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]

Senior epidemiologist who advises the government says BBC misrepresented Covid risk to boost lockdown support

“BBC ‘misrepresented’ Covid risk to boost lockdown support, inquiry told”, the Telegraph reports.

Note that the person doing the telling is not some random conspiracist but Sir Mark Woolhouse, OBE FRSE FMedSci, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Woolhouse was an adviser to the Scottish government during the pandemic, although he says it did not often take the advice he offered. He also sat on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, a sub-group of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, usually known by its acronym “SAGE”. The Telegraph report by Scottish political editor Simon Johnson says,

The BBC was allowed to “misrepresent” the risk posed by Covid to most people to boost public support for lockdown, the UK Covid Inquiry has heard.

Prof Mark Woolhouse, an eminent epidemiologist and government adviser, lambasted the corporation for having “repeatedly reported rare deaths or illnesses among healthy adults as if they were the norm”.

He said this created the “misleading impression” among BBC News viewers at the start of the pandemic that “we are all at risk” and “the virus does not discriminate”.

In reality, he said it was known at the time that the risk of dying from Covid was 10,000 times higher in the over-75s than the under-15s.

But Prof Woolhouse told the inquiry the BBC did not correct its reporting, saying: “I suspect this misinformation was allowed to stand throughout 2020 because it provided a justification for locking down the entire population.”

Samizdata quote of the day – Bond villains know what their priorities are

So, in spite of the Russia/Ukraine war, the growing conflict in the Middle East and the Chinese military threats to Taiwan, Ursula believes the most important issue facing the world is “disinformation and misinformation” – basically what we plebs are allowed to see and hear. And she believes a key role for the elites is rebuild trust in the plans the elites have for us by protecting us against being fed information which she and other leaders consider to be potentially harmful or polarising.

David Craig

The Potemkin politics of the UK

As the Samizdata quote of the day has been taken already by an excellent candidate, I thought I would add this quote for your delectation and discussion:

Public consultations have been sold as a way of increasing transparency and the quality of government. In reality they have often become Potemkin exercises where the Government is able to signal that it is doing something without actually doing it; or, worse, a policy colonisation process by a self-selecting public-sector clique of lobbyists, charities, and interest groups.

Fred De Fossard, head of the British Prosperity Unit at the Legatum Institute.

The way that these consultations are handled, often to give ministers the “right” answers and cover for what they wanted to do anyway, also speaks to how, as the writer notes, much of the supposed opportunities from being outside the EU are not being embraced.

With the Conservative Party so far behind in the polls, one might assume ministers would utilise the sovereignty of Parliament in what time they have left to do a few popular things, and legislate for the views of Tory supporters. There is still no sign of this happening; indeed quite the opposite, if the legislative agenda in the recent King’s Speech is any guide.

And there’s this zinger of a point:

The Government seems intent on eroding democracy further, by handing more powers to arms-length bodies, so the state will get even bigger, but less accountable. The Competition and Markets Authority is soon to be given new powers to regulate the digital economy; a brand-new regulator will oversee English football, despite the country boasting the most successful footballing economy in the world.

Needless to say, as or when we get a Labour government, I expect little change on this issue of “arms-length” bodies taking key decisions and arrogating more power for themselves. The fiasco of the Post Office and the wrongful convictions of hundreds of people might put a dent in this, but I am not optimistic.

These are deep-rooted problems, and for all that I am concerned about the direction of politics in the UK right now, I don’t see the Conservative Party as providing any sort of solution. My thoughts are increasingly mutinous.

The author concludes:

If British conservatism has a future, it must stop government-by-stakeholder, re-democratise the state, and end our recent experiment in the banal tyranny of process.

Samizdata quote of the day – the Digital Pound

The advantages [of the Digital Pound] over cash are, then, as clear as day. The pesky thing about cash is that it isn’t regulated. If you want to buy something in cash, you just hand it over to the person who is selling the thing, and that is that. This covers the transaction in a layer of kryptonite as far as government is concerned: it can’t control who ends up owning the money, and it can’t control whether the transaction takes place. The digital pound, and the way it is being set up, offers no clear advantage to the ‘user’, but, again, that isn’t the point. The advantages are obvious to those doing the governing, and that is ultimately what motivates the entire project for reasons which by now will be well understood.

David McGrogan.

Highly recommended that you read the whole thing.

Samizdata quote of the day – the Scorpion State

While the desire on the part of modern conservatives to divorce themselves from ‘neoliberalism’ is understandable enough, the simple truth is that there is a very good and obvious reason why parties on the economic left tend towards being left on culture, too.

