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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Sonnets are racist says SalfordU

Salford University has banned sonnets and suchlike “products of white western culture” from its creative writing course to “decolonise the curriculum”. I say ‘banned’ but they say they merely

“simplified the assessment offering choice”

and I have to admit there is a sense in which ‘simplified’ is the mot juste.

Frequent readers of Samizdata will now be expecting Niall Kilmartin (a.k.a Bilbo Baggins) to inflict some of his own poetic doggerel on you, but as none of mine even try to be any kind of sonnet, I will instead quote Neo’s response to the news.

My grief is deep, as deep as oceans vast
But virtue has its own reward, and so
I’ll give up sonnet-writing, and the past
Can sink beneath the waves of gloom so low.
Old Shakespeare, with his bootless bootless cries
No doubt was white and certainly supreme
Let’s stamp him out, and “colonization” dies.
We’ll show fidelity to the new meme.
Oh Wordsworth, even more forlorn are we.
Bereft of your old counsel, now we stand
On their less wise and quite unpleasant lea
Without the comfort of tradition’s hand.
The poems they write today are stupid shite
And sonnets are too challenging to write.

[If you compare with Neo’s original you will see that Niall get-the-scansion-perfect Kilmartin has made a tiny change at the start of the fourth-last line; feel free to comment and/or upbraid me any who wish. I have also skipped Neo’s link to the meaning of ‘shite’, assuming British readers know it, and transatlantic ones can deduce it from the context and from a certain rather obvious homonym. 🙂 ]

Neo has not offered an example of the modern, de-colonised poem that must now be written instead. Commenters are welcome to fill the lack with genuine examples or their own spoofs, or to share much loved poems, or just to give their opinions.

It was foresighted Robert Conquest who wrote, decades ago, that alongside ‘War is Peace’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’ and ‘Ignorance is Strength’, there was another essential slogan of totalitarianism that Orwell had (surprisingly) omitted:

Rubbish is Art

and of course, its corollary: Art is Rubbish (and racist and …).

Samizdata quote of the day

“A majority of Americans want companies to stay out of politics. They want to have a separate space for where they shop, where they work, and where they invest from the places where they cast their ballots or engage in their political debates.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, a young businessman and author of Woke Inc. He is critical of the current trend of firms, and asset managers such as BlackRock, seemingly putting non-financial goals before those to do with actually earning a return for investors.

How not to change minds on abortion

Last December Meghan McArdle tweeted,

“Looking at abortion opinion, it’s actually quite striking how little men and women differ on this question. The whole pro-life is about men telling women what to do with their bodies” schtick simply isn’t grounded in reality . . . Men are more likely to self-id as pro-life, and women as pro-choice, but when you drill down into specifics, it’s clear this stems from differences in labeling quite similar views.

She backed up her opinion with a link to this article by the polling organisation Gallup: “Abortion Trends by Gender”.

On specific questions relating to abortion, the opinions of American women and men were amazingly close. For instance, in this detailed survey from 2012, 71.5% of men and 69.4% of women said abortion should be legal if there is a strong possibility of a serious fetal defect, and 43.1% of men and 43.3% of women said abortion be legal for married women who don’t want more children.

Opinion has also been remarkably consistent over the years. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1995 60% of Americans thought that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Now it’s 61%. In 1995 38% of Americans thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In 2022 it is 37%.

Why are the lines so flat? Over the same period church attendance has dropped. Support for other ideas once considered the preserve of the radical left, such as gay marriage, has steeply increased. The standing joke is that the Right won on economics and the Left won on culture. So why did the Left’s advance falter on that one issue?

By the way, although I talk about abortion as a left-right issue, because it certainly is one in US politics and to a lesser extent in politics across the Anglosphere, in this post I am not making an argument for or against abortion. If you wish to read my slightly indecisive thoughts on the issue you can do so here: “Thinking aloud on a mountainside”.

I am just interested in the Left’s relative failure to change the minds of Americans on abortion when in the same period it did so well in changing minds (including mine) on issues usually bundled with abortion.

