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]

Cultural appropriation alert: ‘English understatement’ detected in New York

Readers of this blog know that I sometimes use the writing style called ‘English understatement’ – and though I’m Scottish, I’m also British and have a claim to it. So when I read

“a homeless shelter worker and people close to Ms. Leyden questioned whether, despite her gender identity, Ms. Harvey should have been placed in a homeless shelter for women, given her history of attacking and murdering them.”

I definitely felt my culture was being appropriated.

However, I’m not sure whom to accuse. Instapundit referred me to Liberty Unyielding, who prefaced their quote of it with ‘As the New York Times notes,’, and the NYT may just be quoting the remark of the nurse practitioner who ran the intake interview at the shelter. She obeyed her supervisor’s order to admit the recently-paroled-yet-again-as-now-harmless and even more recently reclassified-as-now-female Harvey, but even after the murder of Susan Leyden (whose body parts were so chopped up and miscellaneously discarded that determining her gender identity, never mind her identity, may have taken the pathologist some time), it could be the nurse thought it prudent to express her agenda-questioning doubts only in this very cautiously-phrased way. So I’m not clear whom I should demand be cancelled by Twitter, Facebook and everyone else.

Meanwhile, I clearly have to work harder on my English understatement skills if I am to keep our culture distinct from the one across the pond. In the good old days when Trump was in the White House, there was no doubt which side of the Atlantic stood for understatement and which didn’t, but it now appears that when the cabal stole the election they also stole that clarity. I am working as best I can to recreate it, and welcome in advance any commenter’s constructive critique of how well or otherwise I’m succeeding.

BTW, I wasn’t looking, still less hoping, for occasion to write more posts like this one – but that’s not the only thing in the last two years that I was not looking or hoping for.

Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences. In early March 2020, as leaders across Europe were closing schools, Giesecke sent his protégé an email with a sentence in Latin. It was a famous piece of fatherly advice sent in 1648 by the Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna to reassure a son worried about holding his own in negotiations with foreign leaders. An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur: “Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?”

The quote is from an article (h/t instapundit) that starts

The frontrunner for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize … is the World Health Organization. It’s hard to imagine a worse choice. (Okay, Vladimir Putin.)

Most of the world ignored Tegnell and Giesecke, but they had equivalents in Florida. Those Floridans may have known Count Oxenstierna’s remark. But it’s more probable they knew what John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson on July 9th, 1813.

“While all other sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand … little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.”

Clearly they also knew that science bureaucrats are a lot more like bureaucrats than like scientists – not advancing science but at a stand as to how to apply it for anyone’s benefit but their own.

If Boris Johnson had listened to the Swedes instead of Professor Neil Ferguson and suchlike, he would still be prime minister. Boris (and Dominic Cummings too!) should have remembered what Dominic saw during the Brexit campaign.

Most people in politics are, whether they know it or not, much more comfortable with failing conventionally than risking the social stigma of behaving unconventionally.

It made a strange end to his career that, after getting his dream job by winning unconventionally, Boris then lost it as a delayed side-effect of failing conventionally. Fate offered him his longed-for Churchill moment – whereupon Boris let the Swedes, not the Brits save themselves by their exertions, and give the world their example: not something I would have predicted before I first saw it.

A Modest Proposal for containing Monkeypox

The WHO has proclaimed Monkeypox a global health emergency.

A major study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that Monkeypox is being driven overwhelmingly by sex between men. Yesterday the CDC reported the first two child monkeypox cases in the US:

“California toddler and an infant in D.C. were likely infected by ‘household contacts’ and both had contact with gay or bisexual men, CDC chief says”

Although the report is consistent with the study, I suspect Ian Miles Cheong thinks the phrase “between men may be understating the age range involved. “Are we allowed to ask any questions?”, he tweeted – to which the literal answer may be ‘no’, since Twitter has announced it will censor those who use the word ‘Groomers’, and I suggest the question Ian has not (yet) asked might involve that word.

However, I have a question – a modest proposal (and it truly is modest, as it would be dishonestly vain of me to pretend it was my idea; I owe it all to the inspiration of Professor Neil Ferguson and Dr Fauci).

Why don’t we just ban male homosexual sex – for three weeks “to Flatten the Curve” or fifteen days “to Slow the Spread” or whatever period sounds good? (How long hardly matters, provided it’s long enough to prepare a case for banning it for a lot longer. Here again, I must modestly disclaim all inventiveness of my own. I owe the idea of banning briefly, then using that time to get the ban extended to Dr Deborah Birx.)