And it is simply this: a State which minutely governs the economy is one which minutely governs society as a whole, because economy and society are not in fact separate phenomena, but an integrated whole. This means that if the State is big vis-a-vis the economy, it is going to be big in all areas – and it is going to want to squash or co-opt competing sources of loyalty and authority (like the family, religious and community groups, businesses, etc.) which the right holds dear accordingly.

The truth of the matter, then, is that conservatives and libertarians both fundamentally need the same thing (a small state) and that the ‘left on the economy and right on culture’ meme is just that: a slogan without a genuine cause.

David McGrogan

Should the faces of the students at San Francisco State University who were happy to pay to kill Jews be blurred out, or not?

Ami Horowitz
@AmiHorowitz
My new video!
How bad is Antisemitism on campus?
Will Leftist college students give me money to kill Jews?!!!

The video linked to in the tweet starts with a clip of Horowitz talking to a San Francisco State University student whose back is facing us. Horowitz says,

“…And we want to fund operations against soft targets, schools, hospitals, Jewish cafes…

The video then cuts to Horowitz talking straight to camera. He says,

“I’m Ami Horowitz and anti-semitism is rising precipitously across the globe. How bad is it? I’m here at San Francisco State University, one of the most left-leaning instersectional schools across the country.

I’m here to raise money to kill Jews.”

Horowitz, who, in case anyone is unclear on this point, is not actually trying to raise money to murder Jews but to warn how commonplace support for the murder of Jews has become at American universities, proceeds to politely stop various young people who are walking along the paths in the SFSU campus and solicit their support for terrorism against Jews. There is no obfuscation about “Zionists” or “Israelis”; Horowitz says “Jews” throughout and is abundantly clear that he is talking about physical violence. In the sequence starting at 1:02 he says, “Attack, blow things up … blow shit up … all we have a rockets and suicide bombers”. The SFSU students are fine with that.

I can sympathise with Rebecca Levin who said in the replies,

Can you release any full conversations without breaks? I find this a bit hard to believe even as a Jew who recently graduated from college and editing can be deceptive and well, I’d really like for you to be a fraud vs this actually being real.

I, also, would really like this not to be true.

It would be a good thing for Horowitz to release the full videos. Deceptive editing is on my mind right now. Remember the way that George Eaton of the New Statesman was nice as pie when he went to interview Sir Roger Scruton and then maliciously edited Scruton’s words to make it seem that Scruton believed that each Chinese person is “a sort of replica of the next one”, when what Scruton had actually said was how frightening it was that the Chinese Government was trying to force each Chinese person into being a replica of the next one? Remember how Eaton posted a picture of himself swigging champagne to celebrate how he had got Scruton fired from an unpaid government role?

Well, that same George Eaton is celebrating again now. He has just been made Senior Politics Editor of the New Statesman. Deceptive editing does happen and is no bar to a successful career in journalism. At least… not if the journalist is left wing, a protection that Mr Horowitz does not have.

Like Rebecca Levin, if Mr Horowitz’s video were to be revealed to be deceptively edited, the moment of annoyance I would feel of seeing left wingers gloat at the “gotcha” would be far, far outweighed by the relief of knowing that it was not really the case that 28 out of 35 San Francisco State University students Horowitz spoke to expressed support for killing Jews and 17 out of 35 students Horowitz approached pledged money to kill Jews.

But, even though I would like to see the full unedited videos, it is difficult to see how the girl with the black bag could claim to have misunderstood Horowitz when he told her at 0:36 that he was raising money to strike Jews “around the world, in France, in Germany, in Britain, wherever they are”. Conceivably he could have edited out her horrified objections to this proposed terrorism, but could he really have made her appear to say, as she does say at 1:14, “Because it’s like, part of their religion. Like, they wanted to take over”? She then pledges him $30.

Given that the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, three of the top universities in the United States, found it tricky to say whether calling for the genocide of Jews was against the rules of their respective universities, I suppose we should not be surprised that San Francisco State University (“SF State prepares its students to become productive, ethical, active citizens with a global perspective”) wants to follow their lead.

Is contributing money that one has been explicitly assured (0:55) will be used to blow up “cafe’s, hospitals, Jewish schools, Jewish buses, synagogues, that kind of thing” legal in the United States? Whether it is or not, is there any good reason why the anonymity of sweetie with the black bag and the others who openly put their support, and in many cases their money, down for some Jew-killing should be preserved?

Five Things That Could Help Fix Britain’s Private Rented Sector. You Won’t BELIEVE #5!

