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]

Who gave them the power to do this?

Watchdog bans ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes in adverts

Are we watching ignorant armies clash by (saturday and) night?

When the Tea Partiers were called ignorant racist deplorables back in Obama’s day, they knew it was not true, even if some of them could not well articulate that knowledge in the face of “I’m with the media, screw you” PC questioning. They knew they left demo sites cleaner than when they arrived. They knew that illegal immigration was, well, illegal. They knew that, if they liked their doctor, they’d not been able to keep their doctor. And they knew that the statist solutions Obama loved have a very poor record (see e.g. Socialism, Experience of).

When the Brexitters were called islamophobic little-englanders ignorant of basic economics in the modern age, they had very good reason to think it was not true, even if some of them could not well articulate that knowledge in the face of a “we know best” media and establishment. They knew the UK economy had functioned outside the EU well within living memory. They knew their distaste at Rotherham was not a mere phobia. They could see many predictions of Project Fear were so wild as to discredit it. And they knew that taking back control was itself a benefit (see e.g. Liberty, Value of).

Now we have the yellow vests (Gilets Jaunes) in France. They have a lot of grievances, but the spark that lit their explosion was Macron’s eco-tax, to save the planet from Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Now, I know AGW is pseudo-science.

– I’m confident we’ll do OK after Brexit, but I know the notorious hockey stick was made when ‘scientists’ – deceitful, but also too ignorant of statistics to understand what they were doing – fitted their data like a policeman fitting-up a suspect (take the recalcitrant dataset into a dark room with some statistical tools; when you emerge, the dataset is moaning, “OK, OK, I confirm the hypothesis – just don’t separate my principal components again and I’ll say anything!!!”).

– I suspect the Brexit-day Calais traffic jam may be hardly worse than the jam the yellow-vests caused at the French-Italian border, but I know those scientists saw the post-fit line dipping back down to the pre-fit level (like an intimidated witness trying to drop a hint), yet refused even to think about what it was trying to tell them and instead (in the sole manipulation where they understood exactly what they were doing) scaled the graph to hide the decline.

What I don’t know is whether the Gilets Jaunes know this. I have bits of paper from known-name universities and later employments that credential me to talk about statistics, science, etc. The Gilets Jaunes don’t, so I can believe they are not well able to articulate it when faced with the arrogance of “we’re the experts”. However, they may have noticed how often we’ve passed some deadline to save the planet. They may sense that Macron is just another intellectual-without-intellect whose belief in AGW is clueless and self-serving. The Gilets Jaunes resentment that the price of saving the planet is always paid by them, never their ‘betters’, may lead them to ask why the oh-so-articulate eco-warriors don’t act like they believe it.

So, as regards global warming, I’m ready to credit the Gilets Jaunes with having a better ratio of sense to selfishness than the eco-EUrocrats. I’m just amused by the fact that the very issue where I myself can most claim to know, not merely think, that a particular group of populists is right, is also the very issue where I have the weakest evidence of that group themselves knowing or caring that they are not merely fighting their corner but are also correct about the issue.

Always wait for the police

“Police need public support to arrest violent offenders”, says Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, effectively the trade union for London police officers.

[Marsh] spoke out after video footage appearing to show two officers locked in a violent struggle as they tried to make an arrest was shared thousands of times on social media.

The footage, taken in south London on Saturday, appeared to show a male officer being dragged around in the road as he tries to stop a suspect in a white tracksuit running away.

A second man, wearing a grey tracksuit, seems to take a run-up before aiming a flying kick at a female officer, who then lies dazed in the road clutching her head, feet away from a passing bus. She appeared to have tried to use incapacitant spray on the pair but to no effect.

A member of the public wearing a motorcycle helmet helped the male officer in the struggle, but several cars went past without stopping.

“Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” said Marsh, who represents thousands of police officers in the capital.

