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]

Hundreds, I tell you, hundreds!

Hundreds of demonstrators take part in Million People March

The sad story of Scots Wikipedia

Hats off to the Guardian for the pun in this headline:

Shock an aw: US teenager wrote huge slice of Scots Wikipedia

Nineteen-year-old says he is ‘devastated’ after being accused of cultural vandalism

The Scots Wikipedia entry on the Canada goose – or “Canadae guiss” – was at first honest about its provenance. A tag warned: “The ‘Scots’ that wis uised in this airticle wis written bi a body that’s mither tongue isna Scots. Please impruive this airticle gin ye can.”

But, as the author grew in confidence, so he removed the caveat, and continued on his Scots-writing spree.

Now an American teenager – who does not speak Scots, the language of Robert Burns – has been revealed as responsible for almost half of the entries on the Scots language version of Wikipedia.

If you are wondering how a nineteen year old managed to be responsible for creating or editing tens of thousands of articles, the answer is simple:

He wrote: “I was only a 12-year-old kid when I started, and sometimes when you start something young, you can’t see that the habit you’ve developed is unhealthy and unhelpful as you get older.”

Naming no names except my own, that sounds like a few of us here. Ten edits a day, most days, for two and a half thousand days. The work of half his life. The thing that made him special. And now they revile him for it. Believe me, I am not laughing when I call this a sad story.

Believe me, too, when I say I do not want to mock Scots. The Samizdata “Languages” category includes many other posts by me about endangered tongues. I want them to survive and grow. A world where everyone spoke only one language would be a grey place, and one more likely to fall to tyranny. For many a soul living under oppression their knowledge of something other than the majority language has been the one window to freer times or places that the censors could not brick up. Less portentously, I like the vigorous style of Scots. The fact that it is mostly mutually intelligible with English English has been the source of endless arguments about whether it is a dialect of English or a language in its own right. It is a pity that this question has been politicised. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that although Scots was a separate language in the Middle Ages, enough linguistic convergence has occurred to say that nowadays it is a dialect of English. There is nothing wrong with that. It would be equally valid to say Standard English and Scots are both dialects on the continuum of English (and that the group as a whole is called “English” is just a matter of historically familiar terminology, not an attribution of superiority. Brits should remember that if numbers of speakers were the criterion that decided the name of this language we would be speaking American.)

It is a sad reflection on the state of Scots that nobody stopped “AmaryllisGardner” for five seven years. Scarcely anyone seems to have questioned him. I cannot help thinking this fiasco would never have happened if linguists and the penumbra of people who are “into” languages had not been so down on prescriptivism. After all, if there truly is no correct or incorrect way to use language, our laddie’s version of Scots has as much claim to be right as the one they speak in Glasgow.

I am an anti-prescriptivist myself when it comes to daily life. It is wrong to sneer at anyone for their local mode of speech, and still worse to beat it out of them as was common in the past. The variety of any language that has become the standard did not do so because of any intrinsic superiority; it was mere chance. Nonetheless a command of standard English can unlock doors across the world for children in Barlanark, as it does for children in Brixton or Beijing. Fortunately children are good at picking up more than one language and code-switching between them.

Meanwhile, in debate I will continue to extol both languages and Wikipedia as splendid examples of spontaneous order. They still are. Most of the time.

The Royal Opera House did not perform as expected, and nor did a woman surrounded by a mob

Sometimes I start to make a Samizdata post and then that silly business of Real Life gets in the way and the post is left to languish as a draft. And sometimes Real Life comes back months later and tells me I was right the first time: there was a story there worth talking about.

That is how I come to be posting about a Times report dating from early June on August 27th.

On June 10th 2020, the Times reported:

Royal Opera House under fire for ‘silence’ on Black Lives Matter protests

The Royal Opera House has been described as an “unrelentingly white organisation” by a senior employee who said he was “ashamed” of its silence over the death of George Floyd.

Mark Dakin, the organisation’s technical director, said it had paid “lip service to the inclusion and progression of a black and minority ethnic workforce”.