The Guardian‘s “social affairs correspondent”, Richard Booth, has written an article with the title “Five things that could help fix Britain’s private rented sector”. By “fix” he must mean “fix its current problems in stone”, because, with the possible exception of the first, every one of them would make yet more landlords run for the exits while they still have the chance.

An astonishing number of people think it is a good argument to say at this point, “Aha, but the houses would still exist, so landlords selling up would be good for the tenants because they could buy them”. There is indeed often a temporary glut of houses for sale just before laws such as Mr Booth advocates are passed, which is like winning the lottery for the people rich enough to buy at that moment. Then the door closes for decades. The great majority of tenants cannot afford to buy the houses they are renting and most would not want to even if they could. They are students, or people on temporary contracts, or people happy to do a fast-paced job in the big city while they are young but who never had any intention of settling there forever. Rent control and legal “protection” for these tenants is nice for one generation of them, a disaster for those who come after.

Then again, a return to the days of yore when most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born can seem quite a charming prospect to those who think that it will not apply to them. And there is no doubt that an end to all this social mobility would be very eco-friendly.

Ten years ago, Brian Mickelthwait predicted the response to Covid-19

Ten years and ten days ago, the sadly missed Brian Micklethwait wrote this: “What if there is a real collective disaster?”

Brian quoted this article by Paul Murphy which said that the response of governments and the scientific establishment to what they saw as the global warming crisis had “destroyed the credibility of all involved” and “greatly weakened the world’s ability to recognize and respond to a real threat should one now materialize.”

Brian added,

An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision? (Think Stalin when Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941.) And what if it then imposes a wrong decision about what needs to be done? A collectivity that is hastily assembled by freer and more independent persons is just as likely to act in a timely manner, and is far more likely to have a proper argument about what must be done, and hence to arrive at a better decision about that.

Besides which, what is often needed in a crisis is not so much collective action, but rather individual action for the benefit of the collective. That is a very different thing, and clearly a society which cultivates individuality will prepare individuals far better for such heroism than will societies where everyone is in the habit only of doing as they are told.

“An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision?” There could scarcely be a better description of the response of the UK and the Western world as a whole to Covid-19. Masks are useless! Cancel that, masks are compulsory! Herd immunity! Cancel that, vaccines are compulsory! Lockdown! Cancel that, ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, er, cancel that, back to lockdown!

Climate fatigue

This article about “climate fatigue” by Francesco Grillo is one of the better arguments I have seen in the Guardian on the topic: “Climate fatigue isn’t a sign that Europeans are in denial – it’s a sign of their fear”. It starts very much in the usual fashion:

The first step is to recognise that climate fatigue in Europe has little to do with Europeans being less concerned about the impact of volatile climate systems. Indeed, people feel the effects directly and terrifyingly as the continent is increasingly battered by heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods.

I am suspicious of that claim that the decline in European popular support for climate measures “has little to do with” many Europeans ceasing to believe in the seriousness of the claimed coming catastrophe. It has lots to do with it, obviously. If the people of Europe still held the same level of belief in the imminence and severity of CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) as they did five years back, their support for drastic measures to head off this disaster would also be at the same level as it was then. They don’t and it isn’t. Their increased scepticism is justified. A great many predictions of doom have failed to come to pass. Click on the word “CAGW” to see relevant past posts by me and others on this blog going back more than two decades. I will restate my own opinion: that anthropogenic global warming probably is occurring but at nothing like the apocalyptic level claimed. Angela Merkel would have been better off saying, “Wir schaffen das” about climate change.

However honesty compels me to say that some of the decline in belief is motivated by people finally having twigged that the bill for Net Zero will not ultimately be paid by the infinitely absorbent corporations and governments of legend, but by them. When people drop a luxury belief because it ceases to be a luxury they can afford, they do advance towards reason, but not by means of reason. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for. It’s not like the prophets of doom are immune from motivated reasoning themselves. The point is that Europeans have realised, correctly, that if we actually do all that the Greens want us to do, it will impoverish us. If we do a quarter of what the Greens want us to do, it will impoverish us. That would be bad, even from – or especially from – the point of view of people worried about climate change. Impoverished societies cease to care about the environment.

This is why I said that Mr Grillo’s article is one of the better ones I have read in the Guardian. They are not usually so honest about the cost:

But people are also terrified of what they believe will be the cost to individuals of the required energy transition. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, the global transition to net zero will require additional investments in fixed assets of $3.5tn a year until 2050. That’s about a quarter of all the tax raised worldwide. There is still no convincing mechanism for financing this in ways that reassure families, individuals, small firms and farmers that they are not going to be bankrupted. Increasingly, ordinary citizens know that many of them will have to foot crippling bills for such things as renovating homes to make them comply with energy efficiency rules.