Yes. Yes we are. And if anyone wonders how we got to this pass in which the public do not step in to help police officers when the latter attempt to restrain lawbreakers, try repeating Mr Marsh’s question without the implication that “we” refers only to the police:

“Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” said the public.

This state of affairs was a long time a-growing. Though I do not know Ken Marsh’s own views upon this issue, how many times have prominent police officers and other figures of authority deprecated, failed to support, actively condemned, arrested or otherwise punished members of the public who “took the law into their own hands” – or even just looked like they might? That last link takes you to a post from 2011 by Perry de Havilland in which a female victim of crime got “quite the life lesson” about police priorities. That lesson will not only have been taken in by her.

Longtime Samizdata readers might recall a little ditty I made in 2007 about a celebrated interview between the radio host Jeremy Vine and Tony McNulty MP, then a Home Office minister. Here is the BBC’s transcription:

Jeremy Vine: You see something happening in the street. Do you step in?

Tony McNulty: I think the general line must be to get in touch with the authorities straight and make sure that if things are as bad as you paint the police will be there as quickly as they can.

Jeremy: You see a young man looking aggressive, shouting at an old woman, what do you do? You retreat and ring the police?

Tony McNulty: I think you should in the first instance. It may well be the simply shouting at them, blowing your horn or whatever else deters them and they go away.

Jeremy: He’s now hitting her and the police haven’t come, what do you do then?

Tony McNulty: The same the same, you must always …

Jeremy: Still wait?

Tony McNulty: Get back to the police, try some distractive activities whatever else.

Jeremy: What jump up and down?

Tony McNulty: But I would say you know sometimes that that may well work.

Even if someone is being battered right in front of you, you must always wait for the police. That was the advice of a Minister of the Crown. Having drilled us in passivity for at least ten years (in fact much longer; that example is only one of many I could have cited), why would anyone expect ordinary citizens to suddenly rediscover the duty to defend a victim of assault just because that victim is a police officer?

Update: Here is some more recent advice from the police themselves: “Taking the law into your own hands – a warning from Derbyshire police”

That article does at least acknowledge that it is possible to make a citizen’s arrest and – mirabile dictu – records that Judge Jonathan Bennett awarded £400 from the Derbyshire High Sheriff’s fund to a man who made a citizen’s arrest of a burglar in recognition of “public spirited behaviour”. But note the response of the only police officer quoted:

Sergeant Graham Summers, of Derbyshire police, said: “We would never encourage anyone to take the law into their own hands by carrying out a citizen’s arrest. Instead, we would urge people to call us on 101 for non-emergencies, or 999 in an emergency.”

Atlas shrugs as Sark faces the shocking truth about price controls

The island of Sark, a small, remote Channel Island, with a population somewhere around 500, part of the Duchy of Normandy and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but almost entirely autonomous, noted for not having any cars, having been one the last feudal jurisdictions in the World and having had very low taxes, is currently in crisis over its electricity supply. The problem can be summed up in two words ‘price control’. Sark is taking on the appearance of a small, cooler, oil-free Venezuela (or perhaps a preview of Corbyn’s – or even May’s- UK in 2022). It even has the example of France, home of ‘égalité‘, the guillotine and generally poor economic ideas (and some excellent ones), a few miles away over the choppy Channel.

It will no doubt not surprise almost all our readers that Sark, having in recent years had democracy foisted on it, has got a legislature (28-strong) that seems to think that it has solutions to problems. The islanders have also found that as the price of electricity has risen in recent years, and as people have not been happy with the sole supplier to the Island, they have been generating their own power. Falling demand has led to higher unit costs for the supplier, which creates a vicious circle.

Enter the Commissioner established and authorised, nay, required, under the The Control of Electricity Prices (Sark) Law, 2016 to look into the price of electricity and to set a ‘fair and reasonable price’.