I think it was because in the US and the UK, the pro-choice side almost never engaged with what their opponents actually believed. Over the years I must have read hundreds of Guardian articles on abortion, mostly in its US section because abortion is such a live issue there. I do not recall a single one that argued against the main sticking point of the pro-life side, namely that abortion takes a human life – let alone argued for it. On other issues the Guardian would occasionally let the odd Conservative or other non-progressive have their say about fossil fuels or the nuclear deterrent or whatever, and would often feature writers who, while left wing themselves, at least knew enough of the right wing view to argue against it. However when it came to abortion the line always was, and judging from Twitter in the last few days, still is, that opposition to abortion arises (a) only from men and (b) only from men who wish to control women’s bodies.

It works, a bit. Some men who read that will decide that they do not want to be that sort of man, others will decide that they do not want to be thought to be that sort of man. But an argument that does not even acknowledge the existence of female opponents of abortion will obviously not change their minds. Nor will silence reassure women who are not firmly pro or anti. If the Left will not talk to them about their doubts, then by definition the only arguments they hear will come from the other side.

How about male opponents of abortion and/or men who are not sure what they think? In most cases they simply will not feel that this charge that they want to control women’s bodies has any relevance to them. It’s like being accused of bank robbery when the most you’ve done is put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. Or like being accused in the modern fashion of misogyny rather than sexism: a conscientious man might examine himself and admit that some unjustified assumptions about women might be lurking in his subconscious, but that does not mean he hates women. All in all, that way of presenting the abortion argument is great for firing up those who already agree, but ensures that practically no women’s minds will be changed, and few men’s.

The above “model” is just my supposition, of course. But the remarkable stability of US opinion on abortion over decades is a fact that needs explaining, and that would explain it.

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)

Trump Derangement Syndrome is writing a job description for Trump and not knowing it

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the people who report to Putin to read that Westerners are outraged by what they’re seeing—outraged to the point of recklessness. Just as we’re wondering if Putin is insane, he should be wondering if we’re insane. When journalists publicly call to put the West at grave risk by escalating the conflict, they may well be proposing an insane course of action, but that is not a bad thing. A touch of insanity improves our deterrence.

We don’t, of course, want to overdo it. We don’t want to convince him we’re poised to launch a first strike. But if he thinks we’re insane enough seriously to consider a no-fly zone? Good.

And if his generals grasp that we’d be very happy to do business with them as soon as they take care of business, Czar Paul I style? Good.” (The final paragraphs of Part I of Claire Berlinski’s latest article in The Cosmopolitan Globalist; she continues her theme in Part II.)

So, what Claire thinks the west needs now is a leader who

– will strike Putin as reckless, maybe insane;

– will strike Putin’s subordinates as a guy who makes and keeps deals.

This is a job description tailored to Donald Trump. It’s very close to how he’s described himself over Russia and Ukraine. But this simply does not occur to Claire. Earlier in Part I, she says Putin interfering in US elections is one of the proofs he’s at war with us – as if Durham didn’t exist. She bewails the folly of Europeans running down their NATO militaries and running up their Russian gas bills, and (in Part II) says it proves how serious things are that Germany is reversing course on its army and its energy policy. And then she says

‘Trump could have been back in office in 2024 and then — goodbye, NATO.

It takes a special kind of TDS to praise Germany for doing what Trump told them to, damn them for doing the opposite till now, yet think Trump is the threat to NATO. (Even the BBC managed a sotto voce “as urged to by Trump” in one of their reports of the German volte-face.)

She ends,

I might be prepared to make some compromises with China right now — are you?

Compromise with Trump and his supporters? Absolutely not. To decent self-respecting cosmopolitan globalists, that is (literally!) unthinkable. Compromising with Xi, on the other hand, is distasteful – but realistic cosmopolitan globalists can and will think about it.

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.

Leftist pushback against wokeness

There is an article in today’s Guardian by Nesrine Malik called “Scared to be ‘woke’? It’s time for progressives to take a stand in the culture wars”. The title is a fair summary of her argument.

