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]

This month’s heresy is next month’s orthodoxy

“YouTube suspends Rand Paul for a week over a video disputing the effectiveness of masks”, reports the New York Times.

I have no strong opinion on the question, but Senator Rand Paul is also Doctor Rand Paul, so his medical opinion holds some weight. This post on Rumble takes you to the video that got him banned: “It Is Time For Unfiltered News”

As Glenn Greenwald points out,

JUST LAST WEEK: Biden’s former COVID adviser, the epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, told @camanpour [the CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour] exactly the same thing.

YouTube and Facebook* play a merry game. On April 16 2020, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s “VP Integrity”, posted “An Update on Our Work to Keep People Informed and Limit Misinformation About COVID-19”. That post is as good as a soap opera; the writers are always adding new and dramatic plot twists.

On February 8, 2021 at 10:00AM PT, they announced that claims that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured” would be removed.

On May 26, 2021 at 3:30PM PT, they said, “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.”

In like spirit, Dr Paul is doing no more than returning to the medical orthodoxy before last. From the Independent, Thursday 12 March 2020:

Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

*I initially mistyped that as Facesbook, and my spellchecker, set, of course, to British spellings, suggested an amusing alternative.

“We need information crimes”

Until Brexit, “Green Molly” a.k.a. Molly Scott Cato was a Green Party MEP. She is currently the Green Party External Communications Coordinator and Speaker on Economy and Finance.

On July 29th she tweeted,

UK Covid patients tell of regrets over refusing jab

These stories make me terribly sad

She was referring to this Guardian article. Thus far, I agreed with her. The Guardian article by Sarah Marsh is unashamedly emotional, but it derives its power to convince by letting named ordinary people speak for themselves. However Ms Scott Cato thinks that humans speaking to other humans about their own brush with death or the deaths of their relatives is not a good enough persuasive strategy. She continued,

But they also make me angry with people who spread lies on social media

In the information age it seems to me we need information crimes

And punishments to match

In a sense Ms Scott Cato is right. She does need information crimes. Her party and the worldwide Green movement (of which parties with “Green” in their name are a minor part) have a vision for humanity that goes far beyond trees and whales, and they know they will not get the public to comply if gadflies and malcontents are allowed to bring up information that contradicts the official line. In particular they need information that shows how many of their previous predictions never came to pass to be criminalised.

Related:

“George Monbiot comes out in favour of censorship”, a post I made in January about Mr Monbiot’s article “Covid lies cost lives – we have a duty to clamp down on them”.

And found via Instapundit today, “‘Health misinformation’ should be a federal crime, First Amendment law professor says”.

Sorry mate, I can’t afford to risk giving you a job

The BBC reports that the Labour Party now says, “Give workers full rights from day one.”

Workers should be given “full” employment rights from day one, Labour has said as it announces plans to “fundamentally change the economy”.

Currently some rights – such as being able to request flexible working – only kick in at a later stage.

This would fundamentally change the economy all right. No more probationary periods. No more casual employment of the sort which survey after survey shows most casual employees value for the freedom it gives them. In Labour’s brave new world if you employ someone for one day, you will be stuck with them. In that case, you had better be very sure before you take anyone on. An end, then, to giving someone outside the usual pool of recruits a chance to prove themselves. The safe course for employers will be to avoid hiring women (who might clock in on day one and clock off for paid maternity leave on day two), to avoid hiring young people (who have not had a chance to establish a record of steadiness), to avoid hiring anyone with the slightest blemish on their record, or whose class or race might make them statistically risky, and to stick with employing people who they can size up on little evidence, which again usually means their own ethnic group. There is no need to assume actual racism or class hatred, just the universal human tendency to behave defensively when the cost of making a mistake is very high.

Will Labour also get rid of cooling off periods for people who make major purchases?

