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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Has the BBC stopped putting bromide in its actors’ tea?

First it was Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. Now actor-songwriter Laurence Fox has veered off the script as well.

A few days ago Fox appeared as the token sleb on the BBC’s political panel show Question Time. Whereupon…

Laurence Fox in racism row over Meghan Markle on Question Time (from the Daily Telegraph on YouTube)

Laurence Fox’s Best Question Time Moments: Climate, Markle, Racism and Labour Leadership (Guido Fawkes)

The entire episode of Question Time (BBC iPlayer)

It was fantastic for Mr Fox. He doubled his Twitter following overnight.

The actors’ union Equity helped spread the story by calling on actors to “unequivocally denounce” their fellow. Yes, those exact words. Equity has now backtracked, but it went to prove Mr Fox’s point.

Oh, and Lily Allen has told Fox to stick to acting “instead of ranting about things you don’t know about”.

How dare they solve our problem!

There is a fascinating article in today’s Observer, “Out of the lab and into your frying pan: the advance of cultured meat”.

(The best comment is from “Tintenfische”: “You call that cultured meat? Pah, not even close. Last week my steak took me to the ballet and a symposium on the evolution of beat poetry as seen through the eye of the beat.”)

The author of the article, Zoë Corbyn – I’ve always liked the name Zoë – describes the background:

To a certain extent, the science of culturing meat is relatively well understood. The process begins when a cell is taken from an animal and grown up in a lab to permanently establish a culture (called a cell line). The cells can come from a range of sources: biopsies of living animals, pieces of fresh meat, cell banks and even the roots of feathers, which JUST has been experimenting with. Cell lines can either be based on primary cells – for example muscle or fat cells – or on stem cells. Stem cells have the advantage that with different nutrients, or genetic modifications, they are able to mature into any cell type. There is also no limit to how long stem-cell lines can live, so it is possible to use them indefinitely to produce a product. Once a good cell line – for example, one that grows fast and is tasty – has been selected, a sample is introduced into a bioreactor, a vat of culture medium where the cells proliferate exponentially and can be harvested. The resulting meat cell mush can be formed into a plethora of unstructured items, from patties to sausages – with or without other ingredients added for texture. Conventional meat has a variety of cell types from which it derives its flavour, including both muscle and fat, and the companies are trying to broadly replicate that.

Not everybody is happy that this hoary science fiction trope seems to be on the point of commercial viability. Apparently an advertisement in the Brussels metro…

…contrasts a barn of cows surrounded by greenery to a “meat lab” surrounded by transmission towers. It is the work of the European Livestock Voice campaign – set up last year by a number of European farming industry groups to stress the potential social impacts of upending the meat industry.

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them. The would-be purveyors of a guilt-free equivalent of meat to vegetarians are also opposed from the other side:

The website Clean Meat Hoax was launched last year by an informal group of 16 animal rights scholars and activists. It rails against cultured meat on the grounds that it still suggests that meat is desirable, and that animals are a resource people can draw on. It contrasts with the more pragmatic position other animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) have taken in favour of the technology on the grounds that animals’ lives will be saved. “What is incredible to me is how uncritically this technology is being celebrated and I don’t think that’s an accident – we don’t want to consider the possibility that we can stop eating animals,” says site founder John Sanbonmatsu, a philosopher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

“Less pragmatic than PETA”: not a concept one meets often. I think the Clean Meat Hoax people have something in common with the opponents of vaping. What really distresses them is that after all their years of exhortations to make the smokers or meat eaters repent, the jammy bastards might be enabled to cease doing the bad thing just like that, with no redeeming pain.

“With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out.”

From the Times:

“Police chief: we ignored sex abuse of children”

Race fears stopped us acting, victim’s father told

A senior police officer admitted that his force ignored the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani grooming gangs for decades because it was afraid of increasing “racial tensions”, a watchdog has ruled.

