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

People tend to believe things that further their personal interests, and universities are no exception. Wokification succeeded largely because it gave a lot of different people a lot of different things that they wanted. It gave the increasingly powerful university administration a reason to hire more administrators to manage diversity and ensure its forward march. Self-propagation is the highest goal of administrators everywhere. Wokeness also became a useful tool in ongoing turf wars between administrators and faculty. Diversity is a simple metric via which the administration can interfere with faculty hiring and academic operations; new diversity hires know who is buttering their bread and remain loyal to the administrators whose policies brought them in. For the increasingly mediocre and incapable faculty who now teach at even the most august American schools, the woke circus has its own attractions. It provides distraction from the unrelenting demands of objectivity and originality, and permits a pleasing, self-righteous indulgence in moral scolding. In Woke Studies, the answers are always predetermined and it is very easy to get anything published, provided you say the right things. For students, Wokeness has still other attractions—as a font of easy coursework, as an opportunity for social networking, and as a locus for the periodic ritual entertainment of false moral outrages and protests.

– The indispensable Eugyppius

Samizdata quote of the day

In recent times, the common courtesy of trying to avoid wantonly stepping on people’s toes has developed into an editorial phobia of almost psychotic intensity.

This exaggerated concern for the tender toe has, of course, been vociferously encouraged by every sort of hypersensitive minority. The most frantic form of it is displayed by movie producers, who are more sensitive to the tinkle of the cash register than any other species of artistic entrepreneur, and who also know they are catering for a more infantile audience than any other medium other than television.

…Even on the domestic scene, Negroes, Chinese, Jews, Catholics, Baptists or Holy Rollers, can only be depicted as lovable paragons. It has reached the point where the only villain who can be safely used to-day is a white American or British agnostic, preferably named Smith.

– Leslie Charteris, The Second Saint Omnibus, Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1952, p55. No I don’t know what a Holy Roller is either. This volume came into my possession as a result of the Plunder Party on Friday night in which a number of us gathered at the late Brian Micklethwait’s flat to pillage and loot his book and CD collection. Judging by the rather full shelves when I left, libertarians are unlikely to make good Vikings. Mind you, I am told there were some 5,200 books to choose from.

Never apologise. Explain without apology.

“In politics apologies just make things worse”, writes Daniel Finkelstein in the Times. The subtitle to his piece is “Boris Johnson should be sorry about the Owen Paterson affair but actually saying so would do him more harm than good”, and that sums up the article: the rather bleak observation that in politics apologies do not pay. Finkelstein stresses that he is not saying they shouldn’t work, just that they usually don’t. To illustrate this he cites an experiment carried out by Cass Sunstein:

In Cass Sunstein’s recent book This Is Not Normal he describes two pieces of work that seek to measure the impact an apology has on people’s opinion of the person doing the apologising.

The first uses two real events. In a survey respondents were told about an occasion when the senator Rand Paul seemed to suggest that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. They were also told of the difficulty Lawrence Summers got himself into as president of Harvard University. Summers had talked about genetic differences between men and women that might influence their scientific interest and ability.

Different versions of each of these stories were tested. Some respondents were told that Paul or Summers had apologised and tried to make amends; some were told they had toughed it out. Would you vote for senator Paul? Should Summers face negative consequences?

For Paul, an apology made no difference. For Summers the apology produced a serious negative reaction. And indeed in real life Paul avoided an explicit apology and remained a senator while Summers repeatedly apologised yet had to resign.

That was Finkelstein quoting Sunstein. This is me: neither Rand Paul nor Larry Summers should have apologised. The inefficacy of apology as a tactic had very little to do with it. They should not have cringed, they should have roared.

Senator Paul was right to say what he did. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. The various US Civil Rights Acts were utterly right to sweep away the state-mandated apartheid of the Old South, and to dismantle the system of legal dirty tricks designed to make it almost impossible for black Americans to actually exercise their theoretical right to vote. But they should have left individuals alone. There would now be less racism, not more, if the US government had stuck to its job of enforcing the equal application of the laws and had kept out of men’s souls. Instead for my entire lifetime it has been trying to help the poor, poor blacks and reform the wicked, wicked whites. The keenest supporters of that policy proclaim its utter failure: they tell us that fifty-seven years after the Act white supremacy is embedded in every American institution. So let’s take them at their word, cease pursuing this obviously futile strategy, and try something else.