Looking at his powers more closely we see that they are in fact, nothing short of miraculous, under Section 13:

Determination of fair and reasonable price.
13. (1) Following completion of an investigation under this Law, the Commissioner shall, determine whether a price which is charged by a regulated electricity supplier for the supply of electricity is, or is not, fair and reasonable.

(2) In determining whether a price is, or is not, fair and reasonable the Commissioner shall take all material considerations into account, including without limitation the following matters –
(a) the cost of generating and distributing the supply of electricity, including the cost of –
(i) acquisition and maintenance of any plant and equipment,
(ii) fuel and other consumables, and
(iii) labour, required to generate the supply,
(b) the replacement cost of any plant and equipment required to generate and distribute the supply,
(c) the quality and reliability of the supply of electricity and the economy and efficiency with which the supply of electricity is generated and distributed,
(d) the margin of profit obtained by the regulated electricity supplier,
(e) the margin of profit obtained by such other electricity suppliers, generating and distributing a supply of electricity in similar circumstances in such other islands or territories, as the Commissioner thinks fit,
(f) the entitlement of the regulated electricity supplier to receive such reasonable return, as the Commissioner thinks fit, on the value of assets (including plant and equipment and working capital) operated or used by the supplier for the purpose of generating and distributing the supply, and
(g) any representations made in response to a request given under section 14, or otherwise.

Funnily enough, he is not expressly directed to consider the laws of economics, or supply and demand. You can see where this is going I am sure. So why can’t the fools on Sark? How many thousand of years and examples will it take? Here we have the closest thing to a laboratory for economics, 500 or so ‘lab mice’, and yet we already know how it ends. Here is his consultation paper.

So cutting to the chase, a price control has been issued, and the Island’s sole electricity provider intends to close on 30th November 2018, as they are losing £20,000 a month supplying power at the ‘fair and reasonable‘ (and that’s official) price. May I introduce here, the Managing Director of the Sark Electricity Company Ltd, Mr Atlas Shrugger (I jest), his name is… Mr Gordon-Brown (David being his first name), and his company wishes to challenge the commissioner’s decision.

SEL was to mount a legal battle against the commissioner move this December.

However, a review of the company’s financial affairs by its independent auditors found that although the company could withstand the temporary £20,000 loss per month caused by a new 52p price for electricity, SEL could not afford to mount the legal case at the same time.

Back in December, the tariff was set at 69p per unit.

‘We have already suffered through a 40% decline in consumption caused by Sark’s economic collapse and we cannot cut our costs any further,’ said SEL managing director David Gordon-Brown.

‘A 25% price cut for a company that has already lost £65,000 this year is obviously unmanageable.

‘Attempting to operate the company under these conditions would be a breach of my responsibilities as a company director.’

He said if Chief Pleas wanted the company to continue providing power, it would have to provide for the cost of fighting the commissioner order.

‘We cannot operate the company at a loss over £20,000 a month under the new pricing scheme nor can we find the money necessary to fund the legal fight.’

He added that if Chief Pleas did not come to the table as a financial backer in time, it would be required to shut down, leaving the island without water or electricity.

This, I understand, is because the cost of a legal challenge (in this tiny island) to the Regulator would be in the region of £250,000, and Mr Gordon-Brown has asked the Chief Pleas (the Parliament of Sark) to fund a legal challenge to the body established by the Parliament, as obviously, his company can’t afford that sort of money. Can anyone else see the obvious short-cut here, the one that doesn’t involve legal fees?

Mr Gordon-Brown was reported last December as saying:

David Gordon-Brown, the manager of Sark Electricity, says the recommendation by the island’s first electricity regular to reduce electricity prices tells “a story of betrayal”.
For the past eight years the people of Sark have been betrayed by a committee of incomers with so little understanding of Sark that they expect Electricity Prices here to be comparable to their experience in the UK.

Now the Company has been betrayed by a commissioner with so little understanding of Sark that he expects the costs of producing electricity here to be comparable to his experience in the UK.

