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]

Meanwhile, back in the batcave…

As described by Paul Canning in “Venezuela: the Left’s giant forgetting”, Jeremy Corbyn prudently deleted a slew of pro-Chavez and Maduro content from his website in 2016. The same pattern was followed by others on the Shadow Front Bench who had once described themselves passionate defenders of the Venezuelan Revolution but who have now rediscovered the advice their mothers gave them about how if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing.

However one of Mr Corbyn’s most devoted allies, Chris Williamson MP, still has nice things to say about the Maduro regime. I must praise him for his rare honesty – the “Deleted by the PC media” tag this post bears applies to his leader, but not to him.

The Spectator‘s “Steerpike” writes,

Chris Williamson on the joys of Venezuela

Venezuela is a country in crisis: inflation hit one million per cent last year and GDP has plummeted by half since 2013. Those who dare stand up to president Nicolás Maduro risk finding themselves locked up – or worse. Many have opted to leave: three million migrants and refugees have fled the country in the last few years. But ever the optimist about the joys of socialism, Labour MP Chris Williamson has managed to find some good news about Venezuela – the country’s social housing programme is ‘on track

Here’s the tweet itself.

Mock the anointed at your peril

Then:

Laws protecting a nobleman’s “honor” illustrate the importance which the noble attached to his person. Preservation of honor (i.e., reputation) was a serious matter, essential to ensure that society would respect noble rank. Honor was a distinguishing mark which set nobles apart from commoners, since townsmen and peasants were not thought to possess it. Offences against honor included insulting the noble personally, charging him with a crime, or calling into question his own or his mother’s legitimate birth. If the antagonist could not prove his charges, he was punished at law. According to King Casimir III’s statute for Little Poland, a person who impugned the honor of a noble had to pay a fine and retract his insult in court, repeating “with a dog’s voice” the words: “I lied like a dog in what I said.”

– from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 by Jean W Sedlar.

Now:

Portland State University Says Hoax ‘Grievance Studies’ Experiment Violated Research Ethics

Peter Boghossian, a professor of philosophy best known for his involvement in the “grievance studies” hoax papers, is now in trouble with Portland State University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), which has accused him of violating its policies regarding the ethical treatment of human test subjects in the course of his experiment.

“Your efforts to conduct human subjects research at PSU without a submitted nor approved protocol is a clear violation of the policies of your employer,” wrote PSU Vice President Mike McLellan in an email to Boghossian, according to Areo.

This charge makes Boghossian sound like Dr. Frankenstein. But the “human subjects” in question are the peer reviewers and journal editors who accepted Boghossian’s hoax papers for publication. Their reputations may have suffered as a result of being duped—and they were indeed unwitting participants in the experiment—but their physical well-being was not compromised. Moreover, it may not have been obvious to Boghossian and his co-conspirators that research conducted outside his field, bearing no formal connection to Portland State University, was still subject to IRB approval.

Nevertheless, the professor could face sanctions for his conduct, including possible termination.

– Robby Soave, writing for Reason magazine.

He told them what they wanted to hear

It turns out that one of Germany’s best-regarded reporters, Claas Relotius, has been doing for Der Spiegel what Jayson Blair did for the New York Times.

I have given this post the tag “Deleted by the PC Media”. That’s because we don’t have a tag called “Invented by the PC Media”. Like Blair before him, if Mr Relotius could not find the right juicy detail to enliven a story his custom was to make one up. He was at it for years. This article about the Relotius case in Der Spiegel by Ullrich Fichtner has not yet appeared in English, but the miracle of Google Translate allows me to make a guess as to how Relotius got away with it so long:

In his story about Fergus Falls, Relotius, in a hurtingly haughty way, is styling contemporary history. To have a hearty prelude, he tells us that at the entrance to the village right next to the welcome sign, a second sign was set up, “half as high, but hard to miss … On this sign, driven from thick wood into the frozen ground, stands in large, painted letters: ‘Mexicans Keep Out’ – Mexican, stay away. ”

