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]

I do not usually recommend that you read the publications of the Socialist Workers Party

The Socialist Workers Party (Glad you asked, comrade: apostrophes are a bourgeois affectation!) are a bunch of Trotskyist goblins with admittedly good organisational skills. Back in 2011 I reminisced about how you could turn up at any demonstration for any left wing cause in Britain over the last forty years and find that their lank-haired activists had been there handing out posters since 4 a.m.:

Three quarters of the posters, and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president. They were also big in CND.

Their literary output is not usually enticing. But I would recommend you read this press release of theirs while you still can.

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

January 22, 2021

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

For immediate release.

Facebook has shut down the accounts of one of the biggest left wing organisations in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (1). The Socialist Workers Party Facebook page – as well as account of local pages – have been removed from Facebook with no explanation given. Those targeted say it amounts to a silencing of political activists.

Facebook took the action on Friday, shutting down the Socialist Workers Party page and removing dozens of leading SWP activists from the platform.

The SWP Facebook page regularly posts in support of Palestine, Black Lives Matter and against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies. It also hosts dozens of online events every week that activists across the country take part in.

The SWP say they have been silenced for speaking out on these issues and that the action taken by Facebook amounts to an attack on political activists to organise. They are demanding to be reinstated immediately.

Bye, bye Swappers. You were a presence in British politics for nearly half a century, British as damson jam from Jeremy Corbyn’s allotment. And now you are gone from one platform, just like that, and soon you will be gone from the others.

Incidentally, that nine year old post of mine contained a link to this Guardian story:

Student protester jailed for throwing fire extinguisher:

A student who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of a central London building during the student fees protests has been jailed.

Edward Woollard, 18, from Hampshire, was among protesters who broke into the Tory party headquarters and emerged on the roof on 10 November.

He was jailed for two years and eight months after admitting at an earlier hearing to committing violent disorder.

Police said his actions “could have resulted in catastrophic injury”.

The student, who hoped to be the first member of his family to go on to higher education, was filmed throwing an empty metal fire extinguisher from the seventh-floor of 30 Millbank as hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard below.

The canister narrowly missed a line of police officers attempting to protect the looted and vandalised building from further damage on a day when 66 people were arrested.

And so it could. Mere chance that it didn’t. Yet John McDonnell MP, later to become Shadow Chancellor, thought Woollard was hard done by.

  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has faced criticism for allegedly supporting student Edward Woollard, who was jailed for throwing a fire extinguisher off a roof during student riots
  • Uncovered: John McDonnell Praises 2010 Riots

    Look at Niall Kilmartin’s post of January 15th. That and other accounts of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick from injuries sustained at the riot at the US capitol provide an interesting comparison.

  • The arsonist warns of the danger of fire

    The Times reports,

    The European Union is not immune to “the danger to democracy” unleashed by Donald Trump and must “rein in” the internet to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation, Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday.

    Shades of Ben Tre. Or of a mirror-universe version of the most recent episode of Star Trek Discovery: “That Hope Danger Is You”.

    “In Europe, too, there are people who feel disadvantaged and are very angry,” she said. “There are people who subscribe to rampant conspiracy theories, which are often a confused mixture of completely absurd fantasies. And, of course, we too see this hate and contempt for our democracy spreading unfiltered through social media to millions of people.”

    She said that “we may not succeed in convincing everyone” to abandon conspiracy theories, such as those of QAnon, through rational debate, and signalled that regulation and censorship of the internet was needed. “There is one thing that we politicians can, and must, do: we must make sure that messages of hate and fake news can no longer be spread unchecked, since, in a world in which polarising opinions are most likely to be heard, it is a short step from perverse conspiracy theories to the death of police officers,” she said. “Unfortunately, the storming of Capitol Hill showed us just how true that is.”

    The speech showed the growing willingness within the EU to directly regulate or censor content circulated on internet platforms rather than leaving decisions, such as banning Mr Trump, to private companies. The EU is discussing new digital policies that would have major implications for Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, including greater privacy and antitrust regulation as well as control over content.

    “We must impose democratic limits on the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants,” Mrs Von der Leyen said. “We want it laid down clearly that internet companies take responsibility for the content they disseminate.”

