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]

There should be no law to forbid people parading in paramilitary uniforms

“BRIXTON’S POLICE SURRENDERED THE STREETS TO BLACK-SHIRTED PARAMILITARIES”, writes Guido Fawkes.

The Black Lives Matter paramilitary-style march in Brixton has had a lot of coverage, including videos of protestors yelling at police and calling them “terrorists”. Only three arrests were made despite the widespread “threatening, abusive or insulting” behaviour being clear public order offences…

That tiny arrest number is even more surprising when taking into account photos of dozens of men wearing matching para-military outfits with face coverings and branded stab vests reading “FF Force” (Forever Family).

In 1936, a new public order act was introduced to counter the rise of Oswald Mosley’s fascist Black Shirts, banning political uniforms

Guido goes on to quote chapter and verse from the 1936 law, and asks, as many are asking, why it was not enforced.

I would like to step back a moment. “Forever Family” do come across as sinister. I think their resemblance to Mosley’s Fascists should be pointed out often and loudly. But wearing an anti-stab vest is not the same as stabbing someone. Who did they hurt by marching in columns? They looked threatening in a general way, but who specifically did they threaten? Let them march. Let them disfigure the London scene wearing whatever outfits they like. Let them discredit their cause and discredit the media’s whitewashing of it. I will go further and say that Mosley’s followers should have been allowed to march in uniform as well. Not to riot, not to beat people up, just to swank around in pretendy uniforms and look like the silly asses they were.

OK, that ship has sailed. This law has been on the books for more than eighty years. I am conscious that when I ask whether one should support the equal application of a bad law I am merely repeating the question Niall Kilmartin asked more eloquently in this post from last year, “The equal oppression of the laws”. Don’t blame me for copying him, blame him for asking a good question that is widely applicable.

The choir

“For centuries, the cherubic faces of choirboys in white ruffs have been part of church culture”, said the Guardian. Whenever a news report begins by saying that a tradition has endured for centuries you know that tradition is about to die. Sure enough the story which I quote tells of the ending of that aspect of historical Anglican culture in one cathedral at least:

Decision to disband Sheffield cathedral choir strikes discordant note

But is this change progressive or not? The next line of the story lets the hard pressed Guardian reader know what attitude to take:

Choristers usually came from privileged backgrounds, were coached by expert music masters at fee-paying schools attached to cathedrals and churches, and performed exquisite choral music, often in Latin.

Some of that has changed. The first girls were admitted, at Salisbury cathedral, almost 30 years ago and choirs have become more diverse.

Now Sheffield cathedral is going a step further, disbanding its choir in order to make a “completely fresh start” with a new team of choristers that reflects and engages with a changing city.

The cathedral would pursue “a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”, said a statement on its website.

The population of Sheffield and the surrounding area was growing, getting younger and becoming more diverse. In recent years, the cathedral had welcomed refugees and supported people living on the streets, Bradley said.

“We need to be engaging with people who are part of this changing city. We believe strongly in equality and giving as many children as possible the opportunity to sing at the highest level.”

The appeal of church music was wide but was sometimes “presented in a way that can be seen as elitist”, Bradley said.

That was in late July. Since then this apparently obscure local story about the disbandment of one cathedral choir has been widely reported. These are just a few of many examples:

  • Why is Sheffield Cathedral’s choir being disbanded for ‘inclusivity’? – the Spectator
  • Sheffield Cathedral Choir disbanded in “complete fresh start” for music and diversity – the website of the radio station Classic FM
  • Dean defends disbanding of Sheffield Cathedral ChoirChurch Times
  • Sheffield Cathedral closes choir and looks for new one to reflect urban diversity – the Times
  • Diversity is no reason to scrap Sheffield’s cathedral choir – the Telegraph

    As some of those titles indicate, the decision to close down the Sheffield cathedral choir has angered people who have not been to church for years and would not normally much care for church music. Why has it resonated so widely? I think I know why, and the knowledge depresses me. Until a few months ago I would have said that the UK had done relatively well in promoting an inclusive, non-racial sense of patriotism in which immigrants were seen as “joining the team” and adding their culture to the indigenous culture rather than displacing it. The maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, my MP, expressed this idea well. “I chose to make the United Kingdom my home”, she says, and speaks of the British Dream: “It is a land where a girl from Nigeria can move here aged sixteen, be accepted as British, and have the great honour of representing Saffron Walden”.