Of course, such regulations reduce liberty – but surely global health experts have established beyond question these last two years that liberty can and should be sacrificed whenever the WHO declares a global health emergency.

Of course, Sweden claimed they would (and did) get a better outcome through doing much less by regulation, leaving far more of the distancing and restraint decisions to individual discretion – but the health authorities and media of most of the rest of the western political world treated the idea as ridiculous then, and do not call themselves ridiculous now.

So I put it to my readers that it would be absurd for those who guided us through the last pandemic not to enact my modest proposal for handling this one (especially as the rules would be easier to draft, since I’ve a vague notion that there’s an old law that could be revived to ban this unhealthy behaviour).

So who was Britain’s Dr Birx?

Although it is already being offered at 50% off, I feel so reluctant to put money in the pocket of Dr Birx that I will delay reading her new book until I see a remaindered copy on a charity bookstall.

Meanwhile, I recommend reading the whole of this and then also this (h/t instapundit) for some rather important information about the attitudes of one of the not-very-scientific science bureaucrats who brought lockdown to the USA. Here is a tiny sample.

No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it. Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude.

Decide to lockdown first, find justification later. I resist the urge to add quote after quote; read the two complementary – but very uncomplimentary 🙂 – reviews of her book at the links above!

In Britain, it was ‘three weeks to flatten the curve’, not two weeks, but in both countries somewhat reluctant chief executives were persuaded, against their instincts, to go along with it – and with extending it. (Both Trump and Boris would probably still be safely in office if they had refused.)

Birx wittingly and unwittingly reveals much. Boris will soon have some spare time for reflection and for writing another book. Will he – will anyone – tell us more about the Birxing of the UK?

Rotherham 1400, Telford 1000

Twenty-two years after 16-year-old Lucy Lowe, her mother and her sister were burned to death in a house fire started by Azhar Ali Mehmood (the 26-year-old who impregnated her when she was 14), the inquiry into grooming gangs in Telford has released a report on the phenomenon of which that was an example.

the authorities dismissed the 1,000 figure as ‘sensationalised’ and suggested the newspaper had ‘made it up on the back of a fag packet’. This week, inquiry chair Tom Crowther QC described the Sunday Mirror’s estimate as a ‘measured, reasonable and non-sensational assessment’. (h/t spiked)

It’s another example of how one of the things Blair made it unsafe to say back then was not only true in Telford (and true enough to compete with Rotherham – and with Rochdale, Aylesbury, Oxford, Derby, Halifax, Keighley, Peterborough, Huddersfield, Manchester and Newcastle) but became much more common, much more true, because the resulting politically-correct suppression of anything resembling basic policing “emboldens offenders”.

‘Islamophobia’ is not the only ‘phobia’ restricting free speech. But it has a certain claim to priority in this century’s war on free speech in Britain, so if we want to know what’s coming up for the others, we’d better pay attention to what the effects of hating free speech were as ‘Islamophobia’ permeated culture and law.

Samizdata word for today: paraprofessional

their paramilitary character must be understood in connection with other professional party organisations, such as those for teachers, lawyers, physicians, students, university professors, technicians and workers. All these were primarily duplicates of existing non-totalitarian professional societies, paraprofessional as the stormtroopers were paramilitary. … None of these institutions had more professional value than the imitation of the army represented by the stormtroopers, but together they created a perfect world of appearances in which every reality in the non-totalitarian world was slavishly duplicated in the form of humbug. (Hannah Arendt, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’)

After seizing power, the Nazi party ‘coordinated’ all the existing professional organisations they had already duplicated. Sometimes the party organisation was the direct instrument of ‘coordination’ but at other times it could be just the threat – the ‘coordinated’ organisation could survive and even thrive if it outdid its party rival in zeal for “working towards the fuhrer”. For people and for the organisations they led, out-radicalising your rival was key to survival.

David Burge described today’s ‘coordination’ technique in fewer words: Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

Each organisation they gain helps the paraprofessionals conquer the next. In the US, coordinating education helped them coordinate the media step by step. The death of standards in those two then assisted coordinating some electoral processes, which in turn is now enabling more vigorous work on coordinating the military – and much else.