    I could be persuaded that internet companies should have to decide whether they are platforms or publishers, rather than the present system of allowing them whichever status benefits the US Democratic party this week. However this is not a move to limit the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants. They’ll love it. It is a move to limit and trammel further the already slight power to influence politics held by ordinary people.

    The “UK affairs” tag has been added to this post solely so I can add this to my list of reasons to be glad that the UK has left the European Union.

    Donald Trump made me do it

    I was going to stay off the US politics posts for a day or two, but this Times report by Alastair Good is so bad it’s Alastair.

    “Burning down Kenosha: Trump’s fractured legacy”

    It includes the lines:

    When the public are angry about perceived government wrongs, they look to the president to provide a pressure valve, address their concerns and give an assurance that issues will at least be looked into, if not resolved, to their satisfaction. Four years of Donald Trump saw precious little of this approach and, with a series of controversial police shootings of black people in 2020, the events in Kenosha were made more likely.

    What may have pushed it even further was Mr Trump’s tacit endorsement of far-right groups, giving them the confidence to share their beliefs openly and ultimately to show up on the streets of Kenosha armed and ready for confrontation.

    A Biden presidency at least offers the hope that things may calm down as a more rational approach to governing the country returns and support for the far right once again becomes something shameful.

    In Kenosha, the Rev Kara Baylor sees that hope but also fears that the divisions sown in the country by Mr Trump’s rule will continue as his supporters fight a partisan battle. “They will keep pushing back against that arc that bends toward justice, and that saddens me because they don’t see that it is for them as well,” she says.

    Even the normally anti-Trump Times commenters found this hard to swallow. A commenter called “Gordon W” said,

    The ‘journalist’ obviously missed the protesters who said that ‘Trump made me drop the 60 inch TV I was looting’, ‘the $250 trainers I stole don’t fit, I blame Trump’, ‘in Trump’s dysfunctional America, it takes 2 cans of gasoline to get a proper shop blaze going’, and ‘after burning down the pharmacy, I can’t get the drugs I need. The Trump government is letting me down’.

    Strange goings on in Scottish politics

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ought to be riding high. The Mirror reports, “Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus handling has won over swathe of voters with support for Scottish independence hitting 57 PER CENT, poll finds”. There have been something like seventeen polls in a row showing majority support for independence. For myself, I would be enormously sad to see Scotland leave the UK, but that is not the point of this post.

    The point is to ask what the hell is really going on? Something must be. Go to the leading pro-Independence blog Wings Over Scotland and the message from the bloggers and the commenters is one of fury with Sturgeon and despair over the prospects of independence. Compared to 2014 it is a different world.

    I do understand the outline of the events that led to the convening of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, and which have led the Herald to report,

    ALEX Salmond has cast further doubt on appearing in person before the Holyrood inquiry into his legal fight with the Scottish Government in an escalating war of words with its convener. The former First Minister’s lawyer said his client feared that telling the whole truth to MSPs under oath would leave him “in jeopardy of criminal prosecution”.

    What stumps me is how it comes about that the reporting by Scottish newspapers (most of whom are anti-independence) seems to support Nicola Sturgeon and speak as if independence is all but inevitable while the leading pro-independence blogs seem sure her resignation and disgrace are imminent and that she has put back the prospects of independence by years. What is not being said? Who is not saying it?

    The second most popular pro-Independence blog is probably the far left Bella Caledonia. Or maybe it isn’t any more – much can change in six years and much has. In 2014 Wings and Bella were in lockstep, fighting for the same goal. Now they oppose each other bitterly.

    All the more surprising, then, to read a guest post on Wings, to find myself moved by its patent honesty, then to get to the end of the post and find (a) that it was by someone who until a year or so ago was one of the leading lights of Bella, and (b) that someone is Robin McAlpine. He is the left wing authoritarian (I do not completely repeat myself; there are some points where the two circles on the Venn diagram do not overlap) who wrote an Orwellian piece for Bella called “Real Freedom Sounds Like Many Voices” in which he proposed to institute a system for newspapers like that which supports the BBC: there would be a compulsory newspaper subscription payable by all Scots (the supposed sweetener for this was that the newspapers so funded would be “free” – as in free of charge, not politically free), a handful of approved newspapers would be given government franchises, and, in his own words, “this would require that titles other than the franchised ones would be banned.” Mr McAlpine’s “Real Freedom” post dates from 2013. I wrote my Samizdata piece about it in 2017 when it looked as if Bella Caledonia might have collapsed. I wanted to preserve the memory of just how authoritarian Mr McAlpine’s views were.

