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]

News management means never having to say you’re sorry

What the BBC story looked like 41 minutes after it was published:

The hashtag #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter for hours following an anti-Semitic story the actress shared on her Instagram.

The link to the Wayback Machine does not seem to be working at the moment, so until it comes back online you will just have to trust me when I say that was the wording that caused me to notice the story a few days ago, though I was too busy to do anything about it at the time. I have only watched a few episodes of The Mandalorian and could not have named Gina Carano. But I knew from the mealy-mouthed paraphrase that was all the BBC gave us of her exact words that something was up.

What the BBC story looks like now:

The hashtag #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter for hours following a story shared on her Instagram, that some branded anti-Semitic.

Well they corrected it, didn’t they? What’s the problem?

The second part of the problem is that the correction is scarcely less slanderous than the original and is more cowardly. All the “correction” does is allow the BBC to make the accusation of anti-semitism via un-named proxies rather than in its own voice.

The first part of the problem is how did the BBC writer ever come to think Carano’s words were anti-semitic at all? Here is what she actually said, reported by The Scotsman, which unlike the BBC provided a screenshot of Carano’s own words:

“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children.
🙁

“Because history is edited, most people today don´t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews.

“How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

Overblown, yes, melodramatic yes, self-indulgent in the comparison of current political spats to the Holocaust, yes, and someone needs to tell her that when discussing mass murder sad-face emojis are not helpful – but nothing in what she said was hostile to Jews. I can answer my own question of how the BBC’s un-named reporter came to announce as fact that those words were anti-semitic. It is because BBC journalists have got out of the habit of reading the tweets and Instagram posts that prompt so much of their reporting nowadays. Oh, they scan them to check that the link isn’t dead and does not refer to some completely unrelated person in Iowa, but the idea of reading, of mentally processing the words and weighing what the author meant, is beyond their pay grade.

I do not complain about the fact that most BBC stories are repackagings of stories that were first reported somewhere else: that is inevitable. My complaint is that the BBC increasingly no longer bothers to undo the package and take a look at what lies inside. The only check the BBC really does take care over is the postmark: does this come to us from a reputable source, such as the New York Times or angry people on Instagram.

I mention the New York Times with due reverence. While the BBC was an early adopter of the technique of placing the correction to what was a front page story on page 28B, the NYT was the true pioneer.

As Roger Kimball writes,

And the New York Times, true to form, has been a veritable fount of misinformation—an ironical contingency since the paper has recently called for a “reality czar” to combat “misinformation,” i.e., ideas with which they disagree. Take its account of what happened to Officer Brian Sicknick, who died on January 8, two days after the Capitol mélee. That same day, our former paper of record reported that Sicknick died after “[P]ro-Trump rioters attacked that citadel of democracy[!], overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher. . .”

Click the link. You’ll see that an announcement that the column, though originally published January 8, had been updated February 12. Now that sentence is missing, though they don’t say so, and Sicknick died of—well something else.

Kimball goes on to say, “The Times wasn’t alone” and to link to this link-filled column by Julie Kelly that gives chapter and verse of how the New York Times spread the meme that Brian Sicknick was definitely and deliberately bludgeoned to death far and wide.

The mechanism the NYT used is the same as the BBC used in the Gina Carano story. They say something false. Could be deliberate, could just be believing what they want to believe, could be honest error. But anyway, after a few days have gone by someone in the editorial room gets like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden after their scrumping session: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. So the reporters sew a few leaves – The New York Times Retracts the Sicknick Story – and resignedly wear the aprons around the office a few times while hoping that everyone will think that hand-crafted leafwear is a fashion choice.

Of course anyone who was paying attention has known for at least a month that we do not know exactly how Officer Sicknick died. That is exactly why Niall Kilmartin wrote the following almost prophetic post for Samizdata exactly a month ago: “All who died on the 6th supported Trump. What else do we truly know?”.

Alas, the caveat “anyone who was paying attention” excludes 80% of modern journalists.

A land battle and a sea battle – in a book about Beethoven

I’ve been reading a three-volume fictionalised life of Beethoven, by, of all people, John Suchet, whom most people probably know only as a television newsreader.

The way Suchet tells the story, Beethoven was an oddball from the start. I recall doing a posting here about how Beethoven’s deafness prevented him from having a normal life, as a star pianist, but Suchet’s Beethoven was always set on getting shot of being merely a talented performer, and on becoming a great composer.

Beethoven’s friends and supporters had to put up with a lot at the hands of the irascible genius. They took all the angry insults and demands because, when it came to it, they shared Beethoven’s high opinion of his musical genius, and because they knew also what miseries Beethoven himself had to contend with.

Beethoven’s deafness was no mere inability to hear all the sounds he was surrounded by. It was also the presence of other often very loud sounds inside his own head, often painfully so.

