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 – the first freedom

We say “freedom of speech.” That’s not really what it is.

It’s freedom of thought.

People who can’t say openly what they think for too long are forced into a shadow world. Either they give up the right to have their own view of the world and accept into what society or the government tells them. Or they keep their own views but no longer admit them aloud – and spend more and more time and energy gaslighting themselves.

Note that I am not using the words truth or lie in this analysis.

That omission is deliberate.

It doesn’t actually matter whether the speech is right or wrong, objectively true or false. Indeed, the First Amendment makes no reference to the truth or falsity of the speech it protects. Plenty of people have strange ideas. If I think aliens are real but can’t say so, I have lost some essential part of myself.

Alex Berenson

Samizdata quote of the day

“One of the few sensible things Noam Chomsky ever said was that if you want to understand the world, read the New York Times backwards; that is, start at the end of the story and read up.”

Steven F Hayward, making this comment in a long and damning critique of “climate crisis” viewpoints and suppressors of dissent.

(Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.)

Samizdata quote of the day – fairy tales about Nazis edition

The Ukrainian search for an inspiring and usable past—a search for brave historical warriors whose legacy might be appropriated for the sake of inspiring the heroic warriors of the present—is to be respected, even as some of the figures who have been lionized are not always figures that we would like to be lionized. The mobilization of masculine virtues and intensity are par for the course in the midst of a war of genodical annihilation, and Ukrainian society has certainly militarized to a significant degree over the course of the last 500 days.

Which is not in any way to engage in Holocaust denial or revisionism. My own Jewish great-grandparents were shot in Belarus in November 1941. Dealing honestly with what some Ukrainians chose to do in the 1930s and 1940s is imperative, so that we can fight honestly and without a pause. I am immensely proud that Tablet recently published John-Paul Himka’s essay on the pogroms in Lviv in 1941. However, it is a fact that today’s Ukrainians, in a time of war, have consolidated their society in a manifestly liberal fashion. We should do the same and stop telling fairy tales about Nazis.

Vladislav Davidzon

How AI makes dogfighting drones unbeatable

A very interesting chat about the rapid development of military AI…

Anti-Brexit campaigner is “de-banked”

Anyone who gloated about the “de-banking” of Nigel Farage over his account will now realise, or they should have anyway, that the sword is double-edged:

Monzo initially refused to tell Ms Miller why her “True and Fair” party account would be closed in September. After the BBC contacted the bank about the case, it said it did not allow political party accounts and had made a mistake in allowing it to be opened. Monzo said it recognised the experience would have been “frustrating for the customer and we’re sorry for that”.

It is too easy to roll the eyes, and say “karma is a bitch”. What appears to be the case is that, as discussed in my post here, and in the comments, we just don’t have a fully free market banking system in the UK and much of the world today. The next time you read some idiot going on about “unbridled capitalism” or “neoliberalism”, point this out to them.

“De-banking” for wrongthink, a CEO’s resignation and destruction of a brand

(Updates with correction about the dossier. Thanks to eagle-eyed readers for the pointer!)

A few days ago, Patrick Crozier of this parish wrote about the decision by Coutts, a UK bank that is part of NatWest Group, to end an account of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. At the time, Farage speculated he may have been targeted for cancellation of this account (he was offered a retail, mass-market NatWest account instead) because he was what is called a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), or that someone had flagged him following allegations (which he denies) of receiving lots of money from Russian-backed state media, and he also wondered whether his role in driving Brexit, and his scepticism about a climate crisis, etc, were factors. (Here are some of my comments on the case.)

In the following days, the former CEO of NatWest told a BBC journalist that a reason for the debanking of Farage was that he lacked the funds to justify a particular Coutts account. The BBC journalist ran a story; this was a clear breach of client confidentiality – also possibly a serious regulatory/criminal offence – and Alison Rose, the CEO, resigned this week. Peter Flavel, the Coutts CEO, has also resigned.

It also turned out that NatWest had compiled a dossier about Farage, which was sent to him after he requested it and he later shared this with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, showing that his political views and associations – including friendship with tennis ace Novak Djokovic – were reasons to suspect that Farage was a bad egg, and his “values” did not “align” with those of NatWest. NatWest has championed ESG investing, diversity, equity and inclusion, to a degree that puts it out front of other banks. NatWest is 38.6 per cent owned by the UK government. In the furore about its treatment of Farage – now a presenter on GB News – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and other ministers, and yes, even columnists in the Guardian, have argued that the treatment of Farage was beyond the pale.

The reputation of Coutts and NatWest has been damaged. Coutts is a “posh” bank, supposedly used by the UK Royal Family – for whatever that’s worth – and in days of yore, having a Coutts account was a bit of a brag point. Well, no longer.

Meanwhile, in the US, the banking group Chase has shut an account of a businessman and those of his relations because, as far as I can tell, he has been a prominent critic of US vaccine policy and the policy response to the pandemic. There is the disgraceful Canadian case of the government freezing accounts of people donating to truckers protesting about vaccine mandates. The PayPal account of the Free Speech Union was closed (PayPal eventually overturned that decision.)

The “debanking” of people for the offence of holding the “wrong” views appears to be a general trend. At HSBC, in what I consider the most shocking act so far, earlier this year it was reported that the UK-headquartered bank, which does most of its business in Asia, had blocked pension payments to Hong Kong dissidents who fled the jurisdiction following Beijing’s national security crackdown. In 2020, when China imposed its law on Hong Kong, HSBC and Standard Chartered, another UK-listed bank, issued public statements supporting this law. So much for their concerns about “sustainability”, “inclusion” or all the other cant expressions of modern finance.