Or how about applying the same rules to sex? We know that a set of laws that forbid the very existence of casual sexual relationships can be stable: that was the system enforced for centuries in the West and still is in many parts of the world now. Hence the the saying “marry in haste, repent at leisure”. The aim of those rules is to force all sexual relationships to be permanent, or at the very least difficult to dissolve. They generally succeed in that aim, although there are unintended consequences. While I am all for voluntary fidelity in marriage, legal enforcement of a “marriage or nothing” system results in many more incels, old maids, and people stuck in destructive marriages. I see no reason why rules to discourage casual employment should not work in a similar manner to rules which discourage casual sex. Is that what the Labour party wants?

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.

Deleting the weather report to make the rain go away

“Facebook axes team over far-right data”, says the Times.

Facebook has disbanded one of its teams after the data they produced suggested that far-right commentators outperformed all other users.

Facebook executives, including Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, became concerned that the CrowdTangle tool was being used by journalists to produce embarrassing evidence that right-wing content was read more than anything else on the platform.

The analytics tool is owned by Facebook but is available to the public. It is one of the only ways for users to measure how well a post is doing in terms of being shared, commented on, liked or receiving a reaction emoji.

Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, told colleagues last September that he was concerned “our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative”, according to The New York Times.

CrowdTangle’s data showed that in the US the links posted on Facebook to other websites which got the most engagement was to content by right-wing commentators such as Ben Shapiro and the Fox News host Sean Hannity, and to right-wing sites including Breitbart and Newsmax.

A commenter called LucasTheCat gave me the title for this post when they responded, “This is strange for two reasons – none of the commentators listed are what I would consider to be ‘far right’ and isn’t removing the report – the same as taking the weather report out of your paper – because you don’t like the weather – or am I missing something?”

By the way, the idea that Nick Clegg was released on the world deliberately is a fringe conspiracy theory that Facebook has rightly banned. The current theory is that he was accidentally leaked from an insufficiently secured British political system.

“Many Trump supporters don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know with apodictic certainty that the press, the FBI, and even the courts would lie to them if they were”

Hat tip to commenter Shlomo Maistre for this link to an important piece by Darryl Cooper, published by Glenn Greenwald on his Substack site.

Who are these people?

And what does “apodictic” mean?

“Apodictic” means “clearly established or beyond dispute”. I first read it as “apocalyptic” and honestly that word would have worked as a political metaphor. For a worldview of basic trust in American institutions that has has held sway for more than a century, these are the end times.

Glenn Greenwald is a left wing independent journalist and blogger. He first came to my attention circa 2003 when he was against the Iraq war when I and most of the people I followed were for it. To be frank the main reason I remembered his name was a silly incident when he got caught out bigging up his own reputation under a different name. That was nearly twenty years ago. I now say without irony that he is one of the journalists I most admire in the world. He used to work for the Guardian, but wanted more independence so he resigned from there in 2013 to join with two other people and found a news outlet called the Intercept. Then when the Intercept tried to stop him writing about the Hunter Biden laptop story he resigned from there and went over to Substack. Greenwald is wrong about many things. But he is that strange, old-fashioned type of person, a reporter who won’t shut up for the good of the Party.

Darryl Cooper, who goes by the Twitter handle of “MartyrMade”, is a podcast host who thought he had given up Twitter. Then he got talking to a friend’s mother about Trump and the US election, and decided to crystallise the conversation in a series of thirty-five tweets that went viral. Fox News host Tucker Carlson read out most of the sequence on air. Donald Trump mentioned him by name. His current article, the one this post is about, is that Twitter thread all in one place. Here it is: Author of the Mega-Viral Thread on MAGA Voters, Darryl Cooper, Explains His Thinking.

Reading this from another country, I want to home in on one thing. There is much about the whole Trump phenomenon starting from his election in 2016 and ending four years later that I do not understand. I do not know the truth of every claim and counter-claim. But I do know one thing with apodictic, apocalyptic certainty. If they – Twitter and Facebook and the Democrat-supporting media, which is most of the media in the English-speaking world including the UK, and the FBI and the CIA, who the media used to boast of holding to account but are now their bosom friends – did find evidence of election fraud, they would not tell us. They would lie and censor just like they did about the contents of Hunter’s laptop.