And just to put a tin lid on everything, throughout a lot of Beethoven’s adult life, he had to contend with the consequences of war. Napoleon’s armies took possession of Beethoven’s city of birth, Bonn, and then of the city where Beethoven was based for most of his adult life, Vienna. Quite aside from the usual deaths and disruptions this inflicted upon the Viennese, this played havoc with Beethoven’s various plans to get rich and thereby achieve the freedom he yearned for to just compose his music.

In connection with some of this fighting, Suchet, like the journalist he is, quotes a couple of stories that the Wiener Zeitung published, on a particularly black day for Vienna, in October 1805.

The first concerned the disastrous battle of Ulm:

OUR BRAVE FORCES FACE IGNOMINY!

On 20th October 1805, outside the city of Ulm in southern Bavaria, some twenty thousand of our brave Imperial soldiers, fighting for the honour of His Imperial Majesty, stood and faced the forces of the French imposter Bonaparte, His Excellency General Mack von Leiberich in command.

By an entirely dishonourable manoeuvre, against all the rules of war, the French succeeded in surrounding the Imperial Austrian army.

It is our sad duty to report that General Mack was forced to surrender his army of twenty thousand to the French, handing over the illustrious colours of our brave forebears. The French have taken forty-nine thousand prisoners, whose release His Imperial Majesty is making strenuous efforts to secure.

The latest intelligence from the battle front is that the French are marching east towards our border.

We call on all able-bodied citizens to make preparations to resist the army of the French. The same Bastion which resisted the Turkish invader a century and a quarter ago is being made secure and our civil forces are drilling on the Glacis in readiness to repulse the invader.

John Suchet then adds that at the bottom of this one page, that being all that the Wiener Zeitung could manage on this particular day, there was, in considerably smaller print, a briefer item, which was, Suchet says, “largely ignored by the people of Vienna”. This concerned an insignificant sea battle, somewhere or other off the coast of Spain:

One day after the ignominy suffered by our forces at Ulm, a Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated by a British fleet under the command of His Lordship Nelson off the Cape of Trafalgar.

So, good news, surely. But the Wiener Zeitung cannot force itself to deceive its readers:

This victory for the allies, inglorious and shameful as it is for the enemy, will have no effect on the progress of the war on land.

There you have it. The Continental European attitude to the relative importance of sea power and land power. It took quite a while for that little sea battle to result in the undermining of Napoleon’s power, but it definitely had consequences.

The Samizdata world view is more than a mere preference for navies over armies. But that contrast is definitely part of the story.

I don’t think a German or Austrian author, writing about Beethoven, would have pointed up this particular contrast the way Suchet does. And does, I think you will agree, rather gleefully, despite him ending his chapter with that second quote.

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it

Chorus of dissent after police stop carol singers in car park

Police have been criticised for disbanding an outdoor fundraising performance by carol singers in a quiet village.

Four patrol cars swooped on the socially-distanced “mini-concert” in Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, on Sunday.

The county is in Tier 3, where carol singing is allowed, and organisers said the event had followed coronavirus guidelines. However, officers said that about 40 people had gathered, making others feel “worried and unsafe”.

Anyone might feel worried and unsafe when confronted with this:

Five members of the Woodborough Songbirds were being pulled through the village on a 15m-long trailer decorated with fairy lights when officers arrived. They had planned to sing in six areas in a “Christmas tour”, raising money for the Nottingham Hospitals Charity.

Five “songbirds”. Only four patrol cars. Lesser men and women might have been daunted by that grim arithmetic, but not Nottinghamshire Police.

Pallets full of ballots

Must say this is a catchy tune by Austin Forman.

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.

Art for art sake

I recently saw the question asked (and answered very haltingly): can you separate the art from the artist?

Having watched, read, listened to works by variously kinds of socialists, racists, religious wackos, and people with all manner of other assorted loathsome world views… yes, one can most certainly separate the author from the work, the artist from the art, as the works can stand on their own. One can appreciate what Leni Riefenstahl or Sergei Eisenstein or Zhang Guanzhe did without embracing the ideologies they propagandised or caring much about the artist. Daesh nasheeds are a really interesting form of music. The Joker dancing on those stairs was dancing to music written by Gary Glitter. So what? The music is fabulous.

HP Lovecraft, know these days as much for his of-his-times racism, was hugely influential culturally with many who followed for reasons unrelated to that. As a teenager, I was introduced to Lovecraft’s works by a Jamaican fan, and he had a really interesting theory as to why HPL wrote what and how he did (tl’dr: he was terrified of The Other, which informs his entire opus).

If you can’t transcend the fact people who see the world differently (and often horribly) can nevertheless make astonishingly good things… well, your loss.

Gary Lineker’s own goal

BBC football pundit Gary Lineker just brought the end of the BBC licence fee measurably closer.

In this tweet he quoted the BBC Press Office saying he had signed a new five year deal with them and said,

“Oh dear. Thoughts are with the haters at this difficult time.”