Meanwhile, the trains themselves may not run on time but those who run them are well-coordinated. If your bank is not doing much for your wealth, then it’s probably doing wonders for your pronouns. Medical organisations march in coordinated lockstep, from the psychologists to the pharmacists; even your pet had better get used to the care of a coordinated vet. And I could write so much more.

Paraprofessional: I think it is a word we need again today. And, like Hannah Arendt, I think its relationship to ‘paramilitary’ needs to be understood.

Ve’re askink ze qvestions!”

Last Wednesday, Jodi Shaw received a Hero of Intellectual Freedom Award – and got to rap on-stage in NYC, four years after Smith College told her she couldn’t because rapping while white was racist.

The freedom to rap while white is a form of free speech it has never occurred to me to pursue, but something Jodi said struck me.

“These terms are never defined … It’s just ‘social justice’.”

“And you’re afraid to ask,” she added, because “that might put a spotlight on you,” and people will think you are racist … According to Shaw, there was an “ever-present terror” at Smith “that any unverified student allegation of racism, or any other ‘-ism,’ has the power to crush our reputations, ruin our livelihood, and even endanger the physical safety of ourselves or our family members.”

It’s not the first time a movement has refused to define its central idea.

Himmler vehemently directed “not to issue any decree concerning the definition of the term ‘Jew’ … with all these foolish commitments we will only be tying our hands.” (The quote is from Himmler’s letter to Berger, July 28th 1942, Nuremberg Document No. 626.)

Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect. I’ve seen that spot-on description of how the woke operate applied so many times – to institutions. But it’s just as true of ideas. Totalitarians always gut the ideas they proclaim of all actual meaning. The woke wear the murdered carcass of words like racism (structural racism) or justice (social justice) as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

Sonnets are racist says SalfordU

Salford University has banned sonnets and suchlike “products of white western culture” from its creative writing course to “decolonise the curriculum”. I say ‘banned’ but they say they merely

“simplified the assessment offering choice”

and I have to admit there is a sense in which ‘simplified’ is the mot juste.

Frequent readers of Samizdata will now be expecting Niall Kilmartin (a.k.a Bilbo Baggins) to inflict some of his own poetic doggerel on you, but as none of mine even try to be any kind of sonnet, I will instead quote Neo’s response to the news.

My grief is deep, as deep as oceans vast
But virtue has its own reward, and so
I’ll give up sonnet-writing, and the past
Can sink beneath the waves of gloom so low.
Old Shakespeare, with his bootless bootless cries
No doubt was white and certainly supreme
Let’s stamp him out, and “colonization” dies.
We’ll show fidelity to the new meme.
Oh Wordsworth, even more forlorn are we.
Bereft of your old counsel, now we stand
On their less wise and quite unpleasant lea
Without the comfort of tradition’s hand.
The poems they write today are stupid shite
And sonnets are too challenging to write.

[If you compare with Neo’s original you will see that Niall get-the-scansion-perfect Kilmartin has made a tiny change at the start of the fourth-last line; feel free to comment and/or upbraid me any who wish. I have also skipped Neo’s link to the meaning of ‘shite’, assuming British readers know it, and transatlantic ones can deduce it from the context and from a certain rather obvious homonym. 🙂 ]

Neo has not offered an example of the modern, de-colonised poem that must now be written instead. Commenters are welcome to fill the lack with genuine examples or their own spoofs, or to share much loved poems, or just to give their opinions.

It was foresighted Robert Conquest who wrote, decades ago, that alongside ‘War is Peace’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’ and ‘Ignorance is Strength’, there was another essential slogan of totalitarianism that Orwell had (surprisingly) omitted:

Rubbish is Art

and of course, its corollary: Art is Rubbish (and racist and …).

“Who said the ‘N’ word?”

Natalie asked, “Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?” For a bonus point, can you guess what word, beginning with ‘N’, the German policeman is prohibiting here?

… Jewish passengers were confronted by a layer of armed police who stood between them and the departure gate. In a scene that conceivably would have won critical praise had it been staged in a dark historical comedy, one of the distressed passengers asked plaintively, “Why do you hate us?” as the officers grimly surveyed them. Then someone else said the word “N—” … one of the offended police officers began barking in a thick German accent, “Who said the ‘N’ word? Who was it?”

[Excerpted from this article, edited to omit some letters following ‘N’ lest these offend any German police readers, or sympathisers thereof.]