The commissioner is doubtless a dedicated and decent chap, committed to fulfilling his statutory duty, he is only following the law and only giving orders, safe, as it happens, in his home in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, England.

But has the Commissioner considered economies of scale, transportation costs, economic law and reality? Does he have to?

The situation now is that the Electricity Company is shutting down on 30th November 2018, and they supply water.

I have to say that all those who voted for those who voted in this law, and those who voted it in and implement it, are quite simply, fully deserving of their adumbrated trip back to the Stone Age. I would propose evacuating from Sark all those who opposed it, or were too young (or insane) to know better (i.e. under 16), and leaving the rest to enjoy their new, low prices. To keep us safe from contamination, we should establish an an air and sea blockade, and air-drop a copy of Bastiat’s writings so that they may learn the error of their ways. Socialism (or price fixing) is just slow-motion cannibalism. It looks like Sark is heading that way, by choice. But as the BBC reported, they did have this terrible problem:

In August 2018, Sark Electricity was forced to lower its price by 14p to 52p per kilowatt hour (kw/h) after the island’s electricity price commissioner found the cost “neither fair nor reasonable”.
Despite the reduction, Sark residents still pay significantly more than the 17p per kw/h in nearby Guernsey or the UK the average of 14p.

Meanwhile over in Jersey, the press speculate about the evacuation of the island.

Asked if there was a real possibility of people having to leave Sark, Mr Raymond -(deputy chairman of Sark’s Policy and Finance Committee)- replied: ‘Not if we can get our contingency plans in place.

‘They are in the development stage at the moment so I can’t give out too much detail, but it will involve consolidating around certain centres – making sure there are certain buildings that have power so people can congregate there. It really is a war-time mentality. Do you really expect people to be living like this in the 21st century?’

Yes, I do, because if they are socialist dickheads implementing their plans, they will eventually get what is coming to them, good and hard.

Samizdata quote of the day

For instance, antifa groups have objected strongly to being lumped in with the Tommy Robinsons and Proud Boys of this world, whom they vehemently oppose. But they have no grounds to complain. The Guardian reports that these same activists welcomed PayPal’s ban on McInnes. They are all too comfortable with big corporates policing political activity, they just want other people to be policed.

Regardless of one’s political views, we should be as worried by PayPal’s decision to bar Tommy Robinson as its decision to bar antifa groups. We need to push back against PayPal’s attempts to clamp down on groups it considers to be hateful or intolerant, and we need to challenge those who want to outsource censorship to the tech giants.

Fraser Myers

Epik domain registrar against censorship

Much as Paypal has shown that it can stop providing services to customers for what appear to be political reasons, the domain name registrar GoDaddy stopped providing services to Gab, resulting in their web site disappearing from the internet.

Recently they found an alternative registrar, Epik, who have written a blog post about why they decided to accept Gab as a customer.

De-platforming a haven of free speech is not about left or right. Anyone who remembers studying civics is familiar with the concept of inalienable rights — rights that a worthy government can only protect but would have no moral authority to take away. The idea of Natural Law and Inalienable Rights dates back to Ancient Greece, if not before. Tolerance for competing views — including those protected by Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press — is not an American concept even though the Founding Fathers of the United States built a prosperous nation around the concept.

Refusing service to a customer does not violate the non-aggression principle, but when you need a service provider to help you speak to people it is very useful to find one who thinks that freedom of speech is a good thing. Epik should be commended for their stance, and more importantly, their stance is a reason to use their services.

To make sure there are service providers who take your business, it is helpful if there are plenty to choose from and that at least some of them have friendly policies. For this it helps if there are low barriers to entry and minimal state interference in the policies of service providers. Points of centralisation can be a problem. About this, Epik say:

In the domain name world, we often talk about domain ownership. The reality is that we are mostly leasing domains from registries, who in turn is often regulated by a regulator ICANN. Recently I have been a vocal advocate for Forever domain registrations whereby a domain is free of ongoing expense. At the moment, this is possible through Epik though there is still more work to do to make this a risk-free industry norm. The danger of not proactively embracing digital sovereignty, in all its forms, is that the digital world will inevitably find a way to achieve it, with or without domain names.