In an email which has been posted on the Royal Opera House intranet Mr Dakin said he had “only an exhausting, burning rage and desolate sadness that still nothing has changed . . . you continue to exclude us”.

He said that during the Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of Mr Floyd the Royal Opera House was “silent and chooses to not even show public solidarity”.

Mr Dakin, who joined in 2016 to run Covent Garden’s technical and production department after 20 years with the National Theatre, said that unlike other organisations the Royal Opera House had not sufficiently supported #blackouttuesday on June 2.

Mr Dakin, who grew up as an adopted child in Bristol with a white family, also claimed that the Royal Opera House had continually declined to publicly support Black History Month.

In an open letter posted on the website of Stage Sight Mr Dakin said he was “ashamed the organisation for which I work has chosen to exercise the privilege of staying publicly silent about the racist murder of the African American George Floyd, proactively choosing to ignore #blackouttuesday, as it always publicly ignores Black History Month.”

Mr Dakin’s “burning rage” at the Royal Opera House for the horrible crime of not participating in his favoured hashtag campaigns that were utterly unrelated to opera seemed almost comical in June. Less so in August.

America’s Woke Red Guards Enforcing Goodthink by Harassing D.C. Restaurants Patrons

That was from PJ Media. A little to my surprise even the Independent seemed to have cottoned on to the idea that a mob surrounding a random woman and berating her for not making a gesture of solidarity at their demand might be a bad look. Interestingly the woman in the pink top, Lauren B. Victor, is herself a supporter of BLM but was commendably resistant to being coerced.

Edit: The story about the harassment of the diners has been reported worldwide.

Une foule agressive de manifestants BLM accostent des convives blancs à l’extérieur des restaurants de DC

Los huéspedes del restaurante estaban rodeados de manifestantes enojados de Black Lives Matter: “Un regalo para Trump”

„Heb deine Faust!“ – US-Aktivisten bedrängen Restaurantbesucherin

At the time of writing neither the BBC nor the Guardian had any mention of it.

Another edit: The Guardian is not merely declining to mention the Lauren Victor story, it is actively deleting mention of it by readers in comments to this opinion piece on the US election by Nathan Robinson. I assure you that my own two comments were polite and relevant but they were instantly deleted. I think I saw a couple of comments from other readers mentioning unsavoury behaviour by BLM supporters that, like my two, have now disappeared.

Which do you want more, strict product liability or a Coronavirus vaccine?

The Brussels Times reports,

Coronavirus: Belgian experts ‘shocked’ as AstraZeneca seeks liability waiver for vaccine

A pharmaceutical firm developing a coronavirus vaccine of which Belgium has already secured millions of doses has made the “exceptional” request to not be held liable for any potential side effects.

As it enters the final stages of human trials in the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus, drugmaker AstraZeneca has introduced several requests to be protected from future claims of liability.

The request was received with surprise by some observers in Belgium, with, health and medical law experts in Belgium referring to it as exceptional or even shocking.

Professor Thierry Vansweevelt is one of those most shocked.

“There is a European directive on product liability,” Vansweevelt said. “Any producer who places a defective product on the market is responsible for that without exceptions. You can’t escape that.”

For the sake of the people of Belgium, a country of which I am fond, I rather hope they can escape it. It is telling that even its supporters see this directive as something that people might want to escape.

I saw this story on Reddit UK politics. It is usually a bit of a left wing hive mind, so I was relieved to see that the highest-recommended comment was by someone going by the name “LiteralTory” who said,

I’m shocked he’s shocked. Developed under incredible pressure and speed. A novel mechanism of action compared to other vaccines. Going to be given to literally billions of people within months of release. Even extremely rare side effects could be numerous enough to destroy the company. And with no vaccine, who bears the risk? Governments, populations and economies. I can entirely see why in this instance they’d expect governments and populations to accept a certain share of the risk.

Does this professor have no imagination not to be able to see that?

Welcome to our horrible racist university

Heather Mac Donald has written an important essay for City Journal, Conformity to a Lie. (Hat tip to Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit.)

