of the author Mercedes Lackey from the Nebula Conference.

Click on Undoomed’s link to find out what Mercedes Lackey actually did. Dashed bad show. Off you go, Mercedes.

Give us power. We won’t use it, honest.

“Bill C-11 would give CRTC power over user-generated content, but it won’t use it: chair”, reports CityNews Ottawa.

The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says a federal bill would give it power to regulate user-generated content, such as homemade videos posted on YouTube.

But Ian Scott predicted at a House of Commons committee that this would never happen as the broadcast regulator has no interest in overseeing content produced by individuals.

Even so, critics of the online-streaming bill have seized on his remarks, saying they contradict assurances by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez that it would not give the regulator power over homemade content, such as cat or cooking videos.

Bill C-11, now going through Parliament, would update Canada’s Broadcasting Act and give the CRTC power to regulate online platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify and TikTok, along with traditional broadcasters. It would make digital platforms promote Canadian content, including films, music videos and TV programs, and contribute financially to their creation.

Scott Benzie, executive director of Digital First Canada, said the CRTC chair confirmed what digital-first creators have been saying since the bill was published. They have warned it could give the regulator power over their work, including posts by comedians, animators and gamers on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitch.

Hat tip: Michael Geist via Ezra Levant.

Give us power. We won’t use it, honest. We just want to keep it to look at. [Checks notes] No, not even to look at. We have no interest in overseeing content produced by individuals. Really, if that doesn’t reassure you I don’t know what will. We are so chilled that power bores us. Now hand it over.

“By refusing to take part in this collective operation”

Idrissa Gueye is a Senegalese footballer who plays for his country and for the French side Paris Saint-Germain.

On Sunday 15th May, Paris Saint-Germain played Montpellier. On that day, players in the French Ligue 1 were meant to wear football jerseys with the numbers in LGBT rainbow colours in order to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Unexpectedly, Mr Gueye did not play in that match. So far as I can find out with my limited ability to search news reports in French, he has not said why he sat out the match, but it is widely believed that it was because he felt that it would be incompatible with his religious beliefs to wear a shirt in Pride colours. He is a practising Muslim.

Via Paul Embery, I found this quotation from a letter that the FFF (Fédération Française de Football / French Football Federation) sent to Mr Gueye on May 17th:

“There are two possibilities, either these allegations are unfounded and we invite you to speak out without delay to silence these rumours. For example, we invite you to accompany your message by a photo of yourself wearing said shirt.”

“Or the rumours are true. In this case we invite you to realise the impact of your act, and the grave error committed. The fight against discrimination towards different minorities, whoever they might be, is a vital fight for all times. Whether it’s skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, or any other difference, all discrimination is based on the same principle which is rejection of the other because they are different from the majority.”

“By refusing to take part in this collective operation, you are effectively validating discriminatory behaviour, and rejection of the other, and not just against the LGBTQI+ community. The impact of football on society and the capacity for footballers to be a role model for those who admire them gives us all a particular responsibility.”

The report and translation come from the website Get French Football News. It says that it is quoting a story from the French sports paper L’Equipe. I believe the original L’Equipe story is this: “Le Conseil national de l’éthique de la FFF a écrit à Idrissa Gueye (PSG)” The headline means, “The National Ethics Council of the FFF has written to Idrissa Gueye (PSG)”.

One does not have to share Mr Gueye’s religious beliefs, or his (probable) opinions on LGBT issues, to see something sinister in this demand that he make a display of loyalty to prove his “innocence” of a charge that he did not participate in what is effectively the visual equivalent of compelled speech.

Why do they bother? They say Gueye must get himself photographed in a rainbow shirt because he’s a footballer and thus allegedly a role model. But such gestures of solidarity are inspiring only if they are known to be sincere. No one is going to be inspired to rethink their prejudices regarding gay people if and when Idrissa makes some obviously reluctant gesture of support.

Sonnets are racist says SalfordU

Salford University has banned sonnets and suchlike “products of white western culture” from its creative writing course to “decolonise the curriculum”. I say ‘banned’ but they say they merely

“simplified the assessment offering choice”

and I have to admit there is a sense in which ‘simplified’ is the mot juste.

Frequent readers of Samizdata will now be expecting Niall Kilmartin (a.k.a Bilbo Baggins) to inflict some of his own poetic doggerel on you, but as none of mine even try to be any kind of sonnet, I will instead quote Neo’s response to the news.