    The piece dated 14 January 2021 by Mr McAlpine that so surprised and moved me is called “The Integrity of a Nation”. It begins,

    This time almost exactly two years ago I sat in a cafe close to Holyrood in a state of what I can only call shock. The enormity of what I’d just heard was sinking in; over the preceding nearly three hours I’d been introduced to all the gory detail of the plot against Alex Salmond. The last two years has at times been surreal for me as a result.

    Added later: For me, the key part of Robin McAlpine’s post was this:

    I believe that it started when a complaints procedure was created and designed to target a specific individual and pushed through over strong objections from the UK civil service.

    In a position of power, you should never create laws or procedures for a purpose related to the pursuit of an individual; it represents a gross misuse of those powers.

    Emphasis added. The manipulation of the law to target political opponents should concern anyone. The “specific individual” is of course Alex Salmond. He is not a nice man. His own defence lawyer does not think much of him. But there is a hell of a difference between having wandering hands and being a rapist. The prosecution had every chance to prove him a rapist and could not do it. A mostly female jury at the height of the #MeToo movement found him innocent of all thirteen charges. Before anyone chimes in, yes, one of them was “not proven” – that is still an acquittal. What a spectacular failure. Almost as if the case should never have been brought at all. Perhaps this failure resulted from the plague of memory loss that has afflicted many of Scotland’s top civil servants, Nicola Sturgeon herself, and her husband Peter Murrell, who happens to be Chief Executive of the SNP yet displays Biden-like levels of incuriosity regarding meetings of burning importance to that party that take place in his own house. For details see his Wikipedia page, though what it says now may not last the hour.

    REVEALED!

    Revealed: Tory MPs and commentators who joined banned app Parler

    Why do Americans think the media might be hiding things from them? Let’s try asking Tony Bobulinski on Twitter.

    “Why does the US fall for conspiracy theories?” asks Daniel Finkelstein in the Times.

    QAnon, the online conspiracy theory to which many Trump supporters subscribe, is like fan fiction, with endless riffs on Trump and increasingly bizarre plots about the skulduggery of his enemies. The contributors to this script have the pleasure of being the heroes of it, setting out to cleanse the nation. Like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity, they have woken and are gradually peeling away layers of deception. The deep state behaves as it does in every film but will prove no match for the hero.

    The deep state behaves as it does in every film – As an aside, that, the endless stream of conspiracy thrillers put out by Hollywood, will do as Explanation No.1. The scriptwriters of these movies were unable to conceive of the cabal of senior people in the US government, the CIA, the FBI, and the military as anything other than right wing, but the imagination of the American people is not so limited.

    A personal best: I have digressed even before I began. The main point of this post is… ah, **** it, I already said it:

    By censoring the Hunter Biden story the MSM has destroyed its ability to convince Americans there was no vote fraud.

    By censoring the Hunter Biden story the MSM has also hampered its ability to convince Americans there is no “cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires” which “runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children.”

    It has also hampered its ability to convince Americans, and not only them, that they should be vaccinated against coronavirus. Hitherto the English-speaking countries plus the Nordics have been somewhat less prone to vaccine conspiracy theories than people in most of Western or Eastern Europe. I expect that to change, and that change will kill people. That is what happens when the boy cries wolf too many times.

    Lord Finkelstein (Note for foreign readers: I make no political point; he is a life peer) continues movingly:

    The second thing this analysis provides is a warning. Next week Granta will publish a book called The Fatherland and the Jews. It consists of two pamphlets published in Germany by my grandfather Alfred Wiener in 1919 and 1924. He alerts his readers to the danger posed by conspiracy theories, giving as an example the falsehood that the Kaiser had been a Jew because a (non-existent) affair between Queen Victoria and a doctor called Wolf allowed Jewish blood to enter the royal family. One day, he believed, such theories would lead to violence.

    In the same way, the blurring between fiction and reality is a terrible danger to Americans. As the Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder puts it, “post-truth is pre-fascism”. For years the mob shared conspiracy stories with each other and then, no longer able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, they used guns and violent incursion to provide their own denouement to the plot.

