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

Anti-racists go on to make a full-throated argument for cultural relativism. “To be an antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals,” writes Kendi. This is rank sophistry. If anti-racists really viewed all cultures as equally valid, and not subject to judgment “by the arbitrary standard of any single culture,” they’d have no basis for claiming that the U.S. is a “racist” nation or that apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow-era South was any worse than any other, more tolerant culture. More to the point, if you “deny objectivity,” then what grounds have you to say that racism is indeed a thing that should be opposed? As Ravi Zacharias once put it: “In some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures, they eat them. Do you have any preference?” According to anti-racism, you cannot. There is no value, educational or otherwise, in a doctrine whose principles, when taken at face value, reject the very basis of its existence.

Fredrick Hess & Grant Addison discussing ‘anti-racists’ who are anything but.

Samizdata quote of the day

For these CEOs, the problem isn’t just the media and external critics: The wokeness is coming from inside the building. At dinner parties, they ask each other the same question: How do we keep woke activists off the payroll? “It’s the first thing they want to talk about these days,” a vice president at a venture-capital shop told me. “It’s the crazy, activist, political stuff. I’ve not met a founder who doesn’t think it’s a problem. There’s a state of what the fuck?”

Peter Savodnik

Samizdata quote of the day

When Ikea pulled its GBN ads yesterday, it said it wanted to make sure the content on the channel was in line with the firm’s ‘humanistic values’. You might ask what humanism has to do with selling flat-pack furniture. More to the point, what does humanism have to do with spying on employees – something else Ikea has been up to of late?

[…]

It’s also worth noting that while Ikea is pulling promotional material from GBN, it has previously edited its promotional materials for use in Saudi Arabia, to better align with the regime’s values. In 2012, it was forced to apologise after it was found to have airbrushed women out of images in its catalogue.

Tom Slater, Ikea and the con of woke capitalism

A flinching depiction

A Google search for the words “unflinching depiction” got me 57,100 hits. Not so long ago “unflinching” was only just edged out by “edgy” as a term of praise for a work of fiction. Novelists prided themselves on their willingness to probe the depths of the human psyche. No criticism by a reviewer stung more sharply than to say that the characters in a novel were “sanitised” or “bowdlerised”.

We know better now. And how uplifting that our modern novelists submit to the judgement of the people and engage in spontaneous self-criticism!

“Elin Hilderbrand asks for Anne Frank reference to be cut from novel after complaints”, reports the Guardian.

It features a short passage in which Vivi, as a child, is planning to stay in her friend’s attic. “‘You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?’ Vivi asks. ‘Like … like Anne Frank?’ This makes them both laugh – but is it really funny, and is Vivi so far off base?”

Judging from the extract quoted, I will not be rushing out to buy Ms Hilderbrand’s latest even after it is cleansed of the fictional depiction of one child making a tasteless joke and another child laughing at said joke. There are some things one cannot forgive. The novel appears to be written in the present tense.

This might be the most polite ‘fuck you’ I have ever watched

Masterful.

Ribbons tied in a bow

Eight days ago I posted about Marion Millar of Airdrie, Scotland, who was summoned to a police station for a compulsory interview over allegations that she had posted homophobic and transphobic tweets.

She has now been charged.

“Activist Marion Millar charged with sending homophobic and transphobic tweets”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, 50, from Airdrie, was charged under the Malicious Communications Act for tweets published in 2019 and 2020. If convicted she faces up to two years in prison.

The messages investigated by officers are understood to include a retweeted photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree outside the Glasgow studio where a BBC soap opera is shot.

It is one at least six tweets reported to Police Scotland. The nature of the others is unclear. Millar, who owns an accountancy business, was bailed to appear at Glasgow sheriff court on July 20.

Her supporters said that the prosecution was an attack on the rights of women to express themselves.

Added later: The Times has turned off the comments to its account of the Marion Millar case, presumably for fear of committing contempt of court, so the readers have taken to making veiled allusions to it when commenting on other stories in the paper’s Scotland section.

A couple of the Scottish papers have also reported on the case:

Feminist campaigner charged with ‘hate crime’ – Tom Gordon in the Herald.

Woman charged with malicious communication over ‘transphobic’ tweet – Gina Davidson in the Scotsman.

A Cambridge education

“Cambridge professors fight plan to let students file secret racism denunciations”, reports the Times.

For David Abulafia, a distinguished professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge, the launch of a university “reporting tool” encouraging students to denounce people for “micro-aggressions” was particularly sinister.

An ancestor, Samuel Abulafia, was arrested in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition for maintaining Jewish practices after Jews had been expelled from the country. The man eventually changed his name to Lopez so that no one would recognise his origins. Another Abulafia was one of the first to be burnt by the Inquisition for the same crime.

Today Abulafia, a bestselling author and historian, believes that the new tool allowing students anonymously to accuse members of faculty of “racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions” draws from the same well that gave birth to the barbaric Inquisition.