As so often, the comments were more interesting than the article. The five most popular top-level comments were:

Wiretrip
14 hours ago
647

What is the point in winding everyone up about an empire that is long gone? Meanwhile China continues to exploit Africa and slavery is alive and well in Dubai.

Quaestor
14 hours ago
578

No one need be scared to be woke. The people who are threatened are those who are not woke, and who are abused and have their livelihoods attacked by the intolerant. Even when the woke have a point, the way they attack their opponents hardens opinion against them. I will support very nearly anyone attacked by the woke, and especially people like J K Rowling, Katharine Birbalsingh, Kathleen Stock and Howard Winstone. The only sensible response to cancellation tactics is to block the woke and let them scream and shout among themselves.

Lump
13 hours ago
478

The trouble with the woke is that they act as self appointed thought police in a land where policing is supposed to be by consent. Then they accuse any dissenters of having started a “culture war” and seek to have them ostracised, deplatformed, cancelled, fired, made to issue a grovelling apology. Is it any wonder they are disliked?

ServiusGalba
14 hours ago
428

I think this fails to understand just how toxic “woke” is. “Owing” and doubling down on narratives like “white privilege” and “critical race theory” and in particular using them in schools is likely to get you annihilated in the polls and rightly so. As has recently been seen in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia following the Loudoun county school incidents. The only way to deal with woke is to abandon it altogether and become true liberals again.

Giovanni1234
14 hours ago
373

Among the various diversity, the most important should be the diversity of opinion.

The days are long gone when the Guardian comment section was called “Comment is Free” and, true to its name, allowed readers to comment on practically every article. These days comments are rarely allowed except on those articles where most of the Guardian readership is likely to agree with the Guardian‘s own line. This article was an exception. Of course, the newspaper has every right to pursue whatever policy on comments it wishes, but the habit of not permitting people to talk back has costs. One loses the chance to feel the wind change. I think Nesrine Malik will have been surprised by the hostile reaction to her article, and many of the commenters will be surprised to find out how many of their fellow left wingers share their doubts.

Why did the media choose to geld themselves?

From the late 1960s until about 2010 the “liberal” media of the English-speaking world were ideally placed to propagate their values. Sources such as the BBC, the “Big Three” American TV networks, the Times of London and the New York Times were widely seen as scarcely having any ideology beyond apple-pie sentiments about liberal democracy and an endearing pride in their own role. Newcomers such as CNN upset the balance of power but did not upset this perception that what they were providing was “just the facts, ma’am”, albeit with snazzier graphics. Then along came social media, Facebook and Twitter and the rest – another eruption in terms of technique, but they still saw themselves and were seen by others as media platforms. The very word implies a level playing field. They were all blessed with something like invisibility. To be able to mix your message in with the news and spread it without being seen to do so, without being seen as an actor in your own right at all – propagandists of past eras would have sold their souls to be in that position.

Now, of course, as Glenn Greenwald put it,

…we’re on a path where we’re going to have two of everything, depending on one’s political ideology: segregated websites, financial systems, even charitable giving, the result of systematically banning non-liberals.

Edit: ‘Tony in London’ comments with an interesting parallel,

Greenwald’s observation looks [like] the pillarisation that used to define Dutch society. Almost everyone identified with one of three pillars (Catholic, Protestant, Social democrat) and this would determine which school or university they would attend, which newspaper they would read, which radio station they would listen to, which trade union and political party would represent them etc.

The Wikipedia article about verzuiling in the Netherlands and Belgium is here.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Political correctness is a moral atrocity and an infallible symptom of social and cultural rot, in essence, of a reluctance to confront reality and a manifestation of the unholy terror of plain honesty. It instils a fear in ordinary folk of calling things by their right names, of speaking truth, of even of telling jokes that might offend some sensitive soul or of uttering something that seems to violate yet another in a burgeoning tally of social taboos. The result is that a culture that hides from itself cannot expect to hide from its enemies. And America, probably the most litigious country on the planet, is in the grip of this mortal disease.”