After a five-year investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) upheld a complaint that the Rotherham officer told a missing child’s distraught father that the town “would erupt” if it was known that Asian men were routinely having sex with under-age white girls.

The chief inspector is said to have described the abuse as “P*** shagging” and to have said it had been “going on” for 30 years: “With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out.”

His incendiary language features in a confidential report by the watchdog that upholds six complaints against South Yorkshire police by a former child victim of sexual exploitation.

But it did come out.

-*-

Some earlier Samizdata posts that are relevant:

If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right

Politically correct evasiveness fails on its own terms

Want to blame someone for Rotherham? Lets start with the Guardian…

Grooming gangs in Rochdale and Rotherham raped with impunity and you won’t believe why!

You keep using that word “economy”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

“UK green economy has shrunk since 2014”, laments the Guardian.

The number of people employed in the “low carbon and renewable energy economy” declined by more than 11,000 to 235,900 between 2014 and 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Green businesses fared little better, seeing their numbers drop from an estimated 93,500 to 88,500 over the same four-year period.

[…]

Critics of the Conservative government’s record of support for the low carbon and renewables sector blamed the Treasury’s dramatic cut in subsidies to the solar power industry for the sudden loss of employment.

Solar panel installers were among the many businesses connected to the industry that went bust after the Treasury cut subsidy payments by 65% in 2015 before abolishing them altogether last year.

Obligatory “Princess Bride” clip for those benighted souls who haven’t seen it.

Two snapshots of our times

1) Eurogamer reports,

PC Specialist ad banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes

An advert for a bespoke PC retailer was banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes of women.

The TV ad, below, for UK retailer PC Specialist, begins with a computer exploding, then shows three men getting excited over using a PC Specialist PC for gaming, making music and coding.

[…]

The Advertising Standards Authority received eight complaints from people who said the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were stereotypically male, and implied it was only men who were interested in technology and computers.

PC Specialist responded to the watchdog to say its customer base was 87.5 per cent male, aged between 15 and 35 years, and “their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad therefore represented a cross-section of the PC Specialist core customer base”.

Ten years ago the Advertising Standards Authority would have said something like, “We just want you to stop portraying women as laughably incompetent at computers until a man helps them. Surely that’s fair? After all, some women are great at computers.” At that time it must have seemed ridiculous to make a fuss about freedom of speech when faced with such a reasonable request. But when the beast is fed it grows stronger.

2) And from the BBC:

Sheffield students paid to tackle racist language on campus

A university is to hire 20 of its own students to challenge language on campus that could be seen as racist.

The University of Sheffield is to pay students to tackle so-called “microaggressions” – which it describes as “subtle but offensive comments”.

They will be trained to “lead healthy conversations” about preventing racism on campus and in student accommodation.

Vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts said the initiative wanted to “change the way people think about racism”.

The students will be paid £9.34 per hour as “race equality champions”, working between two and nine hours per week to tackle “microaggressions” in the university.

These are described as comments or actions which might be unintentional, but which can cause offence to a minority group.

It gives examples of what it means by microaggression – such as:

  • “Stop making everything a race issue”
  • “Why are you searching for things to be offended about?”
  • “Where are you really from?”
  • “I don’t want to hear about your holiday to South Africa. It’s nowhere near where I’m from”
  • “Being compared to black celebrities that I look nothing like”

    Rather than being about controlling people’s speech, the university says it is “opening up a conversation”.

  • Judging from the first two examples, they are allowed to open the conversation but you are not allowed to close it.

    “Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate” says one of its founders

    “I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start”, Stuart Basden explains.

    And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

    And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

    As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

    Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world.

    This article is a year old, but someone on the UK Politics subreddit called “WhereHasCentrismGone” posted it with the comment that it made the now rescinded decision by the police to include Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-terrorism programme seem more reasonable. I think it was out of order for the police to put XR on a terrorism watch list – their stunts annoy but are not violent – but we should be grateful to Mr Basden for reminding us that XR should be avoided by anyone who seriously wants to protect either the environment or their own mental health, seeing as the organisation is an anti-scientific cult fuelled by the neurotic self-hatred of privileged dilletantes in rich countries.