The list provided by the university of transgressions includes “raising eyebrows when a black member of staff or student is speaking” and making “backhanded compliments”

Professor Abulafia also makes the following point:

“As for reporting someone if you feel they have committed a micro-aggression against you, this may actually hinder minorities as lecturers could be apprehensive about providing them with one-to-one tuition in case they make a perceived transgression.

For the Woke, that is not a bug but a feature. The last thing they want is for minority students to flourish at Cambridge or any other British university. Where would the cadre come from then? The plan is for minority students to emerge angry and embittered at the way their tutors and lecturers never seemed to quite trust them.

The point is that anyone can do this to anyone

Don’t like what someone says on social media? Don’t worry, with just one phone call you can arrange for whoever said it to have to tell their autistic kids that mummy has to go away and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to come back.

“I can’t sleep, says accountant Marion Millar in trans tweet row”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was told to report to a police station over allegations that she had posted “homophobic and transphobic” tweets.

Her account of her ordeal has been viewed by millions of people on social media. Millar, who works for For Women Scotland (FWS), a feminist group, wrote: “On April 28 I received a call from a PC Laura Daley from Police Scotland requesting I attend an interview under the malicious communications act. She told me I had to attend East Kilbride police station so I could be then transported to Cathcart station in a police car because I would have to go to a station where there are holding cells.”

Millar was told that social workers would be sent to look after her young twin boys, who are autistic, while she was questioned.

“This nonsense has been hanging over my head for a month,” she said. “I still don’t know what the offending tweet is. Anyone who knows me knows I am not homophobic or transphobic. ”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We received two complaints regarding comments made on social media, enquiries into this are ongoing.”

To comply with human rights legislation interviews have to take place at a station with custody suites, which East Kilbride does not have.

I cannot but admire the elegance of using the supposed protections offered by human rights legislation into a vehicle for twisting the knife a little more. Shame if you aren’t allowed to return home, love. But don’t worry, we have a nice custody suite.

Some of you might think this is an example of what a oppressive place Scotland is becoming now that the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill has been passed. If so, you are wrong. It is an example of what an oppressive place Scotland already is under existing law. Ms Millar was summoned for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. And before English, Welsh or Northern Irish readers feel superior, let me say that as far as I know that same 1988 Act applies to the whole of the UK. As I said in a post from 2012 called “The kraken wakes”, despite its obvious potential for oppression, for the first twenty years or so of its existence the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not seem to do much harm … but you are not safe just because a monster sleeps.

DuckDuckGo going the way of Google?

Yes, ditch Google. By all means. Just be aware that:

* Stopping your use of the Google search engine is just the start. A small, very modest start. You will have a lot more work to do to “deGoogle” from the Borg—and that’s not mentioning the rest: Facebook, Twitter, etc—though that is a vast subject, way beyond the scope of this post.

* Switching to DuckDuckGo is, if not worse, at the very least not better in the context of this culture war.

And when I say “if not worse”, it’s more rhetorical mannerism than anything else.

In your quest to reject Google and the rest of the hostiles, you will have to do your homework. If you’re looking at DuckDuckGo, start with the FEC site. You will see, for instance, that for 2019-2020, all the donations from DuckDuckGo employees have gone Left.

Let that sink in. While not all of DuckDuckGo’s 124 employees have donated, not one has donated outside of the Party line.

The Dissident Frogman

The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ is getting harder

Idea that 2+2=4 is western imperialism

In the 1970s, the BBC screened a dramatised documentary series about the fight to abolish the slave trade. Even a year of the virus limiting new series, at a time of great BBC eagerness to talk about racism, has not made them screen it again.

– I see one reason why they have not: the series displayed sleazy white slave traders and abusive white slave owners prominently, but it also showed white people eager to end the slave trade and (much worse) black people eager to continue it. One episode included the king of Dahomey’s threat: “if you do not allow me to sell you my slaves, their fate will be a great deal worse” (a very brief scene of the Dahomey murder spectacle lent meaning to his remark). After abolition was voted, it showed a white slave trader assuring the Dahomans, as a drug dealer might his suppliers, “It is one thing for parliament to pass a law …”, hinting at the Royal Navy’s long and hard campaign to enforce it.

– Only recently did I spot another reason why they would not want to show it again – the scene in which a corrupt old white slave trader warns his young colleague that “it’s more than your life’s worth” to doubt the ability of their slave-selling hosts to count very accurately the quantity of trade goods being handed over in exchange, and to assess their quality knowledgeably. The traders well knew that Africans counted two plus two as four, just as they did. Any trader who imagined that black ability to add diverged enough from white to enable an attempt to short-change them had learned otherwise long before the 1780s.

– The southern Confederacy thought the same. Until its death throes, it forbade enlisting a southern black as a Confederate soldier because, as one Confederate senator put it, “If blacks can make good soldiers then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” (Perhaps also because even southern white Democrats realised that southern black desire to fight against blacks being freed was likely to be a very minority taste.) But there was one exception. Every regiment had its regimental band, which played to set the pace at the start and end of marches, used trumpets to signal commands in battle – and fought when other duties did not supervene. From its start to its end, Confederate law said any black could enlist as bandsman, with the same pay and perquisites as a white – a very rare example of formal legal equality. (Playing music requires the ability to count time. For the woke, ‘dismantling the legacy of the Confederacy’ apparently includes dismantling its realisation – shared by the Victorian composer Dvorak – that blacks often excelled in music so much as to overcome prejudice against black ability. Today, it’s ‘racist’ to value instrumental skill.)

