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]

Us, censor?

WEXFORD County Council’s Head of Communications has refuted suggestions that criteria he put forward to the Managing Director of South East Radio when discussing the renewal of an advertising deal worth some €50,000 amounted to an attempt to influence the radio station’s editorial output or “censor” them in any way.

In the course of a leaked correspondence between Mr Minogue and Managing Director of South East Radio Eamonn Buttle, it emerged that Mr Minogue had asked that, going forward, South East Radio would not broadcast “personal views or opinions of presenters”; that they retain all raw recorded material for a period of two years in case of a dispute with the local authority and that once Wexford County Council avails of a right to reply on an issue, that this should be the end of the matter and it should not be raised again.

I do not think that word “refuted” means what you think it means, Mr Head of Communications.

The quotation comes from an article in the Wexford regional edition of the Irish Independent called “Wexford County Council Head of Communications denies attempt to influence output of local radio station”, though I first saw the story in the Irish section of the Times called “Micheál Martin weighs into editorial independence row at Wexford county council”:

The taoiseach has said he is “concerned” about reports that Wexford county council requested some form of editorial control over a local radio station in return for advertising revenue.

The council has insisted that South East Radio has “significantly misinterpreted” the correspondence that clearly laid out the “criteria” that asked for commitments over certain editorial decisions that are usually the preserve of a media organisation.

The fact that the taoiseach has weighed in probably means that South East Radio’s independence is safe for now. But as a Times commenter called Helena says, “One small insight into the pressure state bodies with lavish advertising and PR budgets may exert over a financially struggling “independent” media sector. The extensive “no go” areas for media scrutiny in Ireland reflect this imbalance.”

Ireland is far from the only country where this is true.

Children without parents

Inevitably, it was Friday afternoon by the time Kevin [not his real name] was slowly and ineptly explaining in the headmistress’ office. All parents know what a talent children have for falling ill on Friday evening. The headmistress knew what a talent pupils have of presenting hard-to-handle problems on Friday afternoon.

Kevin had been acting up in class that morning – not unusual for either Kevin or the school, but this seemed different. The headmistress already knew somewhat about Kevin, of course, but only as three-in-the-afternoon came and went, did his full situation begin to emerge.

Years ago, mummy and daddy had little Kevin. Some years later, mummy and daddy had a falling out. Usually it’s the father who disappears first in this situation but in Kevin’s case it was his mother. Maybe she had some thought of retrieving him when she had a place he could stay and events just got on top of her – or maybe not. Kevin stayed with his father and step-mother, the new woman in daddy’s life. In time, this relationship too soured and daddy walked away from it, leaving Kevin cohabiting with his step-mum and, soon enough, his step-dad – a man she acquired. This occurred once or twice or thrice more – it was not entirely clear how many ‘step-‘s preceded the courtesy titles of the final ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ with whom Kevin was cohabiting when the Friday I’m talking about rolled round.

On that Friday, for reasons not worth detailing, Kevin’s step-(step-)parents were departing that habitation (whether in the same direction or in two different directions was uncertain) so other people could take vacant occupancy of it. It had been made clear to Kevin that he was not going to sleep there that night. He had no idea where he was going to sleep that night.

Of course, the Scottish government has assigned people, institutions and funding to handle this kind of situation. And of course, when you pay people to care, some work for the pay and not because they care (luckily for Kevin, his school’s headmistress was an exception). She was not surprised to discover, after she got her head fully round Kevin’s problem and phoned them, that the clock-watchers in the relevant social work department were almost all gone and no-one still there would take any responsibility or do anything before Monday.

Further questioning and checking elicited that Kevin had a granny living in the city. The headmistress managed to work out an address and phone number. Granny didn’t want Kevin – let’s be frank about it, he was not the kind of kid one instantly warmed to, although his distress and (when it penetrated his thick skull she would help him) willingness to cooperate made the headmistress like him a bit better than she ever had before. However Granny did not have that icy determination to get her off the phone before imminent departure for the weekend that had been shown by such social workers as had not departed even before she rang. (To be strictly fair, that city was unusually well supplied with the kind of people who consume social workers’ time and state handouts, and some of them greatly exceeded Kevin in being the kind of people one did not instantly warm to.) The strong-willed headmistress extracted consent to Kevin’s sleeping at granny’s for the weekend, “but he goes to school on Monday morning and he does not come back”.

Why am I telling you this? Two-thirds of the way through this long post, I mention Rotherham, where many of the abused girls were in the state’s not-so-tender care. My post below says power should be given to parents and taken from educational bureaucrats (especially the ones in that city, of whom I could tell you a tale). So, why indeed am I telling you this?