Even so, the optimist in me hopes that these cases, especially the NatWest/Farage one, might signal a high watermark for this sort of nonsense. The mask is well and truly off. People, not just those on the Right side of politics, can see what is going on.

People don’t have a “right” to a bank account, any more than they do to “free” healthcare, but they have the freedom to go about their lawful business unmolested. Now, in conditions of laissez faire capitalism, competition would weed out the idiots and ensure people could have a choice of bank services, with even the most eccentric or troublesome individuals being able to conduct financial affairs, even if with just cash. But we don’t have such a situation. We have a banking system umbilically linked to the State, fed on cheap central bank funny money, resting on a set of monopoly fiat currencies, and hedged by regulations, and as a result, stuffed with people whose main function is compliance with this or that rule, not focusing on building value. The upper reaches of these banks are filled with mediocrities who shuffle between private and public sectors with alarming ease, and who know all the right words.

Farage is an excellent campaigner and he knows how to get a message across. He does not respond well to slights. NatWest chose the wrong man to antagonise and be rude about. Maybe, as investors contemplate the falling share price of NatWest, and the tarnished image of Coutts, they’ll realise that indulging political prejudices instead of doing an honest job is not survivable. Maybe, just maybe, this may be the beginning of the end of the idiocy sweeping through the commercial world. As interest rates go up, and the zombification of corporate life ends after over a decade of QE, the harsh realities of making a profit return to the fore. As Allister Heath argues in the Daily Telegraph today, Milton Friedman’s attacks on the foolishness of corporate “social responsibility” become more relevant by the day.

Samizdata quote of the day – Our society’s ‘top brains’ have gone mad

It wasn’t farmers and factory workers who came up with the idiotic COVID responses — nor was it they who originated the more or less criminal idea of conducting “gain of function” research on making dangerous viruses more dangerous.

It wasn’t shopkeepers and bus drivers who thought the way to deal with burgeoning urban crime was to get rid of police and release criminals without bail.

It hasn’t been landscapers and auto mechanics championing the notion that a child in the single-digit age range can make a lifetime choice about his or her genitalia or maintaining that even criticizing that idea is itself a species of “violence.”

Glenn Reynolds

Read the whole thing.

Samizdata quote of the day – assault the surveillance state

Two unanticipated events in 2016 completely shocked our ruling class: the election of Trump in the U.S. and the Brexit vote in the U.K. Our elites did not respond by examining the disconnect between their core assumptions and the will of the people. Instead they decided that, sure, democracy is all fine and well, but naturally, democracy must be protected from these unruly people.

After all, the people often don’t know what’s good for them. So those who know better must acquire the capacity to monitor and control the will of the people if we are to ‘defend democracy’. The means for doing this in the digital age, our ruling class divined, is by monitoring populations’ behaviors and shaping their thinking by controlling the flow of information online. The idea of censorship once again became chic.

Aaron Kheriaty

Samizdata quote of the day

“Today’s DEI and ESG grievance industries are blowin’ in the wind. Three steps to redemption: Forget merit and striving for the highest level. Push equity over excellence. Feel virtuous. There are uproars because we don’t have enough female crash-test dummies—or paper straws, trigger warnings, unisex bathrooms, wind farms, disarmed police, censored songs or sidewalk tents for the `unhoused.’ These are vacuous 21st-century versions of protest songs. Feels good. Does nothing. Greta Thunberg’s “How Dare You?” topped the charts.”

Andy Kessler, WSJ ($).

What I like about this article is that it shows how uncreative, indeed often vacuous, many of those who are making so much noise in the public square of opinion are. I mean, what the hell have any of them created that, you might think, will be marvelled over in 50 years’ time? Name one business process, invention, life-changing discovery, major work of art, great novel, work of sculpture, great piece of architecture, new sporting contest, anything. Take all the time you need. (I am not sure that entities such as Bitcoin, blockchain, 3-D printing, reusable rockets or AI count as these are from hated science, which comes from evil Western civilisation.) And that’s a problem, because the disconnect between the “culture wars” racket and the actual, positive stuff going on is becoming more and more chasmic.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

The sheer dishonesty of it all

The Lancet published the chart on left with a different X-Axis to downplay fact that cold causes ten times more deaths than heat in Europe. Björn Lomborg corrected that with the chart on right.

Samizdata quote of the day – the unknown unknowns

We do not know what AI will be useful for. We do not know what it can actually do, what we want done, better than other ways of doing that thing (OK, other than writing C grade essays at GCSE level). We also do not know what might be a problem with what AI can do. We don’t know the benefits, we don’t know the risks.

We face, that is, radical uncertainty. So it’s impossible for us to plan anything. For planning assumes that we have an idea of the cost/benefit analysis so that we can say do that, don’t do t’other. And if we are radically uncertain then we can’t do that, can we?

Tim Worstall

The Climate Scam is on manoeuvres

I haven’t trusted a word the BBC says about much for several decades, but I do remember a time when at least weather reports could be taken at face value.

Now I don’t even know if they are lying about that. Turns out many of the breathless inferno weather reports from southern Europe were being drastically overstated, sometimes by as much as 10 degrees!

Make no mistake, the “nudge unit” is at work, spreading its statist bullshit far and wide.