    Yes, false conspiracy theories are dangerous. One of the best defences a polity has against them is a reasonable level of trust in the authorities and the media. In the long run the only way to gain this trust is to be worthy of it, i.e. not to lie and not to hide the truth. By their promiscuous propagation of any story, however baseless, that might harm the Republicans and their enthusiastic censorship of any story, however credible, that might make the Democrats look bad, the American Woke Media, old and new, have lost this trust. As a result reality ensues, to quote TV Tropes. Or if you prefer the same truth in an older format, take your quote from William Caxton’s summary at the end of his retelling of the fable of the boy who cried wolf, “men bileve not lyghtly hym whiche is knowen for a lyer”.

    The intellectivore

    I want you to observe two things about this piece by Simon Jenkins in today’s Guardian:

    “Why the Democrats should not impeach Donald Trump”

    1) It is quite reasonable, yet Simon Jenkins wrote it.

    2) It is obvious that something is consuming the commenters’ reason.

    I should have known. Simon Jenkins ate their minds. His opinion pieces are no more than the bait by which he ensnares unfortunate denizens of the mundane universe, who are driven by some primaeval attraction like that of the moth to the flame into commenting at the Guardian website. Once they are thus fatally linked to him across the dimensions, he, or rather it, feasts upon their intellects, leaving them as mindless husks blind to their own political interests who can only repeat with idiot vindictiveness whatever slogan last caught their attention.

    Either that or Guardian readers were like that anyway.

    I am shocked, shocked to find that there has been a political riot in the US

    Biden victory confirmed after deadly attack on Capitol

    Note the convenient unidirectionality of the word “deadly” in that BBC report.

    A writing challenge for you: how would these events be reported if those who stormed the Capitol had been doing it in support of Black Lives Matter?

    On this day in 1951, Seoul fell for the second time

    BBC On This Day: 1951: Communist forces to re-take Seoul

    The Third Battle of Seoul

    We in the West seem to have entirely forgotten the Korean War. President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China is keeping the memory alive, in his own fashion.

    Trouble comes to the EU from three directions

    “The EU is a divided house”, writes John Keiger at the Spectator:

    A 2019 German think tank report, entitled ‘20 Years of the Euro; Winners and Losers’, costed the single currency’s impact on individual states. From 1999 to 2017, only Germany and the Netherlands were serious winners with the former gaining a huge € 1.9 trillion, or around €23,000 per inhabitant.

    In all other states analysed the Euro has provoked a drop in prosperity, with France losing a massive €3.6 trillion and Italy €4.3 trillion. French losses amount to €56,000 per capita and for Italians €74,000. Without fundamental reform the nineteen-member single currency’s divide between high-debt, high-unemployment southern states and their low-debt, low-unemployment northern counterparts will widen. The next crisis will come as the ECB’s quantitative easing programme ends and southern debt ceases to be sucked up by the Bank.

    “The EU’s China deal is bad for democracy”, writes Edward Lucas at the Times:

    The deal itself is quite narrow. It replaces and amplifies multiple existing agreements, with the aim of protecting investors against arbitrary treatment. Their bugbears include mandatory joint ventures, which China uses to steal technology and other secrets, and subsidies for local competitors. China has also made a mealy-mouthed commitment to make “continued and sustained efforts” to ratify International Labour Organization conventions that underpin free trade unions and prohibit slave labour.

    The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have given away a bit on this front but has gained far more on others. Hopes of a global stance against Chinese bullying are dashed. Australia, the subject of ferocious pressure, is left marooned. Countries mulling how far to stand up to China will draw their own conclusions: Europe talks about values but self-interest trumps solidarity.

    The deal exemplifies the gap between the EU’s foreign policy aims and reality. The European Commission claims to be “geopolitical”. In 2019 it deemed China a “strategic rival”. Yet the mercantilist influence of big business, particularly in Germany, steamrollers ethical and security concerns.

    “EU’s coronavirus vaccination strategy in chaos as supplies run short”, write Oliver Moody and Charles Bremner, also in the Times:

    The European Union’s vaccine strategy has been criticised as “clearly inadequate” after a first week of inoculation on the continent was marred by logistical mishaps.

    President Macron reprimanded his ministers over France’s sluggish start after only 400 people received the Pfizer-Biontech jab in the first six days.