David Solway, Notes From a Derelict Culture, page 228.

The worst of both worlds in surveillance

Andy Wells reporting for Yahoo News writes, “‘Poisonous’ woman created 30 fake profiles to get innocent ex-boyfriend arrested”.

Not just arrested, but arrested six times.

A “poisonous” woman who sent herself threats from fake Instagram accounts she created to get her ex-boyfriend arrested has been jailed.

Courtney Ireland-Ainsworth, 20, created up to 30 false profiles, then told police her ex Louis Jolly was behind “vile” messages.

“Cunning” Ireland-Ainsworth reported him for supposedly threatening to stab her and warning: “She is getting a f***ing blade in her chest.”

She made 10 police statements claiming Mr Jolly was harassing and stalking her, leading to him being arrested six times and spending 81 hours in custody, including being remanded overnight.

He was charged with assault and stalking, hit with a stalking protection order, bailed on a home curfew with an electronic tag, and lost his job.

At Liverpool Crown Court, recorder Ian Harris told Ireland-Ainsworth: “You created an entirely fictional but superficially credible web of poisonous deceit for over five months.”

The report of the case in the Times says,

Her web of lies was uncovered after detectives requested user data from Facebook, which owns Instagram. When the information eventually came back, it showed that at least 17 accounts had been created using two of Ireland-Ainsworth’s email addresses, as well as IP addresses connected to her home and mobile telephone.

I know almost nothing about Instagram. Is there some factor I am failing to understand about the legal or practical ability of law enforcers to uncover who wrote a given Instagram post? Because the big selling point of the subservience of social media companies to the authorities is meant to be that the police can use their power to snoop to catch criminals, yet it took the police five whole months to uncover that Ireland-Ainsworth sent these messages herself. If Instagram does allow the authorities to check who wrote a message, why did the police not do so as soon as Louis Jolly denied having written them, rather than after arresting him six times? If Instagram does not allow the authorities to check who wrote a message, good for them, but in that case the existence of an Instagram message purporting to come from a person cannot incriminate them.

I would normally say that there is nothing worse than a surveillance state. Maybe I was wrong. A state that is #weseeyou for people displaying wrongthink but #believeallwomen for cases like that of Courtney Ireland-Ainsworth might be worse.

Samizdata quote of the day

“People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this spectre by invoking it.”

Christopher Hitchens, “The Perils of identity Politics,” Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2008. This quote came from a new book by Victor Davis Hanson.

Who’d have thought a horror writer could be so easily frightened?

Sadly, my most prominent fan, Stephen King, who for over a decade had provided ecstatic blurbs for all my novels … in the process becoming one of my closest friends, simply turned his back, explaining that he, America’s most popular writer, the writer to whom Siege was dedicated, did not wish to risk standing up to the raging mob.

So wrote Hesh Kestin, whose 2019 novel, ‘The Siege of Tel Aviv’, blurbed by Stephen King, was canceled after a “raging mob” (a.k.a a handful of anonymous complaints from 13 twitter accounts of people who could not have seen the advance reader copies) made the publisher pulp its own book, despite several glowing reviews from the few who got to see it “including one from a Palestinian-American novelist and one from a prominent British Muslim media personality”. (One of several cases covered in ‘Washington Examiner’ article Publishers against the People of the Book, h/t instapundit.)

To me, reading about literati Jews discovering that their liberal friends, uh, aren’t had a rather 1930’s feel to it. My second-ever Samizdata post was about this – except that it was an analogy (an experience of a German Jewish couple in 1930 compared to an experience of the un-politically-correct – and un-Jewish – Sarah Hoyt in 2017). I can’t say I’m surprised that now it’s an echo not an analogy. People who call you racist for saying “all lives matter” were never going to have a problem with calling you Nazi for not purging Jewish writers.

To the accusations against him, Kestin objects

There are at least four heroic Arab/Muslim characters in Siege, while the Israeli establishment is painted as naively complicit in its own destruction.

but the part I put in bold showed me only too clearly why that did not save the book from modern US liberal wrath!