The shield, which gives the whole story the keynote, never existed, it was only in the imagination of the author. Nevertheless, he passed the invention on as a matter of fact to hundreds of thousands of readers, just like that. And he insulted the inhabitants of Fergus Falls. It seems so, in the overall view, that people who are no longer children tell him nothing. There are exceptions, but Relotius gives the inhabitants of Fergus Falls false biographies that fit him as if he were a puppeteer. He also goes along with grotesque lies, such as that the children of the John F. Kennedy High School painted their models for the American Dream as follows: “They painted,” writes Relotius, “not a single picture of a woman. One class painted Barack Obama, two painted John D. Rockefeller.

Schoolchildren in 2018 are so enchanted by the example of John D Rockerfeller that they choose him to represent the American Dream? It seems unlikely that they would even have heard of this capitalist except as a bogeyman. But evidently it did not seem an unlikely thing to happen in Trump’s America to Der Spiegel‘s readers. Relotius told them what they wanted to hear.

Update: In the comments Rob Fisher pointed out this “Fisking” of Relotius’s article by two residents of Fergus Falls:

There are so many lies here, that my friend Jake and I had to narrow them down to top 11 most absurd lies (we couldn’t do just 10) for the purpose of this article. We’ve been working on it since the article came out in spring of 2017, but had to set it aside to attend to our lives (raising a family, managing a nonprofit organization, etc.) before coming back to it this fall, and finally wrapped things up a few weeks ago, just in time to hear today that Relotius was fired when he was exposed for fabricating many of his articles.

Who gave them the power to do this?

Watchdog bans ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes in adverts

And why might that be?

“Dublin’s landlords would rather put their properties on Airbnb than rent to local families,” wails the strapline to an article by John Harris in the Guardian called “30,000 empty homes and nowhere to live: inside Dublin’s housing crisis”.

To give him credit John Harris has never been one to do all his reporting from a swivel chair in Kings Cross. He was one of the few Guardian writers to foresee a Leave victory in the EU referendum, having co-authored with John Domokos a well-regarded series of video and written reports from some of the most depressed parts of the UK. Now he is talking to people struggling to find somewhere to live in Dublin. Here is how he describes the situation:

For want of a flat with a secure tenancy, the two of them have lived here for almost two years, in what the Irish government calls a “hub”…

*

I pay £95 for a single night’s stay (including a £43 “cleaning fee”), which highlights why whoever owns it has decided to rent it out in this way. The same move has been made by scores of other landlords: in August 2018, there were reckoned to be 3,165 entire properties listed on Airbnb in Dublin, compared with only 1,329 available for long-term rent.

*

The city is smattered with key boxes for Airbnb apartments. A stock line among activists demanding action from the government gets to the heart of all this: in 21st-century Dublin, they say, homeless families stay in hotels, and tourists stay in houses.

*

To make things even more difficult, her landlord then decided to sell up, which forced her to suddenly confront a private-rented housing market in which the monthly rent for anything similar was well over €1,500 (£1,300).

*

I am sure this is all honestly reported. But I think Mr Harris might be failing to see what is in front of his nose. All else being equal, most landlords prefer long term tenants to short term ones. A nice steady sum arriving in the bank every month makes for an easy life – and for a relationship of mutual trust to grow between landlord and tenant. In contrast. short term lets carry many risks: that the tenants will not look after the place, having little incentive to do so; that they will get into arrears with the rent or skip without paying it, and, most obviously, that the property will sometimes be vacant and earning you no money.

When most of the landlords in a place are seen to flee the predictability of the long term market for the uncertainty of short term lets, or even more perversely for the sheer unrelenting work involved in “turning over” a property every few days for each new AirBnB customer, there is usually a two word explanation. I did not see those two words anywhere in Mr Harris’s article, though this sentence came close:

Central Dublin – along with 20 other areas of the country – is now classified as a “rent pressure zone”, which caps annual rent increases at 4%, but politicians and activists claim this gets nowhere near tackling the causes of skyrocketing housing costs.