    A senior German minister and the German-Turkish scientist who developed the Biontech vaccine questioned why the EU had not amassed a sufficient stockpile of the only vaccine it had licensed. Brussels has ordered up to 300 million doses of the jab — barely enough to cover a third of the EU’s 450 million residents — but turned down an offer of an extra 500 million doses, according to Der Spiegel magazine. This has left the bloc dependent on a range of vaccines that have yet to be licensed, including those from Sanofi and Curevac, which are not expected to be available until at least the second half of the year.

    But the EU has survived many predictions of its demise, and it is not the only union of nations under strain. “With Brexit, the UK may be bolstering the EU and seeding its own disintegration”, writes Andrew Hammond in the South China Morning Post:

    Within the EU, for instance, there are several key debates about the 27-member bloc’s future well under way, including rebalancing the union given the new balance of power within it, and whether the EU now integrates further, disintegrates or muddles through.

    For instance, with the UK no longer in the Brussels-based club, the EU 27 has already made significant steps last year towards greater federalism. One example is the new €750 billion (US$825 billion) coronavirus recovery fund, a major political milestone in the post-war history of European integration, which saw the continent’s presidents and prime ministers commit for the first time to the principle of jointly issued debt as a funding tool.

    What do you think will happen to the EU? What do you want to happen? Views from citizens or residents of EU countries would be especially welcome.

    Up like a rocket, down like a stick: a Covid tale from the BBC

    2.3 million people have listened to Matron Laura Duffel’s alarming account of a system overwhelmed:

    2:00 PM, Jan 1, 2021.

    BBC Radio 5 Live
    @bbc5live

    “It was minimally affecting children in the first wave… we now have a whole ward of children here.”

    Laura Duffel, a matron in a London Hospital, tells Adrian Chiles about the Covid situation in hospitals.

    The tweet in reply sent at 8:21 PM, Jan 2, 2021 by Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health saying, “As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from Covid-19 in paediatrics across the UK” has garnered less interest, though that may change. It includes a link to this article on the BBC website:

    Doctors have sought to reassure parents that there has been no increase in the severity of Covid-19 cases among children because of the new variant.

    The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said children’s wards are not seeing any “significant pressure” from Covid-19.

    It comes after London hospital matron Laura Duffel told BBC Radio 5 Live that wards were full of children with coronavirus.

    Doctors have denied this is the case.

    Professor Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: “Children’s wards are usually busy in winter. As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from Covid-19 in paediatrics across the UK.

    “As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with Covid-19, but the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.

    “The new variant appears to affect all ages and, as yet, we are not seeing any greater severity amongst children and young people.”

    Dr Ronny Cheung, a consultant paediatrician at Evelina Children’s Hospital, in London, added: “I’ve been the on-call consultant in a London children’s hospital this week. Covid is rife in hospitals, but not among children – and that is corroborated by my colleagues across London.”

    Prof Calum Semple said that he spoke to colleagues on intensive care units and “not one of them has seen a surge in sick children coming into critical care and we’re not hearing of a rise in cases in the wards either”.

    “We’re not seeing a different spectrum of disease in children, certainly we’re not seeing a surge in cases,” Prof Semple told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

    Dr Liz Whittaker, a consultant paediatrician at St Mary’s Hospital London, said “only small numbers” of children who test positive for Covid develop severe disease and these are “within expected levels” at the moment.

    “I continue to worry for my elders, not my kids,” Dr Whittaker added.

    Meanwhile, Dr Lee Hudson, from Great Ormond Street Hospital, said that none of his paediatric colleagues at hospital across London were reporting higher rates of sick children because of Covid but said that parents should never be afraid to seek medical help if they are worried about their children.

    The Daily Mail says, “Ms Duffel is a vocal campaigner for nurses who has appeared on Good Morning Britain on a number of occasions”.

    Edit: Having seen some of the comments made against Ms Duffel on Twitter, I want to add that I very much doubt she intended to misinform people. It is far more likely that she saw a local spike in children getting Covid-19 and mentally leapt to generalise it because oncoming catastrophe fitted her model of the world.

    Enraged is not a good way to end the year

    So I will post this without comment:

    The New York Times Helped a Vindictive Teen Destroy a Classmate Who Uttered a Racial Slur When She Was 15

    May better times lie ahead for all reading this. It is a relief that Brexit is done. Boris’s deal is far from ideal, but there were times during the last four years when I would have counted us lucky to get the referendum vote honoured at all.

    Happy New Year!