Various government bodies are in charge of various parts of domain registration, depending on where you are in the world. Technology to decentralise this would be helpful. Perhaps something like Namecoin could be the answer, or perhaps there is another way yet.

A bonfire of the freedoms

It is traditional at this time of year to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy. My Catholic family never had a problem with doing that. Fawkes was a terrorist before the name was invented. But for variety’s sake, effigies of many public figures other than Fawkes have been put on the bonfire over the years. The town of Lewes is particularly known for its vigorous celebrations:

In 2001 effigies of Osama bin Laden were burned by the Cliffe, Commercial Square and Lewes Borough bonfire societies, causing the Lewes Bonfire to receive more press attention than usual, being featured on the front page of some national newspapers, as did the Firle Bonfire Society’s 2003 choice of a gypsy caravan. In 2014 police investigated complaints about plans to burn two effigies of Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, and one model was subsequently withdrawn from the event. In 2015 effigies of David Cameron with a pig, Jeremy Clarkson and Sepp Blatter were burned.

I don’t have much of a problem with that, either. All those mentioned chose to be public figures, apart from the pig.

However I do have a problem with the nasty jerks (nothing to do with Lewes) who made a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower, the building that burned down in June 2017, killing 72 people, and put that on their bonfire. To laugh and joke about innocent people dying in agony is despicable. The proper response is scorn.

The actual response in the UK of 2018 was to send Plod round to scoop up a load of “gaffer tape and white tags” in a clear plastic bag and carry it away for detailed forensic analysis. Given that the six “suspects” voluntarily handed themselves in, why it is deemed necessary to search for their fingerprints on discarded pieces of cardboard is not clear, unless it is intended to feature in the first episode of the long-promised CSI South Norwood.

“Grenfell fire: When does causing offence become a crime?” asks the BBC.

I don’t know, when does it? It wasn’t a crime when I was growing up. How odd to think in Lewes and elsewhere a tradition of burning public figures in effigy grew up and persisted in the centuries since 1605, despite rulers who were quite happy to chop off an ear or two as a punishment for seditious libel. Now we have the Human Rights Act and everything, but jerks get arrested for burning a cardboard model.

My guess is that the police know perfectly well that even in these days of declining freedom, this example of causing offence still does not qualify as a crime. The performance of evidence bags solemnly being carried away in front of the TV cameras as if they had discovered the lair of a serial killer was not as pointless as it might seem at first. The process was the punishment.

Blasphemy laws return to Europe

Guido Fawkes reports:

ECHR: Defaming Muhammad beyond “Permissible limits” of “objective debate”

and comments,

The Austrian court found that “by making the statements the applicant had suggested that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship”. The ECHR has now agreed that this is a crime which trumps a person’s right to free speech. On the same day that Ireland is finally voting to take blasphemy laws out of its constitution, the ECHR seems determined to put them back in…

Calling all Samizdata-reading lawyers! Is this as bad for free speech as it sounds, or are there complicating factors? How specific to Austria is it?

Note that the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) is not the “supreme court of the EU”, that would be the European Court of Justice (ECJ). We will probably stay in the ECHR when we leave the EU.

Finally, what’s with “… he was not a worthy subject of worship”? Muslims strenuously deny that they worship Muhammad; worship is for God alone. At first I thought this might be a sloppy paraphrase by Guido, but those very words do appear several times in the original judgement.

Let’s save time and outlaw humour entirely

This video clip (which has English subtitles once you eliminate the advertisement at the bottom) shows the left wing French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon behaving unpleasantly.