Well, if anyone ever implements (or just argues for) the scheme in my post below – to protect children by empowering their parents and disempowering the educational bureaucracy – then I want them to know beforehand, not discover afterwards, that these situations happen. Woke tyrants love their theories, but we believe in learning from experience – from the many that tell us the family is the best protector of children, and also from the few that warn us that parents aren’t always good, that step-parents can be worse, and that on a Friday afternoon, someone in our brave new-old educational world might suddenly discover that the parents, and the step-step-parents, and the clock-watching employees of that ultimate step-step-…step-parent the state, have all gone.

An education in the true meaning of power

We laugh at them for not knowing what ‘woman’ means. They laugh at us for not knowing what ‘power’ means.

“Only power arrests power.” (Montesquieu)

“In a conflict between mere law and power, it is seldom law will emerge as the victor.” (Hannah Arendt)

The state of Tennessee has laws. A law taxes its citizens and gives a hefty chunk of the proceeds to maintain a large education bureaucracy. A law compels Tennessee children to attend the schools this bureaucracy administers. A law forbids this education establishment to push critical race theory on the kids – but the education establishment is not as eager to obey this law as they are to enforce the others.

“We don’t really let anybody tell us what to do.”

The same casual contempt of the idea that laws apply to teachers, not just to parents and children, can be seen in Oklahoma. In Florida, laws force parents to pay education taxes and children to go to school from a young age, and they get enforced. But the law against teachers sexualising kindergarteners is another matter. Amber junior doesn’t feel like going to school? Amber senior doesn’t feel like paying so much tax? “Tough!”, says Amber the teacher. “You can’t break the law but I can.”

The educational establishment’s belief in its right to ignore the parents and those they vote for – its right to confine their role strictly to providing the kids and the money – is not new. They will behave this way while they have the power to do so. While the tax laws and the attendance laws provide the base for the educational establishment’s power, it will be hard to impose an external power to restrain their power. The parents may want it, but the parents have been deprived of direct power – they must pay taxes to a bureaucracy that can (and prefers to) ignore their wishes. The kids may want it, but the kids are compelled to attend school, and to treat the teachers’ narrative as fact and their doubts as ignorance. As long as all that operates, it will be hard to find the additional taxes and the additional government employees and lawyers to make a contemptuous bureaucracy obey an external power. Until the power dynamic can be changed, expect the education bureaucracy to spend much time laughing at the impotent rage of governors and the despair of parents while grooming their kids, or punishing them for teacher-defined *isms and *phobias. It will be hard work for even an unusually able and energetic governor to focus external power effectively upon them. As for parents, the bureaucrats think they have no right even to know, and ‘interpret’ the rules to impose costs on any who try.

Parents are pretty-well the only available independent resource with which to counter this power-dynamic. The idea of giving back to parents the power the bureaucrats took from them has been around for a long time. Past ‘school choice’ schemes have often offered parents only a little choice – ‘Education vouchers’ that let them choose an education-establishment-run school that is less full than others of inept teachers the teacher’s union will not let be weeded. Any legislature that wants the education laws they pass treated as facts, not jokes, needs to transfer a lot more power. Make the definition of school minimal. Give administering that definition to a small finance authority focussed on avoiding fraud, not on enforcing a narrative. Tie the tax money to the child and transfer it directly to the school they attend – and to the new school attended if the parents pull the kid from the old one. Cut the education bureaucracy out of every decision. In legal theory, the state will lose some power, but in actual reality they will lose the illusion of it; the education bureaucracy will lose the reality of it.

The education bureaucracy has a long track record of cheating to destroy voucher schemes. Everything I said about why they will nullify state law applies tenfold to a state law designed to give parents more power and them less. That’s why the handling of the money must be pulled back from the education department to an adjunct of the revenue. Revenue is everything. Taking the receipt of education revenue away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Taking the disbursement of it to schools and teachers away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Until that happens, a child’s parents may have the law on their side but the educational establishment will have the power.

Sci-Fi dystopia or real world?

A drone appears when people start singing from balconies in protest at the lack of supplies after being forcibly locked in their homes.

“Please comply with covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

And for extra added dystopian flavour…

Four- and five-year-olds who crawl rather than walk

From an anonymous article in Tuesday’s Guardian called “My pupils have been badly set back by the pandemic. ‘Catch-up’ lessons aren’t what they need”:

In my school, some children are now struggling to articulate what they need or want, answer simple questions or follow short instructions. This has a knock-on effect on their social skills. Those who haven’t had much practice taking turns in conversation or sharing with others find playing and using school resources difficult. Many children have missed out on physical development opportunities; it has been eye-opening to witness four- and five-year-olds choosing to crawl down the corridor into the toilets rather than walk.