    But that ideal of inclusive patriotism is being eroded by decisions like this one. It is scarcely surprising that white British people begin to see diversity as a threat to their culture when they are told that a part of their culture that has gone on for centuries is to be abolished in the name of diversity.

  • There are still some scientists left

    The BBC reports,

    Hydroxychloroquine being ‘discarded prematurely’, say scientists

    The Oxford University-led trial is aiming to enrol 40,000 frontline workers around the world.

    Investigators hope the large-scale, double-blind randomised study will show if early use of the treatment prevents the virus from getting worse.

    “We know now that it doesn’t work in treatment of hospitalised patients,” says Prof Nick White, one of the study’s investigators.

    “But it’s still is a medicine that may prove beneficial in preventing Covid-19.”

    The UK medicines regulatory body MHRA halted hydroxychloroquine trials, following a now-discredited paper in The Lancet claiming it caused harms.

    Trials resumed in late June but the investigators says these concerns over safety, and the drug’s politicisation, have made it difficult to get participants.

    I know nothing about medicine and have no opinion as to whether Hydroxychloroquine is any use in treating the coronavirus or as a preventative. But I know enough about the history of science to be deeply frightened by this:

    And social media companies have removed viral online posts by doctors who reject the scientific consensus, praising the drug’s effectiveness.

    I am just glad to see that there are still scientists such as Professor White who keep an open mind and are willing to go on the record as saying that the politicisation of Hydroxychloroquine may have cost lives. In fact there is no “may” about it: whether Trump is wrong or right on this occasion, the politicisation of science always costs lives. The politicisation of science is the cessation of science.

    How not to oppose the Scottish hate crime bill

    The Courier‘s Jenny Hjul is on the right side. She knows the Hate Crime Bill (Scotland) needs to be opposed:

    JENNY HJUL: SNP’s hated hate crime bill would outlaw all controversial debate… it has to be stopped

    The SNP’s Hate Crime Bill seems to have created a rare consensus in Scotland, with just about everybody agreeing that it is at best naïve and at worst plain dangerous.

    She leads with the point of principle:

    The Justice Minister, Humza Yousaf, said the Scottish Government was aiming for zero tolerance of hate crime, which is increasing in Scotland. The problem with his new law, however, is that in trying to make bad people nicer it will also potentially make good people villains.

    She deftly follows up with the practical point that the proposed Scottish bill is wider in scope than the equivalent law in England and Wales:

    If passed, the bill will criminalise those judged to have spoken abusively or offensively, and could imprison them for up to seven years. It goes further than similar laws in England and Wales, where intent has to be established for a person to be criminalised for their behaviour.

    Later in the article Ms Hjul points out that Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed new law is opposed by experts, including those who might be expected to have some personal sympathy with her:

    Alistair Bonnington, former honorary professor of law at Glasgow University – and Nicola Sturgeon’s one-time lecturer – slammed the legislation as “daft” as well as naïve.

    “This is yet another example of the SNP’s failure to understand fundamental principles of Scots law,” he said this week, referencing other instances of “stupidity”, such as the Named Persons legislation and the “outstandingly idiotic” law forbidding sectarian singing at football matches, which was later rescinded.

    “Fundamental human rights freedoms, such as free speech, are not understood or respected by the Scottish government,” he said.

    Finally Ms Hjul correctly observes that the bill is so hated that even sworn enemies have come together to denounce it, and furthermore that the police, often suspiciously keen on the sort of policing that can be done in comfort via a screen, do not fancy enforcing this one at all:

    Among those who agree with him are the Law Society of Scotland, the Catholic Church – which fears the bill would criminalise possession of the Bible, the National Secular Society, and the Scottish Police Federation, which warned that the legislation would see officers policing speech.

    But Ms Hjul undoes much of the good work she has done by the following ill-judged foray:

    Perhaps the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill might have achieved more support if it had sought to target a specific Scottish problem: the spreaders of hate in its own movement, for example.

    If it could stifle once and for all the most toxic elements of Scottish nationalism and make stirring up hatred of unionists a crime, it might not be a complete waste of time. But that is a political perspective.

    I have no doubt she did not literally mean that the Hate Crimes Bill would be acceptable if only it also targeted hate among Scottish Nationalists. It was probably meant as an exasperated joke. The trouble is that those two sentences turn off those she most needs to convince: people who usually support the Scottish National Party but are troubled by this and other authoritarian measures the SNP have put forward. It is this group who Sturgeon’s government are most likely to listen to.