I know. The jokes write themselves. But I was a little surprised to see a man often called “The French Jeremy Corbyn” display such un-PC (and to be fair to Mr Corbyn, un-JC) contempt for a journalist, particularly a female journalist, merely for speaking with a less prestigious regional accent. Reuters has an account of the exchange here, and this is a slightly longer version of the video with some French subtitles that shows the build up to Mélenchon losing his temper with Veronique Gaurel, the journalist in question. His claim that he does not understand her question does not convince. It looks a lot more like he understood it all too well and was desperately casting around for any excuse not to answer it.

Did you catch how he imitated her? Mr Mélenchon has shown a haughtiness that pokes a hole in his claim to represent the ordinary people of France against the elite. There has been an outpouring of support for Ms Gaurel, with many saying that his outburst was a reaction to her doing her job well and asking him a pointed question that remains unanswered. He will lose votes. That should be punishment enough.

But it never is enough for some people. France 24 reports,

French MP seeks ban on ‘glottophobia’ after Mélanchon mocks journalist’s accent

A French member of parliament has proposed that mockery of accents be outlawed, after an irate politician derided a journalist’s southwestern pronunciation before asking if anyone had a question in “understandable French”.

Laetitia Avia of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party said she was proposing a bill that would classify such mockery with other forms of prohibited discrimination such as on grounds of sex or race.

At this point we in the Anglosphere might be tempted to laugh in a smug way and say those Frenchies might submit to the abolition of a tradition of laughing at other people’s funny accents that goes back millennia, but we will never say goodbye to our ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Don’t count on it. How often have you laughed about the latest daft PC proposal from an obscure intellectual, a student union, or a minor politician, home-grown or foreign like Laetitia Avia – only to find five years later that it is a law you must obey?

Justin Trudeau’s finest hour

It wouldn’t kill us to give credit where credit’s due:

Canada becomes second country to legalise recreational cannabis, reports the BBC.

I expect crime to fall – and the sky not to.

I also expect that some Canadians have already got over-excited and done some stupid things over the last couple of days, and more will follow.

One of the many bad effects of prohibition of cannabis and related drugs was that it led users to wrongly deduce that because these substances are not nearly as harmful as was claimed in order to justify the ban on them, then they must not be harmful at all. One of the saddest experiences of my stint as a teacher was to watch a colleague use soft drugs to slowly paddle himself towards dementia in his mid-thirties.

Prohibition of drugs did not stop him getting them, did it? When something does not work it is good to stop doing it as America did in 1933 and Canada has now. Let us rejoice at an outburst of sanity.

Introducing RightTube

“Why it’s time for YouTube to ban the alt-right” is the latest piece in the New Statesman from the journalist and commentator Paul Mason, or Corbyn Ally Paul Mason to give him his full name.

Recent academic studies of alt-right sympathisers show that they are, indeed, divided into people prepared to glorify their own violence and those uneasy about it; rabid authoritarians completely sold on destroying democracy, and a wider group suffering from cultural insecurity. The political challenge is to defeat both, but in the process the task of preventing the evolution of the authoritarian conservative into the fascist is important.

I can think of no better way of doing this than excising the entire alt-right from YouTube. Hate speech is, in many countries illegal; incitement to rape and violence is a crime, so why does the world’s third biggest company, staffed largely by liberals, feminists and rationalists, want to make money by providing an echo chamber?

Some students of the alt-right argue that, by censoring them, we feed their narrative of paranoia. That is a danger. But YouTube is not a civil society in miniature: it is a business, and has business ethics and a reputation to maintain. It has already kicked the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off the platform; it would be very easy to remove not just the open fascists but any of the useful idiot brigade who knowingly platform them and drive customers to their books and lectures.

To do this would require a mixture of redesigned algorithms and prudent human judgement, challenging the fiction that YouTube and other social networks are “platforms not publishers”. It would mean YouTube’s executives having to take an overt business decision that they do not want their platform to be the primary means of spreading far-right ideologies such as “race science” or anti-vaccination mythology.