The missing two words were, of course, “rent control”. I don’t know Dublin. I don’t know its housing laws. But as soon as I saw that line “For want of a flat with a secure tenancy” I knew that rent control was at the bottom of this story. And so it proved. It took me only a few keystrokes to find this report by Fiona Reddan in the Irish Times:

Will rent controls start to work in 2018?

That was written in January. It is now December. Judging from Mr Harris’s description, it looks like rent controls in Dublin “worked” exactly as rent controls usually do. If he had happened to read Ms Reddan’s prescient article from eleven months ago (I suppose it would be asking too much for him to have read Henry Hazlitt’s even more prescient words on rent control, written with reference to New York in 1961 but eerily applicable to Dublin in 2018), he might have had a somewhat better idea as to why the 4% cap on rent increases fails to tackle the causes of the crisis, as he sees it. Answer: it is one of the causes. Ms Reddan writes,

If you’re wondering why the much-vaunted rent controls, first introduced this time last year, are having so little impact on stalling price growth, consider this investor’s tale.

He had a house rented out close to Dublin that was bringing in €1,300 a month – far below the market rates, which were more than €1,800. Stymied by the rent controls, which limit rent increases to 4 per cent a year (and 2 per cent a year for tenancies in place before the end of 2016), when his tenants left he was looking only at marginal increases in his rent.

So what did he do? Sold this property and bought the one next door. Previously owner occupied, it wasn’t subject to rent controls, which meant that he could slap a new, higher rate of €1,900 on it. The difference in rent quickly covered his legal and stamp duty costs.

Yet another medical serial killer

Niels Högel: German ex-nurse admits killing 100 patients

A hundred victims, and it is not even the BBC’s top story.

Towards the end of the last century I visited a very nice elderly couple, the husband of whom was a retired doctor. I noticed a flyer or newsletter sitting on their kitchen table with a heading something like “Doctors against gun violence”. At that time Dr Harold Shipman had fairly recently been arrested and the sheer number of his victims – more than two hundred – was beginning to emerge. I could not help thinking that, given that the number of people Shipman had killed by medical means exceeded by a great margin the death toll of the two largest shooting mass murders that had then occurred in the UK, Dunblane and Hungerford, maybe there was scope for a rival pamphlet called “Gun owners against medical violence”. The thought remained unspoken, of course, and a good thing too. I was not usually so flippant about mass murder even in thought: after the Dunblane massacre of primary schoolchildren I had thought about Thomas Hamilton’s victims almost every day for two years or more. Shipman’s victims did not haunt me to nearly the same extent. The same seems true of the general public. No doubt much of that was because Shipman killed the old not the young. It is not that people do not care about elderly victims, but the instinct to protect children and thus to consider the murder of a child the worst of crimes is bred in the bone. But that does not entirely explain it. Another British medical serial killer, the nurse Beverley Allitt, did target babies and children, by giving them overdoses of insulin and potassium. She murdered four children between the ages of seven weeks and eleven years and attempted to murder several others. One of those she failed to kill, Katie Phillips, was left permanently brain damaged by her attentions. This was after Katie’s twin sister Becky had already been murdered by Allitt. Yet her deeds seem almost forgotten now.

Maybe it is time for that long unspoken thought to get an airing, and for better reasons than to keep score in competitive shroud-waving. I have come away from Wikipedia shocked at how many such“angels of death” there have been, how long they have got away with it, and how high their number of victims has been. Almost more chilling than the death counts is their uncertainty: Donald Harvey, United States, 57-87. Arnfinn Nesset, Norway, 27-138+. Charles Cullen, United States 35-400+. There are plenty more on that list. And it can be practically certain that there are yet more who appear on no list, because they are still killing now.

Introducing RightTube

“Why it’s time for YouTube to ban the alt-right” is the latest piece in the New Statesman from the journalist and commentator Paul Mason, or Corbyn Ally Paul Mason to give him his full name.