One can hardly blame a German policeman for speaking “with a thick German accent”, and in Germany, it is a crime to call a police officer that word. Prudent Germans who wish to use the word without consequences are better advised to apply it to Donald Trump, or to call Israel a ‘N— state’. And prudent Jews who find themselves in Germany were reminded three years ago by the (perhaps unfortunately termed) ‘German anti-semitism commissioner’ to avoid looking Jewish – advice these “visibly Jewish” Lufthansa passengers had completely failed to heed.

I guess one take-away from this is that, next time anyone make a fuss about “the ‘N’ word”, they’ll need (and frequently deserve!) to be asked, “Which one?” Commenters are welcome to add any other take-aways that occur to them.

Samizdata quote of the night that identifies as a day

Kathleen Stock’s latest article in Unherd is titled “The emptiness of being queer” and subtitled “Sexual libertarians and rainbow bureaucrats created the perfect racket”. She should have subtitled it “Sexual libertines and rainbow bureaucrats created the perfect racket”, but given Stock’s own background and orientation, I happily overlook the minor misphrasing of her subtitle in view of the free-speech-forthrightness of her title.

Perhaps it won’t have escaped the reader thus far that there’s a biological element to all this too. The sexual libertarians are mostly men; the staff and trustees of Mermaids are nearly all female — no matter how they identify — and, in my experience, so are most other rainbow bureaucrats. Despite foundational intellectual myths, it turns out biological sex matters in the queer world too. And though they won’t like it, it’s tempting to see these two factions as part of a tediously conventional nuclear family, with rebellious jack-the-lad Dad and solicitous stay-at-home Mum, and with many confused children shunting between the two.

It was always inevitably a Stalin or a Mao who rose to rule any free-speech-hating communist party, unhindered by the purgeable presence in its early ranks of sincere types like Victor Kravchenko or Jung Chang’s father. I explained here why, similarly, groomers and pedophiles would come to control the free-speech-hating ‘identify’ movement, whatever other motives also helped start it.

However I forgot to add (as yet another example of oppressive tyrants pretending to be oppressed rebels, of those who hurt you pretending they help you) that the rainbow-bureaucrat-groomer side of that movement would aggressively self-identify as protective helpers.

Compared to that, it is indeed “no matter how they identify” otherwise.

Woke rage reveals a fact about the transition pipeline from schools to social services

Some Texan childcare social workers are so “distraught” that a new law regulates their handling of trans kids that they say they will resign! (We’ll see if woke bureaucrats’ promises to resign are worth more than woke celebrities’ promises to quit the US if Reagan/Bush/Trump became president.)

If anything could be more where all is most in their self-revealingly woke article, it is the moment (about half-way through) where a social worker tells of their horror at the thought of having to investigate a report of a parent giving their child trans drugs. Previously any such report had instantly been marked ‘priority: none’ and the agency only ever investigated (vigorously, it would appear) any report of a parent hesitating to give their school-groomed child the woke-prescribed trans drugs.

The pipeline starts at school.

– The woke-about-everything school teaches the child that their white skin condemns them to a life of inherited racial sin – but don’t tell their parents. The school then offers a way out: pupils can escape their otherwise-ineradicable guilt by adopting a marginalised sexual identity – but don’t tell their parents.

– Instead or (usually) as well, the school can affirmatively teach the kids a lot of pornography:

To girls who are pressured into regurgitating how fantastic and progressive porn culture is, the very idea of being a “woman” becomes repulsive.

In these and other ways, a child’s un-parental-informed consent to being transitioned is obtained and puberty blockers are prescribed. The day after the kept-in-ignorance parents finally discover this is happening, the school questions the child and informs the social services of the parents’ insufficiently enthusiastic response. The social workers then ‘investigate’ – and that’s where we came in at the start of this post.

There are several things wrong with this. In the rest of this post, I’ll focus on just one.

“I do not for a moment regret the act of change. I could see no other way, and it has made me happy. In this I am one of the lucky few. There are people of many kinds who have set out on the same path, and by and large they are among the unhappiest people on the face of the earth.”

The quote is from ‘Conundrum’, a book written in 1974 by Anglo-Welsh writer, Jan Morris, who from birth to mid-forties was known as James Morris (and served with the British army in Italy in WWII), before undergoing surgery. In the pages of Conundrum, “the unhappiest people on the face of the earth” are joined by

“the poor castaways of intersex, the misguided homosexuals, the transvestites, the psychotic exhibitionists, who tumble through this half-mad world like painted clowns, pitiful to others and often horrible to themselves.”