The far-right would still be free to make videos and send them to each other. But by depriving them of network tools and incentives, the world’s primary online video platform would be taking a major stand in favour of democracy. And their sympathisers in the echo chamber would then face a choice: stop driving traffic and attention to the outright fascists, or lose access in the same way.

Depriving fascism of its platform online is, in current circumstances, even more important than confronting it on the streets. Its strategy is not a direct read-off from the Hitlerite playbook, which begins with street violence and ends with state power. Modern fascists are quite happy operating in the parallel universe of online influence, doxxing political targets, polluting the information society, acting as a provisional wing of authoritarian conservatism, while politicians like Trump, Salvini and Le Pen do the heavy lifting in thousand dollar suits.

So it is in the interest of all of us that YouTube’s executives develop an editorial and political morality. I doubt CEO Susan Wojcicki thinks it’s cool to be running the primary transmitter of racism, fascism and misogyny in the world. But it’s time to stop.

I would be the last to deny that as a private company YouTube has the right to ban ban banban banban like the Pearl & Dean theme tune if it wants to. But the results might not be to Mr Mason’s liking. Or YouTube’s. At present when YouTube bans an individual extreme right winger, or someone it thinks is an extreme right winger, the utility of YouTube to the average person looking for political content is not much changed. However if it were to excise a whole chunk of the the political spectrum – for make no mistake, any definition of “far-right” compiled with the assistance of Mr Mason will stretch a long way left – then, to adapt the sardonic remark that Charles Krauthammer once made about the success of Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, it would open up a niche market of half the world. Then you would have RightTube and LeftTube in all their Fallopian glory, and never more the twain would meet.

What’s going on with Facebook?

Over at Libertarian Home, Simon Gibbs (who is the proprietor of Libertarian Home) asks:

I’m asking you a question: have you been tuning into these pages and what do you think is going on? Are some of these legit targets based on some criteria of public safety that you feel is valid? Or are they legitimately operated venues of dissenting opinion which is being squashed?

“These pages” being a list of pages which a certain Justin Harvey (commenting on a Facebook posting) says have been taken down, by Facebook.

I have only very recently plugged myself into Facebook, and have so far only lurked. I have posted nothing. Facebook is useful to me for keeping track of the doings of a few actual friends of mine (this one in particular), but otherwise I find it confusing. They keep nagging me to stick up a picture, so that my “friends” can know that I am really me, but my actual friends know this already.

Besides which, whatever combination of rumour and fact it is that Simon Gibbs is asking about make me think that if Facebook really, really wants me “to take a few moments” to update all my info, they can take a hike. The regular question with which Facebook confronts me whenever I open it, “What’s on your mind?”, feels downright creepy, given what I am coming to believe about the utter duplicity of Facebook’s masters and commanders, wanting, as they seem to, all the privileges but none of the obligations both of a common carrier and of a freelance publisher.

But what does our Commentariat think? I am not so concerned about the mere experience of using Facebook. Nor am I now asking about privacy. It is Facebook’s political biases that I am asking about, as is Simon Gibbs. One of my biases being in favour of people being allowed to express political opinions that I don’t share. The way it looks, to me, now, is that Facebook will be delighted to convey whatever opinions I express on Facebook to the world, until such time as the world starts, in noticeable numbers, paying attention to those opinions, at which point those opinions, being what they are, will vanish from view.

It may well be that, as a freelance enterprise rather than a government agency, Facebook is entitled to behave as it pleases, and face the commercial consequences. But if that’s so, what sort of consequences should those of us who do not share Facebook’s biases be trying to contrive for Facebook, and how? Besides, which, maybe Facebook actually is now a government agency in all but name.

Libertarian Home is an enterprise I admire. I especially enjoy attending its meetings, which happily for me mostly take place a mere walk away from where I live. But the LH commentariat is not as impressive as the one here, and I would love it if our commentariat were to take a serious crack at the questions that Simon Gibbs poses.