Lawrence Summers was also right to say what he did, which was that people should be unafraid to honestly consider all hypotheses as to why there are fewer women in science and engineering, including the one that men just tend to be better at science and engineering. He was right to say that no hypothesis should be off the table, and even if he had been wrong about that particular hypothesis (speaking as a woman who was once in that world, I don’t think he was wrong), he was right to raise the question. Harvard’s decline from a place of free scientific enquiry to a training ground for little Lysenkos became almost inevitable from the moment it forced out its last independent president. Not that the other American universities or the British ones are much better. They are all full of people each competing to apologise the most fervently for their own institution’s sinful existence. I begin to think that, here, too, the best thing might be to take them at their word.

Why the tabloids are the choice of adults

The Daily Mail reports, EXCLUSIVE: Suicide bomber who died when his device blew up outside Liverpool hospital was pizza chef, 32, who fled Middle East and converted to Christianity at cathedral ‘he wanted to attack’ and was once arrested for carrying a knife

I was much taken by this comment from someone called “SorcerousSinner” on the normally left wing subreddit /r/ukpolitics:

The Daily Mail is the best news source for stuff like this because they have the least restraint and just publish all the info, and rumours. Footage of the killings. Fake news. Everything.

Broadsheet journalists are always concerned with carefully steering us, the dumb rabble, towards what they believe we should believe

So, the mail is the choice of adults who think they can handle the responsibility of getting all the info, possibly fake info.

Spartacus writes to the Times


The historian Andrew Graham-Dixon has just been blacklisted by Keir Bradwell, president of the Cambridge Union, for doing a Hitler impression, which is something that almost all of us have done occasionally over the past 80 years. I have written to Mr Bradwell to ask him to put me on his blacklist, and I wish to use the letters page of The Times to urge all historians, writers, artists, scientists and public intellectuals to write to any student union, academic or public institution that practises cancel culture, demanding to be put on their blacklist. I also call on them to boycott these institutions absolutely.

Louis de Bernières
Denton, Norfolk

Mr de Bernières is the author of the historical novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

I am not sure if this is in response to the call from Mr de Bernières or not, but John Cleese, having done a famous Hitler impression himself in a 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers, has blacklisted himself from the Cambridge Union “before someone else does”.

Because they will take them

Not long ago, a committee for determining who receives a prestigious annual American Geophysical Union award was reconstructed to be more diverse (especially, more representative of those who who had “been very vocal” about the need for such diversity).

To the new committee’s dismay, however, the membership had apparently not been reconstructed enough in all fields. As per the usual process, peer-submitted candidates were whittled down to a shortlist of the five best in each field and submitted to the committee, but in one field:

Every nominee on the list was a white man. “That was kind of a bit of a showstopper for me,” said Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the five committee members. (quoted from a Scientific American article)

The same statistical techniques that the field’s researchers use in their work could have been used to show this was not so very surprising, but the reconstructed committee members did not see it that way. They refused to choose any of the five.

The resolution of this is ongoing but I think we know something about the person (I use this word advisedly) who will (probably) ultimately ‘win’. My post is to say we know something else about them as well – something that an (in)famous man explained about how his yet more (in)famous boss chose people.

“The wicked, who have something on their conscience, are obliging, quick to hear threats, because they know how it’s done, and for booty. You can offer them things, because they will take them.” (Hermann Goering to his lawyer at Nuremberg)

Who will consent to receive an award that is ostensibly for skill in science, knowing that their peers in the field (peers who have, incidentally, chosen a woman for the award in the past) think them less worthy of it than five or more candidates passed over for being the wrong race and sex? Answer: someone woke enough to take it on those terms. So, while the proportion of women and men of colour in the field of ice science is relatively low, I offer the speculation – or rather, the moral hope – that it prove neither so low nor so corrupt that the one who agrees to take the award will necessarily be the one judged worthiest within that subgroup by their peers.

In other words, I hope the one who takes it will indeed belong to a minority – the minority of those who can be offered such things because they will take them.

