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]

What’s going on with Facebook?

Over at Libertarian Home, Simon Gibbs (who is the proprietor of Libertarian Home) asks:

I’m asking you a question: have you been tuning into these pages and what do you think is going on? Are some of these legit targets based on some criteria of public safety that you feel is valid? Or are they legitimately operated venues of dissenting opinion which is being squashed?

“These pages” being a list of pages which a certain Justin Harvey (commenting on a Facebook posting) says have been taken down, by Facebook.

I have only very recently plugged myself into Facebook, and have so far only lurked. I have posted nothing. Facebook is useful to me for keeping track of the doings of a few actual friends of mine (this one in particular), but otherwise I find it confusing. They keep nagging me to stick up a picture, so that my “friends” can know that I am really me, but my actual friends know this already.

Besides which, whatever combination of rumour and fact it is that Simon Gibbs is asking about make me think that if Facebook really, really wants me “to take a few moments” to update all my info, they can take a hike. The regular question with which Facebook confronts me whenever I open it, “What’s on your mind?”, feels downright creepy, given what I am coming to believe about the utter duplicity of Facebook’s masters and commanders, wanting, as they seem to, all the privileges but none of the obligations both of a common carrier and of a freelance publisher.

But what does our Commentariat think? I am not so concerned about the mere experience of using Facebook. Nor am I now asking about privacy. It is Facebook’s political biases that I am asking about, as is Simon Gibbs. One of my biases being in favour of people being allowed to express political opinions that I don’t share. The way it looks, to me, now, is that Facebook will be delighted to convey whatever opinions I express on Facebook to the world, until such time as the world starts, in noticeable numbers, paying attention to those opinions, at which point those opinions, being what they are, will vanish from view.

It may well be that, as a freelance enterprise rather than a government agency, Facebook is entitled to behave as it pleases, and face the commercial consequences. But if that’s so, what sort of consequences should those of us who do not share Facebook’s biases be trying to contrive for Facebook, and how? Besides, which, maybe Facebook actually is now a government agency in all but name.

Libertarian Home is an enterprise I admire. I especially enjoy attending its meetings, which happily for me mostly take place a mere walk away from where I live. But the LH commentariat is not as impressive as the one here, and I would love it if our commentariat were to take a serious crack at the questions that Simon Gibbs poses.

Zaha Hadid Architects thrives

One of the more significant libertarians on Planet Earth just now is Patrik Schumacher, whom I have mentioned here before, several times.

Until recently Schumacher was the Number Two at Zaha Hadid Architects. But following the death of Zaha Hadid, he is now the Zaha Hadid Architects Number One. So, an important question for libertarians is: Can Zaha Hadid Architects keep going successfully, without Zaha Hadid herself, under Schumacher’s leadership? Given the dominant political attitudes within the architecture-and-design world these days, there are surely a lot of people now hoping that the answer will turn out to be: No.

A report, complete with dramatic pretend-photos, that you can read and see here, courtesy of the Daily Mail, of a new concert hall that Zaha Hadid Architects will be building In Yekaterinburg, give cause for optimism.

With concert halls, everything depends on the acoustics. It can look like the Palace of Versailles, but if it sounds wrong it’s a turkey. But acoustic science is now such that I am optimistic that this will be judged a successful concert hall, sounding good as well as looking stylish in a Zaha Hadid sort of way:

The point of this posting is that if Zaha Hadid Architects continues to thrive as it seems to be thriving now, that will be a win for libertarianism, because it will be such a very big personal win for Patrik Schumacher. Comment away all you like, of course – can’t stop you, wouldn’t want to. But whether you personally like the look of this new concert hall is beside my main point here.

As the late Chris Tame used to say: we need our people everywhere, and architecture-and-design is an important somewhere. Schumacher reminds me of the late Peter Bauer. Bauer was in a minority of about one in the world of foreign aid, back when he was alive and arguing. Schumacher is likewise something of a lone voice in his world in an equally significant way.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is not obviously progressive to insist that equal numbers of men and women work eighty-hour weeks in a corporate law firm or leave their families for months at a time to dodge steel pipes on a frigid oil platform. And it is grotesque to demand (as advocates of gender parity did in the pages of Science) that more young women “be conditioned to choose engineering,” as if they were rats in a Skinner box.

– Steven Pinker

I found it here. He found it here. He read it here. Go manlinking!

More recently, see also Pinker‘s remarkable Galapagos photos.

Tim Newman and Ezra Levant on the persecution of Tommy Robinson

If, like me, you are a Brit, then I recommend you depress yourself about Britain by reading Tim Newman’s posting entitled Tommy Robinson’s Appeal. (Although, if you are from some other part of the world, go ahead and depress yourself about Britain anyway.)

But what I really recommend is that you really depress yourself about the future of this country, by listening to something that Tim Newman recommends in this posting. It’s a recording of James Delingpole talking with Ezra Levant. Ezra Levant does most of the talking, and my goodness does he talk a storm. I hr 10 mins went by in a blink.