And

… in a country such as Italy, more than half of existing homes need to be adapted to the new standards. Italian families would have to pay out about €500bn over the next decade, an average of €40,000 per affected household, according to a study done for the Vision thinktank I am affiliated to. No wonder many families, impoverished by years of economic stagnation and more recent inflation, view the green deal not as a transition to a more just model of distributed energy production, but as a waking nightmare.

Samizdata quote of the day – We defend free speech for all

But we cannot allow freedom of speech to become a casualty in the fight against anti-Semitism. We already have a plethora of restrictions on speech and protest, on everything from ‘hate speech’ to disruptive demonstrations to ‘grossly offensive’ messages. Misgendering someone on social media. Protesting against the monarchy. Telling a police officer she resembles your lesbian grandmother. Brits have been handcuffed for all of these supposed ‘crimes’ and more in recent years. And the cops’ warped priorities only underline why we cannot hand the authorities the power to decide what is and isn’t permissible to say. They often come to rather eccentric conclusions. Beyond direct incitement to violence, thuggish protest or harassment – which are not speech crimes at all, but rather crimes that involve speech – even the most hateful and extreme speech must be permitted. If for no other reason than it safeguards our own freedom. We defend free speech for all, or for none at all.

Tom Slater

Arrestable and non-arrestable offences during religious protests

Ten months ago, a woman called Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion clinic.

For days ago, a man whose name the police know but have not made public was not arrested for asking a “What is the solution to liberate people from the concentration camp called Palestine?” Then the man standing at his side led the crowd in chanting “Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!” – and he wasn’t arrested either. This took place at a protest in London on 21st October organised by the Islamic Fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

I do not think either Isabel Vaughan-Spruce or the two Hizb ut-Tahrir members should have been arrested. I have two main reasons for this view. Firstly, I believe in free speech (well, free mental recitation in Vaughan-Spruce’s case). Secondly, I want to know what the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir are saying and I want other people to know. The media have sugar-coated Muslim extremism for long enough.

But if we are going to have anyone arrested for religiously motivated protest, why should it be her rather than them? Here is the Metropolitan Police’s own explanation:

Specialist officers have assessed the video and have not identified any offences arising from the specific clip. We have also sought advice from specialist Crown Prosecution Service lawyers who have reached the same conclusion.

However, recognising the way language like this will be interpreted by the public and the divisive impact it will have, officers identified the man involved and spoke to him to discourage any repeat of similar chanting.

We are also aware of photos from the same protest showing signs and banners referring to ‘Muslim armies’.

While there are varying interpretations of what the language on the placards should be interpreted to mean, officers must take decisions based on the wording actually used.

Such care for exactitude in whether words spoken at a protest met the threshold for being an offence would be admirable if the police applied the same care to everyone. But they don’t. Ben Sixsmith, writing for The Critic, lists twelve things more arrestable than calling for Jihad.

UPDATE: This video, which I found via Dr Eli David, shows a crowd of Muslims marching down a street in London. Someone shouts (into a microphone judging from the sound) the following words, “We’ll find some Jews here! We want the Zionists! We want their blood!” Meanwhile a policeman walks beside them, saying nothing.

And then the establishment closed ranks on Covid…

In one of the most jaw-dropping interjections of the inquiry to date, Baroness Hallett revealed a prejudgement that if masking people could have had even the slightest of benefits, and seemingly without even contemplating that risks and known harms might need to be weighed too, she pressed Sir Peter Horby, an esteemed epidemiologist at Oxford University, who had indicated that he believed universal masking was not a straightforward decision: “I’m sorry, I’m not following, Sir Peter. If there’s a possible benefit, what’s the downside?”

Coming from the independent Chair of a public inquiry, this is an astonishing comment. It betrays a presumption, or at the very least a predisposition, to accept that it was better to act than not to act — the reverse of the precautionary principle. When a comment such as this, from the Chair of the Inquiry, goes unchallenged, it risks anchoring the entire frame of reference for the inquiry’s interrogation of this critical topic. In our view it was a surprising and serious error of judgement for an experienced Court of Appeal judge.

What made Baroness Hallett feel this to be an appropriate thing to think, let alone say out loud? We suggest the issue lies in the fact that the Chair and the official counsel to the inquiry seem already to have the storyline of the pandemic wrapped up.

– Molly Kingsley, Arabella Skinner and Ben Kingsley, writing The Covid Inquiry is an Embarrassment to the English Legal System