In short, the odds of becoming “one of the lucky few” were not good even in the old days.

  • Back then, Jan Morris’ books on Oxford characters and the like were popular enough. That the dust-jacket often had a summary of the author’s unusual life and circumstances didn’t seem to prevent decent sales.

  • Back then, the modern view that sexual identity was merely social was already being experimented with on children and the results lied about to preserve the narrative.

    “It was like brainwashing … I’d give just about anything to go to a hypnotist to black out my whole past. Because it’s torture. What they did to you in the body is sometimes not near as bad as what they did to you in the mind – with the psychological warfare in your head.”

    He is referring to the extraordinary medical treatment he received after suffering the complete loss of his penis to a botched circumcision when he was 8 months old. On the advice of experts at the renowned Johns Hopkins medical center, in Baltimore, a sex-change operation was performed on him, a process that involved clinical castration and other genital surgery when he was a baby, followed by a 12-year program of social, mental and hormonal conditioning to make the transformation take hold in his psyche. The case was reported as an unqualified success, and he became one of the most famous (though unnamed) patients in the annals of modern medicine.

    [The sad story told by that (long) account is in some ways typical of today: the doctor with a ‘progressive’ agenda – and compliant colleagues; the easily-published papers boasting of a success that never was; the decades it took for the facts to emerge. But in other ways the woke of today are uglier than the progressives of half-a-century ago. The link is to a page on the wayback machine. The facts came out in the late ’90s but are now being forced back in again.]

But, along with all that, back then, those who were “pitiful to others and often horrible to themselves” did not have the encouragement of hate speech laws and ‘microaggression’ theory. The doctors in my link above felt elite because the common herd did not share their ‘advanced’ opinion that sex was socially conditioned, not innate – and, back then, the common herd were not at all afraid to say so. So those who nevertheless presented themselves for the procedure were much more likely to have tried something (or everything) else first. Their chance of joining Jan’s “lucky few” was therefore far better than today, now the group is swelled by propagandised schoolkids, by asbergers assured it will solve their problems, by people kept grossly ignorant of trans-regret and by many a “misguided homosexual, transvestite and/or exhibitionist” who back then would have chosen another way to express themselves. In that group, the proportion of Jan’s “lucky few” will be few indeed – meaning, the woke will have ruined many lives for each one of them.

Abuse of power is greatest where the laws fail to anticipate it. (Montesquieu)

Just as woke-trans cancel culture makes grooming more likely by forbidding you to expect it, so being forbidden to notice the immense improbabilities of woke-trans recruitment methods makes it more likely their targets will end up among “the unhappiest people on the face of the earth”.

Government minister guilty of ‘bullying’: expecting senior civil servants to do actual work

Michael Gove stands accused of bullying his civil servants. According to The Sun, he “was said to have been visibly angry with a string of officials” over the abject state of the visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees.

This has led Jeremy Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to complain to Jeremy Pocklington, his counterpart at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). … when Priti Patel was accused of the same, the report into the incident concluded that: “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals”. … If they feel bullied, it’s bullying

One would not expect Conservative Home to be overly sympathetic to the whining permanent secretaries, or harsh to Gove. That said, I think a new series of ‘Yes, Minister’ would see Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby sobbing “How can you bully me like this?”, then behind-the-scenes fixing the ‘enquiry’, as another way to block whatever Minister Jim Hacker was pushing him to do. Whether it’s Priti Patel ‘bullying’ a permanent secretary to bar illegal immigrants the higher civil service is happy to see enter the UK, or Michael Gove ‘bullying’ a permanent secretary to admit Ukrainian refugees the higher civil service is happy to see kept out of the UK, it’s a great way to ensure that if the minister ever reaches the point of banging the table and demanding that orders be carried out, yet another obstacle to that can be put in place.

The WWII Jewish Brigade was formed when Churchill banged the table and stated that of course it would be, putting an end to the meant-to-be-endless delays of certain advisors. The Jewish Brigade spent the last six months of WWII killing Germans and learning everything the British army knew about military technique (by the end of WWII, that was a lot). Historians of the wars of Israel’s formation say Israel would not have survived without the Jewish Brigade. It was lucky Churchill banged the table then, not today, when the brigade’s creation could have been delayed yet longer by a ‘bullying’ enquiry.