    “A tiny sect of libertarian provocateurs”

    No, not us at Samizdata. While I can say with pride that I am a libertarian, with sorrow that my sect is tiny, and with one of those sorrynotsorry voices that I have been known to be a provocateur, neither I nor anyone else at Samizdata has ever reached a position where the Guardian could credibly accuse us of secretly controlling the Conservative Party. The Revolutionary Communist Party has.

    Andy Beckett’s Guardian article, “Why Boris Johnson’s Tories fell for a tiny sect of libertarian provocateurs”, is a genuinely interesting account of this strange tale of political transformation. My goodness, though, those commenters are cross.

    The progress to sanity* of former RCP/Living Marxism stalwarts such as Munira Mirza, Claire Fox, Frank Furedi, Mick Hume and Brendan O’Neill was observed at an earlier stage by Brian Micklewthwait in this post from 2003.

    *Well, most of the way to sanity. Best not to mention Serbia.

    Too late now

    Labour launches new campaign with “24 hours to save British jobs” warning, reported the website Labour List the day before yesterday.

    To a background of Coldplay, Lomborg fisks Stiglitz

    “Greta Thunberg’s message of doom is religion not reality”, writes Iain Martin in the Times:

    Earlier this month, Thunberg set out in an open letter a list of demands that, if implemented, would make the economic effects of Covid-19 seem mild. Her co-signatories included assorted celebrities, activists and, inevitably, Coldplay. Climate catastrophists are clearly keen to get the alarmist show back on the road, perhaps because they have been eclipsed by the pandemic.

    Martin then goes on to say that,

    With intelligent use of technology and mitigation measures, mankind is more than capable of adapting to warmer conditions.

    This is one of the points made in Bjorn Lomborg’s important new book False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. Mr Lomborg is a long-standing environmentalist regarded as a heretic by hardliners in the movement because he is an optimist who says that humanity is not doomed. Global warming is happening, he says, but populations have been “scared witless” into thinking that it means the end of life on Earth. “The rhetoric on climate change has become ever more extreme and less moored to the actual science,” he says. “The science shows us that fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded. Global warming is real, but it is not the end of the world. It is a manageable problem.”

    […]

    For the sin of deviation from the apocalyptic consensus, The New York Times — woke bible and host of the Greta event at Davos in January — unleashed the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz to lambast Mr Lomborg, who has since responded with an amusing line-by-line demolition of Mr Stiglitz’s claims.

    And here it is:

    The New York Times’​ stunningly false and deceptive hit piece to preserve climate alarmism.

    I do love a good old fashioned fisking.

    What is so bad about Russian “interference” with UK referendums anyway?

    “49% of voters believe Kremlin interfered in Brexit referendum”, reports the Guardian.

    Almost half the British public believes the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum and last year’s general election, according to a poll. The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 49% of voters think there was Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, with 23% disagreeing. Some 47% believed Russia interfered in the December general election.

    The poll findings come after the long-awaited publication of the report into Russian interference by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee last week. It found that the government had not attempted to investigate potential Russian interference in the referendum. It said the UK had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

    I am busy and must be brief. Vladimir Putin belongs at the end of a rope for his crimes: crimes like murdering his political opponents, sponsoring terrorism and waging aggressive war against neighbouring countries. But most of the events described in this hyped up list are technical crimes of a sort that should not be a crime at all. Most rules on election spending and use of data to target potential voters are nothing but political protectionism. We call it “interference” when the Russian government tries to influence the political opinions of British people and “outreach” when the British government or the European Union tries to influence the political opinions of Russian people. You hear the words “interference in elections” and are meant to think of stolen ballot boxes and forged votes. But Russians posting anonymous, dishonest and obnoxious opinions on Twitter and Reddit for money – who cares? They are lost in the crowd of Brits doing the same for free.

    The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

    I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

    How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

    Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

    Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

    In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

    To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

    But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

    The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

    Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

    When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

    Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.

    VIDEO: Boris Johnson with two naked men

    No, this is not one of my clickbait headlines. The video is from 2000 and at 1:03 we see a younger, slimmer Boris express commendably libertarian views on the right to be naked in conversation with two people exercising that right.