A review of the new James Bond film that I thoroughly agree with – SPOILER ALERT

Well, at last the new James Bond film has hit cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic. There may be countries where it is not yet on release, but it’s been out long enough I think for a commentary that contains spoilers to be published. If you don’t want to see this before seeing the film, then don’t linger here. Repeat: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

I recall back in 2006 when Casino Royale came out, and here was my review back then, all 15 (gulp) years ago. I watched the film along with a few other conspirators, such as Perry de Havilland, if I recall. I generally liked it – I think Daniel Craig did a great job, and elements of the original novel were kept in, while added to for a modern audience. The subsequent films never quite lived up to the first one, in my view, although I read a lot about how great Skyfall was, but I disagree (I think the whole sentiment of the film was gloomier than the glummest John Le Carre story, but without the caustic LC wit.) But even so, Daniel Craig has, so I read, delivered Bond to a “new generation”. And the franchise of Eon-produced Bond films is almost 60 years old. Even if you don’t equate longevity with greatness, that’s pretty damned impressive.

I have seen a lot of commentary from those who claim No Time to Die is somehow a great film, but a few are very upset, even angry. I have very mixed views on it, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is a bad film, made my people who have fallen prey to shitty ideas, and who make the crucial error of conflating moral seriousness with being miserable. In fact, this error is not remarked about enough. You can be a baddass super-hero, and take what you do very seriously, while having a smile on your face and enjoy life at the same time. Think Zorro, think the Scarlet Pimpernel, etc. Everything now has to be full of angst, of “self-loathing” and be “gritty” (one of the most tediously over-used epithets in culture today).

Let’s start with one of the biggest initial reasons people got wary about this film. The Nomi character, the “new 007”, as played by Lashana Lynch, is every bit as passive-aggressive at first as the trailers suggested, but in fact the “wokeness” of the film, and of her part in it, isn’t nearly as bad as I feared. She comes across as one-dimensional; there is no real development of her character. You cannot warm to her and want to take her side. In a way, this is what happens when film-makers try to make films more supposedly progressive but in fact let themselves down. A pity.

The action scenes in general are very well done. Say whatever one likes about these films, but the production quality remains outstandingly good. Some of the fight scenes are great. The locations are generally good and we get a bit more time in this film to sample the atmosphere (Jamaica, Cuba, etc) than in earlier Craig efforts. The early Connery films were so good is that you felt you were really travelling with him to places such as the Caribbean or Turkey, or in the case of the George Lazenby film (which is arguably one of the best ever), Switzerland.

There is a little bit more humour here, even though Craig remains the Grumpy Bond. The rapport he has with Jeffrey Wright, playing Felix Leiter, is nice. Supporting cast members such as Ralph Fiennes as M are good as well. The chap playing Q has quite a lot to do; he has a nice, sharp sense of humour as well.

But the central features of this film in terms of plot and how the film ends, mean that NTTD represents something very bad, and I fear that Barbara Broccoli and the others may have taken the series off a cliff, and I am queasy about what comes next. I have tagged this post under “culture wars”, because I cannot help but see NTTD as yet another instance of what might be called the Cancel Culture. Bond, as baddass Alpha male, suave and in control, dispenser of smart-alec quips as he crushes the evil guys, is dead.

Anyway, here is an example of how cheesed off people are. I saw this on Facebook. The article is written by a chap called “Charles”. I have taken out a few paragraphs, but here goes:

Bond films got popular being FUN movies celebrating triumph — not being deep serious heavy tragedies evoking misery. For decades, JB film fans went for thrilling entertainment which leaves them feeling good — not for painful adult psychological realism which leaves them feeling bad. [Yes, I know about OHMSS: one movie, 52 years ago.] After decades of this continuity, the fans naturally expect a Bond film to be exciting optimistic escapism.

It seems to me that the whole team responsible for the NTTD story doesn’t understand the core reasons why Bond films have been so popular for 59 years (or perhaps they presume to push the fans to change their preferences).

Wanting Bond movies to be just enjoyable entertainment — showing the thrill of surviving danger, loving the joy of living in the moment, celebrating courageous victory over evil — is a perfectly respectable adult mentality. Not every adult movie has to induce the emotions of tragic misery. Let other movies (not Bond) do that.