The essay contains much that saddens and enrages me, but in places it is funny. After quoting several examples of college presidents and deans craving pardon for the racism of their institutions, she writes,

All such institutional self-accusations by college presidents leave out the specifics. Which faculty members do not treat black students fairly? If that unjust treatment is so obvious, why weren’t those professors already removed? What is wrong with an admissions process that lets in thousands of student bigots? In other moments, college presidents brag about the quality of their student body and faculty. Are they lying? Shouldn’t they have disclosed to black applicants that they will face “racist acts” and “systems of inequality” should they attend?

Edit: Thinking about it, this is a smaller scale example of the rule that in time of revolution it is safer to be a Tsarist than an Old Bolshevik.

A half hour video of the incident in Portland on 16th August 2020

If I have understood correctly, this video of the incident involving Adam Haner and Marquise Love, in connection with which Mr Love is being sought by Portland Police, was taken by a man called Drew Hernandez. Here is his twitter post directing viewers to the YouTube channel where the video is hosted.

This Daily Mail story includes a much shorter (1 minute 49 seconds) video of the same incident.

Obviously, both videos show scenes of violence.

I am a strong believer in the presumption of innocence, so I will say no more than “Watch for yourselves”.

Edit: “It’s a stain on the movement”: Portland Protest Organizers Condemn Truck Driver Assault, reports the Portland Mercury. However at the time of writing the Twitter account of the national (US) Black Lives Matter movement has said nothing about it.

I look forward to next week’s study on the superiority of male leaders in economic crises

The Guardian reports,

“Female-led countries handled coronavirus better, study suggests”

Countries led by women had “systematically and significantly better” Covid-19 outcomes, research appears to show, locking down earlier and suffering half as many deaths on average as those led by men.

The relative early success of leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and Finland’s Sanna Marin has so far attracted many headlines but little academic attention.

The analysis of 194 countries, published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum, suggests the difference is real and “may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses” adopted by female leaders.

[…]

“In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances. While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

[…]

She added that while female leaders “were risk averse with regard to lives”, locking their countries down significantly earlier than male leaders, that also suggested they were “more willing to take risks in the domain of the economy”.

Now that the Great and the Good (you can’t get much greater and gooder than the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the Word Economic Forum) have officially endorsed the idea that sex based differences exist and it is OK to mention them, and that stance has been warmly endorsed by the Guardian, I look forward to reading the follow-up report on the superiority of male leaders when it comes to protecting the economy. After all, 99% of the time we are not in a pandemic and the economy is the political issue that most affects people’s lives.

An architect is struck off

I originally read this story about the striking off of the architect Peter Kellow by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) on page 19 of my paper copy of today’s Times. The headline reads “Architect struck off for Jewish ‘cult’ claim”. However an online search of the Times website yields no such story, and no mention of Peter Kellow. Strange. Fortunately, and embarrassingly for both papers, the Daily Mail version is almost word for word the same:

Award winning architect is struck off after he claimed Judaism is a ‘cult’ and called for ‘restraints’ to be placed on Jews who should be banned from holding public office

An award-winning architect has been struck off for claiming Judaism is not a race but a ‘cult’.

Cambridge-educated Peter Kellow called for ‘restraints’ to be placed on Jewish people including banning them from holding influential public office.

In a public Facebook post, he said there was ‘no such thing as the Jewish race’ and accused them of creating ‘resentment and suspicion’.

As a result of his behaviour, he was hauled before a disciplinary panel, found guilty of misconduct and kicked out of the profession after 47 years.

The Architects Registration Board hearing was told that Mr Kellow made the comments in April 2019, as then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced accusations of anti-Semitism.

He wrote: ‘There is no such thing as the Jewish race. This is one of the many stunts that Judaists have pulled on non-Judaists who have swallowed it whole. There is only the religion/cult of Judaism.

‘There is no doubt that Judaists have suffered from unfair and cruel treatment at many times in history but this was never racially motivated until the late nineteenth century and bloomed in the ideology of Adolf Hitler.

