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]

To truly protect freedom of speech, guess what it turns out we have to do?

“To truly protect freedom of speech – a fundamental necessity for meaningful democratic life – we must be alert to how it can become weaponised in ideologically coercive ways. Free speech can become a Trojan horse to gain space and attention for retrograde ideas that do not really merit debate. Pretending that all ideas must always be treated as equally valid and worthy of discussion in the idealised “marketplace of ideas” allows discredited ones – such as race science – to be covertly rehabilitated.”

– Priyamvada Gopal and Gavan Titley in a piece for the Guardian called “The free speech row at Cambridge will restrict, not expand, expression”.

Did you guess what was coming?

And the lesson for today is…

…from the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 20, Verses 12-19:

12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 

13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses – the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil – his armoury and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, ‘What did those men say, and where did they come from?’

‘From a distant land,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘They came from Babylon.’

15 The prophet asked, ‘What did they see in your palace?’

‘They saw everything in my palace,’ Hezekiah said. ‘There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.’

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: 

17 the time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 

18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’

19 ‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’

While I would not go so far as to claim this post was divinely inspired, 2 Kings 20: 12-19 actually was the lesson in a church service broadcast on Radio 3 on Wednesday morning. I caught a little of it while in the car heading down to Bisley to perform an activity that once would have been proudly described as contributing to national security. (Do not try this line now.)

Anyway, for some reason over the next few days I found myself paying a little more attention to news stories like this one from today’s South China Morning Post,

“US blacklists about 60 more Chinese firms including top chip maker SMIC and drone manufacturer DJI”,

…or to this one from the BBC two days ago, “Huawei: Uighur surveillance fears lead PR exec to quit”,

Or to any of a thousand others. But what is the lesson for today? What should we do about the threat from the People’s Republic of China? “War is the health of the state”, wrote Randolph Bourne, and cold war is its daily vitamin pill. It was not so long ago that people like me were enthusiasts for China’s turn to capitalism. I still am, mostly. Now that their rulers have cast off all but the fig leaf of communism, a significant fraction of the human race has been lifted out of poverty in my lifetime. The Chinese people are not free, but they are much more free than they were in the days when the Eight Revolutionary Operas were almost literally the only music allowed. I am happy for them.

Yet when I see that famous video of Joe Biden, the man soon to take up residence in the White House, jovially saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man”, I cannot but remember the words of the prophet:

And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’

‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’

The interim director of Liberty comes near to defending liberty

While Gracie Mae Bradley does not go all the way, her opinion piece in the Guardian, “How the British government is trying to crush our right to protest”, does get close to an actual defence of liberty.

In 2020 each of us has faced criminalisation for leaving the house without a “reasonable excuse”. Police have used surveillance drones to shame people walking in national parks. And countless people have been wrongly criminalised under the rushed and draconian Coronavirus Act, which also contains powers to force people to quarantine, close our borders, and even postpone some elections. And in all of this, parliament has been sidelined, with some lockdown laws, which have regulated aspects of our daily lives to a minute degree, coming into force at the stroke of a minister’s pen, with parliament given an opportunity to vote only weeks later.

Here is the moment when she defends the right to protest of those with whom she disagrees:

Across the board, the response from the government and police has raised cause for serious concern. Scores of people have been arrested for taking to the streets to protest against lockdown restrictions.

It was never going to last. The brief encounter with libertarian principle over, she marks her return to respectability by reciting the names of the holy things.

We could be disheartened, but instead we should look to the many powerful protest movements that have persisted nonetheless – from school climate strikers, to opponents of the exam “mutant algorithm”, to people fighting for racial equality. It’s up to all of us to protect our hard-won freedoms: 2021 is going to be hard enough for the government – it should drop this protest bill before it sees the light of day.

Indeed it should. But one does not have to agree with the climate strikers or BLM to think so.

His offence is “failure to condemn”

“Tory George Eustice fails to condemn Millwall fans who booed players for taking the knee”, the Mirror reports.

A Tory Cabinet minister has failed to condemn Millwall fans who booed players for taking the knee in support of black people’s rights.

George Eustice said people who express a view on fighting racism should be “respected”, but stopped short of directly condemning the outburst at Millwall’s ground The Den yesterday.

Millwall FC today said it was “dismayed and saddened” after some fans booed players who briefly took the knee at the start of a match against Derby County.

The gesture has been followed by footballers up and down the country in solidarity with black people and the Black Lives Matter movement.

But Tory minister Mr Eustice today said Black Lives Matter was “actually a political movement” which is different to “standing up for racial equality.”