That knowledge is not in itself proof that fraud did occur. But every belief about the world is buttressed by the unspoken certainty that if something turned up to contradict it, we would be told. When that buttress is kicked away one starts to wonder about a lot of previously unquestioned beliefs.

Edit: Great minds think alike. Unknown to me, while I was typing out this post my Illuminated colleague was posting the video of Tucker Carlson reading out Darryl Cooper’s thread.

It was a bad career move to be the first one to object

“Parents’ disgust as Labour council hires actor in rainbow coloured monkey costume with fake penis and nipples to appear at library event encouraging children to read”, reports the Daily Mail.

Parents have voiced their disgust after a Labour council hired an actor in a rainbow-coloured monkey costume with a fake penis and nipples to appear at a library event for children.

The Redbridge Libraries Summer Reading Challenge run by Redbridge Council in east London set up the event but the library has since apologised for the ‘inappropriate’ costume.

A full investigation has also been launched by the council to get to the bottom of how taxpayers’ money was used to hire the actors.

Labour councillor Jas Athwal has apologised and tweeted: ‘I was appalled by the incident in Redbridge Libraries on Saturday.

‘Completely inappropriate and deeply offensive performers were hired by independent contractor Vision who manage Redbridge libraries and leisure centres.

So it was just a mistake, then? The actors’ agency mixed up the booking for the children’s library with the one for the Pride parade? Not quite. Early complainers were blocked on twitter and told off for “lecturing”. It seems the same performers in the same costumes have appeared in other libraries. The Labour council can repeat the words “independent contractor” all they want but nobody is under the impression that this would be equally likely to happen under a Conservative council. The SNP, however…

I was haunted by one of the pictures in the Mail story that shows a woman in a burka walking by in the street while the rainbow monkey man moons her. He thinks performance, she thinks insult. I do not think that woman is likely to take her kid to the next Summer Reading Challenge. That is a pity: it concerns me that so many British Muslim children do not read well. However my opinions about rainbow monkey man strutting his stuff in the public street are difficult to summarise and are not the topic of this post. I talked about some of the friction that arises when groups with very different mores exert their right to parade in a post from two years ago called ‘If you want Pride you must allow the cry of “Shame!”’ which concerned events in Walthamstow, which like nearby Redbridge has a substantial Muslim population.

What I wanted to talk about this time related more to the events in the library, specifically the question asked on Twitter by Janice Turner of the Times: “I would really love a detailed breakdown of the commissioning process whereby Redbridge council commissioned the Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey as a means to teach children to read.” How did this happen? Why did no one question it? Someone looked up Mandinga Arts on the internet and ticked the box saying yes they want that costume for an event aimed at children of primary school age. The actor got into said costume, arranged his dildo, and set off for the library. Did someone direct him to the children’s section? At the library the staff no doubt shuffled their feet a bit (the staff member at the earlier event at Exeter library seemed to have been taken aback by the full frontal) but so far as I can tell the eventual complaint came from a parent, not a librarian, despite the fact that it should have been obvious that many of the ethnic minority and working class parents and children libraries say they want to reach most would be repelled by this. No one spoke up. Why not?

My guess as to the answer is the title of this post.

Stealthing

Olivia Petter has written two articles for the Sunday Times about her experience of being “stealthed” that have generated much discussion. She explains the term as follows, “What happened to me, and the other women I heard from, is known colloquially as “stealthing”. It’s a term used to describe the act of removing a condom without a partner’s consent.”

The first article was published on June 27th: “I saw the condom on the floor – and realised I’d been ‘stealthed'”

Extract:

That’s when I noticed the condom lying on the floor. “Oh yeah, I wasn’t wearing it when I came,” he said, strolling back into the bedroom naked. “You should probably get the morning-after pill.”

I was sexually assaulted that day, though I didn’t know it at the time. Stealthing, as it’s colloquially known, is a crime in England. It is recognised by the Crown Prosecution Service as an example of a “conditional consent” case, whereby consent is granted under conditions that are then vitiated: I had consented to having protected sex with Sam, not unprotected sex.

