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]

Samizdata quote of the day – offence taken edition

Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right

Great Grass MCR Ltd 😀

A young Frenchwoman says “I don’t like America that much”

Allowing for the fact that she is speaking a language foreign to her, I think she has a point.

A speakeasy for archaeologists

“Stone Age Herbalist” is a pseudonym adopted out of necessity by someone who wants to practise an activity condemned by respectable society: scientific archaeology. Their piece for Unherd is called “The Rise of Archaeologists Anonymous”.

Why do these academics seek to do in secret what they used to do openly in the universities? Because academic archaeology has changed:

Historian Wolf Liebeschuetz and archaeologist Sebastian Brather, to pick on just two, have both firmly insisted that archaeology must not, and cannot, be used to trace migrations or identify different ethnic groups in prehistory. To quote from Liebeschuetz’s 2015 book, East and West in Late Antiquity: “Archaeology can trace cultural diffusion, but it cannot be used to distinguish between peoples, and should not be used to trace migration. Arguments from language and etymology are irrelevant.”

At a stroke, this line of reasoning would essentially abolish several centuries of work unravelling the thread of movements and evolution of the Indo-European peoples and languages, not to mention the post-Roman Germanic Migration Period, Anglo-Saxon invasions, Polynesian and Bantu Expansions and almost all major changes in the human record.

and

This became clearer than ever following the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which saw archaeology departments and professional bodies across the world fall over themselves to pledge curriculum “decolonisation” and an explicit commitment to politicising the discipline. To quote from the “’The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist’: Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter”, published in American Antiquity:

“Consequently, Black archaeology has been and must remain purposeful in practice. It rejects research and practices defined in sterile, binary terms of objective-subjective positionality. Archaeology at historic Black sites must be conducted with an explicit politics… To the field of archaeology, it serves as a moral guide with the potential to elucidate historical wrongs and explore forms of contemporary redress.”

Progressivism, the shield against Covid

This tweet by “the Rabbit Hole” is possibly the most damning, and the funniest, single image of media double standards I have ever seen:

In case someone else buys Twitter and it goes away, the image shows matched pairs of headlines from Vox, the Washington Post, Forbes, ABC News, the Insider, CNN, CNBC, the New York Times, the Verge and the AP. Every one of these outlets decided to run essentially the same pair of stories a few months apart. Taking but two examples,

The Insider said “Don’t blame Black Lives Matter protests for the spike in coronavirus cases across the US” and “The Capitol insurrection seems to have caused a superspreader event among lawmakers. Some Republicans refused to mask up.”

The Verge said, “Blaming protesters for COVID-19 spread ignores the bigger threats to health” and “COVID-19 cases in the Capitol are only the tip of the iceberg.”

And so on for the rest of them.

I can remember a time when if separate reports written by many different journalists in a whole bunch of famous newspapers and TV channels all said the same thing, it made me more likely to believe them.

Samizdata quote of the day – NewSpeak edition

Antiracism means dividing people by race.
Equity means segregation and racial preferences.
Man means woman.

Wanjiru Njoya

A real-world ethics question that is not especially hard

In New York Times, John Leland asks,

Real-world ethics question: In a well-used city park, a man with a history of erratic behavior attacks a dog and its owner with a stick; five days later, the dog dies. The man is Black, the dog owner white; the adjoining neighborhood is famously progressive, often critical of the police and jail system. At the same time, crime is up in the neighborhood, with attacks by emotionally disturbed people around the city putting some residents on edge.

In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do? How do you protect the public without furthering injustice against this man?

The question is not theoretical. On August 3rd, Jessica Chrustic and her dog Moose were attacked in Prospect Park, Brooklyn by a homeless man.

According to Ms. Chrustic, he started yelling about immigrants taking over the park,

Had he not been black, that detail would have answered Mr Leland’s question in short order.

then grabbed a bottle of what she later concluded was urine and sloshed it at her and her dog. She tried to run away, but Moose, her 80-pound golden retriever mix, was straining toward the man, trying to protect her.