The Times report on the same story is behind a paywall, but the most interesting thing about it is not the report itself but the readers’ comments. An early version of the story was posted on the Times website last night. That version contained the words,

A cabinet minister has ignored majority opinion by describing Black Lives Matter as a “political movement”

Of the twenty most popular comments, ten questioned that now-vanished statement and all twenty supported Eustice. In fact one would have to scroll past a lot more than twenty before finding anyone who did not agree with Eustice. The twenty-first most popular comment was by someone going by the name of “Bogbrush” who asked, “Do all footballers now have to do this before every game, forever?”

Another commenter, “Middlesbrough Man”, said that, “Interestingly my team does not ‘take the knee’ on the recommendation of our captain, who recommends community action not political gestures”. Middlesbrough’s captain is Britt Assombalonga, who also plays for the national team of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Welcome to the future

‘Why did it take nine hours to go 130 miles in our new electric Porsche?’, was the question Linda Barnes and her mysteriously un-named husband found themselves asking at the end of a very long day, as reported by the Guardian:

A couple from Kent have described how it took them more than nine hours to drive 130 miles home from Bournemouth as they struggled to find a working charger capable of producing enough power to their electric car.

Linda Barnes and her husband had to visit six charging stations as one after another they were either out of order, already had a queue or were the slow, older versions that would never be able to provide a fast enough charge in the time.

While the couple seem to have been “incredibly unlucky”, according to the president of the AA, Edmund King, their case highlights some of the problems that need ironing out before electric car owners can rely on the UK’s charging infrastructure.

Though beset by tribulations, Ms Barnes keeps the faith:

Linda says she now knows why most drivers charge their cars at home overnight and avoid using the public network. “Our car is lovely to drive and electric cars are the future. However, someone needs to get a grip of the charging infrastructure,” she says.

Buried deep within that paragraph lies the answer to her question.

Ne laissez jamais une crise se perdre

As President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

The Daily Mail reports,

French parents are to be BANNED from home-schooling their kids as part of Emmanuel Macron’s fight back against Islamic extremism

Parents who home-school their children could face up to six months in prison under new measures to combat Islamic extremism in France.

The bill, which was unveiled on Wednesday, will make it a crime for children to be taught at home.

It is an attempt to stop children from being influenced by religious radicals, the Times reported.

It comes after the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded last month after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class during a lesson on free speech.

Samuel Paty was murdered by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Muslim Russian refugee of Chechen ethnicity.

Not home schooled then. Certainly not home schooled in France. But what about the perpetrators of other Islamic terrorist attacks in France? The relevant Wikipedia article does not make it easy to tell, since someone has decided to remove the names of the terrorists. But so far as I know none of the perpetrators of the biggest terrorist outrages in France were homeschooled. Like their counterparts in the UK they were typically products of their country’s state education system who first turned to petty crime and then were “redeemed” by Islam.

Dear Guardian readers, everything you think you know about who supports Trump is wrong. Love, The Guardian.

Even though most of its conclusions were known well before the US election took place, something tells me that the Graun would not have published anything even slightly resembling this most interesting piece by Musa al-Gharbi before November 3rd: “White men swung to Biden. Trump made gains with black and Latino voters. Why?”

While on that subject, allow me to shoehorn in two quick thoughts I have had about the current situation in America that I have not had time to expand into full posts.

Thought No.1: Hunter Biden’s laptop has not gone away.

Thought No.2: Joe Biden’s mental decline is not going to reverse itself.

History repeats itself: alcohol prohibition in Bihar

The Indian news channel News 18 reports:

On April 1, 2016, Bihar was declared a dry state. The JD(U)-led government enforced a five-year jail term for first-time offenders. In 2018, the law was amended to introduce a fine for first-time offenders. The sweeping victory in 2015 was attributed to the support of women who felt addressed by Nitish’s push for prohibition in Bihar.

In America a century ago women hoped that prohibition would stop so many wives being beaten by their drunken husbands. But National Geographic tells the story of how

Women campaigned for Prohibition—then many changed their minds

As then in the US, so now in Bihar:

However, the factor may have worked against him this time.

A female voter in Muzaffarpur said, “Liquor is still being sold illegally in the state. Those selling it are getting prosperous by the day and those consuming it are getting ruined. Alcohol is being sold under wraps and consumed in every other house. Families are being devastated. The police are party to this as well. They allow alcohol to infiltrate borders. My son earns and wastes all the money in drinking. There has been no alcohol ban.”

And

In a letter to the state government last year, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies quoted data from Bihar police, National Crime Records Bureau and ministry of transport and highway to press home the point that the liquor ban in Bihar has not reduced crime. The letter states that the ban has also boosted the sale of bootlegged alcohol, fetching profit margins of 400 per cent, while the lucrative opportunity has led to the rise of a powerful liquor mafia.