Her second article appears in today’s Sunday Times: “Recognising being ‘stealthed’ as rape is shocking. After my story, women wanted to talk”

Discussing the reaction to her earlier article, Ms Petter writes,

There is nothing ambiguous about sexual assault – consent is either violated or it isn’t – but I’ve found that there tends to be a lot of ambiguity surrounding it. There are currently more than 260 online comments underneath my piece, and they’re mostly between people debating what does and does not constitute rape. One woman explained she felt that referring to stealthing as rape “dilutes” the experiences of others who may not have consented to any form of sexual contact. Others concurred that it “diminishes” other people’s experiences, while one person wrote that Sam deserved “a good sound thrashing”, but that calling his actions “rape” devalued the word’s definition.

I felt the above passage was a fair reflection of the two main strands of opinion in the comments, two strands that are not entirely in opposition to each other. All agree that as described, the behaviour of “Sam” was despicable and did violate Ms Petter’s consent.

But was it rape?

It depends what you mean by rape. That answer is not a cop-out. It is the only possible answer to that sort of definitional question, which is why that sort of question will be debated forever. It would do more good to ask something more specific like “Should it fall under the definition of rape in law?”

By the way, another question that can never be settled is whether transgender women really are women. It depends how you define the word “woman”. It often seems to me that there would be more scope for respectful compromise if people could agree to differ on the definition and get down to questions of what to do in difficult cases.

Returning to Olivia Petter’s article, I felt she lost her way in the next paragraph after the one I quoted above. She writes,

This debate highlights one of the key problems with regards to how we talk about sexual assault: that there is a spectrum of experiences, with “extreme” stories on one end, and ones that are somehow “lesser” on the other. It perpetuates the idea that some assaults are more worthy of our attention than others. Not only does this ignore the fact that sexual trauma of any kind can have lasting consequences for survivors, but it’s the very thing that stops people like Jess, Sally and myself from feeling like they have the right to say they’ve been raped when, under UK law, they have. And, as I know all too well, grappling with that feeling alongside sexual trauma can be incredibly isolating and, in some instances, means that the perpetrator is more likely to be vindicated, which may enable them to assault someone else.

Of course there is a spectrum of seriousness. Of course some experiences of sexual assault are extreme and some lesser – while still bad. Of course some assaults are more worthy of our attention than others. The most serious sexual assaults are most worthy of our attention, and the police’s attention, and the attention of judges, and the attention of those who provide support to victims, and the attention of lawmakers, and sociologists, and teachers, and parents, and media commentators, and of the public… and none of this in any way excuses the perpetrators or disrespects the victims of less extreme but still despicable violations of consent.

Hey, Scottish council workers, how about we use your pension to build social housing?

To its credit the Times publishes several columnists who go against the opinions of its readers. Sometimes, however, I suspect that the Times ignobly picks writers who are not the best ambassadors for their causes. The readership of the paper’s Scotland section is devoutly Unionist. Every week Fiona Rintoul reminds them why. In an article called “Scotland can prosper once we take the wheel”, she writes:

Fresh ideas have also come from Jim Osborne, of the Scottish Banking and Finance Group. He has proposed reforming the pension system to benefit pensioners and the wider community. Scotland’s council pension funds, which control £45.5 billion of assets, could, he feels, help to support the expansion of Scotland’s social housing stock. This chimes with global developments in pension funds’ asset allocation. With bond yields at historic lows, pension funds are turning to infrastructure investments for yield.

Osborne has also suggested that Scottish local authorities be allowed to issue municipal bonds to power spending. Again, this chimes with global developments as bond markets diversify. Scottish local authority “munis” could form suitable investments for pension funds too.

In Lebanon, the leaves are falling off the magic money tree

This excellent article in the US Spectator by Paul Wood is two weeks old. That probably means all the prices he quotes should by now have an extra zero at the end. The vividness of his portrayal of Lebanon as the magic stops working is unaffected, so read it anyway: “What happens when your currency collapses?”