The more I learn about Tommy Robinson, the more I admire him.

Samizdata quote of the day

That there are now more overweight humans than starving humans is one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Damien Counsell has said it many times. Good for him.

Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

Quite a few days ago now, Roseanne Barr tweeted this:

The liberal media is an absolute joke – they no longer provide real news or information. They have made it their ultimate goal to undermine our dually elected president everyday. I encourage real Americans to find other reliable sources for their news and share their information.

It seems that Roseanne is copying the technique pioneered by her “dually” elected President of the USA, by including grammatical and spelling mistakes in her tweets, thereby getting these tweets noticed and written about by pedants like me, who would probably have had nothing to say about them had they been more properly phrased.

Even better would be if she had misspelt duly as “duelly”. Imagine POTUS being chosen by literal single combat. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have won that either. (By the way, how do you not misspell “misspell”? Misspell doesn’t seem right. But miss-spell doesn’t seem right either.)

See also: The liberal media “is” an absolute joke. Should be “are”, surely.

On a more serious verbal point, I personally don’t like the way Roseanne Barr calls them the “liberal” media. I don’t like either “liberal” or “progressive” to describe people who seem to have no sane idea of what liberty or progress actually are.

But at least Roseanne Barr refrains from calling these media the “mainstream” media. This is a usage I am starting seriously to dislike. It attributes to these very particular media a cultural dominance that they did once possess, but no longer do. “Mainstream” says to me that any other media only have significance if they are tributaries of this main stream. But now, other streams can find their own way directly to the great sea that is public opinion, with no help from that still supposedly “main” stream at all.

I will now elaborate on what I mean.

→ Continue reading: Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

Listening to Patrik Schumacher

Podcasts don’t suit everyone. Simply, for many, they tend to take too long to make their points. They have an additional drawback for me, which is that I love to listen to classical music, i.e. the sort of music which can also demand a lot of time to make its various musical points.

This morning, for instance, I was happily listening to one of the very longest symphonies of all, Mahler 3.

But, I paused it. I paused it because my Twitter feed had told me about a podcast. I am listening to this podcast now. The guy asking the questions is someone American whose name I didn’t catch from the Centre for Innovative Governance Research, and the Podcastee, so to speak, the man answering the American guy’s questions, is Patrik Schumacher. Patrik Schumacher is the boss of one of the world’s most formidable architectural practices, the one founded and bossed, until she recently died, by the formidable Zaha Hadid.

Like classical music, the design of architecture, and especially of urban environments on a larger scale, seems to encourage dirigiste habits of mind and of action, politically as well as aesthetically. City planners tend to assume that cities have, so to speak, to be conducted (the German word for conductor being dirigent). Conducted, that is, by them. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Schumacher challenges these kinds of assumptions.

The American guy asking the questions has been very badly recorded. But it’s mostly Schumacher, and Schumacher, thank goodness, mostly sounds somewhat better. I am learning a lot about how Schumacher thinks and about what he does. You might too. The podcast lasts a bit over an hour.

Mahler 3 will have to wait.

What Neema Parvini thinks and what Neema Parvini does

Instapundit’s Charles Glasser calls this Quillette article “nail on the head stuff”, which it is. It’s very good. But, you know: very good in a way I am now fairly used to. If, like me, you are one of the many and extremely varied persons whom the left calls “extreme right”, and if you have been reading both inside and beyond your various internet bubbles for quite a few years now, this article will probably tell you little that you don’t already know.

Sample quote:

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler. Hence, here in the UK, Labour activists burned effigies of Thatcher when she died and also draped a sign saying “HANG THE TORIES” over a bridge in Manchester, without any of their moralistic cheerleaders batting an eyelid. The left generally revels in its own distasteful behaviour not only without critique but also as still further confirmation of their righteousness. When you see your enemies as pure evil as opposed to trying to understand the merit of their ideas, bigotry becomes inevitable.

My main doubt about this piece is that its author, Neema Parvini, maybe attributes to “the left” rather too much of the same ignorant unanimity of thought that he accuses “the left” of attributing to “the right”. I agree that “the left” is more unanimous than “the right”, but there are still distinctions to be made within “the left” which are worth acknowledging.

But, Parvini makes many good points, especially in the small spreadsheet he offers, where he describes leftist definition hopping with words and phrases like “outmoded”, “here to stay”, and (a particular unfavourite of mine) “progress”.

But now for the really interesting bit, the bit where I was both very surprised and where I learned something seriously new to me. It comes right at the bottom of the article:

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

And there was me thinking that the literature departments of all the Anglosphere’s universities are now just swamps of leftist unanimity and sub-Marxist, post-modernist obfuscation, with all seriously dissenting voices silenced. Not quite so, it would seem.

Neema Parvini is clearly a man worth attending to. Especially by me, because I have long been a Shakespeare fan.

Douglas Murray on Tommy Robinson

If you want to understand the ongoing Tommy Robinson affair, then this article by Douglas Murray strikes me as as very good next thing to read. Read the whole thing says Instapundit, quoting a big chunk of it.

