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 – fighting on regardless

No matter how many times I explained all this, the same question kept coming, over and over. ‘Why do you care so much?’ All I could say was: ‘Why do you not?’

The intercession of the most famous children’s writer in the world in the trans debate was a moment when I thought the argument would shift decisively in my direction. So beloved were the Harry Potter books, so impeccable were J. K. Rowling’s socialist credentials, so compelling her backstory, she would be listened to.

But no, not a bit of it. HMS Rowling – which had piped on board generations of children, and taught them to read for their pleasure and then for their children’s pleasure – was deserted faster than a plague ship, so taboo were the author’s perfectly commonplace views on women’s rights.

The young actors from the Harry Potter series of films instantly betrayed her. If I were a star who had never shown any ability to act past the pre-pubescent level that got me into the business, I’d be keeping my head down, not signing statements insinuating that my old mentor was a bigot.

Those actors – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – deserve to be remembered as symbols of the most remarkable arrogance, cowardice and ingratitude. But asking what Rowling actually said that was so terrible produces nothing. You’ve never seen a transphobic statement from J. K. Rowling because none exists.

Graham Linehan

I am not a great admirer of Linehan but he is broadly right and his article is well worth reading.

The mayor of London reads Leviathan and applies its lessons to cheese

Hobbes was right. We must have government. If men were to try to live without ‘a common Power to keep them all in awe’, life would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, there would be ‘a perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour’, and there would be adverts for cheese on the London Underground.

City AM reports,

TfL [Transport for London] has left a cheese company’s bosses feeling blue after banning ads depicting their products on the tube – saying the diet staple is too unhealthy.

London’s transport network has been cracking down on unhealthy food advertising on the tube, but according to The Times this now includes the dairy favourite.

The founder of Cheese Geek, Edward Hancock, said the ban was “crazy” and said he couldn’t understand why fizzy drink ads were allowed on the network but not artisan cheeses.

Hancock said cheese “has been shown in numerous recent studies to be beneficial for health.”

TfL banned high fat advertising in 2019. It was intended to capture fast food but appears to have widened in scope to high-end cheddar.

TfL said the cheese ads – which were to be part of a campaign run by Workspace, the office provider and consultancy – could not go on the network because TfL uses “the Food Standards Agency’s model to define foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.”

I think Sadiq Khan got to the bit in Leviathan about “Power to keep them all in awe” and thought, “I like the sound of that”.

Samizdata quote of the day – bad ideas lead to worse places

The playdate, you might say, was the harmless practice of a bad theory. Indeed, this was more or less the Redditor’s point, a man who said he himself fits in the “brown” category (his Reddit handle suggesting that, ethnically, he’s a mix of Iranian and Pakistani). He didn’t mean his post to go viral and feed a national frenzy of racist threats against his kids’ school. He wasn’t really complaining that white families were being injured by this playdate. He was speaking more abstractly. This weekend gathering was an instantiation of a bad model, which blandly self-perpetuates thanks to strong incentives, and to its unchallenged, foundational status in key institutions. It is often tolerated in practice partly because, in individual instances such as our local playdate, you have to put your First Principle glasses on and sort of squint to see what the problem is: “I suppose the effect of such an invitation is to exclude white families from the casual Saturday playdate on the Upper Yard, sort of, I guess. I hadn’t really thought of it like that before.”

Matt Feeney

Samizdata quote of the day – friends don’t let friends PUG

Call of Duty (CoD), a video game series published by Activision, has jumped into the murky waters of AI-powered censorship after revealing a new partnership with AI voice moderation tool Modulate ToxMod. This will be built-in to the newest CoD game, Modern Warfare 3, which will be released on November 10th this year. Currently, it is being trailed on Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone. It will be used for flagging ‘foul-mouthed’ players and identifying hate speech, racial or homophobic language, misogyny and any ‘misgendering’. Players do not have the option to prevent the AI listening in.

Jack Watson

The last bit is not strictly true. The way you can prevent the AI listening is simply not use the in-game voice coms at all. Instead use third party voice apps such as Skype, Team Speak, or whatever. This is easily doable if a team is made up of people who already know each other, known as a ‘premade’.

The opposite of a premade is called a PUG (“pick up group”), i.e. a team of random strangers in a multiplayer online game who meet via an in-game match maker system. Typically a premade is vastly more effective than a PUG & usually wins games far more often for reason that should be obvious.

How to break world-building in fiction

Here is a rant about how “current day” ideas injected anachronistically into science fiction spoils things a little.

He is certainly very animated, but he does not quite hit the nail on the head. I replied:

Separate pronouns, body type and voice options are pretty normal in RPGs now. The only problem would be if the world-building and storyline draw too much on “current day” Californian politics, and not enough on interesting [science fiction] ideas.

Here is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about, from On His Majesty’s Secret Service by Charlie Higson.