Recent academic studies of alt-right sympathisers show that they are, indeed, divided into people prepared to glorify their own violence and those uneasy about it; rabid authoritarians completely sold on destroying democracy, and a wider group suffering from cultural insecurity. The political challenge is to defeat both, but in the process the task of preventing the evolution of the authoritarian conservative into the fascist is important.

I can think of no better way of doing this than excising the entire alt-right from YouTube. Hate speech is, in many countries illegal; incitement to rape and violence is a crime, so why does the world’s third biggest company, staffed largely by liberals, feminists and rationalists, want to make money by providing an echo chamber?

Some students of the alt-right argue that, by censoring them, we feed their narrative of paranoia. That is a danger. But YouTube is not a civil society in miniature: it is a business, and has business ethics and a reputation to maintain. It has already kicked the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off the platform; it would be very easy to remove not just the open fascists but any of the useful idiot brigade who knowingly platform them and drive customers to their books and lectures.

To do this would require a mixture of redesigned algorithms and prudent human judgement, challenging the fiction that YouTube and other social networks are “platforms not publishers”. It would mean YouTube’s executives having to take an overt business decision that they do not want their platform to be the primary means of spreading far-right ideologies such as “race science” or anti-vaccination mythology.

The far-right would still be free to make videos and send them to each other. But by depriving them of network tools and incentives, the world’s primary online video platform would be taking a major stand in favour of democracy. And their sympathisers in the echo chamber would then face a choice: stop driving traffic and attention to the outright fascists, or lose access in the same way.

Depriving fascism of its platform online is, in current circumstances, even more important than confronting it on the streets. Its strategy is not a direct read-off from the Hitlerite playbook, which begins with street violence and ends with state power. Modern fascists are quite happy operating in the parallel universe of online influence, doxxing political targets, polluting the information society, acting as a provisional wing of authoritarian conservatism, while politicians like Trump, Salvini and Le Pen do the heavy lifting in thousand dollar suits.

So it is in the interest of all of us that YouTube’s executives develop an editorial and political morality. I doubt CEO Susan Wojcicki thinks it’s cool to be running the primary transmitter of racism, fascism and misogyny in the world. But it’s time to stop.

I would be the last to deny that as a private company YouTube has the right to ban ban banban banban like the Pearl & Dean theme tune if it wants to. But the results might not be to Mr Mason’s liking. Or YouTube’s. At present when YouTube bans an individual extreme right winger, or someone it thinks is an extreme right winger, the utility of YouTube to the average person looking for political content is not much changed. However if it were to excise a whole chunk of the the political spectrum – for make no mistake, any definition of “far-right” compiled with the assistance of Mr Mason will stretch a long way left – then, to adapt the sardonic remark that Charles Krauthammer once made about the success of Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, it would open up a niche market of half the world. Then you would have RightTube and LeftTube in all their Fallopian glory, and never more the twain would meet.

The Guardian takes the lid off the pot

I avidly followed the coverage in the British press of the the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. In this post I will look at one paper in particular, the Guardian. When it was founded as the Manchester Guardian in the nineteenth century, this newspaper’s name was meant to indicate that its role was to “zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious Liberty”, which included an earnest concern for legal protections such as the presumption of innocence. The modern Guardian published many, many news and opinion pieces describing how to tell that Kavanaugh was a bad ‘un. I was more interested in the readers’ comments.

The Guardian used to allow readers to comment on practically every news article and opinion piece. Sometimes this meant that its editors and writers would be made painfully but usefully aware that many of its readers were not “with the program”. That changed under the current editor, Katharine Viner. Throughout most of the Kavanaugh saga comments were firmly closed. There was at least one story that I cannot now find for which comments were opened in error and then quickly slammed shut again. Then on 5th October came a story in which comments were intentionally opened: “Trump and Kavanaugh claim we live in a meritocracy. Don’t believe a word of it” by Arwa Mahdawi. The tone of the piece is that of a shared joke: “… Brett Kavanaugh. You know, the judge who really likes beer and seems to hate women having autonomy over their reproductive systems”. I think the writer may have been surprised at the trend the comments took. The top rated comment was by “SpringinAmsterdam1” and said,

Arwa can I ask, how would you feel if an event someone else felt had happened, had no issue was raised at the time, and when it was raised and people know there is no proof of the event, but thousands of people had decided through the court of social media, believed you to be guilty?