The man started swinging the stick, she said. One blow hit her, not seriously. Another connected solidly with the dog’s snout. Mary Rowland, 56, a hospital manager who was walking her dog nearby, said she heard the crack of wood on bone and came running toward them, screaming at the man to get away.

The man fled, but the next weekend, Moose developed sepsis from a perforated intestine. Emergency surgery was not enough to save him.

What was done about this unprovoked attack on a woman and her dog? Nothing.

She was especially frustrated that the man, who was well known to people in the park, had not been arrested. “You have a person who is walking around the park who is violent and needs to be removed,” she said. “He’s known by the community. It’s disheartening.”

It was a random incident that might once have been discussed by a group of dog owners. But now it had a forum for a much wider community, with arguments about policing, vigilantism, homelessness, mental health care and progressive obstinacy all feeding into a conversation that evolved beyond the crime that set it off.

“It’s complicated,” said S. Matthew Liao, a professor of bioethics, philosophy and public health at New York University. “It’s a conflict of values, between wanting security and social justice. Everybody has a responsibility in some ways.

All together now… WE ARE ALL GUILTY! Dr Heinz Kiosk has been reborn, but not as funny this time.

I disagree with Professor Liao. It is not complicated at all.

Regarding Mr Leland’s question, “In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do?”, Suzy Weiss of the New York Post described what some of the residents of this dog-loving, progressive enclave did do: “Bizarre meeting of Park Slopers over how to handle murdered pooch”.

Samizdata quote of the day

We live in a world where Ricky Gervais and JK Rowling are, to everyone’s surprise, not least their own, ‘right-wing’. The supposed rule breakers such as Frankie Boyle, Nish Kumar and Stewart Lee are crushingly orthodox. Roger Waters has a portfolio of crankery going back decades but remains unbesmirched, whereas a single tweet from Winston Marshall saw him exiled from polite society. (As I write, it seems Craig L Potter of the band Elbow might be heading the same way, merely for daring to criticise trans charity Mermaids.)

Gareth Roberts (£)

Exhibitionists like to know that others dare not object

Kayla LeMieux

“The kids here most definitely don’t think [it’s] normal…but realistically we can’t say anything,” said a person on Twitter who claims to be a student at Oakville Trafalgar. “Last year, the teacher was a man. I don’t think the school can fire him.”

Canada’s Post Millennial reports, “Canadian biologically male teacher wears massive prosthetic breasts to school”

The teacher is Kayla Lemieux and the school is Oakland Trafalgar High School in Ontario. Please note that there exist several other people with the same name, some of whom have been in the news recently.

The Daily Mail picked up the story: “Canadian high school defends transgender teacher who wore enormous prosthetic breasts underneath tight T-shirt to class”, and has plenty more pictures if you need to be convinced that this is not a joke.

Even after I was convinced that it was not a joke, I originally had plenty of jokes to make. But upon reflection I edited them out. This is not a funny story.

Kayla Lemieux’s motivations bear no relation to the motivations of a transwoman who was born male but simply wants to be female. Nor does Ms Lemieux want to be accepted as having an ambiguous gender identity. She does not want to be accepted at all. Kayla Lemieux wants to shock. She also wants the pleasure of knowing that the people she shocks dare not say anything. Better yet, she wants to have the pleasure of thinking that some of the people seeing her are secretly, even unwillingly, sexually aroused by her fetish costume. She is a teacher, so when I say “people” I mean “children she teaches”.

Imagine the sexes/genders were reversed, and a female-to-male transgender teacher turned up at school to teach the children while wearing an enormous prosthetic penis. Imagine – but the imaginary scenario scarcely differs from what is actually happening.