Beckett was an ex-Tory MP, famous for providing covid/vaccines/mask-wearing/5G conspiracy theories, which had spilled over into the usual anti-immigrant, anti-EU, anti-BBC, anti-MSM, anti-cultural Marxist, Climate Change Denial pronouncements. It was an anti-trans diatribe that had eventually got him kicked out of the party and he’d soon after set up the ‘New Freedom Party.’

Bond was struck by something. It was a long while since he’d been at any kind of function that was almost entirely full of men. It felt strange. There was not even a pretence at diversity here. AEthelstan hadn’t been the least bit concerned about ensuring that half of the people he’d hired to carry out his coup should be women, or non-white, or disabled.

It is a fourth-wall-breaking shopping list (complete with forward slashes) of things the author does not like. It reveals that the author is only aware of un-nuanced caricatures of his political opponents. It stretches credibility that this is what a competent MI6 agent would be thinking about while infiltrating a meeting, and it makes no logical sense that he should be “struck” by any of this when he already knows all the opinions of the caricature villain.

Now we know we are not reading fiction set in a credible world that makes sense, and that everything that occurs within its world serves only to amuse the author’s preoccupations.

One fear when starting to read a new author is of getting several books into a multi-volume epic before it becomes apparent that the functioning of the fictional world is premised entirely on price controls solving all the problems, or some other impossible notion. At least this is so blatant, as if a teenager was writing it after reading Teen Vogue too much, I know not to start.

Samizdata quote of the day – the fake climate consensus

We are told climate change is a crisis, and that there is an “overwhelming scientific consensus.”

“It’s a manufactured consensus,” says climate scientist Judith Curry in my new video. She says scientists have an incentive to exaggerate risk to pursue “fame and fortune.”

She knows about that because she once spread alarm about climate change.

John Stossel

… which will come as a shock to no one here 😉

Samizdata quote of the day – lets be more inclusive when discussing colonialism

Let’s start with the fact that empires were not invented by the modern European nations whose advanced ships and guns were more effective in maintaining them than forced marches and pikes. Stronger nations have colonised weaker ones since the beginning of recorded history; indeed, before there were nations in our modern sense at all. Greeks and Romans built empires, as did the Chinese, the Assyrians, the Aztecs, the Malians, the Khmer and the Mughals. Those empires operated with varying degrees of brutality and repression, but all of them were based on an equation of might and right, which amounts to no concept of right at all. All of them used their power to compel weaker groups to surrender resources, submit tribute, press soldiers into service for further imperial wars, and accept commands that overrode local custom and law. As far as we know, there was one thing they lacked: a guilty conscience.

Susan Neiman

Samizdata quote of the day – ‘Get Woke Go Broke’ really is a thing

Who actually has the power in a capitalist and free market economy? Quite clearly it’s us as consumers. Even something – as here – as trivial as an ad for a beer can lead the capitalists, the producers, losing substantial amounts of money. Billions off the market capitalisation in fact. And all just because some of us consumers decide to switch where and how we’d like to spend our money.

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day – the narcissism of the Fact-Checkers

There are many cases of fact-checkers spreading disinformation that then results in censorship. Facebook censored stories claiming Covid-19 might have come from a lab. Last week, Public documented the role played by Anthony Fauci in creating junk science to create a fake debunking of the lab leak, which the White House and others used to justify censorship.

Fact-checkers have thus been forced to make an embarrassing series of retractions. PolitiFact, the dean of all fact-checking organizations, was forced in 2021 to retract its false debunking of a doctor who said COVID-19 was a “man-made virus created in the lab.” And just last week, the BBC was forced to retract its false claim that UK politician Nigel Farage was not de-banked for political reasons because, as it turned out, he was.

Phoebe Smith and Michael Shellenberger

“De-banking” for wrongthink, a CEO’s resignation and destruction of a brand

(Updates with correction about the dossier. Thanks to eagle-eyed readers for the pointer!)

A few days ago, Patrick Crozier of this parish wrote about the decision by Coutts, a UK bank that is part of NatWest Group, to end an account of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. At the time, Farage speculated he may have been targeted for cancellation of this account (he was offered a retail, mass-market NatWest account instead) because he was what is called a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), or that someone had flagged him following allegations (which he denies) of receiving lots of money from Russian-backed state media, and he also wondered whether his role in driving Brexit, and his scepticism about a climate crisis, etc, were factors. (Here are some of my comments on the case.)

In the following days, the former CEO of NatWest told a BBC journalist that a reason for the debanking of Farage was that he lacked the funds to justify a particular Coutts account. The BBC journalist ran a story; this was a clear breach of client confidentiality – also possibly a serious regulatory/criminal offence – and Alison Rose, the CEO, resigned this week. Peter Flavel, the Coutts CEO, has also resigned.