I take a fairly forgiving view of the actions that our government and others took when the pandemic hit. As an immediate strategy lockdown may well have been the right thing to do, and even if it wasn’t, it is easy to be wise in hindsight and when it is not you who has to make the decision. Boris & Co. were faced with a type of crisis they had never faced before and a cacophony of conflicting advice, all of which claimed to be expert.

But it was clear quite early on that the slight risk that Covid-19 presented to young children was far outweighed by the harm done to their development by masks and lockdown. That is difficult to forgive.

What comes next?

To reiterate. The mRNA shots don’t stop infection or transmission, we don’t know whether they interfere with the development of durable immunity post-infection, and whether the next variant is deadlier than Omicron is “mostly a matter of luck.”

Politically, none of this matters at the moment. The people who pushed the shots – in other words every Western government and the entire public health establishment and media – have zero incentive to admit that the roulette wheel is still spinning.

Alex Berenson

And not unrelated…

The events of the past two years have been a wake-up call to those of us who naïvely believed our liberties were more or less secure under Western democracy. We discovered that a viral epidemic with an estimated Infection Fatality Rate somewhere in the range of 0.15-0.3% was sufficient for governments to claim the power to lock citizens up in their homes, prohibit citizens from taking walks in the park, tell citizens how many visitors they could have in their homes, shut down religious worship indefinitely, and order mass closures of businesses, all “for our own good.”

If all of this can happen once, it can surely happen again, especially if we are hit by another global crisis, be it global warming, terrorism, a global recession, an energy crisis, or a food shortage.

And if the crisis is not quite severe enough to convince citizens to renounce their liberties, governments can apparently count on the support of an uncritical media to stoke up people’s anxieties and fears, priming them for more “emergency” interventions and ever more illiberal restrictions on their property, life, and mobility.

Governments have restricted a wide range of civil liberties during the pandemic on the basis of unsubstantiated doomsday predictions, highly unorthodox methods of disease control, and hardly any serious consideration of the likely harms such restrictions would inflict on citizens and on our way of life. Future governments could exploit this dangerous precedent in a future crisis, whether real or manufactured, especially if the media jump on board to drum up some public hysteria.

David Thunder

Samizdata quote of the Vaccine Mandate Exemption

As the restrictive form of a poem sometimes forces a clearer expression of a thought than less demanding prose, so the need to present his belief in the scientific process as a request for religious exemption to the vaccine mandate forced physician Joseph Fraiman to create what Sarah Hoyt called “one of the more interesting pieces of writing i’ve seen in a while.”

Given my faith in the scientific process, I do not claim that this observational data is a good representative of reality; however I also cannot claim with certainty that it is false. Without randomized controlled trial data comparing the rare risk of hospitalization in young healthy participants, there is no way of estimating if the vaccine is more likely to prevent hospitalizations than to cause a serious adverse event. …

The entire concept of the mandate is based on the idea that it is safer for patients and staff to be near vaccinated individuals. This is not based on any experimental evidence; this is classical anti-science ideology. It is offensive to believers in the scientific process that one can claim to be certain regarding the truth of an objective reality, without experimental data to support that view. … those who have faith in the scientific process are concerned that this hubristic certainty of benefit, without experimentation, can easily harm more than benefit. … Now if our hospital system was attempting a cluster randomized trial across its many hospitals, in which hospitals are randomized to mandate or no mandate, I would gladly be a participant in this study and be randomized to a hospital with a vaccine mandate or not. …

… followers of the scientific process believe that experts do not dictate what is true about our objective reality. … To a follower of science who has reached a different conclusion than experts on the potential benefits and harms of the vaccine; in this situation for an employer to mandate the vaccine in question would be the equivalent of forcing an individual of Judeo-Christian faith to pray to a pagan idol to keep their employment.

Would being vaccinated interfere with your sincerely held religious belief or your ability to practice or observe your religion? If so, please describe.

Yes, being vaccinated would interfere with my sincerely held beliefs which is the reason I am requesting the exemption. I believe I should be allowed to finish my scientific evaluation of the meta-analysis of the vaccines, which is still ongoing. If my evaluation determines the harm benefit profile in an individual of my demographics is favorable I will gladly take the vaccine, but not until that point.

The longish text is worth reading in full here (h/t instapundit).

That Fraiman did not get a mere arrogant refusal owes as much, I suspect, to his presentation (both skilled and restrained) as to his factual details – a bureaucrat would have to be fanatical indeed not to realise that, if they just said ‘no’, the writer might prove a persistent and difficult opponent, not so easy to denounce and silence. But of course, like a Judeo-Christian in a Mohammedan country, this believer in the scientific process had to pay the Jizya to those who believe science is a result, proclaimed by ‘experts’ who are not to be doubted, still less mocked.

Your religious exemption has been reviewed and approved. Because of the direct threat posed by individuals who are infected with Covid-19, our accommodation requirement for your needs [my bolding] is to wear a N-95/KN-95 mask (which we will provide) and undergo weekly testing.