Let me be clear that I believe that adults should be free to alter their appearance in any way that pleases them. I would go further than most in defending people’s right to have body modifications that are designed to shock, though I would also defend the right of others to exclude such people from their premises, and that is one of the reasons why I would like to see less public space (which is open to absolutely everyone by definition) and more private space that is open to the public so long as they adhere to rules of behaviour. I would also, though more reluctantly, defend the right of a private school to employ a person with deliberately shocking body modifications as a teacher, and the right of parents to send their children there.

However, Oakland Trafalgar High School is a public school in the North American sense, a state school. Most of the families whose children attend have no other option. Even if that were not so, the pupil quoted at the beginning was correct to say, “I don’t think the school can fire him.” As the statement from the school says, “Gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code”.

And Kayla Lemieux knows it.

First there was #GamerGate and then there was #NAFO

I have written here about the #GamerGate phenomenon before, which was a series of rolling online flash mobs, events and activist commentary mostly doing its thing circa 2014-16. This was kicked off by something specific but quickly evolved into a far wider reaching grassroots pushback against rampant corruption, collusion and ever more woke politicisation in games ‘journalism’ and indeed games themselves.

Naturally the gaming press harrumphed with indignation, howling that GamerGater was an unconscionable harassment campaign; its largely nameless supporters all racist/sexist/homophobic. And much to their shock it didn’t work. GamerGaters ridiculed their evolving official narratives. And to the PR wonks working for MSM publications and their assorted vassals, none of it made any sense, which is why they still make sure the preposterous Wikipedia entry conforms to the official narratives (i.e. very little relation to reality). Too bad guys, you can’t bomb a hashtag.

GamerGate was something that drove (and still drives) many people insane, living rent free in their heads for years. Even now, the mere sight of GamerGate mascot Vivian James (video games, geddit?) can cause hilarity and rage in certain people.

Vivian James

Fast forward to 2022 and behold #NAFO: the North Atlantic Fellas Organisation.

And who are ‘the fellas’? A large and growing online pack of attack dogs countering, dare I say smothering, official Russian troll factory output, as well as other pro-Kremlin talking heads online. And their mascots are daft cartoon dogs (variations of a Shiba Inu to be precise). If journalistic collusion was a constant target of #GamerGate, the Russian troll farms are the modern analogy to that, constantly targeted and smothered by NAFO posting either pro-Ukrainian counter-narratives or just ridiculing or flagging up pro-Russian ones.

Many people, particularly those operating within institutions, don’t understand #NAFO for same reason PR departments of various video games companies & press outlets didn’t (and still don’t) understand #GamerGate.

Is #NAFO engaged in ‘information warfare‘? Absolutely. They even get a shout out from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. But they are not managed out of an office in Langley, Virginia nor by some adjunct of the Ukrainian intelligence services. #NAFO is a hashtag, a phenomena, it isn’t “run” by anyone, because it doesn’t need to be. Like GamerGate, NAFO is a confluence of the motivated willing in every timezone on the planet.

And just as GamerGate had a single original trigger, which was then largely forgotten as the ‘movement’ grew and started attacking larger more juicy prey, NAFO started as a fund raising effort for the Georgian Legion (a now battalion sized unit of about 600 within the Ukrainian army made up mostly of Georgian volunteers). At blinding speed, NAFO rapidly morphed into a wider distributed online effort supporting Ukraine in the “information space”.

NAFO… daft, puerile, bonkers, pervasive. But it works.

What was he expecting?

Last week, James Sweet, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and President of the American Historical Association, published a very few, very cautious criticisms of the 1619 project (carefully bookended by impeccably woke remarks about the supreme court and etc.). Within two days, the (same) Professor Sweet, President of the American Historical Association, abjectly, cringingly apologised for having written those sentiments. Read this for the criticisms, and scroll down for the apology. (And read this and this for why I call his criticisms very few and very cautious – why even the project’s 1619 date is ridiculous.)