‘Politically correct’ has meant ‘actually wrong’ ever since the first commissar explained to the first party comrade that it was neither socialist nor prudent to notice a factual error in the party line. ‘Structurally racist’ is PC’s modern companion. No longer are the woke content merely to imply (“mathematics is racist“, “punctuality is racist“, “politeness is racist“) that blacks can’t count, can’t tell the time and can only behave crudely. They’re starting to say it in words of fewer syllables.

So how does one avoid being a racist when cancel culture calls it ‘racist’ to expect any black man you meet to be able to add? First, decide which you would rather oppose: ‘structural racism’ or actual racism. If the latter, then decide whether you have the courage to do more than dislike it in the privacy of your own mind. The BBC series showed the voyage of the Zong, when the captain threw many slaves overboard to check a pandemic onboard – or was it just to convert them into insurance losses? The scene was directed to imply that some officers did not entirely like doing this – but it would not have helped anyone’s career to have refused. Only in a metaphorical sense will white intellectuals today throw overboard an off-message black colleague. Perhaps the Zong’s crew consoled themselves that, after all, it was only black people being thrown overboard. Perhaps woke whites today console themselves that, after all, as Joe Biden put it, if you don’t vote Democrat then “you ain’t black”. Besides, if

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” (George Orwell, 1984)

then clearly it is the duty of Critical Race Theory to ensure that is not granted.

This too shall pass. Years ago, the left decided that Stalin in Russia was “not real socialism”, nor Mugabe in Zimbabwe, nor Chavez in Venezuela – but only long after Orwell, and the year 1984, and the Soviet Union itself, had died. One day, the woke will decide that it is “not real anti-racism” to claim that black people have open minds on whether 2+2=4. Later still, they might decide it was “not real anti-racism”. But for now, just as it was once an insult to “the workers’ state” to mention how many workers Stalin killed, so we are still well into the period when asking how many black people were murdered in Ferguson or Minneapolis by the riots, or since the riots, is as ‘racist’ as classical music, mentioning the holocaust during a class discussion of racism, skiing, cheese, advising persons of colour to exercise, camping, quantum theory, acronyms, alfresco seating, grammar, beer, snow ploughs, evergreen trees, praising the fund-raising efforts of Captain Tom, individualism, interracialmarriage or questioning the existence of structural racism.

I had a very much longer list of increasingly bizarre things that exemplify structural racism – none of them repeated from my last list – but as I typed links to the structural racism of such innate features of the human condition as time and sleep, I reflected that the first was passing, and soon I should start doing the second.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yet there has never been a more pressing time to engage with these issues in the classroom. If I were a teacher of Religious Studies, I would find it difficult to justify ignoring the question of the perceived conflict between religious faith and free speech, or not to discuss the murders of Samuel Paty and the satirists of Charlie Hebdo. While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the potential offence that depictions of the Prophet Mohammed might cause, it is not a sufficient reason to avoid the topic altogether. I am sure that many pupils are disturbed by the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda cartoons that are routinely included in history textbooks, but they serve an important function in the learning process. We know very little about the context in which the images of Mohammed were shown at Batley Grammar, but it is implausible that the teacher’s motives were anything other than educational.

Andrew Doyle

Spread the word

“Second translator of Amanda Gorman’s Joe Biden inauguration poem dumped”, reports the Times.

A fresh controversy over translations of the poem read out at President Biden’s inauguration has erupted after a Catalan man said that his version had been rejected because he had the wrong “profile”.

Amanda Gorman’s five-minute poem, The Hill We Climb, was initially commissioned to be translated by Victor Obiols, a 60-year-old Catalan poet and musician. Five thousand copies of the version by Obiol, who has translated works by Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, were set to be brought out by the Catalan publishing house Univers by April 8.

However, Ester Pujol, of Univers, told the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia that the author’s US agency had subsequently expressed a preference that the translation be done instead by “a woman who is young, an activist and a poet, with experience as a translator and, preferably, African American.” Gorman is 23 and black.

How many African-Americans speak Catalan – at all, let alone to the level required of a professional translator? How many Americans speak Catalan? Most translation agencies insist that their translators work into their native tongue because it is very rare for anyone to gain a command of a second language equal to that of their first. Why do Ms Gorman’s US agents value the nationality of their translator above their having Catalan as their mother tongue? Even if we assume that the only reason Gorman’s agents specified “African-American” was that they have set their autocorrect with that as the replacement for “black”, there still cannot be many people who fulfil all those criteria. There are not many black Catalans. Experienced translators of any race are not likely to be young.

The Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 29, resigned as translator of Gorman’s work in the Netherlands after criticism that she was not black.

Despite the precedent, the Catalan poet was taken aback by the publisher’s decision. “If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, and a American of the 21st century, then I cannot translate Homer either because I am not an eighth-century BC Greek,” he said. “Nor could I have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”