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]

In defence of all-{insert variable of choice} clubs

The Guardian is all a-froth because the Garrick Club, one of the historic gentlemen’s clubs of London, is still, well, a club for gentlemen as opposed to ladies.

In response, the Telegraph’s William Sitwell advocates for freedom of association:

“All-male members’ clubs reflect our natural tribal desires – get over it or get your own”.

… that central charge of archaic, sexist exclusion is nonsense. First because of the idea that there is something wrong with men wanting to be in the company of other men.

It is possible to be a decent male member of society – who champions equal opportunities in the workplace, changes nappies, generally strives to be a domestic god and is (joyfully) surrounded by women and small children at home – and, at the same time, enjoy a lunch with the boys. In the same way that others might want to hang out at the golf club, or in the snooker room. Or similarly how members of the LGBTQ+ community might wish to hang out in a club or bar or pub with their folk, or players in an all-female hockey team might wish to spend an evening with each other sipping champagne in a hot tub.

Humans are tribal, gravitating towards those whom they look, act, feel and sound like. But that is not incongruous with supporting positive discrimination in society, promoting the visualisation of minorities in fashion or policing or politics.

For the values that represent you formally are not necessarily jettisoned when you’re having fun. Which is what clubs are for.

“The regulatory superpower at work, protecting 300m people from the terrors of Google maps”

Tim Newman, making sure that the EU’s work is appreciated as it should be:

The “DMA” to which Pauline refers is the EU’s Digital Markets Act. There is more commentary from Kevin A. Bryan here.

Another reminder of why anonymity is sometimes necessary, this time from Sweden

I missed this article when it came out in the Observer (the Guardian‘s Sunday sister-paper) three weeks ago: ‘People are scared’: “Sweden’s freedom of information laws lead to wave of deadly bombings”

In a night in September, as summer was turning to autumn, Soha Saad dozed off on the sofa as she stayed up late studying. The 24-year-old, who lived in a quiet village near the Swedish university town of Uppsala with her parents and siblings, had recently graduated as a teacher, a career she was passionate about, and had big dreams for the future.

But in the early hours of the morning, all of that hope came to an end. An explosion ripped through their home, removing the windows and walls, and ending Soha’s life.

She is not thought to have been the intended target of September’s bomb attack – reports at the time said it could have been a neighbour related to a gang member – but was an innocent victim with no connections to gang violence.

With typical cowardice, the Observer article does not mention that the sharp increase in violence in Sweden is almost entirely driven by immigrants, mostly from the Middle East, and to a lesser extent from the Balkans. How does anyone think a problem can be solved if it cannot even be mentioned? In other respects, Miranda Bryant’s article was a good piece of journalism, highlighting how something that was for centuries considered a valuable freedom in Swedish society has become dangerous for many:

In recent years, Sweden has been caught in the grip of escalating gang conflict involving shootings and explosions – largely driven by drug trafficking, involving firearms and bombs. September was the worst month for fatal shootings in Sweden since 2016, with 11 deaths, and 2023 saw the most explosions per year to date.

The Moderate party-run coalition – supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats – have pledged to take action by sending more young people to prison and giving police more powers to search people and vehicles. But with younger and younger people being pulled into crime, turning them into “child soldiers”, the violence is showing little sign of stopping.

The explosions – usually targeting rival gang members and their families – often contain dynamite or gunpowder-based substances, according to police. Hand grenades have also been used.

In most countries, tracking down the address of a potential victim could be a laborious process. But not in Sweden, where it is possible to find out the address and personal details of just about anybody with a single Google search. Experts say criminals are being greatly helped by a 248-year-old law, forming part of Sweden’s constitution.

The 1776 freedom of the press act (tryckfrihetsförordningen) – a revered feature of Swedish society that gives everyone access to official records – marked the world’s first law regulating the right to free speech; the documents are protected on Unesco’s Memory of the World register.

“Public access to information is a fundamental principle in Sweden’s form of government,” according to the Swedish Institute for Human Rights (SIHR). “One of the fundamental laws, the Freedom of the Press Act, contains provisions on the right to access official documents. According to this rule all documents available at an authority are in principle open for the public.”

I can see why Swedes want to keep their traditional tryckfrihetsförordningen. My previous post mentioned the “Streisand Effect” with very little sympathy for Barbra Streisand’s famously counter-productive effort to keep information about her residence out of the public domain. Maybe I should have shown more. Being a libertarian does not oblige me to defend to the hilt everything which has the word “freedom” on it, and it does seem to me that, given how much easier it is for a criminal to track down a victim nowadays than it was in 1776, the freedom not to have one’s name appear in public government records ought be given more weight in Sweden and elsewhere.

Samizdata quote of the day – attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand

However, in the real, non-ideal world of mediocre and shallow thinkers, cowards, selfish careerists, and the occasional scoundrel, political and scientific censorship never works out in the way envisaged by its public advocates. In the non-ideal world of imperfect knowledge and corruptible character, censorship is just as likely to frustrate the pursuit of truth as to facilitate it.

Nobody’s Wisdom or Knowledge is Infallible

Consider, first, the fact that nobody, not even the most educated or brilliant person, possesses perfect, infallible knowledge, whether on moral or scientific questions. Of course, some people may, as a matter of fact, be better informed or wiser than others on this or that issue. However, the notion that anyone could enjoy a form of knowledge or wisdom that is uniquely infallible or immune to challenge, is preposterous. Who but God alone could possibly redeem such a far-fetched claim, and on what basis?

The idea that there is a superior class of persons whose knowledge and insights automatically trump the knowledge and insights of others is inconsistent with ordinary experience, which confirms that people reputed to be highly knowledgeable and wise can make grave and even catastrophic errors. In addition, it is based on a deeply naïve and misguided view of the complex and messy process through which human knowledge is acquired.

David Thunder writing “Why attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand”

… but frankly I think is a scoundrel’s errand.

Samizdata quote of the day – UK government overreaching again

But the proposed UK law would go beyond just FaceTime and iMessage to encompass all Apple products.

Earlier in January, civil liberties groups including Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International, put out a joint briefing opposing parts of the bill.

The groups said they were concerned the proposed changes would “force technology companies, including those based overseas, to inform the government of any plans to improve security or privacy measures on their platforms so that the government can consider serving a notice to prevent such changes”.

They added this would be “effectively transforming private companies into arms of the surveillance state and eroding the security of devices and the internet.”

Zoe Kleinman

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.