After Sweet begged forgiveness, some people tried to defend his original article, or at least his right to write it – whereupon the same American Historical Association that seemed OK with the vicious online pile-on after Sweet wrote his article complained that the discussion

“has been invaded by trolls uninterested in civil discourse in the last 12 hours”

and restricted outside access to end this “appalling” state of affairs.

Elsewhere on the web, Ilya Shapiro has blogged again about his experience of cancel culture, and the apology he wrote “in the wee hours that morning” after a tweet raised an online mob. I commented on it. His courteous reply said it was not written “in fear or desperation” and promised to blog more about the strategy of his various apologies in the period before he resigned from Georgetown.

While I wait with interest for that, I’ll discuss this oft-seen phenomenon: an academic says something extremely mild and cautious about some woke propaganda line – and then swiftly says something abjectly cringing about how appalling it was to say it.

If you read Sweet’s apology very attentively and in a very generous spirit, you could wonder whether he is actually apologising for his opinion as such, or whether, adorned with embarrassingly kowtowing adjectives, he is actually literally apologising only for causing dreadful, unforgivable distress to his piling-on accusers, exploiting his white privilege and all that, but not quite literally unambiguously saying that his views were actually, completely, factually false as such. In the same way, the attentive reader of the Soviet Union’s 1930’s show trial confessions can see that, hidden amid their florid admissions of political guilt, the actual literal owning up to the specific (absurd, and sometimes impossible) criminal acts was occasionally implicitly withheld or slyly discredited – like the blinking of hostages trying to signal their true situation.

But only the rare attentive reader saw this in the 1930s. To the ordinary Russian and the outside world alike, the spectacle of the accused calling themselves vile criminals and begging to be shot was baffling – but was also a fact: “All the accused confessed” seemed far more indisputably true than the accusations themselves. (In ‘I Chose Freedom’, Kravchenko says that, in the party circles he moved in, insisting on the literal truth of the accusations would have been treated as a confession of congenital idiocy. Only in America did he encounter people who would not just defend the trials on political grounds – as everyone in Russia had to, for life itself – but would spontaneously, openly claim to believe in the literal truth of the accusations themselves.) The confessions’ propaganda demonstration of the power of the communist state over the individual seemed unqualified – and all the more frightening because it was baffling.

Returning to Professor Sweet and the many like him, what was he expecting? Did he – could he possibly – have found the narrative’s punitive reaction to being questioned surprising? Was he unprepared for the demand for an apology? Or was he prepared – did he have his act of grovelling ready in draft? Did he think an apology so self-damning in form could preserve some fragment of truth (if so, I suggest he is making the same mistake as the ‘blinking’ show-trial accused did, but with far less excuse)?

Even more interesting, perhaps, how was he thinking about it? In ‘Darkness at Noon’, Arthur Koestler suggests the revolution had destroyed the very concept of truth in its communist votaries, so where could they find reason, let alone willpower, to resist confessing to fictional crimes just because the crimes were fictional. Hannah Arendt argues that a totalitarian leader’s power depends less on his subordinates’ belief in his superior abilities

“about which those in his immediate entourage frequently have no very great illusions”

than on the fact that, in the case of disagreement with him, they will never be very sure of their grounds, since they think that even the maddest policy can succeed if properly organised. Robert Conquest notes all that but points out that, to get communists to the point where they would denounce themselves in open court, the interrogators had to use sleep-deprivation, torture and threats to life and family, and seated each accused facing their (disguised as a member of the audience) chief NKVD interrogator while testifying; they did not just rely on philosophical doubts about objective truth. However Conquest also notes that those very few among the senior communist accused who were never known for rapturous acclaim of the doctrine’s absoluteness also never came to open court; they were pronounced guilty and killed without an audience.

To be sure, modern academia is full of it – full of the sort of philosophy that inverts every meaning and denies that 2+2 makes 4 – and this can hardly be helping its denizens make sacrifices for objective truth, or even believe in it, but if professor Sweet was already wholly on board with that, why risk speaking out (even as quietly as he did) in the first place?