Disliking the infliction of prolonged misery into a Bond movie doesn’t mean the unhappy fan is immature, or wants to see Bond be some offensive example of pathologies (contrary to sneering assumptions by some fans). If some fans object to seeing JB movies delivering a doom & gloom fest, that doesn’t mean they want JB movies to be an Austin Powers clown cartoon. Between these two extremes, there is a good middle zone of exciting adult stories which celebrate brave triumph.

Barbara Broccoli and M.G. Wilson are stewards of a global legacy of good will and inspiring imagination, enduring 59 years. As stewards of the Bond film legacy, they seem to be either indifferent or incompetent. It seems they let Daniel Craig make his last JB movie become whatever he wanted it to be, for his own personal gratification as an actor, disregarding how it violates reasonable expectations of the fans. DC’s agenda to make JB realistic, complex, deep, etc. was incompatible with the history of Bond movie popularity. [He says he’s “too serious” and “moody”.] They let him impose his sensibility (and serious artistic ambitions) onto NTTD so much that the story violates the abiding concept of the franchise.

In a recurring adventure series, killing off the hero shows that the storytellers have run out of good ideas or that they have lost their confidence that they can write an effective story in which the hero is victorious. Killing Bond in NTTD reminds me of the first Mission Impossible movie, in which the leader of the good guys (Jim Phelps) is a traitor who kills most of the team. That kind of plotting choice is a cheap stunt — hoping to stun the betrayed viewer into thinking that the plotting was impressively daring or inventive. Nope, it’s just a violation of the covenant between the storytelling team and the fans of those characters.

Bond’s death in NTTD was so contrived. The story could’ve been easily rewritten for him to survive and triumph again. For those who say ‘But he had to die, because of X’ — That ‘X’ part could’ve been easily rewritten otherwise.
Bond didn’t just die; he seemed to quit trying to survive; choosing a kind of passive suicide. That’s one reason why his death felt so demoralizing to some viewers.

Now I see that the warning for how this movie would go wrong was in the selection of the most recent two theme songs (for SPECTRE & NTTD). The previous song portrayed Bond as a fragile needy crybaby, and the new song conveys total emotional defeat and surrender — both songs utterly wrong for Bond films, which celebrate victory, joy, survival, pleasure, etc.

There was a time when Scottish universities were havens of free thought


After the Uniformity Act 1662, for about two centuries, it was difficult for any but practising members of the Church of England to gain degrees from the old English universities, at Cambridge and Oxford. The University of Oxford, in particular, required – until the Oxford University Act 1854 – a religious test on admission that was comparable to that for joining the Church. The situation at the University of Cambridge was that a statutory test was required to take a bachelor’s degree.

English Dissenters in this context were Nonconformist Protestants who could not in good conscience subscribe (i.e. conform) to the beliefs of the Church of England. As they were debarred from taking degrees in the only two English universities, many of them attended the dissenting academies. If they could afford it, they completed their education at the universities of Leyden, Utrecht, Glasgow or Edinburgh, the last, particularly, those who were studying medicine or law.


After making their grades and unpacking their bags, new students may be forgiven for thinking they are ready to launch themselves into university life.

But at one of Britain’s leading institutions, they must now clear one more hurdle before beginning their studies: they must accept “personal guilt”.

St Andrews has introduced compulsory modules on sustainability, diversity, consent and good academic practice and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements. The university is one of a growing number insisting that students undertake training on subjects including anti-bullying and climate change.


At St Andrews, the induction asks students to agree with statements including: “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” Those who tick “disagree” are marked incorrect and too many wrong answers mean they have failed the module and must retake it.

Another question from the course asks: “Does equality mean treating everyone the same?” Those who respond yes are told: “That’s not right, in fact equality may mean treating people differently and in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity.”

Students are also asked to agree with the statement: “It is important to think about and understand our own prejudices and stereotypes so we don’t treat someone else unfairly or inappropriately.”

Sweden – “portal into the future” ?

The woke seek total victory and total defeat – which I long ago predicted they would get, albeit maybe delphically. But an interesting article in Unherd describes the latest state reached in Sweden’s dry-run of woke cancel culture as “an uneasy ceasefire”.

It started as all-out culture war.

With the benefit of hindsight, immigration now appears not as a question important in and of itself, but as a form of wedge corresponding to a very particular political moment of establishment fear and anger at parts of their own electorate.

But six years on,

While the deplorables are still mocked, there is no bite to it anymore. SD voters are no longer at risk of having their careers cancelled. In 2021, an unspoken attitude of ”don’t ask, don’t tell” prevails.