It also turned out that NatWest had compiled a dossier about Farage, which was sent to him after he requested it and he later shared this with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, showing that his political views and associations – including friendship with tennis ace Novak Djokovic – were reasons to suspect that Farage was a bad egg, and his “values” did not “align” with those of NatWest. NatWest has championed ESG investing, diversity, equity and inclusion, to a degree that puts it out front of other banks. NatWest is 38.6 per cent owned by the UK government. In the furore about its treatment of Farage – now a presenter on GB News – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and other ministers, and yes, even columnists in the Guardian, have argued that the treatment of Farage was beyond the pale.

The reputation of Coutts and NatWest has been damaged. Coutts is a “posh” bank, supposedly used by the UK Royal Family – for whatever that’s worth – and in days of yore, having a Coutts account was a bit of a brag point. Well, no longer.

Meanwhile, in the US, the banking group Chase has shut an account of a businessman and those of his relations because, as far as I can tell, he has been a prominent critic of US vaccine policy and the policy response to the pandemic. There is the disgraceful Canadian case of the government freezing accounts of people donating to truckers protesting about vaccine mandates. The PayPal account of the Free Speech Union was closed (PayPal eventually overturned that decision.)

The “debanking” of people for the offence of holding the “wrong” views appears to be a general trend. At HSBC, in what I consider the most shocking act so far, earlier this year it was reported that the UK-headquartered bank, which does most of its business in Asia, had blocked pension payments to Hong Kong dissidents who fled the jurisdiction following Beijing’s national security crackdown. In 2020, when China imposed its law on Hong Kong, HSBC and Standard Chartered, another UK-listed bank, issued public statements supporting this law. So much for their concerns about “sustainability”, “inclusion” or all the other cant expressions of modern finance.

Even so, the optimist in me hopes that these cases, especially the NatWest/Farage one, might signal a high watermark for this sort of nonsense. The mask is well and truly off. People, not just those on the Right side of politics, can see what is going on.

People don’t have a “right” to a bank account, any more than they do to “free” healthcare, but they have the freedom to go about their lawful business unmolested. Now, in conditions of laissez faire capitalism, competition would weed out the idiots and ensure people could have a choice of bank services, with even the most eccentric or troublesome individuals being able to conduct financial affairs, even if with just cash. But we don’t have such a situation. We have a banking system umbilically linked to the State, fed on cheap central bank funny money, resting on a set of monopoly fiat currencies, and hedged by regulations, and as a result, stuffed with people whose main function is compliance with this or that rule, not focusing on building value. The upper reaches of these banks are filled with mediocrities who shuffle between private and public sectors with alarming ease, and who know all the right words.

Farage is an excellent campaigner and he knows how to get a message across. He does not respond well to slights. NatWest chose the wrong man to antagonise and be rude about. Maybe, as investors contemplate the falling share price of NatWest, and the tarnished image of Coutts, they’ll realise that indulging political prejudices instead of doing an honest job is not survivable. Maybe, just maybe, this may be the beginning of the end of the idiocy sweeping through the commercial world. As interest rates go up, and the zombification of corporate life ends after over a decade of QE, the harsh realities of making a profit return to the fore. As Allister Heath argues in the Daily Telegraph today, Milton Friedman’s attacks on the foolishness of corporate “social responsibility” become more relevant by the day.

Samizdata quote of the day – Our society’s ‘top brains’ have gone mad

It wasn’t farmers and factory workers who came up with the idiotic COVID responses — nor was it they who originated the more or less criminal idea of conducting “gain of function” research on making dangerous viruses more dangerous.

It wasn’t shopkeepers and bus drivers who thought the way to deal with burgeoning urban crime was to get rid of police and release criminals without bail.

It hasn’t been landscapers and auto mechanics championing the notion that a child in the single-digit age range can make a lifetime choice about his or her genitalia or maintaining that even criticizing that idea is itself a species of “violence.”

Glenn Reynolds

Read the whole thing.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Today’s DEI and ESG grievance industries are blowin’ in the wind. Three steps to redemption: Forget merit and striving for the highest level. Push equity over excellence. Feel virtuous. There are uproars because we don’t have enough female crash-test dummies—or paper straws, trigger warnings, unisex bathrooms, wind farms, disarmed police, censored songs or sidewalk tents for the `unhoused.’ These are vacuous 21st-century versions of protest songs. Feels good. Does nothing. Greta Thunberg’s “How Dare You?” topped the charts.”

Andy Kessler, WSJ ($).

What I like about this article is that it shows how uncreative, indeed often vacuous, many of those who are making so much noise in the public square of opinion are. I mean, what the hell have any of them created that, you might think, will be marvelled over in 50 years’ time? Name one business process, invention, life-changing discovery, major work of art, great novel, work of sculpture, great piece of architecture, new sporting contest, anything. Take all the time you need. (I am not sure that entities such as Bitcoin, blockchain, 3-D printing, reusable rockets or AI count as these are from hated science, which comes from evil Western civilisation.) And that’s a problem, because the disconnect between the “culture wars” racket and the actual, positive stuff going on is becoming more and more chasmic.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.