It may be that, like some 1930s communist discovering that what the secret police did to peasants they would also do to him, Sweet genuinely did not expect that level of vitriol to be turned on someone like him, not just on some right-wing ‘deplorable’. Or it may be that even more goes on behind the scenes than we suspect: was Sweet prepared for something, but not for what happened? Or did it just feel much more frightening than he’d anticipated when it actually started happening?

We may or may not learn more as this example of cancel culture plays out. Meanwhile this post ends as it began, with a question: what was Sweet expecting?

“The media could not be played”, and that frightens me even more

The video embedded in this tweet from Laurence Fox apparently shows someone being arrested for tweeting. I cannot see the video, but the top comment says,

“Chap shares a post by @LozzaFox and the police arrest the chap, even though Laurence is actually stood there 👀

This is disgraceful. People upset by hurty words need to turn the Internet off and remember the old children’s rhyme – Sticks and Stones.”

Apparently the arrest had something to do with that meme that shows four LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flags (my goodness, “Newsround” has changed a lot since John Craven presented it) arranged so that the triangular inserts form a swastika. Fox’s Wikipedia entry says, “In June 2022 Fox tweeted an image of a swastika made from the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag with the caption ‘You can openly call the [Union Jack] a symbol of fa[s]cism and totalitarianism on Twatter. You cannot criticise the holy flags’. This led to him being temporarily suspended from Twitter for a day.”

This tweet from Richard Taylor of GB News may show the same video.

As you can probably tell, I am not at all sure what is going on. Is my inability to play the video censorship by Twitter, or just my old computer not being up to the job? Some accounts seem to imply that that the threatened arrest was not carried through, although that reassures me very little. As we have all seen, making the process the punishment has been a very successful way for the police to chill free speech while avoiding having to defend their actions in court.

Book Review: Konstantin Kisin “An immigrant’s love letter to the West” Part I

Konstantin Kisin is a former stand-up comedian who, along with current stand-up comedian Francis Foster hosts the YouTube channel Triggernometry, which is partly a political interview show and partly a comedy show. His thoughts have even been referred to a couple of times here on Samizdata. Kisin is also a Russian who moved to this country when he was eleven to study, oddly enough, at the same English public school that produced Earl Haig.

And now he’s written a book. I have only just started reading it so these are initial observations hence the Part I bit. There may be a Part II but I promise nothing. Kisin is a good writer (all the comedy stuff showing through?) and a thoughtful one. As he says:

If there is one thing my Soviet childhood taught me, it’s that subscribing to someone else’s ideology will always inevitably mean having to suspend your judgement about right and wrong to appease your tribe. I refuse to do so.

Kisin’s essential argument is that we in the West don’t know how lucky we are. We don’t know what it is like to live in non-Western countries. We don’t appreciate how much better life is here. And if we do we don’t know why it is so much better. Kisin has seen Russia and he has seen Britain and it is not difficult for him to decide which is better. Which is why he is so angry when well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) activists start playing around with our traditions and institutions. They – the well-meaning ones – think that they’re just improving things. He thinks that they are playing a game of civilisational Jenga – at least he does since Foster came up with the analogy. Jenga’s the one where you have a tower made of sticks you remove them one by one and eventually the whole edifice collaspses, isn’t it?

So far I’ve read chapters on the Soviet Union, slavery (and the Soviet Union) and free speech. All good stuff. Or mostly. In one bit he says, “Think of it like Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 – which forbade the promotion of homosexuality in Britain in 1988.” That’s not how I remember it. I remember it as local councils not being allowed to promote homosexuality as “a pretended family relationship.” Otherwise people were free to promote homosexuality to their heart’s content. And did. He also seems to think that people were broadly-speaking equal in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union of my imagination has Zils, dachas and shops for party members only. Not equal at all. I suppose this is how distorted history gets propagated down the ages but that is the subject for another blog post.