How would you deal with that, and can you see how this could be used to assassinate a persons character? Lastly, do you believe in innocent till proven guilty?

October 8th saw the breaking of a tiny little Berlin Wall: two pieces which acknowledged that all was not well with the narrative. For Jessa Crispin’s article “Women aren’t united against Kavanaugh. That’s a dangerous myth” the top comment came from “HarSingh” and said,

It might be because women are sensible? There was no corroborating evidence, she can’t recall if he was there, or even where it happened. She listed 4 people who could provide evidence but none of them decided to.

The timing of the allegation points to a witch hunt and a political hatchet job. It backfired, male or female, the majority realise this

Also on October 8th came this article by Cas Mudde putting forward the novel argument that Kavanaugh’s confirmation might boost the Republicans. The most recommended comment was by “Truewordshere” and said,

The Republican senator Susan Collins once again broke the hearts of many naive liberals

True liberals should watch her speech explaining her choice. A calm and reasoned explanation based on deeply-ingrained liberal principles. “Liberals”, however, branded her a “rape apologist”.

Comments were pre-moderated for “Trump sees only his own victimhood as he apologises to Kavanaugh” by Gaby Hinsliff on 9 October. The top one came from “HappyExpat50” and started by quoting Ms Hinsliff,

For a moment, as Donald Trump spoke of the “pain and suffering” endured by one noble individual in his wretched supreme court nomination process, you almost wondered if he might find some gracious way to acknowledge Christine Blasey Ford.

HappyExpat50 then went on,

Has he been charged with anything ?

Has he been convicted of anything ?

I would have thought that the Cliff Richard fiasco in the UK would have at least taught some people that people are innocent until proven guilty.

The lid is off the pot and there is something bubbling up within.

Oh my God, they killed Godfrey!

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

― Obi-Wan Kenobi, sensing the destruction of Alderaan by Darth Vader

The circumstances are complicated. Lisa Graves, the satirist behind the most recent incarnation of Elfwick, was reported to Twitter for using an expletive during an exchange on her personal account with another user. The complainant additionally made the demonstrably false claim that Elfwick was an ‘alt-right account’ engaged in ‘targeted harassment’. Before long, all of Graves’ accounts had been subject to a blanket ban. Given Twitter’s curiously draconian response to such groundless accusations, it is hardly surprising that many are assuming that the punishment is politically motivated.

― Andrew Doyle, sensing the destruction of Godfrey Elfwick by Twitter

Unfortunate Adjacencies in BBC News

Yesterday, the BBC 10 o’clock news covered wicked Mr Trump’s treatment of immigrant children (which, it was implied, was very unprecedented, nor ever praised by the left). The beeb’s Washington correspondent told us that

“In a series of tweets that will further strain the transatlantic alliance”

Mr Trump asserted Germany’s immigrants were causing that country problems such as more crime,

“but that is false. Germany’s crime rate is lower than it has ever been.”

(The emphasis on the word false was in the original.)

Soon after came their coverage of Merkel’s woes. The beeb’s Europe correspondent told us that, instead of a cooperative pan-European policy (which, she seemed to be implying, was what had been needed), individual European countries had raised barriers (references to populism and stuff), so now Merkel was meeting with the Italian PM one day, the French president the next, in

“a race against time”

to salvage things in a Europe

“more disunited than ever.”

I can’t understand why Merkel doesn’t just point out to her German voters that crime in Germany is lower than ever now they’ve imported such vast numbers of people from areas where crime rates are notoriously low – uh, well, notorious, anyway. 🙂 If any wicked right-wing populist dared to question her own crime statistics, Merkel could point to the happy experiences of Austria or Sweden, and if that doesn’t do the trick, she can always quote the majestic authority of the BBC: suggesting an immigrant-related rise in crime is false.