It occurs to me that Tommy Robinson’s public performances are a lot like President Trump’s tweets. If Trump phrased everything perfectly, his tweets would be ignored. But faced with a spelling mistake or some such vulgar blemish, his critics can’t help themselves, and they wade in, making pedantic fools of themselves, thus drawing attention both to what Trump is saying and to the fact that they typically have no actual arguments against it.

Tommy Robinson makes legal “errors”. And people whose real objection to Robinson is that he is an oik who speaks truths to them that they don’t want to be told, about Islam and about Muslims, likewise can’t help themselves. They loudly pontificate about what a bad person Robinson is. Such persons are now linking to pieces like this.

Thereby drawing attention to what Robinson says.

If you read the comments on our previous Tommy Robinson posting, you will see claims that he is an “idiot”, or even a “tit”. But I think Robinson is quite a formidable operator, saying important things with skill and flare and drama. He is getting himself heard.

In my opinion the Gandhi comparison is also a good one. Gandhi also used to break laws and provoke public dramas. He also got himself imprisoned. And heard.

The only way that respectable citizens will shut Tommy Robinson up is if they are willing to pay proper attention to the things he says. Douglas Murray has been doing this for quite a while.

Samizdata quote of the day

A media that taught us to mock authority and culture was unprepared for the day when the audience would mock their authority and their culture.

wretchardthecat

This evening Dominic Frisby is doing another try-out of his Edinburgh Festival Financial Game Show

Yes. Dominic Frisby tweets:

North Londoners. The next try-out of my Financial Game Show is Tuesday May 22 at @downstairskhead. Entertaining, informative, exciting. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening?

Get tickets here. More about the show here.

I can confirm that this is a fun show, having already seen two earlier try-outs of it. One of these was in my own home, at my last Friday of the month meeting on April 27th. And earlier that week, I attended the very first try-out of this show (to check out what my Friday was likely to consist of), and greatly enjoyed it.

That first outing was in the same venue, downstairs at the King’s Head, that tonight’s show will be at Despite the extreme contrast in the space he had available, Frisby then made his second try-out performance at my place work very well, because he is a good humoured, thinks-on-his-feet performer. Nevertheless, a bigger venue is certainly needed for the show to have its full effect. I’m thinking in particular of how successful competitors in the quiz, such as the lady I went with to the first show, get asked to sit themselves in different and more visible seats as they progress, none of which could happen in my postage stamp of a living room

Nevertheless, Frisby seems to find early run-throughs at my place helpful, because he did a similar early run-through of his previous Edinburgh Festival show at my home, a couple of years ago, and now here he was inviting himself back to do this year’s show. Glad to be of assistance.

Without giving away too much in the way of answers, I can tell you that Frisby’s questions all point to the subtleties and surprises and oddities of economic life, of the sort that are familiar to devotees of Austrian Economics, with its emphasis on the subjectivity of value and the way that economic decisions so often involve making sometimes rather strange bets about the future. The contrast in the price of this small but expensive house and that bigger but cheaper house; Fading Footballer A getting paid, counter-intuitively, more than Superstar Footballer B; that kind of thing. Frisby thus communicates an inquisitive and amused attitude to economic life that will likely draw at least some of the people who see this show in Edinburgh towards his more opinionated intellectual products.

Who knows, some of these people may even end up reading this book? I wrote admiringly about it here.

LATER: More dates here.

Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real? That is the question that Nico Metten asks, over at Libertarian Home. Metten’s answer, surprise surprise: no. His English could do with a little cleaning up by a native of these islands, but that quibble aside, and on the basis of far less technical knowledge than him, I share his doubts, although in my case the proper word would probably be: suspicions. I suspect everything tinged with Green to be … suspect.

Ken Ferguson, commenting at Libertarian Home on the matter of electric vehicles, argues, in contrast, that this “revolution” is real, and is driven by the need to cut down on air pollution. He supplies this link.

And indeed, you do now see electric vehicles all over the place. Here is one I photoed a while back, just a walk away from where I live, getting an electro-refill from a special roadside charger:

But are electric engines n vehicles the only way to cut down on harmful vehicle engine emissions, or could regular or not-so-regular petrol engines be part of similar reductions, perhaps by having something bolted onto the end of them to take care of those emissions? Or, could vehicle emissions be somehow cleaned up by other means, with devices not attached directly to any vehicles? Do such things already happen? And: How harmful are those emissions, actually? (See above: “suspicions”.)

Since concocting the bulk of this posting, I notice that another Libertarian Home commenter, Jordan Lee, echoes many of my doubts, and one in particular of my questions:

Is there a way to make fuel burning cars more efficient in cutting emissions?

Cars are now being sold on this exact basis. But how far will they get in doing this, and how efficiently will such cars continue doing their number one job, of being cars?

The Samizdata commentariat contains some notably well-informed techies. I’ll be interested to read whatever anyone may feel inclined to say about this.