    Sad to say, an older, fatter Boris has recently “ditched ‘libertarian’ position on obesity after coronavirus battle”, according to PoliticsHome.

    The Prime Minister is not the only one to cut a poor figure compared to his earlier self. His host on that trip to Glastonbury – for there it was that these events took place – was the singer and songwriter Billy Bragg. Bragg has always been a massive lefty, of course, but in that video from the turn of the millennium he came across as enjoying the exchange of political barbs with Johnson. In contrast, the Billy Bragg of a few days ago who wrote this miserable article in support of cancel culture in the Guardian comes across as an old man abasing himself before the cult of youth.

    A change of tune

    “Brussels moves to preserve access to London clearing houses”, reports the Financial Times.

    Brussels is to adopt emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure after the country’s post-Brexit transition period expires, the bloc’s regulation chief said on Thursday.

    Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of financial policy, said Brussels would adopt “time-limited” access rights to make sure that European companies could still access UK-based clearing houses after the end of this year.

    “This decision is being taken to address the possible risks to financial stability related to the specific area of derivatives clearing,” Mr Dombrovskis said. “However, we would encourage all market participants to prepare for all possible eventualities, as we have consistently called on them to do throughout this process.”

    Mr Dombrovskis did not specify when the access rights would expire, but the move will provide short-term certainty for traders in the specific area of clearing while Brussels continues to discuss future relations with the UK.

    To be frank I have only the vaguest idea what a clearing house does. It sounds worryingly like tidying. But whatever it is, for the EU to adopt “emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure” seems a distinct change from its previous policy, also mentioned in the article:

    Brussels has repeatedly urged the financial sector and companies to adapt to the fact that Britain is leaving the single market; the EU also adopted legislation last year to make it easier to force clearing houses to relocate to the continent. But progress has been slower than the EU had hoped and investors have kept their business in the UK.

    I am not surprised at the investors’ decision. I do not need to be an expert in decluttered differentials to be able to work out that if the EU felt the need to pass laws to make it easier to force investors to move their business out of the UK that means they would be better off staying put.

    Someone made a profit from finding a cure for a deadly disease. This must never happen again.

    Citizens for Financial Justice have a new article out!

    Who are they? You mean you don’t know?

    Citizens for Financial Justice is a diverse group of European partners – from local grassroots groups to large international organisations. Together, we aim to inform and connect citizens to act together to make the global financial system work better for everyone.

    We are funded by the European Union and aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable development Goals (sDGs) by mobilising EU citizens to support effective financing for development (FfD).

    A cosy arrangement. Thank God the UK is out of it. Here is the article:

    World Hepatitis Day: How Gilead Science Profits from Hepatitis Deaths

    Alternative title #1: How Gilead Science Profits from Ending Hepatitis Deaths

    Alternative title #2: How the Profit Motive Led Gilead Science to Find a Cure for Hepatitis C

    Guys, my apologies. I have to do some work – work work, can you believe that? – so when I remembered that I had already written a post that said what I wanted to say about about this lethal idiocy, I decided simply to post it again. It is seventeen years old. It does not require updating.

    Life is still tough for the owners of lazy slaves

    An extract:

    Now, just possibly you the reader aren’t very sympathetic. Just possibly you opine that the slaveowners had only themselves to blame – “Well, of course,” you are saying, “it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.”

    So why do so many people expect these familiar laws of human behaviour to suddenly change when the time is now and the work to be done is AIDS research?

    In this link Stephen Pollard quotes Roger Bate, writing in the Wall Street Journal, as saying that AIDS drug development is trending downwards.

    Why the decline?

    Because the drugs companies no longer believe that they are going to get rich out of AIDS research. In fact they begin to doubt they will get any compensation at all. They read the newspapers, they study the speeches of politicians, and they sense that the popular wind is blowing against them. They think, probably rightly, that governments will either force them to sell at a loss drugs that were developed at huge expense or will bypass them and the law entirely by buying generic copies of patent drugs. Governments, after all, are the ones who can change the law when it is inconvenient. One minute the authorities will come down like a ton of bricks on pirate music or pirate videos. The next minute they will say that it is ‘unacceptable greed’ for companies to actually want to profit from patents on medical discoveries. I accept that there are subtleties and genuine conflicts of principle in the field of intellectual property – but the bottom line is that if pharma companies get nothing but abuse for the work they put in they bloody well won’t put in much more of it. Just as for the slaves, it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.