An extract:

The government continues to insist that for imports of some vital goods — food, fuel and medicines — the lira is worth the fictional rate of 1,500 to the dollar. What this means is vast government subsidies to import these goods.

This has had some perverse effects. For a long time, you could fill up your car for about five bucks. The gas station would charge you, say, 60,000 lira, which was $40 at the official exchange rate, except your lira would have come from the black market at a fraction of that. As any economist will tell you, if you don’t ration by price, you ration by queuing, as in the Soviet Union. So there have been long lines at gas stations and now actual rationing, a quarter of a tank per customer — and that’s if you can find a gas station open at all. A side effect of the fuel shortage is that the internet is slowing to a crawl, sometimes breaking down altogether. The commonly accepted explanation is that there’s not enough diesel to run the power plant belonging to the national phone and internet company.

It’s the same with medicines. We’ve just bought a year’s course of treatment for our daughter’s nanny, who has breast cancer. We went to the hospital with 225 million lira in cash. It filled a small backpack. Those lira cost some $15,000 on the black market but they paid for $150,000 worth of medicines at the official exchange rate.

Lebanon is temporarily the cheapest place in the world to have cancer. People are coming here for treatment; subsidized medicines of all kinds are being smuggled abroad. A hypertension drug named Atacand has turned up for sale in Kinshasa, at $20 a box. It was bought in Lebanon for $2 a box. Atacand is therefore unobtainable here now. One report about this absurd situation quoted a Lebanese expat in Kinshasa who was buying the drug there to send back to his village at home.

The human will to self-deception is strong. There are some who will read this article and only take in one line: “Lebanon is temporarily the cheapest place in the world to have cancer.” There are some in Lebanon living through these events who will only take in one thought: “Isn’t it great how fuel, food and medicine are so cheap now!” They will not ask themselves why they are so hard to get, or why, as Mr Wood mentions elsewhere in the article, half of Lebanon’s doctors have left to work abroad.

“The background and motive of yesterday’s attacks were unclear”

The above is a quote from a Times article with the title

“Three dead after knifeman goes on rampage in Bavarian city of Würzburg”.

At least three people were killed and several more injured in an apparent spree of stabbings in the Bavarian city of Würzburg.

A 24 year-old man from Somalia

There is more, but I have quoted the part relevant to what I want to say in this post. Almost every comment to the Times piece (those that have not been replaced with the phrase “This comment violated our policy”) sneers at the evasion. Journalists, please stop doing this “motives unclear” thing. It dos not decrease hostility towards Muslims, it increases it.

They have been playing this stupid game for a long time. I often find it illuminating to link back to old Samizdata posts that share a common theme with whatever I am posting about now. Here is one from 2011: “Two contrasting articles by Michael Tomasky on spree killers”. It feels like yesterday. For one mass-murderer Mr Tomasky wrote,

You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.

For the other,

We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions.

and

We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped, as Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and political persuasions do.

To call it “Project Cassandra” was hubris

As soon as I saw it I thought of psychohistory. I was not alone, judging from the most recommended comment to this fascinating Guardian article:

‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war

An extract:

In one of his last reports to the defence ministry, towards the end of 2019, Wertheimer had drawn attention to an interesting development in the Caucasus. The culture ministry of Azerbaijan had recently supplied libraries in Georgia with books carrying explicit anti-Armenian messages, such as the works of poet Khalil Rza Uluturk. There were signs, he warned, that Azerbaijan was ramping up propaganda efforts in the brewing territorial conflict with its neighbouring former Soviet republic.

War broke out a year later: 6,000 soldiers and civilians died in a six-week battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the war to bolster his strongman image, hailing Armenia’s defeat in December as a “glorious victory”. Russia, traditionally allied with Armenia, successfully leveraged the conflict to consolidate its influence in the region. Germany and the EU, meanwhile, looked on and stayed silent: being able to predict the future is one thing, knowing what to do with the information is another.