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]

Doing my bit against YouTube censorship

YouTube blocks Pat Condell’s attack on sharia in Britain. As my friend Geoff Arnold reminds us:

… as John Gilmore famously said, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”. So here is the Condell video. Watch it, and pass the word along.

My favourite phrase (slightly paraphrased):

… a small child describing them as ‘letterbox ladies’ (women in burkhas), which was, of course, deeply offensive and so we had the child put to death …

If you are a Brit (resident or expat), please sign the petition that Pat mentions.

Palin for President

Something for the weekend:

Hack a security camera with a helium balloon

Make: has a wonderful way of dealing with security cameras.


This balloon-based anti surveillance camera project by Brooklyn-based artist William Lamson is an easy way to fool even the most sophisticated forms of surveillance technology. Helium filled rubber balloon set to the correct height and covered with enough static electricity to stick to any surface, such as a public camera. Now if only they made robotic pins for security officers to pop them.

Assault on privacy online continues

Pretty gruesome stuff happening. This is old news:

The ongoing Google/YouTube-Viacom litigation has now officially spilled over to users with a court order requiring Google to turn over massive amounts of user data to Viacom. If the data is actually released, the consequences could be far more serious than the 2006 AOL Search debacle.

But this not so. And happening via backdoor of telecoms regulation.

The Telecoms Package (Paquet Telecom) is a review of European telecoms law. […] buried within it, deep in the detail, are important legal changes that relate to enforcement of copyright. These changes are a threat to civil liberties and risk undermining the entire structure of Internet, jeopardising businesses and cultural diversity.

The bottom line is that changes to telecoms regulations are needed before EU member states can bring in the so-called “3 strikes” measures – also known as “graduated response” – of which France is leading the way, but other governments, notably the UK, are considering whether to follow. A swathe of amendments have been incorporated at the instigation of entertainment industry lobbying. These amendments are aimed at bringing an end to free downloading. They also bring with them the risk of an unchecked corporate censorship of the Internet, with a host of unanswered questions relating to the legal oversight and administration.

The Telecoms Package is currently in the committee stages of the European Parliament, with a plenary vote due on 1st or 2nd September. This does not leave much time for public debate, and it reminds me of the rushed passage of the data retention directive (see Data Retention on this site). It is, if you like, regulation by stealth.

These two items have in common the attempt to undermine the infrastructure of the net/web by controlling those who provide or maintain it. Not good.

History from below

As if an answer to my suggestion to document the communist history in Eastern Europe through the lives and eyes of individuals, the PLOTKI, an on-line and print magazine about culture and society in Central and Eastern Europe, invites contributions to a project Changes from Below:

The project “Changes From Below“ aims to collect pieces of research which highlight personal stories behind movements against ‘‘communist’’ dictatorship in Central and Eastern Europe.

… Whilst historical investigation on resistance to ‘communist’ rule often focuses on historical ‘grand events’ such uprisings as Prague Spring 1968, Hungarian Autumn 1956, 17 June 1953 in GDR or Poland in the 80’s, Plotki wants to research the smaller stories, personal experiences and the rumours which slipped through the historical sieve and serve them up via various artistic means such as writing, photography, graphics, film or audio. We are thinking about the Orange Alternative in Poland who attended illegal meetings of dwarfs, and were arresting for handing out tampons to women; the spontaneous ‘community supported agriculture’ networks that evolved during Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania, and that kept urban people alive by illegally supplying them with food; or Czechoslovakia’s Society for Happier Contemporary Times; or the diversity of ecological movements as the Umweltbibliothek (an environment documentation centre) in East Berlin, Ekoglasnost in Bulgaria or groups of people concerned with ecological damage in Bohemia; or factory self-management in Yugoslavia; or the protestant churches resistance in GDR; or the countless other inspirational, exciting and quirky forms of resistance which once inhabited the region.

Great stuff and worthwhile effort, no doubt. Just one minor gripe – what’s with the quotation marks/inverted commas around the word communist?!

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m pretty sure that a lot of people’s (by which I mean Government’s) assumptions about a ‘digital divide’ are a myth. I think they have visions of a bunch of poor, obese black kids sitting in a council house eating turkey twizzlers, cleaning their guns, just wishing for the day they could access this internet thing that people are talking about.