Half of rural women in Bihar are illiterate. I cannot blame them for not knowing the story of how prohibition turned out in a faraway country a hundred years earlier:

How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

Kingpins like Al Capone were able to rake in up to $100 million each year thanks to the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal booze.

Modern-day prohibitionists in the rich world have no such excuse. Nor do Indian politicians such as the aforementioned Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar. They can read. They have the internet. They can easily find out how this story always ends.

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

As they say on TV Tropes, “Nice job breaking it, Hero!”

In 2018 Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of committing sexual assault approximately 36 years previously, when he was a teenager. There were no witnesses to the alleged assault. We have only her word for it that the two of them ever met. The people she said she had talked to about it at the time said they had no such memory. She could not say in whose house or even in which year the alleged assault had happened.

The mainstream media devoted thousands of hours to her story.

In 2020 Tony Bobulinski accused Joe Biden of having lied when he (Joe Biden) said that he was not involved in the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, and had never even discussed them. Tony Bobulinski is unquestionably Hunter Biden’s former business partner. There are thousands of emails exchanged between them on Hunter Biden’s laptop. (That it was Hunter Biden’s laptop has never been denied by the Biden campaign.) The accusation relates to events only a few years ago. Tony Bobulinski has specified to the hour the exact occasions when he says that he spoke with Joe Biden about Hunter Biden’s business deals in China and the Ukraine.

The great names of the mainstream media refused to even look.

The Managing Editor for News of America’s National Public Radio spoke for American journalism when he said,

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”

The tabloid New York Post which broke the story was censored by Twitter and Facebook.

First thousands, then millions of people from America and around the world went to look at the NYP story and found their way blocked. Those who tried to share it got the message, “Your Tweet couldn’t be sent because the link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful. Visit our Help Center to learn more.”

Now, as some of you may have heard, the Americans have held an election. The outcome is contested. There are claims of voter fraud. Project Veritas has videos. This comment by Shlomo Maistre contains seven links to tweets discussing strange events at counting sites across the US. He says other tweets he bookmarked have disappeared. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole… “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about how to participate in an election or another civic process. Learn more.” “In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal.’” One blogger even found himself abruptly banned from Facebook for sharing links about dubious fact checkers in a private message.

The mainstream media in the US and their chums in the UK and elsewhere (the whole lot of them are practically one entity by now) would really, really like to convince Americans that there has been no vote fraud.

Yeah, right. I am sure that the press will investigate this story with all the fearless diligence it showed in investigating Hunter’s emails.

The BBC used to at least pretend to be impartial

The current BBC News headline is:

LIVE US vote goes to wire as Trump falsely claims fraud

The URL above is just the standard https://www.bbc.co.uk/news. The content to which it links will change. I have tried to insert a screenshot of the current headline below. I am very tired. My apologies if I have got it wrong:

How does the BBC know Trump’s claim is false? Has it carried out an investigation?

Not that I deny that the BBC has longstanding expertise when it comes to matters of fraud:

Princess Diana’s brother accuses BBC of ‘whitewash’ over faked bank statements that led to historic Panorama interview

Is anything happening?

Just curious.

Resign, then.

The Times reports,

Staying neutral impossible after Black Lives Matter, says National Gallery chief

The head of the National Gallery has said the Black Lives Matters movement meant it was no longer feasible to remain politically neutral with silence now viewed as complicity.

Gabriele Finaldi told his board of trustees that in the past the museums funded directly by the government such as the National Gallery, Tate and British Museum had “refrained from making political statements”. Since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year “a neutral stance was no longer feasible”, he said.

He added that in the past the state-funded institutions looking after national collections would try to “respond to events through its activities”. According to minutes of a board meeting in June, Mr Finaldi then said “that the climate had changed so that silence was now perceived as being complicit”.

Perceived by whom? Why doesn’t Mr Finaldi say who these people whose perceptions matter so much are? He talks about “the climate” as if it were something external and objective but I see nothing more than the opinions of his set.

Whatever “the climate” may mean, the National Gallery is not the only public institution living in this particular climate zone:

In June of this year most of the national museums, including the Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum and the Tate, released statements supporting the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. Widespread demonstrations had taken place after the killing of George Floyd by police in the United States.

Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, wrote that “we are aligned with the spirit and soul of Black Lives Matter everywhere” while Sir Ian Blatchford, the director of the Science Museum, said it haunted him “that there have been too many false dawns, too many speeches and broken promises” in the battle for racial equality.

Times readers do not constitute a representative sample of the electorate, but I found it significant that out of the 194 reader comments so far I found precisely one that seemed to support Mr Finaldi, and that one might have been sarcasm.