    Let us remember their sacrifice a century ago

    Because if we don’t, who will? I consider myself quite well versed in history, and I am certainly disposed to honour those killed while fighting Communism, yet even I had barely heard of the Soviet-Polish war of 1920. I had not thought of it for years until reminded by a post by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit:

    The war that saved Europe from Communism

    The gamekeeper is on her rounds

    “I implore people to stop using private healthcare: it’s killing the NHS”, writes Jessica Arnold, who is described as “associate director of primary care for NHS Bromley clinical commissioning group”.

    …this is one of the most insidious and immediate ways privatisation is affecting our universal healthcare system – by poaching staff from their NHS jobs. Private hospitals, private diagnostic testing services, private general practices and other privately run services are creating a vicious cycle of detriment. It is a major contributor to the some 100,000 vacancies currently in the NHS today.

    “Poaching” is a strange metaphor to use, given that the “birds” in this case are not being kidnapped by the private sector but leaving the National Health Service to work elsewhere of their own free will. Perhaps Ms Arnold is referring to the eventual destiny of the birds under a gamekeeper’s care that do not get poached.

    Five, six, seven, eight, who do we assassinate?

    Please try not to get arrested, but in the shadow of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, might it not be interesting to have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of assassination?

    Most states, most of the time, follow a rough convention that important government employees – heads of state, government ministers, top brass et cetera – of State A do not assassinate their counterparts in State B, however wicked those counterparts may be. President Trump has shown himself indifferent to that convention. He could be praised for his courage (including personal courage: his own risk of being assassinated has obviously gone up) or damned for his disregard of the evil consequences that are likely to fall on others. In a world where national leaders target each other, wars are more likely.

    Or are they? Did the fact that men like Soleimani could kill minor employees of other governments, not to mention civilians, without much personal risk, actually smooth the path to war? It does seem unjust that those steeped in guilt are sacrosanct while relatively innocent spear-carriers are acceptable targets.

    Here is another question for us and anyone watching us to ponder. Many people have argued strongly over the last few hours that President Trump was right to break the convention of the immunity from assassination of senior state employees. But I have heard no one argue against the convention that only senior state employees can order assassinations.

    ADDED LATER: In the comments “Chester Draws” made a very relevant point:

    There is a convention that political leaders are not killed.

    There is also a convention — literally — that embassies are not to be attacked. Iran broke that one first. And then again recently.

    That fact alone, that until now the Islamic Republic of Iran got away scot-free with invading an embassy and kidnapping diplomats, made me much more willing to approve the unconventional killing of a representative of that government. Let those who boast that the rules do not apply to them learn that in that case the rules do not apply to them.

    Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow comes the Ice.

    Hat tip to Ed Driscoll of Instapundit for at least giving Britain a few hours’ notice of its icy doom.

    The news was first reported by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in the Guardian‘s Sunday sister the Observer on Sun 22 Feb 2004. Since the world did not take the preventative measures the experts warned were necessary it is clear that nothing can save us now:

    Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

    · Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
    · Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years
    · Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

    A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

    Let’s just accept that we live in a low-probability timeline

    Continuing my series of “Newspaper headlines mentioning vaguely newsworthy persons that I thought at first sight were jokes but turned out to be literally true”,

    Prominent lawyer Jolyon Maugham clubs fox to death while wearing kimono.

    Well, I suppose it is traditional to kill foxes on Boxing Day.

    Yesterday’s entry: The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

    The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

    Like it says on the tin, here is a video in which Geoffrey Cox reads ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

    No political point is being made. I just thought he read it rather well. If the politics gig doesn’t work out, a more respectable career awaits him as a voiceover artist.

    Happy [insert festival of choice here, including but not limited to Christmas and Wednesday] to all our readers.