– a friend who works in local government in UK, responding to Social networks may subvert ‘digital divide’.

House of Terror

In one of the most beautiful avenues of Budapest, Andrássy Road, is a museum dedicated to the two 20th century horrors, Nazism and Communism. House of Terror (Terror Háza) does not differentiate between the two toxic ideologies. After all, they are the same thing with different packaging – one in black, the other in red. That they hate and fought each other is not evidence to the contrary, merely evidence of territorial in-fighting.

In winter of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, hundreds of people were tortured in the basement of the house in 60 Andrássy street. In 1945 Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Army. One of the first tasks of the Hungarian communists arriving with the Soviet tanks was to take possession of the location. The building was occupied by their secret police, the PRO, which was later renamed ÁVO, subsequently ÁVH (names for political police). The entire country came to dread the terrorist organisation. The ÁVH officers serving at 60 Andrássy Road were the masters of life and death. Detainees were horribly tortured or killed. The walls of the cellars beneath the buildings were broken down and transformed into a prison.

After the end of communism in Hungary, 60 Andrássy Road has become a shrine, the effigy of terror and the victims’ memorial. At least in Hungary they recognised that the ‘past must be acknowledged’. The exhibition is a visual feast, both in the artefacts displayed and in the symbolism of their arrangement. The rooms have themes and objects in them are meant to create an atmosphere as well as communicate facts. Alas, the visual beauty conjures an image of a retro nightmare – distant and unreal it masks the brutality and dull reality of communist terror.

House of Terror

There is an exquisitely designed hall dedicated to Soviet forced-labour and slave camps. There are reminiscences, photographs and the display cases contain relics, the original paraphernalia used by the people detained by the Soviets and taken to gulags. And yet, it does not squeeze your heart and make you sick to your stomach. The muted light and the droning voice of the audio guide fail to convey the tragedy. By trying to describe the suffering of many thousands, they miss the opportunity to make us feel the suffering of one, to put ourselves in their place, imagine our lives being arbitrarily and brutally torn apart. And to remember that this did not happen in some kind of parallel universe, that this is history next door.

I wanted to know the people whose meagre possessions I was looking at in the display cases. Their names, stories, family, circumstances, fates. I believe that the best and only way to understand Communism and Nazism is through the lives of individuals who were affected by it not through a historical methodology or chronological exposition.

And so we need to be told about their neighbours reporting and spying on them, children betraying parents, we need to hear the tales of endurance, mercy and resistance that no historical narrative can capture. We document history in such impersonal terms and yet there is nothing more powerful then actions of a man. We look for overarching explanations but historical causality without human beings and their behaviour leaves the patterns of history indistinct, lacking in colour and texture. → Continue reading: House of Terror

The Big Brother State video

Something for the afternoon tea break:

If you suspect it – report it

Last week the Metropolitan police spent shed loads of taxpayers money on pointless advertising launched a new counter-terrorism campaign.

Londoners are being urged to help stop terrorists in their tracks by reporting suspicious behaviour, in a new counter terrorism advertising campaign.

The Metropolitan Police Service is asking people to trust their instincts and pass on information about any unusual activity or behaviour to the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

And now for the visuals:


When I saw those for the first time, I honestly thought these were a joke. And lo and behold, it did not take long for them to become just that…


And of course the Lolcats version:


Long live the internetz.

Brown ‘rejects’ Sharia law in UK


iJam Apple style

Tomorrow evening we are doing a blogger bash and one of the Samizdatistas, Michael Jennings in a bout of generosity is bringing a whole leg of Serrano ham to share. Another blogging groupie is kindly bringing a ham stand and a knife. So the video below is particularly relevant and wonderfully silly:

via dropsafe

cross-posted from Media Influencer

Samizdata quote of the day

As you might expect, vegetarians will have a somewhat rough time here. For most people in Argentina, a vegetarian is something you eat.

– Idle Words in Argentina On Two Steaks A Day

Bonus quote: Upon reading the article Mr de Havilland announced that he’s booking a ticket to Buenos Aires…