My grief is deep, as deep as oceans vast
But virtue has its own reward, and so
I’ll give up sonnet-writing, and the past
Can sink beneath the waves of gloom so low.
Old Shakespeare, with his bootless bootless cries
No doubt was white and certainly supreme
Let’s stamp him out, and “colonization” dies.
We’ll show fidelity to the new meme.
Oh Wordsworth, even more forlorn are we.
Bereft of your old counsel, now we stand
On their less wise and quite unpleasant lea
Without the comfort of tradition’s hand.
The poems they write today are stupid shite
And sonnets are too challenging to write.

[If you compare with Neo’s original you will see that Niall get-the-scansion-perfect Kilmartin has made a tiny change at the start of the fourth-last line; feel free to comment and/or upbraid me any who wish. I have also skipped Neo’s link to the meaning of ‘shite’, assuming British readers know it, and transatlantic ones can deduce it from the context and from a certain rather obvious homonym. 🙂 ]

Neo has not offered an example of the modern, de-colonised poem that must now be written instead. Commenters are welcome to fill the lack with genuine examples or their own spoofs, or to share much loved poems, or just to give their opinions.

It was foresighted Robert Conquest who wrote, decades ago, that alongside ‘War is Peace’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’ and ‘Ignorance is Strength’, there was another essential slogan of totalitarianism that Orwell had (surprisingly) omitted:

Rubbish is Art

and of course, its corollary: Art is Rubbish (and racist and …).

Why the West is worth saving

Recommended.

“Disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like”

I should never have tried to say the Daily Mail‘s headline detailing the founder of Black Lives Matter’s dodgy deals all in one go.

REVEALED: BLM founder Patrisse Cullors paid her baby father $970,000 for ‘creative services’, her brother $840,000 for security, a fellow director $2.1m and reimbursed the organization $73,000 for a charter flight

But not all the sums were so high:

She paid the foundation an additional $390 over her uses of the 6,500 square-foot Studio City property for two private events.

The chair of BLM’s board of Directors, Cicley Gay, had this to say:

‘We are decolonizing philanthropy,’ Gay said. ‘We, as a board, are charged with disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like. It means investing in black communities, trusting them with their dollars.’

I am sure BLM will have no trouble trusting black communities with the last few dollars left over once the organisation has taken its cut.

How not to convince people

I am an atheist – I don’t even seek any cover in the “foxhole” of agnosticism, or pull the “religion isn’t true but it keeps the plebs in line” sort of argument that I have sometimes come across. Full disclosure: I am a confirmed Anglican but fell away over the years, primarily because I could not engage with the idea of belief via faith. I know a lot of people who are religious, if not noisily so. I respect them and love many of them, and vice versa. It really is as simple as that.

Occasionally I come across the phenomenon of the “noisy atheist”, and am reminded what an unlovely creature that is. On my Facebook page, I follow a few groups such as one dedicated to Second World War allied pilots (I am an aviation history geek. Bite me.) Recently, a Canadian pilot, who flew Spitfires in the war, died at the tremendous age of 100. I wrote something along the lines of “Rest in Peace and blue skies to the brave gentleman.” All of a sudden, when I woke up the following day, I noticed that my comment and that of many other people had elicited comments from a person who wrote words to the effect of “religion is crap – grow up” or “your beliefs are a piece of shit”. The person has his own FB page on the subject of military history and makes a big point of his being an atheist. So it is probably not a Russian bot, although one never knows.

What to make of this other than the fact that some people are sociopaths, or just plain unpleasant and in need of some direct lessons in manners? Well, what it proves to me is that if you firmly hold to the idea that belief in a Supreme, omniscient god is nonsense, then it is absolutely fine to express that view, but not in a way that is so rude, or by injecting your views into the conversations of others, and ignoring context completely. Ironically for this digital yob, he has achieved the opposite effect in anyone whom he might have tried to convert, by associating unbelief with rudeness and crassness.

Atheism is the absence of belief, rather than a positive belief in X or Y. (To go further, atheism is the view that the idea of god is incoherent and therefore existence of gods cannot be true. A thing cannot be beyond nature and above it, as a god is, because nature is all of existence and to be outside it makes no sense. (That is my understanding of what atheism is, properly defined.)

There are, in my experience, a great variety of atheists, such as by their political beliefs and for some, belief in political or other ideologies fills a sort of philosophical hole. For other atheists, the lack of belief in a God creates no such “gap” – they have a coherent philosophy of life requiring no props of any kind. That is where I stand. Some atheists can be socialists/collectivists, others on the libertarian, classical liberal/Objectivist end of the spectrum, others traditional conservatives and so on. Some can be agreeable, philosophical and rounded as human beings. Some, alas, are just plain bloody awful. It seems to me that I have encountered the latter.

Anyway, I share these musings to reflect on etiquette and how social media has given opportunities to encounter humans at their best and their worst. On a positive end point, I have met a lot of good people via social media, in terms of actual friends whom I meet for real.