In the areas in Stockholm where most of the country’s journalists live, it is probably less awkward to openly admit to sympathising with SD on immigration than it is to proudly proclaim that Sweden is far from full and ought to take in at least a million more Afghans in the next couple of years.

How have the SD, the Swedish lovers of free speech, the heterodoxians like the article’s author, achieved this (I hear you begging me to say 🙂 )? Well, in large part at least, the article thinks they (we) haven’t. It is due to

the belated discovery that these consequences of immigration are in fact very real, and that methods of ”shaping the narrative” cannot really change material reality.

More critically, there is the realisation that nobody — certainly not middle class progressives — wants to live with those consequences at all.

It was not of course a belated discovery for Sweden’s “deplorables”, but I predict they will be treated as Edmund Burke was over two centuries ago. By the time the woke of his day were unable to avoid seeing that the French revolution was as unpleasant as Burke had predicted, they knew he was ‘already’ a enemy of it ‘anyway’ – so they dismissed him as just an accidentally-right stopped clock they could go on despising. Sweden’s deplorables will be called ‘stopped clocks’ by Sweden’s woke because they warned of danger beforehand, not after it became undeniable, just as Donald Trump is a ‘stopped clock’ to many who are falling out of love with Biden, but not with their own self-identity as clever, compassionate and politically far-sighted. The woke find forgiving deplorables for being deplorable very hard – but forgiving deplorables for being right when the woke are wrong is much harder.

Read the whole article – it will repay you.

Beware the prepared PC put-down

“But despite that [her years of experience]”, the lady said, “I still had to get re-certified. It started with an equality and diversity test, and I got the first question wrong.”

“Everyone does”, said the other lady. “They ask you what equality means and the first answer in the list is ‘Equal treatment’ but the right answer is ‘Equal outcomes’. If you question it, they tell you that if you give two women the same leaflet in English but one of them speaks English and the other speaks Farsi then that’s equal treatment but not equal outcomes.”

Many retired doctors or nurses offered to help during the pandemic, only to discover there were bureaucratic hoops to jump through before they would be allowed to do so. Arguably, this was a pity from the point of view of health in the UK, but as a man once said, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste – whereas time in a crisis apparently isn’t.

The lesson I took from this conversation is that the politically correct are trained to see you coming, so have their put-downs ready. Diversity training for us commoners may include being on the receiving end of those put-downs. Diversity training for the trainers includes being ready with them.

“I prefer questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.” (Richard Feynman)

On the road from the culture of free speech to that of

“Shut Up”, he explained

there is a country of answers we’re being trained not to question through the use of put-downs they’re trained to use if we dare to.

Commenters are invited to report any such put-downs they’ve met, any pithy rejoinders to such would-be-conversation-ending put-downs that they know of, and of course their thoughts.

Charged with ‘aggravated misconduct’. For a tweet he made when he was 14.

Here is an extract from the report in today’s Times:

The Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola has been charged by the FA [Football Association] with aggravated misconduct for comments he made on social media when he was 14, nine years ago.

The FA has alleged that Bola, now 23, who signed for Middlesbrough from Blackpool in 2019, posted a ‘reference to sexual orientation.’ He is facing a written warning, an education course or a potential three-game ban for the post from 2012.

An FA statement read: “Middlesbrough FC’s Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on April 14, 2012.

If, rather than mouthing off on Twitter, the fourteen year old Bola had had the forethought to instead commit a violent crime meriting up four years imprisonment, the sentence would have been considered “spent” by now under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

This woman makes me sympathise with Governor Gavin Newsom

Not, obviously, to the extent of wanting him to escape being thrown out on his ear in the coming California gubernatorial recall election, but reading about Newsom’s “epic battle” with Cecily Myart Cruz, President of United Teachers Los Angeles, the major LA teachers’ union, gave me a soupçon of sympathy with the man.

This is how Ms Myart Cruz responded to a question from Jason McGahan of Los Angeles Magazine about children falling behind in their education while Los Angeles schools were closed during the pandemic:

“There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”

From Cecily Myart-Cruz’s Hostile Takeover of L.A.’s Public Schools by Jason McGahan.

Via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit and Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, which I shall look at again.