Samizdata quote of the day

If you go back to the Arab Spring and the Green Revolution there was generally a sense of triumphalism. Back then, the CEO of Twitter said that we are the free speech wing of the free speech party. That’s how Silicon Valley saw itself. Ten years later, you have the widespread view that Silicon Valley needs to restrict and regulate disinformation and prevent free speech on its platform. You’d have to say that the turning point was 2016, when Trump got elected against the wishes of pretty much everyone in Silicon Valley. That was a little too much populism for them. And they saw social media as being complicit in Trump’s election.

David Sacks

Samizdata quote of the pandemic

“I’m Not ‘Brave’; You’re Just a P—y !!” (Dr Naomi Wolf here, h/t instapundit, on which it has been linked repeatedly)

This is a companion post to Natalie’s one on ivermectin below. There is the pandemic science and the pandemic ‘science’ (the pandemic nonscience) – and then there is the issue of courage in science. I invite readers to put their comments about the science and the nonscience under Natalie’s post, and their comments about courage under mine – insofar, that is, as they can separate the two. The more our society indulges its desire to be safe, the more dangerous it seems to become.

(BTW, I don’t think Dr Wolf abbreviated her last word from the least cowardice to say it – she is rather clear in the essay that follows it – but only so the very people who most need to hear her say it were not protected from seeing her write it by their web-search engines. I refrained from the strong temptation to expand it again mainly from the desire to quote honestly but also for that reason.)

Courage is not just a virtue. It is the form of every virtue under test. Pontius Pilate was merciful – till it became risky. (C.S.Lewis)

Weakness and lies beget horrors of every kind

Anyone who cares about our liberty and security (the two are deeply entwined) needs to work tirelessly to ensure the future does not belong to tyrants, be they tyrants in Russia, China, or much closer to home. Even the smallest of daily acts of defiance can add to a countervailing pressure; every little decision you make, what you say, who you spend your money with, needs to be done thoughtfully and above all bravely.

At a time when it would be nice to have at least a measure of trust in our own institutions, the last two years have made that completely impossible. Putin and his ilk are predators who sense weakness, and culturally we have been greatly weakened by enemies within our own institutions public and private.

Some proposed amendments to the programme of public events when the revolution comes

So who is to be first against the wall? The traditional view is that it should be the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. While anyone who could call a robot “Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with” deserves their fate, bear in mind that Douglas Adams died before the triumph of the chatbot.

“For God’s sake, chatbots, let me talk to a human being”, cries Jessie Hewitson in the Times. She had a rotten time when both her bank cards stopped working.

Cross though the bus driver looked, he took pity on me and waved me to a seat. When I got off at the Tube station I tried again with the card readers at the gates. Same problem. My cards weren’t working, so there I stood, stranded, unable to get to work.

I called Barclays. After ten minutes of extreme faffery, an automated voice told me that I had to use the chat function because I had downloaded the phone app. So, thumbs frozen outside the tube, I typed my problem into the “chat”.

It was more like an endurance test, where the bank pushes you to the limit of your resolve. To see how long you will hang on to speak to a real person, if indeed you can figure out when you finally are.

In comparison to that “your plastic pal” doesn’t seem so bad. At least you can hit it. Let us spare the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. for a little while and execute the entire British banking establishment instead. But even they, citoyens, do not go first. So far, Ms Hewitson’s article is a pretty standard moan about the way the telephone number of your local bank now sits alongside the nuclear codes as a closely-guarded secret. Things are indeed grim. They, the chatbots, have taken to giving themselves names. Happy female names, mostly amusingly mis-spelled variants of human ones. We may also have to kill everyone who has ever used the term “customer engagement”. But bad as our current plight is, there are very few bad situations that government “help” cannot make worse:

Why are financial companies doing this? The obvious reason is money, but there’s another one: banks, broadband providers et al are keenly aware of the complaints figures that are given to the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators.

If they manage to reduce these, customers view them as more trustworthy. The harder they make it for you to speak to a person, the fewer complaints that will be logged. And so you have a warped situation where the good banks that encourage people to raise problems look worse than the bad ones that don’t.

I present my revised schedule for the public entertainments on Day One:

3. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
2. BarcWestLloydHSBCrap
1. The Financial Conduct Authority

This is not going to work

UK online safety laws to be strengthened:

The new communications offences will strengthen protections from harmful online behaviours such as … deliberately sharing dangerous disinformation about hoax Covid-19 treatments.

Social media bosses face jail if they do not do as they are told.

Meanwhile, attempting to be the sole arbiter of truth turns out to be not quite so easy:

Facebook’s actions won’t stop The BMJ doing what is right, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting in this way?

Why, indeed?