‘It is not far from the truth to say the Judaists were the inventors of European racism for they asserted they were racially different to the rest of us. Judaists have got themselves into a lot of trouble throughout history being subject to pogroms, ghettos and expulsions.

‘I am not saying this was justified, but why do we see this consistent pattern?

‘The problem people have and always have had with Judaism is not about race.. It is because Judaism is a cult.

‘What do I mean by a cult? A cult is a set of people, normally unified by a religion or quasi-religion, who try to create a society within the general society.

Mr Kellow also included freemasonry and Sunni Islam in his definition of cults.

He wrote: ‘Cults work against the interest of the general society as its members, in subscribing to a society within the society favour each other over the rest of us.

‘This naturally creates resentment and suspicion. How can you trust such people?’

‘How should society deal with people who through their cult activity weaken the bonds that the society needs to function well? We must put restraints on their ability to create a society within a society.’

Mr Kellow suggested creating a public register of Jewish people, banning them from public office ‘where they could discriminate’ between Jews and non-Jews and ban from being judges.

He also suggested banning Jewish faith schools and the wearing of religious clothing other than a skull gap.

The Times version really was amazingly similar, although it did say “skull cap” rather than “skull gap”.

You can read the original wording of the offending Facebook post on this archived version of the proceedings of the ARB disciplinary panel.

He began,

This business of “anti-semiticism” [sic] in the Labour party which is held up as racism. What is it all about really?

The Mail and the Times cite the most important points, but I thought it was worthwhile to quote Mr Kellow’s recommended policy towards what he calls “Judaists” and to believers in other religions that he deems to be cults:

First of all there is no question of banning them. I believe in freedom for the individual as a fundamental ideal and so if someone wishes to belong to a cult like Judaism or Freemasonry they must be free to do [sic]. But we must put restraints on their ability to create a society within a society. The main ones should be as follows

1. Registration of the cult in a public register
2. Registration of all adult members in a public register
3. No cult member can hold an important public office where they are in a position to descriminate [sic] between cult members and non-cult members. For instance it is totally unacceptable lo [sic] have a Freemason or Judaist as a judge as their decisions will very like [sic] work in favour of fellow cult members. Their strong bond in their society within the society will ensure this
4. Whereas adults are free to choose to belong to a cult, the same cannot reply [sic] to their children. The assumption that the children of cult members will be “born into” the cult is not acceptable in a civilised society. To this end, no cult can run its own “faith” schools
5. It must be against the law to wear cult clothing in public – except something worn on the top of the head like a hat [eg Sikh turbans or Judaist skull caps]. However, penalties will only be applied when a separate law [such as a driving evidence [sic] or bank robbery] is violated.

It is clear that Mr Kellow adheres to most of the usual tenets of twenty-first century Corbynite anti-semitism, given the customary veneer of progressive respectability by being anti several other religions as well – though he would have done better on that score to include Christianity in the list of “cults” to be restricted by law. To advocate that faith schools be banned is now fairly mainstream in left wing circles, and not only among them. The way he presented laws against Jews holding public office as being an anti-discrimination measure was clever. He only really slipped up by advocating that a register of Jews be compiled. That bright idea carried an overtone of Nazism too strong to ignore.

Peter Kellow has some nasty opinions. But should they stop him practising as an architect?

Discussion point – was Churchill right about the atomic bomb?

There was never a moment`s discussion as to whether the atomic bomb should be used or not. To avert a vast, indefinite butchery, to bring the war to an end, to give peace to the world, to lay healing hands upon its tortured peoples by a manifestation of overwhelming power at the cost of a few explosions, seemed, after all our toils and perils, a miracle of deliverance.

– Winston Churchill, writing of the decision by the Allies to use atomic weapons on Japan. Victory over Japan day was seventy five years ago today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choir

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

Decision to disband Sheffield cathedral choir strikes discordant note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • There are still some scientists left

    The BBC reports,

    Hydroxychloroquine being ‘discarded prematurely’, say scientists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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