In the last few months the BBC has turned a corner, the one leading to a blind alley in a bad part of town. The strategy of appointing a former Conservative politician as Director-General might have worked ten years ago but comes too late now. The almighty row about the last night of the Proms finally convinced many of those older viewers and listeners who were once its core audience that the state broadcaster does not like them very much. The Beeb’s protestations that its proposal to omit the words of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia was because of Covid-19 rather than BLM were not believed. Partly this disbelief was because – until it became clear how big the row was going to be – the BBC itself had given its usual sympathetic coverage to those saying patriotic anthems should be dropped from the Proms because “How are we going to break down the institutional system, if we hang on to these [songs]?”. Partly it was because this was the last straw, not the first. There had been many straws like this:

…during a debate about “white women’s privilege” on No Country for Young Women, a podcast devoted to racial issues, hosted by Monty Onanuga and Sadia Azmat.

Amelia Dimoldenberg, a YouTuber who appeared on the episode, urged white women to “educate yourself, read some books, so you are aware of the histories of white people and race”. She added: “Don’t be so loud. Stop shouting and stop attacking black voices — instead you should be uplifting them.”

The advice was echoed by her fellow guest Charlotte Lydia Riley, a historian at Southampton University, who said that white women should “try not to be defensive about your whiteness”. She added: “A lot of the time when women are Karens it’s because they are completely unwilling to accept that their whiteness is a privilege . . . They feel like they don’t want to interrogate how their behaviour might be racist.”

The guests, both white, suggested that white women should stop expressing opinions. “Get out the way, basically,” said Dr Riley, to which Ms Dimoldenberg agreed: “Yeah, basically leave.”

A lot of white women were moved to comment on that Times article. They expressed complete willingness to “basically leave” the BBC, as soon as the law allowed them to do so. Middle-aged, middle-class Times readers would once have been the most eloquent defenders of the BBC and what a previous Director-General delicately called its “unique method of funding”, a euphemism for force.

Who else among former loyalists has the British Broadcasting Corporation annoyed recently? The old. Personally I thought Tony Blair’s decision in 2000 to issue free TV licences to those over the age of 75 was sentimental nonsense, but as with all subsidies, cancelling them makes people angry. Who’s left? Surely that would be fans of Match of the Day, the longest-running football television programme in the world?

Maybe, maybe not. Match of the Day‘s lead presenter is the aforementioned Gary Lineker who is so famous that I know who he is. Until his recent £400,000 pay cut, agreed to help out his employer in hard times and, er, increase gender balance among BBC salaries, Gary Lineker was earning £1.75 million per annum. To have presented Match of the Day for as long as he has at the salary he commands (“commands” as in someone at the command economy of the BBC commands that he shall have that amount), Mr Lineker must be doing something right. But he is not doing Twitter right if he thinks reminding people that he is now down to a measly £1.35 million will go down well with the average football fan, especially since he had agreed as a condition of the deal that he he would tweet more carefully.

Someone called Michael Rafferty replied,

Let’s not be smug Gary iv not worked since Christmas due to this pandemic… It’s comments like that put me off people like yourself …

jim ferguson says,

I dont hate you Gary but as an ex serviceman on a lowly pension after serving my country putting my life on the line 23 years and then having to pay to keep you in that style you turn your nose up at us feel its unfair when i dont want to or should be forced too pay for it

LSW1 says,

Shouldn’t you be on your way out so they can replace you with someone younger and more diverse?

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.

The culture wars, ctd

“Speaking personally, I am getting a little fed up with the shoe-horning of George Floyd into every aspect of our lives. The Minnesotan policeman accused of killing him is currently in prison awaiting trial for murder. Literally nobody on earth is defending his actions. So it is slightly galling that anyone, at the BBC or anywhere else, should try to present his killing as some sort of Murder on the Orient Express effort involving every white person on earth.”

Douglas Murray.

He, yours truly and many other people are fed up with all this. But for today’s Maoist culture warriors, even seemingly small things, such as the words accompanying “Land of Hope and Glory”, are worth crushing into silence, if their acts achieve the end of demoralising and destroying what they hate. (Check out this Elgar CD for the actual music.)

Ironically, the song Rule Britannia includes the line “Britons never, never shall be slaves”. That enrages some, for whom the object of their drooling political philosophy is to enslave humanity. Their hatred of such tunes is in fact a form of psychological projection and on a massive scale. They see evil imperialism in a desire not to submit to rulers.

This isn’t going to stop unless and until the structures that today’s Gramscian Left have captured – many universities, tax-funded arts bodies, the BBC, etc, must have their funds cut off, their staff fired, and the organisations forced to subsist on whatever private stipends they can obtain.

Meanwhile, the BBC has once again achieved the opposite of its intentions.

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.

  • Book news

    Andrew Doyle reports:

    Titania McGrath has written a book for children in order to teach them how to resist indoctrination and think exactly like her.

    Doyle has done more than anyone else to publicise how wokery is at least as much a posh white girl thing as a downtrodden ethnics thing. Discuss.

    Apparently there’s a chapter in it on Robin DiAngelo.

    The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

    I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

    How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

    Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

    Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

    In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

    To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

    But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

    The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

    Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

    When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

    Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.