I also can’t understand why the BBC’s correspondents don’t coordinate their narratives better. That emphatic false from the Washington correspondent at the end of his story really wanted to be further from the somewhat downbeat report from the Europe correspondent – like, in a whole different news broadcast.

[I wrote down the BBC correspondents’ words from memory immediately after the programme aired yesterday.]

Politically correct v. formally correct v. actually correct: distant thoughts on the Tommy Robinson affair

Prime Minister George Grenville was the author of the 1765 stamp act – which led, in time, to the creation of the United States, but that was very far from his intent. In terms of mere formal law, Grenville had a good case for believing he could do what he did. In an obituary, Edmund Burke explained how a well-meaning man of some ability could cause so much trouble. After studying law, Grenville

did not go very largely into the world but plunged into … the business of office, and the limited and fixed methods and forms established there.

Men who only know the world of government administration are dangerously limited:

habits of office are apt to give them a turn to think the substance of business not to be much more important than the forms in which it is conducted. These forms are adapted to ordinary occasions and therefore persons who are nurtured in office do admirably well, as long as things go on in their common order, but when the high roads are broken up, and the waters out, when a new and troubled scene is opened, and the file affords no precedent, then it is that a greater knowledge of mankind, and a far more comprehensive understanding of things, is requisite than office ever gave, or than office can ever give.

As regards Tommy Robinson:

– Sending him to jail for 13 months was ever so politically correct.

– As discussed in the comment threads of a couple of posts below, it may well also be formally correct – not in terms of some new-minted ‘hate speech’ law but in terms of established UK trial precedents. We will not know for absolute certain till we hear more (including what – if anything – Mr Robinson can say for himself), but between those who wonder if he engaged in deliberate Gandhi-style law-breaking, those who wonder if he had a layman’s (mis)understanding of the law, and those who think he’s an idiot or worse, there is ample scope for it.

– Who thinks it is actually correct to send Mr Robinson to jail for 13 months while we have yet to hear of the Rotherham councillors (or any of their imitators elsewhere) serving 13 days? (Being ordered to apologise for what they did to whistleblowers does not quite compare.)

As Burke told the MPs who voted to tax the north american colonies,

All we have a right to do is not always wise to be done.

One day the Times headline writers might figure out what actually helps save rhinos

The paper edition of the Times that hit my doormat this morning had an interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit keeps rhinos safe from poachers”.

The online version has an even more interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit and ex-spies keeps South Africa’s rhinos safe from poachers”.

Neither headline is untrue, both the hi-tech gadgetry and the spies are helping preserve the rhinos, but both are missing something. My use of the “Deleted by the PC Media” tag is a little inaccurate, as is my use of the “Hippos” tag, but we seem to lack a tag for “Rhinos” or for “Never even entered the PC Media’s pretty little heads despite the facts staring them in the face from their own reporting”. See if you can guess what the missing factor is from this excerpt:

South Africa, home to 80 per cent of the world’s 29,000 rhinos, loses about three a day to poachers, the vast majority in state parks. Private reserves have become essential to preventing the animals from extinction, as long as the owners can afford to protect them.

Turning the 150,000-acre reserve into a 21st-century fortress in the African bush costs £1 million a year but the investment has paid off. The park has not lost a rhino in the past two years. It is hardly surprising. At each of the park’s four gates, guests visiting its five-star lodges, as well as staff, only enter after systems have checked numberplates and fingerprints against a national criminal database and are tracked and monitored until they leave.

Kruger National Park is far less secure and the rate of survival among its 9,000-strong rhino population is poor. Sixty per cent of all poaching incidents in South Africa occur there. Too often its rangers, police and officials are in the pay of poachers. Rhino horns can fetch up to £70,000 per kilogram in Asia, where they are imagined to cure a range of ills from hangovers to cancer.